Friday, May 30, 2008

Well, that week went by fast

Ah, the weekend! I'm so happy I feel like thanking a labor union, just like the bumper stickers tell me to. I've never been part of a union; I wonder what it's like. If you've been a part of organized labor, what three words would you use to describe the experience?

How to waste your theological education (HT: JT).

This list was really funny until I hit number 31 and the points started hitting home. I could have stood to read this four years ago. But I would have read it and thought, "I know about all that stuff already."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy Birthday GKC!

No, it's not the birthday of the venerable Hebrew Lexicon, Gesenius-Kautzch-Cowley. It's the birthday of the Prince of Paradox, Gilbert Keith Chesterton. I encourage you to honor his birthday by making arguments that delightfully stand conventional wisdom on its head. I wish more people could argue like Chesterton. Even when you think that what he's arguing is pure nonsense, you can't help but appreciate the beauty of how he's arguing it.

I give you a random sample, something I have never read until a few minutes ago: The Twelve Men.

Notice how he can argue with passion, but without rancor; how he can entertain without sarcasm. If I were to write an essay about serving on a jury, I'd no doubt look for laughs by carping about the ridiculous, bureaucratic rigmarole and by making fun of my fellow jurors. This is the narrow humor of a sarcastic middle schooler, someone who thinks he's smarter than anyone in the room. But GKC is a grown-up; so he presents himself as being at least as ridiculous as the jury selection system he's participating in.

I don't know why I haven't read everything he's written; he never disappoints. This is my favorite section from The Twelve Men:

But the true result of all experience and the true foundation of all religion is this. That the four or five things that it is most practically essential that a man should know, are all of them what people call paradoxes. That is to say, that though we all find them in life to be mere plain truths, yet we cannot easily state them in words without being guilty of seeming verbal contradictions.

(HT to Justin Taylor for alerting me to GKC's birthday. The argument JT excerpts from
John Piper is a great example of standing conventional wisdom on its head. Who would have thought of the new Calvinists as the heirs of GKC's love of truth-and-mystery? Well, I still don't think so; the Arminians I know love truth-and-mystery just as much as the new Calvinists I know. Calvinism's biggest draw has always been the steely deductive logic of TULIP. But I'll consider Piper's argument an appropriate homage to GKC.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How many things do you know how to do?

Does anyone else remember learning in 11th grade Brit Lit (the Beowulf unit) about how epic heroes embody the values of their culture? Now we have lists like these. Sort of a grown-up version of The Dangerous Book for Boys. It's a list from Esquire, so be warned, in some ways it's a little too grown up; it also strikes me as very culturally bound, a list that might be on a website called Stuff White People Want To Be Able To Do. What would a list of things a man should know how to do look like in Africa? In China? Maybe your culture has to lose any self-confidence in manhood before you can self-consciously produce lists like these.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Prince Caspian

The new Chronic(what?)les of Narnia film, Prince Caspian, is an enjoyable movie, at least for people like myself who know the basic story line but aren't so familiar with the details of the book that every little change gives you a jolt.

There are changes, of course. A major movement to the plot has been added (without which the story would probably have seemed too short). There are also several changes in the character's personalities and relationships. For the most part, these changes make sense for a movie (the Susan-Caspian love interest thing is played fairly low-key until the very contemporary good-bye kiss), but they do cause some interesting shifts.

For example, Peter and Caspian's roles are somewhat reversed. Caspian seems older than in the book, and Peter younger. Instead of saying right from the start that he's no threat to Caspian's throne, movie-Peter's main motivation is his desire to be in power again. All of the sudden, reviewers can call him "a stubborn hothead - Sonny Corleone to his younger brother's more rational Michael."

Well, the hair color is right, I guess.

My guess is that these changes will seem more striking/wrong to people who know the book better than I do. Just reading this interview with someone who knows the book very well made me regret some of the movie choices (HT: HogPro). On the other hand, Frederica Mathewes-Green and John Mark Reynolds think the movie is better than the book (HT: JT).

I'm not ready to go that far. The book has a wonderful originality; it isn't just a repeat of its predecessor: "Nothing happens the same way twice, Dear One." On the other hand, you kind of feel like you've seen a lot of the shots from the movie before. Some of them look a lot like scenes from a certain trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. (Although I will say that the "Fighting Trees" scene in Lewis's movie has a better look than the one in Tolkien's movie.) Other scenes just have a feel of genericness, like Caspian's escape from the castle. (Character relationships have a little of this shopworn feel too, as in Peter and Edmund becoming Sonny and Michael.)

Luckily, they have another five shots to work out these kinks (I hope). And I hope someone involved in the movies reads Planet Narnia.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Dan Reid has a good post about that old canard, "taking the Bible literally." This is a wild guess, but it may have been inspired by his reading the first two paragraphs of Susan Jacoby's opinion piece about the recent Evangelical Manifesto. Jacoby in turn may or may not have read Alan Jacob's review of the manifesto in the Wall Street Journal, but she was obliging enough to prove one of his best points:

"[T]he heart of the document is a kind of urgent appeal: Please don't call us fundamentalists or confuse us with them. This strikes me as a regrettable tack . . . people who make the kinds of theological statements found in this document -- for instance, 'We believe that the only ground for our acceptance by God is our trust in Jesus Christ' -- are going to be called fundamentalists no matter what else they say."

So here's an interesting survey question: What kind of person is a "fundamentalist"? Describe a prototypical fundamentalist. I'm not looking for a precise definition, just a cluster of associations.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TEDS/TGS Graduation Update

Best quote from the commencement address, by OT scholar Walt Kaiser: "I have read the New Testament, and I like it. It reminds me of the Old Testament."

(My great-uncle, Msgr. Frank Klein, gave me Kaiser's Toward an Old Testament Theology, which I will read someday. My great-uncle was pretty cool. You should click that link.)

I love what the new editors have done with The Graduate Scrawl. It looks much cleaner than in the old days. Sounds like Mark Driscoll's chapel talk was a doozy (doesn't seem to be available online).

Some friends and fellow bloggers who graduated include Sterling C. Franklin and D. C. Cramer. You're welcome to congratulate them. Also graduating was the always-intriguingly-lowercase beau who comments here occasionally. And Eric McIntosh, who I still think is Fake Carson. Though he denies it. And I don't have any insider information on that.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Visual Math



See also, Chaka + Laundry = Heartache.