Monday, February 28, 2005
Hell wants him. Heaven won't take him. Earth needs him. ::

She: “I don’t believe in Satan”
He: “You should, he believes in you!”

The movie is Constantine,
• staring the Kiwi Keanu Reeves
• directed by music video maestro Francis Lawrence
• with perhaps more theology in its advertising than any flic since the Ten Commandments.

Well, how much theology was used to sell even The Passion? Didn’t they rather use the star quality of Mel (through the words) and of Jesus (through the images)?

It’s no wonder that the distributors thought a couple of free tickets should be thrown to the School of Theology… I was the “theologian”, and my (still just) teenage son was the representative of the likely target audience. Well, the plot and script was based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer so I assume teenage boys are the target…

Released in the Northern Hemisphere spring (like the The Matrix) the film has been doing well and looks like making money. My small sample of the target audience pronounced it “cool” without much enthusiasm. The special effects are fine, like in Shrek 2, or perhaps more appropriately other recent horror flicks …

The theology is in both the script and the plot. The plot depends heavily on the belief that all suicides go to hell. John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) who like Angela Dodson and her twin sister (both Rachel Weisz) can see the half-cast devils and angels who break through to earth. Such half-casts are needed because God and the Devil have agreed to leave humans (almost) to their own devices to fight the battle of good and evil with only clues and hints from outside (echoes of Yancey’s Rumours of Another World?). This theology is highly dodgy and the mythology that packages it is worse.

Yet, strange mythology aside, the message of the film is basically Christian.

No matter how heroic, humans cannot save themselves or others, but that sacrifice and recognition of one’s helpless need can bring redemption.

That’s the gospel in a nutshell.

So, probably entertaining enough for its target audience, this movie is no classic of the cinema (as The Matrix was), but it could provide the stimulus for lots of good theological discussion, and even an old-fashioned revivalist “appeal” to conversion. Given the prominence of “Evangelical” (read Fundamentalist?) Christians in the USA elections recently it seems strange that the movie seems to be doing better in the European and Asian box office than at home. Perhaps the more secular Europeans can take their religion dressed up in apocalyptic myth more easily than US Christians can?

Sunday, February 27, 2005
Google doth make scholars of us all ::

Although - till today - too pressed down by things undone to post, I have been following the biblioblogsphere. I'm still not sure how to respond to the forgery indictments, the most talked about objects have always seemed suspect to me, especially the James ossuary and the ivory pomegranate, yet how far do we take this skepticism, and if reputable museums display unprovenanced rubbish how do ordinary teachers decide what to use...

But I can join the schoolboy strand - see: 'Ralph' on The Brilliant Schoolboy, a comment by Jim Davila (Paleojudaica) and now Mark's fine and scholarly "not so brilliant" addition. Mark googled "schoolboyish error" but only returned to his starting quotation. As a result he began - reading between the lines - to doubt his own fine nuancing of the original theory. Help is at hand, and Google doth make scholars of us all, I looked up merely the word "schoolboyish" and discovered (among the dross of much porn, quite a bit of humour and a little dash of enthusiasm) the gem...

August Bebel's Society of the Future published sometime around 1910 as an abridged version of the latter part of his 1897 book Woman and Socialism writes (ch.10) quoting Karl Marx:
Since Malthus, the law of population increase has been widely disputed. In his once famous and now notorious Essay on the Principles of Population, which Karl Marx characterised as a "schoolboyish, superficial and pulpiteer piece of declamatory plagiarism from Sir James Stewart, Townsend, Franklin Wallace, etc.", and which "contains not a single original sentence"...
This now requires us to further nuance Mark's nuanced view of the Brilliant Schoolboy hypothesis, as well as brilliant, but sometimes error prone the mythical schoolboy is superficial and liable to enthusiasms...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Forgive me father ::

It has been ten days since my last post... The trouble is this period is just so busy, first the Colloquium now the Intensive, teaching from 9:30am-6:30pm... Still struggling with how one does all the class work for an Introduction course in just a week. In particular how between that and the après block we manage to introduce students to critical study, while helping them to integrate this with their faith and practice. That's difficult enough in a one semester class, in a "block"...

I just had to post today though, last night when I got home there was a parcel, with a book, To the Usual Suspects: One Word Questions by John Goldingay. A while back I won a challenge from Finker to name the author of a quotation. Since the book being quoted was one of my all-time favorite works of theology I got it right, and Goldingay is my prize! I've only had time for a very quick squiz, but thank you Finker, you seem to have chosen really well. I love the title, and the extracts I've nibbled seem full of reality and good sense - just the kind of spiritual reading I need. Now I must just create the space to read it!

Oh, yes, and Stephen used one of my pictures of the Negev near Arad on a post about the desert mothers and fathers so spirituality is in the air - even if for now I am in a Martha season!

Stephen's request for a picture also reminded me I have not finished the "video" introduction for Arad, though I did Hazor and Beersheba a while back.

Maybe I can work finishing Gezer and Arad into my Marying next week!

Sunday, February 13, 2005
Intuition and convention in the User Interface ::

Rubén Gómez has a good thoughtful post on Bible Software Review about the claim made by sellers that Bible software is "intuitive". Largely I agree with his points, but I'd like to nuance a bit. For example, Rubén wrote:
Our starting point should probably be the fact that there is no standard or normal way of doing things. There are different, equally acceptable ways in which individuals perform the same tasks. Ideally, Bible software should offer a high enough degree of customization, so that most people could feel comfortable using it.
Now, customisation is doubtless a great thing - for the relatively small proportion of users who invest enough time to benefit. But to say that standard ways of doing things do not exist is not quite right. For software there are a huge number of conventions that have developed - just think of what you expect to find in the |File| menu... Aside from convention there is no reason why Print| should be here rather than in one called e.g. |View|. (Whose very existence is another convention!)

Even on the web (much more fluid - because more recent - than software) there are such conventions. Any software that flouts these conventions is NOT intuitive, even if the new way it creates is "better".

And lastly, with a thank-you to to Rubén for his useful links here are a couple focusing on conventions and web design (I know a slightly different topic - but each to their 'last'.)
  • Jakob Neilsen has a predictably well-researched but trenchant piece in AlertBox Sept 2004 on "The Need for Web Design Standards" which suggests the nature of these de facto "standards"
  • The second edition of the Web Style Guide both discusses the need for conventions in the "preface", and - of course - outlines some (and others that "should" be ;)
  • For anyone new to the very idea of conventions in web design Arpecop has an unsigned piece on the general notion of "Design conventions, and the benefits of following web design conventions"

Saturday, February 12, 2005
Virtual colloquium, Jonah and anti-American sentiments ::

Which is quite a combination! The colloquium is (last night and today) in it's face-to-face phase, last night we met, got to know eachother better and ate ;) Today we have an hour each for discussion of the papers, which are all (more or less) on the colloquium blog Virtual Theology, and where discussion (open to the public) has begun. Getting ready for this is part of the reason my postings have been less frequent recently, and why this post is a triple-banger...

My Jonah notes and anti-American sentiments (though not mine!) are related, though bloggily. Michael Strickland, who is the American-in-Birmingham behind Anglophile, left a comment on this blog as a response (in part) to my comments on his comments on the kneejerk il-informed anti-American sentiments he experienced, in his comments he also said:
I liked your Narrative Analysis of Jonah so much that I used much of it in my hermeneutics class when I was covering NA.
Which, of course, left me 'dead chuffed', since the Jonah material does not get anything like the attention that the Amos commentary receives.

Anyway, time to get going, and breakfast (if I can verbalize that noun) the troops (the Australian contingent are staying with us to save cash) for the colloquium...

Thursday, February 10, 2005
Proof reading and children's games ::

One of the people who have kindly given time and effort in proof reading parts of the Amos commentary , Heather MacKie has just begun her own site of Bible Games for children. So, there's another resource for those teaching Sunday School and the like...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Bibliographic tools ::

Danny @ Deinde has a good post on why he likes the combination of Mellel and Bookends for processing words and references. Here (both at Carey and the Uni) we have very few Mac users. At the Uni students and staff can get Endnote very cheap, so in that setting that with MSWord makes a good, if slow combination. But at Carey no such deal is available. So, what combinations can people suggest for academic writing - that won't increase the student debt too much. (Since some ex-students are already paying interest on interest trapped in debt cycle like much of Africa!) Open Office offers a good general purpose WP, though it's as slow as MSOffice. But there may be better options, and what about bibliography tools?

Saturday, February 05, 2005
The Book Meme ::

This "book meme" (sorry to all the others I spotted later than Joshua Tallent, but I have not the time to list you all : ) thing looks like a bit of harmless entertainment, so here goes (with instructions duely and slavishly copied...

Grab the nearest book.
  1. Open the book to page 123.

  2. Find the fifth sentence.

  3. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

  4. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.
"Our motto: 'We collect strings'."
From Paul Di Filippo Ribofunk (A library book I got this morning but have not started, so don't spoil it by telling me too much about what or whom "we collect strings" is the motto!)

Thursday, February 03, 2005
Other papers for "Virtual Theology 2005" ::

With the college retreat, teaching staff day, and the Moodle conference in Rotorua, I've been a bit preoccupied, but I should note the appearance of more draft papers and working documents for the Virtual Theology 2005 Colloquium. In no special order the list of discussion material now includes:
We'd really enjoy your contributions to the "virtual" discussion either before or after the Colloquium at the end of next week!

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