March 2007 Archives

This time it's about whose house is greener. Guess who wins? This thing has been circulating around blogs and through email, the latter of which is usually a good indication that something in it is inaccurate or misleading, but according to it's pretty much on the level. The Texas Bush home is actually extremely energy-conserving, while Al Gore's house in Tennessee is extremely energy-consuming.

It actually doesn't surprise me that Bush's Texas residence is very energy-conserving. He strikes me as having tried several times (unsuccessfully in most of his attempts) to get his party more interested in environmental issues without adopting economically unfeasible plans like Kyoto or doing something that would trickle down as a burden on the average person the way price controls, additional taxes, or further regulations generally do. One might question whether his proposals would be good, but I think he genuinely wanted his energy pill to pass and then to succeed. He just couldn't get enough Republicans in Congress to go for it.

I've been trying to find somewhat favorable ways to think about what this means for Gore. Is it an inconsistency? It seems so. He has the resources to have a pretty energy-efficient house. Is he a hypocrite? Not necessarily. Hypocrisy requires understanding that your lifestyle doesn't accord with what you preach. Maybe he's just got some kind of intellectual disconnect. But I don't think that's the issue. I suspect he's got the same general view that I find common among those who allow government policies to count as The Solution to any problem that individuals, if they would just live a little more responsibly, could do something about collectively. Let some policy absolve your conscience. Don't worry therefore about how you live your life. As long as you support the right policies, you don't need to live your life in a responsible manner. So I think there's a way to make Gore's lifestyle consistent with his moral views, if his assumption is what I'm suggesting. The only problem is that it just makes the view so ridiculously implausible that it seems tantamount to coming up with a bad excuse for not living in a morally decent manner.

(I should note for the record that this is a standard way for some white liberals to appease their conscience on race issues. Support affirmative action, and then you don't have to worry if your daily actions are perpetuating racist narratives and social structures that harm people of less-advantaged groups. This is by far the most common complaint against liberals from the far left. I notice it regularly in the critical race literature. It can be true of conservatives as well, but the people I'm talking about are much more reluctant to concede that conservatives have any decent bone in their body, never mind a conscience, so they focus their criticism on liberals, who they're more optimistic about possibly changing their ways.)

I've organized most of my lists of volumes in commentary series both in canonical order and in chronological order of publication. This is the chronological listing of the volumes in the New American Commentary series, first for the whole Bible and then for the Old Testament and New Testament separately. The list of volumes in canonical order can be found here.

[Note: The volumes on Daniel and Galatians were released in the same month. I do not know the exact publication dates. Therefore, I don't know which came out first if they were published on different dates. I had to list one of them before the other, so I went with canonical order. All the others are in chronological publication order.]
There seems to be controversy among conservatives as to whether former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) is conservative enough on abortion for them to support his potential candidacy for president. The controversy isn't over whether some agreed-upon position is conservative enough, however. There doesn't seem to be much agreement on what the former senator's views even are.  DaveG at Race 4 2008 has an excellent presentation of what we can know from what the senator has said.

It turns out that he is pro-choice but moderately so. DaveG misdescribes the position as moderately pro-life, but that's inaccurate. The pro-life position is that abortion is generally wrong, with perhaps some very rare exceptions like rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother (on which I have some pointed thoughts here). The pro-choice view, on the other hand, considers abortion to be ok in a significant number of circumstances, even if it's thoroughly immoral in others. Thompson's view is like the view of former Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts and former Senator George Allen of Virginia. He thinks first-trimester abortions are perfectly fine, and anything after that is wrong. He thus takes the view Roe v. Wade once took, one that the Supreme Court significantly expanded in later cases. I find it extremely hard to count that view as pro-life in the sense that the vast majority of pro-lifers consider themselves pro-life.

It's easy to be confused on this, since Thompson is a judicial conservative who thinks Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided on the merits of the case. He probably doesn't think the Constitution guarantees a right to abortion at all. He has indicated that he would be happy to see the decision reversed and turned it over to the states. But that's not because he agrees with pro-lifers on the policy issue. The policy he would want states to take is to allow abortion in the first trimester. That is a pro-choice view, even if it's not as far along the pro-choice spectrum as, say, Rudy Giuliani's position. If it's not a view that he'd want to apply on the federal level, this will make pro-life voters feel a little better about him, and I'd like to verify that this is indeed his view on where abortion policy should be decided. It will not, however, be enough to count him as pro-life in every practical way that a president can be, since he may well think it's ok to use federal money to fund stem-cell research. He might think that issue can indeed be settled at the federal level, since it involves federal money.

So it's true that someone who is moderately pro-choice in the way that Thompson is would end up agreeing with pro-lifers on most abortion-related legislation that comes before the Senate, at least most legislation that came before the Senate in the days before embryonic stem-cell research (where Thompson will indeed disagree very strongly with someone who is fully pro-life, as Mitt Romney now is). It's possible that on most cases related to abortion Thompson would make pro-lifers pretty happy as a moderately pro-choice president. But he would not make pro-lifers as happy as Mitt Romney would. If he's going to take any votes away from leading candidates in this race, it's not likely to include many from Romney once it's clear where the two candidates stand. It's more likely that he'll take votes away from Rudy Giuliani, who is far less moderate in his pro-choice views, even if his judicial conservatism and "leave it for the states" view on abortion will at least give pro-lifers something to be happy about. But there's a clear hierarchy among these three candidates in terms of who is going to be more attractive to pro-life voters on the issue of abortion. Thompson is closer to what pro-life voters want than Giuliani is, but he's not as close as Romney is.
In a post about how white evangelicals often do but should not assume what he calls a "white presumptive" perspective (something I wholeheartedly agree with and have discussed in the past under the term 'normative whiteness'), Mark Dever says something in passing that I'm not sure I agree with.
African-American Christian history is more fundamentally Christian than it is African-American. I realize that may be a controversial statement, but inside the body of Christ, we must realize that our racial identities (while seeming in Revelation to last into eternity) are not as fundamental as our Christian identity.

Again, his main statement there is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Black evangelicals, in my experience, are more likely to resist this biblical truth than white evangelicals, at least in their explicit beliefs. But white evangelicals can often give it lip service to it without realizing how much they are in fact tied to their white identity, as instanced by the very occasion of Mark's post. Whiteness is invisible to most white people, and the fact that white people affirm this statement doesn't mean they really understand what it amounts to and how their lives would have to change were they really to incorporate its truth into their lives.

But the disagreement I have with this statement is not in what it says overall but in what he says in passing in parentheses. He says racial identities seem in Revelation to last into eternity. Is that true? Now it may be that the things that inform our identities racially do last into eternity. Does that mean we will still have races in eternity? I don't think that follows, but I think the question of whether we will have racial identities in eternity is separate from the question of whether the book of Revelation includes anything that should seem to indicate that racial identities will continue in eternity. There are strong indications that the believers gathered around God's throne is a united body of people from every tongue and nation.

But two things make me think it is not teaching that racial identities continue into eternity. First, these descriptions are not just about eternity. They are about the gathered people of God, who are spiritually speaking around the throne of God in heaven. This isn't a resurrection scene. It's a teaching about the nature of the church now. Second, it doesn't say that these are people defined in terms of racial identities. It says that there are people there from every tongue, tribe, and nation. These are people called out of the world and into the people of God. It doesn't mean racial identities are wiped out, but it doesn't say they're not. It simply says that people who were of all the tongues, tribes, and nations are gathered together as one.

Scot McKnight presents some survey results from a new book about conservative Christians. Since most people have an extremely fuzzy sense of what it might mean to be a conservative Christian (even leaving aside the politically conservative issue, which isn't what this is about), I was curious what it meant to be a conservative Christian according to this book. Here is the definition:

[Conservative Christianity] is a biblical religion in the tradition of the Reformation not only at the leadership level but also within the ranks of the faithful.
That's a pretty broad category. I would say it's much broader than evangelicalism. The biggest problem is that "in the tradition of" is extremely vague, in more ways than one. But I didn't have to read much further to know that I shouldn't bother to pay any further attention to anything this book might have to say. Consider the following completely absurd caveat (the introductory words are McKnight's:
But, and this needs to be observed: "only a minority of CCs embrace all of Cons Christianity’s essential elements"
I was sure I must be misreading something. Since I don't have the book, I can't check to see if he's misreporting things. But this just seems completely ridiculous. If someone doesn't meet essential characteristics for being in some category, then they simply aren't in the category. There's no borderline or fringe character to it. It's easy to find lots of categories with unclear boundaries, and it might be unclear whether certain potential members belong in those categories. But that's only true when it comes to non-essential or possibly non-essential characteristics. If we're talking essential characteristics, then not having it means you're not in the category. It's like throwing some triangles in the mix to see if all squares have four sides.

If they're doing this kind of thing, why should they think their results are useful for anything? What's worse is that it isn't just accepting some people to count as Conservative Christians who most definitely are not Conservative Christians. They've stated that a full majority of the people they're counting as Conservative Christians aren't Conservative Christians according to their own definition of Conservative Christians. It's really like taking triangles as most of your samples that you're calling squares and then doing a survey that leads to the conclusion that most squares only have three sides.

The 167th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Nerd Family. 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:

I Am Mighty

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I was going to post something substantial today, either the next post in the Theories of Knowledge and Reality series or what I've been wanting to put together on inerrancy and infallibility, but last night I became what can only be described as violently ill. I'm much better now, but that just means I'm not violently ill anymore. I think it was the pizza I ate at the dissertation workshop I was commenting on yesterday, since no one else in the family is sick, and we've all been eating the same foods otherwise.

But it's nice in times like these to see things like this. [Hint: you can alter the URL, and it gives accordingly altered results.]

Maybe I'll feel better enough later on to post something else, but I'm not having an easy time motivating myself to do anything of much import.

Two Mitt Romney Ideas

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Whatever else is true of Mitt Romney, I don't think anyone can complain that he's a status quo politician of no creativity. Not everyone is going to agree with everything he comes up with, and one important thing to remember is that you're hardly ever going to hear a perfected, complete idea from a politician running for office that wouldn't undergo serious revisions before it could become an actual policy. But both of the following ideas that Mitt Romney is promoting are at least intriguing and worth exploring.

First, he's interested in a key Republican theme of late, enforcing U.S. borders more fully. But one aspect of immigration law that troubles him is why we're so hard on non-citizens who come to the U.S. to study. Shouldn't we want to retain good students who learn at our universities? So he suggests allowing foreign students to remain in the U.S. upon graduation. I've known several people that this could have helped, and I'm certainly willing to consider what he might come up with on this.

Second, he wants to prevent labor unions from forcing someone to join them merely because they work for a certain employer. I have mixed feelings about labor unions. I don't want to deny the good that's come from labor unions, and I have to admit my current line of work as an adjunct faculty member in higher education is as clear a case of exploitation as can be. Anyone who knows anything about it generally admits that pretty readily. But I very much don't like the idea of forcing people to be members of unions as a condition of maintaining a job. In New York the unions don't have to do this. I can be part of the beneficiary group of a labor union among adjuncts at Syracuse University without having to pay union fees. But I know teachers in public school who are required to pay union fees as a condition of holding their job. That strikes me as immoral, particularly since some people are opposed to labor unions in principle. I don't know a lot about the laws on this issue, but given what I know about unions and what I'd like them to be like, I have to be attracted to this idea.

On March 9, Mitt Romney gave a speech to a Cuban American audience. The Miami Herald covered it the next day, mentioning nothing of any gaffes he might have made that would have insulted Cuban Americans. On March 19, ten days after the actual event, they ran a second column about Romney's speech, this time focusing in on his reappropriation of a phrase that Fidel Castro has long used, one that Hugo Chavez has recently adopted as well. The point of the second, much later writeup was to show Romney's insensitivity for using a Castro expression in a positive manner, which would insult most Cuban Americans. Consider their quotation of Romney:

''Hugo Chávez has tried to steal an inspiring phrase -- Patria o muerte, venceremos,'' Romney said. ``It does not belong to him. It belongs to a free Cuba.''

I've seen this around several places, including SmartChristian, without any acknowledgment of the contrary data. Romney's website has a copy of the speech, which says:

Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have stolen the phrase - 'Patria o muerte, venceremos.' This phrase should not be used by dictators, but by liberators.

What Romney used as a criticism of both Castro and Chavez's use of this phrase was reported as Romney's ignorance that Castro even uses the phrase, which no one knowing what the actual speech says could think. If the speech on Romney's site is correct, then this is a clear example of misreporting in a way that guarantees misinterpretation. I'm not sure how someone who had access to his speech could possibly bungle things as badly as that. Of course it's possible Romney pulled a John Kerry and posted an official version of the speech that didn't match up to what he'd said on the occasion (and the reporter has claimed as much). Without a recording, we can't know for sure. I'm not sure why the original report have included something about this, however, if he had really said what the second piece claims. I can't rule out a deliberate attempt to make Romney look insensitive toward a minority voting bloc that has been pretty good to Republicans in the past. But without audio of the event, which the Miami Herald isn't releasing, there's no way to be sure what he said.

For more, see the discussions at Captain's Quarters and Race 4 2008.

The 166th Christian Carnival is up at Wittenberg Gate.

This is the fortieth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I looked at some of the arguments that have been offered in favor of taking ourselves to have free will. In this post, I'd like to distinguish between the different views one can take on the two main issues at stake in this debate, with some attention to which combinations of these views are coherent.

I've already given a definition of determinism, and its denial is indeterminism. If the laws of nature and any state of the world guarantee any later state of the world, then determinism is true. Otherwise, indeterminism is true. The question that immediately arises is how we should connect that issue up with the question of free will. To settle that, we first need an account of what free will is, and then we can answer the question of whether we could be free in a world that is deterministic. In a coinage that, unusual for philosophy, actually reflects ordinary, contemporary English, the view that freedom and determinism are compatible is called compatibilism. Thus some views of freedom will be compatibilist accounts of freedom, while others will be incompatibilist.

Incompatibilism splits into two main camps, libertarianism and hard determinism. Both affirm that we can't have free will if determinism is true, but each chooses a different horn of the dilemma. Libertarians (not to be confused with political libertarians) affirm human freedom and deny determinism, while hard determinists accept determinism and deny free will. The standard libertarian account of freedom includes at least one thesis, sometimes called the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP). PAP says that it is possible to do otherwise than what we actually do. Whatever we did do, we could have done something else. We'll look at some variations in what else a libertarian might say, but most libertarians do accept this component. For now it will suffice to see that if determinism is true, then only one future seems possible, since the laws of nature together with the past will guarantee the future, exactly one future, without other options for what that future will be. So if determinism is true, then we seem not to have alternative options. Thus freedom requires indeterminism if libertarianism is correct.

This is a list of the current and forthcoming commentaries in the New American Commentary (NAC). For a chronological list according to publication date, see here. For more series, see my post on commentary series. This series is published by Broadman and Holman, and thus its commitments will reflect those of the current people behind that publisher, who are conservative Southern Baptists. Not every commentator in the series is a dispensationalist SBC type (e.g. a few are Reformed Baptists with other eschatological perspectives), but all volumes can be expected to affirm inerrancy and to have contemporary relevance in mind. The aim is to be mid-level, less depth than the New International Commentary series (and even a little less than the Pillar New Testament Commentary) but much more expansive than the Tyndale series and most other expositional commentaries. Some of the volumes seem to leave much of the scholarship in footnotes and just give a running exposition. Others are more detailed in exegetical rigor in the main text. All are fairly readable to those without strong seminary training, and some are quite excellent. Most of them spend more time on theology than is common in more detailed series. The series is mostly complete now, with Psalms, Isaiah, Zechariah, I Corinthians, Ephesians, Hebrews, and Revelation left to be published. Here are the volumes that are out:

The 166th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Wittenberg Gate. 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:

Terrestrial Radio

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I heard someone on the radio today refer to radio as terrestrial radio (as opposed to internet "radio"). A quick Google search reveals that this inaccurate term has become fairly standard. Now internet "radio" is not radio but simply music selected by someone else to listen to coming via another medium. People do that over radio waves too, and they just wanted to capture the feel of radio stations but in a different medium. I could understand internet television, since that term is not tied to the medium the signal is carried in. But the word 'radio' is, or at least it used to be before whoever started talking about internet "radio" hijacked the term.

It's always seemed a bad idea to me to call that radio, but I think it's worse to refer to actual radio as terrestrial radio. Something is terrestrial if it is on the ground. Radio waves go through the air. What's worse, however, is that internet "radio" is much closer to the ground than actual radio. Internet cables can run through the air but can also run along the ground or underground. It would thus be much more accurate to call radio by its name, 'radio', and to refer to this thing they're calling internet "radio" as terrestrial radio. It wouldn't be accurate, but it would be more accurate than what they're using the term for now. But I guess people who coin words don't often think about what they're doing, and we've now got a case where terrestrial radio is not terrestrial, and internet radio is not radio. At least they're not distinguishing between AM and FM internet radio.

It's become fairly commonplace that someone will claim that the concept of inerrancy is a relatively recent development in the history of Christianity. Some trace it back to the 19th century and then claim that anyone beforehand held some weaker view of the authority of scripture. I'm not sure how this got started, but it's been popularized by people who are otherwise good scholars, such as George Marsden. I've had it on the backburner for at least several months now to put together a post on this issue, but I haven't managed to get the impetus to do it until a commenter on this post threw this canard at me. So here is what I consider to be absolutely clear statements from some historical figures long before the 19th century holding to views that seem to me to be pretty much the same view as the inerrancy of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, which has become a standard account of contemporary evangelicals mean by the term.

Now I've always thought the biblical authors would be shocked at any suggestion that there were errors in any genuinely divinely-inspired scripture. I think there are reasons for thinking this in the various parts of the canon. But Jesus and the authors of the epistles very clearly saw the psalms as authoritative in a way that they would base arguments on particular words. Clearly they took the psalms seriously.

I find it extremely hard to take Psalm 119 seriously without concluding that its author held (at least what at the time was considered) God’s word to be absolutely infallible. It doesn’t take reading very far into the psalm to see that. Verse 13 says that all the laws come from God (which the Torah itself repeatedly stresses). Throughout the psalm there are statements about how trustworthy God’s word and law are, e.g. v.86 “all your commands are trustworthy”, and v.139 says they are fully trustworthy. V.89 says it’s eternal and in the heavens as if some might have thought that it was a merely humanly authored set of documents that are temporary or not fully what God would want expressed, and v.91 explains the continuance of the laws in terms of everything serving God, including the laws, which were authored under his sovereign decree. In v.118, straying in any way from God’s decrees deserves God’s rejection, which amounts to saying that God rejects any deviation from them, i.e. seeing any of them as in error. According to v.151, all of them are true, and v.172 says all of them are righteous, with v.142 tying them together: “your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true”, which in Hebrew parallelism connects the truth of the laws to the righteousness of God. The contrast of v.163 between hating falsehood but loving God’s law amounts to saying that none of the laws are false. I don't know how to accept all of that while denying inerrancy.

Two Mistaken Searches

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Two searches that arrived at my blog in the relatively near past involved assumptions that I would very strongly disagree with. Since these are a little more extended comments than I like to give to searches, I'm only including two searches in this post.

peter enns denies inerrancy
Hardly. He teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary, which requires its professors to affirm inerrancy. What Enns does is flirt with unhelpful and inaccurate ways of saying things that, if taken more seriously than he probably wants to take them, would lead logically to a denial of inerrancy. I wouldn't say that his views don't face difficulties if you want to reconcile them with inerrancy. They certainly do. But I don't think he sees that. He officially accepts inerrancy (at the center of his core views in terms of importance) and just doesn't realize that some of the things he holds (on the outskirts) might undermine his support of inerrancy.

"Campus Crusade for Christ" complementarian
Some people think this (and the results Google turns up for this search show that some vocal people in this debate seem to think this). But it's actually not true. Simply because they have not taken the stance that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has endorsed (which is very clearly egalitarian) does not mean that they have endorsed complementarianism. They leave that issue up to the local leadership of each ministry on each campus. I've seen some run their group in complementarian ways and others not. At Syracuse, women give talks at meetings and co-lead Bible studies with male members. The leadership at Brown during my first two years there did the same thing. Because they don't want to cause division, they seek to have a male and female director at each location and refuse to have a female director without a male director (except at all Women's schools like Smith College). But that's not because of an endorsement of complementarianism. It's because they seek to avoid structures at the organizational level that will make people of either view uncomfortable. Some of the national leaders are complementarians, but others are egalitarians. There has been tension over this issue but not because either view is dictating how things should be run. The tension is because neither view is endorsed.

Christian Carnival CLXV

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The 165th Christian Carnival is up at Pseudo-Polymath.

Jonathan Ichikawa has an interesting argument for vegetarianism. It would be immoral to have a party where we throw human parts around just for the fun of it, parts from people grown specifically so that we can have enjoyment in doing exactly that. Jonathan suggests that it would be wrong to attend the party even if such attendance doesn't cause the practice or fund it in any way. He says this is because it supports it. I'm not sure that's the real reason it's wrong. I agree with Richard's comment that mere participation in an evil practice is wrong. I don't think it's supporting it that's the issue. It might be ok to support an evil practice as long as one's reason for doing so is not to use that evil practice as a means to your end but rather that the support is an unintended side-effect that your end doesn't itself rely on. But in this case that's not what's going on, since you're actively participating in the practice. That's what seems to me to be wrong about it. Is the same true for eating animal meat produced in factory farms? The argument assumes that animals in factory farms really are treated immorally, but that's something I agree with.

One way to distinguish between the two cases is if you have a basic distinction between our moral obligations to animals and our moral obligations to humans. Some people, for instance, think we have moral relationships with humans as our fellow members of a moral community that we don't have with animals. This doesn't mean we have no moral obligations toward animals, but the fact that they're not in the moral community with us in terms of being moral agents themselves is, on some ethical theories, reason for taking them to have moral properties of a different order. Perhaps this is not having rights of the same sort. For example, it's easier for our obligations to animals to be outweighed by other considerations than it is for our obligations to humans, or perhaps our obligations to humans can never be outweighed, while our obligations to animals can.

I don't myself think this is sufficient, because I think attending such a party with animal parts is immoral (even if you don't pay to attend). I do think it's much less wrong than with people parts, but it's wrong. The reason is not that you're funding the killing of animals for mere entertainment (although if it's also that, it might add to its wrongness). It's also not that it's merely supporting such a practice. You're engaging in the very entertainment goal that constitutes the evil practice. You're not merely supporting it, and I think engaging in it without supporting it is wrong. Suppose, for example, that you were able to sneak in, take an animal part or two off to your own private room with some friends, and engage in your own game of catch for enjoyment. I don't see how that provides any support for the practice. You even detract from it by stealing some of their animal parts without ever engaging with those who are doing it in any positive way. But you participate in an important way in the behavior that constitutes the practice.

So I don't think this is the right way for those who defend meat-eating to respond to Jonathan's argument. Merely distinguishing between the moral status of humans and animals won't be sufficient if the same practice with animal parts is wrong, and it's wrong merely to participate in it. If eating meat is analogous to playing games with it, then merely eating it is wrong. That's participating in it. It doesn't matter if you aren't providing any noticeable (or even any) support to the practice that will help it continue or fund those who do it. Even if you stole all the meat you eat, you'd be participating. So I think defending omnivorous practices in a world where most meat comes from factory meat-market is going to require finding some disanalogy between the case of eating meat and the case of throwing animal meat around for entertainment.

The Dawkins Delusion

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I'm not sure how I missed this, but it's one of the most intelligent (not to mention one of the funniest) parodies I've ever seen of anything.

The 165th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Pseudo-Polymath. 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:


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It's been difficult to check my sitemeter while my computer situation has been in transition. But I did have a few saved on my hard drive that were inaccessible for much of that time, and a couple have been interesting since of been up and running.

biblical translation of man being a three part being
You know, this is so obviously referring to the mind, the soul or spirit, and the body. So why is it that my immediate thought on seeing this search was of three parts of someone's life, an early period, a middle period, and a late period? Maybe I've just been thinking too much about four-dimensionalism and temporal parts.

gospel mark resurrection added "years later"
No, the part that most scholars believe was added later is Mark 16:9-20. The resurrection account is Mark 16:1-8. Some think that was the original ending, others think vv.9-20 were the original ending, and still otherrs think we've no longer got the original ending, but no one thinks vv.1-8 were added later.

barak obama changes his accent
Well, he did sound distinctly like a Southern black preacher at the Bloody Sunday anniversary commemoration last weekend. It took me a few seconds to realize it was him. I guess he's decided that to get the black vote he's got to "sound black" at least some of the time.

bush any one involved in leaking the name will be fired
What he said is that he'll take appropriate action if anyone in his administration was involved. What he meant by "appropriate action" is not something I'm going to speculate about beyond suggesting that it could be anywhere in the range of from a minor scolding to prosecuting with the full fury of the Justice Department.

Someone found this blog searching for the following question:

should you capitalize bible

I'd be surprised if the searcher is ever going to see this post, but what would be the best way to answer that question? I was always taught to capitalize it, but I was also taught to capitalize pronouns for divine persons, and I've since concluded that that's not just unnecessary but a bad idea entirely. So should we capitalize the initial letter of 'Bible' or not?

I don't think the arguments against capitalizing divine pronouns apply here, since those arguments rely on the ambiguity of pronouns in terms of who they refer to. The issue is whether it's a proper name of the sort that we should capitalize. We capitalize proper names, which is why I mark it wrong when my students use the word 'god' with lowercase when they are referring to a divine being as if with a name. Some people think they shouldn't capitalize the word if they don't or aren't sure they believe in God or one god, but we capitalize the name 'Gandalf', and no one believes he exists.

But is it different with the expression 'the Bible'? After all, we're not capitalizing the first letter of 'the', and the presence of that definite article to begin with is unusual in a name. But then other names do begin with articles, e.g. the Superbowl, the Beatles, the Boston Celtics, the Kama Sutra. So there's no assumption that you really believe the Bible is holy. It's just treating the name as a proper name of the same kind as the rest of this list. My conclusion then (in the absence of any argument to the contrary or any considerations undermining the one consideration that I've given) is that we ought to capitalize the initial B in 'Bible' when using 'the Bible' as a proper name. This reasoning would not support capitalizing the adjectival form 'biblical'.

I guess this means I need to be making a note of this also in my students' papers. I'd been thinking this was the sort of thing people could disagree about in a way that isn't true of 'God'. But it appears that's not so. You get it wrong when you talk about the bible as opposed to the Bible (at least when you're talking about the Bible and not some TV show's backstory guide for the writers of the show, which is indeed a bible).

Computer Update

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I was going to post something else today, but I've sort of run out of time. The comments have been unusually busy lately in some very old posts, in case you haven't checked the list of recent comments. There's an intense discussion going on here, but several other posts from a while back have had some traffic. But the majority of my time has gone to getting my new computer up and running. It arrived on Tuesday, and I've spent almost all of my free time doing something or other to install applications, copy files, get it working with the printer, and so on.

The email was the biggest problem. Since I can't find my Office discs, I had to install Thunderbird for email and OpenOffice for what's supposed to be the equivalent of Word and Excel (but the difference is huge in terms of functionality). Thunderbird for some reason can't handle an Outlook PST file, which are the nice and convenient way Outlook stores its data all in one place. The only way to convert Outlook files to Thunderbird is to open the Outlook file in a computer with a working Outlook program and then to install Thunderbird on that system. Then you copy the Thunderbird files to the new machine, and you're ok. So I had to get Outlook up and running with my new file (a very large file, by the way, which takes a while to copy from one computer to another via an external hard drive)) on an old computer, install Thunderbird on the old computer, and then copy those files back to the new computer. Wouldn't it be much more effective just to accept the PST file in Thunderbird? It also didn't register which messages I had read and which I had marked as unread or flagged, which means I have a few years of unread messages now that aren't marked as to whether they contain something significant. I'm not impressed by Mozilla with this, even if I've liked a lot of what they've done in the past.

After all this, I think I'm finally up and running on my new computer. I've been a long-time Dell customer, and while I've had lots of problems in the past they've always done their best to fix the problems in a timely manner based on the terms of my contract. In this case, they've gone well beyond what I could have expect, and I have to give them credit for that. Not only did they replace a four year old computer whose contract is up in two months, but they even sent me a free cable to use for printing now that I don't have a parallel port to use with my existing printer. So I think Dell has easily made up for whatever trouble I've had with all this, and this couldn't have come at a better time in terms of finances and what would have been a very soon need to think about getting a new computer.

Obama and Slavery

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Some black Americans are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is not black or not black enough Stanley Crouch is a good example of someone holding such a view. The reasoning seems to me to be not so much that he's mixed race (which is compatible with being black) but more that he is not descended from West African slaves in the U.S. What that has to do with the concept of blackness in the U.S. is something I can't understand. Most Americans treat Barack Obama as black, and thus he is black by the operational concepts of race at work in this context. But it's certainly true that some components of what some black Americans see as crucial to their black identity are not part of his life at all (or at least not naturally; when he puts on a Southern black accent to speak at the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, that doesn't count as normally speaking that way), and being descended from West African slaves in the U.S. is one of those elements.

But now it turns out that Obama's white mother is descended from white slaveowners. It's sort of ironically funny, but what serious import does this revelation have? It's worth thinking about what significance people might find in this. The same is true of every black American descended from white slaveowners who raped their slaves, which produced mixed race offpspring who were then labeled as black. That ancestry is fairly common among black Americans today. There is one difference in this case, though. Senator Obama's maternal ancestors who were the beneficiaries of white anti-black racism (whether intentional or not) are much closer in his line than is the case with those the eventual result of slave rape. In fact, the victims of white anti-black racism are not at all in his line, at least until him, since he of course is treated as black in a society that still manifests racism. But it is the latter fact that would make him black, not the former.

Perhaps justice issues related to ancestry from slaves that some black people will have and he won't (or won't as much). But that issue is a problem for those who think certain kinds of justice are due to all black people. Trying to get around that problem by defining those who would not benefit from such proposed measures aren't really black seems to me to be illegitimate.

But this does (technically) lay to rest the claim that Senator Obama's ancestry didn't have anything to do with American slavery. For some fun video, see this Racialicious post, which contains Debra Dickerson's appearance on The Colbert Report (defending the same position as Crouch) and then a Saturday Night Live parody of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton discussing how black Obama is.

The commentary on the irresponsible documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus continues after its airing. See here for links to some of the pre-game discussion. Mark Goodacre liveblogged the Discovery Channel special, and Jim West also treats the documentary segment by segment.

Ben Witherington has a nice summary of the problems with it. Andreas Kostenberger has a similar evaluation, including a Q&A format about the documentary based on questions he'd asked ahead of time about what they'd be willing to include that might count against their case. Craig Evans responds , and Bruce Chilton comments here and here. Chris Weimer has a very clear presentation of difficulties in the argument and presentation of issues in the film.

Matt Jones gives a seminary student's perspective on the documentary and the Ted Koppel debate afterward. Other responses to the Koppel aftershow include Mark Goodacre's and Kevin Wilson's.

For more links, see Tyler Williams' roundup.

O. Palmer Robertson's Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah has put together an excellent treatment of these three minor prophets. He defends views typical among conservative evangelicals, placing the books in the 7th century and defending the unity of composition, each by the single author they claim to be about. His treatment of the theology of these books is probably one of the best among contemporary commentaries.

Robertson tends to emphasize New Testament and later Christian interpretations, usually in a way that I find convincing but occasionally going a little beyond the text. Consider the following example. Coming from a Reformed theological tradition, Robertson defends the Reformation interpretation of justification by faith in Habakkuk, something several of the more mainstream commentaries have sought to undermine. He so emphasizes faith (over faithfulness) that I think he underemphasizes the connection between faith and repentance that some other commentaries seemed to me to get more clearly, but I welcome his attempt to see genuine justification by faith in Habakkuk's prophecy. I didn't notice anything particular to covenant theology as opposed to new covenant theology (the differences between Reformed covenant theologians and Reformed Baptists), though his expertise is in covenant theology.

The 164th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Everyday Liturgy. 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:

I'm a bit late with this, but Bruce Metzger managed to survive about week after his 93rd birthday last month, right during the time my computer died, so I couldn't put together the kind of post I wanted to. The nice thing is that I could now go back and read what everyone else said before saying anything myself.

Several things stick out to me Dr. Metzger's contribution to biblical studies in general and textual criticism in particular, but it's his effect on the popular level that I'm most grateful for, so I'll say a couple things about that before including some wonderful anecdotes from people's interaction with him. I'm not going to link to all the writeups in the blogosphere since his death. The Princeton Seminary writeup does a good job of capturing some of his achievements, and you can follow the links below from where I took the anecdotes for a number of other writeups and accounts. Instead, I'll mention two things I'm grateful for from his work that have had an impact at the popular level, even if his most important work was fairly technical scholarship in textual criticism.

1. Metzger was one of the Christian scholars interviewed for the fictional interview format of Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. Strobel presents the book as first-person reports of an investigative reporter's interviews with Christian biblical scholars in a way that increases the reporter's confidence about Christian claims. He begins with textual criticism, discussing with Metzger whether we can take the Bible as a reliable source in terms of our current texts reflecting what the original said. It's one of the strongest chapters in the book. After all, Metzger was widely viewed as the most important scholar in the field of New Testament textual criticism. I'm less pleased with some chapters in that book, but several of them are top-notch, and the one based on what Metzger has to say is perhaps the most careful of them all.

2. It was almost entirely due to Metzger's insistence that the NRSV committee refrained from using gender-inclusive language for God. The NRSV is the most academically respected translation and is usually the translation of choice for most university courses on the Bible. I very much doubt it would have the same credibility if Metzger hadn't won over the translation committee to an understanding of why their original intention would have been such a bad idea. I think there is room for good translations that use different policies on gender-neutral language when referring to humans. I don't think the same is true for language about God.

Also, some excellent anecdotes have come up in bloggers' tributes. Several have stuck out to me as indicative of Metzger's personality and temperament.

I've said before that I think Mitt Romney is the best Republican candidate running for president in the 2008 election. He best represents the positions of the national party among those who I consider important enough candidates to have much chance. That doesn't mean I think he's the most likely to beat whoever the Democratic nominee might be, and it doesn't mean I agree with everything he says. Here is a case where I think he has said the wrong thing. He described Rudy Giuliani as being "pro-gay marriage". Some people have complained that Giuliani has never been in favor of gay marriage but has endorsed civil unions. I think this complaint is fair. That is Giuliani's position.

Evangelicals for Mitt is defending him on this matter, citing a Giuliani quote from 2004 that shows that he then opposed a ban on gay marriage. Given that the ban being proposed by the president in 2004 was a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, this is not support for gay marriage. Not thinking that the U.S. Constitution is the place for a ban on gay marriage does not amount to supporting gay marriage, as Senator Robert Byrd will remind you.

Now it may be that Giuliani doesn't care about the issue very much and won't pursue it vigorously the way Romney will. It may also be that he will support civil unions, and Romney will not. For that reason conservatives on this issue may well prefer Romney as president to Giuliani (other things being equal). But that doesn't mean it's fair to say that someone who opposed a particular attempt to ban gay marriage in a constitutional amendment counts as being in favor of gay marriage. That conclusion simply does not follow, and I think Governor Romney is indeed guilty of misrepresenting Mayor Giuliani's position on this issue. It's nowhere near as bad as Romney's own positions have been misrepresented, but it's something I think he and some of his defenders ought to be more careful about.


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Andrew Jackson is criticizing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice for referring to the border between Turkey and Kurdistan. Given one geographical and cultural entity that the name 'Kurdistan' refers to, he is right. Kurdistan is a region that is larger than the region within Iraq occupied by Kurdish people. Parts of it are in other countries, including most importantly a part that is in Turkey, and thus there could be no border between Turkey and that Kurdistan.

However, the term 'Kurdistan' is ambiguous, which Wikipedia's disambiguation page for the term demonstrates. One legitimate use of the term 'Kurdistan' is to refer to the province of Kurdistan in Iraq. One might argue that it would be politically inexpedient to refer to the border that way when talking to someone in Turkey, but she was speaking in the U.S. Congress about problems that in context very clearly had to do with Iraqi Kurdistan, not the larger Kurdish region. In context, then, what she said was not inaccurate and not an error. There is in fact a border between Turkey and the Kurdistan she was referring to, and anyone who knows the name of that semi-autonomous region in Iraq would have been able to register that she meant that Kurdistan rather than the larger, culturally-identified, non-political region that Andrew has in mind.

Update 3-3-07 10:54 pm: The State Department has issued a statement. Andrew describes it as follows: "Condi Rice backsteps and clarifies that northern Iraq is not Kurdistan, no matter what they want to call themselves." But what he links to sounds like the State Department is explaining what she meant and not taking it back. All it says is that she was referring to the region of Iraq that goes by that name. It's thus more akin to my defense of her statement than to an apology or retraction.

Well, I called Dell yesterday to figure out where they were in the process of figuring out what was wrong with my computer. (See here and here for the story so far.) The representative who is handling my case couldn't find anything under the case number he had given me and told me he'd have to get back to me. He thought they must have somehow deleted the case file and just had the computer sitting somewhere pending some information on what to do with it.

When he called me back, he said "Well, I've got some bad news for you." I was expecting him to say the computer was irredeemable for some reason and that they were going to have to send me a new one. It turns out they will be giving me a new computer, but it's not because of anything to do with the old one. Indeed, they don't even know where my computer is. It seems to have arrived with a huge shipment of computers. Someone signed for it. But it's nowhere to be found. Now I'm really glad I managed to back everything up. I was expecting to have to reinstall everything anyway, because there seemed to be some corruption on my hard drive. (My Outlook files turned out to be present but in a directory that was renamed with funny characters in the middle of it). If I have to start off anew, I might as well enjoy the fact that it will be a better computer.

Meanwhile, someone from Dell found my blog because of these posts and sent me an apologetic and reassuring email. (His email address was simpler than the standard format Dell uses, which made me wonder if he was higher up in the company or maybe had been with them a longer time than most of the people I've dealt with, but there could be any number of explanations for that). I even managed to get a request in for my new computer to have the trackstick that looks like a pencil eraser in the middle of the keyboard, and he said he'd make sure I got a computer without a trackstick. I absolutely loathe trackpads and turn mine off. Everything J. Jonah Jameson says about Spiderman is true of trackpads. They're a menace!

But I have to say that as annoying as these problems have been, Dell has been very good to me according to what's in their power. This was an old computer that they don't even make anymore whose contract I extended at least twice, and although they couldn't manage to make the next-day service part of the contract really work out they certainly will have made it up to me by the time this is all done, which may be another week or so by the sound of things. When all is said and done, I will probably have been without a computer for almost a month, and much of the rest of that month will be taken up with getting everything installed and set up the way I want it. But I'll have a new computer that's much faster and has much more hard disk space, and all I'll have to pay for is extending the contract if I want to continue to have Dell service it they way they have done with the previous computer.

Given that I was expecting the computer to break down inevitably sometime after the contract expiration in May, and then we'd have had to buy a new computer out of our tax return (since my pay for teaching just one course this semester is barely covering our essential living expenses at this point), I'd say the loss of a month of use of my computer turns out to be worth it in the end. It's also nice that my spring break occurs during that month, so it's probably only going to be at most three weeks of actual teaching time.



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