jump to navigation

Introduction to the Synoptic Problem March 30, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Theology.
8 comments

Source: “Synoptic Problem Website” by Stephen C. Carlson.

The synoptic problem concerns the literary relationship between the first three “synoptic” gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Synoptic Problem Website surveys proposed solutions and provides a clearing-house for materials related to its resolution.

The major evidence for resolving the synoptic problem is internal: the patterns of agreements and disagreements in the wording of the Greek text of the gospels. The premier tool for studying these textual patterns is the synopsis, which places parallel texts side-by-side in vertical columns. To a much lesser extent, researchers have also considered the external evidence, which constitutes the testimony of the early Christians on the origins of the gospels.

Many solutions to the synoptic problem have been proposed, and please see the Overview of Proposed Solutions for more information.

2SHThe most prevalent solution is the Two-Source hypothesis (2SH) or Mark-Q theory, which holds that Mark was the first gospel, and both Matthew and Luke independently augmented Mark with a lost, sayings collection called Q, its most controversial part. A good website expounding this solution is Mahlon Smith’s Synoptic Gospels Primer.

FHA vigorous challenger to the Q hypothesis is the Farrer theory (FH), which also calls for the priority of Mark, but “dispenses” with Q as unnecessary by arguing instead that Luke used Matthew. The clearest exposition of this position now is Mark Goodacre’s book, The Case Against Q.

2GHAnother challenger, somewhat more popular in America, is the Griesbach hypothesis or Two-Gospel hypothesis (2GH), which not only gets rid of Q but Markan priority as well, arguing that Matthew was first, primarily on account of the external evidence. Their Web Site for the Two Gospel Hypothesis is maintained by Thomas R. W. Longstaff.

AHA more traditional analysis of the external evidence, however, is that of the Augustinian hypothesis (AH), in which the chronological order of the gospels is the same as the canonical order (Matt, Mark, Luke).

Advertisements

Kant on Moral Worth March 29, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Philosophy.
add a comment

Question: In what does the moral worth of an action consist, on Kant’s account? (Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, I 397-399)

    

Kant asserts that only actions undertaken for the sake of duty alone have moral worth (equivalently, only those actions undertaken in reverence for the moral law alone have moral worth). Everyone is capable of having a good will, a firm commitment to doing what is right. Yet a will is only good to the extent that it compels oneself to ignore inclinations, acting out of respect for a principle whose validity is not conditional on whether or not one has certain ends. Indeed, the very concept of duty implies that some acts or omissions ought to be undertaken regardless of what desires one may have.

Now often people act in accordance with duty, but their motive is of some interest other than performing one’s duty. They have no immediate inclination to perform one’s duty, but they do have a mediate inclination. Grocers are obliged to offer her their at a fair price to everyone, but many abide by this duty because competition from other grocers forces them to undercut one another and fear of being thought of as disreputable compels them to act as if they were truly fair minded. Similarly, all people have a duty to help others in distress, but many offer their help not out of a sense of duty but because it feels pleasurable to render assistance. Here the agent does have an immediate inclination to perform one’s duty.

A person acts for the sake of duty alone when, for example, feeling no compassion, she nonetheless helps someone in need, recognizing that it is her duty to do so. Similarly, a person who finds that his life is in shambles and yet refuses to commit suicide, not because he loves life, but because he knows that taking one’s life is treating oneself as a means to an end, is acting for the sake of duty alone. This is the only way to tell whether or not an action has moral worth.

The corollary is that actions are assessed not according to the purpose they were meant to bring about, but rather by the maxim that serves as motivation. This idea is similar to the first. When someone undertakes an action with no other motivation than a sense of duty, they are doing so because they have recognized a moral principle that is valid a prioriBy contrast, if they undertake an action in order to bring about a particular result, then they have a motivation that lies beyond duty. Even seeking one’s happiness is an act that has moral worth only if it follows from obligation alone, and not from the intention to bring about good results.

Kant does not claim that acts in accordance with duty but undertaken for reasons other than those grounded in duty are immoral. Rather, they have no moral worth. Furthermore, he does not say that an action cannot have moral worth if the agent has other motives besides the intent to act for the sake of duty. What matters is whether or not one’s will is governed by the moral law, in the sense that one would act rightly even if one lacks other motives besides the intent to act for the sake of duty.

Trends in Scholarly Writing on Family Structure Since 1977 in the Journal of Marriage and Family: Part 2 March 23, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Sociology.
4 comments

Source: “Trends in Scholarly Writing on Family Structure Since 1977 in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Part Two – The Denial: Downplaying the Consequences of Family Structure for Children″, by Norval Glen and Thomas Sylvester for the Institute for American Values (2006)

In an earlier paper (Glenn & Sylvester, 2006), we reported a study of the articles (266 in all) published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF)* from 1977-2002 that dealt with the relationship between family structure and child well-being. We found that, over that period, family scholars became more concerned about the impact of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing on children. Despite the overall shift in scholarly views, a number of family scholars still maintain relatively sanguine views about the increase in single-parent families and its implications for child well-being. In the course of our research, we found a number of recurring arguments from this perspective.

In this paper, we discuss common arguments employed by authors of articles in the JMF who took relatively sanguine views toward unwed childbearing and divorce. We find that, in many cases, the apparent scholarly disputes about family structure are merely matters of rhetorical emphasis. Some arguments from scholars who take a sanguine view provide useful antidotes to overly gloomy views of divorce and father absence, but others appear to be ideologically driven efforts to discount and minimize strong evidence for consequences of family structure for children. A few of the arguments suffer from fundamental analytical errors, and even more serious, a few scholars seem to want family researchers to stop asking questions about the impact of family structure—an apparent example of the anti-scientific view that a lack of knowledge is better than knowledge.

Anglo-Catholic Ninja Weapons and Gear: Part 2 March 21, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in General.
6 comments

kusarigama1.jpg

From Wikipedia – the Ninja weapon par exellence

“The Kusari gama is a traditional Japanese weapon that consists of kama (the Japanese equivalent of a sickle) on a metal chain with a heavy iron weight at the end… Attacking with the weapon usually entailed swinging the weighted chain in a large circle over one’s head, and then whipping it forward to entangle an opponent’s spear, sword, or other weapon, or immobilizing his arms or legs. This allows the kusari-gama user to easily rush forward and strike with the sickle…” 

silver-thurible.jpgThe Anglo-Catholic Ninja weapon par exellence:

“A thurible is a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services. It is used in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Old Catholic, and some Lutheran and other churches… The workings of a thurible are quite simple. Heated charcoal is inside the actual metal censer. Incense, sometimes of many different varieties is placed upon the charcoal. This may be done several times during the service as the incense burns quite quickly. Once the incense has been placed on the charcoal the thurible is then closed and used for censing… 

If you ask me, while both weapons are pretty deadly, the thurible has an added advantage over the kusari gama – if you can’t swing the thurible properly, its guaranteed that the heavenly incense smoke will take out your opponent instead. Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus! Smell the Real Ultimate Anglo-Catholic Power! 

Transitive, Symmetric, Reflexive and Equivalence Relations March 20, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Philosophy.
105 comments

Transitivity

A relation R is transitive if and only if (henceforth abbreviated “iff”), if x is related by R to y, and y is related by R to z, then x is related by R to z. For example, being taller than is a transitive relation: if John is taller than Bill, and Bill is taller than Fred, then it is a logical consequence that John is taller than Fred.

A relation R is intransitive iff, if x is related by R to y, and y is related by R to z, then x is not related by R to z. For example, being next in line to is an intransitive relation: if John is next in line to Bill, and Bill is next in line to Fred, then it is a logical consequence that John is not next in line to Fred.

A relation R is non-transitive iff it is neither transitive nor intransitive. For example, likes is a non-transitive relation: if John likes Bill, and Bill likes Fred, there is no logical consequence concerning John liking Fred.

Symmetricity

A relation R is symmetric iff, if x is related by R to y, then y is related by R to x. For example, being a cousin of is a symmetric relation: if John is a cousin of Bill, then it is a logical consequence that Bill is a cousin of John.

A relation R is asymmetric iff, if x is related by R to y, then y is not related by R to x. For example, being the father of is an asymmetric relation: if John is the father of Bill, then it is a logical consequence that Bill is not the father of John.

A relation R is non-symmetric iff it is neither symmetric nor asymmetric. For example, loves is a non-symmetric relation: if John loves Mary, then, alas, there is no logical consequence concerning Mary loving John.

Reflexivity

A relation R is reflexive iff, everything bears R to itself. For example, being the same height as is a reflexive relation: everything is the same height as itself.

A relation R is irreflexive iff, nothing bears R to itself. For example, being taller than is an irreflexive relation: nothing is taller than itself.

A relation R is non-reflexive iff it is neither reflexive nor irreflexive. For example, loves is a non-reflexive relation: there is no logical reason to infer that somebody loves herself or does not love herself.

Equivalence

A relation R is an equivalence iff R is transitive, symmetric and reflexive. For example, identical is an equivalence relation: if x is identical to y, and y is identical to z, then x is identical to z; if x is identical to y then y is identical to x; and x is identical to x.

Reference: The Philosophy Dept. Vade Mecum: A Survival Guide for Philosophy Students, by Darren Brierton. 

Oakes on Balthasar on Modernity March 20, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Theology.
add a comment

Source: “Hans Urs von Balthasar”, by Edward T. Oakes in Key Thinkers in Christianity, Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason and Hugh Pyper, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)  

…For Balthasar, the often strained relations between secular culture and Christian thought stem fundamentally not from Christianity’s failure to keep in step with history but from modernity’s habit of seeing things from the wrong end of the telescope. Indeed Balthasar’s critique of the Enlightenment bears interesting resemblances to that found in many postmodernist thinkers – not surprising, considering how greatly he was influenced by Nietzsche. But in contrast with the extreme perspectivism that has become the standard position of postmodernism, Balthasar will always insist that there is a whole that governs communication across the partial perspectives seen by the finite mind: perspectives are partial because there is a whole that exceeds our partial grasp. Indeed, this is the source of his polemic against all systematic thought: that it pretends to have captured the whole in a graspable ‘system’…

…certain other themes emerge, many of which also show Balthasar’s deep anti-Kantianism. For example, it is a fundamental thesis of Kant’s that religion must be able to justify itself before the bar of ‘reason alone’. But Balthasar’s own aesthetic starting point insists that the Particular (for example, an event of history) gives a deeper insight into reality that does the (abstract) Universal of reason. We see this especially in his christology, where, in a fascinating image, he insists that the claim of Jesus to be ‘the way’, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6) is equivalent to the whitecap on a wave claiming to be the sea itself: one phenomenon inside the world of Becoming has claimed to be Being itself (‘before Abraham was, I am’)…

Mary for Evangelicals March 19, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Theology.
2 comments

25693.jpg

From the book product page

“Is Mary for evangelicals? Should there be such a thing as an evangelical Mariology? Is she Our Lady, too?

With his feet planted firmly in the evangelical tradition, Timothy Perry began to think that there must be more to Mary than generally meets the evangelical eye. Should we maintain that two thousand years of Christian thought on Mary is almost wholly wrong? How could the mother of our Lord, simply by virtue of the fact that she was God’s chosen means of the incarnation, not deserve more serious theological reflection? And where might this lead?

This book addresses the increasing evangelical interest in Mary and contributes to the current discussion of Mariology in evangelical-Roman Catholic dialogue.

Beginning with Scripture, Perry probes the texts and traces the lengthy development of Christian thinking and practice related to Mary. From the earliest church fathers through the medieval thinkers and Protestant Reformers, and then on through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to present-day Catholic thought, Perry takes us on a fascinating and informative tour. Finally he concludes with a constructive–and even surprising–theological proposal for an evangelical Mariology that is rooted in, and demanded by, a high Christology.”

Timothy S. Perry, Ph.D., is an associate professor of theology at Providence College, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada.

Spring Training March 16, 2007

Posted by Ninja Michael in Theology.
2 comments

One of my favourite things about journeying into Anglo-Catholic ninjahood has been Lent, believe it or not. It’s quite surprising, considering that the church I grew up in was not devoid of Lenten observance, and that I hadn’t especially gotten into it. One congregation we attended put up a board each spring advertising “40 Days of Prayer and Fasting”, along with a sign up sheet for particular days (with particular prayer intentions for each day). I think that actually signed my name up once or twice, and either forgot which days I had signed up for, or just didn’t make much progress in the intercessory prayer or fasting categories – and, since we were supposed to be praying for particular people, I felt incredibly guilty. I was a little young, of course, although there are lots of little kids who do great at Lenten observences. It seems to me that you just have to know how to properly go about Lent, and to be prepared for it. Also, that you have a theological underpinning for why you are actually doing this.

There are many reasons, but I never thought about them very much until the past few years. Perhaps the first that comes to mind for me is the santification of time. Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, through His holy Incarnation, entered into time. He was prophesied in time, was born in time, and now time witnesses of Him. Each year we celebrate the birth of Christ, and much of the world still tends to number years from that birth. In Christ we find time and eternity, and thus, in some small way, we can witness to the Eternity of Jesus through the Times of Jesus. Including Lent, which in the Christian calendar falls roughly between the season of Epiphany (which, especially for the Eastern Churches, is a celebration of the Baptism of Christ as well as the Visitation of the Magi) and Christ’s death on the Cross. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, he fasted. Therefore, we as well take forty days to journey with our Saviour, as a pilgrimage into His ministry, following him to the Cross. But it is not just his fast we commemorate, or his death we anticipate. In this fast, we enter into the whole of the Christian mystery, and find how God’s grace has sanctified even time, even self deprivation.

There are many benefits to the Lenten discipline – it does tend to give one a greater appreciation for the thing that one has given up. Meat has never tasted so good to me as during Lent. And, I have learned to value many fish and vegetarian dishes that I never thought I would like. I have begun to see this time of year as something to look forward to, almost as a sort of appetizer, where my hunger for the feast is awakened. Disciplining oneself in one area often helps with other areas. We are encouraged to “take up”, not just give up things for Lent. If one saves money on food or entertainment, it is good to give it to those who are in need. Time saved from certain activities can be devoted to others. It is part of a whole package of spiritual discipline.

These two attitudes – towards time, and towards spiritual discipline in general – figure into my earlier failure to get started on Lent. I didn’t appreciate what the season was for. It had no particular beginning; most Evangelical churches do not observe Ash Wednesday, and so – even if Lent is observed somehow – it is difficult to get into the swing of it. (The Church has historically recognized this by having a “pre-Lent” period as well! Traditional Anglicans still observe it.) We tend not to mark time well without ritual; they are intimately connected. Without a beginning, no wonder that the days of Lent, instead of a journey, became individual days of prayer that one could sign up for, disconnected of larger reality, and easily forgotten. Without a sense that this season was, first and foremost, a witness to the Incarnate Lord, and secondly, a way of growing my relationship with Him, it was next to impossible to use it to intercede for the needs of others. There is no foundation!

So, in short, if you want to observe a Holy Lent (and it is certainly not too late… you can begin next Sunday), understand how it fits into the Church year. Journey consciously through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany (and pre-Lent) as well. Prepare. Keep up your excercise through the year. Perhaps Lent can be used to kick off a practice of fasting or abstaining from meat one day a week; after doing it everyday for weeks, one day becomes rather easy. Attend an Ash Wednesday service next year; for now, or if beginning Lent late in the future, do something in your private prayers to mark the beginning of your fast. (If your church doesn’t do Ash Wednesday, it is a perfect opportunity to visit another church, or perhaps to request such a service in your own congregation.) Remind yourself of your mortality, of Jesus saving death and resurrection, and begin to journey with him in the desert. (Think of it as spring training for ninjas.)

The Instability of Common-Law Coupling March 15, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Sociology.
3 comments

It might be thought that common-law unions tend to be more stable than legal marriages, since the very point for many couples is to “test the waters”, seeing if they are compatible with each other or not. Of course, not all cohabiting and common-law couples intend to legally marry, but those that would like to tie the knot eventually, with their current partner or somone else, can be considered the “try before you buy” kind. On this view, cohabitation and common-law living ought to make for more comprehensive and committed relationships down the road, once unsuitable candidates have been eliminated.  

The trends, however, show that such optimism is quite misguided. Common-law unions end in dissolution at higher rates than married unions do. Whether or not the co-habiting couple eventually weds makes little difference. The 1995 Canadian General Social Survey found that, among women aged 30 to 39, almost two-thirds of those whose first relationship was a common-law arrangement had separated by 1995 (either separating from a common-law partner or separating from a married partner whom the woman first co-habited with), compared to one-third of women whose first relationship was a marriage. A similar pattern is evident among women in their 40s – those who co-habited first were more likely to separate than those who married first (60% versus 36%).

It can also been seen from this that relationship instability is higher among younger common-law couples than older ones. Confirming this is the Survey finding that 45% of common-law unions formed between 1990 and 1995 dissolved within five years, compared to only 23% of pre-1980 formed common-law unions dissolving within five years. At present, if a common-law union does not turn into a marriage, about half of them dissolve within five years.

If the focus is restricted to former common-law couples who later marry, marital breakup risk is nonetheless found to be 50% higher for this group than for those couples who did not co-habit before matrimony. Contrary to popular wisdom, cohabitation before marriage increases the risk of divorce later on. Recent research also shows that children whose parents separated or divorced early to mid-way in the family cycle are more likely to find common-law living agreeable when they themselves grow up, suggesting the future perepetuation of a social cycle in some segments.

Bibliography: “One Hundred Years of Families” and “Changing Face of of Conjugal Relationships”, Canadian Social Trends, Spring 2000, No. 56 (2000), “Would you live common-law?”, Canadian Social Trends, Fall 2003, No. 70 (2003) and “Dynamics of Formation and Dissolution of First Common-Law Unions in Canada”, 1999

Obiter Dicta March 12, 2007

Posted by Ninja Clement in Politics and Law.
add a comment

Obiter dicta, Latin for ‘things said in passing’, is that portion of a judicial decision that is not considered binding on lower courts and, generally, equal courts in the same jurisdiction. It amounts to ‘additional comment’ in a judgment.

Not everything in a legal ruling constrains courts adjudicating in succeeding cases. Consider a situation in which a thief sells something to a good-faith buyer. B steals A‘s watch, sells it to C (who, as a good-faith buyer, is unaware that the watch is stolen property), and then flees the country. A later comes across C wearing the watch and demands the return of the item. C refuses to relinquish the watch and A sues C in return. Suppose the judge finds in favor of A, on the grounds that “a thief takes no title and can pass none to a purchaser.” He suggests that the result “would be the same if B did not steal the watch but found it lying about”. Now the first part is considered binding on lower and equal courts dealing with similar cases of ‘stolen and sold’. This part of the decision is the ratio decidendi, Latin for ‘reason of deciding’. It is, formally speaking, the so-called precedent, although the entire case is often called the precedent.

By contrast, the remark about who should retain title to lost goods is considered obiter dictum (dictum is singular for dicta), because the property at issue in this case was stolen, not misplaced. Consider as another example a situation in which C finds A’s lost watch on a sidewalk and takes it. As in the previous scenario, A later comes accross C wearing the watch and, when C rejects his claim on the item, A sues in response. Yet a court dealing with this case of ‘found and sold’ is not bound by any precedent established by the previous court at this point. As such, the judge in the new case may or may not find in favor of A, the careless owner – the result of the litigation could go either way. Note, however, that courts customarily give due preference to the obiter dictum expressed by higher and equal courts in the same jurisdiction. Of course, courts also accord proper weight to the obiter dictum of their previous rulings.