Sunday, April 30, 2023

The armor

721 L. M.
The panoply of truth.

BEHOLD the Christian Warrior stand
   In all the armour of his God;
   The Spirit’s sword is in his hand,
   His feet are with the Gospel shod;—

2 In panoply of truth complete,
   Salvation’s helmet on his head;
   With righteousness a breast-plate meet,
   And faith’s broad shield before him spread;—

3 Undaunted to the field he goes;
   Yet vain were skill and valour there,
   Unless, to foil his legion foes,
   He takes the trustiest weapon, prayer.

4 Thus, strong in his Redeemer’s strength,
   Sin, death, and hell, he tramples down;
   Fights the good fight, and wins at length,
   Through mercy, an immortal crown.
                         James Montgomery
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Lift up your hearts!

716 C. M.
Rejoicing in hope.

LIFT up your hearts to things above,
   Ye followers of the Lamb,
   And join with us to praise his love,
   And glorify his Name.

2 To Jesus’ Name give thanks and sing,
   Whose mercies never end:
   Rejoice! rejoice! the Lord is King;
   The King is now our Friend.

3 We for his sake count all things loss;
   On earthly good look down;
   And joyfully sustain the cross,
   Till we receive the crown.

4 O let us stir each other up,
   Our faith by works to’ approve,—
   By holy, purifying hope,
   And the sweet task of love.

5 Let all who for the promise wait,
   The Holy Ghost receive;
   And, raised to our unsinning state,
   With God in Eden live:—

6 Live, till the Lord in glory come,
   And wait his heaven to share:
   He now is fitting up your home;
   Go on, we ’ll meet you there.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Interestingly, omits the fifth verse, but inserts five other ones before our verse 6:

5. Love us, though far in flesh disjoined,
   Ye lovers of the Lamb;
   And ever bear us on your mind,
   Who think and speak the same:

6. You on our minds we ever bear,
   Whoe’er to Jesus bow;
   Stretch out the arms of faith and prayer,
   And lo! we reach you now.

7. Surely we now your souls embrace,
   With you we now appear
   Present before the throne of grace,
   And you, and Christ, are here.

8. The blessings all on you be shed,
   Which God in Christ imparts;
   We pray the Spirit of our Head
   Into your faithful hearts.

9. Mercy and peace your portion be,
   To carnal minds unknown,
   The hidden manna, and the tree
   Of life, and the white stone.

Personally, I can understand why they omitted them in the 1870 hymnal; they are kind of weak. But it's too bad that deleted verse 5; it has some classic Wesleyan/holiness theology—of course that might be why they omitted it!
</idle musing>

Friday, April 28, 2023

But what's the reason?

The Stoics assume our task is to reduce our estrangement from our nature, but they give no reason for this estrangement as a feature of human existence, the condition under which all humans come to be and must exist. They talk much about our ability to return to nature and not at all about why the human being qua human being is estranged from its nature in the first place. There are symptoms (passions, for example) but no disease, effects but no cause. In light of the Christian narrative, one might say that the Stoics do not have an account of the human problem that does the work the Fall does for Christians.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 255

<idle musing>
Well, that's the final excerpt from One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions. I hope you learned something from it. I certainly did. As I said at the time, the chapter on epistemology was worth the price of the book. The windows it opened in my mind will be with me for a long time. And the idea of a "second-first language" was extremely interesting.

Next up will be Emil Brunner's The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, the second in his three-volume Church Dogmatics. I was so happy when Wipf & Stock brought it back into print in 2014. But, if you prefer electronic, The Internet Archive has a copy and there are other legal ones out there as well. Personally, when reading theology, I prefer the hard copy.

I'm looking forward to this; I haven't done any serious reading in Brunner since seminary where his The Christian Doctrine of God was used in the introductory theology class (along w/the compendium of Calvin's Institutes and an assortment of John Wesley's sermons). I fought with understanding Brunner for the first hundred or so pages, but once I "got it," I loved it. I thank Dennis Kinlaw to this day for teaching me to read theology—and not using some vapid introduction to theology text, but instead forcing us to read the originals. Ad fontes, as they say ("to the sources").
<idle musing>

One in Christ

715 5th P. M. 4 lines 7s.
One in Christ Jesus and with each other.

FATHER, at thy footstool see
   Those who now are one in thee:
   Draw us by thy grace alone:
   Give, O give us to thy Son.

2 Jesus, Friend of human kind,
   Let us in thy name be join’d;
   Each to each unite and bless;
   Keep us still in perfect peace.

3 Heavenly, all-alluring Dove,
   Shed thy overshadowing love;
   Love, the sealing grace, impart;
   Dwell within our single heart.

4 Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
   Be to us what Adam lost;
   Let us in thine image rise;
   Give us back our Paradise.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The hermeneutics of disagreement

Disagreement, says Stout, is limited precisely to the extent that we recognize it as disagreement at all. Absent a larger background of agreement, difference would show up as unintelligibility, not disagreement: “Our disagreements … to be, intelligible, require a background of truths taken for granted” (59, cf. 19-21, 43, et passim). To say “that another society has a moral language is to say that it has Views on at least some of the topics we denominate as moral” (69). It is this larger background of agreement that makes disagreement disagreement and simultaneously affords the promise of translation. Hermeneutical enrichment is a real possibility exactly to the extent that disagreement is parasitic upon a deeper agreement and does not—indeed, it apparently cannot—“go all the way down” (20). We inevitably understand something of those with whom we disagree. Articulating this something, finding its linguistic shape and expounding it, discloses the agreement and simultaneously points the way toward the mutually intelligible judgments that are translation in action.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 241–42

One sentence sums it up

Jesus is Lord above all lords is the shape of Christian political life.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 233

Stamp thine image on our heart

714 6th P. M. 6 lines 7s.
Hand in hand to heaven.

CENTRE of our hopes thou art;
   End of our enlarged desires:
   Stamp thine image on our heart;
   Fill us now with heavenly fires:
   Join’d to thee by love divine,
   Seal our souls forever thine.

2 All our works in thee be wrought,
   Level’d at one common aim:
   Every word and every thought
   Purge in the refining flame:
   Lead us, through the paths of peace,
   On to perfect holiness.

3 Let us all together rise,—
   To thy glorious life restored;
   Here regain our Paradise,—
   Here prepare to meet our Lord:
   Here enjoy the earnest given:
   Travel hand in hand to heaven.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

It's all intertwined

It is difficult, of course, to think of politics in the ancient world, since the ancients did not distinguish between politics and things such as religion or family life. The dichotomies that have become ours in the late-modern West were not theirs. When we ask them what we think of as political questions, their replies immediately range beyond the shape of our modern questions and into the full breadth of ancient life. To be political in this or that way was also to be religious in this or that way and to be a husband or a father—or a wife or a mother (think only of Agrippina!)—or a master or a slave in this or that way, and much else besides.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 232

The sticking point

It is an obvious but often overlooked point in the comparison of Stoicism with early Christianity that the sticking point of any claims to similarity is Jesus of Nazareth. But it is only by ignoring or somehow attempting to minimize the fact that Christianity’s existence is directly dependent upon—indeed, utterly inconceivable without—Jesus of Nazareth that one can posit shared philosophical agreement between wide or deeply important patterns of speech.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 230

Divine conformity

713 4th P. M. 886, 886.
Divine conformity.

JESUS, fulfil our one desire,
   And spread the spark of living fire
   Through every hallow’d breast:
   Bless with divine conformity,
   And give us now to find in thee
   Our everlasting rest.

2 O that we now the power might feel,
   To do on earth thy blessed will,
   As angels do above: —
   To walk in thee, the Truth, the Way,
   And ever perfectly obey
   Thy sweet constraining love.
                            Charles Wesley
                            Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Not one of his better known hymns. According to it only occurs in nine hymnals. But I like the theology of it, so I'm posting it. : )
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

And it doesn't translate the other way either

When we pose the question in reverse and ask how the Christians might render the Stoic sense of anthropos within a Christian grammar, we immediately confront an impossibility. Though the Stoic texts do not give an account of the origin of our propensity to disregard our nature and live contra the order of reason, they do assume that our undisciplined tendencies move us in damaging ways away from our nature. And in this one might be lured into seeing promise for synonymy. But as great as it may be, due to our weakness in passion or ignorance of reasons direction, the Stoics judge our damage not to be so great as to be beyond self-repair and the future direction of self-care. As long as we learn the habits of Stoic life and build well the fortress of reason within, there is no need to receive help of any other kind than what we can offer ourselves. It is true that we learn from human exempla how Stoic lives look, but our use for them is only illustrative; we do not depend on them in any fundamental way for the possibility of self-repair and future self-care.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 229–30

<idle musing>
As I've said before, no wonder the gospel was seen as good news! It's a lot of work to try to improve yourself—and it's never-ending, as the continuing publication of self-help books illustrates!

I'll take the infilling of the Holy Spirit as animating power any day over the continual grind of self-improvement! The Spirit motivates via love, which I find much better and easier than self-flagellation, whether literal or metaphorical/verbal.
</idle musing>

It just doesn't translate

When we pose the question about God in reverse—how to “translate" the Christian use of the word theos into Stoic usage so that the Stoics would say the same thing with the word God in their grammar that the Christians said in theirs—we are immediately confronted with this problem: the linguistic/conceptual resources needed to render the Christian use of God in Stoic grammar do not exist. There is no word for the Christian use of God because the thought that would entail what God means vis-a-vis the cosmos did not exist within the Stoic take on the whole of things. Moreover, there is no possible way to get the Christian sense of God as “God-as-determined-by-the-history-of-the-Jews-and-Jesus-of-Nazareth” into Stoic grammar. One might as well simply tell the entire Christian story. And, in fact, that is the point: to render God and all that this word entails is to render the narrative that makes the word God mean what it does to both Christians and Stoics. Were the Christian and the Stoic stories the same, the word God would refer to the same thing. But they are not, and the word God is not “translatable.”—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 227

<idle musing>
And therein lies the reason why the Gospels are narratives and why the speeches in the book of Acts are always historical narratives. You have to tell the story in order for people to understand what Rowe calls the grammar. God doesn't mean the same thing to different worldviews. You have to define it, but the way to define it best is via narrative—and even then you risk misunderstandings.
</idle musing>

An oldie but goodie

712 S. M.
Sympathy and mutual love.

BLEST be the tie that binds
   Our hearts in Christian love; -
   The fellowship of kindred minds
   Is like to that above.

2 Before our Father’s throne,
   We pour our ardent prayers;
   Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,—
   Our comforts and our cares.

3 We share our mutual woes;
   Our mutual burdens bear;
   And often for each other flows
   The sympathizing tear.

4 When we asunder part,
   It gives us inward pain;
   But we shall still be join’d in heart,
   And hope to meet again.

5 This glorious hope revives
   Our courage by the way;
   While each in expectation lives,
   And longs to see the day.

6 From sorrow, toil, and pain,
   And sin we shall be free;
   And perfect love and friendship reign
   Through all eternity.
                            John Fawcett
                            Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tozer for Tuesday

Remember, not every precious thing shows at the same time it is received. There is a time when the invisible things will be the only real things and the visible world shall dissolve in smoke and pass away, and God will roll them up as a garment and as vestures they shall be changed. But the invisible things of God from the creation, which we have in Christ Jesus, will continue as real as heaven itself, forever and forever.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 103

Monday, April 24, 2023

A few links of interest

Read a few interesting things yesterday.

On the link between UTIs and meat (esp. poultry):

Enough to make you go whole-food, plant-based, right : )

This is indirectly related to the above, about the spread of H5N1. Sadly, they want to develop vaccines so they can continue to cage the poultry in inhumane conditions (not against vaccines, but wouldn’t fixing the root problem be more intelligent?):

A Canadian looks at our CRT outrage and pegs it on a religious cause (my words): The (almost) worship of the constitution:

Makes sense to me.

I’ve read before about the historical background of regional differences in the US (although I haven’t read the book). He tackles gun violence this time around:

When I moved from MN to IN 20 years ago (I lived in IN for nine years before returning to MN), after living there about 6 months I really noticed the difference between libertarians in MN and IN. In MN, they have a strong social conscience and will back the common good in laws, even though it seems to be against a libertarian leaning—after all, MN had a (wrestling hero) libertarian governor who didn’t try to repeal any of it. And there is a strong corporate conscience here in MN with corporations dedicating 5–10 percent of their profits to charitable causes.

And, finally, Chris Gehrz had ChatGPT do his devotional on the Road to Emmaus (and then discusses what LLM really does):

I wonder what it would do if you asked it if the couple on the road were husband and wife as has lately been bandied about? Probably hallucinate a few references : )

That’s it. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Syncretism at work

Gideon and Joash showed some awareness of YHWH and his cult (see 6:7, 13) but obviously combined those beliefs and practices with those of the surrounding Canaanites. Joash’s challenge to Baal and his followers after Gideon’s destruction of Baal’s altar (6:31) may have signaled a turning point in their religious loyalties but did not necessarily erase the influence of years of syncretistic worship. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that even though Gideon’s moment of self-discovery has shown him that he has been appropriating the honor and loyalty due to YHWH alone, he would misguidedly and pathetically try to restore that honor to God by making a golden ephod for use in his worship.—Judging the Judges, 145

<idle musing>
Sounds only too familiar, doesn't it? Only difference is that the modern version substitutes a political party or cultural stance (right or left, doesn't matter). The end is still an attempt to "misguidedly and pathetically try to restore that honor to God."

Good book by the way. I finished it over the weekend (I'd been wanting to read it for a couple of years) and learned a good bit. The 150(!) pages of tables at the end are really interesting. I wonder if anyone else will use her model on other narratives?
</idle musing>

The function of הנה

Bar-Efrat points out that a significant function of the Hebrew term הנה (behold), especially after a verb of seeing, is to point out that the scene is being viewed from the perspective of one of the characters (35–36).—Judging the Judges, 31

<idle musing>
I'm too lazy to type in the Bar-Efrat reference; you'll have to either buy the book, access it through JSTOR, or borrow it from a library. Or just accept it on Mary Conway's word : )
</idle musing>

The goal

To be sure, there will be judgment; neither the wicked nor their works will have further sway. But the accent of the final chapter of the Christian story is not upon our just deserts but upon the culmination of the glorious, liberating work of God to set his redeemed creation free. Or to be more precise, the consummation is when the world is finally and completely taken up in the work wrought in Christ from beginning to end.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 223

It's the resurrection, silly

Had Jesus not been raised bodily, who knows how the Christian story would have run—or, rather, whether there would have been one at all (1 Cor 15). But in fact he had, and a fortiori so shall we: the story thus runs in the direction from him to us. Paul’s argument that we shall receive spiritual bodies upon our resurrection, Luke’s ordering of the church’s kerygma from Jesus’ resurrection to the hope of our own (see Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:23), and Justin’s insistence that the immortality of the soul is insufficiently Christian precisely because it discards our bodies, all presuppose the fundamental importance of Jesus bodily resurrection for what we make of our end. To say it slightly differently, the way the Christian story runs to its end is unintelligible without the bodily resurrection of Jesus.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 222

Perfect harmony

711 C. M.
Perfect harmony and joy unspeakable.

ALL praise to our redeeming Lord,
   Who joins us by his grace,
   And bids us, each to each restored,
   Together seek his face.

2 He bids us build each other up;
   And, gather’d into one,
   To our high calling’s glorious hope,
   We hand in hand go on.

3 The gift which he on one bestows,
   We all delight to prove;
   The grace through every vessel flows,
   In purest streams of love.

4 E’en now we think and speak the same,
   And cordially agree,—
   United all, through Jesus’ name,
   In perfect harmony.

5 We all partake the joy of one;
   The common peace we feel;
   A peace to sensual minds unknown,—
   A joy unspeakable.

6 And if our fellowship below
   In Jesus be so sweet,
   What height of rapture shall we know
   When round his throne we meet!
                          Charles Wesley
                           Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Safety in union

701 C. M.
Safety in union.

JESUS, great Shepherd of the sheep,
   To thee for help we fly:
   Thy little flock in safety keep,
   For O! the wolf is nigh.

2 He comes, of hellish malice full,
   To scatter, tear, and slay;
   He seizes every straggling soul
   As his own lawful prey.

3 Us into thy protection take,
   And gather with thine arm;
   Unless the fold we first forsake,
   The wolf can never harm.

4 We laugh to scorn his cruel power,
   While by our Shepherd’s side;
   The sheep he never can devour,
   Unless he first divide.

5 O do not suffer him to part
   The souls that here agree;
   But make us of one mind and heart,
   And keep us one in thee.

6 Together let us sweetly live,—
   Together let us die;
   And each a starry crown receive,
   And reign above the sky.
                            Charles Wesley
                            Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Saturday, April 22, 2023


698 L. M.
One fold and one shepherd

GIVER of peace and unity,
   Send down thy mild, pacific Dove.
   We all shall then in one agree,
   And breathe the spirit of thy love.

2 We all shall think and speak the same
   Delightful lesson of thy grace:
   One undivided Christ proclaim,
   And jointly glory in thy praise.

3 O let us take a softer mould,
   Blended and gather’d into thee;
   Under one Shepherd make one fold,
   Where all is love and harmony.

4 Regard thine own eternal prayer,
   And send a peaceful answer down:
   To us thy Father’s Name declare;
   Unite and perfect us in one.

5 So shall the world believe and know
   That God hath sent thee from above,
   When thou art seen in us below,
   And every soul displays thy love.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Friday, April 21, 2023


When and where the wider world sees governmentally obedient Christians, it will simultaneously witness the obstinate refusal to confess anyone other than Christ as Lord. When and where the wider world sees a Christian community that works within the jurisprudential norms of the land, it will simultaneously witness a community that turns such norms toward the truth of its political life. In short, the Christian story of the meantime tells of a distinction between church and world and of the different ways of knowing that are interwoven with this distinction itself.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 221

<idle musings>
Would that that were true today, when so many who call themselves Christian are more interested in establishing a dominion here on earth than they are in living the kingdom in their own life!
</idle musing>

Embodied image

Were one to ask what allows such remarkable claims to be made about the new possibilities for human life, the Christians would tell of Jesus as the one who was the image of God. In some contrast to modern understandings of the word image, they did not mean that Jesus “reflected” God as if he were a copy of some other reality. They meant instead that precisely as the human that he was—and in the “scheme” of the human life that he thus lived—he enfleshed the God who made the world (see Phil 2:2, 5–11). The Lord of Israel has come as the Lord in the life of Jesus. When Luke speaks of the Lord of all, he means both the Lord of heaven and earth and the resurrected Jesus (Acts 4:24; 10:36; 17:24). And for Justin [Martyr], God’s very Word has taken flesh in Jesus; the speech of the Lord of Israel turns out to be the human life of the Nazarene.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 218–19

The test of discipleship

693 C. M.
Love the test of discipleship.

OUR God is love; and all his saints
   His image bear below:
   The heart With love to God inspired,
   With love to man will glow.

2 None who are truly born of God
   Can live in enmity;
   Then may we love each other, Lord,
   As we are loved by thee.

3 Heirs of the same immortal bliss,
   Our hopes and fears the same,
   With bonds of love our hearts unite,
   With mutual love inflame.

4 So may the unbelieving world
   See how true Christians love;
   And glorify our Saviour’s grace,
   And seek that grace to prove.
                          Bickersteth's Collection
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Psalm for today

Psalm 52
For the music leader. A maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, “David has gone to Ahimelech’s house.”

52 Hey, powerful person!
      Why do you brag about evil?
      God’s faithful love lasts all day long.
2 Your tongue devises destruction:
      it’s like a sharpened razor, causing deception.
3 You love evil more than good;
      you love lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4 You love all destructive words;
      you love the deceiving tongue.

5 But God will take you down permanently;
      he will snatch you up,
      tear you out of your tent,
      and uproot you from the land of the living! Selah
6 The righteous will see and be in awe;
      they will laugh at those people:
7 “Look at them! They didn’t make God their refuge.
      Instead, they trusted in their own great wealth.
      They sought refuge in it—to their own destruction!”

8 But I am like a green olive tree in God’s house;
      I trust in God’s faithful love forever and always.
9 I will give thanks to you, God, forever,
      because you have acted.
In the presence of your faithful people,
      I will hope in your name because it’s so good. (CEB)

Thursday, April 20, 2023

But, it's not the final word

Indeed, in the Christian story Jesus is the second Adam, the Son of God sent forth not one day after the next but in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4). In the Christian telling of it, the fact that Jesus was the “son of Adam, the son of God” meant that he could restart the story, write the first chapter of human life—again. Where the First human being was tempted and failed, the Second resisted temptation and began things anew: you shall not, he says to the Tempter, tempt the Lord thy God. He who “knew no sin” was able to redo creation itself, to set on a new foundation that which human life had become. “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything—but new creation!” (Gal 6:15). “If anyone is in Christ—new creation! The old things have gone away and, behold!, new things have come!” (2 Cor 5:17).—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 218

The final enemy

Moreover, our bodies are destined for death and decay. Sooner or later but one and all, we are mastered by the power of death. Try to overcome death, the Christian story says, and you will see how it, too, is a power more powerful than you. Demons, unclean spirits, Beelzebul, other “gods and lords” (1 Cor 8:5)—all these, too, are more powerful than the human creature. But death is that against which we finally fight and to which we inevitably lose. Against all those both ancient and modern who would say we can become cozy with death, the Christians say otherwise. Death is the final enemy.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 217

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

All that is not God

For the Christians, as for the Jews, the story did not begin with all that is but with God’s creation of all that is not God. The world had a beginning. It had not always been here but was instead created by the one and only God and was distinct from him. The story that unfolds in Scripture is thus the story of God’s dealings with all that is not God.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 216

The Stoic paradox

At the heart of the Stoic story as it is expressed in Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus there is thus a profound tension, dialectic, or, perhaps, paradox. To learn what we are and how to become what we are—rational mortals—we must be inducted into the Stoic way of being. Reason is not what we think for ourselves but a specifically traditioned communal craft. And yet to learn the Stoic craft of reason is to go into ourselves, to become solitary, self-sufficient fortresses of right judgment. There remain other Stoics—and there is the need to teach and be apprenticed—but exactly to the extent that we succeed in the Stoic life, even other Stoics are finally removed from us by the same life that initially drew us together in the common task of learning how to love wisdom.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 215

Come, Holy Spirit, our hearts inspire

679 C. M.
The Spirit’s enlightening influences.

COME, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire;
   Let us thine influence prove ;-
   Source of the old prophetic fire;
   Fountain of life and love.

2 Come, Holy Ghost, for moved by thee
   The prophets wrote and spoke:
   Unlock the truth, thyself the key;
   Unseal the sacred book.

3 Expand thy wings, Celestial Dove;
   Brood o’er our nature’s night;
   On our disorder’d spirits move,
   And let there now be light.

4 God, through himself,
   We then shall know, If thou within us shine;
   And sound, with all thy saints below,
   The depths of love divine.
                            Charles Wesley
                             Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

On the merry-go-round

Ultimately, however, in the Stoic narrative of repair, these three focal points were not fully separate things, each with its own independent logic and modus operandi. They were, rather, tightly interwoven and interdependent ways of talking about the defining contours of the philosophical life: by getting impressions sorted into the right columns we extirpate the passions and grow in virtue; by extirpating the passions we can sort impressions correctly and grow in virtue; and by growing in virtue we can sort impressions correctly and extirpate the passions. Only by developing these three skills simultaneously will we return to our nature.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 213

<idle musing>
Right. No wonder the early Christians found a fertile field! Once you are on the merry-go-round of self-improvement, it's only too easy to get discouraged—which is why in our social media age we curate our appearance. What you see isn't who you are is the watchword. Of course, Stoicism is more honest than that! They were actually working on changing and becoming. We, on the other hand, simply chase a virtual reality and try our best to ignore the real one.

How's that working for you?

Yeah. That's what I thought. Come home to Jesus and let him heal the broken self. As it says in Isa 55:

All of you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Whoever has no money,
come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost,
buy wine and milk!
2 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
and your earnings
for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me
and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts. (Isa 55:1–2 CEB)
</idle musing>

Give it time

The Stoic story of human damage presumes that not even reading Stoic works can be done well without reason’s repair. Unlike Augustine’s story of his encounter with Paul’s Romans, we cannot just pick up and read, but must instead be taught how to read. Reading has an order to it, and this order corresponds to the repair that is necessary to make one into a good reader. Which is to say that we can’t be good readers until we become the kind of person who can read well. If the story here tells of a seeming paradox—right reading requires reason’s repair but reason’s repair requires right reading—the Stoics assumed that there was time enough to work it out.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 211

<idle musing>
Sorry. Doesn't work for me. I'm glad the Holy Spirit gives light to the blind; no need to go stumbling around and trying to fix yourself so you can fix yourself. The Holy Spirit does the fixing—and the teaching.
</idle musing>

Tozer for Tuesday

America is not a God-conscious nation; we are a secular people. We have what the Bible calls a profane mind. And even in those who may toss God a bone when making a political speech to get the votes of a religious-minded people, if you probe in far enough you will find that our leadership is composed of a secular-minded people. I do not use the word in a wrong sense but in the sense that Esau was secular-minded. This world was the point of interest for that man, and that is all right for us, too, provided we have another and higher interest. But Esau did not have it, and the nation of America does not have it much.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 97

<idle musing>
And if that was true in the 1950s, just think how much truer it is today, 70 years later.
</idle musing>

Monday, April 17, 2023

A variation on a theme of discipleship

Internal to the Stoic way of reasoning is the claim that its pattern is visible in a human life and not apart from it. The particulars of the exercise that is Stoic reasoning are not analytically verifiable statements but lived shapes. Or, perhaps, the statements of logic that are analytically enticing find their analysis in the course of a Stoic life. A Cato, a Musonius, a Seneca, an Epictetus—these are necessary in the strictest sense to what Stoic reasoning is taken to be. Get an exemplum, says Seneca to Lucilius, so that you see reason in the flesh. Call it to mind so that you know how to become what you seek (Ep. 11.10). According to the Stoic story, the path to nature that is reason’s repair involves imitation of those who have gone before and shown the way.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 211

<idle musing>
There's a lot to be said for examples. But as Christians, we are told to imitate Jesus, which is a far higher ideal than a Seneca or a Cato or an Epictetus or a Marcus Aurelius. And, we are given the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us in that path.

Yep. I'll take the Christian way over the Stoic way, even while acknowledging that they have much of value. But, it is more a stream of light in a darkened corner than the flood of light in the revelation of God in Jesus.
</idle musing>

Not a lot of hope in that…

In stark contrast to both the modern scientific sense of evolutionary time and the Jewish or Christian sense that God precedes his creation, the Stoic story has no part without humanity. It is simply assumed that human beings are part of what the cosmic cycle produces or contains. We do not “come on the scene," nor do we go off it. As a thing, though not in its individual parts of course, we have always been here and always will be. The cosmic context in which our collective being is lived is thus eternal. Time may be marked in this or that linear way concurrently with our more limited existence (for example, “We will gather next Thursday after sunrise”), but in the big picture time is not a measurement that corresponds to progress or, for that matter, regress. It is, rather, only a local marker in the eternal pulsation that is our movement to and from the conflagration.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 208

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Who wins?

God always wins. The last word is always His, as was the first.—Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God, 190

<idle musing>
And we'll leave the book on that note. As I said, a delightful little read. I heartily encourage you to find the time to read it. At less than 200 pages, it's even a manageable read : )
</idle musing>

Saturday, April 15, 2023

The righteous one

What does all this mean? That one is not born a Tzaddik [righteous one]; one must strive to become one. And having become a Tzaddik, one must strive to remain one.—Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God, 167–68

<idle musing>
Add in the power of the Holy Spirit, and I'll endorse that view 100 percent!
</idle musing>

Sustaining grace

541 L. M.
Sustaining grace prayed for.

TAUGHT by our Lord, we will not pray
   Out of the world to be removed;
   But keep us, in our evil day,
   Till patient faith is fully proved.

2 From sin, the world, and Satan’s snare,
   The members of thy Son defend,
   Till all thy character we bear,
   And grace matured in glory end.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Friday, April 14, 2023

He accompanies us

Jacob has just understood a fundamental truth: God is in man, even in suffering, even in misfortune, even in evil. God is everywhere. In every being, not only in the victim. God does not wait for man at the end of the road, the termination of exile; he accompanies him there. More than that: He is the road, He is the exile. God holds both ends of the rope, He is present in every extremity, He is every limit. He is part of Jacob as He is part of Esau.—Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God, 132

And even then…

This inability to live more than one tradition at a time means that in a crucial and, truth be told, rather sobering sense, even the central patterns of reasoning in one tradition—as that tradition understands them—will not be understood in another. Moreover, insofar as we do not participate in the alien tradition we seek to query, we cannot know what it is that we do not know. Short of conversion, we are literally shut out of one by the life we live in another. Rival rationalities are not surmountable by learning.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 204

<idle musing>
And that should make us humble. And cause us to lower our expectations on what we can discover about the past. Part of it will always be unretrievable. No matter how much we dig up or how much we read, the past is still the past and much of it is beyond our grasp.
</idle musing>

It's untranslatable

It would seem to follow, then, that those who have learned a second first language are the best translators. They are those who know how both traditions work and who therefore can put the terms of one into the terms of the other. Maclntyre argues, however, that while there may well be cases where translation of this or that can happen even between divergent traditions, a more significant marker of true traditioned learning is the ability to recognize when translation is impossible, when it’s impossible to say with the words of one tradition what can be said in another (even with all the extensive interpretative glosses and paraphrases that go with the most difficult cases). Precisely because the recognition of “untranslatability presents barriers around or over which no way can be discovered,” those who have learned a second first language become “inhabitants of boundary situations.” They do not blend conflicting traditions into a sort of Esperanto but instead exhibit conflict by means of reasoning on the edges of rival rationalities. Rivalry between traditions, that is, is most profoundly recognized by the fact of untranslatability.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 203

<idle musing>
This makes loads of sense. There are many times when I'm trying to explain something from the ANE/OT/HB and the words and concepts just aren't there in our modern language. No matter how much you try, it just doesn't satisfy. It's untranslatable.
</idle musing>

Labor on in vain

630 L. M.
No success without God’s blessing.

EXCEPT the Lord our labours bless,
   In vain shall we desire success;
   Except his guardian power restrain,
   The watchman waketh but in vain.

2 'Tis useless toil our stores to keep,—
   Early to rise and late to sleep,—
   Unless the Lord, who reigns on high,
   His providential care supply.

3 Grant, Lord, that we may ever flee
   For guidance and for help to thee ;
   Thy blessing ask, whate’er we do,
   And in thy strength our work pursue.
                        William Hiley Bathurst
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Original sin?

The concept of original sin is alien to Jewish tradition. We do not inherit the sins of our fathers, even though we may be made to endure their punishment. Guilt cannot be transmitted. We are linked to Adam only by his memory, which becomes our own, and by his death, which foreshadows our own. Not by his sin.—Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God, 30

<idle musing>
I picked up this book at our local used bookstore. It was on the discount cart for $1.00. I more than got my money's worth. I'm only going to cherry pick a few choice paragraphs from it, but if you ever see a copy, it would be worth your trouble to pick it up. It's not very common in libraries, but I think you can find one at the Internet Archive. Not sure if they still allow you to check it out, what with the court ruling (we won't get into that travesty of justice right now!).

OI, that aside, I find this view of Adam very interesting and have been leaning that way more and more. Once you remove the strongly Augustinian and Reformer-heavy views of the Bible, it seems to be the plain reading of the text. Having said that, there is a lot to be said for the idea of original sin—just remove all the sexual transmission stuff from it.
</idle musing>

A second "first language"

On analogy with learning another language, Maclntyre argues that the only way to learn another tradition is to learn it as a “second first language.” Because traditions are “languages-in-use”—their way of reasoning is inextricably tied to the concrete cultural life of the community that bears the tradition—learning a second first language cannot be done simply by matching sentences from one’s second language to one’s first (as if using a basic-phrase travel guide to a foreign country). Such sentence matching can only produce “tokens,” discrete phrases that can work effectively within very limited circumstances to achieve a desired effect (for example, Wo sind die Toiletten? = Where is the bathroom?). Producing tokens should not be confused with learning a language well enough to move fluidly within the cultural patterns that are the language’s lived expression. Rather, “the learning of a language and the acquisition of cultural understanding are not two independent activities.” If traditions are lived languages, then, they must be “learned as second first languages or not at all."—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 202

<idle musing>
Boy, ain't that the truth! That's why interlinears are worthless. And why trying to learn a language as an exercise in "decoding" is a waste. Languages represent a culture; they express a way of life. I like this idea of learning a culture as a "second first language." Naming it as such makes sense of some of the things I've been noticing in my approach to the ANE and biblical texts.

They are alive in a different way than they used to be. Could it be that finally after almost 45 years I'm starting to internalize some of this stuff? (Well, in fairness, it's been happening for longer than recently, but I just noticed it moreso recently.)
</idle musing>

It's the narrative

This is not at all to say, of course, that we should think of narrative as something that is only in the background of practices, normative judgments, metaphysical accounts of the world, and so forth. Narrative, to the contrary, is present in all layers of a tradition’s particularity (even if inchoate or left unarticulated). Nor should we think of any sort of regular historical order, as if narratives must precede practice or reflective questioning. Again, to the contrary, it could easily be the case that narratives arise in light of questions pertaining to long-established practices (why do we do what we do?) or particular queries about existence, for example (why is the world here rather than not?). But as long as practices make sense and as long as “metaphysical” queries proceed beyond the mere statement of the questions themselves, narratives will be found and/or constructed and (re)told. To put it into terms more familiar to scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity, demonstrating that Paul’s letters have a “narrative substructure” simultaneously elucidates the ground of their possibility as intelligible speech. Which is but another way of saying that even in naming particular texts as Christian or Stoic, We presuppose a narrative that allows us to locate them in just this way.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 200–201

Fixed on God

621 L. M.
Self-dedication to the Lord.

O LORD, thy heavenly grace impart,
   And fix my frail, inconstant heart;
   Henceforth my chief desire shall be
   To dedicate myself to thee.

2 Whate’er pursuits my time employ,
   One thought shall fill my soul with joy:
   That silent, secret thought shall be,
   That all my thoughts are fix’d on thee.

3 Thy glorious eye pervadeth space;
   Thy presence, Lord, fills every place;
   And wheresoe’er my lot may be,
   Still shall my spirit rest with thee.

4 Renouncing every worldly thing,
   And safe beneath thy spreading wing,
   My sweetest thought henceforth shall be.
   That all I want I find in thee.
                           Jean Frederic Oberlin, trans. Lucy Sarah Atkins Wilson
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
I was able to track down some info on the author; you can find it here. Especially interesting is his desire to educate the local populace. And that Oberlin, OH is named after him, which means that Oberlin College is heir to his methods. Fascinating stuff one learns in reading about the authors of hymns, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

It's relational

If, like a complex craft, a tradition of inquiry becomes a tradition only in the course of history and as the participants become aware of their participation in it as participation in a history of particular beliefs, skills, practices, and so on, then narrative is that which renders the history intelligible to its participants as a history of this or that particular kind.

The ability to locate one’s life as a particular mode-of-being-in-the-world, that is, depends upon the story that makes a life locatable in this specific way. By working through a juxtaposition of the narratives that fund the shapes of life called Christian and Stoic, we are thus thinking relationally with that which makes it possible to be Stoic or Christian in the first place.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 199

<idle musing>
So this is the way forward. We'll see how it differs from the typical methodology—and if the results are worth it.
</idle musing>


The self who knows in the way Engberg-Pedersen wants to know is the self who emerged after Descartes and especially Locke, the “disengaged subject.” The “key to this figure,” as Charles Taylor puts it, “is that it gains control through disengagernent.” Not only does the “disengaged self” create a domain that cannot touch him—placing his object of scholarly attention within a framework of objects to be investigated without prior normative commitrnent—he also “takes a stance” toward himself that “takes him out of his normal way of experiencing the world and ourselves.” We posit a self that is beyond the experience of the world that we ourselves have, and imagine the existence of its ability to think. Our disengagement presumes, that is, an objectification of the mind—a thing capable of reasoning quite by itself—that simultaneously alienates us from ourselves. “Modern disengagement,” Taylor rightly notes, “calls us to a separation from ourselves through self-objectification.”—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 196

<idle musing>
He's still deconstructing! Not that he isn't correct, but how much more destruction do we need to lay the edifice low?
</idle musing>

Grateful praise

604 C. M.
Morning: Grateful praise.

LORD of my life, O may thy praise
   Employ my noblest powers,
   Whose goodness lengthens out my days,
   And fills the circling hours.

2 While many spent the night in sighs,
   And restless pains and woes.
   In gentle sleep I closed my eyes,
   And undisturb’d repose.

3 O let the same almighty care
   My waking hours attend;
   From every danger, every snare,
   My heedless steps defend.

4 Smile on my minutes as they roll,
   And guide my future days ;
   And let thy goodness fill my soul
   With gratitude and praise.
                        Anne Steele
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Interestingly, substitutes two verses for verse 2:

2 Preserved by Thine almighty arm,
   I pass the shades of night,
   Serene and safe from every harm,
   And see returning light.

3 When sleep, death's semblance, o'er me spread,
   And I unconscious lay;
   Thy watchful care was round my bed
   To guard my feeble clay.

</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Good advice from Tozer (Tozer for Tuesday)

The way to get Christians together is not to form some kind of political united front but to bring them close to Jesus.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 97

A rival viewpoint

In a far-reaching and crucial respect, the encyclopedic way of knowing is a hermeneutic posture not of enlightened clarification but of contestation and negation. Modern projects of absorption are, in brief, self-deceived. Etic language is not the outside presentation of something inside (emic). It is simply a rival construal of true knowledge.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 195

It's outside our capabilities

Over against the encyclopedic assumptions of modern scholarly discourse, both the Christians and the Stoics say that we cannot see clearly without habituation into their specific traditions of practical thought. The Christians in particular go even farther: ordinary human language is broken, “natural” reason deeply damaged, and the cure for such brokenness and damage out of our reach. To return to blindness: repair of our defective sight is beyond our skills and even our greatest capacities. The only help for our predicament comes, as Paul might put it from an “apocalyptic” intervention—something that is entirely outside ordinary human possibilities.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 195

<idle musing>
I think I see where he's going now. But how is he going to get there??
</idle musing>

A charge to keep

570 S. M.
For diligence and watchfulness.

A CHARGE to keep I have,
   A God to glorify;
   A never-dying soul to save,
   And fit it for the sky.
   To serve the present age,
   My calling to fulfil,—
   O may it all my powers engage,
   To do my Master’s Will.

2 Arm me with jealous care,
   As in thy sight to live;
   And O, thy servant, Lord, prepare,
   A strict account to give.
   Help me to watch and pray,
   And on thyself rely,
   Assured, if I my trust betray,
   I shall forever die.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
This is one of my favorite hymns; it sums up the calling of a Christian very nicely. Most hymnals break it up into four verses instead of two, but no matter. I've noticed that before about this hymnal. I wonder if it was to keep the songleader from destroying the context of a hymn's theology by saying, "Let's sing the first, third, and fourth verses" or some such (a practice I always hated).

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, April 10, 2023

Is an etic look possible?

Just as it does not occur to the encyclopedist that he has mistaken his type of rationality for rationality itself, so it does not occur to the etic linguist that scholarly discourse is not the language of natural reason but only one particular way of thinking about human understanding. And so on. In short, rather than a neutral discourse about things from which we have academic distance, “etic” understanding is a universal claim about the interpretative power of modern scholarship and the unitary rationality that undergirds it. Modern scholarship conducts its comparisons within a more capacious form of reasoning than particular traditions themselves exemplify. There is a larger language in which Stoicism or Christianity can be spoken without substantive loss. 194

<idle musing>
He's still not done deconstructing is he?
</idle musing>

Ye praying souls, rejoice!

561 S. M.
The hearer of prayer.

YE praying souls, rejoice,
   And bless your Father’s Name;
   With joy to him lift up your voice,
   And all his love proclaim.

2 Your mournful cry he hears;
   He marks your feeblest groan,
   Supplies your wants, dispels your fears,
   And makes his mercy known.

3 To all his praying saints
   He ever will attend,
   And to their sorrows and complaints
   His ear in mercy bend.

4 Then let us still go on
   In his appointed ways,
   Rejoicing in his Name alone,
   In prayer and humble praise.
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Interesting that a Google search for this hymn only turns up four hits—and all of them are to this particular hymnal, although two are to a compilation that just lifted the hymns, complete with number and republished them. Consequently, I have no way of knowing if someone, somewhere, has come up with an author for it.
</idle musing>

Excising the parts that don't fit

Modern scholars who believe they are comparing similarity/difference along a spectrum called morality arbitrarily excise certain parts from more densely complicated wholes and name these parts “moral.” What is here obscured is the fact that the ancients did not think they were reflecting upon moral questions or developing disciplines to lead them in moral lives. They thought, instead, that they were reflecting upon and practicing how to live an entire life. It is true that they wrote much about the virtues, of course, but the virtues were exemplified within wider philosophical accounts of how to live. In short, where the modern way of speaking makes one think in terms of a spectrum, or a theme, or a particular area of life along or within which ancient views can be plotted or placed, the ancients did not detach their “moral” thinking from their total lives. To the degree that we compare parts without the density of the whole, we continue to project modern abstractions onto the ancient sources and obscure the fact that what is really juxtaposed in the question of “comparison" is a full way to live. “Morality” in the ancient sense is a specifically traditioned way to live a full human life.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 193

<idle musing>
This is very true. But he still hasn't given us a way forward, has he? He seems to be hinting at one, but it still not obvious to me.
</idle musing>

Sunday, April 09, 2023

The spirit of prayer

556 S. M.
The spirit of prayer.

THE praying spirit breathe!
   The watching power impart;
   From all entanglements beneath,
   Call off my peaceful heart;
   My feeble mind sustain,
   By worldly thoughts oppress’d;
   Appear, and bid me turn again
   To my eternal rest.

2 Swift to my rescue come ;
   Thine own this moment seize;
   Gather my wand’ring spirit home,
   And keep in perfect peace:
   Suffer’d no more to rove
   O’er all the earth abroad,
   Arrest the pris’ner of thy love,
   And shut me up in God.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Pray without ceasing

553 C. M. Pray without ceasing.

SHEPHERD Divine, our wants relieve
   In this our evil day;
   To all thy tempted foll’wers give
   The power to watch and pray.

2 Long as our fiery trials last,-
   Long as the cross we bear,-
   O let our souls on thee be cast
   In never-ceasing prayer.

3 Till thou thy perfect love impart;
   Till thou thyself bestow,
   Be this the cry of every heart,—
   I will not let thee go;—

4 I will not let thee go, unless
   Thou tell thy name to me;
   With all thy great salvation bless,
   And make me all like thee.

5 Then let me on the mountain-top
   Behold thy open face;
   Where faith in sight is swallow’d up,
   And prayer in endless praise.
                          Charles Wesley
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Friday, April 07, 2023

Citing NABU

This is more for my personal reference than anything, so I don't need to search through a million email records to find it. If you find it useful, great.

Nouvelles Assyriologiques Breves et Utilitaires (NABU) is a periodical that publishes short notes (as the title says) four times a year. I've found it cited at least four or five different ways. A few years ago, I consulted SBL about how they recommended citing it. Because I can never remember how or where the email response is filed, I'm putting it here.

Obviously, you need to add NABU to the abbreviations list. Then cite it as Author. "Article title." NABU year.issue: pages, no. ###. E.g.,
Peker, Hasan. “Some Remarks on the Imperial Hittite Sealings from the 2017 Excavations at Karkemish.” NABU 2017.4:178–79, no. 101.

Some presses want you to include a link as well. In this case it is

It would be really nice if NABU would start using DOIs, but meanwhile, we need to do it the long way.

Update (4/7/2023): Here's the link to a comprehensive list of NABU issues along with links to the PDFs of each issue. (I also updated the date of this post.)

Table of Contents for copyediting stuff.

Ancient morality. Did it exist?

The fact that there is no word for morality as such in any ancient or medieval language should already caution us against the assumption that we know what ancient morality in general could be. And, in fact, we do not. The reason is strikingly simple: it did not exist. No one did (or does) conceive or practice morality in general. Just as there is no such thing as religion in general except in the minds of the academics who claim to study it—it does not have beliefs, it does not have practices, it does not have adherents, and so on—there is no such thing as morality in general. Indeed, strictly speaking, we cannot even think it. Morality as such is an abstraction that modern linguistic habits present to us as a possibility for thought; upon inspection, however, it turns out to be impossible to conceive. Try all you’d like; you’ll only be able to come up with particular exernplifications of the thing you think you seek. 192-93

<idle musing>
OK, that's an eye-opening observation. But, again, is there a way forward?

Because it's Friday, I guess we'll have to wait until Monday to find out. This is worse than one of those old serials on TV, where they say, "Tune in tomorrow to find out…"—or worse yet, "Tune in next week"!
</idle musing>

Mistaken assumptions

Engberg-Pedersen’s consistency is admirable, though unsurprising. It is the consistency of the modern encyclopedic view of reason and the power of scholarly knowledge. What Engberg-Pedersen presents as a “natural” or “etic” way of knowing is in fact a historically developed particular epistemological claim of modernity.

The encyclopedia lives on. It would not be difficult to identify similar commitments in the majority of recent comparative work on the Stoics and Christians. Taken as a whole, the body of research by Malherbe and Engberg-Pedersen displays the more fundamental assumptions and intellectual parameters of an entire modern scholarly project—that of mistaking traditions for entries in an encyclopedia.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 191

<idle musing>
So now what? Is there a way forward? There must be, otherwise the book would end here! How and in what way can we move forward?
</idle musing>

What is prayer?

550 C. M.
What is prayer?

PRAYER is the soul’s sincere desire,
   Utter’d or unexpress’d;
   The motion of a hidden fire
   That trembles in the breast.

2 Prayer is the burden of a sigh,—
   The falling of a tear,—
   The upward glancing of an eye,
   When none but God is near.

3 Prayer is the simplest form of speech
   That infant lips can try;
   Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
   The Majesty on high.

4 Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath
   The Christian’s native air;
   His watchword at the gates of death,-
   He enters heaven with prayer.

5 Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
   Returning from his ways;
   While angels, in their songs, rejoice,
   And cry,—Behold, he prays!

6 O Thou, by whom we come to God,
   The Life, the Truth, the Way,—
   The path of prayer thyself hast trod:—
   Lord, teach us how to pray!
                          James Montgomery
                          Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
As I've said before, this guy's biography is inspiring. Oh, and adds two verses, while omitting verse 2:

5 The saints in prayer appear as one,
   in word and deed and mind;
   while with the Father and the Son
   sweet fellowship they find.

6 Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
   the Holy Spirit pleads,
   and Jesus on the eternal throne
   for sinners intercedes.

</idle musing>

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Assuming the model

Jonathan Z. Smith’s classic point is here rejected in favor of the power of scholarly work on ideas. As all comparativists know, Smith argued that the reason things seem similar to scholars is because the comparative models they make require similarity for their intelligibility as comparative tools. Such models do not, however, actually discern similarity as much as presuppose it or, in Smith’s language, invent it through the “associations” that come with the shape of memory. To risk a tautology, then, the basic point of Engberg-Pedersen’s model—that Paul and the Stoics understand the philosophical logic of conversion and progress in the moral life in significantly similar ways—presupposes the philosophical viability of the model itself. Such viability, however, is tied to the encyclopedic view that life is not determinative of thinking as such; it can instead be cordoned off from pure reason, the domain of ideas. In claiming to focus upon “ideas as ideas,” Engberg-Pedersen repeats the encyclopedists’ conviction that reason’s reasons work the same way regardless of the human lives in which they are actually found. Thought is thinkable, that is, in abstraction from life.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 189

<idle musing>
Which, as this chapter has argued, is impossible! Again, still mulling over what this entails.
</idle musing>

Tradition! Tradition!

A tradition of inquiry, for Maclntyre, is thus a morally grained, historically situated rationality, a way of asking and answering questions that is inescapably tied to the inculcation of habits in the life of the knower and to the community that originates and stewards the craft of inquiry through time. Tradition in this sense is the word that best describes the forms of life that were ancient Christianity and Stoicism.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 184

<idle musing>
I could hear the Fiddler on the Roof song, "Tradition! Tradition!," running through my mind as I read this. Of course, he is correct—which has ramifications for what we consider to be scholarship and education, doesn't it? I'm still thinking about what that means, and probably will be for the rest of my life.

But it definitely aligns with Jesus's command to make disciples, doesn't it? Knowledge transfer doesn't transform lives; models do. Not that knowledge transfer isn't important! It definitely is. But in order for that knowledge transfer to stick, it needs to be modeled, which is what this whole chapter is getting at.
</idle musing>

The way of prayer

549 L. M.
Design of prayer.

PRAYER is appointed to convey,
   The blessings God designs to give:
   Long as they live should Christians pray;
   They learn to pray when first they live.

2 If pain afllict, or wrongs oppress;
   If cares distract, or fears dismay;
   If guilt deject; if sin distress;
   In every case, still watch and pray.

3 ’Tis prayer supports the soul that’s weak:
   Though thought be broken, language lame,
   Pray, if thou canst or canst not speak;
   But pray with faith in Jesus’ name.

4 Depend on him; thou canst not fail;
   Make all thy wants and wishes known;
   Fear not; his merits must prevail:
   Ask but in faith, it shall be done.
                           Joseph Hart
                           Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Wednesday, April 05, 2023


Fourth, in the same way that an apprentice learns from a teacher how to acquire the skills needed to practice a craft well, a participant in a tradition requires a teacher of the craft of inquiry. It is true, Maclntyre argues, that there is a resident, Inherent potential for transformation; otherwise, we could not learn what we need to know to take part in a tradition. But not only does a teacher “help actualize” such potential in a particular direction we would not necessarily find ourselves, a teacher is also the concrete authority on what we need to learn. “We shall have to learn” from a teacher, says Maclntyre, “and initially accept on the basis of his or her authority within the community of a craft precisely what intellectual and moral habits it is which we must cultivate and acquire if we are to become . . . participants in such enquiry” (63). Learning the rationality of inquiry is not a matter of striking out on one’s own but of submitting to the judgments of those who have already mastered the craft. In this way, the apprentice makes the “prior commitment" necessary to develop the habits that are prerequisite to becoming a competent member of the craft community (60-63).—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 183 (quotations from Alasdair MacIntyre's 1988 Gifford Lectures)

Wisdom required

That someone would need to be wise in order to read texts well is as far from encyclopedic understanding as it is from modern natural science in which wisdom is not taken to be requisite for interpreting the “behavior” of a proton. And yet it is endemic to the notion of tradition as a craft of inquiry. There is an “understanding of [a tradition’s] texts which becomes available only to the transformed self” (82). But this creates an apparent paradox: “Only insofar as we have already arrived at certain conclusions are we able to become the sort of person able to engage in such enquiry so as to reach sound conclusions” (63). How, then, does such transformation occur?—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 183 (quotations from Alasdair MacIntyre's 1988 Gifford Lectures)

Even so! Come Lord Jesus!

540 C. M.
Come, Lord Jesus.

O JESUS! at thy feet we wait,
   Till thou shalt bid us rise;
   Restored to our unsinning state,-
   To love’s sweet paradise.

2 Saviour from sin, we thee receive,
   From all indwelling sin;
   Thy blood, we steadfastly believe,
   Shall make us throughly clean.

3 Since thou wouldst have us free from sin
   And pure as those above;
   Make haste to bring thy nature in,
   And perfect us in love

4 The counsel of thy love fulfil:
   Come quickly, gracious Lord!
   Be it according to thy will,
   According to thy word.

5 O that the perfect grace were given,
   Thy love diffused abroad:
   O that our hearts were all a heaven,
   Forever fill’d with God.
                          Charles Wesley
                           Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Not new, just a reminder

Usually, a sentence consists of at least two parts. One part is old known information picked out from the previous context or presupposed by the common knowledge of the speaker and addressee. This would be the theme of the sentence. The other part consists of new, added or invoked information. This part would be the rheme of the sentence.—Galia Hatav, "The Infinitive Absolute and Topicalization of Events in Biblical Hebrew," in Advances in Biblical Hebrew Linguistics, ed. Adina Moshavi and Tania Notarius, LSAWS 12 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2017), 214

<idle musing<>
I know, that's not new information, but it's a helpful reminder (see what I did there?).
</idle musing>

Tozer for Tuesday

First, they came “out” of the world. We try to take the world into the church, sanctify it, baptize it, anoint it and try to hide its skulls and crossbones. There must be a coming out; any kind of Christianity, however Orthodox it may sound, that does not major on the doctrine of coming out of the world is inadequate and imperfect.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 95


To be rational, that is, is not to follow reason’s timeless principles but to participate in the tradition’s particular shape of rationality as it has developed through history: “The participant in a craft is rational qua participant insofar as he or she conforms to the best standards of reason discovered so far, and the rationality in which he or she thus shares is always, therefore . . . understood as a historically situated rationality” (64–65). Rationality is thus learning a particularized skill in the midst of time.“—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 182 (quotations from Alasdair MacIntyre's 1988 Gifford Lectures)

An alternative

The genealogical vanquishing of the encyclopedia does not mean, however that every rival has been laid to rest. Indeed, in MacIntyre’s view, tradition can defeat genealogy on its own terms. But a tradition of inquiry is not simply one more version of pure reason’s best workings; it is, rather, more like a craft…—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 182

Nothing beside my God I want

522 C. M.
The exceeding great reward.

THY name to me, thy nature grant!
   This, only this be given!
   Nothing beside my God I want;
   Nothing in earth or heaven.

2 Come, O my Saviour, come away;
   Into my soul descend;
   No longer from thy creature stay,
   My Author and my End.

3 The bliss thou hast for me prepared,
   No longer be delay’d;
   Come, my exceeding great Reward,
   For whom I first was made.

4 Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
   And seal me thine abode;
   Let all I am in thee be lost,
   Let all be lost in God.
                        Charles Wesley
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Monday, April 03, 2023

What? No name?

The preceding considerations show that the way in which the biblical narrator reiers to a given character as speaking or acting subject is not determined solely by accessibility or social status. A factor that is no less important is the position the narrator allocates to this character. The participant who is successful in his undertaking or prevails in the spoken interaction is marked by name and/or title, whereas reference to the character who complies or remains submissive or passive is limited to the verbal form only. In other words, the stylistic shaping of reference is germane to positioning. Positioning by reference, then, is a significant component of the interface between literary theory and the linguistic study of discourse and pragmatics.—Frank Polak, "Participant Tracking, Positioning, and the Pragmatics of Biblical Narrative," in Advances in Biblical Hebrew Linguistics, ed. Adina Moshavi and Tania Notarius, LSAWS 12 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2017), 168–169

<idle musing>
Interesting observation. He comes to this conclusion after a study of the book of Ruth.
</idle musing>

Pick and choose

The genealogist thus does not so much make arguments that go toward anything as he does take a momentary stance, pose as a critic for the time being, adopt a particular posture on a certain stage. For him, there are only masks to be worn, roles to be played, for this or that purpose—according to genealogical desire. The style can therefore be personal, even aphoristic, because the mask that is momentarily worn is particular to the role at this (and not that) moment. Foucault, for example, a master of genealogical inquiry, takes the word author to “name a role or function, not a person, and the use of a particular author’s name discharges this function by assigning a certain status to a piece of discourse” (51). Hence can genealogical inquiry dispense with the consistency that universal rationality requires. Authors are momentary functions, texts words that play this or that role, rationality the “this kind” or “that kind” of the role the words play. If “this kind” fundamentally conflicts with “that kind”—or if we can understand “this kind” but are completely puzzled by “that kind”—so much the better.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 180-81

Can we really understand?

Third, such “as if” academic practice both assumes and continues to transmit the encyclopedic “belief that every rationally defensible standpoint can engage with every other, the belief that, whatever may be thought about incommensurability in theory, in academic practice it can be safely neglected.” There is nothing the university curriculum cannot encompass or absorb into itself, no text or form of life that stands outside the comprehensive capabilities of scholarly study: “The universal translatability of texts from any and every culture into the language of teacher and student is taken for granted. And so is the universality of a capacity to make what was framed in the light of the canons of one culture intelligible to those who inhabit some other quite alien culture, provided only that the latter is our own, or one very like it” (171). The possibility of genuine obstacles to understanding that are endemic to the worlds of both genealogical and traditioned inquiry are completely ignored, treated as if they do not exist. The incomprehensible, the utterly strange to us and our way of knowing—these are systematically denied reality by the framework that prevents the confrontation they require.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 179 (quotations from Alasdair MacIntyre's 1988 Gifford Lectures)

<idle musing>
This chapter has been/is eye-opening to me. He is revealing the shaky foundations upon which the modern idea of knowledge rests. I would recommend this book for this chapter alone!
</idle musing>

The perfect rest

521 C. M.
The perfect rest from sin.

JESUS, my Lord, I cry to thee,
   Against the foe within:
   I want a constant liberty,
   A perfect rest from sin.

2 Thy killing and thy quick’ning power,
   Jesus, in me display;
   The life of nature, from this hour,
   My pride and passion slay.

3 Then, then, my utmost Saviour, raise
   My soul with saints above,—
   To serve thy will, and spread thy praise,
   And sing thy perfect love.
                        Charles Wesley
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Perfect peace

516 5th P. M. 4 lines 7s.
Perfect peace.

PRINCE of peace, control my will;
   Bid this struggling heart be still;
   Bid my fears and doubtings cease,-
   Hush my spirit into peace.

2 Thou hast bought me with thy blood,
   0pen’d wide the gate to God:
   Peace I ask—but peace must be,
   Lord, in being one with thee.

3 May thy will, not mine, he done;
   May thy will and mine be one:
   Chase these doubtings from my heart;
   New thy perfect peace impart.

4 Saviour! at thy feet to fall;
   Thou my life, my God, my all!
   Let thy happy servant be
   One forever more with thee!
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>, which attributes it to Mary Ann Serrett Barber, has this to say about the authorship:

The text of this hymn has also been attributed to Mary Dana Shindler, 1810-1853, an American poet and hymn writer. However, the poem first appeared in the March 3, 1838 edition of Church of England Magazine. Mary Ann Serrett Barber, who was born in England, had many of her poems published in this magazine.

The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church: an annotated edition of the Methodist Hymnal by Charles S. Nutter and Wilbur F. Tillett (Eaton and Mains, 1911)

Whoever wrote it, it is a marvelous hymn.
</idle musing>

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Whate'er offends

318 C. M.
The garner of God.

COME, thou omniscient Son of man,
   Display thy sifting power;
   Come, with thy Spirit’s winn’wing fan,
   And throughly purge thy floor.

2 The chaff of sin, the’ accursed thing,
   Far from our souls be driven;
   The wheat into thy garner bring,
   And lay us up for heaven.

3 Whate’er offends thy glorious eyes,
   Far from our hearts remove;
   As dust before the whirlwind flies,
   Disperse it by thy love.

4 Then let us all thy fulness know,
   From every sin set free;
   Saved to the utmost, saved below,
   And perfected in thee.
                        Charles Wesley
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)