24 September 2007

farm to city

One of the members of our neighborhood environmental group sent us a link to Farm to City, a Philadelphia- based program whose goal is to unite communities, families, and farmers year-round through good locally grown food. It's supported, in part, by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and the Small Farm Success Project.

While we probably won't join any of the local "buying clubs," the information on local farmers' markets is great. There are 12 such markets in Philadelphia associated with Farm to City, providing locally grown food that helps preserve farmland and open space in the region. Many of them carry not only a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but also meat, poultry, egg, and dairy products from pastured animals.

If you live in the Philadelphia region, you might want to check out the website and see if there is are markets near you.

22 September 2007

philosophy and liturgy

Among the Calvin Seminars in Christian Scholarship next year will be a conference, sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, entitled Philosophy and Liturgy: Ritual, Practice, and Embodied Wisdom. The conference will be held 20-22 May 2008 in the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College.

Hosts include James K.A. Smith, John Witvliet, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, with plenary speakers Sarah Coakley, Terence Cuneo, Reinhard Hütter, Peter Ochs, James K.A. Smith, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

Here's a description from the website: The renaissance in Christian philosophy has engendered sustained philosophical reflection on a number of key aspects of Christian theology, but there has been a notable paucity of philosophical engagement with a central aspect of Christian practice: worship and liturgy.

This conference brings together leading scholars in philosophy and theology to investigate key themes in worship with the tools of philosophy, with the ultimate goal of informing Christian practice. There is also the reciprocal goal of letting Christian liturgical practice become a fund for philosophical reflection on classic questions and themes. The conference will thus stage a reciprocal encounter between philosophy and liturgy, with the goal of generating a liturgical philosophy, and a philosophically-informed liturgy.

Sounds fascinating and stimulating.

downame on the visible church

John Downame was a well-regarded figure and theologian in his day, the younger son of William Downame, the bishop of Chester, and brother to George Downame, the Puritan bishop of Derry and chaplain to James I. Born sometime in the early 1580s, John Downame received his education at Christ's College, Cambridge, where his Puritan convictions likely took definitive shape. He died in 1652.

Between 1609 and 1618, Downame wrote and published his best known work, The Christian Warfare, establishing his reputation as a Reformed pastoral theologian. In the 1630s he grew to prominence among London Puritan leaders, joining in a 1640 petition against Laud's book of canons. Subsequently his leadership was drawn upon by the same Parliament that called together the Westminster Assembly, often acting in coordination with that Assembly, though he was not himself a member. In 1643 he was appointed a licenser of the press, granting imprimatur to theological works, and in 1644 he was chosen as one of the ministers would examine and ordain public preachers. In 1645, along with a number of the Westminster divines, he served as an editor and author of the Annotations upon all of Books of the Old and New Testament.

On my website, I've posted an excerpt drawn from Chapter 3 of the Second Book of Downame's The Sum of Sacred Divinity: first briefly and methodically propounded and then more largely and clearly handled and explained, published in London, probably in 1630.

In his overall order of topics, Downame moves directly from the mediatorial work of Christ into the doctrine of the church visible with her preaching and sacraments as the means by which God communicates his salvation to sinners, setting his consideration of the ordo salutis within a broader ecclesiological context. He helpfully sets out a Puritan understanding of the indispensibility of the church visible, the nature of Christian profession, common operations of the Spirit, and temporary faith.

Spelling, style, and punctuation have been updated. Headings have been added.

21 September 2007

scripture and worship

This is perhaps an interesting juxtaposition against my previous post on liturgy, but I wanted to draw attention to the recent publication of Scripture and Worship: Biblical Interpretation and the Directory for Public Worship (P&R 2007) by Richard A. Muller and Rowland S. Ward.

The book collects together several papers by Muller and Ward that were presented at 2004 Conference on the Westminster Standards that was held at Westminster Theological Seminary and about which I posted at the time. To repeat the content of that post:

Muller, a professor of church history at Calvin Seminary and leading scholar of the early Reformed tradition, spoke primarily on the Westminster Confession in relation to Scripture and exegesis. As some of you may know, around the same time as the Westminster Assembly (though prior to the completion of their work), the Long Parliament authorized a comprehensive annotation of the King James Bible, consisting in a series of marginal annotations prepared by a team of divines, a number of whom would also serve as members of the Assembly.

Muller used these "English Annotations," along with the Westminster Confession's doctrine of Scripture, as a context for understanding the exegetical foundation for the Standards' use of Scripture, their shape of their doctrine, and their choices in providing "prooftexts." Though his time was limited and he could only examine a few representative sections of the Confession, he provided a very helpful model and example for how such a project might be undertaken on a larger scale. In particular Muller suggested ways in which the annotations fit into the existing trajectories of Reformed exegesis and how that larger tradition remained the undergirding for the Standards' doctrinal formulations.

Rowland Ward, a pastor-scholar in the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, provided a balanced and relatively detailed overview the the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God, setting it firmly within its historical context, in terms of its fundamental theology of worship, the pragmatics of its choices and recommendations, and the various compromises between disputing parties (Presbyterians, Puritans, Independents) that it represents.

Ward usefully showed the evident structural parallels between the order of the Directory, the 1564 Scottish Book of Common Order and the patterns of worship that were already prevalent in the Church of Scotland in the mid-17th century. The Scottish tradition, though not maintaining the set and fixed prayers of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, had provided a variety of sample prayers for ministers to be either used verbatim or as models. The Independents, on the other hand, tended to favor free, extemporaneous prayer. The Directory represents a compromise, Ward suggested, providing detailed instruction for how prayers might be formed, which, through changing a few words, could be easily transformed into actual prayers.

Now, with the publication of the book, one can read these helpful talks in detail.

renewing liturgy

Back in the spring I had the wonderful opportunity to give a talk on liturgy to a group of mostly pastors and church planters. Their feedback was helpful in further clarifying and revising what I said.

That paper is now up on my website with one of those nicely ambiguous titles: "Renewing Liturgy." The point, of course, is that liturgy can be both a means and an object of renewal. Good liturgy - well-done, faithfully celebrated, and appropriately contextual - is one of the instruments by which the Spirit can renew and reshape us in Christ as the kind of worshiping people God seeks and the kind of community of disciples he wishes to send into the world. But, in many churches, liturgy itself needs of renewal and rethinking.

The talk is not very technical and sets aside a host of historical and detailed practical questions that have an important place. It was more of a pep talk in favor of a certain sort of liturgical vision. Nonetheless, I hope it might have some wider relevance.

20 September 2007

philosophy of wine

In a post below, I mentioned a book edited by Barry Smith called Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine (Oxford 2007).

A blog reader writes to tell me that there is a podcast interview (mp3) with Smith, done by Nigel Warburton, on the topic of philosophy and wine, available from Philosophy Bites blog. It's worth a listen.

For more information, see the related blog post at Philosophy Bites.

become an abolitionist

I posted earlier about the Philadelphia "Not For Sale" event sponsored by my parish, City Church along with a group of other local churches and ministries. It's designed to raise awareness about local and global human trafficking.

Here are the details:
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: Woodland Presbyterian Church
42nd St. and Pine St.
Philadelphia, PA
For further directions, begin with this map.

I hope some of you in the Philadelphia region will be able to come out for this event.

goode on baptismal regeneration

William Goode (1801-1868) was a 19th century evangelical Anglican theologian, editor of the Christian Observer, the rector of All Hallows the Great in London, and an articulate opponent of Puseyism, as the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Church of England was then often called.

One of his most significant works was a historical study called The Doctrine of the Church of England as to the Effects of Baptism in the Case of Infants, a close survey of the opinions of around 70 different Anglican theologians - mostly bishops - from the 16th and 17th centuries concerning the doctrine of baptism in general and of infant baptism in particular. Through this survey he hoped to vindicate an evangelical Anglican understanding of baptism over against that of certain sorts of Anglo-Catholicism.

Goode's position - in keeping with the Reformed tradition, as he ably demonstrates - is that baptism remains an actually regenerating ordinance only for those elected to salvation, who in the case of adults ordinarily receive baptism in faith and who in the case of infants ordinarily have the beginnings of faith. This, he suggests, is the evangelical, Reformed, and historic Anglican position over against those he was opposing.

At this point a Reformed variety of objection might proceed as follows: if those for whom baptism is effective are those who already believe or at least have the beginnings of faith, then they are already regenerate - for faith presupposes regeneration - and thus baptism cannot be the means of their regeneration. Goode seems to anticipate and head off such an objection. He writes,
But baptism is the formal act of incorporation in Christ's body, the Church; not merely the visible Church, but (when God acts in this ordinance) the true Church, the mystical body of Christ. And therefore it may be justly said, that, where it is efficacious, there we are regenerated by it. For whereas, before, we were only the children of Adam, and so of wrath; we are hereby made children of grace, members of Christ. But it must be remembered, that as in the natural birth there was life previously; so in the spiritual new birth, life, a living principle of faith must have been implanted to make the birth by baptism effectual to the production of being spiritually alive. And Holy Scripture, clearly, often speaks of the implantation of this principle of spiritual life as the act of regeneration, inasmuch as it is the most important part of the work of spiritual new-birth. While it also speaks of that new-birth as connected with baptism, but evidently in the sense just mentioned. And if this easy distinction is kept in view, all the passages of Holy Scripture on the subject harmonize fully with one another. (42-43)
That seems to me to be a very helpful perspective. If the beginnings of our regeneration and its first growth are akin to natural conception, then baptism is birth into a new world - entering fully into the family of God, taking one's first breaths in the air of the kingdom, being seen and recognized as a new child in the household of faith, taken up into the waiting arms of our sisters and brothers.

Goode goes on directly to add,
It is also to be borne in mind, that as spiritual regeneration is thus connected with baptism, which is its sign and seal, there is a sense in which all that are baptised may be called by man regenerate; not as having beyond doubt received spiritual regeneration, but as having received the Sacrament of regeneration, and thus being sacramentally regenerate; and that Sacrament is also called by the name of that which it is a sign. (43)
This too is an important point and a commonplace of historic Reformed divinity worth remembering.

19 September 2007

i feel like a scurvy bilge rat

Ahoy, me harties.

It seem I be stuck home sick on international "Talk Like a Pirate Day." This be most unfortunate, 'specially since me voice be soundin' gruff as a salty sea-dog.

Since I be out of commission, ye might be wanting to view this here helpful instructional video in the stead:

baptismal efficacy

Some time ago, I had written a chapter concerning baptismal efficacy for a "multiple perspectives" book. I don't think that book is going to see the light of day any time soon, so I have posted the chapter on my website under the title "'I Will Sprinkle Clean Water': Baptismal Efficacy and the Reformed Tradition." It's still the first version of the chapter since the book process stalled before I got to the point of response and revision.

The chapter provides an exegetical sketch, outlining a biblical theology of baptism and then, building upon that, attempts to draw some systematic conclusions. For the purposes of the chapter, I bracketed out the question of infant baptism, though my post immediately preceding this one would provide much of the theological (though not the exegetical) content of what I would say.

I hope the chapter will be of some use, perhaps even to the discussion currently going on over at De Regno Christi should that turn towards sacramental theology.

the laver of regeneration and renewal

Earlier this year, in the comments on another post, there was an exchange concerning what I said about baptism in the body of the post and my use of Charles Hodge to back up my perspective.

In particular, I had appealed to Hodge's insistence that, in the believing reception of baptism, the Holy Spirit reconveys and faith reappropriates the forgiveness of sins, ingrafting into Christ, the Spirit himself, and, in general, the benefits of Christ's mediation. I don't think my interlocutor disagreed with Hodge on this general perspective.

The real sticking point in the exchange seemed to be "regeneration" and its relationship to baptism, particularly in light of Hodge's assertion that "baptism can not be the only or even the ordinary means of conveying the grace of regeneration." Rather, according to Hodge, it is the preaching of the word by which such regeneration is wrought.

Hodge goes on to give no less than five reasons why baptism cannot be an ordinary means of regeneration, which would seem to render Hodge irreconcilable with the teaching of the church catholic, from the earliest Fathers onward, up through and including a number of reformational Protestant divines who thought that, at least in the case of elect infants, baptism was an occasion and means of the Spirit's regenerating work.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure Hodge was so at odds with wider Christian traditions as one might think. At that point in the exchange, my attempt to say something constructive proceeded along the following lines.

First, let's stipulate that by "regeneration" we mean the result of effectual calling, a sovereign work of the Spirit, renewing and renovating the heart, so that a person is enabled to put actual faith in the Gospel so to receive and rest upon Christ for salvation.

Second, I want to be absolutely clear that I believe that this regeneration can be enjoyed quite apart from the actual administration of baptism and that there are many who are baptized who are never regenerated. (By the way, the wider Christian tradition - from Chrysostom and Augustine to Lombard and Aquinas - would agree with this in general, allowing, for instance, that unbaptized catechumens and martyrs might still be saved and that others, though baptized, might fail to receive the grace of baptism due to their own heresy or unbelief.)

Third, I would whole-heartedly affirm that this regeneration is something ordinarily wrought by the Spirit through the preaching of the Word.

None of these points are in dispute in what I am saying. Neither are any of these points, however, in the least conflict with the following affirmations:

[1] While infants are incapable of experiencing actual regeneration and the exercise of faith in particular acts, infants are nonetheless capable of having the seed and root of regeneration and faith, that is to say, the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.

[2] In infant baptism, faithful parents should have the hopeful expectation that the Holy Spirit is present and active, so that, whatever prior operations of the Spirit may have been present in the infant, the Spirit ordinarily (re)conveys himself to our children in baptism as the seed and root of their regeneration and faith.

[3] We should, therefore, also expect that in the ordinary process of Christian nurture of children by faithful parents, the Spirit will use the preaching and teaching of Word to bring the seed and root of regeneration and faith to fruition in actual regeneration and the exercise of faith. That's to say, even our baptized children need to hear the Gospel and be called to repentance and faith, as do all God's people.

[4] Thus, following from the previous points, it is perfectly natural to say, with respect to our children, that "we baptize in order that the one who is baptized be made regenerate." That is to say, baptism is among the ordinary means at God's disposal by which he works in the lives of our children along the way to regeneration and faith, which are properly and ordinarily wrought by the Word.

[5] In the case of adult converts, they are presumably already believers before they come to baptism and thus are already regenerate.

[6] Nonetheless, as Hodge says, "the benefits of redemption, the remission of sin, the gift of the Spirit, and the merits of the Redeemer, are not conveyed to the soul once for all. They are reconveyed and reappropriated on every new act of faith, and on every new believing reception of the sacraments."

[7] That's to say, in baptism, faith is strengthened and increased so that we more and more die to sin and walk in newness of life, which is the progress and increase of regenerating grace (WCF 31.1; WLC 167).

[8] Thus, following from these points, it is perfectly natural to say, with respect to an adult convert, that "we baptize in order that the one who is baptized...might grow in his regeneration." That is to say, baptism is among the ordinary means at God's disposal by which he works in the lives of converts to strengthen and increase their faith unto newness of life.

[9] There are other complicating cases, of course, such as the adult who is baptized in unbelief but subsequently comes to faith or the child who dies in infancy prior to being able to be called through the preaching of the Word. But I'll set those aside for present purposes.

[10] Since we cannot look upon the heart, we extend the judgment of charity to all the baptized who profess faith and who are not living scandalously. That is to say, we have a hopeful expectation that what God has signified and sealed sacramentally is actually true in fact. Thus we speak to and about such baptized professors as "regenerate." Moreover, this judgment of charity is grounded in what Reformed theology has typically termed "regeneration" in a "merely external, sacramental, and conditional" sense.

I hope that is all relatively clear. Now, how does all of that intersect with what we find in Hodge and Miller and other 19th century Princeton theologians?

First, I certainly do not at all affirm that "baptism regenerates" in the sense that Hodge denies that "baptism regenerates." We are coming at the question and terminology from different angles and with different meanings.

Second, I don't know the details of Hodge well enough to say, but I suspect he probably would not agree with what I believe about baptized infants of faithful parents. The way he speaks of baptized children as needing to "ratify that covenant by faith" suggests this perhaps, though I certainly could agree with that statement in the sense that children need to grow up into repentance and faith through the preaching of the Gospel.

Third, I'm convinced that my probable disagreement with Hodge here is part of a historic and ongoing difference of opinion within the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, going back to the Westminster Assembly itself and before. There were conservative 19th century American Presbyterians who essentially agreed with what I've said above and there were those who didn't. All of our views are well within the bounds of the Westminster Standards and this is historically demonstrable.

Fourth, I fail to see how what I have outlined above bears any direct relationship to the kind of Anglo-Catholic sacerdotalism that Hodge describes and opposes. I'm not an Anglo-Catholic and my views come largely out of the Puritans and 17th century Reformed scholastics - not Pusey or Newman.

I expect Presbyterians will disagree on some of these details, and that's okay. I think our confessional tradition is broad enough to include a healthy spectrum of opinion.

I should also further clarify that I am only speaking of what infants are capable and of what faithful parents, relying upon the promises of God, can ordinarily expect with joyful hope.

On the specific question of just what precise operations the Spirit performs when and under what circumstances, I would commend caution against being overly dogmatic.

I'm fairly convinced in my own mind - based on the teaching of Scripture and how our tradition has reflected upon Scripture - that we can say (with a high degree of probable certainty) that the Spirit is the seed and root of regeneration in baptism for all infants who are elect to eternal salvation.

Moreover, we may add that all infants who are baptized - at least who are baptized in the context of church communities where Christ is believed upon and the Gospel is preached - enjoy the privileges and benefits the Spirit grants to the church visible, which is no small matter.

Further than that, I think we are in the realm of speculation.

There certainly have been prominent figures in the 16th and 17th century Reformed tradition who believed (or at least hoped or thought probable) that all baptized infants enjoy the remission of original sin and that this is what we mean by infant baptismal regeneration, adoption, sanctification, etc. In this case, those terms are used in a manner that is not univocal with their application to those of riper years who can exercise faith in particular acts and who enjoy subjective grace in a way that infants do not and in connection with the preaching of the Word.

This was once the position of much of evangelical Anglicanism, as well as some Presbyterians and figures within the Reformed churches on the continent. But it is admittedly a position very much in the minority. Moreover, it was criticized and rejected by other Reformed figures such as Mastricht and Witsius, though they nonetheless saw the proponents as orthodox Reformed teachers. I myself am fairly persuaded of the view, though only as a matter of hope and probability, not dogmatic certainty.

On the whole, I think this is the best I can manage as a brief and non-technical summary of how I appropriate Reformed teaching on regeneration and baptism.

18 September 2007

bogged down

We're barely a month into the semester and I seemed to have fallen out of the habit of posting here. I have several other writing projects I'm trying to poke away at and have been slowly updating various writings on my website and hope to add some new items soon.

At the moment I'm also sick - some sort of respiratory virus that is circulating around campus and affecting a great number of my students who, in turn, have been generous enough to share it with me.

So, I sit here in office hours with a huge thermos of hot tea perusing my mail. Among various notices and such, I received information on the upcoming Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association, which, in addition to a list of various scheduled presentations, also includes a lot of advertising from publishers.

Among the interesting features of the book ads are the sheer number of publications concerning religion and which provide translations of ancient and medieval texts, both new translations of previously translated works and, even better, many previously untranslated works. With our collection of mouldering journals and notices, I was able to compare the current offerings with those from 30 or more years ago and the interest in religion and pre-modern texts seems to represent a marked shift.

At any rate, the following titles caught my eye:
Persons: Human and Divine, edited by Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman (Oxford 2007)

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine, edited by Barry Smith (Oxford 2007)

Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources, edited and translated by Jon McGinnis and David C. Reisman (Hackett 2007)

Commentary on Aristotle's Politics, by Thomas Aquinas, translated by Richard Regan (Hackett 2007)

Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy, by Thomas E. Wartenberg (Routledge 2007)

On Plato's Cratylus, by Proclus, translated by Brian Duvick (Cornell 2007)

On Providence, by Proclus, translated by Carlos Steel (Cornell 2007)

Reading Jean-Luc Marion: Exceeding Metaphysics, by Christina Gschwandtner (Indiana 2007)

Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith, by Bruce Ellis Benson (Indiana 2007)

Medieval Philosophy, edited by Gyula Klime, Fritz Alhoff, and Anand Jayprakash Vaidya (Blackwell 2007)

Knowledge of God, Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley (Blackwell 2007)

Aquinas the Augustinian, edited by Michael Dauphinais, Barry David, and Matthew Levering (CUA 2007)
Of course, I have no plans to purchase or even read all of these. I'll probably begin with the last one on Aquinas and then move to Benson's book on Nietzsche.

Now, some more tea.

12 September 2007

not for sale

Become an abolitionist.

On Tuesday, 23 October, our parish - City Church Philadelphia - is hosting an event with the “Not For Sale Campaign” to raise awareness of and action against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, both broadly and locally in Philadelphia. We are gathering 7-8 other churches and 3 campus ministries for this.

It will be a multimedia presentation including clips from the rockumentary film The Concert to End Slavery, live performances of modern day redemption songs, a clip from the upcoming Lion’s Gate film Trade (in Philly at the Ritz beginning 28 September), and teaching about a faithful response to human trafficking in Philadelphia and worldwide by David Batstone, a former ethics professor at the University of San Francisco and instigator of the campaign.

More details will be available soon, but if you're in the Philadelphia area, you might be interested in participating in some way.

11 September 2007


Today was cloudy and rainy. In general, I don't do well in this sort of weather, especially as the days begin to get shorter. I end up staring into space a lot and, if I remain stationary for more than 10 minutes, I tend to fall asleep. Thus I didn't get as much work done today and I would have liked.

Today was also Claire's first full day of Kindergarten, which seemed to go smoothly, though tonight she was a bit more tired and grouchy than normal. Still, she seemed to enjoy her day and getting to know other kids. She's only one of ten kids in her class, which is a nice size and the teacher seems like an old pro.

In other news, my proposal for a Harry Potter course appears to have met with approval from my department chair, though we still need to decide on a class meeting time. Here's a portion of what I proposed:
I plan to use the seven books of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling in order to stimulate discussion on philosophical topics.

The book series functions across a number of genres – boarding school literature, coming of age story, fantasy, quest, mystery, social and political parody. As such, the books take many of the features of our world and experience and highlight them, exaggerating certain features for effect or drawing attention to particular narrative threads and themes. Thus they prove a useful lens through which to engage real-world issues, including many that intersect importantly with philosophy.

The two primary areas of philosophical discussion generated by the books involve ethics and metaphysics.

In terms of ethics, the books raise questions of moral psychology (e.g., the nature of self-deception), virtue and vice (e.g., is ambition a virtue), ethical ambiguity (e.g., can a person be brave and good and yet be petty and vindictive), friendship and its analogues (e.g., how does common action among friends for good ends differ from allies in wrongdoing), the ethics of self-sacrifice, questions of politics and society, and so on.

In terms of metaphysics, the books raise questions of fiction in general (e.g., do fictional creatures in some sense exist), the nature of personal identity (e.g., can a fractured self maintain identity), the soul and post-mortem existence (e.g., if we can somehow survive death, what is it that survives), the character of science/technology over against alchemy, magic, hermeticism, and astrology, foreknowledge and freedom in relation to prophecy, and so on.

Philosophy instructors who have run similar courses at other schools report that using the books as the basis for discussion tends to attract students who are already interested, who want to talk about the books, whose imagination and attention engage readily with the material.

Tentative Texts:

Baggett, David and Shawn E. Klein, Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristote Ran Hogwarts (Open Court 2004).

Baggett, David, “Love Potion #9¾: Vice, Volition, and Voldemort” (unpublished paper).

Chevalier, Noel, “The Liberty Tree and the Whomping Willow: Political Justice, Magical Science, and Harry Potter,” The Lion and the Unicorn 29 (2005) 397-415.

Granger, John, excerpts from Looking for God in Harry Potter (Saltriver 2006).

Gupta, Suman, excerpts from Re-Reading Harry Potter (Palgrave 2003).

Jacobsen, Ken, “Harry Potter and the Secular City: The Dialectical Religious Vision of J.K. Rowling,” Animus: A Philosophical Journal for Our Time 9 (2004).

Kern, Edmund M., excerpts from The Wisdom of Harry Potter (Prometheus 2003).

Linden, Stanton J., “Francis Bacon and Alchemy: The Reformation of Vulcan,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 35.4 (Oct - Dec 1974) 547-560.

MacNeil, William, “‘Kidlit’ as ‘Law-and-Lit’: Harry Potter and the Scales of Justice,” Law and Literature 14.3 (Autumn 2002) 545-64.

McFall, Lynne, “Inventing the Truth: Fiction As Moral Philosophy,” The Henry James Review 18.3 (Fall 1997) 217-222.

Schanoes, Veronica L., “Cruel Heroes and Treacherous Texts: Educating the Reader in Moral Complexity and Critical Reading…” in G.L. Anatol, ed., Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays (Praeger 2003).

Van Inwagen, Peter, “Creatures of Fiction,” American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977) 299-308.
That list of texts is only tentative. I've also written to several folks asking if I might use papers they've presented at some recent conferences.

Now that the course is approved, I'm going to try to plan a couple of bonus events - perhaps ask John Granger (who is local) whether he might want to come to give a talk and talk to our campus programming center about scheduling a Wizard Rock concert (I talked to the Moaning Myrtles and they seem keen on the idea).

On this last point, there's a paper I'm hoping to include concerning the nature of Harry Potter fan fiction and other sorts of literary spin-offs. Also, if anyone with expertise in aesthetics and cultural studies is reading this, I'd be interested in any articles you could point me to that addresses how art (in this case a literary text) can be taken up by others in new works of art (fan fiction, visual art, music, poetry, etc.) within popular culture.

Well, now it's time for a glass of wine and watching an old 1960s episode of The Avengers.

04 September 2007

busy time of year

We're a bit more than a week into the new semester and things are going quite well, as far as I can tell. The students seem like a nice bunch and, I hope, will grow more engaged with philosophy as things progress.

Last week involved a lot of final touches on syllabus, reading schedules, making arrangements with speakers, field trip planning, committee scheduling, troubleshooting the classroom computers, and the like. But I'm done with most of that, so things are fairly well set for the rest of the semester.

I still need to write up my Harry Potter course proposal, finish a paper for an upcoming conference, and continue with some planned website updates - a couple papers, several historical texts, some reformatting of existing material, etc. But after the busy week last week, I refrained from work-related efforts and enjoyed the long holiday weekend.

On Saturday we took a family outing for the better part of the day up to a place in New Jersey called the Howell Living History Farm. It's a historic site that preserves farm technology and life circa 1900 - horse drawn plows, soap-making, home canning, maple tapping, ice cutting, and so forth.

This past Saturday they had their annual plowing contest, pitting teams of draft horses and other animals against one another - Percherons, Belgians, Clydesdales, Suffolks, mules, oxen, etc. - in order to determine the best plow team. In the afternoon, the animals dragged logs through an obstacle course.

All the festivities were accompanied by kids' crafts, an old time band, pony rides, homemade ice cream, and a pig roast. Of course, I spent much of my time taking overwrought "artsy" photos:

At any rate, we had a great time at the farm. If you're in the area, it's worth a visit on one of their Saturday events and admission is free.

Sunday involved our normal Sunday routine and Monday was our parish picnic, which was well-attended and a great time. And, after bicycling to and from campus today and then helping my parents move a bunch of small furniture, I'm ready for bed.

I hope to resume more regular blogging soon. Stay tuned.

political cartoon

I usually avoid political commentary, but I thought this cartoon (which appeared in Philly's City Paper) was pretty amusing (click to view in a more readable format):

Or maybe I've simply consumed too much port before bed.