Sunday, February 27, 2005

What the Great Schism Means

It is not a habit of mine to seek out disagreement, especially disagreement about theological matters. This is not to say that I am not interested in theology; I am. And as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I think theology is an important part of life. But I usually don't seek out disagreements about it.

So when a friend of mine sent me a package recently, I was tempted to ignore the piece of paper stuck inside titled "Dear Roman Catholic Friend . . . ."

My friend remains in the Baptist tradition in which we grew up, and I think I can understand why I was sent that piece of paper. To many Baptists, most things liturgical tend to be conflated with the Roman Catholic church, and since I am now a member of a smells-and-bells church, I can see how my friend thought I would be interested in a discussion about the Roman Catholic church. I do not mean to be rude, but I am not very interested in such a discussion. This is because in the Great Schism of 1054 the churches of the East and West parted ways. I am a member of the Eastern church and offer no apologies for what the Western, Roman, church has done. (Unfortunately, many people --Eastern Orthodox included -- attribute doctrines or practices to the Roman church that it does not necessarily embrace. When such an unfair attribution comes up in conversation, I think it's necessary to clarify for the attributer what the Roman church actually holds. So I am a stickler for understanding properly what the Roman church believes, though I am not an apologist for those beliefs, except when those beliefs overlap with the beliefs of the Eastern church. Such instances of overlap usually mean that we're discussing matters of "mere Christianity," and in those cases I suppose I could also be considered an apologist for the Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, or Lutheran.)

As I say, I was tempted to throw away the "Dear Roman Catholic Friend" missive, but after a few moments' reflection, I thought it would provide a good opportunity to explain to my friend -- via this blog -- some of the differences between the churches East and West.

The piece of paper began with the following paragraph:
The following challenge is given out of a heart of love and is presented to encourage you to do some serious research in your Bible. The issue before us is whether to embrace the traditions of man, or to believe doctrine that has Biblical foundation. This study is not intended to ridicule or mock your religion, but is only presented to motivate you and your family to carefully and prayerfully study the Word of God. Are you willing to accept the challenge?"

Well, I don't think that this really gets the issue straight, for the issue is not "whether to embrace the traditions of man, or to believe doctrine that has Biblical foundation." For one, neither the Roman Catholic church nor the Eastern church thinks that they are following "the traditions of man." They think that they are following divinely guided traditions. Secondly, it's not clear whether these two things are mutually exclusive. Couldn't I follow tradition and biblical doctrine? More on this later.

Anyway, the opening paragraph was followed by a number of statements beginning with the phrase "Can you produce a text of Scripture . . ." where the ellipsis was filled in by a Roman Catholic doctrine or practice, for example, that priests ought not to marry.

Since I am no scholar on this issue, I thought I would start with some of the easy ones. The challenge is to find a text of Scripture supporting the specific doctrine or practice (1) that the Blessed Virgin Mary was born without sin, (2) that priests ought not to marry, (3) that the pope is infallible, (4) that unbaptized children who die go to "Limbo," (5) that the Bible should not be read by everyone, and (6) that the Church of Rome is the first or oldest church.

I'll address each of these with the Eastern Orthodox response.

(1) EO do not have a doctrine of immaculate conception. They do not hold that Mary was born without sin.
(2) EO do not have a rule prohibiting priests from marrying. In practice, priests may be married if they are married before they are ordained. If they are ordained while single, they are not (usually; I'm sure there have been very rare exceptions) allowed to marry. As far as I know, bishops are not to be married. This follows from the example of, among others, the apostle (and bishop) Paul, who found it better to be single since he could devote his time to overseeing his churches. (I recently heard that celibacy in the RC church is not, strictly speaking, a law. It is a discipline. But even if this is true, it seems to be a discipline that is mandatory, which in practice amounts to being a law.)
(3) EO do not think the pope is infallible. Strictly speaking, neither do the RC. For the RC, the pope's pronouncements on doctrine that are given ex cathedra are considered infallible, but the pope is not considered infallible all of the time.
(4) EO do not believe that children who die unbaptized go to "Limbo."
(5) Neither the RC nor the EO church believe that there are some people who should not read the Holy Scriptures. This seems to be an urban legend among some Protestants. In some times and places such rules were probably made by priests and bishops. But according to RC and EO doctrine, they were wrong to do so.
(6) Obviously, the EO church thinks that it is the first and oldest church.

In the future I'll try to address some of the other questions from the "Dear Roman Catholic Friend" paper. If anyone has comments or corrections, please e-mail me (bourgeoisburglar [at] gmail [dot] com).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Question

Am I the only one to have thought that the opening line of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" is "You need Kool-Aid"?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Republic 329e6-330a6

"You speak the truth," he said, "for they do not accept it. And there is something to what they say, though not as much as they suppose. But that saying of Themistocles holds good. When someone from Seriphius insulted him and said that he was famous not because of himself but because of the city, he replied that if he himself had been a Seriphian he would not be notable, nor would that man have been notable if he had been born an Athenian. And this saying holds good for those who are not rich -- they bear old age painfully -- that no one who is entirely decent would easily bear old age with poverty, nor would the one who is not decent ever be content even if he became wealthy."

[Shorey has a note on the bit about the Seriphian.

Cephalus's speech has touched on a number of topics that will be addressed later in the dialogue. Among these are happiness in old age and the usefulness of money. I'm sure there are more, but I have to dash off now.]

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Republic 329d7-e5

And I, being astonished by him saying these things, and wishing him to say still more, stirred him up and said, "Cephalus, I suppose that when you say these things the many do not accept them from you, but they hold that you bear old age easily not because of character but because of having gained much substance; for they declare that the wealthy have many consolations."

[According to Adam, the word ekinoun, which I have translated "stirred him up," has a technical meaning in the Socratic dialect: "the stimulating of the intellect by interrogation."

Most people translate ousia as "wealth" in this context, but I like sticking with the literal meaning, substance. I suppose that's because I was raised on the KJV, which often does the same.

I wonder why S. is so astonished at C.'s remarks. Why is S. astonished at what C. says? What is there at which to be astonished in C.'s statements? Is it the fact that C. believes that it is character that makes old age only moderately troublesome? Is that astonishing? I don't find that claim astonishing, but perhaps I should.

Or is it more the fact that it is C. saying these things that astonishes S.? I.e., S. is thinking, "Wow, is this C. I'm talking to?"]

Friday, February 18, 2005

Republic 329d4-6

If they are orderly and contented, old age is moderately toilsome; if they aren't, both old age, Socrates, and youth end up being hard to bear for that sort.

[The end of Cephalus's speech about old age. Recall that Socrates had asked him to deliver his views on old age (328d4-e7). C. responds with a spirited speech -- the first speech in the Republic to invoke a god (329a1). Since it's only in parts on this blog, I thought it might be good to reproduce the whole thing in one place. Here it is:

"By Zeus," he said, "I will tell you indeed, Socrates, how it appears to me. For often we who are nearly the same age, having come together, preserve the old saying; and, in truth, whenever we come together most of us lament, longing for and recalling to memory the pleasures of youth -- sexual pleasures, drink, feasting, and all that goes with things of this sort -- and are discontented as though having been robbed of something great, that they were then living well but now they are not even living. Some also bewail the abuse of old people from relatives, and in this wise they repeat over and over all the evils for which they blame old age. But these men, Socrates, seem to me to not blame the root cause. For if this were the cause, I too would have suffered the same things on account of old age, and so would all the others who have come to this age. But presently now I have met with others for whom it is not so, and in particular Sophocles; once I was near the poet when he was asked by someone: 'Sophocles, how do you hold up in sex? Are you still able to be with a woman?' 'Hush man!' he said. 'Gladly did I flee from this, just as I were escaping from some raging and wild master.' Even then it seemed to me that he had spoken well, and now it does not seem any worse. For altogether much peace and freedom comes to be in old age: whenever the striving desires are made to cease and then slacken, that saying of Sophocles altogether comes to be: it is to have been released from very many, and raging, tyrants. But, indeed, about these things and the things concerning relatives there is one cause, not old age, Socrates, but the character of human beings. If they are orderly and contented, old age is moderately toilsome; if they aren't, both old age, Socrates, and youth end up being hard to bear for that sort."

C. seems to me to deliver this speech with verve, a quality which is sadly lacking in my translation.]

From the E-mail Account

[This reply to Thorgerson's post, The Incomparable, was sent in by the Bourgeois Brother in Georgia.]

I found the article compelling as I spent the month of January teaching the first chapter of James to an adult Sunday School class. James's exhortation to the reader is that trials will occur in the life of a believer. The author also gives an insight to the purpose of trials and the right response of the heart of a believer. Quite simply, trials are essential yet often unfortunate events in our lives that are designed to strengthen our faith. The concept of testing with the purpose of strengthening is like a young bird flapping its wings all the while not letting go of the branch until it is strong enough to fly.

James points out the initial response to a trial is not to question God's sovereingty, but to "consider it joy" (v. 2). I can imagine to those who do not know the love of God that statement can appear to be sadistic, yet to a believer it puts a trial into proper perspective by having an understanding mind. With a right understanding comes the right approach to the patience needed in a trial (vv. 3-5). The type of patience noted here requires the individual take an active pursuit of God seeking Him in prayer rather than trying to shelter in place hoping the storm of life will pass over. The prayers offered during this time of patience are really a request for wisdom -- as John MacArthur puts it, "when you go through the trials of life, whatever they might be, it is the intention of God that you recognize the bankruptcy of human reason and the answers that you might get from other people . . . True wisdom, the supernatural wisdom needed to understand the trials of life is not available in the world around us. 'Destruction and death say, We have heard its fame with our ears.' Destruction and death have heard about it. They've not found it . . . they do not find it. And then verse 23 [of Job 28], 'God understands its way and He knows its place.'"

James finishes the section (vv. 6-8) with what I feel is a description of many today -- those who want God to help them in a time of need, but do not want give Him proper place in their life the rest of the time. When trials occur, these double-minded begin to question God, blame God and ultimately reject God. While this usually characterizes a non-believer, Christians are also guilty. Ultimately, as the cycle comes to completion, the right response to trials will bring forth humility. It is when we have been humbled that God can transform our lives with a renewed spirit that seeks after Him.

Please also consider this article by John Piper in World.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Darwin Day

My apologies to my avid following. The night after my previous post, I attended the Darwin Celebration with the intent of producing some intrepid reporting. The facts of life happened. Imagine I’m reporting for your favorite weekly as opposed to daily.

I walked into a lecture hall of about 200, packed with students and faculty. At the door I was handed a pamphlet crammed with 10pt font, and the greeting: “This isn’t part of the official syllabus, but make sure you take a look at this.”

“The Battle for the Future Will Be Fought From Here Forward: you think you know … but you have no idea … just what Bush has in store for … you .. us … the world … our future!” The first paragraph: “Straight up – Bush and his people aren’t just ordinary Republicans. And they’re not ordinary Christians either. They are Christian fascists—dangerous fanatics who aim to make the U.S. a religious dictatorship and to force this upon the world. If they get their way—and they are very far along the road to getting it—society will be plunged into a high-tech dark ages.” I won’t dwell on this, but it concluded with a call for revolution under Chairman Bob Avakian.

I will not describe all the participants – their names are accessible at the link on my previous post and you can google them if you’re curious. Suffice it to say that this was not a gathering of extreme views: these were real live marketeable scientists and recognized promoters of Darwinism.

Eric Meikle gave structure to the evening both beginning and ending the presentations, and so his comments were intended to provide context for the remarks from the scientists. It is on these ideas that I will dwell. If you are interested in what Jameson, Dumbacher or Gillespie (I didn’t have time to stay for Mishler) had to say, I can pass on some notes.

Meikle’s talk was a sort of state of the union address. The goal of his parent organization (National Center for Science Education) is to “support and defend evolution in schools today.” He began by showing graphics of states where anti-evolution bills have been proposed in legislatures, and states where “problems” have been reported. Putting the two graphics on top of one another revealed that nearly all states in the US in the last three years have had a “problem.” This warned the Darwinists to beware of the Bible belt myth [“For example, Pennsylvania is the worst state in the country”].

“Problem” was a key word for Meikle. This was the term consistently applied to any challenge (formal, such as ID or informal, such as a parent asking that evolution be taught as a theory) to evolution. Thus, challengers to evolution are not intelligent people, they are not highly trained philosophers and scientists with legitimate querries, they are problems.

Next a strategy tip: Setting the argument up as God vs. Darwin/Science does not work well for the Darwinists. Rather, Darwinists need to realize that the opposition has “almost nothing to do with science. It is really a fight within religions … really a philosophical and metaphysical conflict.” The debate is “never going to be settled with science … not about scientific procedures.”

To help orient his audience, Meikle provided a continuum of origins orientation: (couldn't paste my reproduction, here's the jist)

"Flat Earthers" -----> "Geocentrists"----->Young Earth----->Old Earth----->Theistic Evolution----->Materialistic Evolution

Young and Old Earthers were grouped together into Intelligent Design Theory (IDT). He then went on a rant that involved political cartoons and quotes from some old school Biblical literalits and concluded, “I’m making fun of them, but sometimes they deserve it.”

IDT was characterized as a modern variant of an old idea (Wm. Paley – early 19th c. was cited as an example): the modern equivalents are Michael Behe and Wm. Dembski. At this point it came out that the main charge against ID theorists is that they refuse to explain their alternative. They coyly offer that the world could have been created by an intelligent being: ranging in possiblities from the Christian God to aliens. “Are you going to teach in 10th grade science class that time-travelling space aliens created DNA?”

His conclusion involved a study of The Wedge organization, Center for Science and Culture, and the evolution of their name and banner since the 90’s. They have noticeably “gotten away from being so religious.” But based on their roots, they are really a “religious movement to promote theism over materialism … replacing science with theism.” The Wedge strategy is to conflate methodological materialism with philosophical materialism, and in debate their goal is “to confuse these two always, always, always. Thank you.”

Perhaps the most interesting Q & A exchange was this (I summarize—no detailed notes):

Q: Why is this [people refusing to accept evolution] specifically a problem in the U.S. as opposed to Europe, where there does not seem to be much resistance?

A: First, America has to deal with the strong contingent of Evangelical Fundamentalist Protestants. This is a problem because in American education is still predominately locally controlled rather than government controlled.

Some thoughts:
First, ignorance. Secondly, I like IDT. Third, why the politics, kids?

The use of a graph that allocated IDT as simply one step above Geocentrism was incredible. However, that is just rhetoric. Meikle clearly had read his ID books. However, the audience reaction was what clued me in to people just not knowing. No one in the room knew anyone who did not believe in Evolution. They were able to laugh about such people without any idea that Phil Johnson’s ideas mean something more to their world than those of Pope Urban VII. One of the main goals of the talk clearly was to convince the audience that people (like me) were real.

Secondly, IDT, which I think is the most exciting philosophical movement of our time, is accomplishing its goal. IDT precisely wants to show that methodoligical materialism has been unequivocably wedded to philosophical materialism since Darwin. Darwin’s theory carries with it metaphysical implications, and these implications have been transmitted part and parcel with the principles of scientific inquiry. Meikle (at least) seemed to understand this challenge, though he publicly gave it little credence.

Last, in a classic eat your own words move, Meikle, immediately after accusing IDT of failing to make distinctions between philosophy and method and denying that the one necessitated the other, implied that if we only had big federal government we could solve the “problems.” That combined with the friendly handout I received from the front desk guys made me seriously question the forthrightness of his denial.

Republic 329d2-4

But, indeed, about these things and the things concerning relatives there is one cause, not old age, Socrates, but the character of human beings.

[Nearing the end of Cephalus's speech on old age. The comment about relatives refers to Cephalus's earlier statement that some of his old friends "bewail the abuse of old people from relatives. . ."

Note that in some ways C.'s diagnosis of why people are disgruntled in old age is similar to Socrates's (see book 4, 441c and following), though S. and C. will disagree about the benefit of money.]

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Republic 329c5-d1

For altogether much peace and freedom comes to be in old age: whenever the striving desires are made to cease and then slacken, that saying of Sophocles altogether comes to be: it is to have been released from very many, and raging, tyrants.

[Picking up where I left off. This is Cephalus coming near the end of his speech about the wonders of old age, when the desire for sex leaves an individual.

I'm afraid that my translation of this sentence is much like the rest of my translation: overly literal and wooden. But I'm pretty sure that I don't yet understand Plato well enough to make certain decisions about matters of style. Perhaps when I'm done I'll have learned enough to go back over this again.]

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Eason Jordan Resigns from CNN

This is big news; well, at least it's big news in the blogosphere, which isn't to say that it's unimportant but that you won't find very much coverage of the issue in MSM.

Michelle Malkin has a history of what happened. The brief history: Jordan (the head of CNN) is reported to have said at a media conference in Davos, Switzerland, that American military forces have deliberately targeted and killed journalists. I say "reported to have said" because officials of the conference refused to release a videotape of the event and Jordan says his remarks were taken out of context. Some journalists, a few members of Congress, and an ordinary citizen were present and challenged Jordan's claim. They later broke the story in the blogosophere while MSM had no coverage until one or two days ago.

Instapundit has a roundup of links.

Friday, February 11, 2005

LA Times Retracts Statement about Dobson

Patterico has the details here, and the link is to his site because the LA Times requires registration.

You'll recall that Dobson released a statement clarifying what he said about SpongeBob about a week ago.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Our Father among the Saints

Today I received a departmental email inviting me to a week of celebration for ... yes, that's right, Charles Darwin's 196th birthday. Tomorrow night is the feature lecture: "Setting the Record straight". The entire program seems centered around debunking the ID fellows: those dastardly Darwin Challengers led by that annoying Berkeley Emeritus, P. Johnson.

For your enjoyment, here is the schedule of events. I plan on trying to get in, so hopefully I will have some intrepid reporting tomorrow night ... developing ...

Please come help celebrate Darwin's birthday, with events presented by the Bay Area Biosystematists, UC Berkeley Entomology Students Organization, and the Essig Museum of Entomology:

Throughout the week, there will be lunchtime screenings of the NOVA/WGBH "Evolution" series, Feb 7th-11th from 12-1pm, 306 Wellman Hall


*Essig Museum Open House, 1pm-5pm, 211 Wellman.

Specimen displays and tours at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30.

*Darwin's Birthday Cake and Toasting, 5:15pm, Essig Museum (211 Wellman)

*BABS Dinner, Mandarin Garden

*BABS Lecture

"Setting the Record Straight" (vignettes on modern Darwinism and anti-evolutionism).
Featuring speakers from UCB, CAS, and NCSE, including faculty whose work has been cited as "evidence against evolution."

1. Welcome (Kipling Will)
2. Introduction and overview of anti-evolutionism (Eric Meikle)
3. The knowledge of Darwin's time and development of the basis for our present knowledge (David Jameson)
4. Genomics and Darwin (Brent Mishler)
5. Vertebrate examples used by anti-evolutionists (Jack Dumbacher)
6. Anti-evolutionist (mis)use of Hawaiian spiders: evidence for evolution (Rosie Gillespie)
7. What can we do? (Eric Meikle)
8. Questions and discussion

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl Blog

Thought I'd try this for fun. I may only last an hour or so; no promises.

Fitting. Whoever thinks up these ceremonies did well on this. America is at once the most criticized nation on earth, and the most openly self-critical. Whatever we all think of the war in Iraq, we are able to enjoy our most physically gifted citizens playing games into retirement because of the sacrifice of so many -- present and past. We rage against the machine, and yet it is the 'machine' that lets us have the luxury of raging against it while gladly taking social security checks and food stamps. We must not forget these things amidst our healthy doses of criticism. I've never heard the national anthem sung by a full choir before. I like it a lot more than a solo.

Coin Toss
I have never heard a ref explain a coin toss at a major game without stuttering/stumbling through the first several sentences. They always seem like they forget what they are saying because they are listening to themselves on the loudspeaker.

(I) 14:30
The Eagles should get back the fumble. Donovan McNabb is a good quarterback and fun to watch. However, I will be cheering for the Pats. As I tried to explain to some friends on friday, I like sports dynasties when they are built by a lot of hard work combined with talent and determination. For this reason I appreciate the Atlanta Braves, or the Oakland A's. You get the sense that their staff, transported anywhere, would produce a great team. You just don't get that sense with George Steinbrenner and co. or Theo Epstein (Red Sox). For that reason, I say go Patriots: show us some good football.

(II) 10:50
Looks like its going to be a good game. And I lasted an hour. Not much to say about the game, but I took a break to make myself a latte and exploded espresso grounds everywhere. Don't know how that happened. I also figured out the greek numeral system.

(II) 9:50
Eagles finally score! They've had some pretty passing plays.
I just explained the Donkey-Clysdale Bud ads to Kelly. I'm embarassed that I remembered the sequence from last year. Interesting how much the Ad companies bank on EVERYONE watching the super bowl ... EVERY year.

(II) 0:43
Great drive by the Pats to score. Two really pretty passes by Brady at the end. McNabb, like Daunte Culpepper or Michael Vick, is a good quarterback, but a great athlete. Brady is just a great quarterback. Somehow the non-running quarterbacks always seem to come out on top. Here comes Sir Paul ...

Halftime Report
Why do they give the talking heads microphones if they are going to spend their 42 seconds screaming towards the camera saying I don't know what.

Beep beep mmm beep beep yeah.
hmmm ... that was a strange song. At least it didn't inspire any bare breasts. Sorry, cheap shot.
I think my favorite thing about Get Back Jojo is the honky tonk piano.
And ala Jon Koerner Hey Jude is my favorite Beatles song, so I have to say I was pleased. Though having the people make "Na Na" with their little colored squares was definitely the least creative idea possible. I enjoyed it. I think that is the first Super Bowl halftime that I have actually sat back and enjoyed. Libertas!!

I'm going to take a break and come back sometime in the fourth quarter.

End of Game
Well, I got distracted with the daughter. That was a great game. Great quarterbacks, great coaching, I enjoyed myself. Go American pastimes.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Cause to Celebrate

I almost always enjoy what Charles Krauthammer has to say. Horray for Iraq. Imperfect? Clearly. But good.

They aren't dancing to this kind of music, but I will (inside at least).

Friday, February 04, 2005

Advice for American Men

Learn restraint, learn to fight, remember that you will die, and meditate devoutly on the fact that death is preferable to dishonor. (Brad Miner)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Music and the Soul

Posting has been light because the Bourgeois Wife is out with pneumonia. That means I've been running her back and forth to the doctor's office and generally staying at home. Luckily, my life as a graduate student is fairly flexible.

Which leads me to Bach. Thorgerson mentioned his suites for solo celloa while back, and I wholeheartedly agree. I have the recording by Wispelway, and it is magnificent. I was worried about my wife yesterday, and the first note of the first suite dispelled that worry. I have no idea what the connection is between music and the soul, but I know there is one. I don't think any amount of spoken words could have had the effect that Bach did.

I once saw a production of Les Miserables, and I swear at one point, for a few seconds, I could see -- literally see -- the music coming out of the singers. It's the closest thing to a mystical experience I've had, and what's even stranger (or perhaps not) is that the singers were not professional singers but high school students singing magnificently, from their souls I believe. In saying this I am not suggesting that it was because of some imperfection in their singing that made the music visible to me; on the contrary these were very fine singers, some of the best I've ever heard. I think the innocence of their souls had something to do with it. Thinking of it now brings tears to my eyes.

Back to Plato. I'm dragging my business ethics students through book 1 of the Republic.