Blogwatch


Top Ten Posts for February, 2008 

Here are the Top Ten April posts on Quadrivium:

  1. Faith and Reason: A two part essay dealing with a proper definition of faith as well as its relationship to reason. Part 1, Part 2.
  2. An Evaluation of the Bundle Theory of Substance: An analysis of a popular theory of substance advocated by the famous skeptic/empiricist David Hume
  3. The Ethical Quagmire of Designer Babies: A post that investigates the murky waters of bioethics.
  4. An Evaluation of Descartes’ Claim that the Mind is More Easily Known Than the Body: A post that examines the contents of its formidable title.  (Note: this is not an argument against substance dualism, just an evalution of one of Descartes’ arguments for it).
  5. The Battle for the Mind: German and British Propaganda In the First World War: A post examing the beginnings of modern war propaganda and how it is used to direct the populace.
  6. What is Christian Art?: Is there such a thing as “Christian” art and how does one recognize it?
  7. Much Ado About Nothing: Nihilism and Modernist Literature: A four part essay that examines nihilistic themes in the works of three Modernist authors.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  8. The Nature of Truth: A two part essay that examines the meaning of truth and its underlying principles. Part 1, Part 2.
  9. There’s Hope For Porn Stars! (sort of): This post analyzes the controversial techniques of a ministry to porn stars along with the misleading statement, “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”.
  10. Two-Way Tie for Tenth: The Suffocating Soul: A two-part book review and commentary on the various ‘corsets’ and ‘tight slippers’ that suffocate our souls.  Part 1, Part 2. And Is Fantasy Escapism?:Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?

Since it’s inception just under 4 months ago, Quadrivium has reached the 5000 hit mark (and the 100 post mark counting this one).  Thanks to all contributors, commenters, regular readers, and random searchers who made this post possible!

Just a quick note.  Johnny-Dee over at FQI recently posted a very interesting piece (and subsequent discussion) on the problem of whether or not the diversity of religious beliefs provides an epistemic defeater for believing in any one religion.  Certainly worth a click.

Two of my favorite blogs, Fides Quaerens Intellectum and Nihil Fit, have recently produced some particularly interesting posts.

  • Johnny Dee over at FQI has asked the question, ‘Is Friendly Atheism Paradoxical?”  “Friendly” Atheism is a term coined by Purdue prof. William Rowe and it refers to a form of atheism that recognizes that the theistic belief that others’ hold can be epistemicallly justified.  Definitely worth a click.
  • Chris, over at NF has produced something that I haven’t really seen before: a philosophical analysis of prayer.  Check it out, it’s really interesting stuff.

611ldbwioml_aa240_1.jpgI am in the process of reading Ruby Slippers by Jonalyn Grace Fincher.  The book so far is insightful and intriguing.  I was most fascinated by the introductory chapter, which delves into the dilemma of the “corsets” that we wear.

We all wear corsets. We often layer them, multiplying their effect, tightening the cords around our soul, until we look culturally appealing, Christianly appropriate, and feel wretchedly uncomfortable.

As I read this, I had to meditate on my own life. Jonalyn lists corsets that women may wear: the single corset, the sexy corset, the mother corset, the Christian wife corset, the working wife corset, and the list goes on. There are certain roles that others expect me to fulfill…the submissive wife, the doting mother, the office woman, the academic, etc.  These areas are not wrong, actually quite the opposite. The Bible commands me to be a loving and submissive wife and a good mother. Where we have seemed to miss it, is that we put on the “corset” to fit the given role because it is expected of us. We act a certain way and even speak in the tone that is expected in that role. We reduce ourselves to “act the part”. What we are actually doing is suffocating our souls.

Before God made me a wife or a working woman/college student, He made me a living soul, a female soul. In discovering who I am in Christ, I am made free and able to more completely fulfill the responsibilities He has given me. God created me with a personality, with certain gifts and talents.  So why am I content to simply wear the corsets that are assigned to me? Why are we all content to suffocate our souls?

I do not believe Jonalyn is advocating a woman (or man) freeing herself (or himself) of the commands that God has set forth. Rather I believe we have gotten our priorities skewed.  My primary responsibility as a child of God is to discover who He made me to be, and then I am able to filfill the secondary responsibilities. Rather than stuffing my soul into the wife corset, I am now able to be the wife God intends me to be.  Rather than tightening the cords to fit others’ expectations, I am free to live as Christ intends me to be.  Layering corsets stifles the soul, but Christ gives us the freedom to live as He designed us: as female (or male) souls.

Top Ten Posts for January, 2008

Here are the Top Ten most visited posts on Quadrivium for January, 2008:

  1. Monty Python’s Parody of Knighthood (Part 1): How Monty Python and the Holy Grail humorously skewers the ideals of Arthurian chivalry.
  2. Observation: A funny essay on the art of people watching.
  3. What is Christian Art?: Is there such a thing as “Christian” art and how does one recognize it?
  4. Is Fantasy Escapism?: Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?
  5. Stephen Pinker and the Morality of a Meat Machine: Admiring Stephen Pinker’s awesome ‘do, and examining his not-so-awesome materialistic foundation for ethics.
  6. The Economics of Art: A rejoinder to post 3 that takes a different approach to the idea of “Christian” art and the concept of ‘art’ altogether.
  7. Pinball Brain: A post that ponders the perpetually preoccupied mind and what to do about it.
  8. America the Dim-Witted: A collection of stupid warning labels…need I say more?
  9. The Conflict of Christianity and Culture: A post that examines the underlying causes of modern Christianity’s estrangement from culture.
  10. April 22: Pregnancy and childbirth…from the dad’s perspective.

 I recently discovered – via this post on another blog – that Stephen Pinker (popular, Led Robert Plant would be proud!Zeppelinish hair-styled, psychology prof. from Harvard) has published yet another article arguing for a biology-based morality.  You can read the NY Times article here. 

As some of you already know, I have already posted on Pinker’s pernicious problem of a materialistic morality.  Although his most recent article is somewhat longer than his earlier article in Time magazine, his arguments remain the same.

Rather than rehashing my appraisal of his argument in this post, I invite readers to check out my earlier post, “Stephen Pinker and the Morality of a Meat Machine”.

You gotta love that hair though 🙂

Christ the Redeemer (of culture)

The relationship between Christianity and Culture (especially the arts) has been a topic of great interest on Quadrivium here lately.  Beginning with a post on Christianity and Culture (that linked to this blog) and continuing with posts on a North Carolinian art museum, the value of fantasy literature, and the validity of “Christian” art.  Sadly, as the last post demonstrates, modern evangelical Christianity is woefully out of touch with the art and culture of society.

Why are Christians this way?  Well, we do know that they have not always been.  For centuries, the Christian faith informed and inspired some of the greatest artistic achievments ever to be accomplished.  Yet, in the past couple of centuries, the church has endured a self-imposed isolation from culture.  There are signs of change, however, and I believe that as the church continues to understand what caused these problems, she will eventually remedy them. 

Allow me to share a few reaons why I think that Christians have ignored culture and the arts for so long.

  1. A Fundamentalist Overreaction to Liberalism-  The late 19th and early 20th centuries gave rise to a bitter battle in Western universities (especially American) between two theological factions: Liberal and Conservatives.  The latter group came to be known as fundamentalists (taken from a series of conservative theologial articles).  While liberal theologians eventually triumphed in the battle for the university, fundamentalists were tenacious defenders of orthodox Chrisitianity.  However, because fundamentalism was a reactionary movement, it unfortunately went the way of most such movments: it overreacted to the opposing ideology. Since liberal theology placed a strong emphasis on the so-called “social gospel” (that is, the responsibility of Christians to engage, improve, and create culture), by the mid-20th century, fundamentalism had almost completely isolated itself from the culture.  Christians were taught to keep themselves separated from the world, and things like art, film, literature, and the theater were considered to be “worldly”.  Evangelicalism – fundamentalism’s younger sister -was born around this time and sought to correct these problems in the church (evangelicals are sometimes known as “fundamentalists with PHDs”).  While some progress has been made, the damage done to the idea of cultural involvement within the church was severe.  We have a long way to go.
  2. An Overemphasis on the Apocalypse- The 19th and 20th centuries also saw the emergence of “rapture fever” in the church.  Prophecy conferences and “End-Times” analysis became one of the most popular forms of theological study for the church at large (to the neglect of many other theological studies).  Ministers would stand (and still do) before their congregations or tv audience with the past week’s newspaper for their text and proclaim fulfilled Bible prophecies as their sermon.  Popular authors began to set dates for Christ’s return and their was an overall sense of impending doom.  Now, while the church had her eyes on the sky, she forgot the culture at large.  Why become bogged down in cultural involvement if Jesus is going to come back in the next five minutes?  Besides, it’s so much more fun to wildly speculate about what Daniel and John were talking about, then seriously engage the culture on an academic level.
  3. The Emergence of the Christian Subculture – America is a country driven by consumerism, and the church has incredibly exploited this fact in the past fifty years.  Consequently, Christianity has been polished and packaged in a multitude of ways.  Now there are “Christian” films, books, paintings, musical groups, clothes, bumper stickers, department stores, plush toys, ad infinitum.  As a matter of fact, there is no need for the average Christian to encounter his culture because he has all that he needs within his own “safe” subculture.  Hence, we have really bad movies and books that are produced and then marketed by slapping the “Evangelical Approved” label on them.  Christians devour these products and become more culturally inept in the process. 

I’m sure that there are many more things that can be said about this matter than just the few problems that I have pointed out.  What I am interested in is if their are any good answers to these problems.  What can Christians do to change this? 

Adoration of the LambThe Adoration of the Lamb

I came across an interesting post today on a blog ran by Dale Fincher (I have also added this highly recommended blog to the sidebar by the way).  In the post, Dale referenced a recent article in Christianity Today by Philip Yancey.  The thesis of the article, as well as Dale’s post, is that the church (especially in the past couple of centuries) has largely abandoned cultural engagement and the arts.  Rather than paraphrase, allow me to quote a portion of his post:

While progress is being made to correct [this] theological misunderstanding and attitude in the church, it is slow…Humans, especially those who love and know their Maker, aren’t merely to engage culture, but to create it. It can’t be helped. Are we creating quality or poor culture? Those are our only options.  

I found the final two sentences to be particularly piercing.  I’m afraid that evangelicals have done quite a poor job in regards to creating quality culture.  And if we’re not creating quality culture then there is only one other option…

Also, check out this series of mp3 lectures by Jerram Barrs courtesy of Covenant Theological Seminary.  Besides the excellent teaching concerning apologetics and evangelism, Barrs does an excellent job communicating the same theme as above.

For anyone interested,  Johnny-Dee over at Fides Quaerens Intellectum has started what appears to be a series of posts on everyone’s favorite idealist philosopher, Bishop George Berkeley.  For anyone confused, idealism is a metaphysical theory which denies the existence of matter and asserts that the only things that exist are minds (or spirits) and ideas.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds (or maybe it is), and it is a great way to mess with a friend’s head.  So head on over to FQI and check it out.  The topic begins with this post.

jmoreland1.jpg

J. P. Moreland, well-known evangelical philosopher/theologian, purportedly dropped a bombshell at the recent annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.  Despite the sound and fury, however, it seems to me that everybody has really missed the point of his paper which is really not that controversial after all.  I’m not giving any hints because I want people to read it for themselves.  And to all the Moreland detractors out there, do try to read beyond the title of the paper.

p.s. Chris over at Nihil Fit has produced an excellent summary of the paper and the consequent controversy it ignited.