Monthly Archives: July 2010

more processed digital meat

I typically just delete the spam comments when they appear in the spam folder.  On one other occasion, I lifted the comment straight from the spam folder and gave it to you for your enjoyment.  This morning, I found two new comments and I simply could not pass up the opportunity to share.  I share them for two reasons: 1) they’re just plain funny, and 2) they show just how far spammers are trying to go in order to sound legitimate.

The first one comes from a chap called, ‘can’t get over my ex’, who comments on this post:

This is one of the most authoritative post I ever encountered today, I’m speaking about this section of your post “… yielded this result:I almost didn&#8217t want to admit this one, but results are results. �I guess the only …” it makes me to feel more knowledgable after understanding it.

Okay, first of all, Mr Can’t: when you rip something out of its original context in order to make a point; you wind up sounding pretty lame (which is really a nice way of saying ‘you sound like an idiot’).  More to the point, there is nothing ‘authoritative’ about the section of the post you quoted, and I certainly don’t see how you can feel ‘more knowledgeable after understanding it.’  It was a passing shot at Dan Brown and by extension Jack Kinsella; there was nothing didactic about anything I said in that comment.  While I appreciate the attempted encouragement, it’s just lacking in real substance–you know, just like spam.

The second comes from a chap called, ‘help me get over my ex’, who comments on this post:

Some readers just don’t get it, like my neighbor who couldn’t figure the objective substance of this line on your article “… one too is a bit long:This revelation of the mystery is the real content of Paul&#8217s gospel (Rom 16.26),…” this is it, you just crushed it down pal.

(I think this dude and the first one ought to form a support group so that they can deal with their ‘ex’ problems in a helpful way).  Mr Help, I couldn’t agree with you more: some readers just don’t get it.  However, and I hate to be this rude, you’re included in your own criticism when it comes to your feedback about my post.  I would love to claim that the line you (started to) quote is my own making, but alas I dare not insult Ridderbos by suggesting that my intelligence is comparable to his.  So while I agree that the ‘objective substance’ of what Ridderbos says is somewhat complex, I cannot agree with the conclusion that it was mine or that I crushed anything.  More to the point: what the crap are you talking about?

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how they got here

It’s been a while since I’ve had a odd search inquiry that led someone to my blog.  I was beginning to think no one really cared, but then I was blessed with found this attempt:

ted harrison painful journey

I’m not exactly sure how that has anything to do with me.  Maybe I’ve forgotten about something that I shouldn’t have.

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a breather from the paper

Because I tend to read so much before writing anything (which might not be a good thing), I often find myself swirling with arguments and hypotheses of other scholars (QED).  It is in such times that I often to take a breather from what I’m reading so that I can process what has been said, which will (hopefully) inform what I write. 

However, there are also times when I need to take a breather because something I’ve read frustrates me to no end.  Usually, I’ll leave the office and take a quick lap around campus (which doesn’t take very long).  This time, I’ve decided to vent my frustrations here before resuming my writing.  Lucky you. 

I am currently wrapping up my latest essay for my present research, and in this essay I’m dealing with the ever-so-fun portion of 1 Corinthians: 2.6-16.  There are three distinct positions for how this portion of 1 Corinthians is dealt with: 1) it’s not original to the text–it is a later addition (i.e. an ‘interpolation’)–or it is merely a digression in Paul’s thought; 2) it’s influenced by Mormon Gnostic theology because of its emphasis on ‘secret wisdom’ and only the ‘perfect’ having access to God’s mind; or 3) it’s a foundational text for the doctrine of inspiration. 

Surprisingly, I’m not too bothered by the first option simply because the arguments in favour of such an idea are not that convincing.  More surprisingly, I’m not at all worried about the second option simply because the arguments in favour of that idea are utlimately anachronistic.  Moreover, to say that Paul is influenced by such a theology would wind up creating a contradiction within the larger argument of 1 Cor 1–4.  But don’t worry, there’s an escape hatch for those confronted by this problem: 2.6-16 is an interpolation. 

Where my frustration lies, and shame on you if couldn’t figure this out, is with the final option.  To some, this might be the biggest surprise of all–i.e. I’m bothered by someone making a case for the doctrine of inspiration.  Well, be surprised; but hold off for a second on calling me a heretic. 

The primary reason for my frustration is this: the text of 1 Cor 2.6-16 says nothing about the inspiration of Scripture.   In fact, 1 Cor 2.6-16 says very little about Scripture, period.  True, Paul quotes two passages of Scripture in the course of his argument (2.9, 16); but he is hardly quoting them for the sake of saying something about Scripture as a text–let alone an inspired text.  Moreover, it’s not even clear if the text he quotes in 2.9 is faithful to the OT–let alone in the OT. (I’ll leave that hanging in the air for now).

The cause of my frustration is an article by a scholar who will remain unnamed–out of respect.  This scholar argued the exact opposite of what I’ve just mentioned.  His entire case is predicated on the assumption that 1 Cor 2.6-16 is a long overlooked passage for establishing a sound doctrine of Scriptural inspiration.  What frustrated me even more was, because that is his controlling assumption, he winds up making all sorts of exegetical claims about the text that simply do not hold water.  His claims make sense if he’s trying to prove the doctrine of inspiration from that text.  However, his claims make very little sense if the text is examined for what it says. 

What Paul is saying in this passage is so incredibly rich and wonderfully illuminating (yeah, that one might get me in some trouble), both of which are lost if we read his argument as nothing but a promotion for Scriptural inspiration.  The only Pauline text clearly says something about Scriptural inspiration is 2 Timothy 3.16, but that’s an entirely different discussion.  If you want to know what is so incredibly rich and wonderfully illuminating about 1 Cor 2.6-16, I’ll try to have something out for you in about 2 years.*

*I allow myself one comment of academic smuggery a month, and that was it.

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restful fridays with Ridderbos

Today’s installment comes from an article I had to read for part of my research.  Unlike the previous quotes in this series, the following is not only shorter (slightly) but also not concerned with the topic of eschatology.  (I noticed a theme starting to form with the previous quotes, so I wanted to make sure this series is not one-sided in focus).  Here’s today quote:

Possibly we would like to learn from Acts more about Peter and his ‘theology’.  But we must realize that Peter’s speeches are not given [to] us for this purpose.  Luke is not interested in what is specifically Petrine or Pauline.  Their joint significance in the service of Christ and the gospel is more important to his purpose than anything which is peculiar to the one or to the other.  That is why the speeches in Acts cannot serve as a primary source for the ‘theology’ of Peter and Paul.  For that, one must always consult primarly their Epistles.

- Ridderbos, ‘The Speeches of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles’ (1961), 7-8.

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just for fun

I came across this earlier this morning and thought it was great.  Anything that has a go at Dispensational theology, I enjoy.

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one of the (many) things that bug me

More and more, people say certain things that have a completely different meaning than what they honestly believe they mean.  Or, to put it differently: people will use particular words or phrases in ways that make absolutely no sense, all the while believing such words or phrases are entirely appropriate and even necessary for what is said.  Or worse, they believe such words or phrases are accurate reflections of what is truly the case.

For example, I cannot tell you how many times I hear people using the word, ‘actually’* and their use of that term makes zero sense in relation to what they are saying.  In fact, more times than not, how they use the term winds up creating (interesting, and sometimes even humourous) confusion.  Walking back from the bank just this morning, I overheard some eleventeen-year-old girl announce to her similar-looking-in-terms-of-clothing-and-hairdo-eleventeen-year-old friend, ‘I actually went over to his house . .  .’  Well, genius, how else are you going to go over to his house?  Metaphorically?  Allegorically?  Figuratively?  Metaphysically?  What? 

Here’s another example, and this is one that prompted this posting.  After returning from my lunch, I checked out YahooNews just to see what’s up in the world and came across this story.  Here’s my rant.  The article clearly states that the idiot boy in question escaped death just barely and walked away untouched; yet, the title of the article says, ‘Boy’s Near-Miss Playing Chicken With Train.’  I’m sorry, but a ‘near-miss’ means contact; a ‘near-miss’ would mean that the idiot kid would be a grease spot on the tracks; it doesn’t mean he walks away untouched!  (1, 2, 3, 4, . . . okay, I’m better now).   

It is because of stories like these, and uses of language such as those, that I have to console myself with this kind of advice.  Okay, back to work.

* I have the same beef with how people (mis)use, ‘literally’.  Go here for a great take on this.


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restful fridays with Ridderbos

This quote comes from an earlier portion of the book–earlier in comparison to the quotes I’ve already mention, but one that is certainly relevant to what has been considered.  Like the previous one, this one too is a bit long:

This revelation of the mystery is the real content of Paul’s gospel (Rom 16.26), the object of ‘the ministry which was entrusted to him’ (Col 1.25, 26; cf. Eph 3.2).  Therefore Paul’s preaching itself is taken up into the great eschatological event; it is rightly and in the full sense kerygma of the gospel, that is, announcement, proclamation of the coming of salvation.  That Paul’s epistles give what is no longer the first announcement of this gospel, but rather the further exposition and application of it, does not detrct from the fact that this gospel is the sole and constant subject of his epistles also; and that therefore, if one has to characterize their general content not only as kerygma, but also as doctrine and paraenesis, yet this doctrine, too, has no other object and this admonition no other starting point and ground than the fulfilling and redeeming activity of God in the advent of Christ.

-Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 47-48

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style and a test

A fellow blogger and far better scholar pointed out this website, which compares your writing style to that of other known/famous writers.  (The instructions, if you want to give it a whirl, are self-explanatory).  Out of morbid curiosity, and because my style of writing has been the topic of discussion between myself and a few others, I decided to see what would happen.  Hence, I indulged.  I got this outcome from sampling the last two paragraphs from this post:

In many ways I was quite pleased with the result.  Thankfully, the sampling was from something rather basic and slightly sarcastic.  I then thought, ‘Why not try something more serious?’  With my newfound toy, I supplied some more text and got this outcome, which came from the last two paragraphs of this post:

I admit that I was a bit disturbed by that one given the genre and content of Lovecraft’s work.  Also, I didn’t imagine that the form of my critique of FC Baur would be on par with the style of Lovecraft.  In an attempt to wipe the slate clean, as it were, I gave it another go; this time using a sampling from the last three paragraphs of this post and received this outcome:

Oh dear; this can’t be good.  It would seem that when I critique the works of others, my writing takes on a dark and ghastly demeanour–something I would have never done intentionally.  (Maybe I should seek counselling).  However, in some ways Poe is a fascinating writer, so I wasn’t put off too much by the comparison; but I did think that such associations had to stop, so I gave it yet another try.  This time the sample came from the first three paragraphs of this post and yielded this result:

I almost didn’t want to admit this one, but results are results.  I guess the only redeeming quality with this is that the original post (give above) was an attempt to expose a devious plot by someone trying to peddle things as their own truth, when in reality they’re not.  In an attempt to get this result out of my mind, and still wanting to know more about my style of writing, I gave it another shot.  On this next attempt, I used a couple of paragraphs from a sermon I preached earlier this year, and was given this:

In many ways, I could not have been more excited with that result; Adams is one of my favourite authors.  He is an amazing storyteller and he knows precisely what to do and when to do in what he writes.  I just wish that I consciously knew those things; the connection here had to be a fluke. However, I then wondered if other things I’ve written, that are more narrative-like, would give the same result.  If only I were so lucky.  I got this result from using a few paragraphs from a story I started writing a few years ago:

Oh, this can’t be good.  What really disturbed me was that the story in question is a happy story; nothing evil and sinister.   (Yeah, yeah; I know the website determines the connections based on the Flesch and Flesch-Kinkaid scales and not actual content; blah, blah, blah).  However, my only solace with this comparison was the fact that King’s writing style sells books.  Well, to move away from the basic and to see if my style was really worth anything, I gave it one final go.  This time, I used the final two paragraphs from a recent submission to my project, and I received this outcome:

Not really sure how to take that one, especially since it was a critique of a portion of my PhD thesis.  Admittedly, the paragraphs used were summary, so the style would not be as technical as the rest of the paper.  (I tried inserting other bits from the paper, where things are more technical, but the analyser had difficulty with the Greek).  I’ll have to think about how this connection might be a good thing and/or how I might learn from it.

All of that aside, this entire process raised a concern for me, especially as I am thinking through a continuous scholarly debate in my field.  (I know I’m going to rip open a can of worms with a chainsaw on this, but here it goes).  One of the key debates in Pauline studies involves the question of authorship of the letters bearing Paul’s name–i.e. Romans thru Philemon.  When it comes to defending the position that Paul did not write certain letters–i.e. Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians and the Pastorals–a central point in this defence is the issue of stylistic differences.

In other words, scholars arguing against Pauline authorship for the letters just mentioned will say (and I’m oversimplifying things just a bit): ‘the style of writing between these letters and the “known Pauline letters” is just too different to say that they come from the same hand.  The grammar, the syntax, the word choice, the length of sentences, the vocabulary; all of it, in the “disputed Paulines” just doesn’t fit with what we find in the “authentic Paulines”.’  Oh, you mean the kinds of things that the Flesch and Flesch-Kinkaid scales would measure?  You mean the sorts of measurements used that told me seven different pieces of my own writing reflect the styles of seven different authors?


Just for fun: I ran a few random passages from each of Paul’s letters through the website just to see what would happen.  Here’s what I found:

Romans 2.1-11:  H.G. Wells
1 Corinthains 2.6-16:  H.P. Lovecraft
2 Corinthians 5.11-21:  James Joyce
Galatians 4.21-31:  Arthur Conan Doyle
Ephesians 1.15-23:  Daniel Defoe
Philippians 3.2-11:  James Joyce
Colossians 1.3-14:  James Joyce
1 Thessalonians 2.1-16:  James Fenimore Cooper
2 Thessalonians 2.1-12:  H.P. Lovecraft
1 Timothy 3.9-16:  Vladimir Nabokov
2 Timothy 3.1-9:  James Joyce
Titus 2.1-14:  William Shakespeare
Philemon 8-16:  Mary Shelley


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random find while rooting around the library

[T]heology as a whole is more than systematic theology or dogmatics.  There is biblical theology, too, historical theology, practical theology, and other theologies as well.  Systematic theology is only one contribution to a greater shared theological whole.  This means that it cannot be a closed system, but must indicate the points of contact where there can be dialogue with the other theological systems.  The age-old dispute about ‘the crown of theology’ is a vain one.


It is impossible to say anything that is theologically valid for everyone at all times and in all places.  A perennial theology is out of the writer’s power.  So he [or she] must critically resolve the naive, absolute self-centeredness of his [or her] thinking.

-J. Moltmann,
Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology, xvi, xvii

I would suggest that what Moltmann says about theological systems applies just as well to the various interpretative disciplines.  No one discipline is able to answer all of the questions that arise from the text, and thus no one discipline has the final say–or, provides the best (read: only) way for understanding the text.  To say otherwise not only supplants beneficial dialogue, it is also nothing more than academic snobbery. 

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restful Fridays with Ridderbos

This is going to be a rather longish quote, but it is one that has been resonating with me for some time now.  I originally encountered when I was reading Ridderbos’ book in a more sporadic fashion, trying to get my head around how to wrestle with Paul’s understanding of the cross of Christ.  I cam across is it again today when I was being more focused and purposeful in my reading.  I hope you enjoy:

For the proper understanding of the great theme of justification by faith it is necessary above all to obtain an insight into the manner in which it is connected with the basic eschatological-christological structure of Paul’s preaching . . . and, as it were, how it issues forth organically from that preaching.  Because this background has frequently been lost sight of, for a long time this theme was ascribed too predominating a significance in the whole of Paul’s proclamation of salvation and everything else was subordinated to it; at a later period, others have, leading to a still greater dislocation of the organic relationships in Paul’s doctrine, thrust this theme entirely into the background, in the interest of what was then regarded as the mystical-ethical main line.  The inadequacy of the one as well as the other of these two ways of judging Paul’s preaching can be recognized easily when we endeavor to understand Paul’s doctrine of justification primarily in the light of the general redemptive-historical or eschatological character of his preaching.

-Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 161-62.

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