On Science and Theology

John Polkinghorne has an interesting new book out Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship, which I highly recommend even if I’ve only read the first chapter. Mr Polkinghorne has had a distinguished career in theoretical physics involved in the development of the Standard Model, and is now retired from that and has subsequently been ordained as a Anglican priest and has been thinking theology. His view is that Theology and Science, especially Physics are not opponents, but more like cousins. In his words:

The basic reason is simply that science and theology are both concerned with the search for truth. In consequence, they complement each other rather than contrast each other. Of course, the two disciplines focus on different dimensions of truth, but they share a common conviction that there is truth to be sought. Although in both kinds of enquiry this truth will never be grasped totally and exhaustively, it can be approximated to in an intellectually satisfying manner that deserves the adjective ‘versimilitundinous’, even if it does not qualify to be described in an absolute sense as complete.

[…]

… The thesis of underlying turth-seeking connection between science and theology appeals strongly to someone like myself, who spent half a lifetime working as a theoretical physicist and then, feeling that I had done my little bit for science, was ordained to the Anglican priesthood and so began a serious, if necessarily amateur, engagement with theology. I do not discern a sharp rational discontinuity between these two halves of my adult life. Rather, I believe that both ahve been concerned with searching for truth through the pursuit of well-motivated beliefs, carefully evaluated.

[note: emphasis mine]

Mr Polkinghorne notes that this stands in contrast to the post-modernist currents which hold that there is no truth to be sought, that truths are constructed things. And I for one, applaud that.

This book attempts to trace in detail 5 events in Physics and Chrsitian theology and seeks to find parallels and to compare and contrast them. These are:

  1. A moment of enforced radical revision — for Physics, the photo-electric effect and the emergence of Quantum physics, for theology the realization that Jesus was God.
  2. A period of unresolved confusion — for Physics again, the period of 1900 to 1925 had held a growing number of experiments which had no resolution in the theory of the day. Again, for theology the period in the first centuries after Jesus as they attempted to formulate ways of talking about it.
  3. A new synthesis — 1925-1926 when Heisenberg and Schroedinger came up with a way to explain what was being seen and the Creedal periods of the 4th and 5th century when the Patristic fathers resolved the tensions between Jewish, Greek, and Christian ways of seeing the world and truth.
  4. Continued wrestling with unresolved issues — The measurement problem in Physics and understanding the divine, e.g., terms which are unclear “begetting” and “procession”.
  5. And deeper implications — the theories that resolve the problems (see above) have further implications which deepen our understaning of a wide variety of other matters.

This short book will as I mentioned investigate and explore similarities and differences of these matters in more depth. I look forward to reading on … and I encourage y’all to do so too.

For further reading of how science finds its meaning and its method of enquiry Mr Polkinghorne suggests this book: Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post- Critical Philosophy by Michael Polyani.

Apocoplytic Literature: A First Look

The “Left Behind” series is widely criticized. Mocked by non-Christian and by many (if not most) Christians as well. In my recent wild fancy to read four books based on the wedding jingle, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” … the “borrowed” book was a fortuitous find. I was lent Father Elijah: An Apocalypse. This is a book in the same tradition as the “Left Behind” series, that is it takes Revelations and Christian end times seriously. However it is based on markedly less lurid Roman Catholic eschatology and is a little more thoughtful. Father Elijah’s encounters with the “enemy” and others deals consistently and correctly with ideas of how to confront evil in our world. I’m almost done, the climax of the story is around the corner.

One interesting note, universality, the idea that all world religions are at the core, one is, perhaps, the principle message being rejected in this book.

I’m going to pen a more substantive post on this book in the upcoming weeks. But, I do recommend it to all.

On the Mountain … Seeking

Mount Athos gets little press in the Western Protestant (and I think Roman Catholic) churches (some links: wiki, homepage, monachos). A book I’ve started to read, on Saint Silouan, the Athonite. A little explanation, Athonite means “of Mount Athos”, which means the the subject of this book was a monk residing at a Russian monastery (St. Panteleimon). St. Siluan was born a Russian peasant in 1866. This book is in two parts, the first a description of his life, his actions, and his teaching and interactions with those around him, the second collections of what the Saint himself wrote, apparently on “scraps of paper” kept in his cell. The staretz Siluan was almost illiterate, but was as evidence in this book, very holy and wise. Staretz, btw, means “spiritual father”, a practice in the Eastern tradition is that there are spiritual directors/fathers guiding the spiritual life of the members of the community. Often this person is the priest, but as is the case with staretz Siluan this is not always the case. Another term, this book was written by Archimandrite Sophrony. Archimandrite, in English, would be translated as Abbot and signifies the leader of a monastic community.

This book is remarkable, and it should (if my faulty memory serves me) to be on my “most influential book” list at the end of the year.

A Few Good Books

Some books which turned me around and changed my outlook on things this year.

Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church Metropolitan John Ziziolas uses modern ontological language, especially Sartre, via the Patristic Fathers in a dizzying performance.

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Of the 6.5 billion of us humans on this planet, the top billion are wealthy, 4.5 billion in the middle are getting wealthy quite rapidly, the bottom billion are stuck. Traps, costs, and the possible methods of helping those in the bottom are discussed. The interesting part is that the right and left are both wrong with their one line slogans for “what to do”. Two essential details to remember is that first, right and left have it wrong (specifically aid sometimes helps (and sometimes hurts) and so does military intervention sometimes helps and sometimes hurts) … secondly one line slogans of what needs to be done are all wrong. Each country and situation is unique now and is a changing situation.

A Secular Age I’m not finished with this book … and the prose isn’t especially flowing and easy but this book is very information and idea dense and provocative.

Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God from the Works of our Holy Father St. Ephraim the Syrian, Arranged in the Manner of the Psalms of David, Together with the Life of St. Ephrem When I was Chrismated and joined the Orthodox church this last spring, having gone through Lent, on the spur of the moment I chose as my name saint, St. Ephraim the Syrian. Ephraim is known as the Psalmist of the New Testament just as David of the Old. This book is a collection of his writings, 150 short psalms selected by St. Theophan the Recluse in the 19th century.

Solving Mathematical Problems: A Personal Perspective I bought this for my daughter. But is a really enjoyable read, even if you don’t have time to work the exercises. Math is a lot of fun.

Wing to Wing: Aquinas on the Benefit of Marriage

Well, I was hoping to read through this book as a regular series, but at long last I’m returning to it. However, my ability to stick to a schedule should be doubted enough that I will, this time, not attempt to assign such essays to a “day of the week”, but instead when I get time. But this means we can (finally) continue with reading Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. We’re just getting started, and as such, after last week’s overview (click the “courting” link in the sidebar for the collected essays as they develop). This book is an anthology, a collection of essays.

This weeks essay is from the section entitled “Why Marry.” This the second selection from this section is drawn from the writings of Thomas Aquinas. It makes for an interesting read, if nothing else, but for the dialectical methodology, which hearkens to a perhaps less busy more careful age. Aquinas argues or reasons in the following way:

  • A thesis is proposed
  • Then enumerated objections are raised. These objections are all the objections that might (or have) been raised against the thesis.
  • Next, he provides his answer
  • And finally he answers the objections each in turn.

We continue below the fold. Continue reading →

The Bottom Billion: Trap #2

Recently, I began recounting the four traps in The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, by Paul Collier which is about the very poor on our globe. Mr Collier notes four traps keeping the very poor where they are. In this essay, below the fold, I will continue with trap #2 and the notions (less counter-intuitive notions here … just one) about that particular trap, #2 being the natural resource trap. Continue reading →

Adam, Noah, Justification, and the East

Henry Neufeld over at Threads from Henry’s Web (note two links there) has highlighted parts of some conversations on Justifications. Recently while flying, I read this book, Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, which is a very succinct summary of the differences (and things to learn from) Eastern Orthodoxy from a Western (Evangelical) point of view. Justification among other things, is one point on which East and West differ widely. My apologies, in advance, if my understanding of (Western or Eastern) justification is erroneous … I’m an amateur.  (the essay continues below the fold) Continue reading →

The Bottom Billion: Trap #1

A book I borrowed, which continues a theme in a book I read and reviewed a few summers back The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, by Paul Collier is about the very poor on our globe. The title comes from the notion that of the 6 1/2 billion on our planet, 1 billion are very rich, about 4 1/2 billion are getting rich very quickly, and that leaves the bottom billion. The bottom billion is treading water at the poor as dirt level. The question Mr Collier addresses is to look at the reasons they are staying poor and haven’t hopped on the modern wealth treadmill like the rest of the world and what might be done about it. He identifies four traps holding them there. A trap isn’t fatal, it’s just a trap you have to get out of … before you’re hopelessly left behind (more on that point later).

One of the more interesting things about this, is Mr Collier pretty clearly has spent a lot of time, with open mind and eyes looking at data. And he has some conclusions and inferences which are likely both true and not in agreement with the “conventional” wisdom (as held by left or right).

Trap #1 is the conflict trap, i.e., civil wars (and coups). What can we learn about that? … below the fold.

Continue reading →

Philokalia Monday: Evagrius Ponticus on Discrimination and Demons

I return to blogging my way through, by reading and commenting on the four volumes of the English translation of the Philokalia. This work is, to quote wiki, “Other than the Bible, and a handful of writings by early Christian Fathers, the Philokalia is by far the most influential and widely admired example of Eastern Orthodox piety in print today. It is featured prominently in another much shorter well-known book called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a Russian traveler learns to pray from various people he meets on his travels and by reading the Philokalia.” This work is a collection of writings from the fourth through at least the 15th centuries. The length of excerpts included in the Philokalia is somewhat indicative as to how large an impression they have made on the theology as practiced by the Orthodox. Our next author for today and the upcoming few weeks is Evagrios Pontikos.

It is said of Evagrios that “He possessed to an exceptional degree the gifts of psychological insight and vivid description, together with the ability to analyze and define with remarkable precision the various stages on the spiritual way.” In this work Evagrios talks extensively of demons. Today’s Freudian influenced materialist people would reject the notion that demons swarm around tempting us to do those things we should not. One might, at the onset of reading such texts, misquote Barth (on Genesis) who if I remember the quote correctly said, “I don’t care if the snake spoke, what’s important is what he said.” The point being, it’s less important whether demons are materially detectable, measurable, or “real”. What’s important is whether the psychological insights are useful and helpful in turning us and helping us center our thoughts on God and a Godly life. So with that in mind, we begin with 23 “texts” (short essays or thoughts) on Discrimination. Continue reading →

Two Books of Note

Fiction read recently on planes.

Dan Simmons The Terror: A Novel. This is the story of 19th century British arctic exploration, looking for a northwest passage. Bitter cold, deprivation, and the standard arctic fair, with a monster thrown in. Dan Simmons is one of the better crafter of tales out there. If you haven’t read Ilium and Olympos then you’re life is just that much less for it. 😉

The second book was Stephen Pressfield’s The Afghan Campaign: A novel. This is a modern retelling of life in Alexander’s army from the point of view of the guys wearing the boots in the field.

Philokalia Monday

Well, yes, I know it’s not Monday. Travel has bumped my schedule around. We return to blogging my way through, by reading and commenting on the four volumes of the English translation of the Philokalia. This work is, to quote wiki, “Other than the Bible, and a handful of writings by early Christian Fathers, the Philokalia is by far the most influential and widely admired example of Eastern Orthodox piety in print today. It is featured prominently in another much shorter well-known book called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a Russian traveler learns to pray from various people he meets on his travels and by reading the Philokalia.” This work is a collection of writings from the fourth through at least the 15th centuries. The length of excerpts included in the Philokalia is somewhat indicative as to how large an impression they have made on the theology as practiced by the Orthodox. Our next author for today and the upcoming few weeks is Evagrios Pontikos. Continue reading →

Philokalia Monday: St. Isaiah (continued)

We return to blogging my way through, by reading and commenting on the four volumes of the English translation of the Philokalia. This work is, to quote wiki, “Other than the Bible, and a handful of writings by early Christian Fathers, the Philokalia is by far the most influential and widely admired example of Eastern Orthodox piety in print today. It is featured prominently in another much shorter well-known book called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a Russian traveler learns to pray from various people he meets on his travels and by reading the Philokalia.” This work is a collection of writings from the fourth through at least the 15th centuries. The first writer quoted or excerpted in this work is by St. Isaiah the Solitary. Our redactor tells us he is attributed often as being dated at 370 but “more reliable” as a monk from the Sketis desert who died in 490.

The format of St. Isaiah’s work which is included in this collection is entitled “On Guarding the Intellect.” As noted before the format of these, and indeed many if not most, of the works in the Philokalia have an expository style which is unfamiliar to us today. These are largely in the form of short “chapters”, of just a few sentences in length. This format was the best fit for a pre-moveable type, collective contemplative monastic/cenoebitic community. These chapters could be memorized, used to center meditations and provide for easy recollection. St. Isaiah’s contribution is short, 27 chapters only.

A few are copied below the fold, after which some short commentary, which should be taken with a grain of salt of course. Continue reading →

Wing to Wing: Three Easy Pieces

It’s Monday Wednesday (note new day), which now means we continue with reading Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. We’re just getting started, and as such, after last week’s overview (click the “courting” link in the sidebar for the collected essays as they develop). This book is an anthology, a collection of essays. Today, because we have to very short pieces to discuss (the two essays combine for about 3 pages and I’ll throw in an additional 2-3 page introduction to the next section). These three “easy pieces” discussed in detail below the fold are:

  1. The first essay is short, entitled “I Do” from a short essay by David Blankenhorn originally published in 1997 by First Things.
  2. The second is the introduction to the “next section” (the prior essay is, as a reminder, the last of the section on “where are we now”). This new section is entitled, “Why Marry” and comprises a collection of defenses of the institution of marriage.
  3. The third then, is the first essay in that new section, a brief set of notes by Charles Darwin in which he considers diagrams pros and cons of marriage (and it is noted, shortly after putting these thoughts to paper, he married Emma Wedgewood and by all accounts had a happy marriage).

So on to our easy pieces. Continue reading →

Regularity

In yet another attempt at becoming more systematic and regular in my blogging, Monday nights, which were formerly Wing to Wing night, I’m going to attempt to begin blogging my way reading and commenting through the four volumes of the English translation of the Philokalia. This work is, to quote wiki, “Other than the Bible, and a handful of writings by early Christian Fathers, the Philokalia is by far the most influential and widely admired example of Eastern Orthodox piety in print today. It is featured prominently in another much shorter well-known book called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a Russian traveler learns to pray from various people he meets on his travels and by reading the Philokalia.”

This work is a collection of writings from the fourth through at least the 15th centuries. The first writer quoted or excerpted in this work is by St. Isaiah the Solitary. Our redactor tells us he is attributed often as being dated at 370 but “more reliable” as a monk from the Sketis desert who died in 490. Much of the Philokalia contains methods of discourse which came from monastic traditions and are foreign to us. Instead of an expository or later scholastic rhetorical techniques the monastic methods lent itself to meditation and reflection as well as easy memorization. This method is one of short “chapters”. Each “chapter” is actually a short paragraph or less. The length is intended for ease in memorization and meditation. Continue reading →

Negrophobia: Three Points Considered

David Schraub and I have exchanged some book titles to read. The second book suggested was Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism by Jody Armour (a contributor here). Below the fold find my initial thoughts on this book, I’ve skimmed through the book at this point. I need to return and reconsider my concluding thoughts because I couldn’t find the thread connecting much of the second half of the book. However a few (three) things came up in my reading which I thought worth considering. Continue reading →

Wing to Wing: Hot Potato

It’s Monday Wednesday (note new day), which now means we continue with reading Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. We’re just getting started, and as such, after last week’s overview (click the “courting” link in the sidebar for the collected essays as they develop). This book is an anthology, a collection of essays. Today’s essay is one which is probably familiar (with a certain amount of heat be it love or hate). That is to say, the text is abstracted from Mr Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, from the chapter on relationships. Because of the quantity of ink, print and digital which has been spilled on Mr Bloom’s book, instead of going in depth on this issue today I’m going to attmpt a short abstraction of one of the main points.

Modern relationships of our youngsters have implicit in their current state a fundamental contradiction. One the one hand, love has been abstracted to eros, to physical sexual attraction. At the same time, it is also held as a common notion that marriage and lasting relationships must be built primarly (or completely) on love as their basis. At the same time, demonstrations, protestations, and other public demonstrative acts aligned with courtship, i.e., balladeering at windows or from the prior week’s essay “calling, are minimized and set aside. Thus we have a situation where our young people find themselves seeking to base a lifetime relationship (or any sort of relationship) on a thing which they diminish at the same time.

It is mind boggling to consider the cognitive dissonance which apparently does not occur. Holding at the same time hope for lasting relationships built on love in a culture which also practices and esteems “hooking up” and “friendships with benefits”. If any readers think both of these are compatible and/or acceptable notions … how do you do it? How are these two things held up at the same time?


My criticism of my prior essay, must fall on myself and Mr Bloom, for we aren’t doing a proper “world-view” study of these youngsters. For I too am deriding this feature, yet not seeking understanding. I think in the near future, I’m going to return to the Wright book noted in that essay and try to put it to work on some cultural divides.

Wing to Wing: The Rise and Fall of Romance

It’s Monday, which now means we continue with reading Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. We’re just getting started, and as such, after last week’s overview (click the “courting” link in the sidebar for the collected essays as they develop). This book is an anthology, a collection of essays. We continue with the first reading … and first major section, second essay. This essay is from Passionate Attachments: Thinking About Love an anthology by Gaylin and Person itself, the selection here is authored by Lawrence Stone.

The main notion behind marriage today in the Western world is romantic love. However, in a historical context this is an anomaly and looking at our society today … likely short lived. Shakespeare, Austen and the like coupled with rising universality of literacy gave rise to an ideal of romantic love as the reason to marry. More specifically, this is not to say romantic attachment never has been the reason for marriage. It is just that now it is virtually universally taken as a given that this reason to marry has public affirmation and admiration.

A short quote:

It is also possible to say something about the changing relationship of passionate love to marriage. For al classes who possessed property, that is the top two-thirds economically, marriage before the seventeenth century was arranged by the parents, and the motives were the economic and political benefit of the kin group, not the emotional satisfaction of the individuals. As the concept of individualism grew int he seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, slowly became accepted that the prime object was “holy matrimony”, a sanctified state of monogamous married contentment. This was best achieved by allowing the couple to make their own choice, provided that both sets of parents agreed that the social and economic gap was not too wide, and the marriage was preceded by a long period of courtship. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, individualism had so far taken precedence over the group interests of the kin that the couple were left more or less free to make their own decision, except in the highest aristocratic and royal circles. Today individualism is given such absolute priority in most Western societies, that the couple are virtually free to act as they please, to sleep with whom they please and to marry and divorce when and whom they please to suit their own pleasure. The psychic cost of such behavior, and its self-defeating consequences, are becoming clear, however, and how long this situation will last is anybody’s guess …

In my own reflections on differing traditions, hermeneutic and how to choose between them, discernment according to the wisdom of the desert Fathers (4-5th century ascetics monastics) it was thought that it was in community, in discussion, and at the very least consultation with a personal adviser was required for proper discernment. Choosing of mate and whom to marry is exactly the sort of important decision for which discernment is key. Rejection of today’s individualism, here as well as in other matters where discernment is probably an important corrective for the ills of our age.

Wing to Wing: From Calling to Dating to ??

It’s Monday, which now means we continue with reading Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. We’re just getting started, and as such, after last week’s overview (click the “courting” link in the sidebar for the collected essays as they develop). This book is an anthology, a collection of essays. We continue with the first reading … and first major section. The first major section of the book is entitled “Where are we now? Assessing our situation”. In the introduction, our editors start out with a stark portrait (in their own admission open to challenge and perhaps overdrawn), yet perhaps too some truth will be seen in comparison with earlier ages. How does this portrait look:

Not so today, Now roughly half the nation goes to college, but very few — women or men — seem to go with the hope or even wish of finding a marriage partner. Many do no even expect to find a path to a career … Sexually active — in many cases, hyperactive — they bounce about from one relationship to another; … On the one hand, they practice strict scrutiny of ordinary speech for taints of sexism, and they rein in even innocent flirtation, which they have trouble distinguishing from sexual harassment; sensitivity training is in many places de rigeur. In addition, their legitimate fears of sexually transmitted disease, as well as their quasi-religious preoccupation with the condition and uses of their bodies, have taken much of the joy and ease out of the courtship dance …. On the other hand, many people are perfectly content to “hook up” for a night with someone they just met, or with whom they have been drinking too much, at a party. The young men, nervous predators, act as if any woman is equally good; they are given not to falling in love with one, but to scoring in bed with many. And in this sporting attitude, they are now matched by some female trophy hunters.

But many of the young, and more particularly many of the women, strike us as sad, lonely and confused. They are, to be sure, very pleased with their new educational and professional opportunities, and with their greater freedom and independence. But in private matters, in relations with men, most of them are, we suspect, hoping for something more. …

So … from that, we proceed to a short historical essay by Beth L. Bailey, entitled From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America. Find a short summary and remarks below the fold. Continue reading →

The Debate Link: On Jouvenel

Months ago David Schraub and I exchanged some books we’d like to see the other read. Now at, The Debate Link: Jouvenel David reads Jouvenel, or most specifically Mahoney summarizing Jouvenel. I’m not yet going to dive in and comment on Mr Schraub’s take of Jouvenel vs mine, he’s only started reading and that’s too soon to muddy waters. However, when he writes:

Ironically enough, it is Yoshino’s Covering that explains why, noting how people are forced to significantly alter their public persona, behavior, and speech due to some external pressure (if that isn’t power, what is?). Sometimes these are governmentally mandated, and sometimes they are “just” social norms, but often times they are the function of “private” entities like corporations, run by the very barons Jouvenel (descriptively) believes the state should be suppressing the power of, and (normatively) should be working to counter the power of the state. Yet, what we see instead is state organs explicitly sanctioning serious corporate restrictions on the activities and presentment of their employees. Some companies could fire me for writing this blog, others for wearing my hair in a certain ways. Even the supposedly liberal 9th Circuit has held that a women who is otherwise excellent at her job (as a bartender) can be fired for not wearing make-up.

I thought it worthwhile commenting, as Covering was a book he asked me to read, and I did (here).  And I think what I wrote in my second essay from that book speaks here to Mr Schraub’s remarks. Mr Yoshino in his covering misses universal and far more common practice which I in response to the term “covering” termed badging. Badging is the book Mr Yoshino, or someone needs to write, in reply for it is the other half of covering. Most people don’t cover, they badge. We significantly alter our public persona, behavior and speech in order to signify joining, to willingly if not eagerly show our membership our assent and unity with various groups in our society. The missing part of Mr Yoshino’s dialectic is a recognition of the value men (and women) place on badging, for I found little if any recognition that badging forms a universal and important part of every culture. The negative reaction to covering is in essence a reaction to counterfeit badging.  I’ll admit that covering is difficult for some. Mr Yoshino and others have to also admit the good that is to be found in badging.

Corporate standards of behavior and dress are in no way forced on an individual. Labor is not, liberal presentiment to the contrary, purely a buyers market. We are free to go into business on our own, work for companies with different standards and so on.

Book Books Books

Upcoming. David Schraub, of The Debate Link, some time ago asked me to read Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights and Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism. Over vacation recently, I wrote two essays (here and here), on the former. As a reminder, or an suggestion from me for any other readers, I’d suggested he read Bertrand De Jouvenel: Conserative Liberal & The Illusions Of Modernity and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology in return.

I have now received, via two week (extensible once) library loan, the latter. Expect at least two, perhaps three, essays in the next two weeks.

Wing to Wing: What’s the Point?

It’s Monday, which now means we continue with reading Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. We’re just getting started, and as such, after last week’s overview (click the “courting” link in the sidebar for the collected essays as they develop). This book is an anthology, a collection of essays. In the introduction, the Editors of this anthology (husband and wife Leon and Amy Kass), tell us the reasons for their project and rational behind collecting much of what they have collected. Up front it must be emphasized that (and their words suffice best):

It should go without saying — but today it must, alas, be said — that we do not offer these “old” or “great” texts as authoritative, or authorities. We choose them not because they are old or because they are “traditional”. The “great books” disagree too much among themselves to constitute a single coherent traditional teaching. Rather, we offer them in the wisdom-seeking — rather than wisdom delivering — spirit, as writings that make us think, that challenge our unexamined opinions, expand our sympathies, elevate our gaze, and introduce us to possibilities open to human beings in everyday life that may be undreamt of in our philosophizing.

Below the fold, I attempt in my crooked prose to summarize some of the points made in their introduction.

Continue reading →

Wing to Wing: An Introduction

As I mentioned last night, over the upcoming months, I’m going to begin a Monday “feature”. On Monday’s, for the forseable future, I’m going to be blogging my way though in exhaustive detail through the book Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. Today I’m going make some introductory remarks about this book and then look ahead, via the table of contents at what is in store for us over the upcoming weeks. Continue reading →

Covering vs Badging

covering by Kenji Yoshino, is a book on civil rights. This book examines “covering” that is the practice of hiding our “True Self” with a “False Self”, a front or theatrical mask used for social or job related acceptance. I have now finished skimming through the book, and my comments and somewhat extemporaneous remarks might be found behind the mask, err, fold. Continue reading →

Covering and the Elephant

David Schraub in a comment thread earlier had mentioned a book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino as “one of the best five books” he’s ever read. Today, I’ve started reading it and I’ll share a few comments. I hope to get about two more posts on this topic before I’m done. This one is more a listing of scattered first impressions, which true to form, will come in the form of the dread (pirate) Roberts bullet points below the fold. Continue reading →

A Book Note

A friend lent my daughter a book. I read it. Then I cleaned out our local library by every book I could dig up in the series. It’s a series in the thriller/mystery genre.

Enjoy. I am even if I went to sleep way to late last night. (btw many thanks Clark!) Lee Child, an author to watch for.

Habermas and Ratzinger

Some time ago, when the Hitchens book had just come out a review of the book review, in complaining about the lack of research into prior conversations on this topic evinced in the book, noted a much better source for the God/not-God debate, namely the book (Atheism and Theism) by Smart and Haldane. A commenter, Carl Olson of The Scoop swooped in and pointed out another excellent book, The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, (not coincidentally published by his employer) which was the account of a short lecture series by Habermas and Ratzinger in Germany on the same topic. During my plane ride to Huntsville Alabama this morning I read it. It was readable and enjoyable. I recommend it. Below the fold I will give a few excerpts to whet your whistle.

Continue reading →

Gadamer: Truth and Method
A Teaser

Next week, at Verbal Vortex,  I hope to start with the help of a few friends out there to begin reading and discussing Gadamer’s book, Truth And Method. From the introduction (here he begins starts by introducing his topic, which is hermeneutics that is on the extraction of meaning from text):

Given the dominance of modern science in the philosophical elucidation and justification of the concept of knowledge and the concept of truth, this question [ed: the question of what kinds of knowledge and truth can be obtained by hermenuetical methods] does not appear legitimate. Yet it is unavoidable, even within the sciences. The phenomenon of understanding not only pervades all human relations to the world. It also has an independent validity within science, and it resists any attempt to reinterpret it in terms of scientific method. The following investigations start with the resistance in modern science itself to the universal claim of scientific method. They are concerned to seek the experience of truth that transcends the domain of scientific method wherever that experience is to be found, and to inquire into its legitimacy. Hence the human sciences are connected to modes of experience that lie outside science: with the experiences of philosophy, of art, and of history itself. These are all modes of experience in which a truth is communicated that cannot be verified by the methodological means proper to science.

[… a paragraph on the experience of philosophy elided …]

The same thing is true of the experience of art. Here the scholarly research pursued by the “science of art” is aware from the start that it can neither replace nor surpass the experience of art. The fact that through a work of art a truth is experienced that we cannot attain in any other way constitutes the philosophic importance of art, which asserts itself against all attempts to rationalize it away. Hence, together with the experience of philosophy, the experience of art is the most insistent admonition to scientific consciousness to acknowledge its own limits.  [note: emphasis mine]

A short commentary on this below the fold.

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The Christian Faith and Same Sex Attraction (Part 2)

This essay is a continuation of the discussion of the book advertised below (and continuing this post). In that post, in reading the sentence, “This is so because same sex intercourse … [ed: a bit trimmed here] … can never be complementary, unitive, life-creating, and life-enhancing in the ways that God intended sexual intercourse between a man and woman.” my commenter responded:

Would the authors argue the same about an opposite-sex couple if one of them were infertile? What about post-menopause.

The argument against homosexuality from lack-of-reproduction-capability strikes me as the result of casting about for a difference between opposite-sex and same-sex couples and, when finding it, seizing upon it as the reason same-sex couples are lesser, even when it turns out that many opposite-sex couples are on the same side of the difference as same-sex ones.

This is a misreading of the intent of Mr Hopko. First of all, my commenter falls prey to the same fault he ascribes to Mr Hopko. That is, in the list of four things (complementary, unitive, life-creating and life-enhancing) he “casts about” and picks the one, “life-creating” and wonders if opposite-sex (married) couples for which one is infertile can be what God intended.
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The Christian Faith and Same Sex Attraction

Thomas Hopko is a respected Orthodox theologian and scholar. This books hammers in a lot of nails very straight and true, in my estimation. In the last three years, while I haven’t studied this issue in any real depth, over the last three years I’ve skimmed through a half-dozen or so books on this topic. This one, thus far, is the best I’ve seen. It is laid out in a manner that bloggers (and especially blog readers) might like. It is written as 27 short 2-4 page chapters, each centered about a central idea which is presented clearly and succinctly backed up by footnotes (the book variant of links?). Inasmuch as this is just a single blog post, I’m struggling with a way to summarize 27 separate blog posts into one, for although there is a central theme there is no simple summary I think possible. I’ll try to hit some highlights (and perhaps “the” controversy) below the fold.
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