Saturday, May 23, 2015

Theories of Western Decline

I've been exploring what happened when Rome became Christian and asked when Europe became Christian. Today I want to begin exploring several theories of Western decline.

1. The Story of Progress
Before I mention several stories of decline, I might mention the story of progress. There are many who view the last five hundred years as something like a non-stop evolution to a better and better understanding. They would view the Middle Ages as something like the "dark" ages and the Renaissance as a rebirth of culture.

The Enlightenment was thus truly about becoming more reasonable, about shedding religious superstition, and so forth. The rise of science is seen as parallel to this trajectory toward reason and truth. We expect science to make the world a better and better place. At one point, we thought humanity would become more and more virtuous.

2. The Modernist Dead End
I don't know how many people still really subscribe to any strong form of the story of progress I just mentioned. Star Trek in the 80s still looked to a future where humanity was more civilized, more evolved than it is now. But the movies of the last 25 years have been much more apocalyptic. There are more zombies, more world-ending catastrophes, more post-apocalyptic reversions.

Nietzsche in the late 1800s was a herald of where modernism ended, namely, with no basis for morality other than the creation of ingenious Superman who could convince the rest of the world. Alistair MacIntyre depicted a moral world where we had fragments of a picture from the past that we could not remember. Louis Pojman's ethics text deliberately mimicked J. L. Mackie with the subtitle Discovering Right and Wrong rather than Mackie's, "inventing" right and wrong.

In Nietzsche's theory of Western decline, Socrates himself was the culprit. It was he who taught the West to ask questions, that the "unexamined life is not worth living." While Nietzsche agreed with the end of that train of thought in his own writings, he warned that it would not be good for most people to play out the train of thought. They might think that it was good for God to be dead, but it would not turn out as well as they thought. In that sense, Nietzsche is sometimes considered a prophet of the twentieth century.

3. The Story of the Protestant Principle
According to Paul Tillich, it was inevitable that Protestantism would splinter into tens of thousands of little groups once it made a text the center of authority. Texts are polyvalent. They are susceptible to multiple interpretations. So each little group, reading the Bible "alone," becomes confident that it knows exactly what God thinks... and it splinters off from its parent body. And it then goes on to hereticize everyone who disagrees... until the next group splits from it.

Brad Gregory, in Unintended Reformation, more or less sees the turn away from the external authority of the Church as the culprit. Left without some third party to arbitrate the meaning of Scripture, each interprets as is right in his own eyes. Most crucially, secular authority becomes the highest authority rather than religious authority. Completely unintended, Christianity hands its ultimate authority over to worldly powers. Gregory is, of course, Roman Catholic.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of almost Catholics around. There are plenty of people in Wesleyan circles who are on some version of the Canterbury Trail, although many of them stop at Episcopalian. You often get the feeling, though, that they think the Reformation was at least in part a mistake, certainly that modernism was a mistake. All we need to do is go back to some version of catholicism, even if it is the catholicism of the 400s.

In another scenario, Protestant Liberalism was a predictable trajectory for a "Bible only" approach. For once the historical consciousness of modernism comes into play, the premodern, unified text suddenly falls apart into 66 distinct books with distinct contexts addressing distinct audiences. Thus, even most evangelical biblical theologies are not divided up by theological topic, but by Paul, Matthew, and so forth.

4. Nominalist Ideas Have Consequences.
Richard Weaver, in 1948, argued that America was in a state of degradation because of a trajectory first set by the nominalists just before the Reformation. In rhetoric now very familiar, he blamed a turn to relativism and away from absolutes. I've recently written on how fallacy-ridden most of this rhetoric is. Weaver's ideal world was the Roman Catholic society of the Middle Ages (even though he was a "nominal" Protestant).

Nominalism was a rejection of the reality of universals in the late Middle Ages. It is, in my opinion, an extension of Aquinas' version of absolutes, where absolutes are not distinct from the things in which they occur. The nominalists took this concept one step further, namely, that there are just individual things. Weaver, unsurprisingly, was somewhat Platonic in orientation.

Luther's theology is often thought to have been influenced by nominalism. God deems a person righteous without a person being righteous.

5. Aquinas and the triumph of reason
Francis Schaeffer taught that Aquinas had started the decline of the West by rejecting that the human mind was fallen. No serious scholar of history or Aquinas agrees. Schaeffer was a presuppositionalist thinker who more or less held that unless God gave you the right presuppositions out of thin air, you couldn't possibly arrive at the truth.

So the introduction of reason into the equation, in his view, inevitably resulted in humanity thinking it was the authority on what was true, with a resultant decline in the West climaxing with the legalization of abortion in the 1970s.

6. James Sire and declining worldviews
In The Universe Next Door, James Sire describes the changing worldviews since the Reformation as a logical unraveling from theism to deism to naturalism to nihilism to existentialism to neo-spiritualism. In the 1500s, God was thought to exist and to be active in the world. In the 1600s and 1700s, we saw the rise of deism, which sees the world more or less as a machine that doesn't require God's intervention.

In the 1800s with evolution, we see the rise of naturalism, where God is not even thought to be needed as creator. This inevitably results in a Nietzschean nihilism. In the 1950s, existentialism rose to try to reintroduce meaning into the universe. But as it is ultimately unsatisfying, an attempt to recapture a spiritual dimension to life is seen in the new age movement and neo-spiritualism.

On Monday, I may try to evaluate these in some sort of synthetic way. What seems true about these somewhat conflicting theories?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Novel: The Cambridge Banquet

"I noticed that some of you are not having sherry," Alan asked. There were only twelve or thirteen people in the room, some five of whom were his age. The professors from Cambridge were wearing an academic gown of mostly black, with some cardinal red lining the front and on the hood. There were a few others with different gowns, most of which he did not recognize. One he did recognize was the one Father Barrett was wearing from Bologna.

"Observant," Mr. Fox said. "No matter what James Bond may say, no one's reactions and ability to process a situation is at its peak with alcohol in his or her system. So we always take turns at these gatherings. Some drink. Some don't."

"Are you expecting something to happen?"

"I wouldn't expect someone to attack here at Cambridge. And, as you know, we only announced this dinner yesterday. It is never scheduled predictably, other than generally being in summer, when we have a sufficient number of candidates. We should be okay," he said nonchalantly and wandered off.

After only three weeks there, Alan already felt sharper and more prepared to defend himself than ever. He still didn't quite know what the belt or phone did, but Mr. Fox assured him it required an assailant to attack face-to-face.

"So, have you been enjoying your time here in Cambridge?" came the familiar voice of Father Barrett, who had a small glass of sherry in his hand.

"Yes," Alan find himself saying. "Some of it has been grueling, but I've surprisingly found it very satisfying."

"Good," Barrett responded. "I've heard good things about your progress. You can run a kilometer in just over three minutes. You are well into physics 2 and calculus 3. You've read all the philosophy brainwash they feed you up here." The last comment came with a smile and another sip of sherry.

"You consider Wittgenstein, Kuhn, and Putnam brainwash?" Alan asked over the din of conversation in the wooden floored and walled room. "What do you have them read in Bologna?"

Barrett raised his eyebrows with a smirk and said, "Machiavelli and Nietzsche." Then he took another sip of sherry.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

When did Europe become Christian?

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post about the "conversion" of the Roman Empire to Christianity. My thesis there was that most people simply changed their flags, not their hearts. My thesis is that the number of "true" Christians at any one time--individuals who are truly devoted in heart to God--is always a minority.

The current thesis of Ed Stetzer is illuminating, I think. His thesis is that the number of truly committed Christians is actually on the rise in America. The declining numbers of those who claim to be Christian is simply the fact that nominal Christians--people who self-identify as Christians but who really have little invested in it--are increasingly becoming "nones." In short, the declining numbers of Christians in America are mostly people who never had any real skin in the game to begin with.

So the question I am asking is when, if ever, Europe really became "Christian" in the first place--at least Christian in name.

1. As an addendum to yesterday's post, it is worth noting that the Roman Empire pretty much died after it converted to Christianity. It would be false, however, to draw a cause-effect relationship, I believe. Rome had been on a death trajectory before Constantine and you could probably argue that his conversion to Christianity was in part an attempt to save it.

Of course the pagans in Rome blamed the Fall of Rome on its abandoning the Roman gods. Augustine addresses this charge, if I remember correctly, in The City of God.  The core problem, I think, was that because of massive population decline and a failure to maintain a healthy military, Rome was unable to defend its borders.

Decadence over time could have had something to do indirectly with the failure to maintain a healthy military. But of course there would be something contradictory about claiming both that Rome failed because of moral decline and to argue that the conversion to Christianity from paganism was a great moral revolution.

2. The "barbarian" rulers of the Germans, the Slavs, and the Celts in northern Europe converted to Christianity in next few centuries. They would eventually become Catholic or Orthodox.

Polygamy was still practiced here and there, however. Indeed, if we are to go by the rhetoric of some of the early Christians, monogamy cannot be said to be Judeo-Christian for they indict Jews of the time for practicing polygamy. Martin Luther himself apparently did not completely condemn polygamy.

I don't think most of us would consider the sexual views that seem to have prevailed in the Middle Ages as a good Judeo-Christian norm. Celibacy increasingly became the ideal of a truly holy person. Sex was only for procreation purposes and had a certain sinful connotation. Of course there was no sense of a person having a "sexual orientation." Rather, certain sex acts were allowed and others weren't.

Inside cave church in Cappadocia
I am not nearly as critical of the Crusades as many. The first crusade was a counter-attack after centuries of Muslim conquest of what had been Christian territories. What is now Turkey was firmly Roman Christian territory in the 300s, as you can see if you go visit the caves of Cappadocia. It would be like the US trying to take back California if it were taken over by the Russians (Putin actually sees his actions in Ukraine in similar terms). Spain was mostly taken over by Muslims for a time in the Middle Ages.

3. In the lead up to the Protestant Reformation I think we have the same situation as it arguably has always been. There is always a true "remnant," a minority who truly serve God with their whole heart, mind, and soul. But the majority is just the never-ending struggle of those who want power and those who are going through the motions of whatever culture to which they belong. Christian in name, Christian in flag, but not really in heart.

The corruption of the medieval catholic church is thus no surprise. We should not be surprised if those in power are usually not particularly godly people... anywhere.

Christian lords in England might still demand prima nocte with newly married Scottish wives. Christian kings might still slaughter Scots. After the Reformation, the Protestant Henry VIII might chop off the godly Thomas More's head for not supporting him. Then Bloody Mary the Catholic might burn the Protestants at the stake. Has Europe yet become truly Christian? According to one tradition, Charles Spurgeon was once asked why the Baptists never burned anyone at the stake. His answer in the story, "We were never in power."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What changed with Theodosius?

1. You often hear that Constantine made Christianity the only allowable religion in the Roman Empire, that he squashed Gnosticism as a Christian possibility. This is false. Constantine made Christianity legal (it had been the target of persecution previously) in AD313. He did not make it the official religion of the Roman Empire. He even patronized some other gods.

Another thing I hear often is that the New Testament canon--the list of authoritative books in the Bible--was determined at the Council of Nicaea in 325, called by Constantine. This is also false. The contents of the NT had mostly been agreed on for years by then, but the final agreement on the edges (e.g., 2 Peter, 3 John) would not really come into play until decades after Constantine's death. There was no universal council. It just more or less happened. In 398, a Western council did affirm these books.

It was a later emperor, Theodosius who in 380, declared Nicene Christianity the only legitimate religion of the empire. A "heterodox" bishop in Constantinople was removed. Then in 381, the Council of Constantinople finalized the Nicene Creed. Only Nicene Christianity, at that point, could be considered catholic Christianity.

2. So the main thing that changed was the end of support for polytheism and the worship of other gods. I believe my colleague David Riggs would tell you that much of polytheistic worship continued nonetheless and went underground. I remember dabbling in an anti-catholic book as a teen that suggested that the cult of the saints was largely the polytheistic religion of the majority gone underground. (no idea whether there is any truth there at all)

3. Did the moral climate of Rome change?  I'm not sure how much evidence there is for this. Anything associated with the Roman gods or other gods was outlawed. Magic was outlawed. The Olympic games were outlawed. In 529 Plato's Academy was closed.

In keeping with the Mediterranean worldview, the main thing that changed was religious practice. Rituals and ceremonies associated with Jupiter or Mars were outlawed. The Vestal Virgins were disbanded. The temples associated with these gods would now either fall into disrepair or be re-purposed. Instead of Saturnalia, we would now have Christmas.

Now basilicas of worship would be built. The biblical text would become more or less standardized (thus the Greek behind the King James Version). Doctrine was standardized (Nicene)--Manichaeans for example would be persecuted.

4. So there were changes in religious worship and changes in religious belief. But the Roman empire was not Pietist. The empire did not necessarily become more loving or more biblical in the most meaningful sense of that word. I believe Constantine did make some changes that curbed the practice of infanticide. I would be interested in knowing other changes that took place.

I would argue that the number of "real" Christians probably stayed about the same, just like today, a minority. See Ed Stetzer's claims in more than one place that Christianity today is not in decline in America. It's only that nominal Christians, who arguably weren't really Christians anyway, are no longer identifying themselves as Christian.

5. So when did Europe become "Christian" in anything other than matters of external form and cognitive assent? The next candidate in Western storytelling, I suppose, is the Protestant Reformation.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Interview with the New Dean, Dr. David Smith

Interview with the New Dean, Dr. David Smith

Teaching math as needed for physics (for nerds only)

I came across a physics textbook a long time ago that was striking to me because it interrupted the flow of the physics instruction with about 7 gray sections on calculus. As a teacher, this approach intrigues me. It could be used in the teaching of any discipline that has prerequisites.

Although I haven't finished or published examples of this approach. I have used something like it to teach biblical languages and the Seminary uses an approah something like this in its integrative approach to the practice of ministry. I believe it is far more effective than the "building block" model if it is done correctly. It is something like problem-based learning.


But I can imagine putting together the beginnings of a science curriculum this way.

1. Instantaneous velocity and acceleration (while discussing motion)
This is a great place to introduce the basics of finding a derivative, and this is how the Marion/Hornyak (MH) book pictured began. Integration can also be introduced as the inverse process in brief. Both would be introduced simply, to be expanded upon later.

2. Vector addition (motion in more than one dimension)
Vector addition begins to come into play as soon as you hit motion in more than one dimension. I find Young and Freedman's (YF) introduction of all things vector in chapter 1 a teaching problem. The cross product in particular is, I think, a difficult concept to introduce at the very beginning. Wouldn't it be more helpful to introduce the various characteristics of vector addition and multiplication as they arise in specific topics? This is also a place to review some basic trig.

3. Summation (forces)
When you get into forces, you could introduce summation notation and extend integral calculus. MH review definite integrals when they get to the application of Newton's laws.

4. Vector dot product (work)
Young and Freedman introduce dot products in chapter 1, but students don't need it until chapter 6. Why not introduce it there? There are more integrals in the treatment of work. So an integrative approach could be solidifying and extending techniques of integration as the student went along.

5. Partial derivatives, nablus (energy)
It is amazing to me that I wasn't introduced to partial derivatives until my third semester of calculus and I don't remember hearing about the nablus/gradient in four semesters. Yet these are relatively easy concepts I could have learned in a first semester. This is frequently the case. Teaching the calculus in order, you don't get to simple and useful concepts until way down the line.

Yet chapter 7 of YF already introduces these fairly straightforward concepts in their treatment of energy.

6. Integration in two and three dimensions
MH have a calculus 5 section on this before a chapter on angular momentum. YF also have an advanced section involving integration in their chapter on angular velocity.

7. Radian measurement (angular velocity)
YF review radian measurement as they begin their chapter on angular velocity.

8. Cross product
It is not until chapter 10 and the treatment of torque that YF ever use the vector cross product. Why introduce it in chapter 1, when most students will have no idea what it means or what it is for?

9. Taylor series
MH review this third semester calculus topic in between their chapters on gravitation and periodic motion.

10. Differentials
I see some differentials by themselves in YF treatment of thermodynamics.

11. Surface integrals
When you get into Gauss' law regarding electric flux

12. The gradient
More partial differentials when you get to electric potential

13. More cross product
When you get into electromagnetic induction

14. Second order differential equations
MH finally review second order differential equations, a fourth semester calculus topic, as they are digging deeper into electromagnetic waves.

I picture, perhaps, two teachers tag teaming over the course of a year or summer intensive. Problems might circle back around to earlier physics topics after new mathematical concepts were introduced. Similarly, methods of application (e.g., in calculus) could be introduced in the process of doing problems.

Just some ideas for a Monday morning...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wesleyan-Arminian Reflections on the Holy Spirit

I forgot to put up the summary last week of my posts on the Holy Spirit. Here are also the links to the first two parts of the series on theology from a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective, my "theology in bullet points" series.

Part 1: God and Creation
God and Creation (online)
God and Creation (book form)
God and Creation (Kindle book)

Part 2: Christ and Salvation
Christ and Salvation (online)

Part 3: The Holy Spirit and the Church
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology)
1. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person, but one in substance with the Father and Son.
2. The Holy Spirit enacts the will of the Father and Son in the world.
3. The Spirit sanctifies the Church.
4. The Spirit sanctifies the believer.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Christians and the Death Penalty

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received the death penalty yesterday for his part in the bombing of the Boston Marathon two years ago. It's a good time for us to reflect and ask whether Christians should support the death penalty.

I suppose the Christians I most respect as thinkers and, indeed, as people of God, would mostly oppose it. I suspect that the rising generation of Christians mostly oppose it. I can live with this position and, of course, will have to, since no individual decides such matters.

But I also do not have a problem with the death penalty from a Christian standpoint, especially in a case such as this one. And I thought I would think through it with you.

1. I was trying to come up with a nice phrase that might guide our approach to the Bible on such things. One that came to mind this morning is "trying to put the Bible in the context of eternity." It's not popular right now to think in terms of the original meaning of the Bible, by which I mean the meanings these words from God had when they first spoke to the specific times and places of the Bible. For example, Paul's letters are "occasional," which means that God inspired him to write them to address specific occasions in the life of the early church.

The objection to a phrase like, "putting the Bible in the context of eternity" is at least two-fold. First, it seems rather presumptuous to think that, while the biblical authors only saw things from a contextualized point of view, I can somehow see the timeless perspective of God and get a God's eye view.

Thus the second objection--I can't see the Bible from the standpoint of eternity. I can ultimately only see it from where I sit... on a different occasion.

I've never thought that this conundrum was a reason not to try.

2. So the Bible knows nothing of a world where the death penalty is not an assumption. The penalty of death is assumed throughout the OT. And the fact that Paul endorses the Roman government as an instrument of justice (Rom. 13:4) seems to indirectly support the death penalty.

If there is one thing of which I would like to convince the church, it is that this is not the end of the story. We have to put this teaching in the context of eternity--or at least try. We don't simply apply a verse directly to us today without stepping back to think theologically, to integrate it into the principles of the whole Bible.

3. So I am sympathetic to arguments like the following. The Parable of the Prodigal Son shows us that God will take someone who repents back no matter what horrible things they have done. If a person is given a life sentence, then there is at least a little hope that they might repent at some point and be saved.

Good argument and I think one that shows the heart of Christ. I do not think justice is unloving and I take the "law of retribution" as a fundamental statement of justice--an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But the heart of Christian faith is God's love for humanity, the "righteousness of God" (Rom. 1:17), his desire to save humanity. As Christians, we believe that God still loves Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and would prefer for him to repent than to perish.

I have serious questions about those strands of Christian thinking that treat justice as something to which God is a slave. In my opinion, justice is not unloving. But God can show mercy without having to satisfy justice (thus the Parable of the Prodigal Son). After all, he is God.

Justice makes sense. The cross makes sense. But I see it as an act of God's free will, not an instance of God following some rule book he had to follow if he wanted to get forgiveness done. In my mind, that diminishes God and makes him a slave to rules he did not create.

4. Hell suggests that God is not, in principle, against the death penalty, where hell is thought of as a final and unalterable eternal destiny. There are of course questions about the justice of hell. Even Hitler's sins, it would seem, were finite. If so, God would seem to be unjust to give an eternal punishment for them. The suggestion that any offense against God is an infinite crime meriting an infinite punishment makes some sense logically, but in the end doesn't sound like the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to me.

I am not a ecumenical council, so it would be perilous for me to take a position on this issue. But I could at least make a good theological case that annihilation after final judgment is a possible position to argue from the biblical texts taken as a whole and that it is a position that fits better with the biblical picture of God than eternal torment.

In either case, the existence of hell suggests that God would not be opposed to the death penalty.

5. Death, it would seem, is not intrinsically evil. I imagine the experience of death to be unpleasant for most people, but suffering in itself is not evil. Indeed, the death penalty as it is currently administered is not intended to cause pain.

In that sense, it might be considered an unjust punishment to give Tsarnaev the death penalty because it is not painful enough! In the death penalty, the criminal does not experience "an eye for an eye." Justice in Tsarnaev's case, it would seem, would literally be to blow up parts of his body in stages in accordance with the number of people his actions injured or killed. The fear he would experience might render "fear for fear," for him to pay for the collective fear and distress his actions caused.

Wittgenstein once said that "Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death." Of course Christians believe in more beyond death, but there is perhaps a sense in which he is correct. Those who are put to death by the death penalty ideally experience a moment of passing into unconsciousness. Thereafter, any pain they might experience is not caused by us but by God.

The this-worldly part of death is nothing but to go to sleep. Death itself, from the perspective of this world, is only troublesome to those who live thereafter. As far as our bodies are concerned, it is nothing but a sleep to those who die.

6. So should Christians support the death penalty? I have been arguing 1) that it is allowed for biblically and 2) that it is not unjust theologically or philosophically. So the question is whether a life sentence is better in keeping with the nature of God and Christ, to leave room for the possibility of repentance.

I have argued in the past that there are three reasons why the administration of justice is not unloving. The first is when justice is redemptive. This is discipline in its best sense--the attempt to reshape individuals by letting them experience the consequences of their actions.

Would a death sentence provide a clear window for re-assessing one's actions with a view toward repentance? I don't know.

The second situation in which justice is not unloving is when it protects others. So there seems little question that this young man might try to harm more people if he were released. And let us also recognize that there is such a thing as a "hardened heart," individuals who will never change no matter how much time they are given. Theologically speaking, there is a point when God withdraws his Holy Spirit and, accordingly, individuals will never be able to repent in their hearts, even if they know with their heads that they should.

Most of the time, we had best leave it up to God to sort out who such people are. Miracles happen.

It seems to me that the third situation in which justice is not unloving is something like the situation under discussion. These are situations when the very concept of justice seems at stake. Serial killers, mass terrorists, the Hitlers and Osama bin Ladens of the world. In these cases, we seem to be putting the existence of justice itself up for question as a society.

God is a God of justice, not only a God of mercy. As an individual, must we as Christians prefer that Tsarnaev repent? Yes. By the power of the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ in us wants him to be truly sorry for what he has done and experience the forgiveness of God through Christ.

But there is also something more at stake, even if he were repentant but even more since he is not. The system of justice is at stake. The very notion of right and wrong itself is at stake. It becomes about something more than one individual. It comes to be about righteousness itself.

For this reason, I am not opposed to the death penalty as a Christian, especially in heinous cases such as this one.

What do you think?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dr. David Smith to be the new Dean of Wesley Seminary!

The news is now out that Dr. David Smith is coming to Wesley Seminary to be the new academic Dean. Woo-hoo! This is VERY exciting news to me because I now know that the academic oversight of the Seminary is in excellent hands going forward (in addition to the already excellent faculty).

1. Here is the announcement that our fearless leader, Wayne Schmidt has put out:

"Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. David F. Smith as Academic Dean, effective August 16, 2015. Dr. Smith is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kingswood University in Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada. He succeeds the founding Dean of Wesley Seminary at IWU, Dr. Ken Schenck, who served for six years and returns to a full-time ministry of teaching and writing in the School of Theology & Ministry at IWU.

"Dr. Smith’s heart for the local church, his passion to equip ministry leaders, and his widely recognized biblical scholarship were enthusiastically affirmed during the search process.

"Dr. Smith earned the M.A. in Old Testament and the M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary, and the Ph.D. in New Testament Interpretation from the University of Durham. An ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church, he also previously served churches in the Free Methodist and Church of Christ in Christian Union denominations."

2. I know this was a difficult decision for Dave because he and Angie have loved being at Kingswood so much, and Dave was excited to stand with Steve Lennox as he takes the reins at Kingswood this summer.

But I truly believe that the Lord had other plans for Dave. And I am amazed as I dream of what God is going to do through Steve at Kingswood, including whomever the Lord is going to bring as its new Vice President for Academic Affairs!

3. It again seems amazingly providential as I look back at these last six months. I never planned to change myself, but doors opened and I believe this was the right time for Wesley to transition to a second phase of its existence. Then it is also a dream that Dave Smith would be able to come as Dean. He was part of the first task force that designed the MDIV curriculum back in 2007! He not only knows the vision--he helped shape it from the start!

Let me say what I told Dave. Wesley Seminary has been a model of health within Indiana Wesleyan University itself--in the black with budget, consistent in growth. It has been such an astoundingly healthy model of a seminary that the Association of Theological Schools asked me to speak at the chief academic officer's meeting this year and be on the steering committee for its Chief Academic Officers.

Not only that, but the Seminary has become a truly unifying and enriching force within the denomination. It is connecting ministers with each other and with ministries they would never had connected with otherwise. It is deepening the level of both practical and theological excellence among pastors in the denomination and beyond. It has a global reach, even beyond the regional identity of Indiana Wesleyan itself.

Hitherto hath the Lord blessed us!

God's richest grace and blessing to you, Dr. Smith, as you and Wesley embark on this next segment of your/its journey!

Friday Novel: Origins of the Society

Fox paused, clearly contemplating how much to say and in what order.

“In 1784, a German philosopher by the name of Immanuel Kant answered a question that had appeared a year previous in a Berlin magazine, ‘What is enlightenment?’ His answer was basically that enlightenment was learning to think for yourself. For him it was an ability in one's mind to critique one's country, one's religion, and those in authority over you. In effect, it is the ability to use reason to evaluate the traditions you have inherited and the culture in which you swim."

Alan sat silent. He had heard of Kant, but didn't know much about him, other than the fact that his theology professor in high school wasn't too keen on him.

"This piece resonated with a controversial figure here in England by the name of Joseph Priestly. In fact, Priestly himself had influenced Kant's thinking on these sorts of things."

Alan finally said something. "I've heard of Kant, but not of Priestly."

"Priestly was the kind of person who tended to cause controversy wherever he went. He supported the American and French Revolutions and in 1791 finally came under so much pressure in England that he left with his family to the newly formed United States. He spent the last part of his life in Pennsylvania.

"But before he left," Fox continued, "he was quite eager to start a society of sorts here in England, a 'society of enlightenment.' He had many friends all over Europe. He was a minister, a scientist, a chemist. He discovered oxygen, for example.

"Priestly wanted to start a very public movement, but after he was forced to leave England, his goals were left to others, most importantly an unlikely person named Henry Cavendish, the chemist who had made major discoveries about hydrogen just a few years before Priestly discovered oxygen.

"Cavendish was a bit of a recluse, a very private and shy man. He probably had Asperger's syndrome. He had no interest in revolution or a public movement. But he did have connections with Peterhouse College at Cambridge. He had the idea of a secret society, one that functioned out of the great universities of Europe with the goal of moving the world toward enlightenment..."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Learning Outcomes and Competency Based Degrees

Educators made the shift several years ago to think of college classes in terms of "outcomes" rather than professors talking about a topic. This is a good model, assuming that there are clear reasons for these courses to exist. I support this approach, although a certain personality can obsess over outcomes in unhelpful ways.

1. Unexamined assumptions can come into play here too. The benefit of some courses may be the journey rather than some specified destination. So IWU parents often have said, "You need to take a class with Wilbur Williams while you're at IWU." What they are saying is that there is something about the experience of a class with him that is possibly more significant than the Old Testament content of the class. Students have often talked about the experience for the rest of their life, long after they have forgotten when King Jeroboam II reigned.

But it would be foolish to put that on a syllabus--"By the end of this course, students should be able to articulate the benefit of taking a class with Wilbur Williams." The fact that some would almost have you say something like that demonstrates the current sickness and obsession in some parts of the academy.

It is perfectly legitimate for some courses--maybe a small minority but they are an important reminder--to be about the journey rather than a specific destination. The greatest benefit of some courses is also somewhat intangible. It's not that you can't find way to measure such things. It's that you shouldn't always have to. "By the end of this Frisbee game, the student should be able to articulate the importance of having fun." That's how twisted the assessment obsession becomes in the hands of some personalities.

You don't have to measure something for it to be good. There's a positivist fallacy at work here. "If a student learns something in the forest, and there's no one there to measure it, does she actually learn something." The answer is yes. How about this one. "If a student has clean fun at the university, and it doesn't have a learning outcome, is it a good thing." Yes. Yes, it is.

The outcomes shift has been a real improvement to our educational system. It just needs to be kept in proper perspective. There's a special padded cell waiting for those who obsess about the verbs in the outcomes list of a proposed course.

2. Ironically, I didn't actually start this post to rant about the current assessment obsession of the academy. My point was rather that you can break down the essential knowledge and skills content of a course into micro-outcomes. The movement toward competency based granting of academic credit is fascinating to me, and I strongly support it as an option.

Obviously you lose some of the experience of a classroom. You lose the professor-student experience that, for many of us, is more of what we remember from college than the actual content. I would hate for us to go to an extreme (again) and say this is the only way to conceptualize a course. I hope that in 10 years a new course proposal will not require 1500-2000 individually specified micro-outcomes, each of which needs to be assessed. This is the trajectory of the academy right now.

Mind you, it would be fun for me to create that list (as long as I was not required to). For example, it would be fun to break down a New Testament survey course into a long list of knowledge and skills outcomes. If a person could demonstrate that he or she had that knowledge and skills, why not grant them credit for the class, even if he or she has never sat in a classroom? The credit becomes something more like a certification of knowledge and skills rather than a statement about time spent in a room.

3. Some teachers will notice that I have left off what we call "dispositional" or "attitudinal" outcomes. They're hard to measure even in the traditional classroom. Perhaps a first thought is that this is one place where a hyper-outcomes, competency based-approach is inferior to having a classroom experience.

But not necessarily. You can require, as an artifact to demonstrate competency, interaction with people or experiences in the student's own context in order to undergo attitudinal change. Reflective writing can demonstrate maturity achieved. Never say never.

4. The competency based approach seems to be the next thing. It has the potential to reduce student debt, speed up the process of getting through college, to clarify with great specificity what given courses are really about, and to ensure that students do in fact acquire such knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

An outcomes orientation has a tendency to clean up a lot of waste in the classroom. Obsession aside, it is clearly a good thing. There can be intangible benefits to the classroom experience, but there is plenty of room for improvement there too. How many students can't remember whole classes they took in college? It's very common!

A lot of general education classes are this way. Students take them to check them off a list and hardly remember that they ever took them. They may not even be able to tell you who the professor was a year or two later. That seems like a waste. That professor hasn't left a personal mark and is more or less extraneous. That course might just as well have been skipped. It's not doing what it's supposed to do.

If students don't have fun memories of a class or professor they took, then I'm not sure there's any basis to say that it wouldn't have been just as good or probably better for them just to have worked through achieving a list of competencies on their own. And, if there is a mentor involved, we have just come full circle back to the Ox-Bridge model, where a professor set a string of individualized learning experiences until s/he was satisfied that the student was cooked.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Reading: Wright's Romans

I didn't get much further in Philo this week, but I did read some more of N. T. Wright's Romans commentary. I'm finding it very readable and very helpful. For my Wednesday post, I thought I'd comment on his section on the key verses of Romans--1:16-17.

One of the reasons I wrote a New Testament series for Wesleyan Publishing House is because the the pulpit often lags about twenty to thirty years behind current trends in interpretation (the mission field even more). You often hear from the pulpit things people were saying decades ago about the Bible. For example, I still hear regularly from pastors all over word fallacies that were very popular back in the Kittel generation of the 1960s and 70s.

I wrote the second volume of my three Paul books especially to bring the church up to speed on where the interpretation of Romans has moved in these last twenty to thirty years. It turns out, contemporary scholarship is very friendly to Wesleyan-Arminian thinking...

Wright doesn't go into a lot of detail in his short section on Romans 1:16-17 but he does touch on some features that reflect the best understanding of scholarship on Romans at this time (built on the best of the scholarship of the past--scholarship may change, but I would argue there can be a cumulative dimension rather than simply a bouncing around):
  • The gospel, in the first place, is the good news that Jesus is king and all that his enthronement entails. Salvation is thus part of the good news but it is not the focus of the good news. Jesus is the focus, not me.
  • The "righteousness of God" is a concept with a history. In particular, if you look at the overlap between Psalm 71:1-2 and Romans 1:16-17, a strong case can be made that God's righteousness is his propensity to save his people (and the world). (in this verse at least, not a righteousness ascribed to us from God, as the NIV1984 translated it--the NIV2011 has fixed it)
  • "From faith to faith" is a cryptic shorthand. It is too cryptic I think to say for sure what Paul was thinking, but I am very sympathetic to Wright and Dunn's sense that it is a shorthand for "starting with God's faithfulness and ending in our faith in response." 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Language to stop using...

1. Stop using "absolutes" as an argument. We're muddling it.

First, people don't distinguish between absolute truths and absolute rights and wrongs. For example, it could be the absolute truth that there are no rights and wrongs at all. I don't believe it, but you see how people accidentally mix the categories. One category has to do with what is true (epistemology); the other has to do with what is wrong (ethics).

2. I believe in certain absolute rights and wrongs--meaning that there are no exceptions to the rule. Love God and love neighbor--these are Christian moral absolutes to which there is no exception.

But there are obviously many Christian values that are universal, but not exceptionless. For example, Christians are to obey those in authority over them. But there are exceptions, when we must disobey those in authority over us. So the value of obeying those in authority over us, by definition, is not a moral absolute.

Christians, indeed everyone thus has a hierarchy of values, even when it comes to universal values. When a higher value comes into conflict with a lower one, it would be wrong not to make an exception.

3. This is an important point. It can be morally wrong to treat some values as absolutes. It can be morally wrong not to make an exception to a general rule. God's will is sometimes to keep a higher value and make an exception to a lower value.

This is not sinning! I get so frustrated with such slop thinking. I remember a student once concluding that sometimes it must thus be God's will for us to sin. NO!!! That's circular reasoning, where you assume the standard is absolute and so say making an exception is a sin desired by God.

NO!!! Sometimes it is God's will to make an exception and it would be a sin in that instance to treat the value as an absolute!!!

4. You can see that to pit absolutism against relativism is a fallacy of false alternative. There are other categories. The most important is the position that argues for universal right and wrong, but with exceptional cases. This position believes in right and wrong! It believes in a universal scope to right and wrong, so it is not relativist. But because of exceptions, it is not absolutist either.

The argument that it is either one or the other is slop.

5. When we used to talk of having personal convictions, we were talking about issues on which the correct Christian position is relativist on an individual level. Romans 14 is all about issues on which the correct Christian position is relativist. Do you have a conviction not to go to any movies, but you recognize that other Christians can do so with a clear conscience and not be one bit morally inferior to you? That is a completely appropriate position, and it is an example of a relativistic position on that issue.

Similar is when something is wrong for a Christian in one culture but not wrong for a Christian in another. It could be that it is wrong for an Arab Christian woman in the Middle East not to wear a veil. The meaning of many, many actions are a function of cultural context. To that extent, there will always be actions that are wrong in one place but perfectly acceptable for a Christian in another. It all has to do with the playing out of more fundamental values in a specific context.

6. Many people assume that they are following the Bible more fully if they treat its commands as absolute moral commands, but this is flat wrong. If the Bible never intended the command to be exceptionless, then you are being less faithful to it if you treat it as an absolute. It doesn't honor God or the Bible to treat its commands differently than it ever intended!

7. Finally, and this is the hardest of all, since the Bible presents itself as God's word to specific groups at specific times and places, then we take it at its word when we read its words first as contextualized, "incarnated" truths rather than treating the first meaning as timeless and absolute. When God speaks, he wants to be understood, so God spoke the Bible in the categories and languages of the first audiences of the Bible.

It is premodern or postmodern to read the words as if they were spoken directly to me today--premodern if you don't know you're changing the audience by doing so, postmodern if you do it knowingly (which I do not oppose). God uses this hermeneutic, yes. Probably it is his dominant way of using Scripture.

But when we get into disagreements and we have to open the hood to see why the engine isn't running, then we profitably look into the most likely original meanings, which were written at and to specific times and places.

8. All that is to say is that most Christian rhetoric about absolutes and relativism is a complete muddle. We should stop using it because half the time we don't know what we're talking about and the language just doesn't do what we want it to do.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

SP4. The Spirit sanctifies the believer.

This is now the fourth and final post in a unit on the Holy Spirit in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. The first unit had to do with God and Creation, and the second was on Christology and Atonement.
_______________________________
The Spirit sanctifies the believer.

1. In terms of priority, the body of Christ is primary, and the individual believer is secondary. Yet every individual is valued equally, created in the image of God, male and female, people of every tribe and nation, people of every status. All are loved whether sinner or saint.

God is love, so he loves every individual. But there are many individuals in the Church. So it seems obvious that there is more love dispensed to the Church as a whole than to any one individual in the Church. The health of the whole Church takes priority over the liberty of the individual Christian (e.g., Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 10).

Accordingly, the way in which the Spirit engages the individual is a microcosm of the way he engages the Church as a whole. The Spirit sanctifies the Church and makes it God's own. So the Spirit sanctifies the individual believer. The Spirit purifies the Church and makes it righteous, and the Spirit purifies the believer and makes us righteous. The Spirit empowers the Church for mission and service. The Spirit empowers the individual for mission and service. The Spirit leads the Church into truth. The Spirit leads individuals into truth.

2. If Christ is the basis of atonement, all the grace relating to salvation is dispensed through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that dispenses prevenient grace, the grace that comes to us before we are able to go looking for God. It is the grace that enables us to move toward God. It is the grace that empowers us to be able to repent and exercise faith.

It is the Holy Spirit that dispenses the grace that justifies us and acquits us of all our sin. The Holy Spirit is God's "seal" of ownership (2 Cor. 1:22), such that if someone does not have the Spirit, that person does not truly belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). The Holy Spirit is an "earnest" of our eternal inheritance (2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14), which is both a guarantee of that coming promise and a down payment of what is to come, a "foretaste of glory divine."

The Holy Spirit is thus the central factor in the incorporation of a person into the body of Christ. You can be baptized and not have passed from death to life (Acts 8:16). You can have passed from death to life and not been baptized (Acts 10:44-48). You can have undergone significant change and movement toward a godly and righteous life. You can have prayed the sinner's prayer and agreed to all the creeds of Christendom with your head.

But unless a person has the Holy Spirit, he or she is not yet in Christ. [1] It is the Holy Spirit that gives witness to our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). The Holy Spirit thus brings us the assurance that we are children of God. It is the act of the Holy Spirit whereby we become "in Christ" and when we speak of Christ in us, we are speaking of the Spirit of Christ, Christ's presence in us somehow mysteriously mediated by the Holy Spirit.

3. It is somewhat popular at the moment to speak of conversion as a long gradual process rather than an instantaneous one. [2] There is of course a good deal of truth in this claim. It usually does take a good deal of time for a person to change.

It's also a slightly different question from whether you will escape the judgment. Most believe that unbaptized children will escape the final judgment, and yet they have neither been baptized nor have they received the Holy Spirit. If so, then one can technically be "saved" in that sense without baptism, faith, or having even received the most crucial element of all--the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit comes in an instant, and in that sense, you become part of the people of God in a moment. There may be a long process leading up to that point, and there is almost always a long process thereafter. But this is a different issue than being baptized into Christ by receiving the Holy Spirit, which must thereby always happen definitively in a moment.

The disciples cannot be used as an example of gradual incorporation into the body of Christ, even if they changed gradually. The Holy Spirit simply was not given in the manner of the new covenant until the Day of Pentecost. In that sense, none of the disciples were "in Christ" until the Day of Pentecost, when they were baptized into Christ in an instant. [3]

4. How does one know that this baptism, this receiving of the Holy Spirit has taken place? There can and often have been noticeable signs. The book of Acts testifies to the sudden ability to speak in other languages, a sudden boldness to proclaim Christ's resurrection, the sudden ability to perform miracles and healing. In the American revivals of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, people often felt an overflow of emotions and might start shouting or even running the aisles of a church.

But did everyone in the early church experience these sorts of dramatic manifestations or emotions? Not likely. We can imagine that the most typical manifestation of the Holy Spirit is a sense of peace and assurance, a sense that, in fact, you are received by God and at peace with him.

No doubt there will be some who do not feel different. Some, perhaps because of their past, may not feel anything at all. But are you truly committing to God with your whole will to the extent you know how? Are you making a choice of faith for God? Are you willing to make that faith public, including a public confession of faith in baptism?

Then you should trust that your sins are forgiven and that the Holy Spirit has taken control over your life. Sometimes God uses others to give us an assurance in such cases. Seek out someone you trust. God often empowers others in the body of Christ, especially those he has called to minister, to proclaim to us that our sins are indeed forgiven (cf. John 20:23).

3. The Holy Spirit thus sanctifies us and sets us apart as belonging to God. He purifies us of our guilt of sins past and he overcomes the power of Sin present and future. The Holy Spirit is behind initial sanctification, the act of cleansing us of our past sins and setting us apart as God's children. The Holy Spirit is behind progressive sanctification, the increase of righteousness and godliness in our lives.

When we get to the point of complete surrender of all our lives in every way we know how, the Holy Spirit can sanctify us entirely, making it easy to do the good we want to do. But we will always have room for growth until the day when we are glorified, when our mortal, corruptible bodies, our flesh subject to Sin and temptation, is transformed into resurrected bodies that are made like Christ's glorious resurrection body.

The Holy Spirit thus empowers us for obedience. The Holy Spirit imparts righteousness and godliness to the believer so that we are not only legally in right standing before God, but the Spirit actually makes us good. We are not, as Luther taught, doomed always to be both sinner and saint, but the Spirit empowers us not only to do the good but even to want the good. [4]

3. The Holy Spirit not only empowers us for purity. He also empowers us for ministry. We have already mentioned the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in Acts. The Church is praying in an upper room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit comes on the Day of Pentecost. The Church is born. The Spirit brings everyone there into Christ.

Immediately we see a change. They are witnessing with boldness to the crowds, even in languages they have never learned. The next day, Peter and John heal a lame man. Later in Acts they and others will cast out demons.

The mission of the Church is the mission of God. The mission of God is the redemption of everything in the creation. The Spirit empowers the Church--both on an individual and corporate level.

The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer. He purifies us. He incorporates us each individually into the body of Christ. He empowers us.

Next Sunday: E1. The Church is the body of Christ.

[1] We are not talking about tongues here, for not all who receive the Holy Spirit in Acts speak in tongues and the rest of the New Testament is practically silent on the topic, except for a couple chapters in 1 Corinthians.

[2] E.g., Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).

[3] In this sense, Peace's book is inadvertently trying to address two quite different questions at once, one a question of change and the other a question of incorporation. Given this blurring of questions, it is no surprise that his book barely mentions the most important element in conversion of all--the Holy Spirit.

[4] Simul iustus et peccator, semper repentans -- "At the same time, righteous and a sinner, as long as we are always repenting"

Saturday, May 09, 2015

My God and Creation now published

I finally finished editing the first volume of my Sunday theology series and self-published it both in Kindle and paperback form (190 pages). The first volume is called God and Creation: Wesleyan-Arminian Reflections. Here is the Kindle link:

And here is the paperback link:

It is all available on the web for free as well, although the published version has key terms and discussion questions if you wanted to go through it as a group.

As far as I know, the Wesleyan Church currently doesn't have a resource like this one. When people ask me for a resource on our theology, I have to send them to the Nazarenes. Christ and Salvation is also finished in unedited form, and I hope to get it edited and published in a month or two. The Spirit and the Church is in process... next post tomorrow.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Tired of open theism in your philosophy classes?

Then why not have your philosophy classes use my philosophy text, based on the classic Wesleyan theology of God?

#shamelessselfpromotion

A Christian Philosophical Journey





Friday Novel: To Cambridge

For the whole trip from Chicago to Cambridge, Alan had the funny feeling that he was being watched. He wasn’t quite able to put his finger on it. There was a guy on the plane, for example, whom he had seen several times in the airport in Chicago. Then there was someone at Heathrow airport in London who later ended up on the same train to Cambridge.

Alan was also surprised to find Mr. Fox waiting for him at the station when he arrived in Cambridge.

“Welcome to Cambridge, Mr. Randolph,” came the voice of Mr. Fox the moment he stepped off the train.

“I didn’t expect to see you here at the station,” Alan answered.

“I thought I’d walk you to the house where you’ll be staying for the next couple weeks.”

“I won’t be in Grantchester?”

“No. You’ll be in a house here in Cambridge until we can get you oriented to your new circumstances.”

“My new circumstances?”

“Yes,” Mr. Fox said and paused for a moment. “You are a legacy. Your father was a member of the society. Most new potentials do not have any enemies. Indeed, the enemies of the society usually do not know when new students are coming or going.

“In your case,” Fox continued, “your father is well-known and has a few talented enemies. If you do not want to take on the risk, you are welcome to leave. If you do not make it past the first quarter, no one will likely pay you much attention thereafter.

“But if you continue, there will always be a small risk that someone will try to hurt you or your family, if you choose to have one. This is of course one of the reasons your father never married your mother.”

The comment hit Alan like a ton of bricks. Could it be that his father had a good reason for staying somewhat aloof from him and his mother? The thought had never even occurred to him.

"We will train you to defend yourself, of course. And you will always have an added layer of security around you of which you probably will not even be aware. You should recognize that, if you join one of the schools, you will lose a good deal of privacy for a time.

"Mostly importantly," he added. "We will give you the tools of the trade, shall we say."

"The what?" Alan puzzled.

"Let's just say that once you are equipped, the chance of a successful attack significantly diminish. Thus there is a high motivation to get to you now, like a defenseless egg that has just hatched. Later on, it won't really be worth it."

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Seland's Reading Philo 1

Fond fragments of memories past peek into my consciousness as I begin Torey Seland's Reading Philo: A Handbook of Alexandria. It has been a great privilege to be a Dean for several years. But I also have often thought of the experience something along the lines of what Philo says in On the Special Laws 3.1-3:

"There was once a time when I devoted my leisure to philosophy and to the contemplation of the world and the things in it. ... At that time I looked down from above, from the air, straining the eye of my mind as if I were looking down from a watch-tower. I surveyed the unspeakable contemplation of all the things on the earth... until I was dragged down and taken by force into the vast sea of the cares of" ... administration. :-)

So it is with great joy that my mind begins to soar once again to contemplate the universe as a professor. In the words of James Bond, "the world is not enough."

The Theologicum
Torey's book brings back memories of a 2004 sabbatical in Tübingen, Germany, on a Fulbright. I spent the better part of those three months drawing on the amazing resources of the Theologicum to write my own Brief Guide to Philo, which I hear remains a helpful jump start for grad students who need a quick entry point into Philo, a crucial source for the world in which Jesus and Paul lived.

So for today I read Torey's Introduction. It is a well-written taste of Philo and overview of the book, which is a compilation of chapters by noted Philo scholars, including scholars from Seland's neck of the woods in Europe. The book is written for MA and PhD students who need to know Philo as part of their background study.

The well worn path is trodden. Philo lived somewhere from about 20BCE to 50CE, being a contemporary of both Jesus and Paul. He wrote more than 70 treatises, some 50 of which have survived. He came from a filthy rich family and was well connected. The opportunities he had as a rich Jewish child came in a window that closed by the time of his death. His nephew had to choose between Judaism and the Roman world, and he chose Rome.

The rest of the first chapter overviews the authors and their topics in the rest of the book. From the introduction, one suspects this is going to be a good read, probably both clearer and more helpful than Adam Kamesar's The Cambridge Companion to Philo.

However, no doubt my book, since I am a Philistine, remains the simple man (or woman's) best entry to the enigmatic Philo and his corpus. :-)

My Amazon Store