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Justin (koavf)
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John, Hitchens was one our of most important public intellectuals, if for no other reason than the fact that he reminded us of the incisive brilliance of George Orwell. I always feel like a jerk picking nits like this, but I think you meant Slate rather than Salon—the former featured his "Fighting Words" column for years. —JAK
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John, This was a compelling volume before your review and now I think it might be my Christmas present to myself! —JAK
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John, If you're looking for a potential Eastern Orthodox atheist, I don't know of any, but Slavoj Žižek has written several books praising Christianity and comes from (majority Catholic) Slovenia--he's even called himself a "Christian materialist." See: The Fragile Absolute (how only Christians and Marxists can team up to fight against identity politics), The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Christian symbols help us to liberate our minds), and The Monstrosity of Christ (believing in God when belief in God is impossible has motivated Christians to do great things.) He also has a book on Paul that was released in 2010. --JAK
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John, The blogosphere's loss is the real world's gain. I'm glad to see you posting again and I'll be happy to see you pop up in Google Reader whenever you have the time and energy. It's good that all's well with your new flock and I hope the blessings continue. -JAK
Toggle Commented Oct 13, 2010 on The fun I’ve been having at Ancient Hebrew Poetry
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John, I've no doubt this is First Church's gain and your old church's loss. I hope the transition continues along well. -JAK
Toggle Commented Jul 25, 2010 on Starting in a New Place at Ancient Hebrew Poetry
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John, You are correct (as best as I can tell), but there are a lot better ways of doing this and I don't recall him explicitly stating how this is an epistemic shortcoming and essentially a personal bias. Basically, he still approached the issue from an apologetic or evangelical point of view rather than a philosophical or Existential one, so it was basically the worst of both worlds. Then again, that's my faulty recollection and bias as well, so take it with a grain of salt. -JAK
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G. Kyle, I actually was not making a joke. I once attended a talk by Richard "Rick" Gamble--himself a Calvin scholar--whose entire presentation was literally, "The Bible is true because it says it's true and it's the Word of God, therefore it must be true." He was being tongue-in-cheek and used that as a means to start a more substantial discussion, but I think it was only marginally more substantial, honestly. You are correct that Van Til is more nuanced (and frankly, smarter) than many who have appropriated his thought and he's infinitely better than Christian Dominionists/Theonomists/Kinists/Quiverfulls. That brand of fundamentalism is probably the scariest that I have ever seen up close. -JAK
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John, That chart is indistinguishable from presuppositional apologetics. -JAK
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John, I agree with everything you just said (except the part about being a pastor.) I had a similar discussion with a Church of the Brethren minister not long ago, who is a liberal Christian (he likes process theology and I believe that he has an interest in Spong, Borg, Crossan, etc.) and we had a similar back-and-forth about reward and punishment in the world to come. His problem is that if we emphasize the world to come, it relieves us of our responsibility to create a just world here and now. For my part, I thought that the promise of reward and punishment makes justice in this world more imperative and while it is the case that there have been Christians since the very beginning who have thought, "The end is soon, so why bother?" there is nothing inherent in Christianity to demand that attitude. On the other hand, if there is no promise of reward and punishment in the world to come, what does that say about the lives of good persons who lived under oppression as well as those who have profited by evil in this world? Regarding the power of narrative as a tool for some kind of edification, all an (orthodox) Christian has to do is think about the power of (e.g.) Buddhist myth and see how the story of Buddha and his dharma have contributed to a large, sophisticated, multi-cultural ethical civilization that has persisted for two and a half millenia. Even if you do not accept the doctrinal positions of Buddhism (as many Buddhists and semi-Buddhists don't), you can be moved by the power of those stories and teachings and they can be of benefit to you morally even if you do not take part in that tradition. To reverse it, I would hope that any Easterner of good faith would be able to appreciate the power of A. P. Carter songs such as "No Depression" or "Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)". Buddhists may not anticipate loving union with God (although some do and all will), but that shouldn't stand in the way of appreciating these narratives for what they are. -JAK
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John, An exchange on this same topic with a friend of mine who is finishing up his graduate studies at Trinity and commencing a doctorate at St. Andrew's (Scotland): The "belief in God as drama" stuff is interesting. Kevin Vanhoozer has been writing about this topic quite a bit for several years. I think that faith in God looks something like this, but that does not negate belief that God exists. In fact, without the belief that God exists one's participation in a spiritual drama is nothing more than an exercise in bull shit. [ed: In the Frankfurt sense]. How could it be anything else? Wouldn't the fact that one is participating in bull shit negate the moral significance of the action? I think it would also make it very difficult (psychologically difficult) to continually participate in a drama if you know that it is not real. If you know God does not exist, why participate in that drama? [Attached: "Always performing? Playing new scenes with creative fidelity: the drama-of-redemption approach" by Kevin J. Vanhoozer] My response: It sounds a little bit like Narrative Theology as well. I think the strengths of this kind of approach are that it can 1.) draw in persons who for whatever reason will reject Christianity but can still find some value in it as a social force or a system of thought, 2.) be relevant to persons who have the angst of living in a post-modern world, and 3.) hopefully deflate sectarian doctrinal squabbling. Of course, with that broad and highly mythologized of an approach, you run the risk of becoming liberal to an irrelevant point and also divesting Christianity of any historical basis. Eh. As to the value that these forms of Christianity or appreciation of Christianity might have (e.g. Don Cupitt's non-realist cultural Christianity, Unitarian-Universalist Christians, John Shelby Spong), the value would be that you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maybe Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, and Darwin have made belief in an actual, theological God impossible, but Christianity could be considered a continuing ethical civilization (i.e. like Reconstructionist and later Humanistic Judaism) or it could be a frame of reference for making sense in a senseless world. Or it could be the system of thought which itself shows you the contradictions in the world and creates the intellectual space necessary for Marxism, feminism, etc. (i.e. Slavoj Žižek.) In any of those examples, the value of Christianity is not Christianity per se, but what utility it has in (e.g.) providing comfort, passing along ethical values, encouraging a new generation to ask questions about existence and meaning, etc. It may not be the case that Christianity in terms of doctrinaire positions is actually accurate, but it is a useful frame of reference and to that end it is true pragmatically. As to whether or not BS negates the moral value of an action, I don't think we would make that claim about children. Someone who cannot really appreciate persons as the kingdom of ends or the ideal man flourishing in virtue or maximizing the greatest pleasure for the greatest number can still do a good thing simply by participating in some narrative which is not literally true and which the child may not believe is literally true. "Good boys/girls don't steal" and "Don't you think it would hurt so-and-so's feelings if you littered?" can be useful narratives for encouraging moral behavior. I would like to think that the story of Noah and liberal Christians aren't infantile, but it's a useful metaphor. -JAK
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John, Thanks for your kind words and reporting my linkspam. For what it's worth, I made this Orwell bibliography. -JAK
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John, Orwell was on the money about a lot of stuff and his writing about writing is one of my favorite topics of his. -JAK
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John, Nitpick: your "quotable" link links to a directory on your computer, not the Internet. -JAK
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John, There is a lot to say about your post, but I would simply like to point out that the idea that the bombing of Dresden was in any way tactical or justifiable is unconscionable. I do not agree with the assessment that bombing Hiroshima and especially Nagasaki were necessary, but I can imagine how someone can have that position. I cannot see the justification for the destruction of Dresden. -JAK
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John, If you've never read the sequel, you should. It's disturbing to me that it even needs to exist, but I'm glad it's there. For that matter, his The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays--which includes this original essay--has a great essay about his theory of personhood which I have found useful in my studies. Necessity, Volition, and Love has some good stuff as well, such as his brilliant two-page essay on omniscience (which can be read on Amazon.) -JAK
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John, Last time I checked, Aramaic is taught at the school to all students, but other courses are not taught in it. Obviously, the school caters to the Assyrian population there and has a parochial/catechetical scope. Either way, it's nice that the tradition can stay alive across the Atlantic. -JAK
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John, Something tangentially related is the Assyrian School in Tarzana (parsih site is up, but school site is down.) -JAK
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John, Regarding links, this is a start (if not perfect): http://www.wholinks2me.com/ -JAK
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John, This is a very tenuous link, not the purpose of your post, and an interruption into the conversation you are already having, but: are you a Universalist? -JAK
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John, Now it can be told! Thanks for sharing; it's always interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the biases and influences of you Bible-bloggers. -JAK
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*Warning: PG language below* John, Also, that elitism causes you to miss out on participating in the largest encyclopedia in human history. For better or worse, like it or not, Wikipedia is the biggest game in town and you can either be outside the tent pissing in or inside the tent pissing out. -JAK
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John, There's always this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCqpPj87ekE The Johnny Cash discography is pretty diffuse and so there are a million compilations that include all manner of permutations of his greatest hits. The song originally appeared on the 1971 album of the same name http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Cash_discography -JAK
Toggle Commented Sep 12, 2009 on Why Johnny Cash wore black at Ancient Hebrew Poetry
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Well you wonder why I always dress in black. Why you never see bright colors on my back And why does my appearance seem to take a somber tone Well there's a reason for the things I have on I wear the black for the poor and beaten down, living on the hopeless, hungry side of town I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime but is there because he is a victim of the time I wear the black for those who never read or listened to the words that Jesus said about the road to happiness through love and charity Why you would think he is talking straight to you and me Well we're doing mighty fine I do suppose In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes But just so we're reminded of those who are held back Up front there ought to be a man in black I wear it for the sick and lonely old For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been Each week we lose a hundred fine young men And I wear it for the thousands who have died, believing that the Lord was on their side I wear for another hundred thousand who have died believing that we all were on their side Well there are things that never will be right I know And things need changing everywhere you go But until we start to make a move to make a few things right You'll never see me wear a suit of white Ahhh! I'd love to wear a rainbow everyday And tell the world that everything's okay But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back Till things are brighter I'm the Man in Black
Toggle Commented Sep 12, 2009 on Why Johnny Cash wore black at Ancient Hebrew Poetry
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