Monday, July 24, 2006

The Summer Reading Summary

Among the joys of married life, I've found time recently to get some reading done. Here's a glance at what I've enjoyed so far.

Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility by Dewey M. Beegle

This was one of those accidental and exciting finds you sometimes come across while browsing through a rummage shop of old odds and ends - antiques, used furniture, miscellaneous books. After starting to read through parts of it, imagine my surprise when I realized that along with McKinsey, Beegle is the main target of all of the inerrancy reading I've done for classes at college. Of course, my schooling tells me that these two men are scoundrels - how dare they question inerrancy, let alone have the audacity to list case after case where errancy is proven. Beegle's text is lucid, and he cogently presents individual cases as well as he summarizes general problems, such as the New Testament's heavy reliance on the (often wrongly translated) Septuagint when quoting from the Old. Later, in reflecting on results, he wrote...

"From beginning to end, history warns us that theological Maginot lines or fences fail to achieve their purpose. Not only do they fail to protect, but they also restrict the outreach of the truth being guarded. This is the ultimate tragedy of all legalism."

Later, in explaining the authoritarian reasoning behind inerrancy, he quotes James Smart:

"Doctrines and practices soundly based on an infallible Scripture could not be subject to any essential change. There could be no error in them. Thus has man in different ages used Scripture to establish his own or his own human church's authority over men."

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

Buddhist philosophy, hitchhiking, and living out of a rucksack as Kerouac wanders 1950's West Coast America. I laughed at his recounting of a time when he was living in a small shack with his friend, a shack that neighborhood kids thought was abandoned. The kids snuck up to the tiny house to peek inside, but just then Kerouac opened the door while holding a big black cat and said "I am the ghost." The kids were quite frightened, ran away and didn't return.

Towards the end of the book, describing time he spent as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in Washington state, you will find one of my favorite parts of the story.

"Standing on my head before bedtime on that rock roof of the moonlight I could indeed see that the earth was truly upsidedown and man a weird vain beetle full of strange ideas walking around upsidedown and boasting, and I could realize that man remembered why this dream of planets and plants and Plantagenets was built out of the primordial essence. ...But let the mind beware, that though the flesh is bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious."

Situation Ethics: The New Morality by Joseph Fletcher

The strength of this text lies in it's attempt at systematic destruction of two other kinds of ethics - legalism and antinomianism. Early in the book, he wrote:

"[Plain legalism] may reveal a punishing and sadistic use of law to hurt people instead of helping them. How else explain burning at the stake in the Middle Ages for homosexuals (death by stoning, in the Old Testament)? Even today [1966] imprisonment up to sixty years is the penalty in one state for those who were actually consenting adults, without seduction or public disorder! This is really unavoidable whenever law instead of love is put first..."

Later, two small points that Fletcher makes are of large importance in my mind. The first is the simple (and fully adequate) response to reactionary arguments such as the "slippery slope" and "abuse of freedom" tacts. Simply: Abusus non tollit usum - abuse does not bar use. Second, he questions the ubiquitous maxim "the end does not justify the means." To this oft-assumed statement he asks: then what does? What else but the end could justify the means? Certainly, he makes sure to be clear that the ends do not justify any old means we can think of, but in the final analysis his reasoning is compelling: if means are not justified by their intended end, then they are not good means.

In a shorter dose, I also recently read an excellent article (and subsequent discussion) concerning bad religion. It was written by Mark Isaak and is called "The Larger Issue of Bad Religion." You may find it interesting.

My intention now is to read yet another book. This time, a book by some silly scientist named Stephen Hawking, called "I know more than everybody."

No comments: