February 2007 Archives

Christian Carnival CLXIII

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The 163rd Christian Carnival is up at Chasing the Wind.

A lot of hay is being made about the forthcoming documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Apparently a tomb has been found that has some names from the family of Jesus, and some people are making some pretty strong claims about how improbable it could be that it's any other family. Oh, and Jesus' bones are supposed to be present, which (if true) means not only that Jesus not only died and wasn't resurrected (or at least that after his resurrection he died and didn't ascend) but that we now have access to his DNA! See the links from Sam's post for more on the popular-level discussion of this.

There's a lot being said by people who actually have some biblical scholarship and first-century Palestinian history credentials. Tyler Williams has a good roundup of what different people are saying. I'm particularly recommending what Darrell Bock has to say, since he was involved with the documentary, and he's not very impressed with their evidence. Ben Witherington has a more detailed response. Andreas Kostenberger's is also probably worth looking at. I love Kostenberger's first sentence. Michael Pahl has further thoughts, including on what relevance the James ossuary might have to this (basically none that helps their case and perhaps some that hurts it if the ossuary is authentic.

My first impression is that this is an old story that is finding new life because a big name (James Cameron) is associated with it, and it's a story that scholars have already looked into carefully and dismissed as not really showing very much. There are all sorts of assumptions being made for the probability claim that this is resting on, a number of which are probably unlikely assumptions (that we should expect Jesus' parents to be buried in Jerusalem to begin with, never mind in a location that very clearly is not where Jesus was buried after the crucifixion, that we should expect to find a tomb of Jesus' family with only one of the three brothers of his mentioned in the gospels but some other male we know nothing of named Matthew).

Update: Several more excellent responses have appeared. Richard Bauckham's is probably the best I've seen so far, and it covers some of the most important issues that some of the others have only really gestured at. For problems related to the DNA issue, see Chris Heard and Mark Goodacre. Mark also looks at the statistical claim. I was a little disappointed at some of the earlier discussions of this, including Ben Witherington's, which I thought had argued too much in several places, but Mark's post is much better and doesn't try to claim as much while still making the statistical claim look unwarranted because of its reliance on a number of possible but perhaps unlikely assumptions, which would then lower the probability considerably. The paragraph beginning "perhaps this is labouring the point" is actually one of the most helpful for seeing one of his main points in brief.


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Is ethics just a matter of right or wrong+people's comment There's plenty of debate about what it means to say something is right or wrong (and thus about what ethics is really about), but I've never heard of anyone questioning whether ethics is even about right and wrong to begin with. is it against god to commit suicide It's most immediately against yourself, but given what Genesis 9 says about taking human life, isn't it a capital crime due to its being against someone made in the image of God? Of course, the death penalty gets administered in the process. republical lizard tax conspiracy Occasionally I get a search where no snarky comment I could write seems to do it justice. I think this is one of those cases, unfortunately. what if the president and vice president didnt get 270 votes There's no constitutional requirement of getting 270 electoral votes. Given the current assignment of electoral votes to states and given that only two candidates get any electoral votes, whoever gets at least 270 votes will win. But the assignment of electoral votes can change. Last I had heard, it might change by 2008 with Utah getting one more vote and nothing else changing (in exchange for D.C. getting a representative who can vote in the House), but that actually still leaves 270 as what's needed to win. Certainly we could end up with a situation where a third candidate gets enough votes that the winner has fewer than 270, even with the current assignment of votes to states. I'm sure that sort of thing has happened lots of times, although not recently. But imagine what would happen if the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, the Republicans nominate John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani runs as an independent. I don't think that scenario is all that likely, but it's not impossible, and I think Giuliani would probably get a fair number of electoral votes if that were to happen. If both of the others also got enough electoral votes, as I think would be likely, then whoever won would get less than 270.

The 163rd Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Chasing the Wind. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday). Then do the following:

The Jesuit school I teach at, Le Moyne College, has a new politically liberal newspaper called Lemocracy. They've long had a conservative paper, but this one is new this semester. In the February 21 edition, there's an op-ed by John Doyle (president of the College Democrats), criticizing Jim Walsh, our local representative in the U.S. House, a fairly conservative Republican who barely won his reelection last November to a very liberal Democrat. This is his first election in a very long time that was even close, and it took bringing in carpetbagger Dan Maffei from another state to mount a close challenge.

In the aftermath of the election, Walsh seems to be backing down from his strong support for President Bush in at least one respect. He's one of the Republicans opposing the troop increase in Iraq. He's also sponsored environmental legislation, but he's always been somewhat friendly to environmental regulation that he doesn't think will be have too negative an effect on people with low incomes. It's his opposition to what the president wants to do in Iraq that seems like a real reversal. What strikes me as funny about this is that Doyle, who opposes the U.S. presence in Iraq to begin with, does not welcome this from Walsh, because he doesn't think he's doing it for the right reasons. He thinks it's just political self-defense, so he won't face another close election like the last one. I'm not sure that's necessarily the right way to view this, and I think the problem here is connected to some conservative criticisms of others who have changed their minds in the other direction.

My suspicion is that Walsh feels as if the district he's representing has a view far from the one he's been supporting, and if they had been willing to continue to elect him by a landslide, then he'd probably be willing to continue supporting the president in full. As it is, he did win, but he barely won. He probably takes that as an indication that his district is divided enough on the issue for him not to go quite as far with it. That leads him to oppose increasing the troops but not to go as far as condemning the president's policies so far. He's thus trying to take a middle ground in order to reflect the wishes of his constituents, having been dealt a fairly strong blow by those who might normally have voted for him but were willing to prefer a carpetbagger on the far extreme of the political spectrum because of this issue.


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Peter Leithart has a very thoughtful post on profane language, looking quite closely at a couple passages sometimes thought to have some bearing on the issue. Jollyblogger agrees that Leithart's post is excellent and offers some thoughts of his own. I can't agree with every statement in either post, but I'm not really motivated to detail the disagreements I have on minor points at the moment, and I thought some of the readers of this blog might find this of interest.

Well, I've shipped my computer off, having copied everything that I thought I might possibly need from it. (See this post and the ensuing conversation for details.) I even found the PST file from Outlook, which was in what looked like a corrupted directory with the name slightly off (which would explain why the program couldn't find any settings when I opened it). For some reason I couldn't see this directory when running Windows on the drive, but I can see it when I'm looking at the drive as an external additional drive on a different computer.

So now I just have to wait for them to sift through every part of it and find all the problems. What I receive back may well be in as good condition as the original computer was. I'll still have to reinstall everything, and that will take awhile, but I managed to find a hard drive enclosure at the local Circuit City, which I didn't know existed until today when the guy at the Best Buy at the mall sent me downstairs to "the competition" because he didn't have any in stock. I was surprised to discover what the competition was, because we've never had a Circuit City before. We did have a CompUSA, but they've all cleared out. When I saw that, I was hoping BestBuy had it, and when the guy said he didn't have it he must have seen something in my face. I doubt he regularly sends people down to Circuit City.

I had an interesting experience at Circuit City, and it raises an interesting ethical question. When I looked at the hard drive enclosures on the shelf, I saw two different ones. It turned out the more expensive one ($40) was for desktop computer hard drives, and the less expensive one ($20) was for notebook hard drives. At least that's what the price markings underneath them said. Since I needed the latter, I checked with a sales guy to make sure it was what I needed, and he said that was what would enable me to connect my hard drive to another computer as an external drive. So I waited in the fairly long line (the only one they had open) and then discovered that the enclosure actually cost something like $35. I didn't want to wait in line again, so I paid it and then went back to check. It turns out the one they had a price tag up for was a different brand. They're charging $15 more for this apparently better brand for the same product, and meanwhile they don't have the cheaper ones in stock and don't have this one labeled. That strikes me as deceptive marketing, whether it's deliberate or not.

I wouldn't normally be the sort of person to buy something like this, use it for what I need it for, and then return it. But given that I thought I was going to be paying a good deal less for this thing (and it was pretty much the store's fault that I had just about paid for it when I realized that), I think I may just return it when I'm done. Sam's going to use it to get some stuff off an older hard drive from her old computer that won't boot up (I already took what I wanted off it once the other computer got picked up by DSL), and I might wait until I get my computer back to transfer things back to it from Sam's new computer (where I put everything in the meantime). But I have no qualms about using their 30-day return policy basically to rent this thing for free, if they're going to do when in effect advertises it as if it's 4/7 of its real price, for people to discover only after they've waited in a long line. Technically speaking, it's not what I thought it was. It's a much more expensive product that does exactly the same thing. They frame their 30-day return policy in terms of whether you're completely satisfied with the product. I'm not completely satisfied with it, even if I'm very satisfied with what it does.

Christian Carnival CLXII

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The 162nd Christian Carnival is up at Brain Cramps for God.

Al Mohler thinks Christians are going to have a harder time with the homosexuality issue than most other problems that future generations look back on and wonder what all the fuss was about. His reason is that there is no middle ground on homosexuality. [ht: Mark Olson] He quotes Theo Hobson:

Firstly, this is an issue that shuns compromise. It has a stark "either/or" quality. Either homosexuality is a fully valid alternative to heterosexuality or it is not. There is no room for compromise, no third way: poor Rowan Williams is trying to make himself a perch on a barbed-wire fence. You don't find such absoluteness in other moral debates, such a complete absence of shared assumptions and aims. This is not a normal moral debate but a pure clash of visceral responses.

Mohler adds his own agreement:

It is refreshing to see Hobson point to the "either/or" character of this controversy. He is precisely right -- there is no middle ground -- no third way. Homosexuality will be seen as either normal or sinful. Everything hinges on that assessment. If it is accepted as normal, those who consider it sinful will be seen as repressive, hateful, and dangerous to the good of society. This, he argues, is where the church now stands.

I disagree, very strongly. I've argued several times throughout the history of this blog that there is indeed a third position. Homosexuality need not be seen as either normal or sinful. It might be seen, as the apostle Paul saw it, as a consequence of the fall. Homosexuality is a condition whose social construction doesn't exactly fit the categories of NT Christians, and so Paul shouldn't be expected to have anything to say about what we call homosexuality. He did state very clearly that gay sex is sinful, but that's an action. I think, by extension, he'd agree that it's bad to deliberately and willingly accept the category of being gay as part of one's identity. But I don't think either gay sex or such identification with homosexuality is the same thing as homosexuality itself. Homosexuality is merely a condition people find themselves in. That can no more be sinful than a married heterosexual finding themselves attracted to people of the opposite sex besides their spouse.

Now I don't expect Mohler to agree with my position. But surely it is a third position of the sort he has ruled out without argument. (The way Hobson stated his binary, it's possible he'd see the third view as agreeing that homosexuality is not a fully valid alternative to heterosexuality, and thus his binary might remain. But Mohler clearly rules out a view like this one.) Since John Piper holds exactly the view I have just outlined, it's not as if no prominent evangelical has put it forward. There are places where a biblical view is going to come up against the view that nothing is bad at all about homosexuality. But I don't think it's a good idea to state it the way Mohler did, which rules out the view that homosexuality is an unfortunate condition tied up with an inclination toward certain sins but that the condition itself isn't sinful.


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I've been without my computer for nine days now. I had several hours Tuesday afternoon and late evening to enjoy it before it died again, and Dell has now replaced my motherboard twice and my memory once. They were supposed to do this Friday, but they didn't get the parts in time to show up, so they put it off until today, only for it to have no effect. Dell's now decided to have me ship off my computer to a depot, where they will almost certainly wipe my hard drive without allowing me any way to back up anything on it, since I can't boot up my computer. So I have to see if I can get Sam's computer to boot up with my hard drive. Her old one wouldn't, but perhaps her new one will. Otherwise I have to try to get my own computer to load up for longer than the couple minutes it stays active before freezing up, see if I can upload a huge file for my email to some online source or direct connect to another computer, and then copy several files I really don't want to lose but haven't backed up in a while.

Also, I stepped on a nail last night, which got embedded about 3 cm into my foot, and I had to teach this morning before going to the doctor to get my tetanus shot, who told me to keep my foot soaked the entire time I'm home for the next few days, which isn't easy when the kids are trying to overrun me and Isaiah is trying to play with the water I'm soaking my foot in (and the kids have no school this week, so it will be constant). Then I left my lights on when I came home this afternoon, and my charger took a half hour to charge the battery enough to start the engine, with just enough time to go through the Burger King drive through before attending the last class on race my advisor is giving in her seminar this semester, which she thought I ought to be at (and in retrospect I think she was right).

So no real posting today, and given that I'm trying to finish grading some papers this week (which has also been set back quite a bit by the boys' snow days and will continue to be set back by their vacation this week) and given the time I might have to spend backing up my computer if I can actually succeed in a method of doing that, I may not have the time in the next few days to do much.

The 162nd Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Brain Cramps for God. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Keith DeRose wonders about the resurgence of Calvinism in evangelicalism in the U.S. but the surprising dearth of Calvinists among contemporary analytic philosophers. I've long found this dichotomy a little strange., especially given the strong emphasis on theological determinism in the history of Christian philosophy. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, Nicolas Malebranche, G.W. Leibniz, and Jonathan Edwards were all much closer to Calvin and Luther than they were to the dominant libertarian views on freedom of today's Christian philosophers. For all of them, God's sovereign plan includes everything that happens, including the free choices of human beings.

I've always found it a little disturbing that very few Christian philosophers have been willing to tolerate Calvinism. It's almost an orthodoxy among Christian philosophers that libertarianism is true. I myself received a pretty damning condemnation of my denial of libertarian free will from Alvin Plantinga in personal conversation when I was an undergrad, enough that his whole demeanor and desire to continue talking with me changed drastically once I mentioned what my senior thesis was trying to argue. Most of the contributors and commenters at Prosblogion are very easily willing to call Calvinism intolerable, and Keith DeRose has used that exact term with me in online conversations. The main exceptions seem to be the Thomists, who don't accept Calvinism but at least don't treat it as beyond the pale, because they accept Aquinas' more semi-Pelagian streak that comes out in his biblical interpretation rather than his more determinist philosophy that comes out in his natural theology.

Keith quotes Dean Zimmerman, former faculty member at Syracuse where I am doing my Ph.D., to the effect that the main explanation for philosophers' abandonment of Calvinism is largely because philosophers have to deal more closely with nonbelievers in the secular academy, while theologians are more involved with in-house Christian circles due to teaching in seminaries. That means having to respond to the problem of evil, which many contemporary theistic philosophers think Calvinism cannot do adequately. While I think this is the correct explanation, I have two observations that make it seem a little stranger than it might otherwise seem. One is that Calvinism in one sense has a better response to the problem of evil, even if there's a sense in which it does not succeed as well (given a certain widely-accepted premise). The other is that contemporary philosophers have largely rejected libertarian views of freedom, and one might have expected Christians philosophers regularly rubbing shoulders with secular philosophers to be tempted to give the view up.

I've been reading Tommie Shelby's We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity. After an excellent Ralph Ellison quote about how much mainstream American culture is influenced and produced by black people, Shelby raises an interesting question about a common enough attitude among many black Americans. Enough people think that anyone who is black, merely from being black, has a positive duty to embrace black culture as one's own culture. Part of Shelby's critique lies in questioning whether someone, by being black, automatically ought to embrace black culture. But along the way, in the context of Ellison's point, he raises a difficulty about what even counts as black culture:

Moreover, there are aspects of black culture that whites have played a constructive role in maintaining and developing -- such as musical forms and literary traditions. Do their efforts make the culture any less black? Or are we operating, absurdly, with a reverse "one-drop rule" of culture -- with a criterion that holds that a cultural trait is black if and only if blacks alone had a hand in its creation?

This point is very close some of what John McWhorter simply calls separatism, although Shelby probably disagrees with McWhorter on some of that larger phenomenon. But Shelby and McWhorter are coming from very different places politically. McWhorter, while no Republican (he donated $3000 to John Kerry's campaign for the presidency), tends to have more conservative views on race than most blacks in the public light (although I myself consider him fairly moderate compared to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas or libertarian economist Thomas Sowell). Shelby, on the other hand, is a Marxist, and his views on political policies that will help black people are very left-wing in the American political scene. His aim in this book is to appeal more to a much broader political base, so it's unsurprising to find some arguments that moderates and even some conservatives might go for, but this isn't some pragmatic argument on the basis of premises he doesn't accept. He thinks the position he's critiquing is truly absurd, and his reasons aren't that far from McWhorter's.

What struck me most about his statement, however, was not its appeal to more moderate and conservative views but its rhetorical move comparing this tendency among some blacks to the racist one-drop rule that classifies people as black merely for having one black ancestor several generations back. Blackness is like an infection of impurity, according to the one-drop rule, and it can't be removed no matter how you dilute it. According to the reverse one-drop rule for culture, it's (cultural) whiteness that's an impurity infecting black culture. Even aside from the issues of mainstream culture vs. black culture (see my separatism post linked to above), there's something disturbing about seeing white cultural elements as impurities, even if whiteness as a concept stems from evil ideology. That doesn't mean cultural traits white people happen to have should always be bad and can never be adopted by black people willingly and as good things.

Kenny Pearce has a thoughtful post on the continuum between what some might call more literal and what they would call less literal Bible translations. I wish I had time to comment on it myself, but I thought some readers of this blog might appreciate it.

Christian Carnival CLXI

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The 161st Christian Carnival is at the Evangelical Ecologist.

Christus Victor

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I've been reading through Andrew Hill's NIVAC commentary on Chronicles with Sam, and I was intrigued by one of his so-called Contemporary Application sections (which in Hill's commentary sometimes stretch the boundaries of what I think the NIVAC series intends for those sections, often verging into abstract, theoretical constructs that have not much more than tangential connection with the text and not a very clear practical value). In his application of I Chronicles 18-20, a section about David's military victories, Hill spends four pages explicating the classic Christus Victor view of the atonement (literally "Christ the Conqueror"). In the process, he cites Greg Boyd's God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, which argues that the battle between God and Satan does a lot more work philosophically and theologically than most evangelicals want to allow for. I happen to think Boyd goes way too far with this by accepting that God can't predict what Satan will do and by coming a little close to a dualism that treats God and Satan as near-equals. He insists that God will win in the end but doesn't give much philosophical or theological ground for how even God knows that Satan won't win in the end, never mind for us to be assured of it. Since this is largely a response to the problem of evil, I don't think it ultimately succeeds. The most crucial element of the Christian response to the problem of evil is that God's plan contains all the details of what will happen, and even the smallest details of what will happen are included in God's perfect, sovereign plan. So I've never thought that Boyd's overall view is even good at doing the one thing that he wants most of all to achieve with it.

But on the Christus Victor issue, I think Boyd has a point (although I hope to show that his point needs to be dulled, as my brother used to say). For the record, my general view of the atonement is that most of the theories of the atonement reflect part of what the atonement accomplishes. Jesus' death surely does serve as an example for us to sacrifice ourselves in love, but that doesn't come close to expressing its main purpose. Jesus' death also provides a redemption, i.e. a buying back of those who belong to sin and death to bring them into life and into service of God rather than slavery to sin. It takes care of a legal death penalty that all fallen human beings deserve for committing the highest of all crimes, rejection of the perfect and loving creator. It removes the corruption that cannot enter God's presence and makes us holy and thus allows reconciliation with God. [A great place to investigate this subject in detail is to read Rebecca Stark's blog series The Purposes of Christ's Death.]

And yes, Boyd is right that it constitutes a conquering of all evil raised up against God, signaling victory over all God's enemies. It is thus the fulfillment of all the divine warrior imagery throughout the Hebrew scriptures, including the kind of thing said about God fighting for his people Israel, which the psalms and prophets did attribute to David's military victories. Thus it's not that much of a stretch for Hill to bring this in with a discussion of I Chronicles 18-20. But I think Boyd takes this too far, as most who emphasize just one element of the atonement do. While he doesn't make the mistake of reducing the atonement to Christus Victor, he does take it to be the fundamental purpose of the atonement, on which all the other elements are based. On that point, I can't agree.

Clarification Surprise

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I have a substantive post I've been thinking through for a week now that I really wanted to get to today (well, yesterday now) that I hope to do tomorrow. My computer's power switch isn't working, but it should be fixed tomorrow (or rather later today). I also had my dissertation clarification today (well, yesterday now), which for those non-academics reading this is the meeting when my dissertation committee gets together with me to go over my project, make sure what I'm working on will count as a good dissertation project, run through things I should think about or include that I don't have in my proposal, and tell me which things I intend to do that would be a waste of time or not worth doing at least in this project.

One note of interest: My advisor's email to me informing me when my clarification was supposed to be never got sent because of some network issue with her computer at the hotel she was at when she tried to send it, but she thought it had gotten through. So I didn't find out until this morning when the department secretary sent out a reminder email that turned out to inform me that I was supposed to be doing my clarification in six hours, with most of the time in between at the other campus I teach at without my dissertation stuff (and with some of the important dissertation stuff sitting on a hard drive that I can't access, including an important email from a committee member who is out of town this semester, although I managed to get him to email it again).

But I was really ready for this a couple weeks ago and didn't really have to present anything. It was mostly the committee getting themselves on the same page and making sure they agreed that their varying suggestions were all good or at least accurately based in what I intend to do. So there weren't any real problems because of the mistake, and my advisor suggested to me afterward that it was probably easier for me to find out at the last minute, because it's not as if I needed any more time to prepare, and if I'd known I probably would have been affected by its looming approach the whole weekend. That may well be true. Isn't it funny how what seems to be an urgent last-minute crisis can turn out to be a gift in disguise?

The 161st Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at The Evangelical Ecologist. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday). Then do the following:

Mentioning a word does not count as using it. Mentioning it means you are talking about the word itself and not endorsing its usage. You are not using a word simply by mentioning it. This distinction is extremely important in philosophy. When I say that the word 'green' has five letters, I have not used the word 'green'. I have simply mentioned it. The distinction is also important in our moral evaluation of what people do with offensive terms.

Edward Wyatt of the New York Times doesn't care about this distinction. I don't know much about the show Grey's Anatomy or the actor Isaiah Washington. Apparently he's been accused of using the word 'faggot' as a deliberate slur against someone who is gay. If so, then I agree that what he said was immoral. This word is offensive when used to describe a gay person (rather than a cigarette or a piece of split wood, which have an older history of use), and I cannot see any defense of it, even given Christian views about gay sex being wrong. Calling someone a faggot does a lot more than indicate views that the person engages in behavior you disagree with. It certainly doesn't amount to speaking the truth in love, as the apostle Paul commands Christians to do. I do not use the word in any of those contexts myself, even the two unrelated to homosexuality. But notice that I was just willing to mention the word twice.

I don't know what happened back in October, but if Washington publicly denies using the word and in so doing mentions it, it is simply bad reporting to say that Washington "publicly used an anti-gay slur for the second time in roughly three months". It looks as if the second time was not another occurrence of his using the term but rather a mention of his use of it, one that very clearly in context did not amount to endorsing its use but in fact the reverse.

I can understand how some people might disagree on whether it's offensive to mention offensive words. I almost never even mention the n-word. There's too much associated with that word for me to consider it appropriate for someone intimately connected with black people even to mention in most contexts. But clearly it's worse to use it than to mention it, and I wouldn't even consider doing that. Whatever you might think of the wrongness of mentioning this word, it's just insane to think that mentioning it is the same thing as using it. It's a little strange, then, that the second occurrence has provoked a firestorm, when the first wasn't even on my radar back in October.

For some more detailed discussion by linguist Arnold Zwicky, see his Language Log post.


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does marrying christian always work Any thoughts on what that could plausibly mean? what race is beyonce's nationality? Well, that's pretty confused, isn't it? For one, a nationality is not a nation or the people in the nation. It's abstract and isn't the sort of thing that can be a member of a race. Perhaps it could be argued that everyone who has a certain nationality is also a member of a certain race, but Beyonce's nationality is U.S. At best, you could say that the majority of people of her nationality are white. how to return the gift of singleness I'm not sure if that's a joke or if it's supposed to be a serious question about how to reject something God has deemed best. Craig Blomberg supports same sex unions I doubt it. Unless he's changed his views since his I Corinthians commentary, he considers them to be immoral. Now maybe he's somewhere stated that he thinks companies could recognize such unions for benefits like visiting a partner in the hospital, health insurance, or things like that. Perhaps part of his argument for it might be that gay couples have children, and it's best to recognize their guardians as that child's family. Perhaps he is willing to accept same-sex benefits from the government either for similar reasons or because the government has no business regulating a religious institution like marriage. I have no idea what his views are on those issues, and I'm somewhat skeptical that he's even commented on them, but I can easily see a very conservative evangelical taking those views, because I'm fairly open to all those views, and I'm pretty conservative. But none of that even comes close to supporting same sex unions as morally acceptable. abraham after he sacrficed his son Is this some alternate reality Bible or something? what is it called when someone has both male and female sex organs marriage (Sorry, I realize that there are better answers to this question, but I've been waiting for a context to use this joke for years.)

I have little of my own that's worth saying on the Texas HPV issue, but I found Eugene Volokh's post to reflect my general view. His concluding summary is particularly good at encapsulating the main point:

But as a moral matter of individual liberty, it seems to me that there's little support for a claimed freedom from getting immunized -- and especially a claimed freedom from getting your underage children immunized. A requirement that people not allow their bodies to be media for unwitting transmission of deadly diseases strikes me as quite compatible with a generally libertarian perspective on the world.

I should also note that, despite the Family Research Council's attempt [scroll down to the second story] to play this off as merely an issue about whether the government can take away parental rights to make decisions for their children, this could just as easily be seen as a pro-life issue. If parental rights to make decisions for their children were an absolute, then parents should be able to force their daughters to have abortions. The FRC wouldn't want that, would it? Then why is it opposed to a similar life-or-death issue where the government can significantly reduce the effects of risky behavior on those who did not take those risks?

Christian Carnival CLX

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Leland Ryken's Choosing a Bible: Understanding Bible Translation Differences is not really a guide to different Bible translations, as a the title might suggest, but a very short polemic against popular Bible translations that fall under the category commonly known as dynamic equivalence translations (e.g. the New Living Translation and to a lesser degree the New International Version) and in favor of what he calls essentially literal translations (e.g. the New American Standard Bible or Ryken's preferred translation, the English Standard Version). Dynamic equivalence translations are less concerned about matching every word with a word in English (or some smaller unit of meaning) and more interested in capturing the sense or basic meaning of each sentence (or some larger unit of meaning).

I'm generally in agreement with Ryken on some of the issues that drive his arguments in this book, but I think he way overstates his case far too often to give this book a good recommendation. Here is where I agree with Ryken. We ought to be more careful in translating the Bible than some of the more dynamic translations often are. When there is an ambiguity in the text that scholars do not tend to agree on, we should seek to preserve the ambiguity in the translation. When translators can avoid working too much interpretation into their text without sacrificing genuine English language grammar and semantics, they should do so.

However, Ryken does not stop at such moderated claims. He argues that it is always wrong to interpret the text when translating, which is impossible. English words are usually not exactly equivalent in meaning to Greek or Hebrew words, and any translation will be inexact. Sometimes inexactness in one way is better than inexactness in another, but Ryken seems to disallow any interpretation at all, which strikes me as ignoring the fact that translators must interpret before figuring out how to translate. How do you know which words to translate in which ways unless you know what they mean in the particular context? That takes interpretation.

Text Laundering

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Mark Liberman at Language Log has come up with a term to describe one of the most idiotic plagiarism techniques I've ever heard of -- text laundering. The usual method is to save time and effort by copying someone else's work and submitting it as your own. But it's so easy to catch people doing that from online materials that some students are masking their trail by substituting words to fool Google, using a thesaurus to find synonyms and so on.

There are at least two problems with this (purely from the perspective of not wanting to get caught). One is that such use of a thesaurus is likely to lead to awkward enough sounding phrases that anyone reading it who is slightly informed will suspect something is up, and creative enough use of Google will easily find the source anyway. At least that's so unless the student is so thoroughgoing to be immune to Google, which would seem to be the point of text laundering. But such Google-proofing would take up so much time that the student might as well have learned enough of the material to begin with to write a competent essay just from class materials. Can you imagine how long it takes to replace every important keyword in a document one is plagiarizing with alternatives from a thesaurus, all of this after having combed Google for sources to begin with and spliced them together into a format that resembles an academic paper enough that they think it will fulfill the assignment? If plagiarizing is supposed to save time, and text laundering is supposed to make the time-saving effort harder to catch, there doesn't seem to be a good way to achieve both goals simultaneously.

The 160th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday). Then do the following:

Joe Biden and Barack Obama

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Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) has gotten into trouble over the following statement he made about Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) run for the presidency:

I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy

There have been all sorts of reactions to this. I agree that it's racially insensitive, for most of the reasons people have given. It's a typical example of Senator Biden shooting his mouth off without thinking how it would be heard, and he may be right that people are taking it in ways he didn't intend. Whether that excuses him depends on if their way of taking it is more reasonable than his expectation of how they'd take it.

There is the problem with 'articulate', which hasn't received as much of the focus from what I've heard. I think there might be a way for him to say what he meant without using that word, but it would be difficult to be very widely-read on race issues in this country without knowing that many black people find that word offensive, for the reasons I discussed here. That puts him in the same category as Trent Lott. While he almost certainly did not intend anything negative by it, he is way out of step with the black community and their perceptions of how people describe them.

I also don't think his explanation of what he meant by 'clean' is very plausible. You don't refer someone's being fresh in terms of a clean start by saying that person is clean. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but that's almost certainly not it. It may not necessarily reflect any negative views about black people, but I have to hear a more plausible account of what he was thinking to be satisfied. James Joyner suggests that Biden had intended to say "clean-cut" or something similar. If so, I want to hear it from him. It's not what he said he meant. I do think Biden is excited about Obama's campaign and thinks he'd be an excellent president, and I don't think he intended to suggest that Al Sharpton doesn't take regular showers. But I'm not sure what he said he meant is very likely to be what he meant. His response thus sounds a little strange.

Gnu at Wildebeest's Wardrobe reflects on the relationship between philosophy and faith in the scriptures in Philosophy and Canon.

I don't agree with his take on Ecclesiastes, because I see the positive elements throughout the book and the narrator simply framing it and putting it all in perspective, without there being anything really false about the statements of Solomon within the main text.

I'd also change his (3) to "The OT explains how authentic divine predestination is compatible with authentic moral responsibility." That's what it doesn't do. I think it does implicitly affirm that the two are compatible by affirming them both, even in the same breath in some instances (e.g. in Isaiah 10).

But those are minor quibbles. His overall point is worth considering, particularly the way that an intelligent reading of the Bible leads to seeing the Christian's approach to the scriptures as challenging the views of the reader in the same kind of thoughtful way that philosophy at its best will do.

Christian Carnival CLIX

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The 159th Christian Carnival is now up at thoughtsofagyrovague.



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