30 December 2002

Society of Christian Philosophers

I'm told that the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) is the largest society of American philosophers after the American Philosophical Association itself.

Over the years the SCP has sponsored a number of different programs by which the Christian faith might gain greater visibility in discussions of philosophy on the global scene. For instance, at the end of January there will be a conference on "God and Physical Cosmology" held at the University of Notre Dame with philosophers, theologians, and cosmologists from the US, Britain, and Russia.

One particularly fruitful series of conferences has been held in China over the past several years. The latest SCP newsletter reports on some of the details of this past year's conference held at Tsinghua University involving a team of nine philosophers from various universities in China and eight members of the SCP from various universities and colleges in the US. The topic was the relationship between morality and religion.

The conference involved both formal presentations of papers and responses from both sides as well as a more informal time for Chinese graduate students to ask questions of the Americans.

As John Hare (of Calvin College) reports it, several of the Chinese philosophers gave presentation that addressed "the need for God or faith or the tanscendent to support the moral life." There apparently was a significant interest in Kant on the part of the Chinese and the relationship between his universal ethics and a "global ethic" drawn from a consensus among world religions. The Chinese philosophers were, of course, well aware of Kant's view of God as a postulate of practical reason.

The Chinese students asked a number of interesting quetsions about America, God, faith, the future of religion, feminism, the events of September 11, and so on. They also prevailed upon the philosophers in a request for a song, in response to which the American panel sung "Amazing Grace."

Hare comments that this was a good opportunity to hear one's own views in a new context as they listened to the Chinese philosophers discussing the Gospel, in a context of scholarly expertise and good will. I think it is great to see Christian philosophers engaging their expertise and their faith in a context where the Gospel message needs to be heard.

29 December 2002


...I see that Wayne W. is back blogging again.

28 December 2002

Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition

I just got a notice in the mail today about a conference on this topic at Calvin College in September 2003. Plenary speakers are John Milbank, Graham Ward, James Olthuis, and James K.A. Smith.

James Smith, who recently joined the faculty at Calvin, also seems to be in the process of constructing a radical orthodoxy website. He is the author of The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic (IVP 2000), which I enjoyed reading for a local bookclub. Most recently he published Speech and Theology: Language and the Logic of Incarnation, Radical Orthodoxy Series (Routledge 2002), which I look forward to reading. Currently he's working a book which will be called Reforming Radical Orthodoxy: Towards a Post-secular Worldview, to be published by Baker.

Blogger Reality

What you read here is the real me. But it is the what the real me is like when he blogs. The real me may be a bit different when he's not blogging, and instead finds himself in front of a classroom, busy instant messaging, chatting over drinks, or on the telephone.

Today I got to find out what the real Valerie, Sarah, Paulo, Daniel, and Brian are like when they congregate at Valerie's place for lunch and a leisurely afternoon. I had met Daniel and Brian before and had IMed briefly with both Sarah and Paulo.

Laurel and baby Claire and I made a road trip down to Baltimore for the occasion (only an hour and 40 minutes from Philadelphia) and had a very enjoyable time, thanks in large part to Valerie's generous hospitality. Here are some pictures I took:

daniel and paulo

sarah and valerie


We talked about blogging, churches, travel, family, theology, worship styles, and I can't remember what else. I ate entirely too many barbeque potato chips. Daniel, for some odd reason, wanted to interview me on a range of topics, which Paulo recorded on his laptop and turned into an MP3. Claire chattered away in the background. Then we came home, catching a quick bite to eat at a rest stop along I-95.

It was great to spend time with everyone and I look forward to seeing some of you again in late January.

27 December 2002

New Blogger

Welcome to Jeff Meyers at Corrigenda.

25 December 2002

Merry Christmas!

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

23 December 2002


Using similar kinds adaptations of Christian artistic idiom as I used in the Mayan Virgin and Christ Child below, I did this version of the Annunciation, setting it in the cultural context of India:

pen and ink - 1997
click on image for larger pop-up version

Gabriel appears to the blessed Virgin Mary with the announcement that she will give birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. The messenger of God presents her with traditional tokens from Christian art--a small scepter, indicating Mary's royal lineage, and a lily, signifying her purity and favor in the sight of God. Mary is interrupted in the midst of working, grinding grain, with open Scriptures to her side. The Spirit, symbolized by a dove, already overshadows her.

21 December 2002


A blockprint of the Virgin and Christ Child that I made a decade ago as a Christmas card:

blockprint - 1992

I was never entirely satisfied with it, but blockprinting grants somewhat less detail and control than I prefer.

Holwerda on Election

Thanks to John Barach's Dutch translation skillz, I was reading an article by Netherlands Reformed theologian Benne Holwerda earlier today regarding the biblical language of election. Holwerda was professor of Old Testament at the Theological School of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (liberated) in Kampen after World War II.

One issue that was occupying Netherlands Reformed theologians at the time was the relationship between the covenant and election. Is the covenant something that God makes only with the elect, in the sense of those who will persevere to the end, or is the scope of the covenant wider? And is that the proper way to use the biblical language of election, whatever systematic theological sense the term "election" has come to have in the history of theology?

This is the topic that Holwerda attempts to address in an introductory way through his survey of the biblical data in a series of articles entitled "Election in Scripture." And his conclusions come very close to mine as I expressed them in an earlier blog entry.

Holwerda begins by noting that how we use certain terminology in our formal dogmatics may not always match up with how that same terminology is used in Scripture (not to mention that certain terminology is not even found in Scripture, e.g., "Trinity" or "sacrament"). Indeed, in some cases, our concepts may "have a totally different content in dogmatics than in Scripture."

This is not necessarily "illicit," he notes, so long as we are vigilant to remember that this is the case and, therefore, make sure we don't come to Scripture with a specific systematic theological meaning already in mind (see Tim Gallant's recent closely related thoughts).

To illustrate this point, Holwerda gives two examples: "providence" and "regeneration."

In dogmatics, "providence" refers to God's "work of world maintenance and world-rule, as God carries it out in time following the work of creation." In biblical usage, however, God's "providence" is coupled with his "eternal counsel" and thus refers to the eternal decrees with regard to the world. Thus the theological usage refers to an ongoing work in time while the biblical usage refers to a decree in eternity.

With regard to "regeneration" the situation is similar. In dogmatics, "regeneration" refers to what theologians think of as "the implantation of new life-principle" that is a necessary condition for (and thus logically precedes) faith. In Scripture, however, the meaning is "entirely different," referring not to some kind of principle, but to a "total life-renewal" that comes by the Word received in faith, and thus logically follows from faith. This was also the meaning of the term in early Reformed theology, even the Belgic Confession (Article 24), and the term only shifted in usage in the wake of Dort in response to the teaching of the Remonstrants.

Keeping these points in mind, Holwerda goes on to examine the biblical teaching regarding election. His conclusion is that Scripture uses the terminology of "predestination" (and God's "eternal counsel") in a manner that is decidedly distinct from that of "election," even if they are related.

Moreover, the Scriptures use the term "election" to refer to the events in time and history by which God establishes his covenant with his people (they are chosen), encompassing the entire corporate covenant community.

God's "rejection" or "reprobation" is a term that has particular reference to those in the covenant who reject God in persistent unbelief and thus fall under his displeasure, being rejected by him.

In light of that reprobation, there remains an "elect" or "chosen" remnant, using the terminology in a narrower way, again refering to a corporate entity from within the wider covenant people.

God's "decree" (or "predestination" or "eternal counsel"), Holwerda suggests, concerns not only who will finally be saved, but all that God has eternally purposed to accomplish in history.

It seems to me that Holwerda's approach is essentially correct, biblically speaking, and aligns with my very similar conclusions. It is good to know that other conservative Reformed thinkers have already taken these paths years ago.

Now the difficulty is to make it clear that adhering to biblical teaching on these matters is not designed to and, indeed, does not undermine what our systematic theological notions are constructed to protect.

Moreover, the distinction between dogmatics and Scripture must be kept prominent, so that one is not misunderstood when he speaks of the church as the body of the "elect" or baptism as a "washing of regeneration."

19 December 2002

Anniversary #4

Today Laurel and I are celebrating our 4th anniversary with a dinner out and then seeing The Two Towers. We've had child care arranged with my folks since before Claire was born, I think.

My aunt and uncle sent us this as an anniversary present:

Decadent. This time of year is not conducive to staying in any kind of shape...

16 December 2002

Garver Gazette

We finally finished addressing and stuffing our Christmas cards earlier this evening and will be mailing them out tomorrow. We include an annual newsletter we call the "Garver Gazette" to keep our friends and family up to date on what is going on in our lives.

Last year we cut it from a page to a half-page and gave the URL for an online supplement. We're doing the same this year and the full online version of the letter is now available here.

Artwork of the Season

I was an "art major" in high school and seriously considered going on to Tyler School of Art for college. But I also loved literature, philosophy, and theology and ended up going to Penn instead to double-major in English and philosophy.

Still, I have kept doing some art on the side over the years, especially the ten years I taught art during the summers at a juvenile correctional facility. Media I enjoy include: pencil, ink, scratchboard, print-making, acrylic, guache, and egg tempera.

I thought I might begin occasionally posting photos of pieces I've done, beginning with this seasonal appropriate depiction of the Virgin and Christ Child, portrayed as Latin Americans of Mayan descent:

scratchboard - 1997

13 December 2002

The Most Dangerous Baby

An essay by N.T. Wright on a politically subversive birth of a King. - link via chris

Pages Offline

I had a series of essays on my website concerning issues of covenant, election, and apostasy. These are temporarily offline while they undergo extensive revision and recasting.

I had revised them in bits and pieces over several years and as a result a lot of the seams were showing, some parts were likely more confusing than they needed to be, and they tended to be rather badly organized. Hopefully some good re-working will smooth things out. Thus that project is among others slated for this winter break.


Ugh. I woke up this morning to the noise of a breaking glass as the cat prowled the dining room table and knocked one over--then I realized that the virus I had earlier this week was back. I think I did too much yesterday, running errands, hauling some shelving, and so on. Right now my sinuses make my face feel like it's about to explode. This afternoon I must face a pile of 80 student papers. Fortunately, final grades aren't due for a while.

09 December 2002

Blog Survey
from valerie

I'd really like to blog something interesting and insightful, but it's not going to happen. In addition to trying to redesign the Philosophy website and keep on top of my students' final work, I seem to be coming down with some kind of virus (achy, stuffy head, sore throat, blah, yuck).

So, instead, I'll fill out this survey.

1 Which blogger have you known longest online only?
Hmm. I can't recall. Mark Horne? Wayne Larson? Jon Barlow? I met them all online around the same time, I think.

2 Which blogger have you known longest IRL?
Christian Kim. I've known him since 5th grade. Paul C. Duggan and I met my freshman year in college.

3 Which blogger have you spent the most time with IRL?
Laurel, of course, at least in terms of continuous amounts of time. I may have actually spent more time with Christian and Paul in terms of actual total hours!

4 Which blogger would you most like to meet IRL (that you haven’t met IRL)?
It's a toss up between Mark Horne, Josh Strodtbeck, and Rick Capezza. I really want to meet Berek Smith too, but that is scheduled to happen in a few weeks.

5 Which blogger do you think has the best blog design?
I like Kristen Knox's blog a whole lot. Paulo, of course, has a couple of dozen designs that are great too.

6 Which blogger do you like most to argue with?
I'm a "can't we all just get along" kinda guy, but David Heddle usually manages to get a rise out of me.

7 Which blogger makes you laugh the most?
Duane Garner, naturally.

8 Which blogger intimidates you the most?
That would have to be AKMA, since he manages to be the academic I'd like to be.

9 Which blogger do you most wish would post more often?
Daniel Stoddart, where are you?

10 Which blogger do you most wish would get a comment system?
I don't read people who don't have comment systems.

07 December 2002

Web Woes

Once upon a time, the Philosophy Department at La Salle University set up a website for its department, with the help of a student. But that student graduated and the website remained, badly out of date, with increasing amounts of wrong information, having clunky navigation, and being an all around eyesore.

Shift forward to 2002. I'm now the chair of the "web committee" for the department and the University has decided it would like all departments to update their websites, adopt a more uniform appearance using the school colors (blue and gold), and including the university logo. Moreover, the individual departments will have little direct control over their websites. And Philosophy, since we're the only department to actually have a web committee, gets to be the guinea pig.

Thus the process began. We were consulted. We made recommendations. We looked at some sketches. And the web people at the University came up with this as our basic template.

Hmmm. I'm not that impressed. And they want my opinion.

So, all of you out there--some of whom have very good design sensibilities--tell me why I am less that satisfied. What is wrong with this design? What would you suggest? How can this be improved upon? Tim? Valerie? Emeth? Others?

Since I'm one of those, "If you want something done right, do it yourself" kind of people, I plan on making up several alternate templates over the next several days, in order to send back to the appropriate authorities. Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

Update 12/7: Okay, so this is my first shot at an alternative template. It was a bit of a rush job. More to follow. Revised: I kept the first version, but here's a second version of this template.

Update 12/8: I'm really not much a web designer, but here's another attempt at a template. One more to follow. Revised: I shrunk the image a bit and spread out the menu options.

Update 12/9: Yet another template. This one is more minimalist. Revised: I placed an image behind the navigation menu.

Update 12/10: Another design, quick and fairly bland.

Update 12/11: A final attempt.

05 December 2002

Snow Day!

I haven't blogged for a while and probably won't again for a bit still. The end of the semester is always an exceptionally busy time of year.

But today we're getting 8-10 inches of snow in Philadelphia and everything is closed! Some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Now back to grading our regularly scheduled heap of papers, homeworks, and quizzes.