Showing posts from January, 2012

The Cursing of Cain

As a vegetarian, it always seemed to me that Cain got a bum rap (Genesis 4:2-16).  There he was, a "tiller of the ground," bringing to the Lord an offering of the "fruit of the ground," while Abel, a "keeper of sheep," brought "of the firstlings of his flock and of his fat portions."  "And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard." Which, understandably, pissed Cain off ("So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell"), at which the Lord said to Cain: "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."  And so, still incensed, Cain invited his brother Abel to go out into the field with him, where he killed him.  At which the Lord set this punishment upon Cain, that when he tilled the ground, it should no longer

Window of Opportunity

I have just over an hour before I need to get ready to go to fencing.  I'm tired after walking the Dragon Baby home in the wind and the snow and I could really use a bit of time to eat and maybe read a bit more of David Bentley Hart .  But I also want to write because I know that I won't have another chance like this until Thursday at the earliest, and then only if I take this same hour or so between getting home from work and getting in the car to drive to my club.  It would be so much easier just to take my cup of tea, open my iPad, and read, rather than trying to marshal some of the thoughts swirling around in my head into some order.  But then I won't have written on my blog in nearly a week.  Should I really squander this opportunity to write just because I'm tired? Of course, part of the problem, as always , is that I have plenty to say, I just don't know whether I should say it.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I am worried that I can't find a way of sayin

Ready, Set, ...Write!

I can't.  I'm too tired.  I have nothing to say.  No, as usual, that's not quite true.  Thanks to the reading I've been doing these past four or so weeks , I have much, too much to say.  If only I knew where to start.  If only. I am tired.  Truly.  It's the second week of term, and I'm teaching a wholly new course on education in the Middle Ages.  I know, I know, it was the Dark Ages, they didn't have any education.  Which, of course, isn't true.  They had loads.  Only--and here's the embarrassing thing--even we medievalists don't spend enough time thinking about what medieval people (i.e. school children) learned in school.  In particular, we don't spend enough time thinking about grammar.  And logic.  And rhetoric.  A.k.a. the trivium . I know I don't.  I'm embarrassed that my Latin isn't stronger than it is.  Even after almost a full year of working on my translation of John of Garland .  Still I have so much to learn.  An

The Awesome Subversiveness of Christian Teaching (a.k.a. Doctrine)

"It should be uncontroversial (though, given the mood of the times, it probably is not) to say that if the teachings of Christianity were genuinely to take root in human hearts--if indeed we all believed that God is love and that we ought to love our neighbors as ourselves--we should have no desire for war, should hate injustice worse than death, and should find indifference to the sufferings of others impossible.  But, in fact, human beings will continue to make war, and to slay the innocent and the defenseless with cheerful abandon; they will continue to distract themselves from themselves, and from their mortality, and from morbid boredom by killing and dying on a magnificent scale, and by exulting in their power to destroy one another.  And human society will continue, in various times and places, to degenerate into a murderous horde, even if it remains so civilized as to depute the legal, political, and military machineries of the state to do its murdering for it.  "In

Getting Medieval on the New Atheists, Max Weber, and Everybody Else Who Believes that Religion and Science Are Incompatible

"Most scientists and other scholars are unfamiliar with the intellectual scaffolding that reveals the compatibility between all scientific findings and a conception of God as radically transcendent creator of all that exists.  In Christianity, this is understood to be the same God who became incarnate in Jesus and worked miracles.  Shielded from having to engage the issues by the specialization of academic disciplines and supersessionist conceptions of history, most secular scholars and scientists seem as well to be unfamiliar with the historical genesis of their own contrary beliefs, which are neither self-evident nor evident.  Hence one reason for this chapter, which has sought to shed light on the historical genealogy of both positions and to note their presence within contemporary Western hyperpluralism.  The chapter has sought to expose the widespread but mistaken assumption that modern science has rendered revealed religion untenable.  What is more, it is certain that all p

What I learned in school today

While talking about Dorothy Sayers' argument in favor of reviving the medieval educational model of the trivium : 1)  She's right.  We should be teaching grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric as the tools of learning, not worrying about false dichotomies between the "sciences" and the "humanities" (both "subjects" in her terms, not "tools"). 2)  We would be much better off thinking of teaching in terms of the medieval scholastic practice of disputatio --defining terms, distinguishing parts of our argument, testing our reasoning on the basis of syllogisms--rather than claiming we are teaching by the "Socratic method," whatever that is.  3)  Thinking about teaching and learning as exercises in developing tools makes it possible to correct our students (and ourselves) without worrying about hurting anybody's feelings because it makes one's corrections concrete ("You need to define your terms," "There is a fa

And then the dog came and lay down on my feet

2011 was quite a year.  I feel obliged in some way to memorialize it, think through all of the things that I have accomplished since this time last year, but I've been stalling all day, wondering what I could possibly say that I haven't said already.  My family (natal, that is, not immediate) has been going through some fairly interesting (read: transformative, difficult, painful, enlightening) times, and there were a flurry of emails yesterday and today recalling (obliquely) all that has passed.  My brother, my sister, my mother, my mother's partner, they've all been through quite a lot of tough stuff.  But me?  Well, I've just spent the year learning to see. Which I can now, most of the time.  It's been nearly twelve months since my surgery and, for the most part, my eyes are fairly stable now.  I don't have to put drops in every other minute or even (which I did have to through most of the summer) every hour on the hour, but usually only wh