Prophetic Imagination (Brueggemann)

Brueggemann, Walter. Prophetic Imagination. Fortress Press.

As with all of Brueggemann’s works, it is rich in insight and weak in depth.

Great in terms of theoretical critique, weak in terms of solution. Brueggemann appears to advocate perpetual socialist crisis as the ideal for living faith. A number of problems with his approach: he advocates that community must be formed around a prophetic leader. I agree, sort of. But for WB this prophetic leader is useless unless he has something to prophesy against. Thus, there should be a perpetual bad guy, preferably white, male, and capitalistic. The philosophical marxism should be immediately apparent: perpetual crisis for perpetual flux and change.

Actually, for all of his talk about eschatology, he advocates a de-eschatologized marxism: perpetual class warfare without the “eschatological moment” when class is eliminated.

This book, for all of its problems, has its good moments. Unfortunately, its good moments only apply to communities that are highly disciplined and are able to appropriate their freedom in responsible manners. WB frames the debate in terms that the true solution cannot be mentioned (e.g., while it is good to talk about speaking the truth to power, this isn’t always the reason that communities are oppressed. Usually, the oppressive power is often connected with government bureaucracies).


Headline | Ames on Chastity

#ramism #williamames

Brian J. Lund

Ames is noted for his employment of Ramist divisions, which is a methodology that carefully considers a dialectic logic (though this claim should be carefully qualified as not embracing all accents which are associated with Ramism). Its especially helpful to see this when Ames considers “chastity.”

By carefully considering chastity in Scripture, Ames brings many qualities to light that seem all but forgotten by Christians (not to mention the world) today.

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Begin Here (Jacques Barzun)

Barzun, Jacques.  Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

If Mortimer Adler is the greatest educationist of the 20th century, then Jacques Barzun comes close.

Main Idea: Forget education..Let us talk instead of Teaching and Learning (Barzun 3).

Teaching isn’t a complex series of problems, pace modern progressives and educationists; rather, it is a series of difficulties.  There isn’t a formula for “how to teach.” It is an art (5). In other words, a good teacher knows more about his subject than about a strategy.

What does Barzun mean that problems are solved, not difficulties?  Problems come and go with education.  Difficulties are deeper: it is difficult to get students to learn accurately, to develop virtue (14). For example, a problem for today is how to teach during Covid.  A difficulty, as Plato noted in Meno, is how one immaterial mind can contact another mind and get that mind to make the proleptic leap to knowledge.

While a common refrain is “get the parents involved,” Barzun gives an uncomfortable, yet frank reminder: the parents are already involved via the school board.  I know what they mean.  Get the parents to hold the students accountable.  I think they should to an extent, but as we are seeing with wokist curricula today, the minute the parents start pushing back, the United States State Dept labels them as terrorists via the Patriot Act and facial recognition software.

We can blame television for much of children’s short attention span, but Barzun goes deeper.  The average social studies textbook has the same format and works against the student at a deeper level. Your average social studies textbook has some shiny pictures on a page and some text.  The pictures are far more interesting and only the bored students ever flip through the text.

The following would get Barzun brought up on charges of hate crimes today.  He notes several major problems with teaching “multicultural classics.”  1) the linguistic barrier; mastering these stories requires familiarity at some level with Eastern languages. Your average teacher will have no such ability.  2) If Plato’s Republic is a dialogue on the difficulties of truth and government, many of these Eastern stories are creation stories or moral platitudes.  If teaching the Bible is illegal, then it’s hard to imagine why teaching Hindu theology is okay. 3) If modern teachers lack the capacity to teach something as straightforward as the Western classics, they won’t have a chance of teaching Hindu metaphysics.

Barzun exposes the fallacy that teaching other customs will increase tolerance.  It does no such thing. In Beirut Christians are killing Christians, and Muslims, Muslims.  They are already well-aware of each others’ customs (131).

Furthermore, the West isn’t provincial.  The West, not the East, penetrated the whole globe. It was Western scholars who gathered Arabian and Persian religious texts and preserved them from destruction at the hands of the Wahabbis.

I don’t want to belabor the need to teach Western classics.  Barzun has a chapter on it that is well worth your time. He notes that the average fifteen year old, much to the dismay of the educational expert, would be enthralled with Augustine’s Confessions. Indeed, simply introduce them to the chapter where Augustine comes to that “sizzling” place, Carthage.  Every teenager knows what Augustine means when he says “I was in love with love.” When he writes, “a cauldron of unholy loves was sizzling and crackling around me,” every teenager knows exactly what he is talking about.

The real value in Barzun’s works is that while he criticizes the silly theories abounding today in education, he doesn’t let the critics off so easily.  It’s even to make fun of modern pedagogical theories.  The problem is that such criticisms rarely go to the root.  Indeed, if they did then other ideas might have to be abandoned.  We all know that “publish or perish” is pointless.  Indeed, it has a negative value on knowledge.  No one questions, though, whether the young scholar actually has any knowledge to give us.  He almost certainly doesn’t–but you don’t say such things.  Even worse, few question whether a PhD = good teaching.  If it doesn’t, then why do most universities insist on hiring only PhDs?

Nota Bene:

* People demand excellence, but as soon as it happens they cry, “Elitism!”  Standing out is undemocratic (3).

* “The announced ‘introductory course’ did not introduce the subject but tried to make recruits for advanced work in the field” (10).

* The goal of secondary and higher education today: “instead of trying to develop native intelligence and give it good techniques in the basic arts of man, we professed to make ideal citizens, supertolerant neighbors, agents of world peace, and happy family folk, at once sexually adept and flawless drivers of cars” (13).

* “In the instant of acquiring knowledge, the mind is most vulnerable to distraction” (21).  

* “The students who handle multiple choices best are not the best, but the second-best” (37).

* “Nor should that cowardly evasion, teamwork in the classroom, be allowed. Arithmetic is a private affair in which the opinion of others is useless” (82).

* “Good pedagogy says: to show the connections is the best teaching, and connections imply something already present with which to link the new” (90).

Twenty Great Developments in Syriac Studies in the Last Twenty Years

Studia Syriaca

I recently wrote a series of twenty Facebook posts that highlighted twenty great developments in Syriac studies. This is, of course, a personal list. But I thought it worth gathering the posts all together in one place.

1. Gathering

The formation of Syriac studies societies and regular local gatherings of Syriac scholars has helped grow the field in various countries and generated some wonderful books and a new journal over the last twenty years. In Germany, a regular Deutsche Syrologentag (first held in 1998) has generated a number of important collections. The eleventh Deutsche Syrologentag was held at the Martin-Luther-University in Halle-Wittenberg in April 2020. The valuable papers from the annual meetings of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies (founded in 1999) are published in the Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies, many issues of which are available free online. The Incontro sull’Oriente Cristiano di tradizione…

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We Distinguish: Antecedent/Consequent Conditions

As with all things Schilder, Pr. Bredenhof’s post is worth a careful read.


One of the distinctives of Reformed churches is that we hold to what the Bible says about covenant theology; what’s more, we emphasize it. In the Bible, God makes covenants. The covenant of grace is a special relationship between God and his people. Christians live within the context of this covenant relationship.

One of the thorniest issues in Reformed covenant theology involves conditions. In particular, are there conditions attached to the covenant of grace? There are some who answer in the negative. In particular, Herman Hoeksema and some of his followers have even said that speaking of conditions in the covenant of grace effectively makes one an Arminian. It’s a complicated issue with a long history in Reformed theology. An important distinction between types of conditions helps us, however, to untangle it.

Before we get to that distinction, there are two other important distinctions demanding our attention. Many Reformed theologians…

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Goethe: A Very Short Introduction

The Good in Goethe

* Few men in history were able to match Goethe in raw, lyrical power.  He stands alone.

* Interesting section on anthropology. Goethe, like many Germans, rejected Descartes’ “man as soul + machine” model and instead opted, to borrow a term from quantum mechanics, for an “entanglement” of soul (or force) and body.

* Unlike most in the Enlightenment, Goethe was a conservative.  This is evidenced in his (in)famous quote that he would rather allow one injustice than let disorder rule.

The Bad

* Goethe’s religious beliefs were always vague and shaky, and even when he came down on identifiable propositions, it might have been better had he been more vague.

* His loose morals were rather well known.  The less said about them the better.

Goethe didn’t consider himself a Romantic.  If the anachronistic option were put before him, he would have called himself a Classicist.

Aside from an execrable and pompous chapter on religion, this is a good read.

Theological Problems with Paul Washer

Lutheran's Blog


Paul Washer is a loved preacher by many evangelicals, but his message is twisted when it comes to the Law and Gospel Distinction.

Instead of me writing too much about him and his message, though I have much to say, I’ll give some resources for those who would like to know for themselves what Paul Washer says. Fair critiques.

I’ve said for quite some time that he is in direct violation of Scripture. Look what Jesus says and then compare it to what Paul Washer does going from church to church, city to city, yanking up the weeds (tares / unbelievers) in the Church only to harm the wheat (true believers). Note what I put in bold:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and…

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Strachan’s Rebranding of ESS is not “Thunderously Good”

Aimee Byrd

One great consequence of the Trinity Debate of 2016, which started over the issue of CBMW leaders teaching an ontological, eternal subordination of the Son to the Father (ESS/ERAS) and then applying that to men and women, is a resurgence of classical teaching on the Trinity and on the importance of biblical theology over and against Biblicism. However, even as the overwhelming consensus was that those who teach ESS are not in line with confessional Nicene trinitarianism, there never was any retraction of the teaching from CBMW or the from leaders who taught it. This is something that I wrote about in the summer of 2016, hoping there would be retractions, corrections, and even apologies.

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