Friday, June 30, 2006

Another Definition of 'Work'

"… work ought to be necessary; it ought to be good, it ought to be satisfying and dignifying to the people who do it, and genuinely useful and pleasing to the people for whom it is done. "
Source : Conserving Communities
H/T Matthew Bartlett

Site Statistics - Jan-June

Page loads, unique visitors, and returning visitors peaked in February at 1077, 659 & 93 respectively. Otherwise it's been flat across all the other months with stats of approx. 600, 300 & 100 for the respective site parameters.

Why the rise in February ? All I can think is that it must have had to do with the Muslim Cartoon Controversy.

One of my posts linked to a post in a site called "Magic Statistics" which itself had a link going to an online Belgian newspaper which reproduced the cartoons. So there was an inordinate amount of click through visits from there.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Class in Britain

A study carried out by the Sutton Trust ( The Guardian ) has found that :

54% of the top 100 newspaper editors, columnists, broadcasters and executives were educated privately, despite fee-paying schools catering for 7% of the school population”.

Furthermore, “That figure has increased from 49% in 1986, when the research was last carried out”.

H/T The Boy Phelan

Reading Jane Austen

"(...) Here is a textured vocabulary with which to communicate without being too direct, rude or crude in matters that require sensitivity. Take for example the grace with which Eliza Bennet’s refuses Mr. Collins’ suit, or the wit with which she nettles Mr. Darcy without shaming him. It’s almost a guilty pleasure.

To be fair, there is something very artificial about this comedy of manners. We are invited into the drawing rooms of an idle class of tea-drinkers and piano-players who can afford to learn fourteen different ways to flirt with someone without being crude.

The greatest distance that an Austen novel runs is from ettiquette to courtship and back. (...)"

click HERE to read more

More on 'Calling'

Muchas gracias to Dr.David Field who has focused and framed the argument most helpfully in his open letter on 'Calling' .

Since having had the opportunity to read David's comments, I happened across another definition of 'calling' which occurs on p.27 of Max Weber's magnum opus 'Protestantism and the Rise of Capitalism' :

"the valuation of the fulfillment of duty in worldly affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of an individual could assume."

I suppose I was really arguing against a Weberian concept of 'calling' which probably also operates subconsciously in the minds of many Christians.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hooray! I passed the Ethics Exam !

Which I took HERE, HERE and HERE.

Here it is in Dr. Field's own words :

Congratulations - you passed! (You don't really want grades, do you? I'd only give them if they stayed completely private.)

And even better are his comments on my responses which he graciously took time from his busy life to offer :

3. An interesting discussion but one which omits some of the key moral theological considerations in this matter. Pls see the course notes :

6. Some important points made here and an internally consistent position, I think. However, 1st century writers would regard Ex 21.9-10 as relevant and there is the huge question of whether Jesus's remarks are intended to be "if you ask me about Dt 24, this is what I think (but there are other things tosay about divorce)" or "this is everything I have to say about divorce". It would be good to apply principles of resistance to the tyrant, ask questions about whether capital crimes are grounds for divorce, and consider the idea of "constructive unfaithfulness/separation" as parallel to"constructive dismissal".

Please see the course notes:

9. A good answer which makes relevant distinctions and applies key biblical principles. What about betting 1p on a poker game - just to add to the fun? There are additional considerations about the impact of gambling on others which it would be good to include.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lillies of the Field - Matthew 6:28-34

Tonight we had a church business meeting and our pastor read these words of the Lord Jesus :

[28]"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

[29]Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

[30]If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

[31]So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'

[32]For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

[33]But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

[34]Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"And to make matters worse, look at where the Saudi flag is positioned, to its left there is Israel and above it is Denmark!!!!!!"

Read what else they're saying about it HERE .


A post HERE by David Field has got me thinking about the subject.

People in Reformed circles like to do lot thinking, talking and writing about ‘callings’. They do love that word. They might go all around the houses but in the end they simply mean ‘what you do for a living mate’.

And they do go on about it theologically as if it was some biblical doctrine. Well if you look at the Bible the only references to being ‘called’ have to do with having or developing faith in Christ or working in the church – what Roman Catholics refer to as ‘vocation’.

Now it’s interesting that I’ve never come across the Reformed use the word ‘vocation’. How curious? Why ever not? Perhaps the word has become anathema tainted as it is by Roman Catholic usage.

Which makes me even more convinced that all this concentrated focus about ‘callings’ has really more to do about Protestant human and historical tradition than the Bible. And yes I do feel the distinction sometimes needs to be made.

Years ago I read a small book called ‘The Callings’. It was, interestingly enough, written by Paul Helm, a philosopher/theologian who usually writes on more esoteric subjects. But, in this booklet he was being very down to earth. It is there that I must have read that it was Luther that got the theological world talking about ‘callings’ in a big way.

And I can understand why.

He was pushing a thing called the “universal priesthood of all believers” in his fight against the church hierarchy of Rome. And it was probably a high agenda item for him and so it has stayed there for over 500 years !

Now Helm’s book has on the cover the picture of a man carving a wooden horse. It instantly makes you think : ‘feudal workshops’.

When earnest appeal to the Bible is made, the only meaty substance of relevance are the Old Testament passages to fathers passing their trade on to their sons.

Now how archaic is that?

How many people today, in the 20th or 21st century, get trained by and carry on the trade of their own fathers? It’s a different world, mate.

Which means that trying to shoehorn a medieval (or older) agenda to today’s world and call it a distinctively Christian and biblical approach is probably going to be contrived and wrong headed.

So is there no distinctively Christian and biblical approach to ‘callings’?

There definitely is.

The first place to start is to stop calling it ‘calling’ and then look up all the New Testament passages which talk about ‘slaves’ and ‘masters’.

While the institution of slavery might also be a thing of the past, these are actual biblical principles which are enduring and applicable to work in our day. The principles there are no way nearly as over-defined as all the ink and paper that has gone into creating the artificial theological edifice known as ‘callings’.

But it may just be the ‘calling’ of theologians and philosophers to do just that: waste a lot of ink and paper creating artificial theological edifices.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

News that is Not News

I keep my radio on like wallpaper in the background while I work. And today every so often (about every 15 minutes) I've been been hearing :

  • That today is the 10th anniversary of an IRA bomb that went off in Manchester and where thankfully nobody was killed. (This is history not news. Besides we are no longer at war with the IRA, remember ? Remember something called the Good Friday Accords ? So why dig this us up ? To sow hatred ?)

  • That Mr.Paul Gad's (aka Gary Glitter) appeal over his conviction for molesting two girls in Vietnam (and why was he there in first place?) has been refused.

Big deal on both counts.

Somebody explain to me why these items are newsW-O-R-T-H-Y, please.

I am pinning my hopes that one day citizen journalism will so prosper that it will bury MSM (main stream media) and that there will emerge genuine channel freedom and diversity so that no longer will we have to put up with the drivvel that the few publishing elites think we should be told.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm taking an Ethics exam - Section A

David Field has posted the Ethics exam he gave his theological students HERE .

I have decided to take the exam myself and David has agreed to mark it if I do.

Considering the average age of the persons taking David's exam is 26 that makes my brain nearly twice as old as theirs so be gentle with me David.

The exam consists of 3 sections containing 3 questions each and the examinee is required only to answer one question in each section. So I have decided to answer Q3 in Section A ; Q6 in Section B and Q9 in section C

Here goes.

3. Discuss the idea of "the lesser of two evils" and illustrate how confusion on the issue could cause serious pastoral damage.

Answer to Q.3 : The "lesser of two evils" can be taken in a number of ways. Here are only three of the ways we might see the expression used.

First, there might be a national election in which you consider it your Christian duty to vote. But, who do you vote for ? There are only two candidates and you must vote for one. But which one ? Answer : you vote for "the lesser of two evils".

Second, it's WW2 and you are hiding Jews in your home. The Nazis knock on your door and ask if you are harbouring Jews. Do you tell the truth and so condemn the people you are hiding to death ? Or do you lie. You say "No, I am not hiding Jews" and so commit "the lesser of two evils".

Third, you are given a pistol and told to kill a particular person. If you refuse, 10 other people will be murdered by terrorists. If you kill this person the 10 persons will be spared. What do you do ? You kill the one person in order to prevent the murder of 10 others -- i.e. you take the "lesser of two evils".

Now let's look at these three examples and the pastoral implications of each.

In the first case, there is no element force or coercion. One is not required to participate in the activity yet participation is not in itself evil, sinful or harmful. In fact, participation is seen by some to promote general social moral good. The participant is allowed to exercise his/her freedom and rational deliberation in the process of participation and all outcomes are legal and morally sound. Therefore, it not conceivable that any "serious pastoral damage" would result.

In the second instance, by committing "the lesser of two evils" one has prevented the commission of a greater evil by someone else . Not doing so would mean participating in the sins of others which the Bible also prohibits us from doing (1 Timothy 5:22 ). Again there might be some distress that a lie was told and the person should be encouraged to acknowledge that fact and to bring it before God in confession. Neither should this lead to "serious pastoral damage" as the lives of innocent persons was saved.

In the third instance, one is engaging in the same evil as that being contemplated by another. Moreover, there is no certain or causal relationship in the good outcome which is hoped for as was the case with in the second Nazi Germany example. For in the second instance the Jews will continue to remain safely hidden when the lie is told whereas there is (and would always be) uncertainty about the truth value of the terrorists promise not to kill 10 other people. In fact there would be much reason to utterly doubt the truth value of such a promise. Yet, even if the 10 others are spared as promised, there will always be the nagging doubt about whether the terrorists would have proceeded with the murder the 10 others EVEN IF the hostage refused to murder the one person he was told to murder. So going ahead with killing 1 person that 10 might be spared would cause very "serious pastoral damage" indeed for a horrendous sin would be committed and remain on the person's conscience despite even the fact that the 10 other people under threat are indeed spared.

Therefore, in summary and in conclusion all courses of action dubbed a "lesser of two evils" should be avoided in all instances where a) both horns of the dilemma presented are both equally evil b) the non-performance of evil by another moral agent is contingent upon my performance of evil and c)where there is no prospect of a greater good outcome from my undertaking a lesser of two evils.

I'm taking an Ethics exam - Section B

6. Give biblical justification for your view upon whether or not physical abuse should be considered legitimate grounds for divorce.

I will consider the case of the husband inflicting physical abuse on his wife in the light of the following New Testament Scriptures about marriage :

Matthew 19:1-11
1 Corinthians 7:3-5
1 Corinthians 7:10-16
Ephesians 5:25-33

First, what is marriage ?

Marriage is the uniting of two people to make up "one flesh" (Matt 19:4-5) accompanied with Jesus' injunction that "what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matt 19:6). This is the ideal.

But Jesus recognises we no longer live in an ideal world (Matt 19:8). And so divorce is permitted but NOT for "any and every reason"(Matt 19:3)

The reason why the teaching on divorce is of such great concern is not merely for the divorce itself (as bad as that is since it goes against Jesus' injunction) but also because re-marriage subsequent to a divorce obtained for an invalid reason brings with it the sin of adultery (Matt 19:9).

And so Jesus limits allowable re-marriage to a divorce for "marital unfaithfulness" - only.

Having set the framework for marriage, divorce and re-marriage I will now turn my attention to the case of whether or not physical abuse should be considered legitimate grounds for divorce.

Whether the abusing husband is a believer or not has, in my opinion, little bearing in this particular situation. In either case a temporary or permament separation (not divorce) might be advisable for pastoral reasons and for reasons of safety for the abused.

This arrangement, of course, may be refused by the abusing partner on the grounds of conjugal rights. The abused wife may find ground in a continued refusal to be with her husband in view of how the marriage between a man and a woman is to mirror the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5) and as it can be inferred from this passage abuse has no place in the marriage relationship.

Of course, the abused wife should not be the first to seek divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) . If her husband does so on the grounds of his wife's failure to fulfill what he might insist is her "marital duties" then he may divorce her and presumably seek re-marriage in which case the abused wife would be free to re-marry herself since her husband would effectively have committed "marital unfaithfulness" by his own remarriage.

The fact that a parent abuses a child does not nullify the reality of a parent-child relationship as dysfunctional and sinful as that may be. Similarly, I cannot agree that physical abuse (as bad as that is) is legitimate ground for divorce. Physical abuse may, however, trigger a train of events terminating in divorce but not as a legitimate ground in itself for Jesus already settled the matter of legitimate ground by limiting it to "marital unfaithfulness".

I'm taking an Ethics exam - Section C

9. Is gambling a sin?

In attempting to answer this question I will seek to distinguish “gambling” from “investing” as carefully as I can and from that consideration I hope the answer to this question will become clearer.

The desire for gambling grows from a desire to get rich, to do so quickly and without any exertion other than in the effort or activity involved in placing the bet. There is always an element of risk in gambling and so there is also always the prospect of losing what one has entrusted to the gamble. One activity that some claim is gambling is investing in the stock market since whether the price of an investment goes up or down is also as uncertain as the future.

Is investing in the stock market to be classed alongside playing poker or a game of dice or betting on the outcome of a football match?

First, from Genesis 1 when man is placed in the Garden right through to the Parables Jesus told, the Bible assumes and upholds a principle of good stewardship.

Second, being a good steward is a future oriented activities which may (it doesn’t always) involve an exchange: “ I give you my money and get something in return”.. The investor in a stock is purchasing a part of an enterprise that produces something of value for which it has customers who are willing to part with their own money to acquire. Therefore stock ownership is ownership of something of value and gambling is not since gambling always involves an exchange but the gambler gets nothing in return

Gambling is merely an exchange of funds for nothing but a stake in a pure mathematical possibility of outcomes. Although the outcome of loss or gain and the magnitude of any loss or gain can be observed in both gambling and investing this is where the similarity ends. Losses or gains in proper investing activity occur in the context of sowing and reaping of blessing or cursing on effort and activity. There is therefore an element of faith in investing. But in gambling sowing and reaping have no connection with the outcomes. While in investing there is trust in the guiding of Providence in the fulfilment of the cultural mandate of Genesis 1, gambling involves no such trust nor does it do anything to promote the cultural mandate. While investing can be an entirely selfish enterprise gambling always is.

Therefore, we conclude that gambling cannot be a godly activity and therefore is a godless activity and thus always a sin.

"Towards a Turkish Theology"

This is the title of a forthcoming book by Ziya Meral.
I reckon I shall, God willing, get a hold of a copy from the publishers ,
read and perhaps even blog about it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Fear of Man versus The Fear of God

Given what Jesus has to say on this subject (Luke 12:4-5 , John 5:41-44 ),

I have always been impressed by how :

  • these are opposed to one another and
  • the seriousness of the consequences inherent in having the wrong kind of fear.

So I have always wanted to understand exactly what is meant by either the "fear of man" and the "fear of God" . It has not always seemed clear cut to me .
If this is because of my sinfulness, then please do pray for me.

Otherwise, I would venture to ask, for instance, whether because I don't fear man does that then give me a licence to be obnoxious to certain persons in some way at certain times ? In that case, it is important to be clear about what those circumstances are.

So, having said all this, it is also with personal gratitude that I can report a post from David Field who has lifted some helpful quotations from F W Faber on the subject and shares them with us HERE

U.S. Budget Deficits 1961-2004

This is a picture of what turning your country over to the Neocons
to fight an unnecessary war can do to your finances.

"Asymmetric warfare" at Guantanamo Bay

The story behind the ridiculous military press release over the three suicides at the lovely Camp Guantanamo. It should make every American ashamed. click HERE for details.

Monday, June 12, 2006

'Power of Nightmares' - a BBC documentary

You can watch it HERE on your computer or alternatively burn it on DVD and watch it on your TV.

It's a 3 part 3 hour top class documentary filmed in 2004 as only the BBC can produce it and it is also absolutely FREE.

If nothing else, it will help you understand why these two people (both now dead) are two of the greatest influences on what is happening today.

The one behind bars is Sayyid Qutb and the other chap is Leo Strauss.

Friday, June 09, 2006

It's typical English cynicism and anti-nationalism. And, I love the English for it ! But, maybe it's a bit too uncharitable to write off the lot of them as "casual racists" or "simpletons". Steve Bishop offers us another explanation HERE

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Profile of a Learner

My wife took this picture at the St-Jerome Elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where she was visiting with a group of colleagues on a fact finding mission. The message speaks for itself, I think. The challenge is being able to live up to it.

Quote of the Day

". . . a modest proposal:

Maybe it's time for the sex obsessives on the left and right to take their fights over abortion and gay rights into a corner somewhere and give the rest of society space to restore some ethical rootedness in an endlessly variable world. Because letting the vacuum persist long enough on values useful to everyday life will breed too many little Bonds and little Fastows. And because the constant public magnification of these ethical breakdowns makes everyone feel like scuzz by association. It has a corrosive affect on the rest of us, on our sense of who we are. "

Source : "Barry Bonds, Meet Andrew Fastow There's more to morality than the politics of sex." by Daniel Henninger

H/T Bill's Comments

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Cultural Anthropology of Internet Search

click HERE for an interesting read.

H/T to bitemarks who is being too self-effacing : Financial analysis is not rocket science. It's essence lies in capturing that numerical relationship which tells a bigger story.

Limited Atonement Debate...

... between the leading lights of Oak Hill Thelogical College and Moore Theological College (both evangelical Anglican colleges).

click HERE to be taken to the action.

H/T to Marc Lloyd for clueing me in on the debate.

So far the message count is 77.

Also weighing in on LA over on his blog is David Field, lecturer at Oak Hill (see his June 1 entries).

It looks to your humble correspondant like the Oak Hill group has answered all the exegetical and epistemological objections put forward by the MTC crowd.

P.S. : Is there such a thing as going bankrupt for a good cause ? (I'm the one who made the pints offer).

UPDATE : The message count is now at 121 and since Alastair joined the discussion LA has been taking quite a beating, in my opinion.

Yet, if we wanted to keep this paradigm, I could agree with Chris Thomson on his 'sufficient for any, efficient for the elect' formulation.