Jeremy Pierce: March 2005 Archives

When the Reformation Study Bible came out, I didn't want to get a third copy of the New American Standard Bible, which was the only translation they had it in. I already had a Ryrie NASB and a Thompson-Chain NASB. Then they changed the translation to the NKJV, which I had already in study Bible form with the Open Bible. Since I'm not a big fan of the textual basis of the NKJV, I didn't want a second NKJV, since I wanted my Reformation Study Bible to be a translation I'd want to read regularly. So I've been waiting for quite some time, and now they've finally released it in the English Standard Version.

This is an opportune time for me, because my hardcover ESV is just about ready to fall apart. I've read all of it now except the minor prophets from Hosea 9 through the end of Malachi, and I've brought it with me most of the time to Bible studies, church, and other occasions. It's nice to have this translation with a study Bible I've wanted to have for years, and the binding will last this time. I made the mistake of trying to find it at the local Christian bookstore, where I was told that it was out but they'd never even received the copies they'd ordered due to such incredibly high demand that the publishers couldn't produce enough of them to meet everyone's orders. Amazon and CBD had pretty high prices, so I checked on Froogle and found that Westminster Seminary had it in stock and could send it out that day. That did. That was Tuesday, during the 4:00 hour. I have it in my hands right now. That's what I call service. Not only did it arrive within two days, but it was hand delivered with a grin by a member of my own congregation who works for UPS!

One Hand Clapping and JollyBlogger are disagreeing on what the intermediate state is like for believers. Donald argues that we are not Cartesian souls encamped within bodies but body-soul unities, and thus when we're unbodied we won't really exist for a time until the resurrection. David argues that we will be fully conscious in the intermediate state, awaiting resurrection. I disagree with both of them. What seems to be the best way to take all the biblical data is to see the intermediate state as a genuine state with some level of consciousness but not with anything like the kind of consciousness we have in our embodies state. It's hard to get any sense of what level or kind of consciousness this will be without making interpretive decisions on which passages one takes as primary, and I'm not going to do that here. My main point is to argue for something in between the views of David and Donald.

I think this is one of those issues where each view has some scripture that seems to contradict it. I'm not going to deal with the details of any passage, though if people want to raise details in the comments, I'll be happy to engage with those then. Donald raised a number of linguistic and cultural issues that I also don't want to deal heavily with. That's also fair game in comments. I wanted to focus this post on two issues.

I've only had one interesting search in the past week, although a few people don't know how to spell T'Pol's name, and somehow they find me because of it. I suppose I should also mention that I'm getting scores of hits from people looking for an answer to why slavery is wrong, which is pretty funny given which posts they're turning up.

This other one that just leaves my scratching my head:

genesis sun close blacks

The first season of the new Battlestar Galactica show is coming to an end this Friday, but in case weren't aware of it, head writer and re-envisioner Ron Moore has a blog, which has his reflections throughout the season, and I'm sure he'll have things to say as the work on the next season continues. I know they've started filming, because Gateworld has pictures up already. I'm expecting even better things in the next season. The one spoiler I found out about the final episode sounds like it really has some excellent openings for some really interesting storytelling.

The 63rd Christian Carnival is at Weapon of Mass Distraction. As I say in every roundup, my highlights post for the carnival will come once I've had the time to look through it all. I'm hoping that will be quicker this week due to my not having to teach tomorrow.


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It's a good thing I'm sort of on Spring Break this week. After not sleeping even the minimal six hours most nights for a couple weeks while already having a cold, I'm in pretty bad shape. I can't move very quickly without a head rush, especially if it's vertical movement. I had to teach last night at the school that doesn't have off this week. It was a three-hour class, and I was already pretty sick and losing my voice beforehand, and then I had to talk for three hours. I was hoping to have at least one contentful post today, but I haven't had two hands free and the ability to sit down for long enough for most of the day. To top it all off, Isaiah just stuck his finger in my eye, and I can't see anything. So much for day one of my partial Spring Break.

Update: Apparently it's even worse to bend over than it is to go upstairs, but somehow going downstairs is fine. Any reason why that might be?

I can see again, but Sam just left for dance class, so I'm managing all three kids for a few hours, which usually takes all my energy even when I'm not in ultra-low energy mode. Then I'm be at Bible study later. That makes it unlikely that I'll post much else today unless the kids are fairly well-behaved and willing to entertain themselves. The only reason I'm writing this now is because Sophia's asleep, and the boys are in the bathtub for coal removal. They got into the barbecue coal on the back porch today. Then after I closed it up and brought them in they did it again when Sam insisted they'd be fine if the lid was on. I guess we can't rely on that lid anymore.

Mark Roberts has been working through a balanced evaluation of the TNIV. This post is a catalog of my posts that interact with his series. I'm moving through his posts a few at a time, focusing on crucial points and summarizing what seems right to me. When I disagree, I'm spending some time explaining why. I'll update this post as my series continues.

Part I covers Mark's first five posts, covering mostly introductory issues about translation in general, with some specific information on the TNIV as well.

Part II looks at one further issue in translation, that of the changing target language. The bulk of the post deals with dynamic vs. formal equivalence translations, why it's misleading to think of this dispute as one between those who want a more literal translation vs. those who want one that's more of a paraphrase, and how the TNIV stands with respect to this issue as compared with the translations that are usually called more literal and with respect to the NIV itself.

This is Part II of my series interacting with Mark Roberts' series on the TNIV controversy.

In my last post I'd gotten through Mark's fifth post. In the sixth one, he discusses the difficulty of translating into a changing language. Linguists tell us that English has changed less since the standardization of spelling and grammar in formal media , which lessens Mark's point a little bit, but he's still right. As English changes, younger generations will have less familiarity with the forms of language in an older translation, and the NIV is old enough that it has forms that sounded ok to its translators, many of whom were old in the 1970s when the NIV was completed. Mark points out that those who grew up with the NIV wouldn't notice this, because they learned English with those expressions as part of it, but the biblically illiterate have much less of this. This point can be taken to show more than it does show, but Mark simply makes it without concluding much yet, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Hobbit movie

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Peter Jackson is talking about beginning work on a film version of The Hobbit, perhaps in 3-4 years. I was under the impression that he wasn't really interested, but I guess he just wanted to take a break to do something different first.

I'd like to see them use Ian Holm again for Bilbo, since Bilbo was only a little younger than Holm is when the Hobbit took place. I'd really like to see them include the Council of the Wise attacking Dol Guldur during the time Gandalf is away from the party, with guest spots by Saruman, Radagast, Elrond, Galadriel, and Cirdan. I know this isn't in the book but in The Unfinished Tales, but Jackson included material from the appendices and other works in the trilogy. It would also be great to include Gandalf's discovery of Thrain at Dol Guldur at the beginning to set it all up, along with the meeting of Gandalf and Thorin in Bree before they go to Bilbo, which I believe are both also in The Unfinished Tales. Of course, those last two would also work nicely as DVD extended edition extra scenes. I wouldn't put it past them this time around to film certain scenes specifically for the DVD.

Weapon of Mass Distraction will be hosting the 63rd Christian Carnival this week. 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.

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:

Christian Carnival LXII

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The 62nd Christian Carnival is at A Nutt's View. My contribution is Mark Roberts on the TNIV, Part I.

I've already linked to the bloke in the outer's post on Rick Warren in this post.

The Bible Archive reflects on I Peter 3:7. You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. Most discussions of this verse deal with whether the weaker vessel language that this translation hides is misgynistic. Rey instead focuses on the second half of the verse. Not showing honor to a believing wife hinders prayers.

I Was Just Thinking... points out something that often disturbs me. It's one thing to acknowledge that we're imperfect in full honesty and humility. It's quite another to delight in it and wear it as a badge of honor. There's even a fine line between the two. At the end of Philippians 3, Paul describes the enemies of Christ glorying in their shame. The first section of Ephesians 5 describes the deeds the believers Paul was writing to had formerly walked in, saying it's shameful even to speak of them in private. It's shameful to treat our being like the world as something to be proud of. How backwards is that?

Tim Challies points out some disappointing features of Rick Warren's first column in Ladies Home Journal. His message is summed up into five points: Accept Yourself, Love Yourself, Be True To Yourself, Forgive Yourself, Believe in Yourself. It doesn't mention some of the key features of the gospel that one might expect from an evangelical trying to speak into those who consume popular culture. Tim says this column is a squandered oppportunity, because everything he says is consistent with New Age spirituality. Is this the right thing to say? Yes and no.

Philosophers' Carnival XI


The eleventh Philosophers' Carnival is at the only official blog of Clayton Littlejohn. My Heteronormative is part of it.

Patrick at Prior Knowledge has an example inspired by the Pleasure Machine case that's supposed to take our intuitions the other direction. I couldn't figure out which of three interpretations of his example he'd intended, so I responded to all three at OrangePhilosophy.

Chris Panza at Metatome has an interesting post worrying about how ethics instructors teach ethics and whether it just fosters relativism in the simplistic "who's to say?" form. I reflected a little bit on the conversation that ensued in this post.

Chris Panza at Metatome has an interesting post worrying about how ethics instructors teach ethics and whether it just fosters relativism in the simplistic "who's to say?" form. If the results of an ethics class are largely that students can't figure out how to know which ones of the multitude of views they've been presented with are best, then they will often leave thinking the whole subject is hopeless, wondering if there's any truth to the matter. This is a problem with philosophy courses in general, but it's particularly disturbing with ethics. What struck me in the discussion was how much insight the commenters showed about most college students' attitudes.

This is my sixth post in a series on the morality of slavery. I expect this to be the final post, unless someone raises an important consideration that I need to discuss that I haven't looked at.

I'm in the process of responding to an argument that if slavery admits of the degrees I said it did in my first post then so will murder, rape, and genocide. The argument is intended to undermine my view by showing that it leads to the ridiculous conclusion that murder, rape, and genocide happen all the time and aren't really wrong when they do except in the extreme cases that we usually call murder, rape and genocide. I don't think my argument regarding slavery leads to that conclusion. My last two posts deal with murder and rape, and this post moves on to genocide.

Strange ways people found my blog this past week:

least anti-white country

does microwave popcorn go bad

Rick warren and scientology (that one must have left them a bit unsatisfied)

wrong doings of President Monroe, which led to this post of all things

This is my fifth post in a series on the morality of slavery. I'm in the process of responding to an argument that if slavery admits of the degrees I said it did in my first post then so will murder, rape, and genocide. The argument is intended to undermine my view by showing that it leads to the ridiculous conclusion that murder, rape, and genocide happen all the time and aren't really wrong when they do except in the extreme cases that we usually call murder, rape and genocide. I don't think my argument regarding slavery leads to that conclusion. My previous post deals with murder, and this post moves on to rape.

The tenth Vox Apologia (apologetics carnival) is up at RazorsKiss. Unlike most carnivals, this one has a theme or topic each week, and this week's was Presuppositional Apologetics: Target Audience. Presuppositional Apologetics presupposes the existence of God. Who is this style of apologetics best suited for, and why? Who is it NOT suited for?

With such a specific topic, you might expect a small carnival, but I didn't expect it to be this small. There are only two entries. My Presuppositional Apologetics argues against the idea of presuppositional apologetics, at least as it's normally construed. The other entry is Counter-cult Apologetics' Presuppositional Apologetics. I agree with much of what Jeff gives as the basis for presuppositionalism, but I don't think that genuinely leads to what he concludes. I also disagree with a number of his statements along the way.

Christian Carnival LXI

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The 61st Christian Carnival is at ChristWeb. My contribution is The Moral Value of Meanings of Words.

I've already discussed the posts at Evangelical Outpost and In the Agora on whether libertarians should oppose laws against blackmail.

I've also commented on PlaidBerry's post on pessimism.

A Nutt's View will be hosting the 62nd Christian Carnival this week. 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.

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 today, Tuesday).

Then do the following:

This Title is False

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For my 1050th post, I'd just like to make a quick announcement:

When I report that a certain post is post #1050, or something like that, I'm not telling the truth, at least not straightforwardly. MT counts every post when it gives me the totals, and one of the posts it counts is a draft post Wink started months ago that he never finished. So I still have one more post to go after this one before my 1050th published post appears.

Of course, if you really want to know what my 1050th post on this blog is, you'll need to subtract all of Wink's posts (and of course that post hasn't happened yet), and if you want to figure out which post is my 1050th post in general, then you need to add in all the OrangePhilosophy and Prosblogion posts (and I'm still not sure if it's happened yet, but I'm not about to do that).

So I just wanted to be forthright and honest about this. I've been lying about all this for a while. Well, at least I've been counting "my _____ post" to mean something very particular, and it isn't the most obvious meaning.


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PlaidBerry raises some concerns about pessimism. People are too often negative when there's a lot to be positive about. I agree. As a Christian, I think there are plenty of things to be negative about simply because God evaluates those things negatively, but you can't use that to ignore the things God considers beautiful, valuable, and good. Certain hope is one of the key excellences the Christian is called to seek.

At the same time, I hesitate about some of what Chad says, particularly this: "My issue here is with those folks who offer plenty of critique and nothing by way of recommendation. Zero proactive effort is taken to remedy the problem (as they see it) and no ideas are offered as an alternate solution. Of course, countless examples of this scenario abound, whether it be at home, work, church, etc." I think this attitude ignores something very important about how God has constructed different people. What follows is a development of my comments on his post (I seem to be doing this a lot lately).

In the comments on my abortion and coercion post last month Rachael commented that one particular argument of pro-life feminists just seems way beyond the more reasonable point I was making. I was saying simply that abortion can be coerced. Pro-life feminists go much further in saying that abortion is used by men to control women. Is it abortion that's used to control women? Other factors are used to coerce women to have abortions. That's not abortion being used to coerce women to do anything else. At most it would be the availability of abortion as the means for this coercion to get women not to go through with pregnancies, but that's still not abortion being used as a means to control women. It's the other factors that are being used to influence women's choices with respect to abortion and reproductive freedom. I agree with Rachael on this.

It occurred to me today, however, that there's something else going on with this feminist argument that does lead to an ad hominem argument (of the good kind) against some arguments from the pro-choice side.

Kevin at Short Attention Span asked me to comment on his post that raises some worries about how little prominence Christian blogs have in the blogosphere. I think my Bootstrapping Blogs post deals with some of what he's asking, and I won't repeat that here. I did have some things to say, and since Ektopos was down for something like an hour tonight right when I wanted to say something, I just left a few comments there, which was difficult due to the 1000-character limit of the free version of Haloscan. I'll expand on those comments here.

St. Francis of Assissi is known for a famous quote, which for all I know may be apocryphal: "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." I was at the Jesuit college I teach at today, and I saw someone in the little snack bar on campus wearing a t-shirt that had the above quote on the back, in large enough letters that it would be visible from a pretty good distance.

Why was someone wearing this particular t-shirt in an environment littered with people who don't believe the gospel? What were those who made the t-shirt thinking it was supposed to accomplish to begin with? It involves words clearly connected with the gospel. The quote is supposed to be encouraging words related to the gospel but only in certain circumstances, presumably not ones involving casual anonymous contact with someone's back. It's not an outright contradiction, because the message isn't technically the gospel, and I suppose there might be a few extremely unlikely but possible situations in which it would be necessary to wear such a t-shirt, but doesn't it undermine the shirt's own message to wear it in a context when one will encounter nonbelievers (at least in a visible way not covered by some outer garment)?

Mark Roberts has been working through a balanced evaluation of the TNIV and the surrounding debate for quite some time now. He started over a month ago, and he's not done yet. I've been planning to interact with him on it all along, but by the time I got ready to say something he already had enough posts that I would have had to read too many to do much, and then I decided to wait until I had a large block of time. I've given up on that. I'm going to move through the posts a few at a time, focusing on crucial points and summarizing what seems right to me. If I have disagreements, I'll spend some time explaining why. I expect to post these interactions over a few different posts. [See links here.] This post covers Mark's first five posts in the series.

Here's the link to his whole series. As I talk about specific posts, I'll link to them also.

First, the searches of the week.

most hopeless search: unitarians same as muslims

almost as bad: how to get over a dead cat (the result turned up my post on the woman who cloned her dead cat)

This one isn't biased, is it?: post-trib heresy


I don't even know what to say about this one: democrat terrorist traitor feminist racist affirmative action lesbians

Then there was the referral I got from stoics genetic engineering

Over a year ago I posted about a weird search that brought someone to Sam's blog [organization of telepathy in Pakistan]. Well, almost the same search took someone yesterday to that very post of mine. In the post, I had asked what whoever had searched for that could possibly have been searching for. This person left a comment answering the question. [Update: I just realized this is the second time something like this has happened. The second time I talked about this sort of search is here.]

Favorite search of the week looking for someone thinking a pejorative expression refers to a good thing: Playing god a good thing

Ken Taylor posts at the Philosophy Talk blog about what we should say about religion in the public sphere if religion is irrational. He's not assuming that religion is irrational, as many have done. He's simply considering what follows from that assumption. Many of the things he says in the post seem right to me. I won't try to summarize all of them. His main point seems to be that it doesn't immediately follow from the idea that religion is irrational that we should exclude religious people from having a voice in the public square. His main reason seems to be that many religious people have good values behind their religion and therefore advocate doing good things. It's where they do things he doesn't like that he worries.

Allthings2all has put together The Science and Christianity Showcase, an excellent collection of posts from Christian bloggers about the relation between science and Christianity, excluding anything on creation and evolution at least partly because a recent Apologetics Carnival dealt with that subject (but I get the sense it's also because all these other issues tend to get sidelined by creation/evolution whenever the topic of Christianity and science comes up). Since there was no expectation that submissions should be recent posts, I submitted my All Creation Groans from almost a year ago. Three posts struck me as worth highlighting:

Sun and Shield has a nice overview of the main themes throughout scripture on the use of our abilities to make things and to explore and learn about God's cration, thus providing a basic biblical theology of science and technology. As with anything good, people can use it as an instrumental bad, and he spends some time listing some ways that can happen, with examples of each from the biblical record.

Blogotional develops some of the same themes, focusing in on the value of science for the Christian as a way to explore what God has done.

A Physicist's Perspective also covers some of the same ground. One intriguing argument in his post is that what we do in science is something God commanded Adam to do before the fall. He also emphasizes the rationality of the world and the God who made it, which encourages us to use science as a rational means of understanding it.

I have a commentary recommendations post that I continue to update. For those who have never used a commentary before, they help your study of the Bible by giving background on language, archeology, theology, poetry, and connections with other scriptures. You can take advantage of someone who has spent hours wrestling with the text to find its meaning, its purpose, its relevance to life, etc. A commentary is incredibly helpful in getting the details of the text while also providing a broader framework.

Every once in a while I do a major enough update to that post that I pull it forward to a new date to be at the top of my blog. It's basically a list of what commentaries I recommend on each book of the Bible in three different categories, according to level of detail and type of reader. I've already said some things about commentaries in general in that post. Some of what follows is a reworking of that, and some of it is completely new. What I've been looking to do for a long time is to expand on that list, with explanations of why I prefer certain commentaries over others, including discussion of other commentaries not in that list at all. The result will be a much more thorough look at the commentaries available on each book. I've decided to do this as a series of posts book by book. This post will serve as an introduction to the whole series, giving with some preliminary thoughts on commentaries in general. A review of the various commentary series will follow, and then I'll post an index for the series (starting with just the first two preliminary posts, of course) before moving into the first book of the Bible.

Jonathan Ichikawa raises some questions I've been wondering about since this post, but he puts it in a different enough way that I'd like to highlight his argument and then develop it in a different direction. It seems pretty silly to use the kind of rhetoric often found in the religious right over an issue as boring as what a word means in the English language. Linguistic matters really don't have much moral weight, especially given how rapidly natural languages change. That's why a charitable observer will try to find a more charitable interpretation of all the harsh rhetoric about this vast gay conspiracy to redefine the English language. How it could it be that immoral merely to seek for one word to mean something else? It can't just be about language. There must be some real moral issue behind the scenes.

ChristWeb will be hosting the 61st Christian Carnival this week. 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.

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 today, Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Christian Carnival LX

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The 60th Christian Carnival is at Belief Seeking Understanding. It contains my Genesis and Objections to Old Earth Cosmology.

Allthings2all offers a corrective for the idea that Christianity should frown on science. She lists many incredible things about science and how it's a tool given by God to understand the world he created. She also announces the Science and Christianity Showcase coming up. There's still a very short amount of time to submit posts for that. The deadline is midnight tonight, so get cracking.

Joe Carter and Josh Claybourn are discussing whether a political libertarian should seek to remove laws against blackmail. The arguments are fairly straightforward, but I think both are fallacious.

First is what you might call the combinatorial argument. If it's not illegal to release the information the blackmailer threatens to release, and it's not illegal to agree to do something for someone in exchange for a favor, then why should it be illegal for them to do it at the same time? In general, if A and B are both legal, why would it be illegal for A and B to occur together?

Second is the argument that it's a victimless crime, at least in the most strict sense of victimhood. People might be harmed by blackmail, and the harm is indeed sometimes worth making illegal, but blackmail in principle need not violate anyone's rights. Are my rights violated if someone tells an embarassing story about me? Are my rights violated if someone reveals some embarassing information about me? So I'm not a victim in that sense, and that's the sense that's required for making something illegal.

Plural Singulars

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I ran across a sentence a few days ago that sounded jarring. I had the form:

"A number of ... has ..."

I understand what the author was thinking. The word 'number' is singular, so it should have the singular verb 'has'. For some reason this just sounds completely wrong to me, though. There are plenty of words that function this way, singular terms that refer to a collection of things. Yet a number of other terms aren't like this (there we go: I used it the way that sounds right to me, and you probably didn't even notice). As I thought about it more, my thinking turned into outright armchair linguistics, i.e. ordinary language philosophy. Here is how my hearing of the terms like this (that I can think of) lines them up:

I've been reading through parts of D.A. Carson's commentary on John while my congregation has been studying John 9-12 this quarter in our sermons, and one of the sections I was reading refers the reader to the notes on John 20:22. As I was looking at that section, I noticed a footnote that gives a lengthy quote from John Calvin's commentary on John:

wacky search of the day: ralph nader preterist

ridiculously exaggerated search of the day: 1000 reasons why premarital sex is bad

Both of those were actually yesterday, but that's when I put most of this post together.

Belief Seeking Understanding will be hosting the 60th Christian Carnival this week. 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.

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 today, Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Christian Carnival LIX

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The 59th Christian Carnival is at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet. My Slavery and Christianity post finds its place there under the category of Days of Our Lives (yes, Diane finally did the unthinkable and used soap operas as the theme for the Christian Carnival). I was hoping for The Young and the Restless, because that's the one Tyr Anasazi is now on. I saw him on it last week when flipping channels, and he's just not the same without the hair or the Nietzchean bones protruding from his forearms. At least Days of Our Lives was in Bill and Ted's first movie, in the same scene with Kansas and Socrates, so it keeps good company.

New York is known for being one of the most restrictive states when it comes to seat belt laws, and I think they're now going to take the record for most restrictive state when it comes to car seats. Currently, children in NY have to be in a car seat until age four. Ethan will be old enough to be out of his car seat in 11 days. Unfortunately, in 20 days he'll have to go right back into one for three more years. Yes, NY is now requiring kids to be in a car seat until age seven!

This is when my libertarian streak kicks in. Some laws are meant to be broken not because they're immoral or oppressive but simply because they're stupid. A seat belt in the back seat of a minivan is going to do just as much as a car seat, perhaps more. Also, imagine all the six year olds who have been out of car seats for two years now who have to go back in them because of this. The least they could have done was gradually move the age higher. NY lawmakers really are idiots.

Ethan may be spared the full three extra years if he reaches 4 ft. 9 in. first. The way the law is worded, it's almost as if they expect some four year olds to be that tall. He's something like 3 ft. 2 in., so I doubt that's going to be very common. Or maybe we should just put him in the front passenger seat. The way I read the law, that would be fine. Of course, there's only one front passenger seat, so the same problem would arise with Isaiah in 18 months.

Extreme Rhetoric

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I've been thinking about Robert Byrd's comments on Republicans' desire for a full Senate vote on judge nominees and how he argued against it on the grounds that this was the sort of thing that the Nazis did under Hitler. When you take that in conjunction with Howard Dean's saying that the fight between Dems and Reps is good vs. evil, I think the Dems have to admit that their new leader and oldest senator are at least on par with Ann Coulter's calling all liberals traitors (even if she does it with a nice, freindly smile) and Alan Keyes's calling all gays hedonists, both of which fail to make important moral distinctions and are especially unconscionable by someone clearly smart enough to make such distinctions.

But isn't what Dean and Byrd are doing worse? After all, isn't calling someone a Nazi or evil worse than calling someone a traitor or a hedonist, from the very perspective of those who complain about Ann Coulter's extreme rhetoric? Isn't it at least a little worse to call someone one of the worst things possible than it is just to question their loyalty to their country (which is consistent with all sorts of other morally good things) or saying they care more about pleasure than the moral status of their pleasurable actions (which is the common conception of hedonism, even if it's not historically or philosophically accurate to use it that way)? That was how these statements seemed to me, anyway, when I tried to figure out the moral severity of each. Even compared to Ann Coulter and Alan Keyes, the left's favorite inflammatory rhetors of the right, what Howard Dean and Robert Byrd have been saying is pretty extreme.

Mirror Test

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Psychologists have a test that's generally agreed to show whether a child or an animal has self-consciousness. Someone will put a red dot on their forehead while they're asleep and then see what happens when they look in a mirror. If orangutans, say, can put their hand on their forehead when they see a red dot on the forehead of the image of the orangutan in the mirror, it's supposed to show that the orangutan is thinking, "Hey, that's me, and I've got a red dot on my forehead."

I've been thinking about this, and I'm not so sure. Doesn't it really just show that they expect a correlation between things in mirrors and things that we know mirrors reflect? I wonder about this as I see my kids learning to identify themselves in the mirror. They might easily first get the concept that the things in the mirror match up with the things outside the mirror, long before they start thinking "that's me in the mirror". So why are these tests supposed to tell us that orangutans, gorillas, and chimps have self-consciousness? Maybe they do, but I can't see how this test should show that.

Update: Chris says there are other experiments that do show this (see comment below). If so, my point still stands. You need to have a different experiment to rule out the possibility I presented.

The tenth Philosophers' Carnival is up at E.G. I'm represented by Abortion and Coercion.

I'd always thought of Mahna Mahna (that's apparently how it's spelled) as my favorite Sesame Street sketch, but it turns out to be from the Muppet Show. I actually hadn't remember very much of it (except the audio) over the years, so it was nice to see it again. Now I need to find out which episode this is from, so I can see if it's one of the ones I taped a while back when Hallmark was showing them.

It takes a while to load up even on a fast connection, but for some reason it insisted on playing very erratically while I was still loading it, so you might want to pause it until it's fully downloaded if this happens to you.

[Hat tip: In Hoc Signo Vinces]

I've been struggling with the idea that we have no shorthand for the view that homosexuality is abnormal and morally aberrant. Most who hate such a view call it homophobia, but there's a clear distinction between those who have this view and those who truly don't like people who are gay, are uncomfortable with gay people being involved in their life in any way, etc. Well, now I've seen a term that sounds to me as if it's just simply descriptive of the view in question. Someone who considers heterosexuality normal and/or normative is heteronormative. I think there are already a few ambiguities in the term, but it's better than anything else I've seen so far. The biggest problem is that the people who coined it seem to rule out the possibility that it could be ok to be heteronormative, as evidences by those of the Harvard-Radcliffe Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) who are criticizing Jada Pinkett Smith's comments last week at a Harvard multi-culturalist event, a criticism that itself raises some interesting moral questions.

Ineffective Searches

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This is post #1025 for this blog, and I wanted to take the opportunity to say something of very little consequence that bothers me far more than it's worth. Occasionally I wonder what people might be searching for when they turn up my site. Sometimes I feel sorry that they didn't find what they were looking for. Sometimes I take great delight in the fact that they get this post when searching for something about moms having sex with their daughters (and this happens at least a few times a day, sometimes much more frequently). Sometimes the way a search is phrased, I can tell they're looking for confirmation of some controversial claim that I can't imagine any motivation to search for that isn't thoroughly immoral, e.g. the person who searched early this morning for vocabulary level of people who are against affirmative action. It saddens me that someone would even search for something like that, because the assumption seems to me to stem from complete idiocy, but I hope the person learned that the affirmative action issue isn't as clear-cut as they originally assumed, since it led to one of the most balanced posts I've written on the subject.

Sometimes, however, it just seems obvious to me that they should know better than to search for something. Sometimes there's just nothing to be found, because the nature of what they're searching for is such that there's no information on it. I got a hit from the following AOL search last night: john locke's view on gay marriage. I'm sure such a search might provide lots of nice information on the gay marriage debate, perhaps with some helpful principles from John Locke, who was a pretty good political philosopher (even though I think he was downright awful at metaphysics and not that great at epistemology, both of which he helped send in entirely the wrong direction for hundreds of years, despite Leibniz's attempts to retain the advances of the medievals that we've only in the last forty years recovered, e.g. their advanced modal logic and the de re/de dicto distinction that showed what was wrong with anti-essentialist arguments from Locke to Quine, all of which were in Leibniz's criticisms of Locke and which he'd gotten from the medievals).

Whatever you think of Locke's work, I don't see how it's even possible to find information about his view on gay marriage, at least not without also being able to discover what he thought about the United Nations or special relativity.

Immoral Free Speech

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Why is it then whenever these cable news talk shows bring someone on to defend Ward Churchill for his immoral statements, all they say is that he has a right to say what he wants, because free speech is what the university community is about. If he's going to say that anyone who carries out any sort of bureaucratic job is a Nazi, then he's just wrong, both factually and morally. To say that he has a right to say it given the right to free speech misses the point. His detractors aren't saying he has no right to say it, though some say he shouldn't be using taxpayer money to do it. His detractors are saying the claims themselves are immoral. To defend him, you need to defend those claims, and you have to argue that he's morally right to say such things.

You can have a legal right to do something that's immoral. It may even be that you can have a moral right to do something immoral in the sense that I have no right to stop you from doing some immoral things, but they're immoral nonetheless. The most extreme immoral things are a different matter, but no one has a right to stop people from saying hurtful things to other people. It's clearly immoral, but they have a right to do that kind of wrong thing. The same goes for Churchill. He may well have a right to say what he's been saying, but don't say the reason you're defending him is because he has a right to say it. That's irrelevant to whether he's right to say these things.

Dory at Wittenberg Gate takes on old-earthers in one of the best presentations of the difficulties with old earth interpretations of Genesis that I've ever seen. I respect Dory greatly, and I think she's got one of the best Christian blogs out there. I have to disagree extremely strongly with her on this issue, though. It seems to me that her normally careful argumentation just isn't present in this post. She argues that the Bible seems to present death as a consequence of the fall, and the old-earth view seems to require death before the fall. I'm not 100% sure of either of those claims, but it's the hardest argument for the old-earth view to deal with. She also presents problems with two of the common views of making Genesis 1:1-2:3 fit a long time frame, but those two views don't seem to me to be the primary views Genesis scholars have. They view those strategies to be just as out of touch with the literary structure of the passage as the 24-hour day view is. Finally, she says an old-earth view threatens the foundations of the gospel, and it's here that I'm really worried about what she's saying, though it's consistent with what she says that she isn't accusing anyone of denying the gospel.

Spell-Checker Omissions

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Matthew has just installed a spell-checking plugin to MT for the Ektopos blogs, so now I can see spell-checking suggestions for any post I type. These are only listed when I preview a post, so I have to go back and find the words it doesn't recognize, which isn't as convenient for long posts as something like the Microsoft Word feature, which locates it itself. The nice part of this, though, is that I don't have it inconveniently telling me real words aren't real words unless I go check it.

A longer post I've been working on this morning has a few words it doesn't recognize, but there's one that stands out as pretty serious omission for a spell-checking plugin designed for a blogging platform, and another one showed up in this post: 'blogs' and 'blogging' aren't in the plugin's database. I'm a little surprised that a spell-checking plugin designed specifically for blogging software doesn't even recognize 'blogs' and 'blogging' as real words. It probably uses some already existing database, but it's still a little strange.

Introducing Philosophy

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Studi Galileiani has been developing a resource for introducting philosophy. It looks pretty good so far, for a fairly introductory level. I haven't had a chance to read it in detail, but I looked at the metaphysics and philosophy of religion entries, and they look pretty comprehensive. [Hat tip: Mormon Metaphysics]

The 58th Christian Carnival is at Wallo World. I count 56 entries, not quite enough to equal the number of this edition of the carnival. It includes my Mark Tidbits 4: Mark's High Christology. Also, I've been working on a series on slavery spurred on by Back of the Envelope's two posts on slavery and Christianity, so I'll say no more about that here.



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