Weekly Meanderings

Not Chicago

Reviews that missed the mark. “Many pioneering artists have endured abuse from critics and naysayers. But once in a blue moon, time brings acceptance and acclaim, making those early detractors look silly to future generations. Check out how the following works—whose ‘classic’ status now seems self-evident—were once butchered by the Simon Cowells of yesteryear.”

What say you? “Washington (CNN) Liberty University students and alumni are accusing the Christian school of violating its own teachings by asking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose adherents are called Mormons, to deliver its 2012 commencement address. By Friday morning, more than 700 comments had been posted on the school’s Facebook page about the Thursday announcement – a majority of them decidedly against the Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.’s invitation, citing that the school had taught them Mormonism isn’t part of the Christian faith.”

Roger Olson compares the emerging movement and the Jesus People movement. J.K.A. Smith on Pete Enns on Adam and Eve, and J.R. Daniel Kirk on J.K.A. Smith on Pete Enns on Adam and Eve.

Writing with the lighting … opening post by Ryan. I like his emphasis on humans as co-creators.

Frank Viola proposes a solution to “thorn in the flesh”: what do you think?

The 13 Most Useless College Majors. Students, don’t listen to this kind of stuff… spread your net widely, but let your passions and calling shape your Major.

Kent Annan: “The initial Kony 2012 video bent some of these Golden Rule principles for communicating—but was made out of love and commitment to people who are suffering. In that way, the video is a bit like all of us: good, flawed, a mix of sinner and saint. Perhaps these principles can lead to conversations with the people you tell stories about. Are they okay with how you’re telling their stories? What is the most respectful approach that can build trust? Do they understand where you’ll tell the stories and what kind of action is being invited? This open exchange can actually become part of the story of justice we’re trying to achieve together. And that’s a story worth living.”

William Lane Craig responds to Stephen Law’s criticisms of the existence of Jesus. Some apologists will really like this piece by Richard Carrier, who tears into Bart Erhman.

There’s a dustup among the Reformed again, this time John Frame vs. “Escondido” theology. Here is Michael Horton’s response

Meanderings in the News

A satire on the death of facts by Rex W. Huppke: “A quick review of the long and illustrious career of Facts reveals some of the world’s most cherished absolutes: Gravity makes things fall down; 2 + 2 = 4; the sky is blue. But for many, Facts’ most memorable moments came in simple day-to-day realities, from a child’s certainty of its mother’s love to the comforting knowledge that a favorite television show would start promptly at 8 p.m.  Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people’s lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.” To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.”

College graduate and employment: “WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.  A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge. Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans. An analysis of government data conducted for the Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees. Opportunities for college graduates vary widely. While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages. Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.” The numbers look like this: ” About 1.5 million, or 53.6%, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41%, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields. Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.”

Graduated tuition prices: “A growing number of public universities are charging higher tuition for math, science and business programs, which they argue cost more to teach — and can earn grads higher-paying jobs. More than 140 public universities now use “differential tuition” plans, up 19% since 2006, according to research from Cornell’s Higher Education Research Institute. That number is increasing as states cut higher-education spending and schools try to pay for expensive technical programs.”

Better news: “And Mr. Parthasarathi’s story is not an isolated one: In recent years, New York’s colleges and universities have ratcheted up their commitment to supporting budding entrepreneurs. With courses, mentoring, networking and cash awards, they are growing crops of would-be entrepreneurs that they say are far better prepared than their predecessors. One of the latest manifestations of the trend: the February launch, by Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, of an entrepreneurship lab that aims to facilitate collaborations between students in schools as diverse as nursing and business. “The idea is that it will involve all Pace students and faculty from all the schools,” said Bruce Bachenheimer, director of the lab and of Lubin’s entrepreneurship program. “We’re stressing an interdisciplinary, hands-on experience to find new ways to solve difficult problems.”

John Naughton continues the academic journal controversy: “As one of the characters in George Bernard Shaw’s play The Doctor’s Dilemma observes: “All professions are conspiracies against the laity.” To update the observation for a contemporary audience, simply replace the term “professions” with “publishers of academic journals” and you’ve got it in one. For, without the knowledge of the general public, a racket of monumental proportions has been milking the taxpayer for decades. It works like this. If you’re a researcher in any academic discipline, your reputation and career prospects are largely determined by your publications in journals of mind-bending specialisation – likeTetrahedron, a journal specialising in organic chemistry and published by the Dutch company Elsevier. Everything that appears in such journals is peer-reviewed – that is to say, vetted by at least two experts in the field. This is the main quality-assurance mechanism used in scientific research, and it’s what sets scholarly publication apart from most other forms of publishing.”

Apart from the fact that no monasteries are 4000 yrs old, here’s an interesting little clip: “Welcome to the place where the language in which Jesus Christ spoke is still alive,” Sister Georgette, clad in black robes, told this visiting IANS correspondent, ushering us into the Convent of St. Serge, a 4,000-year-old monastery that sits atop a rock cliff 5,000 feet above sea level. Inside the elegantly restored Byzantine interiors are icons of Christ, his face ennobled by suffering and redemptive suffering for mankind, and the Virgin Mary. In front of the altar, she recites “The Lord’s Prayer” in Aramaic. Malula is among three neighbouring villages where Aramaic is still spoken by around 18,000 inhabitants. The other two places which boast of a living linguistic connection with Christ are Bakhaa and Jabadeen.”

Monthly physician payments: “Family physician Steven Butdorf of Eugene, Ore., was tired of rushing patients through appointments, tired of insurers denying procedures, and tired of paperwork.  “The burden of third-party health insurance reached a point where it just wasn’t fun to do it anymore. It was burdensome to do it,” said Butdorf, 56. “I just decided I was going to pursue a different path.” On Feb. 1, Butdorf opened Exceptional Health Care, which lets patients pay a set monthly fee in return for specific health care services — leaving out insurance companies altogether. The clinic is the first to be certified under a new Oregon law allowing so-called retainer practices. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, requires such practices to register with the state, but exempts them from insurance regulations.”

Casey Schwartz interviews Stuart Firestein on the value of ignorance: “In his new book, Ignorance, neuroscientist Stuart Firestein goes where most academics dare not venture. Firestein openly confesses that he and the rest of his field don’t really know that much, relatively speaking. And what’s more, knowing itself, he argues, is highly overrated. Firestein, who is chairman of the biology department at Columbia University, talks to The Daily Beast about the joy of turning our backs on certitude.”

Kevin Nelson, the brain, and spirituality: “Some people fear that when science explains how the brain participates in spiritual experience, science also simultaneously explains the experience away. This fear of science surprises me some ways. After all, faithful Christians believe in the divine inspiration of scriptures written by Matthew the disciple of Jesus. Yet, few seem troubled that when Matthew wrote the scripture he must have used the same portions of brain that we use for everyday language, the very regions you are using now. So too spiritual experience uses everyday portions of the brain, or other portions reserved for crisis. Of course science can’t explain everything about the brain, including spirituality. Beyond science’s boundaries we discover faith. When transcending science’s limits, we must keep in mind that like knowledge, faith too resides within the brain since nothing is known of experience outside the brain.”

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  • The Carrier piece is fascinating. Do you have a view on him, and/or know of any helpful responses to the more historically responsible mythicism he is championing? He does not seem to be the sort of crank that usually writes about Jesus not existing …

  • Andrew, I don’t know of him though I’ve seen a piece or two online. I think he’s an atheist, and perhaps a part of the new atheism tribe.

  • DRT

    I got a fact from Ben Witherington’s site this morning (but he published it some time ago)

    111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987, 654,321

    I like that.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Well, after reading Smith critique of Enn and Kirk’s defense of him (Smith and Kirk seem to be dancing around each other), let me focus on Smith’s critique. I think people need to understand that Smith is not as much criticizing Enn’s overall views as “how he gets there.” But after saying that, it does seem to me that Smith’s critiques at times are strained.

    For example, divine and human meaning appeals could critique anyone as far as how to hold these two in tension and balance. Smith’s critique of Enn’s not having a sufficient Christo-centric hermeneutic reading of Scripture seems off base as well. Although I am not sure Enn’s pits Paul against Genesis as Smith suggests it seems to be on mark that Enn’s never deals with the divine author’s meaning exceeding the human author’s meaning or intention. Scholars call this the “sensus plenior” of Scripture and I am not aware of Enn’s really dealing with this issue from his studies.

    Lastly, Smith blungeon’s Enns for not having what Richard Hay’s calls a “ecclesiocentric” hermeneutic which is grounded in the worship and practices of the church. The irony is Enn’s, Smith, and Hay’s all probably have their own revised understandings of Genesis as well (compared to what people think of “traditional” interpretations of Genesis). But this brings up the issue that even relates to the conference Scot is going to in Lincoln Illinois (the seminary I graduated from 🙂 on historical criticism.

    I think there are some huge blinders or problems with much of contemporary Christian scholarship whether somebody is from the theological right or left. Historically, both Jewish and Catholic exegesis understood four levels of meaning within Scripture. I think Smith is right in one sense that we have lost something in our modern “flattened” hermeneutics today. Whether that be the conservative Evangelicals “literal-historical” approach which is very one dimensional or progressive Evangelicals “historical-critical” approach which also lacks multi-dimensions. All I can say is I believe there is a whole lot more to God’s Word than what these approaches alone produce!


  • JohnM

    Apparently Liberty U has had non-Christian speakers before. Romney’s not being a Christian shouldn’t be an issue unless the expectation is that he will preach a sermon.

    I assume some majors were deemed useless because because nowdays you’ll likely not make much of a living based on a degree in those fields. It’s a valid point. I do place some value on passion and calling, I just note that few 18-22 year olds have a good handle on what their’s are. I wish I had placed a higher value on career preparation, without which following one’s passion is just aimless self indulgence. If you do major in a field that you know provides no good prospect for making a living because you’re convinced that’s your passion, then find you have to do something unrelated, and for low wages at that, at least don’t whine about it.

  • Greg Monette

    Ehrman actually responded to Carrier’s very rude critique. I’m not an Ehrman supporter but I don’t think Bart deserved the critique he received from Carrier. Here is Ehrman’s reply to Carrier’s ad hominem attack: http://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/

  • Rick

    For those reading Kirk’s review of Smith, be sure to read the comments where Smith and Kirk respond to each other.

  • RJS


    Thanks for the link, that is an excellent read. I have found Ehrman at times to be a bit too cavalier and at other times more than a bit too sensationalistic in some of his writing for a general audience. But I have always found careful scholarship at the core of his work.

  • Pat Pope

    I was surprised, but not really, when I heard Liberty had invited Romney to speak. Just shows where some people’s priorities lie–politics versus faith. I could see if they had come out with an official announcement denouncing their previous teachings on Mormonism. Then, it wouldn’t look quite so hypocritical.

  • Jeremy

    Carrier is definitely an atheist of the “new” variety. I read some of his stuff while in University during a religious studies course. He’s pretty brutal.

  • RJS


    Since Glenn Beck (also a Mormon) gave the 2010 commencement address, the invitation to Romney shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Ehrman is basically an atheist who affirms the historicity of Jesus. If Christians shoot their wounded, the atheist mythicists pretty much have no problem throwing rocks at their own. I plan on reading Ehrman’s book but I am not really aware of any Christian scholarship that deals with the mythicists arguments? Help?

  • Chris P.

    I think the church at the top of the post is from the opening scene of Andrei Rublev.

    Great movie, btw.

  • Pat Pope

    Ah, didn’t know about that, RJS. But again, I’m not surprised in the sense that I’ve seen Christians make these kind of moves that seem to jive more with their political leanings vs. their faith commitments.

  • DRT

    I just have to share this. Hitler on Romney speaking at Liberty….


  • DRT

    It also fits in with the yelling in German theme 🙂

  • AHH

    So what’s the snake picture next to the Liberty/Romney item?
    I don’t think either Mormons or fundamentalist Baptists are into snake handling …

  • CGC

    Well Everyone,
    My brief look on the internet came up with very little except the whole mythicist issue is mainly an internet debate and most serious scholars don’t even engage with it. One book that focuses on the internet discussions is called “Shattering the Christ Myth” by James Patrick Holding. I understand this to be a compilation of articles on various topics as people have argued with the mythicists on the internet. The mythicists may be ticked at Bart Ehrman but at least he is a serious scholar who was willing to give them the time of day (they simply don’t understand why he’s not in their camp). Actually, I suspect there are many atheists who are not in the mythicists camp.

  • CGC

    PS – The best scholarly book I have read on this topic that deals with some of the issues we deal with from time to time on Scot’s blog is “The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition” by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory Boyd.

  • EricW

    Frank Viola’s proposal for Paul’s thorn in the flesh:

    When we read the New Testament in a narrative way, taking it in its chronological sequence, we discover that everywhere Paul planted a church, a group of detractors opposed his ministry and sought to discredit his apostolic authority in the eyes of the Christians for which he cared. In Galatians, Paul indicates that this group of detractors was headed up by one man in particular…. The one man that headed them up = But the one who is troubling you will bear his judgment, whoever he is (Galatians 5:10)…. Putting all of this together, an interesting picture emerges. Paul’s thorn appears to be a man (inspired by Satan) who was obsessed with discrediting Paul and his ministry. This man followed Paul wherever he traveled, beginning in South Galatia (Acts 14ff.). He sought to undermine Paul’s work. This “messenger” or “servant” of Satan was in league with a group of others who followed him (Galatians 1:7; 5:12). They followed in Paul’s footsteps to the churches in Galatia, probably Thessalonica, and then to Corinth (he possibly could have been the leader of the “super-apostles” that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 11). On three occasions, Paul asked the Lord to remove this person from his life. For he was a torment, a frustration, a harassment to Paul and his work. But the Lord answered and said that His grace is sufficient. The Lord didn’t remove the thorn. He instead caused Paul to forebear it.

    Frank Viola used to be associated with Gene Edwards. December 27-30, 1987, Gene Edwards spoke on the Book of Galatians at a Winter Christian Conference in Memphis, TN. I attended and transcribed his messages from the tapes that were made. Gene said (I know this is a bit long, but bear with me):

    You [i.e., You Galatians] are now four years old in Christ, and you’re not doing bad. In fact, you’re doing great. Right on up till these Jews arrive.

    When you read volume III and volume IV of THE EARLY CHURCH you’re going to meet a man over and over again. He’s never mentioned in the Bible by name in the New Testament. He’s Paul’s greatest enemy. I gave him a name in the book so you can keep up with him. He’s one of the Jews who went to your town. His name is Ichdracha Blastinius.

    Worked on that name for fifteen years trying to come up with the worst possible name that I could think of. Ichdracha Blastinius. You’re not supposed to like him, that’s the whole point. He is Simon Legree. He is “Icky” bod Crane. He is Uriah Heep and he is Scrooge and Senator Cranston all rolled up into one.

    Okay, you got him? Do you see what he looks like? That’s what I want you to see when you see him. Senator Cranston, I apologize, but you do look really unusual.

    Can you see this guy? Oh, he is a very unhappy person. And he is one of the most brilliant men of the first century, and he is as dedicated to his gospel as Paul is to his. He will give his life to preach what he preaches with all the zeal that Paul does. In fact, there is no rival in the first century in zeal, in dedication, ability and willingness to suffer anything as is Blastinius. He is Paul’s rival, and will be throughout Paul’s entire life.

    And he has come and visited you.

    Are you clear? Are you with me?

    And you and I are going to get our first peek, us modern day Christians, at why …

    This book to the Galatians is one incredible piece of Christian literature, saints.

    Now as they come up here … Now I want you to know what you say. This is Blastinius, and he’s got two or three people with him.

    I want to make sure you’re clear. Are you clear what’s going on? We’re in Galatia, you’ve got visitors–Wow, whew, some more Christians given to me. Amen. Hallelujah. Yeah. You invite them in for your meals. Oh, they’re so warm and outgoing. They preach–Oh, Blastinius can outpreach Paul, can outpreach Barnabas. Beautiful gospel. Everybody loves them. Oh, this is wonderful. Why don’t we have some more visitors from down there?

    They’ve been there a few weeks. Everybody loves them. They’re in your home.

    And then he says, “Oh, by the way.” He says, “Oh, by the way, this, your friend Paul …”

    “Yeah! You know Paul?”

    “Well, I’ve met him. Yes, we’ve met.”

    “Do you know much about him?”

    “Oh, yes, that’s two, he persecuted the church. In fact, that’s what we know about him. He persecuted the Christian believers.

    “I’m so sorry to tell you this. I’m really so sorry to tell you these things about Paul of Tarsus.

    “Well, Paul, you see, is a man pleaser, and he is just, he’s been preaching to you a gospel that’s just the barest of gospel, and he’s done that because he wished to have a good standing with you. He’s left out some of the main parts to the gospel.”

    “Do you mean …? Do you mean …?”

    “Yes. Yes. You don’t know.”

    “We don’t know all of the gospel!”

    “Oh, much more. The best. The best.”

    So he says, “You know, I have had a burden since I’ve been here to tell you the rest of the gospel.”

    “Well, yes, we’re off to have a meeting now.”

    “Yes, and tell you the rest of the gospel. …

    “Now, brethren … It was on Mount Sinai that God gave to Moses the Law. And the Law was given to God’s people, the Jews. And the symbol of the Jewish faith is circumcision. And it is necessary that you obey the commandments given by Moses and be circumcised in order for the gospel to be effective.”

    He [Paul] is sitting there hurt and injured because Blastinius said, “Oh, Paul is a man pleaser. He curries the favor of men.” And I find this interesting because Blastinius is teaching that you curry the favor of God. And he says Paul is a man pleaser. And he’s preaching a gospel that is basically a God pleaser. Paul is really hot under the collar about this. So he loses his temper. And what he says …

    He does not know who this person is, so this is the fascinating thing: He and Blastinius are going to cross paths for the next ten, fifteen years. Blastinius will come and visit every church Paul ever founds. But this is the first time this man has ever been in his life, and he has not yet learned his name. He does not know who he is.

    Now, the next book that Paul writes is Thessalonians. He knows his name. When he writes the letters to the Corinthians he knows who that man is. And he calls that man, he refers to him distinctly, and he refers to him as a he, not as an it. By the way, if you want to read this, you can read it in OUR MISSION. It’s a study of the passage.

    He makes very clear he knows who the person is who came to Corinth and troubled them. And he calls that man, that person, his thorn in the flesh whom God gave him to keep him humble. Blastinius is Paul’s thorn. He follows him throughout his life. But Paul doesn’t know who he is right here. All he knows is this man has destroyed the gospel of the grace of God. And he comes on now shooting out of every cannon, and he just plain, flat, what you and I would say, cusses.

  • Thx. for the mention, Scot. A number of the Church Fathers identified Paul’s thorn to be a human messenger of satan which sought to oppose Paul and his work. One can find this in Chrysostom, for example. So the idea isn’t new to anyone in the modern era, and no one can claim or receive credit for it.

    I first came in contact with the idea from a faith teacher long before I started reading Chrysostom and Tertullian (Tertullian’s idea is the same, though not as specific). Other commentators have also suggested that the thorn was the Judiazers who opposed Paul in Galatia and Corinth, but I’ve yet to find anyone — scholar or non-scholar — who argues for this idea in detail exegeting it in its immediate context (comparing 2 Cor. 11 and 12), comparing the Greek terms that are the same in those chapters, and then meshing it with the rest of the narrative. (Hat tip to F.F. Bruce and Donald Guthrie on introducing me to a narrative chronological approach to the NT.)

    All of the above is what I sought to do in that blog post. I have a notion that some scholar has offered this same interpretation in detail, but I’ve yet to find it. I’ve asked my readers to let me know in the comments section of the blog if they are aware of such.



    Psalm 115:1

  • EricW


    There should be a several pages break in my transcription of Gene Edwards’ teaching/talks on Galatians between

    “… And it is necessary that you obey the commandments given by Moses and be circumcised in order for the gospel to be effective.”


    He [Paul] is sitting there hurt and injured because Blastinius said, “Oh, Paul is a man pleaser.”

    Re: Frank’s response just after my post, maybe Gene Edwards was the teacher Frank says first acquainted him with this hypothesis, or maybe they both heard it from the same “faith teacher.” I believe Edwards was the first person I heard or read who suggested it was a Judaizer who kept after Paul and Paul’s churches.

  • Eric: No, it was someone else long before . . . a “faith teacher.” In my research, several have offered the same idea (even some of the Church Fathers. There’s also a brief blurb on this view in the “IVP Dictionary of Paul and His Letters” that I found recently). But I’ve yet to come across a detailed exposition rooted in the local text, the Greek, as well as the whole narrative. So I’ve attempted (feebly I might add) to create one with that post. I expect someone else has expounded this view exegetically somewhere, just haven’t found it yet.

    Of course, we can’t be positive what the thorn was. I believe Paul knew who the person was when he wrote those words to the Corinthians. But as was his custom, he never mentions his detractors by name in his letters to the churches. He only mentions such people by name in his letters to his co-workers (Timothy and Titus).

    Anyways, whatever the thorn was, His grace was and is sufficient for all such things. And I suppose that this is the main point to be kept in focus.


    Psalm 115:1

  • EricW

    Thanks, Frank. I’ve kind of been partial to the personal enemy idea ever since I first heard it proposed, too. I’m glad you have brought it up for discussion. Your examination of Paul’s chronology and the Greek vocabulary he used certainly helps.

  • Luke

    “The U.S. college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.”

    That headline has been running every spring for the last six years. Until it becomes “the college class of 20XX is in for a pleasant surprise” I don’t think they need to bother anymore.