Epistles of Thomas

January 14, 2015

Time as History by George Grant

Grant, George. Time as History. Edited by William Christian. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.grant
This can also be listened to online in its original Massey lecture format on the CBC.

This book is comprised of five lectures given in 1969 for CBC radio and is presented here with a long introduction by William Christian. He also rearranged the text quite a bit so if you are listening along with the lectures you will need to flip around to find the right place. It also includes a short dialogue at the end with Charles Malik. This is, quite frankly, the highlight of the book. The lectures focuses on Nietzsche and Grant’s agreement and challenge to the same.

Time as History is the theme and it is important to know what he means by this. For that reason the book actually begins with what did not appear until about the 20 minute mark of the original lecture. It would have been very difficult to follow Grant on the radio. With regard to history he says: “However these two sides of the modern project may be put together [history and the study of history], my purpose is to write about the word history as it is used about existence in time, not as it is used to describe a particular academic study….I am concerned with what it means to conceive the world as an historical process, to conceive time as history and man as an historical being” (13). For Grant there is no more purpose to history than the passage of time and our acting within it. This follows from Nietzsche although he does put some of his own spin on it.

History is future oriented in that we have a goal towards which we are focussed and the study of the past is what allows us to formulate and accomplish that goal. We speak of the present with a view to the future; “we are trying to gather the intricacies of the present so that we can calculate what we must be resolute in doing to bring about the future we desire” (16). To unpack the concept of time as history we need to “think our orientation to the future together with the will to mastery” (17). The ability and will to change things combines our future orientation with action, something that is unique to our civilization at this time. Along with future orientation is this idea of the willing. We are Creators: “It is our destiny to bring about something novel; to conquer an indifferent nature and make it good for us” (24) “Time is a developing history of meaning that we make” (24). History has makers – those who strive to bring forth something of their own creation. This reflects our future orientation. “…meaning is not found in what is actually now present for us, but in that which we can yet bring to be” (27).

He spends much time on Nietzsche’s rejection of the idea that there is purpose to be found within history. God is dead is the famous affirmation and now there are no absolutes to give shape and purpose to our world. Those who have left religion behind still find purpose in the very “unfolding of rationality among the species, man” (38). Nietzsche rejects this as well, seeing it as a vestige left over from Christian days. ‘Horizon’ is used to delineate the context within which everything appears within its limits. The historical sense shows us that these horizons are our own creation. “They are man-made perspectives by which the charismatic impose their will to power.” The horizons are not the nature of things out there, but rather “they express the values which our tortured instincts will to create” (40). Horizons are analogous to narratives in the meta-narrative – narrative distinction. Of course if we create them they have no meaning beyond ourselves.

Nietzsche found his only solace in the doctrine of amor fati (love of fate). By embracing an undecided fate one could find peace and “begin to will novelty in joy” (56). Grant seeks to move beyond this by speaking of remembrance and from that loving and thinking. Love of fate is not fatalism – the acceptance of whatever might be, but rather it requires action. “Nietzsche’s love of fate is not passive, but a call to dynamic political doing” (59) Those who have moved beyond the previous view of history are beyond the vices of that age. They are now free to practice dynamic willing without revenge. There are three facets to history: past, present, future which correspond to remembering, loving and thinking.
Remembering – the handing over of tradition is surrendering. To live within a remembered reverence. He gives the example of his dying Christian friend who rejected the thought of Nietzsche. That friend lived within the tradition handed down to him, Christianity, and was quite content with the meaning he found there.
Loving and Thinking are the means by which we appropriate from tradition and form the future.
The question is not who deserves to serve as masters of the earth but of mastery itself. Those who cannot live with the simple fact of time as history are called to utilize loving and thinking to create a better world. This is the task of great thinkers and saints. In the face of Nietzsche’s two options: last men and nihilists Grant seeks to articulate a third possibility in which we find meaning by looking to the past and appropriating meaning for ourselves. There can be nothing universal about this meaning but we can find solace in it. In other words we may unashamedly live within the tradition handed down to us (e.g. Christianity) while not claiming any kind of universal truth for it.

As a Christian, I obviously must be challenged by this concept as it seeks to undermine my understanding of history and my place in it. Specifically, Grant says that humans seek permanence rather than face the reality that all is in continuous change: “The desire to assert some permanence is particularly pressing among those who have begun to be aware of the abysmal void of its absence, and who wish to turn away from such a cause of fright” (37). As a Christian I find this unacceptable because I believe that there is permanence in many things, especially regarding the metaphysical, such as the soul. It would seem that one can only see the absence and face the fright if one has already rejected one’s solid Christian belief. If that is the case is he suggesting that we return to our belief in order to escape this newly found knowledge? What of those who have grown up with it and who have never stepped outside it? What of those who grew up without it and have converted to a world defined by the mind of God rather than their own creating. Surely not everyone, down to the ‘semi-literate,’ can be the relativists he believes us to be, given the high degree of religion in our society of one kind or another.

I was just reading an article about Islamic State and the aftermath of the Paris attacks. It claimed that IS is feeling the brunt of western air attacks and it is certainly only a matter of time until they are eliminated. Perhaps this is what Grant meant when he talked about our civilization destroying so many others. Nevertheless, it is not ideological superiority that seeks to defeat IS but modernity’s technological superiority. The grandchildren of the superior fire power that tried to bomb North Vietnam into oblivion. I would dare to suggest that there are far more Christians in Vietnam today that read the Bible daily than there are people who have ever read Grant or Nietzsche. The belief that our civilization is superior to all others was what led us to Vietnam and it failed. Where that failed the Church has been victorious. Dare I suggest that it will not be western humanistic, liberal, postmodern, time as history process that wins over the people of the Middle East but rather the love of Jesus Christ. A love so great that it expressed itself in death for an enemy.

I think this idea that time is merely history has had an impact on our world. There are many today in leadership, government and otherwise, who seek to remold the world according to their image, with no regard for the Great Ideas of God or Ideal or righteousness. Today in Canada, society seeks to redefine marriage with no regard to our past understanding. However, I do believe that those change-agents still believe that they have a greater purpose on their side. They will say things like those who disagree with us “are on the wrong side of history” as though historical progress will vindicate their position. This may be true in the short term but I do not see it happening in the long run. Those who seek to create our story through time are merely workmen for Ozymandias. History will pass and they will pass away forgotten while only the name of their king will be remembered in dusty history books.

In conclusion, I cannot agree with his premise because it does not fit our context. It no doubt fit his 1960s context but today around the world people are not pessimistic about the possibility of a better future because of an understanding of time as history, nor are they attempting to create a future by appropriating the past through love and thinking. Instead, from Africa to Asia to the Middle East billions believe that we live within His Story and that we are agents working on his behalf to bring about his will on earth as it is in heaven.

January 10, 2015

God and the Problem of Evil, edited by William L. Rowe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 12:18

rowe This semester I’m have a class on Suffering and Belief in God. We are reading the essays in this book so I will be also posting them on this blog for your edification. I hope to have them up regularly so stay tuned!

No bias on the CBC website rofl

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 12:13
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CBC had an article on Jan 8 about the Montreal Gazette publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons and their unwillingness to do likewise. Here’s what they had to say about that:

“This is not a ban, and it isn’t censorship,” David Studer, CBC’s director of Journalistic Standards and Practices, said in an email on Wednesday, reminding news staff of CBC’s long-established policy.

“We are being consistent with our historic journalistic practices around this story, not because of fear, but out of respect for the beliefs and sensibilities of the mass of Muslim believers about images of the Prophet​. Similarly, we wouldn’t publish cartoons likely to dismay or outrage mainstream followers of other religions​.”

Apparently the definition “mainstream followers” must be pretty broad because I did a quick search of cbc.ca for pictures that Christians might find offensive and came across three within seconds.

Piss Christ is the worst but another article on Chocolate Jesus specifically mentions that Roman Catholics protested that it was sacrilegious: “The Catholics objected to the nudity, to the casting of the statue in chocolate and to the display of the work during Holy Week, the week before Easter.” I don’t think that portraying Steve Jobs as Jesus quite passes the test either if you use the same criteria.

What’s the true issue here? Mainstream Christians are not truly offended or Christians don’t threaten journalists and carry through on those threats with this kind of violence? Surely anyone can see that there is a double standard when it comes to not offending religious sensibilities. However, as Christians, we leave it to God to judge. Specifically, we believe that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. I certainly choose not to mock him because I love him as he first loved me and died for me. We have a responsibility to warn others that God will judge them for their actions but only insofar as they understand them. Clearly someone willing to mock God already lacks a relationship with him and that condemns them already (John 3:18). The wise man also remembers Proverbs 26:4 “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him” and the Streisand effect :).

2014 in Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 11:58
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This year’s post is again once and once again dedicated to Aunt Joan who already asked about it :) .

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t posted in a whole year. I guess it just shows that 2014 was an ever more superer duper busy year for us. Even busier than 2013, which I remember as being busier than 2012, 2011 and so on. Can you sense that the trend is well established? 2014 was the first year since 2007 that I didn’t meet my goal of reading 100 books a year. 2015 is shaping up to be even busier as I’ve started another MA program.

Total books finished: 67
Total pages read 13,290
Average length of a book: 198 pages
Best month: February (17 books)
Slowest months: November (0 books! ouch)

I compared my reading to the New York Times bestseller list again this year. In 2014 I advanced one book, and have read 163 of 10,618 New York Times bestsellers. You can check out the list on LibraryThing. The total number of 10,618 hasn’t increased so I’m not sure what’s going on with that but anyway.

December 31, 2013

2013 in Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 22:20
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This year’s post is again once and once again dedicated to Aunt Joan who cares about such things :) .

2013 was an ever superer duper busy year for us. Even busier than 2012, which I remember as being busier than 2011 and so on. Can you sense that a trend has been established? I still managed to meet my goal of reading 100 books a year but just.

Total books finished: 104
Total pages read 19,267
Average length of a book: 185 pages
Best month: December (14 books)
Slowest months: Jan-Feb (5 books each)

I compared my reading to the New York Times bestseller list again this year. In 2013 I advanced two books, and have read 162 of 10,618 New York Times bestsellers. You can check out the list on LibraryThing.

January 20, 2013

Best books of 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 2:16
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willardverwerI usually find a book to label “book of the year” during a calendar year but this time I have waited until now because I want to recommend a combination of books. Last year I read the The George Verwer Collection which is comprised of three previously published books. Verwer is the founder of OM and this was free for my kindle app. I’ve really been making good use of my Android phone on the bus and appreciate all the freebooks available. After finishing Verwer’s collection I was left wondering what a person is to do. His is a very challenging message but not exactly practical in leading one to the next personal step. Thankfully another free Kindle book was available. I began reading Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart immediately after Verwer and found that it complements it nicely. Once you have read Verwer you know the problem with the world and yourself and Willard will help you to renovate your heart and prepare you for the next step in life and ministry. In other words don’t read one without the other!

2012 in Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 2:03
Tags: ,

This year’s post is again once again dedicated to Aunt Joan who cares about such things :) .

2012 was a super duper busy year for us. Even busier than 2011, which I remember as being busier than 2010. Are you sensing a trend here? I still managed to do some reading in my spare time; on buses, on airplanes. Statistically speaking it wasn’t much better than last year but again I tried to read selectively and stick with winners.

Total books finished: 155
Total pages read 28,107
Average length of a book: 181 pages
Number of non-English books: 7
Best month: January (29 books)
Slowest months: Nov-Dec (3 books each and only 618 pages total)

I compared my reading to the New York Times bestseller list again this year. Last year I had read 152 of 10,518 New York Times bestsellers. I am now up to 160, however the total number has increased to 10,617 which means they added 99 books last year and I added 8! You can check out the list on LibraryThing. http://www.librarything.com/bookaward/New+York+Times+bestseller

November 26, 2012

Coursera MOOC

If you haven’t heard of MOOC yet it means Massive Open Online Course. I’ve looked at several of the availale options: Udacity, Coursera, EdX and Khan Academy and I have to say that Coursera is the best. The others are heavily weighted with tech courses but have next to nothing in the humanities which is where Coursera shines. I just finished a course on Greek and Roman mythology taught by Peter Struck of the University of Pennsylvania. It was interesting and I read a number of works that I should have read years ago. I would personally recommend that all Bible college students take an introductory course in Greek and Roman mythology such as this in order to round out their understanding of the religious milieu of New Testament times.

Today begins a course on entitled, Think Again: How to Reason and Argue taught by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Ram Neta or Duke University. It looks interesting so get over there and sign up already.

If children believed in democracy life would be a lot easier!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 0:14

Two parents could always outvote one child but it doesn’t seem to be that easy. No matter how much I teach my baby about democracy, about the will of the people, about the greatest good being the greatest good for the greatest number of people she still insists on having her own way. Granted she’s only four months old but I don’t think that’s too young to accept our society’s founding principle. For example, this morning we all agreed that she was tired and needed to go to sleep. However, she insisted that sleeping was not something that would come to pass in this house, even with bipartisan support from her mother and I. She’s currently lying in her basket playing with her rattle. Although to be honest she finds it more delicious than auditory.
P.S. She’s actually the perfect little girl!

November 7, 2012

Logos Bible Software 5 released

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 6:03
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The long anticipated day has arrived – Logos Bible Software Version 5 has been released. If you frequent the Logos user forums you will know that this day has been looked forward to by many for at least two years! Three years ago L4 was released and it was a complete rewrite of L3 and included many new features such as complete library indexing and many graphical resources. Does L5 depart from L4 in such a major way? Read on to find out!

Installation

I downloaded the L5 installer and began the process of installing. I quickly discovered that I needed to download a newer version of the Microsoft .NET framework so it took longer than expected but installation was flawless. This means that L5 will not run on Windows XP so those using that OS will have to stick with the older version or upgrade their OS. After installation it downloaded a considerable number of new and updated resources. Logos gave me access to L5 Silver for the purpose of reviewing the product which includes new features such as a graphical timeline and includes their Faithlife materials. Downloading the resources took some time as it was about 1.5GB. I also have other resources and the free Perseus collection so Logos consumes a good chunk of HD real estate – 39Gb. This is because the index basically doubles the amount of space needed. If you’ve used L4 you will know that indexing takes the bulk of time when new materials are installed. I’m happy to report that L5 is fairly quick in this regard and compared to the initial release of L4 we are much better off.

Look of L5

The graphical interface of L5 is quite similar to L4. There have been a few tweaks but nothing major. This is good for the majority of users who will not have to learn to use a new program. This was a major complaint people had when upgrading from L3 to L4 and I don’t think it will be a problem for anyone using L5 after L4.

The Home Page is now completely customizable in terms of which categories it displays data from, such as excerpts from your own library resources, Logos’ various blogs and program information. I think this is a great improvement on the concept.

The menus are fairly intuitive and new users will be able to use most of L5’s features without instruction. However, there is still the fact that Logos contains dozens of keyboard shortcuts that can only be learned by searching out the Logos user wiki (reachable via the help menu at the top right (?). I love that the search screen now has a list of ways to search. This will really help users, new and old.

There are many ways to upgrade to L5 with new packages and features galore. I hope to have another review soon which will detail some of them specifically. In the meantime you can head over to their website and see what it would cost for you to upgrade or buy a new package. Logos always offers a free engine upgrade to their software but this will not include new features. The engine and a minimum crossgrade will be availble in a few weeks according to their forum. Check it all out here.

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