Web-log, March 27, 2017

Last Week

I mentioned that I sent off my paper last week. I am in process of writing the next chapter, but stalled a bit on some questions that I have about immortality. I have roughly ten pdfs open at the moment to be read and document. Add to this an extra trip to TEDS to hear Michael Allen speak, an eye exam, and taking a half day for my family, and last week wasn’t great for productivity.

I did send myself about twenty emails by text last week. I do this usually from the bathroom or from the church pew. For whatever reason the shower and the morning song time are fertile ground for ideas. I take in so many details that putting it together takes the mental tranquility required for creative leaps. Anyway, I have one pictured on the right. Here’s a rough idea of what I’m trying to say.

unnamedIf someone wants to argue that Calvin has a Platonic view of the soul they will run into a few difficulties. First, he explicitly says that Aristotle is the shrewdest when it comes to the powers of the soul. He seems to accord a great deal of respect to Aristotle while rejecting him. Second, he does not hold Plato’s tripartite view of the soul and explicitly rejects Augustine’s. He holds a simple two faculty view. His soul seems to be somewhat Platonic (immortality and dualist with regard to body/soul)  but mediated by a debate within a largely Aristotelian tradition that refined the faculties of intellect and will. Calvin is a humanist and biblical scholar who wants to avoid being pressed into more detail than he is comfortable with. 

The other very productive thing I did last week was writing my ETS paper. I meant to write the proposal, but I hit “flow,” so I went with it. Three hours and 3,500 words later, I had something I can work with. I’ll submit the proposal this week.

Set Up

I’m hunkered down at Starbucks on 50th Street today (pictured: due for an upgrade). There are better atmospheres for work, but this is a regular stomping grounds because it is about a 3 minute drive. It’s one of those mornings where the weight of what I have to accomplish pushes away traveling very far.

unnamed (1)The guy who looks like Bill Murray is here again today. He’s here about 75% of the mornings that I come here. He’s outside smoking at the moment, hence the two empty chairs pictured. I have formulated various theories to explain what he does here. He almost seems to be a well-to-do homeless man. He certainly is a recluse, preferring not to be spoken to. He sits, drinks his coffee, plays video games on his tablet, and sometimes scribbles notes on blank lined paper. Last week he dropped some, and when they came to rest by my feet tried to stoop to help him pick them up. He obviously did not want my help picking up his papers, scrambling to get them before I could. He remains a mystery.

The Plan

  1. Work on job stuff; try to find a job
  2. Clean up email
  3. Clear away PDFs
  4. Try to avoid thinking about getting my car inspected, selling my other van, filing taxes, etc.

Web-log, March 21, 2017

The Week

Well, I finished the chapter and sent it off. In the chapter, I was attempting to weave medieval background into a description of Calvin’s psychology as described in The Institutes I.15.1-8. I had run into so many difficulties trying to figure out how to arrange the background and my analysis of Calvin that, in the end, it was easiest just to cut Calvin out of the chapter. Once I had made this decision, the chapter seemed to write itself. I was done in less than a day. It came to 41 pages (roughly 14,000 words without footnotes–it would have been over 20,000 together). Part of the conclusion is below:

“In sum, there are very clear and broad historical reasons that Calvin’s psychology does not reflect the five distinctives of Aquinas’s psychology. Since we need to read him as he is situated, we can avoid blaming him for not answering questions that were not being asked and ascribing too much consequence to his way of organizing his psychology. The theological disputes that occurred between Aquinas and Calvin produced a general psychological inheritance for him, a core of four tendencies according to which, as we will see, his psychology generally conforms: (1) a tendency to hold a more dualistic approach to the body soul relation, which attributes the lower faculties to the body—owing both to the arguments over the identity of the soul and its powers and over the immortality of the soul (body/soul dualism), (2) a tendency to see the will and its passions as the morally relevant faculty, along with a corresponding tendency to see the passions of sense appetite as mere bodily passions, natural and irrational (ascendency of the will in action and affective theory), (3) a tendency to curtail the importance of virtue for the ethical life in action theory (mitigating the telos of divine command, flourishing; (curtailing of virtue in action theory), and (4) a tendency to see continence, rather than virtue as the maximal ethical state for persons (continence as highest ethical state). I have already remarked that the additional contribution of the Reformers is a tendency to overlay God’s volitional determinism on human psychological determinism as a way of minimizing the importance of human virtue. In the next chapter, I will lay out Calvin’s psychology in light of these four tendencies.

IMG_4994I’ve already emailed the chapter to Matthew Levering and received a quick email back with a promise to take a look. I’m hoping to interact with him about it, since it is very much in his wheelhouse. Most of the books consulted for this chapter were requested from the gorgeous Feehan Memorial Library at the University of St. Mary of the Lake where Levering teaches.

The uptake here is that the next chapter is also coming along nicely, since I removed the Calvin stuff and dumped it all into a file. It already has 7,500 words, and yesterday was a very productive day writing, sharpening some ideas I had already put on paper. I hope to be done with a draft of this chapter within two weeks.

The Set Up

I am back at TEDS today, scanning books and doing some tasks for the Trinity Journal. I’m currently about 91% done with Dombey and Sons by Charles Dickens; this is the last of the Dickens novels for me. So, I will have to be careful not to get drawn into it and stay on task. I had broken my headphones last week, and so, since headphones are indispensable to this work, I am rocking a new set of Klipsch S4i earbuds. I am a big fan.

The Plan

  1. Scan two library books by Levering, which need to be returned to Feehan
  2. Complete Trinity Journal Tasks
  3. Catch up with a couple of friends if possible
  4. Read and take notes on “The Soul” in Paul Helm’s John Calvin’s Ideas

Web-log, March 13, 2017

Morning Reading

Micah 6:3-4

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My translation:

My people, what have I done to you?
And how have I wearied you? Answer me!

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt
and from the house of bondage,
and I redeemed you and sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Weekend

Our family has been caged (with a few excursions for each my wife and I, including Wheaton for me) for almost two weeks with the flu. So, it was really good this weekend finally to get out and have dinner with our care group. I also submitted another application to a good Christian school in Des Moines. There’s a good chance we move while I’m finishing this, but things are still very much up in the air. I need a job, and then the other dominoes will fall.

IMG_6198Set Up

Today I’m in the basement. I’ve got my Better Homes and Gardens “Fall into Autumn” candle burning and I’m trying to avoid thinking of how fast the snow is falling right now. Getting Bella to school was an hour-and-a-half task this morning between clearing the drive and sidewalks, shuffling cars (after finding them), and waiting for Molly to return to shuffle them again.

The Plan

  1. Clear of my desk, to do list, and emails
  2. Finish chapter 3 after Thursday’s melt down

 

Web-log, March 11, 2017

Yesterday

I spent the day driving (four hours), listening to presentations, and talking. Paul Maxwell compared Calvin and Voltaire’s determinism and approaches to theodicy. Kevin Emmert negotiated the “New Perspective on Calvin.” Kristen Mathson unpacked the concept of authority. And Ryan Fields critiqued Webster’s theological ecclesiology. All the talks I attended were excellent, even though Paul was interrupted by a dusty smoke detector–we had a freezing fire drill.

The Set Up

I’m back at Wheaton for a bit today, waiting to hear sparks fly on whether or not God can suffer. The real reason I came down was to hear Austin Freeman and Paul Hartog and to see the Marion Wade Center–I’ve never been. Photos below.

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Example of Lewis’s grandfather’s work:

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Lewis’s desk

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Tolkien’s desk

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My favorite book (I have the first American edition on the right):

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Web-log, March 10, 2017

Yesterday

Yesterday I fell into a dissertation black hole, was overwhelmed with despair and quit an hour early. There are these days. What is a dissertation black hole? Here’s my explanation.

At least in theology, if you write a dissertation, chances are you are a generalist. This has some very particular difficulties. One of them is the possibility of slipping into a dissertation black hole. A dissertation black hole is when you are drawn deeper and deeper into providing backing for a minor claim to the point where you find yourself buried in a pile of PDFs and books that cost you at least eight hours.

Yesterday it was this. I wanted to illustrate the ways philosophers and theologians denied the immortality of the soul in the late Renaissance. I had a few figures and “schools” picked out, and really was only trying to expand on what I already had written, an introduction of sorts. I had already written about Siger of Brabant, George of Trebizond, Cardinal Bessarion, Marsilio Ficino, and Pietro Pompanazzi. However, a passing comment in an article I read yesterday mentioned the rise of “Alexanderism” in the 16th century, which is exactly relevant to my topic. I added “Alexanderism” to “Averroism,” and “Galenism” to be addressed by my paragraph today. The trouble is the relationship between Alexander and Averroes is incredibly complex and involves something like ten other theologians–particularly from the Italian Renaissance–between the early fifteenth century to the middle of the sixteenth. I read through roughly two hundred pages of crap about Alexanderism and Averroes before I realized that I wrote about fifteen words today, all of which will be deleted. I am no further than yesterday, and actually quite a bit more confused.

What have I gained? I now know that actually the reception of Aristotle was quite a bit more complicated than I supposed, and Alexanderism, which is probably not justly an “–ism”, has bearing on my project to a much greater degree than I had realized, culminating in a possibly pervasive influence on the radical Reformers through Jacopo Zabrella. Important, complex, and time consuming. My 14,000 word monster of a chapter threatens to become much bigger.

I could finish the 150 more pages to read, take notes, and write ten very well-crafted and nuanced sentences on the scope of controversy, and how it influenced not only Calvin’s psychology but the anabaptist psychology he attacked as well.

Or… I could write the three sentences I had originally intended, knowing full well I’m oversimplifying the situation, putting a few sources in the footnotes and move on. There are literally hundreds of these black holes to avoid. And what makes this worse is I also didn’t do very well blocking out that I don’t have any job prospects and received a discouraging email around quitting time.

I fell into a black hole.

The Set Up

Today I’m at Wheaton College for the Midwest Regional ETS.

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Web-log, March 9, 2017

Morning Reading

Hosea 10:10-11

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My translation:

They will follow YHWH
Like a roaring lion-for he will roar
And his sons will tremble coming from west

They will tremble
as birds coming from Egypt
and as doves from the land of Assyria
And they will be settled in their homes
Declares YHWH

Yesterday

I was able to dedicate the day to one task, dissertation. And I was pleased with the progress I made. However, I’m still not done with chapter 3. This chapter is a bit like untying the Gordian knot for me. I’ve planned and re-planned the various sections and I still find myself moving stuff around and adding explanation. I’m up over 14,000 words at the moment. Matthew Levering told me that he would look over it, and that he looked forward to receiving my email. He may rue these words.

I did receive word again yesterday from the third job in a row, “thanks but no thanks,” without even a phone call. I’ll need to avoid this thought today by staying logged out of email.

Set Up

IMG_6163.JPGToday I’m holed up in the “green room” at Crossway Community Church. This is very strange since the room isn’t green and there is another room that is. This “room” a transitional space between the stage and the back hall which seems to have very marginal heat. But it’s quiet and I have access to a coffee pot and bathrooms. In fact, I have the baptismal bathroom about ten feet away. So, I’m happy and ready to go. I also am using for the first time today, my new $6 monitor from Goodwill–a very nice score.

Plan

  1. Clear away one book review task
  2. Finish chapter 3
  3. (Try not to think about the job search)

Web-log: March 8, 2017

Morning Reading

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My translation:

How can I hand you over, Ephraim?
How can I deliver you [up for destruction] Israel?
How can I hand you over like Admah?
How can I do to you like Zeboiim? 

My heart turns on me
All my affections run hot

I will not act in burning anger
I will not turn to destroy Ephraim
For I am God
And I am not man
I am the holy one in your midst
I will not rage

Yesterday

I was able to clear away my books. It was again a satisfying day, two in a row. These are the small victories I celebrate. I scanned somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 pages, but this will be necessary, as I don’t yet know where home will be in June. I can’t continue to make weekly library trips if I am living in Iowa. I suppose this is why morning goals feel so important right now. I spent most of the day deciding what I will need and getting about 15-20 pdfs saved into appropriate folders. But, since I met my goal, it was a good day.

The Set Up

I’ve had my morning eggs, bacon and coffee. No one else has come down with norovirus. I’m primed for a big day. Today, I return again to the dissertation chapter 3, trying disparately to get it sent off to my mentor. I have my “Fall Into Autumn” candle burning, Gregory Porter coming through the speakers, and my Robert Farrar Capon poster on the wall to inspire me to being an amateur today. It reminds me of my responsibility to cultivate a certain way of seeing in the world, one that fully appreciates God’s creative wisdom and love.

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The Plan

Finish Chapter 3.