Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My ambivalence towards Tim Winton novels

At the conference today Roberta Kwan gave a fascinating paper on the theological dimensions to Tim Winton's novel Cloudstreet. This is a classic Australian novel and Roberta did a great job teasing out the "authorial intent" [within the framework of Kevin van Hoozer' theological hermeneutics] of the novel.

For a while I read quite a few of Winton's novels and enjoyed them, but I eventually found them too dark and too ambiguous. Two years ago I read Breath but I found the content too disturbing, but I know I am missing a lot. A post by Ben Myers extracts a section which shows both the subtlety, profundity, and disruptive character which I find so characteristic of Winton.

Evaluating the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus

At the conference on the Church and the Academy last night, Neil Foster from the University of Newcastle School of Law gave a fascinating lecture, A Lawyer looks at the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
In the context of Australian law, particularly what evidence is admissible in court, he argued that if it came down to a court case, a judge would rule that Jesus rose from the dead.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A cute animation movie

Last night my wife and I watched a DVD of Alvin and the Chipmunks. It is very cute and harmless...

Should North Korea have been banned from the World Cup?

A Newsweek article makes a persuasive case that given North Korea's human rights abuses it should have been banned from the football World Cup in South Africa. It recounts how effective sports boycotts were in helping to bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Talk on Barth and the science-theology dialogue

Today I worked on the slides for my talk, Barth's Doctrine of Creation: Implications for the theology-science dialogue that I will give later this week at the conference on the academy and the church.
It is always a challenge to condense a lot of material down to a few succinct ideas and quotes.
Any comments welcome.

Covenantal creation

Why is the world the way it is? Could it be different? If it is created what does it reflect about its creator?

In Karl Barth's Doctrine of Creation, he proposes that:
1. Creation is the external basis of the covenant
2. Covenant is the internal basis of the creation.
[For a brief summary by John Webster see this earlier post].

Here is some of what he says about the second point.
creation also has.. its internal basis.... what God has created was not just any reality -however perfect or wonderful- but that which is intrinsically determined as the exponent of His glory and for the corresponding service.
The fact that the covenant is the goal of creation is not something which is added later to the reality of the creature, as though the history of creation might equally have been succeeded by any other history. It already characterises creation itself and as such, and therefore the being and existence of the creature. The covenant whose history had still to commence was the covenant which, as the goal appointed for creation and the creature, made creation necessary and possible, and determined and limited the creature....
If creation was the external basis of the covenant, the latter was the internal basis of the former. If creation was the formal presupposition of the covenant, the latter was the material presupposition of the former. If creation takes precedence historically, the covenant does so in substance.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.1, pages 232-233

Then, perhaps a natural consequence of this is that the orderliness of the creation, and particularly the reliability of physical laws, reflects the faithfulness of the creator.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nationalism can blind us

I am a great beneficiary of the USA. My wife is from there and I received a fantastic graduate school and postdoctoral training there.
But I do have mixed feelings about it at times.
One thing Americans can at times be a little weak on is understanding other cultures and acknowledging that perhaps everything American (e.g., health care) is not the best in the world.
I recall my family being in the US for the 2006 football world cup and watching with great amusement as US commentators claimed that their goalkeeper Casey Keller really was the best in the world. [The fact that he had never played for any of the best clubs in the world was because... when you have the best defence in your league you do not need the best goalkeeper....]

Anyway, I thought this New York Times op-ed piece Feeling Bleu was a bit much. It seems to claim that the US has done better than France in the World Cup because the US has been so much better than France at integrating immigrants into their nation....

Just in case you have forgotten the fearsome opposition faced by the USA at the world cup, watch this video showing the goal which was crucial to them topping their group...

The how and why of publishing

This week at the conference on the Academy and the Church there will be a special workhop on "Getting published". I will be speaking on "The how and why of publishing in peer-reviewed journals". The audience will mostly be faculty and postgraduate students from theological colleges. I welcome any feedback on my draft slides.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Modelling forgiveness

Last night my family and I watched the movie, Invictus which chronicles how Nelson Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to unify South Africa ["balancing black aspirations with white fears."] just after the end of apartheid. The movie shows the importance and power of forgiveness. It is challenging that Mandela could forgive whites for his thirty year imprisonment, mistreatment of his family, and much social injustice. Furthermore, he models this forgiveness with great integrity and effect on those around him.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Its time to talk about time

Time is created. Time has a direction. Time will end.

Humanity is created to live in time. Humanity is constrained. We are creatures.
Time is something that we experience and cannot escape from. There is past, present, and future. Man lives in history. God acts in history.

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity together with observations
in cosmology imply a "big bang" in the past, leading to a physical
picture in which both space and time had a beginning.
Physics can say nothing about "time" "before" the big bang.

Time will end, either in a black hole or at the "big crunch".

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poverty is an affront to God's glory

One of the speakers I am really looking forward to hearing at the forthcoming conference on the Church and the Academy is Michael Woolcock. He is currently Professor of Social Science and Development Policy at the University of Manchester, where he is on leave from the World Bank.
He will be speaking on theology, poverty, and development.

An earlier version of his paper is available here. The abstract includes the following fascinating ideas:

In the realm of theology, I argue that justice is a necessary but insufficient foundation for concern about poverty, proposing that St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ contentions regarding the nature of ‘glory’ be further explored. I develop a theology of glory based on three scriptural understandings, namely grandeur, grace, and gratitude, and argue that we are most “fully alive” when we are in right relationship with ourselves, each other, and God. Poverty is an affront to God’s glory, then, because it is both a cause and consequence of broken relationships.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Napoleon and the God hypothesis

Pierre Simon Laplace (1749 - 1827) was a very famous French mathematician.
One of his great works was ``Mechanique celeste''. This book took many of Isaac Newton's ideas and reworked them into a mathematical form that made it possible to quantify the motion of the planets.

There is a famous story about Laplace meeting Napoleon Bonaparte. [The following account is based on Rouse Ball's, A Short account of the History of Mathematics].
Laplace went to beg Napoleon to accept a copy of his work. But, someone had told Napoleon that the book contained no mention of the name of God. Napoleon, who was fond of putting embarrassing questions, took the book and commented, ``Monsieur Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator."

Laplace, answered bluntly, ``Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothese-le.'' [I have no need of that hypothesis].

Napoleon, greatly amused, told this reply to Lagrange, (another famous mathematician) who exclaimed, ``Ah! c'est une belle hypothese; a explique beaucoup de choses.' ["Ah, but it is such a beautiful hypothesis; it explains a great many things!"]

This story represents a common misunderstanding about the respective roles of science and theology and the relationship between them. Just because we can explain something scientifically does NOT mean that God is not involved in it.

It is true that before the development of science many natural phenomena people saw and experienced seemed to be random and hard to understand. Examples include hurricanes, floods, disease, the motion of the sun, and the ocean tides.

Many religions said these things happened because a god made them happen. If people made sacrifices to this god maybe bad things would not happen.

However, the development of science let to explanations of many natural phenomena in terms of cause and effect. For example, because of gravity the earth orbits the sun
and the moon orbits the earth. This allows us to explain the ocean tides and their regularity.

So now we don't need religious explanations to explain natural phenomena, whether it is the weather or the structure and properties of atoms. But, these explanations never explain who or what is behind these laws of nature.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An indigenous Australian on Obama

Noel Pearson is a prominent indigenous leader in Australia. He is also a columnist for the Australian newspaper. Normally he writes about Australian issues, often with quite a unique perspective. But today he has a column about US politics, Obama misses a historic opportunity.

He considers that Obama should have focused his reform efforts on the finance industry rather than on health care. This led to him losing support among white working poor. It wasn't just that Wall Street fat cats got even richer, but irresponsible borrowers from Main Street got bailed out.

The purpose of government

In order to illustrate the real purpose of the church, C.S. Lewis discusses the real purpose of government. Although this is an aside to his main point I thought it was interesting in its own right.
Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects-military, political,economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden-that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.
Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 8.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Facing the consequences

Both individually and collective we all would like to ignore the fact that actions (both good and bad) have consequences. Sometimes these consequences last for generations...

This morning I read the depressing and chilling story of how David's Kingship of Israel starts to unravel following his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. Nathan prophesies:
Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' 11Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.

2 Samuel 12
It begins with David's son Amnon raping his sister Tamar, then there is Absalom's murder of his brother Amnon, Absalom's conspiracy, David's fleeing from Jerusalem, Absalom's death, .....

What we model to our children matters!

Yet in spite of all this sin and judgement, the LORD is incredibly gracious, does not abandon his people and works to ultimately redeem them from a Son of David, Jesus.

The painting is The Banquet of Absalom attributed to Bernardo Cavallino.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Best world cup movies

Our house is fully immersed in the World Cup (in spite of Australia's trashing by Germany). But, even if you are not interested in football, there are a few really good movies worth watching.
I particularly recommend Sixty-Six and The Miracle of Bern.
Both explore family relational themes with the World Cup as a backdrop.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not pushing things too far

In some recent posts I have begun to explore some possible implications of Karl Barth's treatment of the Doctrine of Creation for a dialogue between science and theology.

Caution is in order because the main point and implications of Barth's theology of creation is not its possible implications for the relationship between science and theology. Indeed, the focus and emphasis of Barth's doctrine of creation is not the material world of quarks, galaxies, genes, and cells but on our human creatureliness. The material world and its character is almost subsidiary. But it is not irrelevant. It is like the set for a theatre production. Nevertheless, the same Creator made the human creatures who investigate the non-human creation. These creatures puzzle (or arrogantly assert!) how what they discover about the material world (or think they know) tells them about a possible creator.

That Barth's emphasis is on the human creature can be seen from the following succinct summary in Dogmatics in Outline, at the beginning of chapter 8, God the Creator. [Each chapter of the book is an exposition of a phrase from the Apostle's Creed].
In that God became man, it has also become manifest and worthy of belief that He does not wish to exist for Himself only and therefore to be alone. He does not grudge the world, distinct from Himself, its own reality, nature, and freedom. His word is the power of its being as creation. He creates, sustains, and rules it as the theatre of His glory - and in its midst, man also, as the witness of His glory.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The existence of the world is a contestable hypothesis

Whether science does or even can establish the existence of an objective reality is a debate that has raged for centuries. It has been particularly contentious and strident in the twentieth century with both the success of science and the rise of postmodernism, leading to the conflict of "the Science wars."
Different philosophical positions on what science really does tell us range from a naive realism, to critical realism, to instrumentalism, to anti-realism.
There are some rather subtle philosophical issues here which are sometimes dismissed
too easily by practising scientists. I contend that science does involves faith, e
specially in an objective reality.

This issue is actually addressed by Karl Barth, but in an indirect manner, and not at all motivated by questions in the philosophy of science. Furthermore, as is often the case with Barth, his starting point is completely different.
Barth asserts that confession of faith in the Tri-une Creator involves
faith that there is an objective reality.
It cannot be shown that God must have created the world, .... Nor can it be shown in relation to the world that because God has created it, because it necessarily exists and has its being from Him, it is not an illusion, a dream, a mere figment of the imagination, but concept and reality.

The positive counter-assertion that God exists alone, that this divine being is the only one to the exclusion of all others, and the negative counter-assertion that the world and we ourselves do not exist at all, that we do not have a being distinct from that of God, but that everything else apart from God is only supposition, are, of course, as contestable and as little demonstrable as the assertion. But they cannot be refuted by the assertion.
On the contrary, they are refuted only if two conditions are fulfilled-and it is here that we see the real point of the [doctrine of Creation].
The first is that it should be established on the basis of the divine self-witness-....-that God has in fact created the world; that it is, therefore, a reality by God's free will and contingent act.
And the second is that we should have no less factual knowledge of this factual being of the world. Thus if we dare to take the not unimportant step of ascribing its own reality to that which is distinct from God, i.e., heaven and earth and ourselves; if we are Of the bold opinion that we ourselves, and with us the so-called world, are and are not not, we have to realise that this is always an undemonstrable and contestable hypothesis,

It need only be added that the assertion of creation is a statement of faith, i.e., a statement which can never be more than a hypothesis apart from its foundation in God's self-witness, not only on the side which maintains that God is the Creator of the world, and which therefore asserts the reality of God, but also on that which asserts that God is the Creator of the world, and which therefore asserts the distinctive reality of the world. It is only too easy to suggest that, while the reality of God as the Creator is uncertain, and therefore needs proof or revelation, the reality of the creature is all the more certain, so that the one is to be treated as a factor which is not given but has still to be sought, whereas the other may be presupposed ....

the whole history of theology [might be viewed] as a continuous fighting retreat in face of the irresistible advance of a rational and empirical science which on the very different grounds of a triumphant human self-conceit is quite sure of its subject. In preoccupation with only one side of the question, there has been a dangerous failure to realise that the question of creation is not less but even more concerned with the reality of the creature than that of the Creator. Presupposing the certain knowledge of God in His Word, it is actually the case that the existence and being of the world are rendered far more problematical by the existence and being of God than vice versa.

If the world is not created by God, it is not. If we do not recognise that it has been created by God, we do not recognise that it is. But we know that it has been created by God only on the ground of God's self-witness and therefore in faith. Therefore we know only in faith that the world is. The pressure exerted by science on theology could have been resisted if theology had been more energetically and effectively concerned with its own .... divine science; if it had realised that it is primarily the creature and not the Creator of whom we are not certain, and that in order to be certain of him we need proof or revelation.
The Doctrine of Creation, Church Dogmatics 3.1, page 5

Much of this argument is succinctly summarised in the Translator's preface as, "the supreme problem of theology is not the existence of God, as natural theology supposes, but the independent existence of creaturely reality."

So perhaps, Christians should not expect non-Christians to believe in objective reality.

My favourite TV show

I do not own a TV. I grew up without one. For only 4 years of my life have I personally owned one. It was a wedding present, which I wished we did not get. Although, I think the technology is morally neutral I think most TV programs are trash and the world would be a lot better place without TV.

Now that I have got that off my chest ....
I confess that I have become addicted to watching on DVD
(n.b., no commercials)
The West Wing.

It is so good, it shows just how bad other shows are!

Things I like about it include:
  • many of the characters are quirky and endearing (Toby is my favourite)
  • it deals with substantial political, moral, and social issues
  • although it clearly presents a liberal Democratic perspective it does not simply present a one-dimensional ideological perspective
  • it is educational
  • it makes me laugh
  • it is intellectually stimulating
  • it is fun shared activity with my wife, Robin

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The existence of God is a contestable hypothesis

Natural theology attempts to start with a study of the material world and deduce the existence of God and something about God's character. In his Doctrine of Creation, Karl Barth takes a distinctly different approach.
Our first emphasis is …. that the doctrine of the creation no less than the whole remaining content of Christian confession is an article of faith, i.e., the rendering of a knowledge which no man has procured for himself or ever will; which is neither native to him nor accessible by way of observation and logical thinking; for which he has no organ and no ability; which he can in fact achieve only in faith; but which is actually consummated in faith, i.e., in the reception of and response to the divine witness…. It is a faith and doctrine of this kind which is expressed when …. we confess that God is the Creator of heaven and earth.
Church Dogmatics 3.1, page 5.
To support this emphasis Barth points out how the great chapter on faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It begins with (11:3)
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
He then goes on to discuss how "the supreme problem of theology is not the existence of God, as natural theology supposes, but the independent existence of creaturely reality." (Editors preface)
More on that later...

The picture is part of Michelangelo's paintings on the roof on the Sistine Chapel.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Barth's book on Boundaries

What is the relevance of science to the doctrine of creation?
What is the relevance of the doctrine of creation to science?
Can we define a boundary between science and theology?

In his Preface to The Doctrine of Creation (Church Dogmatics 3.1), Karl Barth states
The theological principle which I accept without a rival has made it almost compulsory that I should first present the doctrine of the work of the Creator as such in the old-fashioned form of a radical exposition of the contents of the first two chapters of the Bible.
..... It will perhaps be asked in criticism why I have not tackled the obvious scientific question posed in this context. It was my original belief that this would be necessary, but I later saw that there can be no scientific problems, objections or aids in relation to what Holy Scripture and the Christian Church understand by the divine work of creation.
..... There is free scope for natural science beyond what theology describes as the work of the Creator. And theology can and must move freely where science which really is science, and not secretly a pagan Gnosis or religion, has its appointed limit. I am of the opinion, however, that future workers in the field of the Christian doctrine of creation will find many problems worth pondering in defining the point and manner of this twofold boundary.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Real Creation Science!

I have started work on my paper/talk for the forthcoming Conference on the Academy and the Church.

Here is a sketchy outline. I thank Ben Myers for many helpful discussions and ideas on this topic.

Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Creation: implications for the dialogue between science and theology

The Doctrine of Creation is an article of faith

The existence of God is a contestable hypothesis

The existence of the world is a contestable hypothesis

The covenant is the meaning and purpose of the creation

Creation is the external basis of the covenant

Science cannot discover meaning and purpose

The creation is distinct from God

There are limits to what can be known about God from science

There are limits to what can be known about science from theology

Justification for the practical naturalism of science

The creation is real and objective

Science is possible

The creation is good

A mandate for the scientific investigation of the world

Scientific knowledge can be beautiful

The orderliness of the creation reflects the faithfulness of the creator

The covenant is the internal basis of the creation

The reliability of physical laws

The creature can understand the creation

Creator creates creature

Science works

The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences

Monday, June 7, 2010

Agape science

Following up on my previous post Scientific Theological Eros, it is interesting that in his discussion of the difference between "Eros" and "Agape" love as driving forces in theology, Barth gives the profound throw away line:

At this point the question may remain undecided whether it would not also be beneficial for the other sciences if the ruling motive of their procedure was Agape rather than Eros.

For theological work the dominant position of love is a vital and unalterable necessity. Indeed, theological work also displays that interest of the perceiving human subject and that sweeping movement in which it allows itself to be borne and hurried toward the object to be known. These elements of Eros will not be simply suppressed or eliminated in it. For theological work, however, Eros can only be the serving, not the ruling, motive. The erotic wish and desire to gain possession of the object can have in theological work only the significance of a first and inevitable beginning in the direction toward its object.
Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, pages 201-202

As a practising scientist myself, I think Barth's insight is profound. To me, much science appears to be driven by the scientists rush to exalt himself, to control, to possess, and to tame. The object of "desire" is both nature and funding, status, .... Thus, it can be classified as "Eros" science.

In contrast, "Agape" science would be humbler and gentler. The focus is not on the scientist and not on control but on understanding and on server others (society, students, colleagues, ....). Ultimately, it is more effective because it is more objective, since the ego of the scientist does not blind him/her to the way things are rather than the way we want them to be.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Why work?

During World War II, Dorothy L. Sayers, gave a talk, Why work?, which is worth reading. Here are a few choice quotes
[We should view work] not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.
God is not served by technical incompetence; and incompetence and untruth always result when the secular vocation is treated as a thing alien to religion….
Shall we be prepared to take the same attitude to the arts of peace as to the arts of war? I see no reason why we should not sacrifice our convenience and our individual standard of living just as readily for the building of great public works as for the building of ships and tanks – but when the stimulus of fear and anger is removed, shall we be prepared to do any such thing? Or shall we want to go back to that civilization of greed and waste which we dignify by the name of a “high standard of living”?

Avoiding extremes

I think a great challenge in life is to avoid extreme positions: to keep a balanced perspective on subtle and complex issues.

Yesterday, my son and I read and discussed the chapter, Two notes, in Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, where he makes two qualifications or clarifications about the previous chapter on free will and being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
In the second note he discusses the balance between affirming individuality and corporality in the church.
I found the following passage interesting because of the general caution at the end.
Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body different from one another and each contributing what no other could. .... But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.

I feel a strong desire to tell you - and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me-which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs-pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Recommended reading

It is always interesting to see what books Christian leaders recommend reading. Here is Tim Keller's recommended list.
Quite a few of these I have not read and so should!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Scientific theological eros!

I thought I would never see those three words strung together!

Yesterday I was reading the famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage on love and I remembered that in Karl Barth's An Introduction to Evangelical Theology had an interesting last chapter on the role of love in theology.

Here are a few extracts, emphasizing the difference between eros and agape love.
Eros so highly praised in Plato's teaching.... Love as Eros, is, in general terms, the primordially powerful desire, urge, impulse, and endeavor by which a created being seeks his own self-assertion, satisfaction, realization, and fulfillment in his relation to something else. He strives to draw near to this other person or thing, to win it for himself, to take it to himself, and to make it his own as clearly and definitively as possible. And in a special sense, love, as scientific Eros, is the same desire in its intellectual form. It is the soaring movement by which human knowledge lets itself be borne toward its objects and hurries toward them in order to unite them with itself and itself with them, to bring them into its possession and power, and to enjoy them in this way.

.....Scientific, theological Eros has perpetually oscillated concerning the object which it should present to man for the sake of his self-assertion and self-fulfillment. That is to say, theological Eros can be directed either predominantly (and perhaps even exclusively) toward God or predominantly (and, once again, perhaps even exclusively) toward man.

When scientific Eros evolves in the field of theology, it characteristically and continually confuses and exchanges the object of theology with other objects. So far as Eros is the motive of theological work, God will not be loved and known for God's sake, nor man for man's sake. This situation can only be explained by the nature of Eros: every attempt to love and know God and man is made in the quite conscious and deepest interests of the theologian himself, in the self-love of the one who produces this theology.

It is undoubtedly no mere accident that the substantive "Eros" and its corresponding verb do not appear at all in ... the New Testament. The word for "love" in the New Testament is Agape. And from every context in which it appears the conclusion is obvious that it signifies a movement which runs almost exactly in the opposite direction from that of Eros. Love in the sense of Agape is admittedly also the total seeking of another, and this is the one thing that it has in common with love as Eros.

In Agape, however, the one who loves never understands the origin of his search as a demand inherent within himself, but always as an entirely new freedom for the other one, a freedom which was simply bestowed on him and consequently was originally alien to him. On his own, he never should or would have loved this other one at all. But he may do this, and since he may do it, he does do it. Because he is free for this other, he loves him. In this way he loves concentratedly, not haphazardly, ramblingly, or distractedly. And because he is free for him, he does not seek him as though he needed him for himself as a means to his self-assertion and self-fulfillment. The one who loves, seeks the other only for his own sake. He does not want to win and possess him for himself in order to enjoy him and his own power over him. He never trespasses on the freedom of the other, but by respecting the other's freedom, he simply remains quite free for him. He loves him gratis. That is to say, he desires nothing from him, and he does not wish to be rewarded by him. All he desires is to exist for him, to offer himself to him, and finally to give himself to him. He desires to be permitted to love him simply in the way that this ability has been granted to himself.

If love, in the sense of Agape, is no doubt also a seeking, it is nevertheless not an interested, but a sovereign seeking of the other one. ...This seeking is sovereign precisely because it is directed and oriented not to the sovereignty of the one who loves but to the sovereignty of the beloved one. To speak once more with Paul, love in the sense of Agape is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not insisting on its own way. It rejoices in the truth, bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Agape is related to Eros, as Mozart to Beethoven. How could they possibly be confused? Agape is an altogether positive striving toward the other, quite distinct from all self-righteousness and intellectual superiority, as well as from all strife.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marks of a true scholar

Partly because my daughter just started an Arts degree at university I started reading Five Minds for the Future, by Howard Gardner. [The book was recommended to me by a friend, Keith Birchley]. Gardner is a Professor of Education and Psychology at Harvard. He is best known for developing and promoting the concept of Multiple Intelligences.

However, independent of giving me ideas to discuss with my daughter, I have found the book very stimulating, both personally and professionally.
Gardner defines five specific cognitive abilities that he claims will be sought and cultivated by leaders. Roughly here is my paraphrase of each of the minds, as applied to research.
  • The Disciplinary Mind: You need to master a specific discipline or research area. This takes about ten years.
  • The Synthesizing Mind: You need to learn to integrate ideas from different disciplines into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others.
  • The Creating Mind: You need to develop the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena.
  • The Respectful Mind: You need to be aware of and appreciate different approaches and values within your discipline and between disciplines.
  • The Ethical Mind: You need to fulfill your responsibilities as a worker within your institution, your discipline, and as a citizen.