28 October 2001

I'd like to announce a new addition to our family: a 7-week old kitten we've named "Keats." He's pretty much all black with green eyes and is very adorable and quite playful.

His older canine brother, Nicky (short for "Dominicanus"), is having some difficulty adjusting, particularly since he seems insanely jealous of the new addition. But I think that will pass with time.

I'm currently reading The Study of Anglicanism (2nd Edition), a collection of informative and comprehensive essays edited by Stephen Sykes, John Booty, and Jonathan Knight.

The essays include explorations of various aspects of Anglicanism: its history; its understanding of the Christian faith; how it negotiates the relation between Scripture, tradition, and reason; its various standards (39 Articles, catechisms, prayerbooks, ordinals, etc.); its theology of the church, sacraments, ministry, and so on; as well as various aspects of Anglican spirituality, pastoral practice, ethics, ecumenism, the world-wide communion, and the like. Contributors include scholars as diverse as Peter Toon, Henry Chadwick, Stephen Sykes, and Paul Avis.

26 October 2001

Well, I took the "geek test" too. My results:

I AM 38% GEEK.

I probably work in computers, or a history
deptartment at a college. I never really
fit in with the "normal" crowd. But I have
friends, and this is a good thing.

Take the GEEK Test at Fuali.com!

Not too far off, either, I'm embarassed to say. While I don't work in computers (though I'm usually sitting at one), I do work in a philosophy department at a college--pretty close to history, at least the way I teach it. Actually, even the picture doesn't miss the mark by much.

17 October 2001

I've put a new item up on my website that I've entitled "A Brief Catechesis on Covenant and Baptism."

It's a series of questions concerning the relationship between what I take to be the biblical doctrine of the covenant and the place of baptism as the rite of initiation into that covenant. The questions, as I was given them originally, came from someone else and, though I've revised all of them, they don't necessarily represent exactly how I would want to frame all the issues, had I been the original questioner. I'd also prefer, at some point, to add parenthentical Scripture references.

Still, I thought the questions and answers might be helpful or thought-provoking for some people--and so I've put them up on the web. I'd also be interested in any feedback that could help me better to express my thinking.

12 October 2001

I'm not usually much of a fan of contemporary Christian music, but right now I'm listening to a CD called "Karaoke Superstars" by a group called Superchic[k] and it's a lot of fun (their official website is still under construction). The CD came recommended by my pre-teen nieces and nephews.

Superchic[k] has an edgy pop sound with bits of disco-funk, hip-hop, etc. thrown in for good measure. Moreover, their lyrics can have great moments of cleverness and humor. Most address issues that face teens and pre-teens (friends, peer pressure, appearances, self-image, pop culture, etc.), but do so more with values that are informed by faith than with explicit, knock-you-over-the-head Christian jargon.

And if I'm remembering correctly, their song "Get Up" was used among the theme music during the X Games.

According to my counter, my article on the Westminster Confession and baptismal regeneration has received 366 hits since July 24. That's an average of over 6 hits a day.

I wonder what the interest is, especially given what I take to be the very modest claims of my argument.

I guess I'm also surprised than anyone reads the things I post here and on my website. Get a life, people!

09 October 2001

A quick refresher course on "Just War Theory":

The theory is rooted in biblical texts (Deuteronomy 20, Amos 1:3-2:3; Romans 13:1-7; etc.) and in Christian reflection over the centuries, with important contributions by Ambrose, Augustine, and Aquinas. It was pretty much carried over intact into Reformation thought by Luther, Calvin, and others.

The criteria of just war can be divided in various ways, but a pretty typical list would include:

1. Just Cause
2. Just Intent
3. Last Resort
4. Formal Declaration
5. Limited Objectives
6. Proportionate Means
7. Non-combatant Immunity
8. Reasonable Hope for Success

"Just cause" requires that the use of force be for defensive purposes only--politics, imperialism, aggression, and revenge are not permissible causes.

"Just intent" says that the objective is to protect the innocent and to restore peace and, moreover, the individual soldier has the responsibility to make sure his motives are aligned.

"Last resort" tells us that force can only be used after reasonable attempts at compromise, negotiation, diplomacy, and so on have been exhausted.

"Formal declaration" is designed to assure two things: (a) that the war is carried out by a proper authority who has the jurisidiction to wage war in the circumstance and (b) to protect the military from their fellow countrymen who might otherwise support the other side.

"Proportionate means" requires that use of deadly force does not exceed that which is necessary to accomplish the just goals--total war, use of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, etc., would seem to be prohibited by this unless they can be used in an extremely limited way.

"Noncombatant immunity" protects innocent civilians from being the direct targets of deadly force--this does not mean that collateral damage must be avoided at all costs, but that such damage when foreseen must be carried out only under the conditions of "double-effect." "Double-effect" is when one acts in pursuit of a good end when it is known beforehand that such an action will produce bad collateral results in addition to the accomplishment of the good end. The conditions for acting in this way are usually outlined in the following manner:

(a) the action contemplated must be in itself either morally good or morally indifferent;
(b) the bad result must not be directly intended;
(c) the good result must not be a direct causal result of the bad result; and
(d) the good result must be "proportionate to" the bad result.

"Reasonable hope of success" suggests that there are times when the greater good is either to not respond with force or to submit to the aggressors, in cases where the benefits of such surrender can be reasonably expected to outweigh the cost in human life of waging war.

Of course, even if one accepts Just War Theory in general outline, the far trickier business is that of applying it to concrete circumstances.

As usual, I steal interesting and fun things from elsewhere.

This time it's another quiz, but now it's about me (as if having a blog weren't narcissistic enough already).

To take my quiz, click here (you'll need Flash, I think, to view it). The quiz is brought to us by the lovely people over at QuizYourFriends.com.


05 October 2001

Last night I finished reading Christian Meditation (Ignatius, 1989) by Hans Urs von Balthasar. I've read a number of books on different forms of prayer and meditation over the years, and I found Balthasar's treatment to be one of the more helpful. Its great strengths lie in the focus upon Scripture (in a lectio divina fashion), his setting out of the Christological and Trinitarian foundations of Christian prayer and meditation, his sage advice for the actual practice, and the way in which individual spirituality is embedded within the ecclesial and sacramental community. Moreover, it is infused with insights from the Ignatian exercises (for those who are familiar with them).

Speaking of lectio divina, if praying with Scripture is something you'd like to pursue, Martin L. Smith has a good book called The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture (Cowley, 1989). You'll have to forgive him some of his higher-critical assumptions about Scripture, but the bulk of what he has to say is quite practical and edifying, as are the thematic "clusters" of Scripture passages he provides at the back of the book. Smith is an Anglican (ECUSA) priest, a monastic in the Society of the St. John the Evangelist.

I'm also reminded of something Thomas Keating once said (not that I'm a fan of an oddity like Keating). As he goes to various countries to give talks on "centering prayer" he has found that it is only in the United States that people constantly ask questions about whether or not they're "doing it right." And his advice is sound, I think. The point isn't getting it "right" but offering the time to God, making an attempt to quiet one's mind and attend to the meditation, but if it's just not working (e.g., due to racing thoughts or distractions), well, the time was offered to God in good faith and in his grace we can be confident that he will redeem it.

04 October 2001

My wife and I are re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, in part for our book club and in part as preparation for the release of the first film in December. I had forgotten how obsessed I had been with middle-earth from about age 8 until I was entering junior high--reading and re-reading the books, drawing pictures of characters and monsters, tracing their paths on the maps that Tolkien provided of the Shire and middle-earth, having my dreams at night filled with the warmth of hobbit-holes and the deathly chill of Sauron.

My old 1970's mass-market paperbacks bear the scars of many readings, dog-eared with my odd marginalia and stains from snacks and, in one instance, my own blood, I think. We've recently bought a beautiful hardback boxed set of the Lord of the Rings and a large illustrated hardback edition of The Hobbit.

Old obsessions, though long dormant, are easily prodded back to life. I downloaded the Quicktime trailer to the upcoming film the other day (another perk of the new computer) and viewed it. By the end of the trailer, that obsessed 8 year old within me was left staring at the screen, hyperventilating, with a chill down his spine and a tear in his eye. Sometimes I think I grow more foolish with age.

02 October 2001

Oh, I almost forgot.

I bought myself a utilikilt--army green twill. Very comfortable.

The big event over the weeked was attending Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's 3-day Celtic Classic, highland games and festival. It's the largest festival of it's kind in North America and always is a blast. It includes Irish, Scottish, and Welsh traditions and heritage. What's more, due to corporate sponsorship, the festival is free.

Among the events are highland games (caber toss, stone put, hammer throw, etc.), a border collie exhibition, a haggis eating contest, highland dance and Irish dance contests and shows, a pipe band competition, whiskey tasting, as well as historical re-enactments of a Civil War Irish volunteer regiment and of medieval Celts by the Society for Creative Anachronism.

In addition there are hundreds of vendors offering Irish linen, Scottish woolens, kilts, Celtic jewelry, music, books, genealogy and clan information, Irish crystal, baked goods such as shortbread or soda bread, pottery, silver, and so on.

Food offerings included corned beef and cabbage, haggis, shepherd's pie, Cornish pasties, bridies, and the like.

But the best part of the Celtic Classic, of course, is always the music. There are five stages with live bands playing all day, each day. The various performances this year included Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, Seamus Eagan and his group Solas, John Wehlan (of Riverdance) and his band, Clandestine, Blackwater, Aoife Clancy (daughter of Bobby Clancy of the Clancy Brothers), and about 15 others. The younger crowd seemed to particularly enjoy a band called Brother led by two Australian Scots, Hamish and Angus Richardson, who combine a rock band with highland bagpipes and didgeridoo.

Gosh, it's awesome being a Celt!

Among other recent events to keep us busy, the new computer arrived last Thursday. I still own a 1996 Packard Bell that's really beginning to show its age. The new Gateway is to replace my wife's old Apple Power PC.

It's a "Performance 1500 PC" with a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 Processor, 40 GB hard drive, DVD-ROM drive, CD Rewritable, and all kinds of other things a non-technical person like myself doesn't even begin to understand.

Honestly, it's supposed to be Laurel's computer, but as I sit here typing, I have a feeling my Packard Bell is going to languishing on the other side of our study.

Last Friday was Laurel's (my wife's) birthday, her 33rd. One's 33rd birthday is something of a milestone. After all, by the time Jesus was 33, he had managed to save the world. Most of us are fortunate if we've found a decent job or started a family.

Yikes! It's been well over a week since I posted anything to my blog. But life has been busy. The semester is well under way and has kept me occupied with student appointments, looking over drafts, grading, in addition to our usual activities (the class I'm taking, Sunday liturgy, church groups, etc.)

So, I'm back.