Just Because You Don’t Make Sense, That Doesn’t Mean that Nothing Makes Sense.

THURSDAY

Western Philosophy

Derrida’s philosophical methodology is innovative. Rather than attempting to defend his views using clear analytic arguments, he tries to “deconstruct” language. He uses words in novel ways, makes puns, breaks up words in unusual places, exploits ambiguities and traces inventive etymologies that reveal connections between words that were not obvious before. This method is known as deconstruction because it is designed to undermine presuppositions about meaning and disrupt attempts to achieve clarity through language. Some readers find his deliberate obscurity and language play frustrating. His style is closer, at times, to avant-garde poetry than to traditional philosophy. But Derrida’s work poses a challenge to widespread assumptions that is hard to ignore.

[Jesse Prinz, “Language deconstruction: Jacques Derrida,” in David Papineau, ed., Western Philosophy, (New York, NY, USA: Metro Books, 2012), 56.]

And yet, something tells me that one day people will be ignoring Derrida’s work in droves.

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Jacques Derrida,
as in “Dare I Duh”
(1930-2004)

Blaming Beza

WEDNESDAY

For much of the 20th century—especially its second half—it has been fashionable in theological circles to assume that the school of thought commonly known as Calvinism has represented, to one extent or another, in one way or another, a departure from the thinking of its namesake, John Calvin (1509-1564), rather than a faithful transmission of it. The basic argument has assumed many forms, but they all essentially amount to attempts to disassociate the great Reformer from one or more undesired theological conclusions.

For the most part, this has been a topic for specialists: historical theologians, for the most part. But over the decades this novel assumption has trickled down through the drainpipes of academia and into the fertile imaginations of a wide variety of untrained theological ax grinders who have used it as a perennial chopping block. Take for example the gleeful comment of Luis Palau featured on the back of the 1997 Paternoster reprint of R.T. Kendall’s Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649: “It opened my eyes to who Calvin really was. I learnt Calvin was not a Calvinist!” Continue reading

No Ordinary People

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)The date of November 22, 1963—50 years ago tomorrow—is forever etched on the American consciousness as the date of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I imagine that most Americans remained in a state of shock beginning shortly after 12:30 p.m. (CT) that Friday, when Walter Cronkite broke the story, and into the long weekend which culminated in the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on live television Sunday morning. I myself was only four years old at the time, and have no direct recollection of those days, but I felt their reverberations throughout the rest of the ’60s. It was such a momentous event, coming as it did at the height of Cold War and arousing suspicions that still persist, that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some time before most Americans realized that President Kennedy was not the only important 20th century figure to die on the 22nd of that month.

Continue reading

The Curse of Info-Pedantry

I have sat in many-a-pew down through the years listening to an untold number of preachers, and on more than one occasion I have heard bold declarations that made me wonder what possible value they had for my Christian life, not to mention what possible connection they had to the rest of the message. Sometimes these homiletical gaffes can be chalked up to inexperience; other times…well, not so much. Continue reading

Crossing the Elenctic

WEDNESDAYFor quite some time now I have desired to read my way through two multi-volume Reformed systematic theologies: The Institutes of Elenctic Theology, by Francis Turretin (James T. Dennison, Jr., editor, George Musgrave Giger, translator, 3 volumes, [Phillipsburg, NJ, USA: P&R Publishing, 1992-1997]), and Reformed Dogmatics, by Herman Bavinck (John Bolt, editor, John Vriend, translator, [Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Academic, 2003-2008]). Both are widely-acknowledged theological masterpieces. Continue reading

George Eliot

George_Eliot[1]

Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), a.k.a. George Eliot, at 30, by Swiss artist Alexandre Louis François d’Albert Durade

SATURDAYFor this series of posts I will use the word “literature” in the most general possible sense, as opposed to the limited category of fiction and poetry. Essentially this means that what I write about on Saturdays will be anything I read that does not fall under one of my other six standard categories (Bible, Greek, Hebrew, Theology, Philosophy, and History). My “Miscellany” category is reserved for random things I write about on an irregular basis.  Continue reading

American Gospel, by Jon Meacham

FRIDAY

American Gospel, by Jon Meacham

This is far from the first book to explore the history and mythology behind the relationship of Christianity to American culture and government. To apply a meteorological metaphor: the topic acts like a stationary front hovering just off our coast, but occasionally coming ashore visiting political gusts, cultural storms, and rare incidents of violent behavior upon our land. So much has been written that one hardly knows where to begin.  Continue reading