The Big Annoucement

I am pleased to annouce that my wife and I are expecting, and have been for some time, our first child. Marsha getting into her new if temporary role as a "pregasaurus" (it's a long story) and I'm learning too! The due date is May 4th, which happens to be my father's birthday.
Don't get me these for Christmas!

I recently found a fine recent book, and the first I've seen stateside, of Pictures from New Zealand. Browsing it makes me long again, almost with wincing, for that far away country in the utter South where West becomes East.

Amarantine has some interesting tracks. It proves that Enya is more or less a constant, even after the events of the last few years. Tracks 1, 5, and 7 stand out especially. Still listening really. After her LoTR:FotR tracks, I was hoping for another "Caribbean Blue" or "Cursum Perficio." Ya know what I mean?


I just learned something new about my brother. When he was at Grove City, Mr. Richwine wrote a ballad about him, "The Ballad of Flatulent Dan."
Oh, my! Here's a lady in Denver who's offering to sell herself along with her house. Definitely some serious antifeminist rhetoric going on here.


Baby Wiley

Well, I'm now officially an uncle on the Wiley side--which makes my brother Samuel a bonafide "Uncle Sam." One of my siblings and his spouse had a baby born yesterday. His name is Caleb Moses. Congratulations!

Grandmother Wiley has already sent me a small pile of pictures, of which my favorite was of a very broadly grinning Grandmother holding the little guy.


I am visiting with my Mom and she just showed me this wonderful Good Fertility Guide. Wow!


Joke from email from LOL Dave

A Sunday school teacher was describing how Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Little Johnny interrupted, "My Mommy looked back once when she was driving," he announced triumphantly, "And she turned into a telephone pole."
Family and friends

My brother Samuel has a blog. He just started as a freshman at Hillsdale and I'm very proud of him. I hope it goes well for him. For better or worse, Hillsdale cemented a good bit of my intellectual identity, thanks in part to people like Sam's current history prof! (BTW, check out Sam's femtrooper post. It's hillarious!)

Another brother, who shall remain safely anonymous, started a blog about parts of his life that don't involve work. Grats Delta!

My old high school friend Perry is surrounded by a whole lot of daughters but still finds time to blog. He seems to be reconciled to becoming more like his father than he had once expected. Grats Perry! (What amazes me, as welll, is how much Deanna has grown up. That's quite the blog, young lady!)

Let me see if I can add a few more blogs to this list.
More new worlds

Cassini flew by Hyperion a couple of days ago and returned this stunning image of small outer solar system moon:

Cassini also flew by Tethys and returned some interesting shots:

The grand tour goes on . . .


Passing in the Night

Cassini took this double shot of two of Saturn's moons (Tethys and Mimas?) passing each other just yesterday. Wow!


Planet X!!!

Michael Brown and company have claimed the discovery of Planet X. It seems to be quite certainly larger than Pluto. Too bad it won't be named Persephone. :(



The Cleveland Museum of Art, which is one of my favorite places on earth, has suddenly closed. At first, I was like, okay... some rennovations, some partial closure? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It gets worse. Much worse.

The main galleries have been closed and will be reopened over time. Starting in 2007. Everything will be complete, and completely reopened, in 2010.

This is, for me, my first and dearest art museum. It's where I visited as a kid, and where I asked my wife to marry me. And its closure makes Cleveland suddenly a whole lot duller. :(

For more information, see this FAQ.


Finally!Michael Marmura's edition and translation of the Metaphysics side of Avicenna's Healing came in the mail today. After being delayed for about a year. This is quite possibly the single most important publishing event in the field of medieval philosophy in the last ten years. And it's the first time that more than snippets of the work have been available in English. (Of course, you always could read the whole thing in Arabic or in a medieval Latin translation :) .)
Enceladus' Wrinkles

Here's a close wide-area shot of some of the more intriguing terrain on the little moon:



I finished HP 6 just a few moments ago. It is, well, good but not as gripping as 2 or as epic as 5. It does have a plethora of memorable lines--although perhaps I only feel that way because I'm in the "cult."


At the risk of tipping the plot to those of you who haven't started or finished yet, I have to say that I am inclined to view this year's Dark Arts teacher as a tragic figure, rather than an outright villain.

I thought that JKR handled the teen romance muddles pretty well, although I couldn't help but see a bit of projection of the author herself in Harry's putative girlfriend.

The scene where Dumbledore confronts Malfoy was surprisingly effective, although I couldn't help thinking of the cemetary scene from the Sound of Music crossed with a dash of Jedi.


Enceladus: Closer

Cassini brushed within about a hundred miles of Enceladus' surface on July 14th. Here is a distant view of Enceladus against the rings:

Here is a global view of the south polar region through the mid-latitudes:

And here's the view from a hundred miles above the surface, boulders and all!


The Planetary Society website has posted a fine photoessay with some of the moon n ring photos from Cassini that you first saw on this blog!


I have always been repulsed by the suggestion that Mendelssohn's E-minor violin concerto is somehow feminine. This is like saying that Ingmar Bergman is feminine. In both cases, may we not say that only a man could have made such things?




Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tagunt.

Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum.

Are not these things true? How can these things be true? Quid est veritas?

Q. What is your only comfort?
I'm now 31. If you follow the old 1970's maxim, I guess you could say that I can no longer be trusted.

If you don't know Puccini, you have missed out on something wonderful which modern times has to offer modern man. (And I pity you.)

What things one losses through the rolling years? I think back to the days when I devoured Sibelius and Narn i Hin Hurin, or to the hours I spend enthralled in Euripides, and I almost wonder who that young man was. (I would like to be able to say, "Law School," but it really isn't that simple.)

in halls upheld     with huge pillars
of black basalt.     There bats wandered,
worms and serpents     enwound the columns;

Are "little people" a categorical imperative?

I read the other day that Woody Allen said that he would be gratified to be regarded as a "great European filmmaker." That struck a chord.

What cannot the myth in the Gorgias or the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John be cited as authority in a judicial opinion? That categorical bar has always bothered me. It seems to make all of us that much the poorer for it.


The Ames translations of the Analects and Dao De Jing are very interesting! Anyone know anything about them?
Sunset on Mars

Spirit captured this haunting image of the sun setting over Gustev crater on Mars:


ICANN created a .xxx domain last Wednesday for pornographic websites. This should have been done a long time ago. Hopefully, it will enable the "zoning" of the internet and the eventual restriction of all online hardcore porn to a set domain.

(Thanks to Peter Krupa for the link.)


Diana Keough won an radio journalism award for her commentary on the Spenser Tunick mass nude photoshoot last year in Cleveland. It really is worth a listen.


On Revenge of the Sith

IMHO, Episode III is a pretty good movie. I saw it yesterday for the second time. I liked it more and not less upon second viewing. With Episode I, I really liked it upon first viewing, and then greatedly tired of it by fifth viewing. With Episode II, I never got beyond second viewing and the disappointments that brought. Revenge of the Sith, however, does deliver very well in the long second hour from the unmasking of Palpatine to the final duel between Anakin and Obei-wan. Very satisfying, for me, was how Episode III explains how the Jedi were purged and so realizes the "history" recounted by Kenobi to Luke in Episode IV. Honestly, at the end of the final duel, my eyes were beginning to burn. Coming out of the theatre, I felt a little of what I remember feeling coming out of Empire, a prescence I hadn't felt for a long time towards a Star Wars film: horror and pity.

The best line in the film is probably ". . . my little green friend."

Really, Episode III makes I and even II actually better films and makes the whole cycle greater than the sume of its parts. Especially in Episode III, we see people saying the same things or doing similar things to different people in different roles, so as to create a high degree of foreshadowing. Yoda says thing that would later be said by the Emperor, Anakin does things that would later be done by Luke, and Obei-wan does the same things twice towards different people in ways that mean opposite things. Whereas in other movies this would be banal ("Haven't we seen that before in another movie?), here, in the Lucas cycle, we are still watching what is, on many levels, same work. The director get away with what would otherwise be at worst plagarism or at best recycling.

A superb article comparing Wagner's Ring and Lucas' Star Wars may be found here. This is absolutely must reading for anyone who wants to understand the comp lit angles and "drama and society" implications of Star Wars.
Doings and things

Haven't been blogging much lately.

Went on a business trip with my dad the other week. Because of a license issue, I rented and drove the car. Poetic justice? Perhaps.

Been reading Confucius reallly slowly, and like a Strassian. Everyone should read Confucius. There are so many parallels, and crucial differences with, Socrates and Christ.

My wife sat through a seminar this weekend for RSA on the "Rhetoric of Scientific Revolutions." This means that she now knows much more about Mr. Kuhn than I do.

Smoked a pipe last night, for the first time since I've been married and it tasted, nostaligically, like law school.

Why did I go to law school? LOL

I wonder what every became of some of those Pi Phis.

Went to Pittsburgh last Friday (before this past Friday) and visited the Carnegie Museum. Also visited two wonderful bookshops in Oakland, right around the Carnegie and U Pitt: Caliban's and Townsend. Got a beautiful copy of Orlando Furioso at Townsend--the kind of edition you only find only once every few years.

Ratzinger wants to mend the schism of 1054?


Marsha the Wit

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend, but women are more efficient: they just go to the forge."


We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

God save Pope Benedict XVI!


Mimas, up close and personal

Cassini snapped this image of Mimas, Saturn's innermost major satellite, on April 15th from a distance of about 50,000 miles. The giant crater, Herschel, which gives the moon a "Death Star"-like visage, must be on the far side.


My wife handed me a flyer for the Hillsdale College Bookstore. I noticed that they have Hillsdale College teddy bears, the Hillsdale College Mom & Dad ornament set. They even have a Hillsdale College Pet Collar. I'm not kidding.

My wife replied, "The sad thing is, people probably wear them."


May the true heir of Gregory VII rest in peace.


Cleveland from Space

Does God see it this way?

Behold Afterthought

Cassini snapped this haunting image of the astroidal Saturnian shepherd moon Epimetheus on March 30th from about 75,000 km.


John of Salisbury on Time

Who is so unworthy as one who insults the Creator by squandering time, that which is handed out in sparing quantities for use in life and which alone cannot be restored -- its reclamation requiring someone to pay out, in the currency of life, interest and penalties at an usurious rate?

Policraticus, I.1 (Cary J. Nederman, trans.).
Akron and Canton from Space

My brother Daniel introduced me to a website where I found even more cool earth images.

This is North Canton. You can see I-77 running down left side, and the North Canton Strip off to the left of the interstate, with the Canton mall just to the south.

This is central Akron. You can see the I-77/I-76/Route 8 central interchange near the center of the image, with downtown Akron just to the north and west, and the Cuyahoga River gorge just a little further north. Up along Route 8, you can also see Howe Ave. and the Chapel Hill Mall.
The Associated Press on Christians, God's Law, and Terri Schaivo.

An AP article caught my attention has particularly misleading and downright anti-Christian:

Some Christian conservatives and others who want to prolong Schiavo's life do not see why her husband gets to decide her fate. But the role of the spouse as next of kin and decision-maker has deep roots in both civil and biblical law.

"It's odd that conservative Christians would be making this claim," said Christopher Schroeder, director of the public law program at Duke University. "You can find biblical passages that say once you have a union like this, the union's all that matters. The parents drop out of the picture." . . . .

The practice of giving the spouse decision-making authority stretches back to English common law, when a woman basically became a non-person when she married, said Herma Hill Kay, an expert on marriage law at the University of California at Berkeley. Of course, she said, the laws giving one spouse direction over the other's affairs are now gender-neutral.

"Marriage is viewed as a consensual contract entered into by people who have legal capacity to marry, to in effect forsake all other bonds and cleave only to the other person, to take the words from most marriage ceremonies," Kay said.

Clark and other protesters have accused Michael Schiavo of violating "God's law" by withholding nourishment from his wife and by having had two children over the years with the girlfriend with whom he lives.

But the legal tradition now separating Terri Schiavo from her parents' presumed protection also has a foundation in biblical law. In Genesis 2:24, it reads: "Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."

I understand that the way that the English legal tradition has evolved has had the effect of inverting the Roman idea that the wife was still under under the patria potestas of her father, so that the family is seen as essentially nuclear by means of marriage, rather than essentially communitarian because of marriage. I get this. Yet to make the argument, by ignoring the issue of Michael Schaivo's open adultery, that spousal guardianship is a sort of absolute legal value in vacuo is intellectually dishonest. And to try to point to Christians as ignoring God's law on this point is superficial to the point of parody. But to quote Genesis 2:24 as somehow in support of Michael Schaivo is perverse to the point of callous. It is perhaps the most tragic part of this entire matter.

May Terri Schaivo rest in peace.


Liberty Fund, of all publishers, is releasing what appears to be a three-volume, 1300 page edition of Hugo Grotius' epic tome, De Iure Belli ac Pacis.

Glory Hallelujah! This has been a long time in coming.


I rewatched the Passion last night with my brother and sister-in-law. Upon second viewing, I was struck by how very powerful is Gibson's treatment of the moments in which Christ is nailed to the cross. At first, I tried to turn away and avert my eyes, reluctant to see the acute depiction of the visceral. Then the intercutting back to John 14-16 jerked me back to the moments being depicted. The juxtaposition of the Upper Room discourse and actual Crucifixion held me, gripped me, riveted me, until I was ashamed that I had tried to turn away.

I was also struck by how icon-like Gibson made Caviezel's Christ in death. He really does look rather like a Byzantine icon painting.


Cloudy Titan drifting past the rings

Distant Iapetus

Cassini snapped this shot of Iapetus sometime last week from about a million miles away. Iapetus is the outermost large moon of Saturn, and very mysterious. Not only is does it have 10:1 brightness differences from region to region, but is also extremely irregular in topography, fro a moon of its size.


Cassini's second flyby of Enceladus

Cassini flew by Enceladus for a second time on March 9th, and returned these closeup shots

Apparently, soft tissue has been found in some Tyrannosaurus rex bones. See the NT Times treatment and the CNN writeup.
We three moons of Saturn are.

Cassini snapped this image of three of Saturn's moons floating across the ring plane on March 15th. The three moons are, in order of decreasing size, Rhea, Dione, and Enceladus.


A very informal prospectus.

I have tried writing this in outline form. I have tried composing theses and sub-theses. But perhaps it is better to write up a rough description of the scope and requirements of my project(s).

I guess I am considering two major works or projects.

The first is an interpretation of American institutions, especially the American order. By the American order, I mean the Federal Constitution, social reform movements, and American cultural life affected by these.

The essential point of the first project would be to interpret the development of the American order as a partial recapitulation of the political history of the papacy from St. Boniface to Boniface VIII, and partly of the Roman Republic. In this interpretation, John Marshall imitates Gregory VII: Marbury v. Madison is the Dictates Papae for the New World. Jackson and Lincoln are the great emperors and have their respective struggles to define the imperial domain of America, a task carried on by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The Civil War is a conflict between the political values of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789; the conflict creates the American "national" identity in a way comparable to the War of Roses. FDR is the Emperor who finally humbles the Holy See, but he is also an Augustan figure. Most importantly, the conflict of 1937 results in the separation of economic and personal realms as "secular" and "sacred," respectively, which separation permanently secures the New Deal and sets the stage for the Warren Court to start the march in Griswold and Brown that would end in Roe, Casey, and Lawrence. However, all of this personal autonomy jurisprudence, like the conciliarism and the "little" reform movements of the fifteenthcentury, tends to set up the big earthquake that is the next revolution. In our case, the next revolution, the sequel to the Russian and French, which we can guess at but not really imagine will be precipitated by the conflict of personal autonomy--pushed to the limits of sexuality, bioethics, and mortality--with the social necessity of the family and procreation.

The problem with the first project is that it would be relatively negative. The second project is more positive.

The second is a large-scale interpretation of western social thought and letters from Israel to the present, issuing especially in a fuller consideration of the significance of the American order as developed in the first project. Yes, this sounds like From Plato to Nato or The Shield of Achilles. And it also sounds a lot like Mr. Voegelin's project. One wants avoid duplication here, of course. Yet there are many things which ought to be brought in but are not. David Gress, for example, does a find job with his synopsis, but much of the work relies on secondary or tertiary material. Voegelin, for his part, basically deals with a series of "great events" or "great ideas," and tends to neglect literature and the arts.

The second project would systematically address the relation of religion and politics, with special reference to the origins of secularism. Ideally, it would comprise a sort of history of political theology, with a suitable helping of political philosophy. Think about the incisiveness of the R. J. Rushdoony of The Politics of Guilt and Pity matching the scope of Leo Strauss and the sympathies of Philip Schaff--that's the mix I'd like to bring to the treatment.

In the second project, it will be necessary to analyze several "projects" in history. I would envision treating nothing earlier than Moses, but certainly Solomon. Solomon is the necessary contrast with Socrates, and possibly also with Confucius. A good portion of the project is coming to terms with the idea of philosophy in Socratic terms, and understanding how and why this is different for Solomon and Cicero.

A central purpose of the second project is to understand, from the standpoint of political theology, what the person and work of Christ mean. This involves treatment of Augustine and Constantine and the Jewish War of 66-71 but also the papal and imperial struggle from Boniface to Boniface. It also involves a reading of Plato and Vergil as looking for, but not finding, the Messiah. I tentatively expect to conclude that some eschatologies can be heresies of the Ascension, just as Arianism or Docetism were heresies of the Incarnation. I expect that the main points of political Augustinianism---i.e., De Civ. Dei XX plus Aegidius Romanus--will be confirmed.

The latter end of the project looks to that long, tragic arc from Luther to Bonaparte, and involves primarily the rise of secularism and its consequences. I would like to deal adequately with Arabic and Jewish philosophy as it relates to the nature/grace issue, and generally with the problem of the ebb and flow of Neoplatonism with the intervening rise and fall of the Stagirite. I would expect to deal with the Ockham/Salamanca/Locke/Rousseau line fairly heavily, and to tie in a fair bit of political history. I would hope to deal with the poets, especially with the epics, in support of this. There is far too much material in Dante and Tasso and Milton and even Keats to ignore--and it ought to integrate well with the intellectual archaeology. Furthermore, I should hope to deal with what Voegelin called ersatz forms of Christianity, and not just Hitler and Communism, but also the ersatz forms detailed in the first project, like the legal profession and the Supreme Court. I expect that the basic point will be that the structure of man's social and political nature demands both the Incarnation and the Ascension and that no amount of secularism can change or efface that. Hitler, as the embodiment of the Last Emperor of German myth, is apotheosis (or the apodiabolisis) of this reality.

The second work should be broached as a series of articles on select topics. Ultimately, however, it should be a multivolume and probably a life's work—although hopefully not the only fruit of labors.

I admit to having delusions of grandeur, and probably needing either dissuading advice or several drinks or real help. Feel free to pray for me. Or feel free to suggest materials or possible supporting courses of study. Most of all, I feel like I need a mentor or an advising committee. :)


"Summary Judgment" on the Reformed Faith.

I am beginning to try to get back into writing. I do, after all, have a book to write on a theological interpretation of the American order. But I need to clear my chest a little first. So here is a contribution towards that end. It is a little harsh, but . . . well, young men are passionate and I am still a young man (or so my wife tells me). Take it with a little salt--then you'll know how I feel.

What is wont to call itself the Reformed Faith is fundamentally limited by several structural and historical factors. First, the WCF itself is limited and hard to communicate across space and time: it is more historically conditioned than the symbols of the early church; it is in English and not some more universal language; it is composed in the form of a summa and accordingly sought to bring closure to many debates which had not, in 1647, matured.

Second, subscription to the WCF, together with—over 400 years— has tended to have a chilling effect upon the Reformed churches, especially Presbyterianism in America. The WCF has not been supplemented or edited, except in the form of the Savoy Declaration by Reformed Baptists. There has been no synod or council which has revised or expanded the WCF, or published a new confession in response to new heresies or contemporary issues. For Presbyterians, it seems, the canon is doubly closed.

Third, the Reformed Faith tends to assume knowledge of a peculiar people or, rather, two or three peoples: the English and the Scottish and the Dutch. While perhaps of greater moment for America, as Albion's eldest child, the whole tradition tends to be phenomenally Anglocentric. The battles of the seventeenth century become almost pseudo-biblical in significance.

Fourth, the idea of the covenant tends to become a talisman for Reformed Christians, whereas as in reality it is really something of an overblown construct. The covenant is said to be central to theology. The covenant is recapitulated in the strife of seventeenth-century Scotland in the form of a Solemn League. The covenant is recapitulated all over England and America in the form of little covenants and lots of covenanteering. The whole thing is informed by highly voluntarist assumptions, and mirrors social compact theory. At present, however, the "British" form of the idea of the covenant is conflated strongly with the "Dutch" version articulated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the latter, the covenant is interpreted in more or less Romantic terms, as the total organization of life between God and man. Its apogee is in the fifteen or so modes of Herman Dooyewerd. As such, the covenant winds up being metaphysical, rather than historical and positive.

Fifth, Calvinism in particular is deeply infused with Stoic elements, especially in its view of the relation between temporal and eternal goods, and individual and common goods. The result is a convoluted mess.

Sixth, the practice of the Reformed churches remains largely mired in old forms without change, as if the forms themselves were eternal and not historically-conditioned. The centerpiece of this is the sermon and the cult of "preaching." The sermon, as practiced in Reformed churches, dates to the sixteenth century and to the need to, absent mass media and limited educational and library resources, disseminate theological knowledge to the congregation at a time when theological knowledge was becoming increasingly important in terms of political identity, as a means of differentiating "us" and "them." Under the influence of then-current conceptions of rhetoric (about which I am as yet unclear), the sermon was widely practiced as nuanced and time-intensive oratory. In sheer scale, the oratory required in, for instance, Puritan England, was possibly greater than anything seen since classical Athens. Such public rhetoric required a high level of theological education, and provided a new rationale for theological education to replace the old "Papist" rationales of casuistry and hearing confession.

Within the Reformed tradition, theological education, oratorical display, and a professional clergy have conspired to produce a dysfunctional family of a church. The seminary education includes little if any training in ethics or professional responsibility or "management" or self-examination. Yet somehow the man with seminary education can preside over much older men of greater piety and maturity. (It is frequently unrecognized that intellectually-conscious young men routinely pursue seminary, as an alternative to law and politics or business, because of the lure of the ultimate aphrodisiac, power.)

In the worship service itself, the professional theologian performs a strange hybrid role. The sermon is not really purely for the honor of God, because it is also supposed to be persuasive and educational for the congregation. But it is not really all that persuasive, because it is, by nature, "general audience" and has to be pitched a fairly low level. There is a fine balance between round platitudes and brazen speculation. Most sermons do not strike that balance. And the sermon is not really all that educational either. For one thing, there is no opportunity for question and answer. For another, the topic is usually just a few verses, rather than whole chapters, on the one hand, or whole theological doctrines, on the other. Finally, the professional theologian, whose services seem to be so indispensable for the existence of the church, must stand up and perform, week after week, until permitted to take his annual two weeks' vacation. He must preach, and people must sit and listen, rotely and regardless as to whether he really has anything to say.

While the long sermon may have been important and useful in bygone days when bibles were scarce, literacy was lower, and parachurch ministries were nonexistent, the contemporary practice, at least in Reformed churches, is actually mind-numbing. Within the high, narrow walls of the Reformed tradition, men and women can be in church for decades and have mere ignorance and superstition to show for it. Sermon-heavy Presbyterian services are largely a spectator sport. The need for the audience to participate ritually is absent for at least half of the service. Instead, people sit in silence and maybe learn to enjoy the antique flowers of oratory and, if not the flowers, then at least the theological buzzwords and whatever jargon is then in vogue. As a result, sermons by themselves do actually quite little for the intellectual development and epistemological self-consciousness of the members of the audience. The sermon is, however, reasonably effective in evoking guilt, whether genuine and deserved or merely superstitious. As a means of conviction, however, the sermon is not particularly superior to the Mass--indeed, the more liturgical celebration is probably superior upon account of its greater element of catharsis.

Both as a vehicle for conviction, as a means of education and persuasion, the modes of high liturgy, informal bible study, and public teaching are equal or superior to the long sermon. Taken with the long sermon as a mix, they are more effective than the long sermon alone as means of communicating grace and doctrine. They are also a lot closer to what we actually see in the New Testament.

In light of the above, you may perhaps ask me whether I am myself Reformed. Good question! After being born into some a "Jesus movement" group, I was baptized at age 8 or 9 in an OPC church, and have been a member of a now-defunct "independent" Presbyterian church in Warsaw and of an OPC church in Columbus. I attended Reformed Baptist and a Congregationalist churches in College in Michigan. I am presently, irregularly, attending a PCA church in Hudson. But am I "Reformed"? Not really. I am a Christian and, as a matter of intellectual tradition and "party affiliation," I am probably more of a "general Augustinian." Philip Schaff strikes a strong chord with me, but I am probably no more "Reformed" than he. (For one thing, I simply and plainly lament the outcome of the Reformation!)

What value do I see in the Reformed tradition represented by Calvin, SL&C, and J. Gresham Machen? Well, it is an abiding source of inspiration and insight. It is more theologically rigorous (in the sense of obsessive-compulsive) than German Lutheranism or "low" Baptist thought or even Anglicanism. It is no wonder that Reformed thought has dominated that seminaries to the point that it is practically the theological Academy. Having said that, the Reformed thought has no particular "hold" upon me, intellectually. To the extent that it is patently in accord with the evangelical law, I accept it, but it has no separate or higher authority than the evangelical law and the broadly Augustinian tradition of which it is but one part. To the extent that its claims are based upon long chains of inference or concern matters upon which reasonable men may find a rational basis to differ, I regard its claims as I do ideas from Plato or Kant or Vergil or Aquinas or Descartes or James Joyce--as ideas that come, if not well-recommended, then at least from known quantities, and as ideas which must be examined and suspended ere rejected or accepted.
"Worldview" as a wrong-headed approach.

The appropriation of Weltaunschaung by contemporary Reformed thought is an additional indication that the tradition is itself pretty passé. One does not have to look far to see myriads of books, seminars, and audio cassettes addressing the topic of worldviews. In reality, the embracing of the language of "worldview" by the contemporary Reformed thought and the broader Evangelical Christian subculture is tacit acceptance of the Enlightenment's dethronement of theology as the "queen of the sciences."

Until the sixteenth century, theology sat at the top of a high dais, looking down through the ordered ranks of the scala naturae upon the vulgar masses while metaphysics stood at her right hand as handmaiden--or prime minister. In practical terms, the effect of the Enlightenment was to topple this premodern "scale of the sciences" and lay what had hitherto been a hierarchy of knowledge on its side. The fallen hierarchy was easily segmented into disciplines. The disciplines were coordinated and compartmentalized. The encyclopedia is iconic of this. Theology became one discipline among many, and was eventually crowded to the corners of the Academy--or pushed out on the street altogether.

The idea of "worldview" reflects the need to find some means of relating the segmented disciplines in terms of a coherent whole. The chosen means are essentially subjective and cognitive. "Worldview" thus correlates with Romanticism.

The current fad for "worldview" is really an attempt to attempt to recapture something of the former scope and field of theology and metaphysics precisely without reasserting the claims of theology and metaphysics as such. In place of an objective hierarchy corresponding to God's governance of world, "worldview" leaves what I will call the "imperial question" in the Academy largely as it was--framed at the high level in subjective and cognitive terms. As such, to relate, educate, and center apologetics primarily in terms of "worldview" probably not really very helpful after all. To frame a Christian response to contemporary society first and foremost in terms of "worldview" constitutes itself the capitulation of Christianity to the "worldview" of the nineteenth century.
An old friend of mine from the 1980s and 90s, Scott Mooney, has started a blog in which he proposes to critique, at length, The Purpose-Driven Life.


My wife wrote a fine, frank blog entry tonight and I was proud of her.


The Saturnian System, Edge-on

Cassini caught this view of Saturn & moons from a ring-plane crossing on February 28th. Dione is on the right and Enceladus is on the left. As the Cassini people observed, this image looks almost as if it were painted!


The Adventure and the Eclipse

While meditating upon financial spreadsheets, I am watching the Criterion DVD release of Michelangelo Antonioni's 1962 film L'Eclisse. I have been waiting for this release for a long time--it's the last film of the tetrology from L'Avventura to Il Deserto Rosso to come out on DVD--in other words to be available on anything more than hard-to-find, fuzzy VHS transfers. I can't help but wonder what has become of Mike Anderson, who introduced me to Antionioni about five years ago in the Kresge film room.


Warm Girl

Marsha and I had a conversation tonight in a parking lot. It went like this:

[Marsha complains about the cold and pulls her hood down over eyes.]
--What you need is a really more like a space suit . . like an astronaut wears.
--Does that have its own internal temperature control?
--Probably. Astronauts have to stay warm and it's very cold in outer space.
--Then I could be a warm girl, all the time. I could teach in it too. Hello, my name is Marsha. I'm from the planet Warm. In this class, you will learn to write in Warmese. Any references to C.O.L.D. or S.N.O.W. or other substances of this nature will result in automatic failure. If you happen to see some S.N.O.W. while in this class, please ignore it and do not point it out.
--You could ask for it for Christmas!
--Or I could get it for my birthday! . . . But will it be heavy?
The Great Dance

The following are some beautiful raw images from Cassini. The probe is going through a pretty extensive orbital tour (dozens and dozens of orbits over four years). We will probably see a lot of such sights in months to come.

Tethys and Rhea passing in the night. Tethys is above and in the foreground of Rhea, so it looks bigger although it is actually smaller.

Dione slipping by cloudy Titan.

Enceladus floating down the ring-plane.

Rhea against the tip of the rings.
Niagara Falls from Space!

New Zealand from orbit

Here is a fine image of the South Island from space. Note especially the different hues of the varios lakes.
Go and see Apollo!

Okay, okay, I guess I'm going a little wild with pictures. But I do suggest that all you who are within range go and see the newly-acquired Apollo Sauroktonos at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Enceladus: a global view

This is the view of Enceladus from Cassini inbound to its second (March 9th) close flyby, from a distance of about 100,000 miles.

Looking back at Enceladus

After the March 9th flyby, Cassini looked back and caught this view from about 100,000 miles.
Enceladus' folds

This is a shot by Cassini of a 37-mile patch of Enceladus from about 6,680 miles. The resolution is about 200 feet per pixel. Note how few impact craters there are in this stretch of the surface!

Here is the photomosaic from the first flyby. It covers a stretch of about 200 miles (the whole moon is only 314 miles in diameter). Nota bene the fabulously corrugated surface!
Index of Last Lines

Sometimes I wonder if it would be good to publish an index of last lines. You know, so that people who are finishing up or ending things--or who are looking for Dear John material or pink slip copy or just grand symphonic flourishes--might be better able to find something suitably inspiring. Think!

* * *

Then with a slow incline of his broad breast,
Like to a diver in the pearly seas,
Forward he stoop’d over the airy shore,
And plung’d all noiseless into the deep night.

, I.354-357

* * *

          The Fiend lookt up and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.

Paradise Lost
, IV.1013-1015.

* * *

uitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.

, XII.952

* * *
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," ln. 9-14.
I have finally completed my extensive (500 MB) PowerPoint presentation on our trip to New Zealand. And then I showed it to my family. I spent almost as much time making it as I spent awake in New Zealand to begin with! Ironic.


Gloriosissimam ciuitatem Dei siue in hoc temporum cursu, cum inter impios peregrinatur ex fide uiuens, siue in illa stabilitate sedis aeternae, quam nunc expectat per patientiam, quoadusque iustitia conuertatur in iudicium, deinceps adeptura per excellentiam uictoria ultima et pace perfecta, hoc opere instituto et mea ad te promissione debito defeendere aduersus eos, qui conditori eius deos suos praeferunt, fili carissime Marcelline, suscepi, magnum opus et arduum, sed Deus adiutor noster est.


My brother Samuel has started a blog. Best regards, Sam!
Pretzels are the asparagus of junk food.


Insomnia. At 2:30 a.m. After five hours in the car. And some meetings in a Columbus skyscraper. Then sleep. Softly. Like plush carpet. Or dead bird feathers. Then restless awakening. And now, now the hour of the wolf draws nigh.


Some time ago, I finally finished by deep read of the Republic. I was reminded of how, not so many years ago, Mr. Klein and I sat in the Niedfeldt study room and talked about how what we really needed to do is to read the whole thing in the original. Now, upon this last and deepest reading, I am struck by the cuts and reversals therein. Not only are there many, many layers to the several arguments, but there seems the real sense in which Plato brazenly undermines our expectations, especially in the way in which books VII-X play out.

I am presently reading Dominic O'Meara's book, Platonopolis, Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity. Basically, he's trying to assert that the divinization of man project has more direct and immediate political implications than conventionally realized. What's interesting to me is that he runs this from Plotinus through Eusebius to Ps.-Denis and Farabi.

I am also reading Confucius and Basho.

Basho, I love, because I am reminded of a few days I spent wandering through Sendai and Aizu--and how I long to see northern Honshu again in the summer someday, probably with my father, and to trace the Nosses. Anyways, this website is great for reading Basho--Corman's translation is especially fun, although I am using Keene's in the book.

Confucius I find, well, very interesting. There is much that is at turns quite reminiscent not so much of the Academy and its daughters as of Solomon. Yet like Plato, I do get the sense that Mr. K'ung Fu was one of those anima naturaliter Christiana. There is much pride and elitism, but there is also this preternatural recognition that salvation is very, very high and man, even the gentleman, is very, very low.

I commute about 550 miles per week, and have become obsessed with listening to poetry on CD. Perhaps after so many hours of Keats and Longfellow and Mr. Milton, I shall soak up something of this language.

I have had Marmura's translation/edition of Avicenna's Metaphysics of the Healing (Al-Shifa') on order since September, but it seems indefinitely delayed by the good Mormons in Provo. Sad. :(

I see that my wife has been commenting on my blog. I suppose I should watch out.

I have been working, nearly in OCD, on a powerpoint presentation of our NZ trip, replete with dozens pics of Mitre Peak and Mt. Cook, lots of animated captions, and annotated space imagery showing where we drove. Email me if any of you want a copy.
I suddenly realize that I'm less widely travelled domestically than I had thought!

create your own personalized map of the USA or check out ourFlorida travel guide

Am obviously still working on the international side!

create your own visited country map


I always wondered how stormtroopers did that!


Enceladus, Saturn's Europa

Cassini recently made its first close flyby of Enceladus, and the first images are back: Here is the great high-resolution photomosaic and here are some more images. I cannot tell you, my readers, what joy these pictures bring to my eyes. They remind me of seeing Triton or Miranda or Gaspra for the very first time close up. Enceladus is Saturn's Europa or Miranda--the tortured icy moon with the fresh young surface, tightly packed with regular ripples of folded ridges.


For the dialectician views things in their connection [sunoptikos], but he who is not a dialectician does not.

Plato, Republic, 537c.
I like Eve Adler's book on the Aeneid very much, but I wish that she had referenced the Eclogues, instead of the Georgics. To write about Vergil's political thought and to neglect the first ten poems--this is like the vestiges of sin!


Why doesn't a woman like Ann Coulter just find a husband, be quiet, and stay home? :)
Marsha is learning how to play Warcraft! Have I created a monster? :)


I found a great book on whales. The best part is that it has wonderful illustrations and very few underwater pictures! I am trying to embrace the creatures I have feared for so long, but . . . carefully . . . !


Back in the USA

My wife and I are now back in the USA after about two weeks in New Zealand. We did both the North and South islands, drove something like 1500 miles, hiked under Mt. Cook and Mt. Aspiring, cruised in Milford and Doubtful Sounds, swam with the dolphins, saw several seal colonies, and spotted three sperm whales--oh, and I saw the Magellanic Clouds and 47 Tuscanae!

Some thoughts about coming back:

one doesn't realize how much of melting pot the US is until one spends time in the old British Empire;

we need $1 and $2 coins instead of bills, and we need to loose the penny.

Fish and chips is pretty good, if the fish is fresh.

Kiwi beer is weak.

There are good used bookstores in NZ--I found copies of Fletcher's and Austin's commentaries on Aeneid VI and IV, for NZ$12 (US$8.50?);

Driving on the left isn't that bad--I got pretty used to it;

Kiwis are always using "wee" to indicate little, small, modest, familiar;

Kiwi women commonly use "Darling" as a vocative with everyone and anyone--it takes a little getting used to!

Wendy Houston of Lakeview Homestay, near Twizel, makes the best roast lamb Marsha has ever eaten;

There's a Mexican place in the Whangamata that makes the worst chicken quesidillas in the world--trust me!

sperm whales are really interesting after all, but they aren't entirely safe either . . .


In Wellington

This will be telegram style as am at kiosk. After spent two days in auckland, picked up car and went east for a day of reckless driving in over-winding roads in coromandel penninsula. Water is cold, penninsula bella, bella, bella. Drove through Matamata by accident, got a picture of a sign: "welcome to hobbiton." Drove down to rotorua, the hot spring town, aka town of sulphurous smells. Went to Whakatane next day on dolphin safari, swam with dolphins (JNW panicked at first, when dropped into xxxx' of water!) The underwater view of a pair of dolphins swimming along under me, chirping as they went, is an image that will remain with me alway. Didn't get sunburnt that day, but did get sunburnt on snowfield on central volcano in central NP yesterday. Saw "mordor" or what was used as such. Interesting terrain. Drive to Wellington was beautiful. very very varied topography. always changing. Ferry today across cook straits and to south island.



My wife and I have arrived safely in the northern island, and have spent the last two days tramping the city -- and fighting off colds. We did the Sky Tower yesterday, and Auckland Museum and Domain today.

Tomorrow we pick up our rental car and head on to Rotorua. Having a great time thus far--and enjoying sun interspersed with scattered showers.

Happy New Year!