Jeremy Pierce: February 2006 Archives

Tom Brown just left the following comment on my Moral Luck in Battlestar Galactica post. Despite many serious spelling errors, I thought it was an excellent comment, so I'm highlighting it in a post of its own.

The reality of Battlestar Galactica's characters is that there is no differecnce between Cylons and Humans. They're both sentient beings. Both are essentially human and human counterparts. Resolve this point and the storyline comes into a clearer view. The difference lies in their belief systems about each other and themselves. The differeces between them could, like one post stated, be like the difference between Nazis & Jews or Slaves and Slave Masters or or any other oppressor / opressed group but with an in teresting twist. Consider this: Give an oppressed group the power to nearly annihilate their oppressors who barely escape extinction. Throw in the mix that both oppressor and oppressed have strict black and white beliefs about the opposite group and you have the conflict of the Cylons and Humans in Battlestar Galactica. Then make it interesting by developing cracks in each group's belief system regarding the other group - then what happens? Moral Cylons emerge...or possibly Christian Cylons emerge lining their actions up with their beliefs regarding their one true God? Humans loving Cylons? Humans and Cylons working toward reconciliation, healing and forgiveness and peace where they both celebrate their similarities and differences? Maybe. Maybe not. Both groups are fragile in their character and potential for both evil amd good, herosim and despotism and everything in between these continuums. The genious of Battlestar is that it holds us to a mirror revealing us for who we really are as humans and our human nature - in that our character is on a continuum influenced by belief, experience, circumstances both in and out of our control, our thoughts, feelings and our choices. We're not as good as we think we are and we're maybe not as bad as we think we are in regard to moral comparason of each other and ourselves, hence moral fragility. In this light everything seems somewhat subjective and relative. Objectivity or relativeism in moral character comes in who we compare ourselves to. If it is to each other and ourselves it is relative, subjective and fragile. If we compare ourselves to something or someone much higher than ourselves who is perfect and unchanging in character or nature it shows that although we all may work within a moral continuum of good and evil we're all basically the same or at least in the same boat regardless of the belief system we attest to. Battlestar precicely points this fact out even if we don't want to see it this way because we want clear cut heros and villians. We all fall short. We're all capable of great acts of both good and evil just like Cylons & Humans. Who then do we compare ourselves to to get an honest perspective about human nature? Probably to something beyond humanity. Probably to something within the Christian (possibly Cylon) worldview regarding Good and Evil, sin and redemption and the perfect nature of God in comparason to our pendulum swinging, changing nature on the continuuma of good and evil, sin or redemption in the light of free will to choose life or death.

Word Biblical Commentary

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This is a list of the current and forthcoming commentaries in the Word Biblical Commentary. For more series, see my post on commentary series.

The Word Biblical Commentaries (WBC) are an unusual commentary series. They're supposed to be combining an academic approach, based in the original languages in full original language fonts, with an evangelical approach. The reality is less clear. Some of the volumes are less detailed than others, though all do use the original language fonts. The evangelicalism of this series varies considerably depending on the author. Some are clearly theological conservatives who hold to some form of inerrancy. Others don't seem to me to be evangelicals even by a reasonable stretch of the term. They say each author needs to hold to evangelicalism by a fairly loose interpretation of the term, but I think the editors are so loose with it that it's ceased to have any meaning. Some of the volumes are accordingly far removed from what most evangelicals are looking for. Others are solidly conservative and consider the kinds of questions people of faith rather than historians and scholars will ask. I consider Wenham on Genesis, Williamson on Ezra-Nehemiah, O'Brien on Colossians and Philemon, and Lane on Hebrews as the best commentaries on those books, hands down, and Clines on Job, Craigie on Psalms 1-50, Stuart on Hosea-Jonah, Longenecker on Galatians, Lincoln on Ephesians, Mounce on the Pastoral Epistles, and Bauckham on II Peter and Jude are among the very best on those books. The series is nearing completion. Judges, Job 21-42, Acts, and I Corinthians remain vacant. A number of volumes have been contracted for replacements. Only a few such replacements have already appeared.

The format of the series gets mixed reviews. Some find it extremely helpful by separating different aspects of what a commentary does into different sections. Others find it incredibly annoying. I'm in the latter camp. It's hard to find anything, because you have to look at three or four different sections sometimes, only to find that it's not covered at all in some cases. In a normal commentary, you just look under the verse in question, and if it's not there you know fairly quickly. The bibliographies get the most credit from reviewers, because they're ridiculously comprehensive, but I think they're one of the biggest weaknesses of the series. They're so scattered. There's no central bibliography, and the author indexes aren't compiled very well. There are no footnotes, so every reference occurs in text, but the references are always author and date after the first reference, and it's usually very difficult to find the first reference to get the whole citation. I've tried to find references to certain authors, and a number of page references the index says to look at won't even discuss that author, or the first appearance of that author isn't in the index at all so I won't find the full bibliographic information. If they had real bibliographies instead of scatttered mini-biographies, it would be much more helpful. The reviewers constantly say the series is great for the bibliographies, but having such comprehensive bibliographies scattered throughout the book is pretty useless if the index doesn't tell you where the reference you're looking for is. Some of the volumes in this series are excellent, but they're good in spite of the absolutely horrendous format and not because of it.

Christian Carnival CXI Plug

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The 111th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Demosthenes 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:

Christian Carnival CX

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South Dakota has now passed an almost complete ban on abortion. Four other states are doing similar things. Pundits are agreed that this is an attempt to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade. I have to register my complaint that this is an utterly stupid and potentially counterproductive move from a pro-life point of view. There are five people currently sitting on the Supreme Court who voted to uphold the central holding of Roe v. Wade (while completely gutting its justification) the last time it came up. There's no guarantee that any change will take place in membership of the court before these cases could come before them. If that happens, these states will just have put one more nail in the coffin of the idea that Roe could easily be overturned. The more times a decision is upheld, the stronger the precedent becomes, and South Dakota and these other states may well be setting events in motion to strengthen the standing of Roe v. Wade. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito both affirmed this principle at their hearings, and Justice Scalia seems to treat precedent in this standard way as well in many cases. Only Justice Thomas would consider this irrelevant.

There have been several comments assuming Justices Ginsburg or Stevens would be gone by the time these cases come before the court, but even if that's so (and there's no guarantee of it) we have no idea if they would be replaced by people who would overturn Roe. If Hillary Clinton appoints their replacements, you can be sure they would vote to uphold it no matter the merits. She has said numerous times that she wouldn't appoint anyone who wouldn't promise to uphold it (though perhaps an argument for recusal would then be warranted). But what's worse is that we don't really even know if Justice Alito or Chief Justice Roberts would overturn Roe. Many on both the left and the right are assuming they would, but they both hold precedent in high regard. They both seem to be particularists and not as much originalists (though I think Alito is more of one), which means the individual facts of the case are primary. Alito in particular advocated a slower process of limiting Roe as the best method for serving pro-life interests. I admit that this was twenty years ago, but it says something about how he might approach a case like the ones these lawmakers are seeking to raise.

But there's a third possibility that might be even worse for those who want Roe overturned. The case might come before the court as it stands, and the four conservatives on this issue might try to convince the others not to hear the case because they don't want a further precedent on Roe. The majority might give in, thinking it's not worth the bother to repeat what they've already said several times. What we'd then end up with is a precedent on not even hearing cases that challenge Roe, and then it will be that much harder to get a case to the Supreme Court once there is a conservative majority on abortion.

So what are these state legislatures thinking? Or are they simply not thinking? It doesn't serve the pro-life cause in any way to do this sort of thing in our current situation.

Ill-Formed Searches

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I frequently find people finding my blog with searches that make no sense. One particular way they make no sense is that the search is ill-formed, either by searching in a way that won't come close to helping them find what they want or by forming a sentence that is seriously ill-formed (which often isn't any better at finding what they want), sometimes even expressing something quite different from what was intended.

is 28 too old for marriage
Well, I know it's fairly common nowadays for people to get married before they're 28 and then to get divorced, but there's a long tradition of people staying married beyond 28. I happen to have done so myself, and I didn't think I was too old at 28 to remain married. It's also a little strange to ask if an age that happens to be below the average age of marriage in the U.S. is too old for marriage.

why did black originate anyway?
Isn't it just the result of the absence of electronmagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum (or something slightly more complex but roughly equivalent to that)?

leadership prevents diversity from becoming affirmative action
I've been thinking through how the parts of this grammatically coherent sentence might possibly combine into a sentence with any coherent semantic meaning. I haven't gotten very far. Any thoughts?

amount of people that died from slavery
Is it possible even to answer this question? Even leaving aside the wording that makes it sound as if people are some continuous substance that can be measured in an amount rather than numbered as discrete entities, this question is strange. What does it mean to die from slavery? It can't just be to die as a slave, because all sorts of deaths might occur while someone is a slave that would be wrong to classify as being caused by slavery. Do you want to say that these are the deaths that wouldn't have happened had the people in question not been slaves? That seems too broad. Perhaps being a slave brought someone into contact with a murderer, who killed the person. I wouldn't say that's dying from slavery. What if the person died from overwork while working in the fields? That's better, but it doesn't seem to me that it's slavery that killed the person, because the same work might have been done with compensation, and then it wouldn't even have been slavery. But the cause of death would have been the same. Maybe a clearer case would be a master killing a slave for not liking the slave's attitude or work, but then it's not slavery itself that killed the slave but the relationship between the master and the slave, and that wouldn't be present for all the slaves, which means it's not slavery itself that caused the death. It's hard for me to think of a death as being "from slavery" in the abstract. That just sounds like the wrong way to describe it.

CrunchyCons

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The National Review has launched a new blog CrunchyCons [hat tip: Gnu]. This really attracts me for a number of reasons. It's a kind of conservatism that seems to me to avoid much that I don't like about conservatives (particularly the National Review types) while retaining what seems to me to be the heart of conservatism. For more detail on what they're all about, see the CrunchyCon Manifesto. I'm going to have to check this out when I get some more time (which isn't really any time soon). Most exciting for me is, perhaps, the involvement of Frederica Mathews-Greene, who can write a book arguing for a robustly pro-life position and still come out with NOW and NARAL leaders praising her (and it's not in any way because she soft-pedals the pro-life view; it's because she frames it in a way that they can understand). Anyone who can achieve that is really worth hearing out.

I do have to register reservations with several points in their manifesto. Beauty may sometimes be more important than efficiency, but I'd rather have a beat-up looking minivan than a sports car. It holds the whole family, costs a whole lot less, doesn't tend to attract police officers looking for speeders, and does what we need it to do. The primary motivation for having a sports car instead seems to me to stem from the kind of thing CrunchyCons want to distance themselves from (and #2 in the manifesto is a clear indication of this: "Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.")

I also think a Christian should have a hard time with the last two points. As important as the family is for Christians, it isn't higher than the God-appointed means of spreading the good news that is Jesus Christ. What Christians do for a culture is far more crucial, on the Christian view, than what families in isolation from what a family grounded in Christ ought to be should be for a society. The last point is good for pointing out what won't save, but it's too eager to replace it with something that also won't save. Only repentance will ultimately save. I think they're trying to be vague enough to include that sort of thing, but I don't think it does it for me. On the whole, though, I really like this list and certainly consider it far better than what your standard Republican in government is going to come up with.

It's pretty funny seeing Dr. Seuss artwork in political cartoons. Explore the links to the cartoons. There's some interesting stuff there. Some of the issues he's dealing with are old enough that I have no clue what he's getting at, and some were probably really controversial for their time but now seem amazing that they were an issue to begin with. But what struck me as especially strange was the comment thread.

The very first comment links to a cartoon related to Japanese internment. I find it absolutely astounding that everyone in the discussion would just assume that what Geisel is portraying in that cartoon is an endorsement of internment rather than a portrayal of how strange the policy was, showing the paranoia in thinking every single Japanese American is all lined up ready to betray this country. Given his thoroughly liberal (for the time) views on racially-related policies, why would people simply assume that the cartoon endorses internment? Even leaving aside what we know about Ted Geisel, I look at the cartoon and can see how someone with either view might have created such a portrayal. This is a political cartoon. People do things like that all the time. I seem to remember a Eugene Volokh at the very same blog about someone who produced three political cartoons intended to portray three very different and in fact contradictory views of the same incident (but unfortunately I couldn't find it when I just looked). Yet on the same blog, people completely ignore that and assume that a cartoon portrays the literal views of the person doing it. Has the possibility of satire completely left our political consciousness?

Stupid Searches

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Most people apologize for not blogging when they're too busy. I just post stupid things. Well, here are some pretty dumb searches that came my way of late: THE "BIG BANG" IS JUST RELIGION DISGUISED AS SCIENCE Ha! I suppose this is as true as the claim that ID is religion disguised as science. greek battles starting with y How is that possible when there's no equivalent of a 'y' in the Greek language? Rick Warren Pastor Truth or Fiction Yes, it is true. This man is a pastor. apologetics belly dancing So is this a new method of defending the faith, or is it a new school of presuppositionalism?

Christian Carnival CX Plug

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The 110th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Jordan's View. 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:

Christian Carnival CIX

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The 109th Christian Carnival is at Pursuing Holiness.

Definition of Arminianism

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Several times I've noticed someone who is not a Calvinist insisting that they are not an Arminian, complaining that Calvinists call anyone who isn't a Calvinist an Arminian. I don't think most Calvinists really do this. For instance, most Calvinists will say that someone who denies Limited Atonement but insists on all four other points of Calvinism is not really a Calvinist. But they won't tend to call such a person an Arminian. As I understand the standard Calvinist use of the label 'Arminian', Arminians deny predestination except in the weakened sense that God knows what people will choose and thus elects people on that basis, and they deny irresistible grace. Is everyone who does one of those things an Arminian? Is everyone who does both of them an Arminian? These are necessary conditions for being an Arminian, but is either sufficient by itself? Are they jointly sufficient, or does Arminianism require departing from Calvinism even more? I'm not sure what most Calvinists say about that, and I'm much less sure what others besides Calvinists would say. One thing I'm sure of is that denying perseverance of the saints entails Arminianism to most Calvinists. If you think a genuine believer who has experienced the full grace of God can lose salvation, then you are an Arminian to most Calvinists. That view is sufficient for being an Arminian, as most Calvinists use the term.

So here's my question. What exactly does it take to be an Arminian? Is it really unfair to throw the word around in the ways I've just mentioned? I'm asking in full honesty. I don't know how people making this complaint think of Arminianism and why they don't consider themselves Arminians. I also don't know if the standard usage in theology today (as opposed to what Arminius himself said) fits with this complaint. Thus I'm a bit curious to see what others think about this.

What Kind of Die Are You?

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I am a d10

Ah, the d10! While you aren't actually a true regular polyhedron, you are the only die that makes logical sense--metrically speaking. Chances are, others see you as over-analytical or a goody-goody. While that may be true, you also have a gift for patience and tolerance. Growing up you probably had a calculator wristwatch that you never really needed to use (since you were faster on your own), and you probably aced all your classes (except for gym). You use the metric system almost exclusively, but are able to quickly convert in mid-conversation for the sake of your backwards Imperalist friends. You've coded in at least two different programming languages, and have created more original gaming systems than you'll ever admit. You're generally not a show-off, but you do take pride in being called either a geek or a nerd.

This survey is completely scientific. Despite the mind-boggling complexity of mankind, the billions of distinctly different personalities found on Earth can easily be divided into seven simple categories that correspond to the five Platonic solids, a pseudo polyhedron, and whatever the hell a d100 is. The results of this quiz should be considered not only meaningful but also infallible, and pertinent to your success as a fully realized individual. If you feel the results of this examination do not match your perceived personality, you should take whatever drastic measures are needed to cram your superego back into proper alignment, as described by the quiz results.

And if you believe that, we have some really great critical-hit insurance to sell you.

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

[HT: Sam]

Happy Independence Day

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... in Lithuania, anyway. I have a friend whose (at the time) girlfriend (and now wife) was disillusioned with Valentine's Day. She insisted that he not do anything for her for Valentine's Day. Since they lived at some distance from each other at the time there wasn't much he could do anyway. If he couldn't send her anything for Valentine's Day, what could he do? So he looked up what other holidays take place near Valentine's Day. It turns out Lithuania's Independence Day is February 16. He decided to send her a major Lithuanian Independence Day care package that year. He found all manner of unusual Lithuanian items to include in it.

So you now have a new solution to the problem of the stale, trite, and commercialized holiday that Valentine's Day can be. Just skip it, wait a couple days, and celebrate a much more interesting holiday together (though not quite as interesting as International Talk Like a Pirate Day).

Your Five Factor Personality Profile
Extroversion:

You have low extroversion.
You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.
A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.
You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.

Conscientiousness:

You have high conscientiousness.
Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.
Most things in your life are organized and planned well.
But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.

Agreeableness:

You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.

Neuroticism:

You have medium neuroticism.
You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.
[hat tip: Sam]

Searches: Jesus Theme

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what did Richard N. Longenecker said about the parables
You're trying to find out what takes him 324 pages to say by doing a Google search?

Jesus doesn't trick people with philosophical arguments - He means it simply.
Well, it's too bad this search didn't lead you here.

what parable did jesus use to teach?
Only one of them was used for teaching? I wonder what the rest of them were for.

wright deny divinity jesus
I don't think you're going to find much on that. Wright is one of the strongest defenders of the divinity of Christ. Sometimes I think N.T. Wright's detractors just try to find anything they might wish he could say just to make the case against him all that clearer.

non racist parables in the bible
Yes, that narrows the search quite nicely. Now we're left with just the parables that aren't about G.I. Joe.

After looking through the many volumes and replacements of NICOT and NICNT volumes, going back to 1951, I decided to put together a list of the whole series in order to date, including the next two announced volumes, which should be out this year.

In three of the years I have no idea which of two volumes released that year was first. Those years are 1953, 1954, 1959, and 1965. Twice I found that two volumes were released in the same month (Galatians and the Acts revision in 1988 and then Philippians and the John revision in 1995). I don't know for sure if they were released the same day, because Amazon just reports the month for these (not its usual practice). Other than those uncertainties, assuming Amazon is reporting the months accurately, the following is the order the NICNT and NICOT volumes have appeared, first for the whole series and then separately for the OT and NT.

Christian Carnival CIX Plug

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The 109th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Pursuing Holiness. 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:

Tithing

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Free Money Finance argues that the old covenant tithe command applies to Christians. I was going to leave a comment, but I decided I might as well make it a post. The topic has come up here before. Wink tried to get a discussion going on tithing last summer. Also, much of what I'm going to say has a background much more carefully drawn out in Christians and the Sabbath and More Sabbath Stuff.

One of the arguments in the post is that Abraham gave a tithe long before the law of Moses. From this it is concluded that the tithe principle must be eternal and thus not just a particular command to the people of Israel in the Mosaic law. There are a number of things that someone could say about Abraham's tithe, but one thing you can't say is that he was following any command from God that he give 10% of his income to God. He wasn't giving it to God, for one, and we have no information about any command he was following, never mind a command as to the exact amount. A gift of 10% to a benefactor was probably just a common ancient near eastern practice that the Torah adopts because the symbolism of giving firstfruits to God as representative of everything you have belonging to God needed some amount. For the particular command to the particular people of Israel to give some amount as firstfruits, God seems to have chosen the amount that for whatever reason had already been standard in that part of the world at that time, as evidenced by Abraham's gift to Melchizedek. The more important principle is that everything we have is God's, with the firstfruits we give to him standing for that.

10% isn't some magical amount. The Torah uses different percentages to determine the firstfruits amount for other things. With the tithe of time, it's 1/7 of all the days in the week rather than 1/10. With the tithe of the firstborn, it's one out of however many children there end up being, which is 100% when there's only one but less than 10% if there are more than ten).

Christian Carnival CVIII

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Part-Time Pundit hosts the 108th Christian Carnival.

It occurred to me recently that John Piper's Christian Hedonism is going to have a hard time dealing with two famous statements by Moses and Paul. For those unfamiliar with Christian Hedonism, see my Christian Hedonism and Wink's Why I Am No Longer a Piperite. The short of it is that Piper thinks true morality consists only and exactly in finding our eternal enjoyment in God. Consider, however, Moses' conversation with God after the golden calf incident:

The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin -- but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." [Exodus 32:30-32, TNIV]

Moses seems to be volunteering to have himself prevented from enjoying God, assuming he had some inkling of what blotting out of the book means. He must have had some, or he wouldn't have said it, even if he didn't have a full-blown concept of an eternal afterlife. He must have thought of it as involving something like a removal of God's blessing and a severing of the kind of relationship he had with God. This seems quite contrary to Piper's view of what Moses' moral obligation should be. Moses' willingness to atone for his people in this way is generally viewed as so honorable that no one should ever be expected to make such a terrible self-sacrifice. Piper has to see it as the most immoral of actions. According to Piper, he should have been seeking to enjoy God forever, and yet he's willing to violate the most fundamental obligation he has. Christian Hedonism leads to a very strange analysis in this case.

Tyler Williams' Love Poetry for Biblical Literalists is hilarious. I just can't get over that picture.

For an encapsulation of the Song that does transfer nicely into a contemporary context, see Michael Card's "Arise My Love", which I sang to Sam at our wedding.

how does Vin Diesel's prefer to be ethnically classified
Everything I've seen suggests that he doesn't.

why interracial people so pretty
Well, they are less inbred than everyone else. Facial features resulting from infrequent gene combinations can turn out to be very striking. Supermodels can, in comparison, look downright boring.

many celebrities identified as white have non white ancestry
Everyone identified as white has non-white ancestry! Why would celebrities be exempt?

Harry at Little Geneva has been blogging about me again. (Do a Google search. I'm not linking to it.) Well, it's more throwing links around in a derogatory manner than any serious discussion of anything in my post, but that's standard procedure over there. I even responded in a comment, only to receive insults in response (oh, and what seems to be an admission that he refuses to handle the level of argumentation required to engage in reasoned discussion). It's kind of sad that Harry should have such a huge following at a blog that promotes such a reprehensible view as what he calls Kinism, which is really just racism, despite all his insistence to the contrary. Just read some of his statements all over his main page about the moral character of various ethnic groups. Whenever he links to me, I get a flurry of hits, with no one either at my end or in the comments of his post actually interacting in an intelligent way with anything I said. For a while Little Geneva was near the top of the Blogdom of God simply because so many Christian blogs link to it, until Adrian Warnock noticed it and decided that there should be limits on what sort of blog can be in the Blogdom. [I'm not sure if this is the best place to put this, but I noticed after I wrote most of this post that someone unrelatedly found my blog last night by searching for badlands little geneva. This search was performed on a computer on the house.gov network. I'm not sure what to think of that.]

But occasionally I'll see an interesting argument at Little Geneva. I noticed one yesterday in a different post lower on the page (Feb 2). He notices that many of the people who promote miscegenation (which for Harry doesn't really mean promoting it as better than anything else but simply means acknowledging that there's nothing wrong with it) will point to Gal 3:28, where Paul says that the divisions of Jew, Greek, male, female, slave, and free are broken down in Christ. Harry notes that many conservatives will insist that this doesn't mean the male-female distinction is completely broken down to the point of irrelevance. Paul was simply saying that in Christ all have the same access to salvation. It doesn't mean men and women have to be treated as if they are the same gender or as if they have no gender. I agree in large measure with all that, so it's interesting to see what Harry then concludes. He says someone who says that then has no right to use Gal 3:28 as a basis for thinking there are no morally relevant race distinctions because it mentions the Jew-Greek barrier broken down in Christ. Now I think this is a very interesting argument, even if it ultimately misunderstands what Paul is saying (and what those who think there's nothing wrong with miscegenation are saying), so I wanted to record my thoughts on the matter.

The second Biblical Studies Carnival is at Codex Blogspot. The first was ten months ago, so I was allowed to submit a pretty old post, Chronology in I Samuel 16:1-18:5. This carnival is expected to be monthly now that it's been resumed. I probably won't have something serious enough in biblical studies to submit every month, but I'll link to it when (and only when) I have a post in it, as is generally my practice with carnivals. You should always be able to find up-to-date information on the next carnival here. Do take a look at the carnival if you're at all interested in biblical studies. There's a huge variety of posts there.

The 108th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Part-Time Pundit. 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:

This is a list of the current and forthcoming commentaries in the New International Commentaries on the New Testament (NICNT) and on the Old Testament (NICOT). For more series, see my post on commentary series. For the list of this series in the chronological order of their release, see this post.

This is another of my favorite series. Almost all the contributors are what I would consider conservative evangelicals, though occasionally some will take views that do seem only moderately conservative to some (e.g. Leslie Allen on Jonah argues that Jonah didn't happen historically but affirms inerrancy because he believes the book is a parable), but that's not standard for the series. I might consider some of the commentaries in this series to be the best out there on the book in question, e.g. Hubbard on Ruth, Waltke on Proverbs, Block on Ezekiel, Moo on Romans, and others are excellent as well, including Hamilton on Genesis, Wenham on Leviticus, and Fee on I Corinthians and Philippians. Some forthcoming volumes should also be outstanding.

This series isn't quite as detailed as the most academic series, but it's fairly detailed, at least in the newer volumes. You might call it semi-technical. The footnotes often have the kind of detail you'd find in a more exclusively academic commentary. They try to restrict the text to transliteration of Hebrew and Greek for the sake of readability, and I think someone sufficiently committed to learning a lot about one book of the Bible might read through these cover to cover. I've read the volumes on Leviticus, Numbers, and Isaiah 1-39 myself, and I've read half of the Ruth volume and large sections of others. Of course I'll also read even more technical commentaries straight through, but I think these are a lot easier to handle for those accustomed to reading commentaries who still wouldn't read through the more detailed ones of other series.

This review is adapted from my Amazon review.

This is an excellent book. Ashley is well-informed about what people of differing viewpoints have to say, and this is the most in-depth evangelical commentary on the book of Numbers. He doesn't accept all the conservative positions easily, but he is fairly conservative in the end.

He convincingly argues for the unity of the canonical book and undermines many source-critical "solutions" to some of the problems of interpretation. However, this doesn't mean he thinks the entire book was written by one person or during or immediately after the time of Moses (not least because the Pentateuch never suggests that it was wholly authored by Moses,and nor does any New Testament book, though Jesus does refer to them as the books of Moses the same way he refers to the Psalms as David, who clearly didn't write all of them). Ashley does think much of it goes back to Moses in some form, and he takes its own claims of its origins as genuine. He occasionally gives arguments for this about certain passages. He makes no bones about being an evangelical and seeing scripture as God's word, wholly inspired (and I assume without error in its original form, which we no longer have 100%, though he doesn't focus on the details of his views on inspiration). He doesn't take a view on problems related to large numbers in the Hebrew scriptures, but hardly anyone, evangelical or not, has a satisfying and all-encompassing view about that thorny problem.

Ashley doesn't constantly focus on theology and ties to the New Testament, but he does do a fair amount of excellent reflection on such matters in almost as much detail as his historical, linguistic, and sociological reflection.

For a more mainstream commentary, the best is Jacob Milgrom's JPS Torah commentary (which isn't just the old classic liberal viewpoint but has covered new ground, undermining lots of now-old-fashioned views still taught at the undergraduate level). Ashley had some access to Milgrom's work before revising his manuscript into the final draft, but he had little time to take into account Milgrom's whole commentary. Milgrom's thought has influenced Ashley's from his many papers and earlier books. Gordon Wenham's Tyndale volume is quite good but getting dated, and it's extremely short. Katherine Sakenfeld's International Theological Commentary and Dennis Olson's Interpretation are more recent popular level commentaries, but they're from a more critical direction. R. Dennis Cole's New American Commentary volume is more recent but isn't as detailed as Ashley's. I look forward to John Sailhamer's replacement of the Word Biblical Commentary volume by Philip Budd, but until then Ashley will be the standard for evangelicals at this level of detail. His is the most in-depth of the recent evangelical commentaries on this book, though that doesn't mean these other commentaries wouldn't complement it nicely.

Christian Carnival CVII

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The 107th Christian Carnival is at Attention Span. Some Firefox users (including me) have to scroll down a ways to see the post. If it looks blank, it's probably not. It just displays lots of space before the post begins for some reason.

New Bible Translations

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Eugene Volokh presents a paradox about blackmail in response to a letter someone sent a senator who was planning to vote for Alito that threatened to reveal that the senator was gay unless he voted no, a pretty despicable act (whether the senator is gay or not). The paradox is as follows.

1. Free speech rights allow me to publish embarassing information about someone (in many cases).
2. There's nothing immoral or illegal about asking for money in exchange for a service (in most cases).
3. But when 1 and 2 are combined, we call it blackmail and make it illegal. How can it be that the combination of two legal acts could make something illegal?

As I said in the comments on Eugene's post, there is a moral issue that comes in once you combine the two issues. That issue is what we call coercion. It's not coercion to make an offer to do something positive for someone if they do something for you. If they turn you down then you are no worse off. If it's wrong, it would have to be on other grounds. But if someone threatens you with a negative consequence if you don't do something for them, you are indeed worse off if you turn them down. That undermines the consent of your doing the action and thus puts it in a category with coercion. It's not coercion in the sense of being forced to do something with absolutely no choice, but it's like being forced to choose between a negative consequence and doing the unawanted action. That's indeed what happens when someone puts a gun to your head, so it's coercion in that exact sense. You can risk taking the bullet and not do what they ask, but it's a huge risk. The greater the risk, the greater the coercion.

As a non-lawyer, I can't comment on the legal issues, but that's the moral issue that makes combining 1 and 2 immoral while 1 alone or 2 alone is at least less immoral or even not immoral (depending on the circumstances, perhaps). These are the sorts of moral issues that laws often rely on. So I don't know if it's really counts as a paradox, or at least if it does then it's one that's easily solved.

Searches Piling Up

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I had a few dry weeks for interesting searches, and now they're accumulating much more rapidly. Here are the least recent of the bunch:

author hebrews letter fake
Don't you need some claim of authorship to begin with for it to be fake? Hebrews never claims an author.

is ron moore a republican? galactica
I'm pretty sure Ron Moore is on the other end of the political spectrum. His few comments on politics that I've seen suggest to me that he thinks what he's writing is relevant to issues going on right now, and he thinks he's raising questions that also count as being against current U.S. policy. I think he underestimates how different the questions he's raising in the Galactica context really are, but what I've read from him suggests to me that he thinks he's putting forth considerations that might be taken as a critique of the Bush Administration, though he does insist that it's merely raising questions and that people need to make up their own minds.

reverse interracial
Wouldn't that be monoracial? I have the sneaking suspicion that you mean white man, black woman. But isn't it a little sexist to assume that one combination is interracial but the opposite is reverse interracial? Might it even be arguably racist?

if someone is light skinned does it mean they are mixed
Norwegians have very light skin. Does that mean they're mixed?

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