"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Friday, March 14, 2014

King's College, London is hosting a conference June 20-22 on Jesus and Brian, the Life of Brian that is. The programme and other information can be found here. The mystery guest at dinner on 21 June might be worth attending! Chris Keith at the Jesus blog suggests one of the Pythons.


JBherosquareALTOh, another instance of wishing I was closer to London.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Son of God: The Bible Miniseries Remix

There has been a bit of talk with the release of "Son of God" in the theatres within the last two weeks. I have not seen it, but I have seen the full Bible miniseries from which "Son of God" is derived. Through various reviews, I have learned that material was edited out and deleted scenes added. So it would have been worth my time to view the "new" film as a study in modern Gospel redaction.

Craig Keener's article in CT highlights the removal of the devil from the "Son of God." I suspect this means that the entire temptation narrative was excised. Keener's article is also provides an in-depth look at the role the devil plays in each of the Gospel narratives. So his review is not so much a review as an excellent mini-study on the devil in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Kenneth R. Morefield in a CT movie review refers to the "Son of God" as "a bit like listening to a pretty good tribute band doing a set list of Top 40 hits you have heard most of your life." He points out how the footage was shot and initially edited for television and thus on the big screen it doesn't have quite the same punch, especially when there are places when you feel a commercial should follow that climax. His review in intriguing in the way he considers, more as the review progresses, media and the event that going to the movies is.

Over at Her.meneutics Margot Starbuck writes a nice piece on how the images of God that we see in film or read in books influences and can challenge our perceptions of who God is. She uses "Son of God" and Diogo Morgado's recent incarnation of Jesus as a springboard for that discussion.

Nothing like another rendition of Jesus to get people talking. 

My previous comments on the Bible miniseries included entries on Angels, Character Portrayal and Juxtapositions, and Weakest and Powerful Moments.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Polytechnic Utiliversity by Reinhard Hütter

In case you missed it, there was an excellent piece on higher education by Reinhard Hütter in the November 2013 issue of First Things entitled "Polytechnic Utiliversity: Putting the Universal Back in University." Hütter offered a thoughtful and challenging look at the ideal set out by John Henry Newman about what a university should be, and  Hütter compared this with the utilitarian, professionally focused institution that the larger universities have become. The second paragraph of the essay gives you the sense of his perspective:

"The ideal of a liberal education that carries its end in its very practice has been supplanted by an efficiency-driven program of knowledge making and a respective training in the communicative, mathematical, and scientific skills necessary for contributing to this knowledge making and applying it to ends dictated by individual and collective desires. The university has morphed into a polytechnicum with a functionalized, propaedeutic liberal arts appendix, a community college on steroids, with undergraduate training subdivided into functionalized pre-med, pre-law, pre-engineering training and the “salad bar” consumer curriculum in the humanities."
Hütter attributes the beginning of the "efficiency-driven program" to Francis Bacon and points to Friedrich Nietschze as anticipating what would happen with a "purely secular utilitarian knowledge production." Newman forms the backbone of Hütter's argument that theology and universal perspectives offer the best way forward in university education. The knowledge of God or of religious truth, according to Newman, is greater than any knowledge available through human reason and natural theology. Newman, as quoted by Hütter, states:
“Admit a God,” he writes, “and you introduce among the subjects of your knowledge, a fact encompassing, closing in upon, absorbing, every other fact conceivable. How can we investigate any part of any order of Knowledge, and stop short of that which enters into every order? All true principles run over with it, all phenomena converge to it; it is truly the First and the Last . . . . You will soon break up into fragments the whole circle of secular knowledge, if you begin the mutilation with divine.”  

And well, that appears to be what the modern university has done.

Disappointingly, Hütter ends the essay with only two possible options: give up and let the "polytechnic utiliversity" and the consumer version of education have its way or to fight for Newman's idea of a university, which Hütter terms an "all-too-unlikely utopia." It is hard to fight for something that is not quite possible or viewed as utopia. Is there no middle way (preferably a middle way on the Newman side of the middle)? Are small liberal arts colleges and universities the hope? The financial pressures of the last few years have made our consumer-minded society harder to sell on the liberal arts, but for the sake of humanity, I hope that the "dystopia" of the utiliversity is not "all-too-likely."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Surprise! Texting and Web Surfing Affects Learning

Here is the concluding quote from a recent study by Kuznekoff and Titsworth on the use of texting and social media posts by students in the classroom:


". . . students who use their mobile phones during class lectures tend to write down less information, recall less information, and perform worse on a multiple-choice test than those students who abstain from using their mobile phones during class." Cited from,  J. H. Kuznekoff and S. Titsworth,"The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning." Communication Education, 62.3 (2013): 233-252 at 251.

Not any surprise here. This is also why texting and driving are illegal in most places.

Some further illuminating quotes from the study are as follows:


"The practical implication stemming from the tests surrounding hypothesis 2 is that students who were actively texting/posting simply recalled less information than students who were not texting/posting. Specifically, students in the control group scored 36% higher than the group with low rates of texting/posting and 51% higher than the group with high rates of texting/posting" (p. 247).

"From a purely physical standpoint, texting impedes notetaking. Cognitively, as students engage in dialogue with others through texts/posts, they will likely be less capable of adequately processing information, taking notes on that information, and recalling information during assessment opportunities" (p. 247).


"Compared to those students who do not text/post, when students engage in these behaviors they will potentially record 38% fewer details in their notes, score 51% lower on free-recall tests, and 20% lower on multiple-choice texts" (p. 248).


"Because students were able to recall some aspects of the details, a lack of attention cannot be the only explanation--texting/posting must also impact how students process information after the information has passed through their attention filters" (p. 249).





Monday, January 6, 2014

The Importance of Reading and the Joy of Reading Wodehouse

Ran across this post on the value of recreational reading as important and a valuable human activity. There is some wonderful discussion of P.G. Wodehouse, one of my favorite authors, as an example of excellent recreational reading. The post and Wodehouse are worth some time of recreational reading.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reviews of Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

For those interested in what some biblical scholars are saying about Reza Aslan's book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. A selection of reviews and blog comments are located below. I highly recommend Robert Gundry's razor-sharp review, but you can't go wrong with Le Donne, Hurtado, Evans, and Carey either.

Reviews: 
Robert Gundry's review of Zealot in Books and Culture "Jesus as a Jewish Jihadist": http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/novdec/jesus-as-jewish-jihadist.html

Anthony Le Donne at Jesus Blog: http://historicaljesusresearch.blogspot.ca/2013/07/a-usually-happy-fellow-reviews-aslans.html#more

Larry Hurtado: http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/zombie-claims-and-jesus-the-zealot/

Craig Evans at Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/zealot-reza-aslan-tells-same-old-story-about-jesus.html

Greg Carey at the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/reza-aslan-on-jesus_b_3679466.html

Larry Behrendt at the Jesus Blog: http://historicaljesusresearch.blogspot.ca/2013/07/a-review-of-reza-aslans-zealot.html

Elizabeth Castelli at the Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/175688/reza-aslan-historian#

On Aslan's Fox Interview:
Jesus Blog: http://historicaljesusresearch.blogspot.ca/2013/07/reza-aslan-on-foxnews-embarrassed-to-be.html

Jim West on Aslan's credentials: http://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/is-reza-aslan-a-liar/

Matthew J. Franck at First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/07/29/scholarly-misrepresentation/



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Jesus Blog

I can tell from postings of mine over the last few months or the lack of posts that it has been a busy semester.

I just added a link under Blog List to the Jesus Blog run by Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith. There are posting some interesting things about historical Jesus research. You can find them here: http://historicaljesusresearch.blogspot.ca/