Have a merry Christmas and a happy Christmas

Two years ago, I did a post on the difference between “merry Christmas” and “happy Christmas.” (It has mainly to do, I argued, with the difference between American English, which tends to retain older constructions, such as “merry,” and British English, which favors “happy,” supposedly due to Victorian-era qualms against carousing at Christmas, which “merry” suggested.)

Anyway, if you google this topic, my post will be the first one listed.  For the last few days, thousands of people from around the world who have been wondering abut this odd English usage have done that search and have come to my post.  My readership statistics have skyrocketed.

Most of those readers have found the information they were looking for and won’t be back.  For those of you who are coming back, welcome.

But I especially want to address you long-term readers.  I feel like I know a lot of you.  I appreciate your hanging around here, sticking with us through platform changes and commenting software experiments.  I want to wish all of you both a merry Christmas and a happy Christmas.  And all blessings in the incarnation of our Lord.

Here is what I’ll do.  For every season’s greeting posted in the comments, I will give you a Christmas present:  A top “like this” rating on World Table.  (I have a score in the 90s, so my rating will carry a lot of weight.)


Live commentary on the Republican debate

Let me make this prediction before the debate begins:  The candidates will be asked some version of the question that kicked off the first debate:  Will you support the Republican presidential nominee?  Back then the question was designed to see if Donald Trump would support the others.  Now it will be designed to see if the others would support Donald Trump.

But it could have other ramification also.  Both Trump and Ben Carson have said they would consider running as Independents if they don’t get the nomination.  If those two, upon being asked my predicted question, refuse to commit to the eventual nominee, the GOP establishment could use that as a pretext to keep them from participating in party events, possibly even the convention.  The other candidates, if they are canny, will just say that they have already made that commitment in the first debate, whatever they think of Trump as the nominee.  But they are hoping that the question gets asked and that Trump and Carson will say “no.”

Intrigue.  Strategy.  Wheels within wheels.  This kind of thing is why politics makes such a good spectator sport.  Whatever the ramifications for our poor country.

But let’s attend to the debate.  Please comment!  Don’t make me do all the work!

More on the top 25 most influential spiritual classics

The editor of Christian History, Jennifer Woodruff Tait, wrote me about our post on that magazine’s list of the top 25 most influential spiritual classics.  She wanted to reply to some of your comments, but got tangled up in World Table (!!!), so I said I’d pass along what she said:

Thanks for featuring the issue!!

I’d love to respond to some of your commenters but I have no idea how to make the World Table comment system work. If it was still Disqus I would just go in and respond as the magazine.

Can you tell folks: We did not ask people to rank a list. We just wrote and asked them to list their top 5. The list that is there arose organically out of those responses.  The “others we love” from the top 100 were chosen by me specifically to address gender and racial imbalances [because honestly, everything that was mentioned was pretty awesome] and I still wish I had thought more about the need to include Orthodox writers.
[Read more…]

New comment system updates

Jack Donaldson reports on changes to the World Table comment system, thanks to your input.  Some of them (e.g., bigger and more legible font; ability to get e-mail notifications) have been implemented.  He also gives the status of other, more important changes that they are working on.  Read what he says after the jump. [Read more…]

Commenting standards have been set

OK, friends, to give the new World Table comment system a true tryout, we’ve set the parameters.  You will need a rating of over 40 to comment or give ratings.  Comments with a cumulative negative or strongly negative rating will collapse, though readers can click and read them if they want to.

Now that the standards have been set, it’s time to stop playing around by purposefully giving or earning bad ratings to see what will happen.  There will be real consequences, and they will be hard to reverse.  I can still ban people outright, which I will do in the case of troll attacks, as well as blatant attempts to punish people you don’t like.  Instead of just giving a post you don’t approve of the extreme worst ratings in every category, use some nuance and be fair.  (You may not find our resident liberal gadfly’s comment to be “helpful,” but he is seldom disrespectful and is nearly always honest.  To rate otherwise is bearing false witness.)  Again, I can ban people, but I can’t bring them back from the phantom zone if they fall below 40.

As for facilitating discussion, I am told that we will be getting the option of chronological order.  (Also the option of ordering by strength of rating.  As well as by latest first, for readers who want.)  World Table has been hearing your complaints and is taking them seriously, promising refinements accordingly.

Whether or not Patheos will adopt this system permanently and for all of its blogs or if blog authors will have a choice are all open questions.  But let’s give it a chance.

The 1st use of the Law and the new commenting system

We theology nerds talk quite a bit about the Second Use of the Law (the theological use, the “mirror,” which convicts us of sin and drives us to the Gospel), and we argue about the Third Use of the Law (the didactic use, the “guide,” which shows Christians how to live).  We don’t usually say much about the First Use of the Law (the civil use, the “curb,” which enables sinners to live in societies).

The First Use of the Law concerns only external righteousness.  There is no merit to it, no question of earning salvation by external compliance.  Jesus teaches us that we violate the commandment against murder when we hate our brother, and we violate the commandment against adultery when we lust after someone in our hearts.  That inner state is where our status as sinners is evidenet, and it is this inner condition that the Gospel addresses.  But it is also important not to murder anyone externally or to actually commit adultery.  This external righteousness is absolutely necessary if human beings are to live together in families, nations, and societies.  Even someone boiling over with sinfulness on the inside can, on the outside, be a good citizen.

Our sinful nature has to be “curbed.”  The Law achieves this by means of things like parental discipline, the state’s legal system, and social sanctions.  The Law’s first use can make us feel guilt and shame.  We would be ashamed to actually do some of the things we fantasize about.  Many harmful enterprises are held back when the question arises, What if someone finds out?  Being held back by such considerations does not make us a moral person–we shouldn’t have had those fantasies in the first place–but they make civil society possible. [Read more…]