Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

C. S. Lewis Bible to be Released (

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20th, 2010 by Christopher – Be the first to comment

C. S. Lewis Bible to be Released.

Reading about European Exceptionalism in the Middle Ages (A brief comment)

Posted in education, reading on June 7th, 2010 by Christopher – Be the first to comment

At the Catholic literary journal Dappled Things, Hugo-nominated sci-fi writer Michael Flynn puts to rest the myth that Christianity held back science during medieval times, and shows how it was rather the opposite that was true:

The philosophers of the “Age of Reason” called the Middle Ages the “Age of Faith,” and claimed that because “God did it!” was the answer to everything, no one searched for natural laws. Some have since imagined a “war” between science and religion, and accused the medievals of suppressing science, forbidding medical autopsies, and burning scientists. Bad times for science and reason!

Or was it? In fact, the Middle Ages were steeped in reason, logic, and natural philosophy. These subjects comprised virtually the entire curriculum of the universities.

Come on: “Steeped in reason, logic, and natural philosophy?” While I have no doubt “these subjects comprised virtually the entire curriculum of the universities” such a suggestion of steepness seems to imply that the majority of Europeans attended universities in the Middle Ages—a steep slope of argument much too slippery for my meager, Middle American footing.

The Age of Faith and Reason » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Nurturing Apathy (After Reading About the Textbooks of Texas)

Posted in Books, education on March 10th, 2010 by Christopher – Be the first to comment

The dead can be read by allstill, the literary lives of Texans continue to decay.

After reading posts on both the Houston Chronicles Texas on the Potomac Blog, “
Poll: 30% of Texans Believe Humans and Dinosaurs Lived Together” and Paul Burka’sDispatches in the Evolution at Texas Monthly‘s political blog, Bookbread now finds comfort in:

  • the certainty that our state’s educational standards will continue to erode.
  • knowing that anyone passing through the twenty-first century public school systems of Texas will never produce a work of literature worth reading, or discover a finding in science worth reviewing, or engineer a stack of Lincoln logs worth burning.
  • knowing that there’s nothing to be gained by keeping twenty-first century students latched inside the public school systems of Texas.

After reading Russell Shorto’s article of the New York Times: “How Christian Were the Founders?Bookbread should point out that it doesn’t matter how Christian the founders were, or the amount of Christian-ness that Texans claim the founders had because that great avenger, Apathy, assures us that whatever is taught will not be learned.

After reading an editorial in the Beaufort Observer, Spanish on State Websites“, Bookbread must note: What does it matter? If a fiscally broke state (such as North Carolina or Texas) has no government services to offer its citizens, who cares in what language such denials-of-service come packaged? Aren’t folks free to let Google auto-translate the articulations of government inefficiencies should they feel the need?

After reading Sara Mead at Eduwonk and her article “I Will Avoid Putting a Silly Headline Here About Messing With Texas“:

I tend to agree with Tom Vander Ark that some of the issues specific to the Texas Board of Ed’s ability to dictate the content of the nation’s textbooks through its textbook adoption process will eventually be rendered obsolete by evolutions in digital learning and print-on-demand–which will also be good things more generally for the quality of instructional materials in schools, not to mention children’s backs as they’ll have fewer ginormous [sic] textbooks to lug around.

Bookbread has yet to put his faith in evolutions in digital learning and print-on-demand“—because regardless of the rate of evolution for digital printing, who’s to say whether such a rate will (or ever has) correlated with the rate of demand for print-on-demand? Who’s to say the rate of demand for print-on-demand products won’t perpetually decrease even as the rate of evolution for digital products continues to increase?

After reading Gary Scharrer of the San Antonio ExpresssGovernor Candidates Silent on School Reform“, Bookbread comprehends how stagnation remains the status quo for the public school systems of Texas. Thankfully, such comprehension comes as no surprise, for we Texans have always cherished our love affair with apathy. After all, both individuals and states cannot remain independent when they lack apathy for others.

“Ion” and the Role of the Reciter in Twenty-First Century America

Posted in Criticism on January 30th, 2010 by Christopher – Be the first to comment

One of the first questions that comes to mind after reading Plato’s Ion (380 B.C.E.) is: What is the role of the reciter or “rhapsode” in modern America? According to Plato:

[No] man can be a rhapsode who does not understand the meaning of the poet. For the rhapsode ought to interpret the mind of the poet to his hearers, but how can he interpret him well unless he knows what he means? [01]

On the surface, it seems that Ion, as a reciter, has no equivalent counterpart in our America of the twenty-first century. Once upon a time, the role of the rhapsode was to recite Homer, which, in a sense, was the Hellenic Bible.

Like the ancients, the inhabitants of the information age can lay hold to two general types of reciters: the religious and the secular. Religious ones recite the religious texts of their sect whether Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, or Catholic. Plato confides to Ion:

[For] not by art does the poet sing, but by power divine … God takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets. [02]

The religious reciter is inevitably a theologian, a word inescapably Greek.

Albert Mohler, a modern theologian and current president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has recently reported on a British survey in the [London] Times on the state of the kingdom’s preachers. He concluded his post “How Will They Hear Without a Preacher?” (Jan. 2010) by claiming that: “preaching is the central act of Christian worship,” and that the “preaching of the Word of God is the chief means by which God conforms Christians to the image of Christ.” [03]

On the other hand, the Hellenic heritage of Plato holds:

All good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed … God himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. [04]

But what kind of preaching is Mohler interested in sustaining (perhaps reviving) for modern American religious rhaposdes? Principally, Mohler means “preaching that is expository, textual, evangelistic, and doctrinal. In other words, preaching that will take a lot longer than ten minutes and will not masquerade as a form of entertainment.” [05]

If someone should masquerade as a form of entertainment while reciting a text, most modern Americans would label that person (provided they used Bookbreads diction) a “secular rhapsode.” These Modern, secular rhapsodes recite popular movies, game lines, or popular song lyrics as seen on American Idol. Others come in the form of actors, as when last summer William Shatner recited a speech first given by Sarah Palin.

In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history . . . a reciter, such as Plato’s Ion, was a middle-man between the true poet and the audience/readership. These true poets (i.e. Homer, Sappho, David, Taliesin) might better be understood as “sub-poets” considering how Plato reduces these rhapsodes to be “interpreters of interpreters,” [06]. Homer, poet a priori, has already interpreted life and thereby created art. Rhapsodes must, in turn, interpret the original interpreter.

Elaboration for this idea of a sub-poet can be found in Dante’s suggestion in the Divine Comedy (1321) where he comments on the arts of man as being the grandchildren of God (Inferno, Canto XI, 103–105):

And, if thou note well thy Physics, thou wilt find, not many pages from the first, that your art, as far as it can, follows her, as the scholar does his master; so that your art is, as it were, the grandchild of the Deity. [07]

Likewise runs Tolkien’s idea of the true poet as a sub-creator, found in his essay On Fairy Stories (1939):

The story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator”. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. [08]

Mohler, moreover, notes in his interpretation of the [London] Times preaching survey:

Evangelicals were most enthusiastic about preaching, while others registered less appreciation for the preached Word. Interestingly, [Ruth] Gledhill reports that “Baptists and Catholics were also more enthusiastic about the Bible being mentioned in sermons than were Anglicans and Methodists.” [09]

Finally, Canadian critic Northrop Frye once observed in The Anatomy of Criticism (1957) how:

Ion, which is centered on the figure of a minstrel or rhapsode, sets forth both the encyclopedic and the memorial conceptions of poetry which are typical of the romantic mode. [10]

There seems to be a bit of romanticism hinted at by Plato when he concludes the dialogue of Ion by asking: “Which do you prefer to be thought, dishonest or inspired?” [11]. Dare it be asked: Can the dilemma of the modern romantic rhapsode be reduced to a question of dishonesty versus inspiration?

[01] Plato. “Ion.” The Dialogues of Plato Translated into English. Trans. B. Jowett.  Third Edition. (1892). Oxford UP. Vol. 1. pp. 497.

[02] Ibid. pp. 502.

[03] Mohler, Albert. “How Will They Hear Without a Preacher?” January 20, 2010.

[04] Supra. n. 01, pp. 501–502.

[05] Supra. n. 03.

[06] Supra. n. 01, pp. 503.

[07] Alighieri, Dante. “Canto XI.” Inferno. The Divine Comedy. (1321). Dantes Divine Comedy: Inferno. trans. by John A. Carlyle. Second Edition. (1867). Chapman & Hall, London. pp. 128.

[08] Tolkien, J. R. R.. On Fairy Stories. (1939). The Andrew Lang Lecture. March 8, 1939. The Monsters and the Critics – the Essays of J. R. R. Tolkien. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. (1983) (2006) Harper Collins. pp. 132.

[09] Supra. n. 03.

[10] Frye, Northrop. The Anatomy of Criticism. (1957). Princeton UP. Tenth Printing (1990). pp. 65.

[11] Supra. n. 1, pp. 511.

Writing and Selling Textbooks in Texas

Posted in Books, writing on January 13th, 2010 by Christopher – Be the first to comment

From the Washington Monthly via Little Green Footballs:

As [Texas] goes through the onceinadecade process of rewriting the standards for its textbooks, the [Creationist] faction is using its clout to infuse them with ultraconservative ideals.

An unstated assumption in the above article from Mariah Blake implies that well-written textbooks might have a positive effect on the lives of American public school students.

That assumption might hold true for well-written “books” but not for the tautological tangles found in a composite term such as “textbook.” (If a text can exist as a book, and a book can exist a text, a textbook is a tautology, no?)

But even if Blake’s assumption were true, one must still ask: Why not let Creationists and book publishers conduct a social experiment financed by voter’s property taxes? Why not let them run their liberal scheme which uses the public schools for their laboratories? What’s wrong with exercising the determination (even after their savior warned them otherwise, i.e. John 18:36) to built a Creationist publishing kingdom that rules over America’s public schools? Perhaps they are already predestined to try.

The Creationists might all worship the same god, but if they can’t even agree upon which building they want to talk about him in, why should any citizen or student of Texas expect a Creationist-approved textbook to exhibit any kind of moral influence on their behavior and thinking? Even if the textbook in question specifically concerns creation and Christianity, no Creationist textbook editor or team of editors will ever produce anything about American Christianity teachable, memorable, or influential to students because of the religion’s vast and various theologies, denominations, spin-offs, creeds, sects. Students–even those most enthusiastic, most receptive to ANY kind of Creationist and/or Christian eduction–would encounter at best, a gray haze.

Blake further fails to mention that there was never a time in Texas history when some faction wasnt:

using its clout to infuseultraconservative ideals.

And because Blake seems to assume that some Great Liberal/Progressive Era of Texas once existed, her report can permit such farcical, absolute statements like:

never before has the boards right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the states standards [for textbooks].

When did the right wing not have power in the State of Texas (including power over the state’s standards for textbooks)? Really, when was this?

While Don McLeroy and the Creationists’ liberal experiment stands doomed to fail (predestined, if you will), the rest of the nation can take comfort in knowing that Texas Tradition (or Conservatism, or Creationism, or whatever they’re calling it this week) will continue, will abide, will endure and insure that no graduate of the state’s public school system will ever receive a Nobel Prize for any branch of science or work of literature (much less be nominated). Perhaps that is predestined also.

Surely there are more interesting ways to waste property-taxes other than buying shoddy schoolbooks. Surely Texans have not lost complete creativity in that regard. So first thing’s first. It’s time to say bon voyage to NASA. “Adios, all you asshole astronomers!” because to continue maintaining the National Aeronautic and Space Administration within the State of Texas makes about as much sense as opening up a sausage shop in the middle of Mecca.


The context of the post above is limited to the medium of textbooks only. But as John Derbyshire observes over at National Reviews The Corner, if textbooks can’t quite indoctrinate students, electronic media certainly can:

The Children’s Hour [John Derbyshire]

The Hamas TV channel, those jolly folk that gave us Farfur, the Jew-hating Mickey Mouse clone, are at it again:

Hamas’ terrorist TV channel — which routinely indoctrinates kids by portraying Israelis as ghouls — is launching a new cartoon series that depicts another enemy, the Palestinian Authority police.

A pilot episode shows a toadyish Palestinian officer watching as a Jewish character machine-guns a group of West Bank children to death and drinks their blood. “You killed our children before my eyes,” the officer says meekly. “I will respond with even more peace.”

But wait — who’s this? Why, it’s al-Bahni the purple dinosaur! Come on, sing along now, children. You all know the tune:

I love death, death loves me,
Martyrdom will make us free . . .

UPDATE II: I concede to Blake that an instance of a kind of Great Liberal/Progressive Era in Texas, and probably more progressive than liberal, is mentioned somewhere in Robert Caro’s The Path to Power (1982) (to which I have on loan at the moment). I seem to remember, in the context of LBJ’s first campaign for Congress in TX District 10, someone quoted for the farmers political movement of the Texas Hill Country as having said:   “You have to remember that Roosevelt was a kind of God around here,” however, in the context of the quote, LBJ was struggling in his campaign despite Roosevelt being “a kind of God” to poor, progressive farmers.