Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday quote

The truth is incontrovertible: malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

Winston Churchill (1874–1965).


The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Humour, wit, satire,...

Types of humour from Henry Fowler’s 1906 Modern English Usage. He wrote,
So much has been written upon the nature of some of these words, and upon the distinctions between pairs or trios among them (wit and humour, sarcasm and irony and satite), that it would be both presumptuous and unnecessary to attempt a further disquisition. But a sort of tabular statement may be of service against some popular misconceptions. No definition of the words is offered, but for each its motive or aim, its province, its method or means, and its proper audience, are specified. The constant confusion between sarcasm, satire and irony, as well as that now less common between wit and humour, seems to justify this mechanical device of parallel classification; but it will be of use only to those who wish for help in determining which is the word that they really want.
DeviceMotive or aimProvinceMethod or meansAudience
Humour Discovery Human nature Observation The sympathetic
Wit Throwing light Words and ideas Surprise The intelligent
Satire Amendment Morals and manners Accentuation The self-satisfied
Sarcasm Inflicting pain Faults and foibles Inversion Victim and bystander
Invective Discredit Misconduct Direct statement The public
Irony Exclusiveness Statement of factsMystification An inner circle
Cynicism Self-justification Morals Exposure of nakedness The respectable
Sardonic Self-relief Adversity Pessimism The self

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday quote

It has been often said, very truely, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary.

GK Chesterton

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Mutual submission in sex

As a result of looking thru some links for yesterday's post I wanted to address the meaning of mutual submission in sex. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes,
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:1-6)
What this passage is saying is that Men have to give conjugal rights, ie. sex to their wives, and wives have to give it to their husbands. This addresses the fact and duty of sex, not the method. One usually has authority over his or her own body but Paul is saying that within marriage when it comes to sexual relations it is not the person who has rights over his or her own body but rather the spouse.

The context show that the issue relates to timing, that is the fact of having sex regularly, not the way sex is performed, or how the husband approaches his wife, or vice versa, or how she responds to him sexually. For that one may get some tips from Canticles.

Paul goes on to say that withholding sex from each other can only be done thru mutual agreement. If for the sake of prayer both husband and wife wish to refrain for a time then that is permissible. But both must agree. And the duration must be fixed and brief.

Of course both husband and wife can gain pleasure in sex, and both will likely gain children. But the method of sexual intimacy, the pleasure obtained, the desire for and response to having children need not be identical for the man and the woman. Mutuality in this passage does not speak to these questions.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Context in a sound-bite culture

I have been reading the furore concerning Jared Wilson posting a quote by Doug Wilson (not related) about sexuality in marriage. Jared was attempting to explain the success of 50 shades of Grey and thought Doug's comment from Fidelity published in 1999. Doug writes:
A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.
The book Fidelity: What It Means to Be a One-Woman Man can be found here.

A lot of words have been said in the outrage, not all of them with comprehension. As common in our sound-bite culture, sentences and even isolated words do not need context, and everything written has the audience of the entire world in view.

As a result, offended people assume the worst and accuse the offender of all manner of wickedness. This is obvious of the blog posts condemning Doug Wilson, none of them have read the book in question, but more so, they do not appear to have read him otherwise.

Reading the book is important because it gives context. Perhaps Jared thought the phenomenon of 50 Shades of Grey gave enough context. Perhaps it does, perhaps not. Though the ability of people to isolate words and ignore sentences makes me concerned whether context is even helpful for some. The reason the second (reading the author) is important is you gain understanding of how a writer thinks. Much the same as you gain an understanding of you friends. If someone says something ambiguous a close friend may be able to clarify what he meant because he knows how he thinks, even if he does not agree with him. That why a friend might say, "No he would have meant this," or, "Yes, he can be obnoxious," or even, "He is being intentionally ambiguous."

Unlike many of the commentators I have read Wilson's book Fidelity, and several others, and his blog for some time. So when I read some of what is being written it doesn't read true as I know Doug (from his writing). Of course I know him imperfectly as he is not a friend and I only know him thru his writing. Nevertheless, his ideas are recognisable.

For example, some opposed to complementarianism disparage the idea that women should submit to men in the church; clearly they are not familiar with Doug's writing because he would deny a wife should submit to any man other than her husband.

Ironically we get those opposed to Doug saying that bondage like behaviour may be acceptable if both partners agree, and Doug saying that even with consent it is unacceptable because God forbids it.

One may retort that a reader may not be expected to know an author that well to read his works and, after all, words have meaning. Well yes, and no. It is all contextual. Words have meaning, and a semantic range. Sentences have meaning more meaning due to more context. A book has more context, and a writer even more context than a single book. It is possible for an author to be misunderstood by everyone, this is an authorial problem and maybe he should modify his construct. But when he is understood by some people and misunderstood by different people then there may be a readership issue.

Which brings us to intended audiences: some subjects are best left unspoken at different times and places; yet that a veteran disdains any reminder of his traumatic duty does not mean that war cannot be discussed by anyone else. On the contrary, war needs to be discussed by many people. It is false to think all our language has to be acceptable to all people at all times. I might curb myself for someone's weakness, but he doesn't get to let his weakness control all people. Related to this is the problem of finding offence in generics rather than specifics. I read a great deal of material, much of which I think is at least partially wrong. The errors are often significant, they represent wrong ways of thinking about the world and influence other readers toward the same errors. I find this frustrating, and damaging, but not insulting. It is not directed specifically at me. With published material we can read or not read a book as per our desire. Finding offence at material that is written generically seems unwise, insecure, and is generally a problem of the offended.

It is also important to distinguish between what someone advocates and what you think their ideology implies. It is important what we believe, and we are answerable for what we teach others; still claiming ideas are dangerous because you think they cause an effect is very different to claiming a man desires or advocates such an outcome. Objections to what your opponent says because you perceive it damaging is a long way from them advocating evil. Sure, false teaches should be rebuked, and sometimes rhetoric can be responded to with rhetoric; but when there is genuine debate, it is much easier to slander your opponent than delve into the issues.

Which brings us to the a fundamental difference in the debate which is egalitarianism and complementarianism in marriage and the church. The real opponent for many is complementarianism, and it seems to me in some ways the outrage is being used to bypass engaging the issue. The issue does need to be engaged. For all the discussion about sameness in the bed and lack of any personal perverse desire we are still left with the phenomenon of 50 Shades of Grey, written by a woman and purchased in the millions by women. Even if you think Doug's explanation is incorrect, you still need some explanation.

Posts for your reading interest


Thursday, 19 July 2012

How to be Free From Bitterness

This originated as a pamphlet. I hadn't seen the pamphlet so I bought the book which contains both this essay and several others. I could have just searched for it on the internet.

The book is worth getting just for the cover! The other essays are good, but the first is by far the best. So good that I have bought at least 6 copies of the book and given them away. A couple of people have found it very helpful in their situation.

I think the essay is extremely helpful to the modern church and I think it would help if this topic was preached more widely. The article addresses the issue of forgiving the unrepentant, and while I have considered both possibilities (forgiving and not forgiving if there is no repentance) I think the article comes to the correct conclusion.

Jim's blog Roots by the River

How to be Free From Bitterness
***The essay below lacks a few paragraphs at one point that are included in the book and I have not typed them out. The formatting should be correct.

How to be Free From Bitterness

by Jim Wilson

Monday, 16 July 2012

Monday quote

To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family tradition, national patriotism, and religious dogmas.

Brock Chisholm (1896–1971), Director-General of the World Health Organization, Humanist of the Year 1959.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Monday quote

Term, holidays, term, holidays, till we leave school, and then work, work, work till we die.

C. S. Lewis. Surprised by Joy.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Book review: Caring for Creation

A book review by bethyada on Caring for Creation written by Dick Tripp.

I was given a copy of Caring for Creation by Avery Bartlett Books for review. Caring for Creation is book #23 in Dick Tripp's series Exploring Faith Today. I have not read any other books in the series; the titles cover a range of issues on Christian theology and Christian living. Tripp, now retired, worked in the Anglican clergy. Judging by various comments in the text and his appeal for conversion in the conclusion, it appears that his beliefs are reasonably orthodox and he has a strong desire for men to come to follow Christ. He runs the website Exploring Christianity which I have not reviewed.

Caring for Creation is Tripp's adjuration for Christians to both pay attention to environmental issues and address them. The book is roughly divided into 3 sections; he starts with giving an overview of the recent environmental movement and Christian involvement over the centuries; followed by the main section—an overview on how he sees the Bible addressing environmental issues throughout its pages; and then an appeal to the church to act. There is an extensive Scripture index.

Some minor niggles: The style could be improved upon. Topical flow was hesitant at times. An extensive number of quotes were included. There were a substantial number of assertions. The footnoting was inadequate (quote references included inline, and an appended reading list); several statements would have benefited from reference and this lack makes it difficult to critique. Nevertheless, these are relatively minor issues and it was a reasonably readable book. This is not my complaint.

What is commendable? Tripp rightly identifies that environmental issues are addressed by Scripture. The Christian worldview touches all of life: living, dying, art, politics, science, law, etc. Most issues are moral issues, thus it is important to know what the Lawgiver allows and proscribes. Our current concerns may seem modern but antiquarian biblical revelation is contemporary revelation. Quoting Bradley in the introduction,
Greening Christianity does not involve grafting it onto some alien philosophy but simply restoring its original character.
But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

Several current crises are noted in the opening chapter, all of which could demand a book in themselves. Tripp identifies: Climate change; Ozone loss; Waste; Water; Overfishing; Forests; Hunger and poverty; Animal and plant extinctions; Air pollution; Acid rain; Topsoil erosion; and Desertification. I concur with several of these, though it seems that some are not real issues, some are potential issues but may not be crises, and some do not seem to be primarily environmental. They are important because the rest of the books assumes them. But people who have sympathies for a pleasant earth are on both sides of these questions; to assume predominantly Politically Green conclusions as are commonly encountered is to beg the question.

What does he get right? He made several points that I think are correct. The vastness of the universe testifies to the majesty of God (p.74), we need to trust God daily (p.30), and it is God who ultimately provides for man and animals (p.76). The Christian doctrine of the Fall is the most reasonable explanation for our situation (p.87). Our actions cannot help but affect others (p.26), and local community action is often better than central governmental action (p.29). Activities may have unintended consequences, such as transferring a species to a new environment (p.24) (though this action may also be beneficial). People can exaggerate the suffering of creation (p.62). And in modern society, scientists have taken the place of priests and this (presumably philosophical materialism) has made us consumerists (p.32).

Unfortunately I think Tripp concedes too much to the environmental movement. Further, and of more concern, is much of his biblical reasoning for environmentalism.

Economic prosperity is frequently maligned as being ecologically damaging, yet often times it is not; it may be far less damaging to the environment, especially when comparative amounts of food is considered. Modern clean burning fuels produce far less soot and limit the requirement of wood for fuel.

Complaint is made about removing or damaging the resource base of the poor with regards to water, energy, food, and medicines (p.27); meaning streams, wood, gardens and plants. But how much better would the same poor be if these were replaced with clean water, cheap fuel, cheap food and effective medicines. Why is a farmer making small dams and ponds to ensure water for his crops deemed good, but a city building a large dam to ensure constant water supply for the residents bad? Sure, a government could be unfair in its distribution, but a subsistence upstream farmer could do the same by diverting water, using excess water, or polluting downstream water.

DDT is disparaged (p.35) yet the banning of this chemical must have been one of the worst decisions in the history of the modern environmental movement. It is by no means clear that DDT causes cancer or genetic damage. It may be considerably safer and cheaper than some alternatives. It is plausible that the banning of DDT has negatively impacted the fight against malaria and that the death rate is now higher than had we continued to use it. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas frequently have bad consequences.

Water and pesticides are only two examples of several, but these are important to get right as more than half of childhood deaths in the developing world are caused by infectious diseases; the biggest three being pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

The larger concern is the questionable exegesis of Scripture in places. A couple of examples will suffice, though I had several concerns. On the prohibition of the tree of knowledge of good and evil Tripp writes (p.31),
When God set up humans in the Garden of Eden, though providing them with abundance, he did set limits on their use of available resources (Genesis 2:16,17).
I had not previously seen this interpretation ever proposed, though have encountered it since. That man should limit what he takes from the earth—regardless of the veracity of this proposal—just does not exist in this verse. The tree was a test of loyalty and faithfulness, it was the sole limitation for the man and woman, and it was not off bounds because of limited resources. Such an interpretation comes from prior opinions concerning appropriate use of the earth's resources. It may not be original with Tripp, but it is transparent eisegesis.

Later Tripp comments that the word “world” in John 3:16 is the Greek “kosmos” and that this means universe, not just the world of people (oikoumene). But this reasoning ultimately works against him as John also uses “kosmos” in 1 John 2:15,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Context is important. Clearly the latter verse alludes to coveting and living for temporal things. This does not mean that Jesus only loves the people, but the scope of “kosmos” in John 3:16 needs to be expanded and defended. “World” has a semantic range. What is the semantic range of “kosmos,” and does “world” or “universe” better convey this? Tripp has several other word studies that may suffer from the same contextual problems, such as his suggestion that “work the earth” in Genesis 2:5 means “serve the earth” (p.81).

Contrasting Christianity with other worldviews on caring for creation, Tripp concludes with these words,
Christians have reasons that are more profound and satisfying as they are based on the truth of the God who really exists, humans as they are intended to be, and the world as it really is (p.144).
Which is very true. Which makes it deeply ironic that much of what Tripp presents in the book as the problems and solutions of current environmental issues are not that different from popular environmentalism; and the latter frequently subscribes to these false worldviews. True, Tripp's foundations differ profoundly, but one would therefore expect that the issues identified and solutions offered would frequently be divergent. Interestingly he quotes a study showing congregations that have the greatest commitment to biblical authority and inerrancy were the least concerned about ecology (p.43). It is difficult to know what “concern” means here, or what the issues were; but it is well worth contemplating that people with high regard for the Bible lack concern for the things that fill green secularists and pagans with fear .

Tripp is correct to identify Scripture as the foundation for Christian Ecology. I disagree with some of his text choices and several interpretations he offers. Despite Tripp's admirable concern for the lost, I cannot recommend Caring for Creation for people wishing to gain a better understanding of these issues.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Monday quote

[Christ] has turned sunset into dawn.

Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens), (c.150–215)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Orders of magnitude

Interesting tool to view the varying size of our world. The scale goes from 10–35 m to 1027 m: planck length thru to the known universe.

Hat tip: MzEllen


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