This invites a comment upon a debate which has occupied too much attention, the debate between the so-called ‘ethics of the kingdom’ and the ‘ethics of creation’. This way of posing the alternatives is not acceptable, for the very act of God which ushers in his kingdom is the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the reaffirmation of creation. A kingdom ethics which was set up in opposition to creation could not possibly be interested in the same eschatological kingdom as that which the New Testament proclaims. At its root there would have to be a hidden dualism which interpreted the progress of history to its completion not as a fulfillment, but as a denial of its beginnings. A creation ethics, on the other hand, which was set up in opposition to the kingdom, could not possibly be evangelical ethics, since it would fail to take note of the good news that God had acted to bring all that he had made to its fulfillment.
The result of our thingness is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing, as a matter of fact. This is obvious in our understanding of time, which, being thingless and insubstantial, appears to us as if it had no reality.
Indeed, we know what to do with space but do not know what to do about time, except to make it subservient to space. Most of us seem to labor for the sake of things of space. As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted dread of time and stand aghast when compelled to look into its face. Time to us is sarcasm, a slick treacherous monster with a jaw like a furnace incinerating every moment of our lives. Shrinking, therefore, from facing time, we escape for shelter to things of space.
We are not mindful enough of the architecture of time and history. As Christians, we want to learn to define the course of our lives in terms of the Lordship of Christ. This means defining our year in terms of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and more.
The problem with Memorial Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and so on, is not that we happen to observe them. There is nothing sinful about a Memorial Day barbecue, but there is a problem when such civil holidays supplant and replace our distinctively Christian understanding of time. When holiday (holy day) makes people think of secular days, we have a problem.
We are to mark our days in the annual calendar the same way we mark our week as consisting of seven days with one day of rest. We do the same with our historical calendar marked into that glorious division of BC and AD. The secularists, with their BCE and CE, are wiser than the children of light. He who defines, wins. They want to win, and so they seek to define. We don’t know what we want, and so we tend to just drift along, defining nothing. But it is not the Common Era. There is nothing common about it. Jesus Christ made all things new, including how we are to reckon the times. How do we understand our days, our weeks, our months, our years? The Lord Jesus is the cornerstone, not only of the church, but also of the history of the church. He is the cornerstone of time.
An interesting (and, to a Calvinist like myself, somewhat amusing) post from Political Theology:
For the sake of the following argument, I would like to grant the premises of Max Weber’s idealist argument: religion and culture (superstructure) are causative agents in socio-economic change. As is well known, Weber argued that Calvinism acted as a crucial vanishing mediator for capitalism. It provided the cultural, behavioural and religious framework that enabled capitalism to establish itself and gain ground. He looked in particular to the Netherlands, where the first commercial empire was established in the sixteenth century, and then to England, where the Puritans enabled a similar feat some time later. Frugal living, hard work, self-discipline, delayed satisfaction and reliance on the inscrutable grace of God – these and more were the factors that enabled the accumulation of primitive capital and then the expansion of the new system. Then, having achieved its task, Calvinism retired or vanished from its preeminent role.
Weber is of course wrong, but I would like to suggest he is wrong even if we accept his premises. Why? It was the Arminian heresy and not Calvinism that provided the cultural framework for capitalism. The reason is simply that the key agents in establishing capitalism in the Netherlands – or the United Provinces as it was then called – were Arminians, not Calvinists. Let me explain, by focusing on the thought of one of the earliest theorists of capitalism, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). The crucial elements turn out to be the assertion of a free-willing individual, who has the power to choose good or evil, and to accept or reject God’s grace.
My 17th century Dutch history is pretty limited so if anyone better acquainted with the period would care to comment, I’d love to hear from you. (Occasional Mere O contributor Brad Littlejohn disputes parts of this piece in the comments at the original post–the interaction there is well worth your time.)
From The Telegraph:
For centuries it has been the pride of Scotland. But according to one of the world’s leading critics, Scotch malt whisky is now being outshone by “vastly improved” American brands.
Jim Murray, the author of the best-selling Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, claimed contamination had affected the casks used to age whiskies, while bourbons, made in the United States, have improved.
“Everyone automatically thinks that the best whisky is made in Scotland, but there are too many bad casks rattling around,” he said.
“Generally speaking, bourbon … has overtaken Scotch. The best whisky is coming not from Scotland any more, but from Kentucky.” Buffalo Trace, a bourbon distillery, is “arguably the best distillery in the world”, Mr Murray said.
Shana Tovah! It was Rosh Hashanah in Washington, D.C. I unexpectedly found myself on my neighbor’s patio, ringing in the lunar New Year with a small gathering of his Jewish friends. Everyone was in his or her twenties, a bipartisan collection of government staffers, advocacy workers, and writers. California. Georgia. New Jersey. Everyone was from somewhere else.
Our host interrupted the lively conversation to sing a blessing over the apples, honey, and wine. The cicadas sang along. Another guest prayed and cut the challah.
“Religion is something practiced with the family, so it’s hard to be away from family during the holidays,” my neighbor said as he set out the feast. The brisket is marinated in a gallon of Coca-Cola—his mother’s special recipe. “You make do and start new traditions with other people who are in similar situations.”
My neighbor is not alone. The federal city is full of sojourners. When I moved into my brownstone flat in the Eastern Market neighborhood last year, it was my third residence in as many years. My little Anglican church down the street announces newcomer’s dinners and farewell parties in the same breath. So while I can navigate the concrete arteries of Washington with increasing ease, I cannot shake the sense that I am, as T.S. Eliot says, “familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.”
What would happen if authors and publishers could not count on copyright to protect them from piracy? History hints at the answer. From the founding of the United States until well into the 20th century, domestic copyright laws generally denied foreign authors any form of legal redress. Yet as the legal scholar Robert Spoo explains in Without Copyrights, they developed other stratagems to recoup the costs of writing, producing, and marketing their works.
It wasn’t simple, and it wasn’t always pretty, but it kept the American public well supplied with global literature. In Spoo’s able recounting, moreover, it gave rise to some entertaining tales of literary brawls and criminal obscenity.
Until the Chace Act was passed in 1891, only citizens and residents of the U.S. could qualify for American copyrights. Even thereafter, for another 60 years or so, domestic laws continued to deny copyrights to non-American authors who first manufactured or published their works abroad, or who failed to satisfy the stringent statutory formalities of U.S. copyright law. Few foreign authors even tried to run that legal gantlet; many who tried nonetheless failed. Through these openly and avowedly protectionist provisions, U.S. copyright law subsidized domestic publishers, typesetters, printers, binders, and readers. It also enriched the public domain with the works of foreign authors.
From The Guardian:
The emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, who says he has never sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call, published fewer than 10 papers after his groundbreaking work, which identified the mechanism by which subatomic material acquires mass, was published in 1964.
He doubts a similar breakthrough could be achieved in today’s academic culture, because of the expectations on academics to collaborate and keep churning out papers. He said: “It’s difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”
From Humane Pursuits:
Ours is an era of travel. If you want to be cultured, broadminded, thoroughly educated, you travel. And escaping across the continent or overseas has never been easier. Day or night, the roads that crisscross the country are lined with lights. People are always going somewhere.
Recently, my husband and I took a road trip from Maryland to Tennessee. As the miles and hours ran on, I wondered what places—exotic, comfortable, or dingy—all those drivers around us peered toward over their steering wheels. I believe that many of us, whether we’re on a business trip or a vacation, don’t enjoy the journey part of traveling, although we look forward to the destination. Traveling can be uncomfortable; it means to be on the way to somewhere, to be in limbo. We are in a hurry to get done with that on-the-way part and to make ourselves feel as much at-home as we can while we’re en route.
On most American highways, you can’t drive through empty countryside. Every mile or so along the open road, you pass ugly signs in primary colors, pointing out the gas stations, chain restaurants, and hotels that dot the roadside for the convenience of the multitudes who pass. As we sped along the endlessly unrolling road through Virginia and Tennessee, I felt disappointed; the uniqueness of every new place we passed seemed diminished by this speed and these identical stores planted in concrete.
One of the occupational hazards of being an atheist and secular humanist who hangs around on discussion boards is to encounter a staggering level of historical illiteracy. I like to console myself that many of the people on such boards have come to their atheism via the study of science and so, even if they are quite learned in things like geology and biology, usually have a grasp of history stunted at about high school level. I generally do this because the alternative is to admit that the average person’s grasp of history and how history is studied is so utterly feeble as to be totally depressing.
So, alongside the regular airings of the hoary old myth that the Bible was collated at the Council of Nicea, the tedious internet-based “Jesus never existed!” nonsense, or otherwise intelligent people spouting pseudo historical claims that would make even Dan Brown snort in derision, the myth that the Catholic Church caused the Dark Ages and the Medieval Period was a scientific wasteland is regularly wheeled, creaking, into the sunlight for another trundle around the arena.
The myth goes that the Greeks and Romans were wise and rational types who loved science and were on the brink of doing all kinds of marvelous things (inventing full-scale steam engines is one example that is usually, rather fancifully, invoked) until Christianity came along. Christianity then banned all learning and rational thought and ushered in the Dark Ages. Then an iron-fisted theocracy, backed by a Gestapo-style Inquisition, prevented any science or questioning inquiry from happening until Leonardo da Vinci invented intelligence and the wondrous Renaissance saved us all from Medieval darkness.
The online manifestations of this curiously quaint but seemingly indefatigable idea range from the touchingly clumsy to the utterly shocking, but it remains one of those things that “everybody knows” and permeates modern culture. A recent episode of Family Guy had Stewie and Brian enter a futuristic alternative world where, it was explained, things were so advanced because Christianity didn’t destroy learning, usher in the Dark Ages and stifle science. The writers didn’t see the need to explain what Stewie meant – they assumed everyone understood.