Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pondering Psalm 1 on an Ordinary Day


The Psalm for today, Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, is the short and beautiful Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 serves as an introduction to the entire psalter. It is a Psalm of the "wisdom" genre--that means, it has literary ties to the wisdom literature. By introducing the psalter with a wisdom psalm, the sacred author means to suggest that the psalter is, among other things, a book of wisdom. Wisdom was a practical rather than theoretical enterprise for the ancient Israelites. Wisdom was knowing how to live rather than knowing various abstractions. However, the psalter is by and large not didactic--it's not full of instructions, like most wisdom literature. Instead it consists of prayers and songs of praise. How do these compositions teach "wisdom"?

Psalm 1 compares the righteous man to a tree planted by streams of water, which stays green and regularly yields its fruit. In the Near East, water is scarce. Many locations cannot count on rain for moisture. I tree with deep roots to a source of water, that could be counted on to produce fruit, was and is a precious thing.

The point of the analogy is fidelity. The wise, righteous man, in the view of the psalmist, is one who is consistent and faithful, one who can be counted on. It is not necessarily the person with a "flashy" spirituality, who has dramatic spiritual experiences and draws the attention of others. These things are good in themselves, but they can be counterfeit and do not necessarily indicate maturity.

On a rather dull day in the liturgical calendar, during the doldrums of the academic semester, it is good to be reminded that the man blessed in God's eyes is the faithful one, who consistently bears fruit no matter what the "weather" is.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

O Happy Day: SBL Paper on "H" and "D" Finished


And there is much rejoicing at the Bergsma household because Daddy has finished his "big paper" for the November SBL Conference, entitled "The Manumission Laws: Has the Dependence of H on D been Demonstrated?" Sounds fun, huh? I knew you'd think so. Anyway, now Daddy can play--well, at least after he finishes grading seventy more midterms.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do Atheists Really Want a Fair Debate?


I while ago I posted about the aftermath of the New Orleans Word of God conference, and various actions by the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association that could be interpreted as indications that they are not serious about a debate with a well-prepared proponent of a different perspective.

Apparently this is not a unique phenomena within the neo-atheist movement. It now comes to light that Richard Dawkins, ├╝ber-atheist across the pond, is refusing to debate Stephen Meyer, a philosopher of science who has recently published a major contribution to origins research called Signature in the Cell. This is not the first time Dawkins has refused to debate. Christian apologist D'nesh D'Souza long ago issued a standing invitation to debate with him, but was refused. Eventually Dawkins accepted--but just once, and it was only covered by Al-Jazeera, ensuring that no one in the Western world would see it.

Why won't Dawkins debate Stephen Meyer. He says he won't debate "creationists" because it gives them "respectability" they don't deserve.

Stephen Meyer is not a "creationist," a term commonly reserved for those who believe in a young earth and a literal six-day creation. Dawkins knows this, but is engaging in name-calling.

Secondly, when you trounce someone in a debate, it humiliates them, not lends them respectability. Folks only gain respectability in a debate when they win or at least hold their own.

Therefore, what Dawkins means is, he won't debate Meyer because he thinks Meyer will win the debate or at least do well.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

An Atheist at the Cajun Catholic Bible Conference: The Epilogue


As I posted here before, back in August we had a visit from an officer of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association to our Word of God conference in Cajun country, who was evidently confused by our advertising campaign. Although we billed the conference as an educational event for Catholics concerning the sacraments of marriage and priesthood, some evidently received the impression that it was going to be a value-neutral free exchange of alternative worldviews. Our friend from NOSHA was disappointed when Michael, Brant, and I began to consistently argue for a Catholic and biblical approach to various human realities. In particular he challenged me to a debate in a NOSHA-sponsored venue on the topic of marriage. I declined, as I am primarily a (unfrozen caveman) bible scholar, not a marriage-and-public-policy guy, but I offered to get him in contact with Brian Brown, one of the leaders of the National Organization for Marriage. Brian immediately jumped on the offer to debate and contacted NOSHA. Unfortunately, NOSHA wanted him to come and debate, but would not pay for any of his expenses, neither travel nor lodging.

For those who don't do public speaking professionally, let me make clear that no one pays their own way to come and speak. If you're serious about having a speaker--especially a nationally-recognized one--you pay expenses plus stipend. Would Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, or Daniel Dennett pay their own way to come to Franciscan University to debate with us? That's an easy question to answer.

Everyone can draw their own conclusions about how serious the interest in debate really was.

(For those who don't recognize him, the headshot is everyone's favorite British atheist, Richard Dawkins)