Saturday, January 18, 2020

What I read this week

or, around the web in a few links.

Why keep excavating when we have so much buried in our museums already? That's the question that Hyperallergic raises, bringing up the issue of the recent Museum of the Bible fiasco of someone (probably Obbink) selling papyri that weren't his to them. The article reasons that it is because universities reward the wrong behavior. Might well be; read it yourself to decide.

Meanwhile, the issue of the stolen papyri gets even murkier, as someone looks at the metadata (the information buried inside a file that gives details of creation, etc.) of a PDF flyer of the Sappho papyrus from a few years back. Seems the dates inside the file don't agree with the stated timeline. Can you say "stolen" again?

But, let's back up to the issue of universities rewarding wrong behavior. A Times Higher Ed article claims we should stop treating universities like businesses (I agree), and instead treat them like (in good British) Sporting Clubs. Huh? Yep. Think about it:

So what does the sports club analogy entail for university management? First, small and medium-sized clubs derive their support from their local communities. If they are consistently successful, such as the mega football clubs of Europe, their brands expand worldwide. Likewise, for universities, the first rule must be to serve their local populations, both in terms of student recruitment and research prioritisation. If they become consistently successful in regional, state, provincial or national terms, it becomes appropriate to expand the brand and seek to recruit students from a wider area. Efforts to lure students to a university they have never heard of are likely to be largely wasted.

After the players, the best-known people at sporting clubs are the coaches. These people set the strategy, hire the staff and provide the motivation. For me, a key strategy is to organise universities such that the equivalent of coaches – heads of departments or faculties – have the time and skills to fashion their “players” into a loyal and complementary team.

Well, worth thinking about anyway. And while we are in academia, Roger Olson asks if science has buried God. He says no, and cites a well-known retired Oxford professor of mathematics and philosophy of science, John Lennox. Do read it.

Somewhat related, N.T. Wright asks about knowledge: "In many spheres, the question not just of what we know but of how we know is urgent and vital. I have tried to develop the notion of love as the ultimate form of knowledge and to explore its wider relevance." Good stuff; worth the relatively long read.

Shifting gears a bit, apparently when women take a leave of absence after giving birth, the wealthier ones (read Ivy League grads) tend to extend that stay—by years! A book was written about it and it's been reviewed at the link. The reviewer takes a few shots at the philosophical point of view of the authors. . .read the review for more info.

What about the idea of a "dry January"? Never heard of it? Neither had I, but apparently it's a real thing. You don't drink alcoholic beverages the entire month of January. The Anxious Bench takes a look at it:

Current reports champion this experiment in abstinence without a whiff of irony. For me it rankles a little that Dry January gets the nod from fashionable press and people who might otherwise contemn the long history of temperance and like movements in the United States before. Ken Burns gave us an interesting documentary about Prohibition and scholars do not necessarily cling to the caricatures. But the efforts of many earlier Americans, many of them with Protestant motivation and quite a few of them female, to convince fellow citizens that all would prosper if they drank less, can be cast as dour, ham-fisted, tyrannical, ill-advised, ludicrous, and destined to fail, even if well-intentioned.
Dry January looks individualistic and narrow in contrast. It’s a DIY temperance movement, one chosen, maintained, and interpreted by yourself. If Dry January has become popular because it relies on achievable goals and personal choice—you opt out of liquor rather than being shoved by law or peer pressure—its benefits are correspondingly limited. A month off of alcohol might make you feel better, make you abler to reach personal best as you see it, but barely tries to imagine how your private choices in consumption and expenditure might bear on others.

Promoters of temporary temperance come so close to old language without noting the resemblance. NPR’s Allison Aubrey insists, “you can cheers, you can toast with some seltzer water. You don’t have to have alcohol in the glass to feel a sense of celebration.” As many a tee-totaler across the centuries might have told you. Dry January aims to help people become more conscious about their drinking and help them drink less—goals undergirded by the assumption that both of these are objective goods. The new-ish label “sober curious” rebrands abstention as self-fashioning, made even more attractive by keeping it noncommittal, admirably tolerant and open. (emphasis original)

OK, while you are digesting that, think about the word "Puritan." What do you think of? Wrong! John Turner gives us the real background on the word.

And what about women preachers? Wade Burleson takes a quick run through the history of Wheaton, Moody Bible Institute, and Baptists in the late 1800s. You'll be surprised at what he found. Well, maybe not surprised, but I'll bet you didn't know a good bit of it. (You did read it, didn't you?)

What happens when a preacher takes a month-long vacation and reads through the Torah/Pentateuch? Stephen McAlpine writes about it. Not what you would expect, speaking of the death of Aaron's sons, and worship in the OT in general:

Whoops. Seems like God is pretty strict about this sort of stuff. There’s a lot of worry when it comes to the worship of the God of Israel. We start to realise that He sets the boundaries for how He is to be approached. The common reframe in this worship package set up is that “Moses did all that the LORD had commanded.” It’s said again and again and again. There’s no occasion where God asks:

“Well Moses, what do you think? How should the people approach me? After all it’s a much more modern age than when you were back in Egypt.”

There’s no leeway. No wiggle room. No ifs. No buts. There’s a lot of worry in worship when you are permitted to worship the true and living God, and have Him dwell in your midst like Israel did. Get it right? Blessing! Get it wrong? Toast!

Read his conclusion. It's breathtaking in it's assurance. It takes the pressure off the necessity of emotional highs that so much worship hype seems to require. And while you are on his blog, read this one, too, on church. Good stuff.

OK. Let's jump into the current mess of evangelicalism. Ron Sider explains why he still uses the term. As a friend of mine said, "When we have to go to that length to define what this term OUGHT to mean, the jig is up. Game over. Move on." Sadly, I have to agree with him. But, the Christianity Today editorial is still making waves: Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller Seminary, weighed in:

When Trump’s evangelical supporters tell us that in presidential elections we are not voting for candidates for sainthood, I agree. I have been voting in elections for more than a half-century now, and I have frequently cast my ballot for folks whose personal lives fall far short of sainthood. I have never insisted that candidates for public office get high scores in “What would Jesus do?” tests. But Christians do have a responsibility to promote the cause of moral leadership in public life. And I do want Christian leaders to be guided in their decisions by keeping the “What would Nathan do?” question clearly in mind. The writer of the Christianity Today editorial has now done just that in the case of President Trump. I am grateful for the prophetic message.
Missio Alliance asks if the church is too political. They say no, just political in the wrong way. Read it. And this one on what Johnny Cash's version of the gospel can teach us. And while you are reading along those lines, Mark Galli, the just retired CT editor who wrote that editoral, asks "What if":
What if conservative Christians of any stripe, Catholic or Protestant, tried to conserve the teachings of their faith by living them–those words about loving the enemy, turning the other cheek, serving the poor, giving up one’s life for the neighbor?

What if, instead of waving the battle flag of success and victory, they lifted high the cross of Christ as the paradigm of their faith?
What if conservative Christians were known less for their politics and more for their mercy, so that when they spoke about the saving work of Jesus Christ, that message would not be mocked but, by God’s grace, believed?

What if conservative Christians strove to conserve—“kept in a safe or sound state”—the great teachings of our Lord, in both word and deed?


And what is a weekly roundup without something about Amazon? I could post about their recent dust-up with Fed Ex that they settled, but that's too mundane. They just used that as a pressure technique to get a better discount is my guess. Old trick. No, I'm more concerned about their recent moves into publishing. Where is the antitrust department? They broke up the movie studios monopoly hold on theaters for less than what AZ is doing with their Cloud Services, delivery services, third-party selling monopoly, etc!

On that note, buy local. Jeff Bezos and his $11 billion dollar nontaxed profit won't miss a few bucks from you. But if enough of us do it, he might...and your local business person will stay open, which means they, at least, will be helping you with the taxes. Bezos won't ever do that willingly, which is why I tend to lean socialist—you will never get a rich person to willingly part with their ill-gotten gains. No, not even a christian one. I heard a rich christian business man give a chapel message once where he accused the government of being socialist because it had the nerve to tax him! Seems his Bible was missing a few texts. OK, enough said. Have a great week!

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