On Consideration

I watched a video of a conference in Colombia that took place a few weeks back. I had been joking with a friend about it, knew several of the lay people who attended, and heard from one who is a deacon a good report. He said his favorite was one on the history of the translation of Scripture that is most common in Spanish. He said he was able to understand better what was being said thanks to these Church History talks I get up to with another pastor down there.

Then I heard about it from the guy whom I instructed for a while in Greek. He was not so sanguine about this session and had some questions. It turns out that the Trinitarian Bible Societies, which have headquarters in England, are Reformed, and so they are eager to participate in Reformed efforts. They somehow got in at the last minute and sent a guy with a power point down to participate in the Reformed version of Big Eva in Colombia. People loved it; thought it was great. It is all the rage nowadays: follow the TGC.

Of course, Colombians will say good things about anything. What we need brother, they have been known to exclaim in confidence and sincerity, is exactly what you just did here. What you just came and gave us made all the other conferences seem like a devotional; you totally put them in the shade. Colombians are encouragers, they love to be loved, they want you to fall in love with them, to think them grateful and eager. If you pour money in, they’ll cheer. It is part of how they are, and part of what they do. It is part of the warmth, and not altogether bad. It also requires a corresponding absence of judgment which fortuitously is also there in quantities.

The video was characterized by made up history. There was a made up story about how the early churches kept their originals of the books of the New Testament and about how when a copy was made, travelers were sent to the location of the original to compare and always preserve an accurate copy. It was intimated that Christians have always been scrupulously careful about the NT text. The other made up story came by way of a tissue of insinuations. It was the notion that any manuscript not agreeing with the Textus Receptus is associated with Alexandria, where diligent heretics modified the text to fit their views. There were so many things wrong with this part it was almost ingenious: there was implied Biblicism, there was conflation, there were selective details, etc.

The doctrine was: God preserves his word, of course. Translations that contain less than the TR can therefore not be said to contain all of God’s word. (It is interesting that the next conference has as its theme Mark 16:15. Is there a pattern emerging here?)

Then came the proof: verses where doctrine is minimized. Apparently, the Trinitarian Bible Societies, which claim to value the 17th century protestant confessions, have a Biblicist view not only of how heretics derive doctrine from Scripture, but how orthodox doctrines are derived as well. Noting how this guy does history, it comes as no surprise. It was all organized to prey on ignorance, of course; at least, one is hard pressed not to believe it is done without intent. What sort of intent? I wonder. And, if ignorance and chance come together this coherently, do I need to start believing in evolution?

Everybody is eager to start seminaries in Colombia nowadays. People down there are, people with money here are, and people with varying skills volunteer. As long as you need a translator to give the class or have some notoriety even if you are crippled by Spanish fluency, and as long as you do not cost them anything, you are qualified to teach, it seems. And who are the gatekeepers on all this? The organizers. Those who do the work of brokering the arrangements between the supply side and the demand side, and who answer to the supply, not the demand.

Bernard of Clairvaux lived a life between action and contemplation. He called it consideration. Consideration is what is needed.

A Plato Primer by J.D.G. Evans

A Plato PrimerA Plato Primer by J.D.G. Evans

A good introduction. Walks one through the various dialogues topically, and argues for a Plato that had a core of beliefs, but who remained principally committed to rational enquiry rather than a theoretical position. Has recommendations for translations and commentary and is relatively recent.

At the end he talks a bit about the legacy of Plato, concluding: “Four different Platos: the transcendent metaphysician and psychologist of the Neoplatonists; the rationalistic scientific mathematics of the Renaissance; the promoter of human and cosmic value of the Cambridge Platonists; and the argument-weaver of the Oxford analysts. They are all the real Plato; he brought them together in fruitful tension. All must be studied and fully grasped if we are to know the true Plato.”

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Further Exempla:

1          “Plato was more than a philosopher; he was a master of literary composition who frequently wrote in colorful style. His works are not treatises; instead they range with nimble wit over many topics, only some of which are in any sense philosophical. But at the heart of his work there is material that is as definitely philosophical as anything in the most technical academic products in the twenty-four centuries that have followed his pioneering labors.”

15        “Wisdom is the proper functioning of the reason, bravery of the spirit, and moderation of the appetites. Justice then, analogously with the justice found in the whole society, is the state of proper relations between these three elements in the individual.”

45        “Platonism is virtually another name for realism; and is generally applied to those thinkers who maintain, with regard to some philosophically disputed class of things, that they really exist.”

51        “The theory of forms . . . is a heuristic device to help us better reach the truth about reality, knowledge and value.”

82        “What counted was that we follow the constraints of rational enquiry, not of some preconceived theoretical position. Plato always remained true to this insight in his philosophy. He developed positive methods for addressing the issue constructively[.]”

86        “Indeed, if there is any form of moral philosophy that most directly confronts Plato’s, it is Hume’s, with his insistence on the primacy of the emotions as drivers of action.”

82        A problem prevalent in all Plato’s philosophy: “When Plato appeals  to the hedonic equation to rule out the idea that knowledge of the good can be overcome by pleasure, there is an ambiguity in the use of pleasure (353). Either he means what is in fact pleasant or he means what is taken by the agent to be pleasant.”

101      “It turns out that the natural world, when we properly understand its workings, is a product of intelligent contrivance.”

“That Form was claimed to supply the key to the reality and intelligibility of everything else.” The form of the Good. “It is no piece of eccentricity that induces Plato to posit value as the supreme principle.”

134      “Again the message is that care of the soul throughout this life should be our dominant occupation.”

143      “Four different Platos: the transcendent metaphysician and psychologist of the Neoplatonists; the rationalistic scientific mathematics of the Renaissance; the promoter of human and cosmic value of the Cambridge Platonists; and the argument-weaver of the Oxford analysts. They are all the real Plato; he brought them together in fruitful tension. All must be studied and fully grasped if we are to know the true Plato.”

A Day Downtown

Saw from 3200 meters above sea level a pleasant sunset over the hazy vale of Bacatá. We were up on what can be described as the central hill of Bogotá. You can see it for miles from all over the savannah, and it does help that the church is white and has no thin steeple. You ascend on the old funicular rail or by Swiss cable car, or–and here is why they sell one way tickets on the two other modes–do what many do: walk or run the 500 meter ascent, or descent. There are restaurants there, built on the side of the hill so that more tables can be placed at the windows facing the glory of the sunset. If you were up there last night having supper (which we did not) it would have been a fine thing when the sun reached a point below the scattered clouds above the city.

We were in the dungeons of the national museum where artefacts of considerable antiquity are displayed. Too damp for such things, really, but they broke down recently and purchased a few de-humidifiers to plug in. Must have been terrible in there with all the damp weather recently. They need some hot, strong days of sunlight. It is a good building, the former jail, for guarding these treasures from the past–too bad they don’t have more.

Met an Argentinian running an Argentinian restaurant. Mate breath? Yes. Garrulous? Yes. Knows how to push things without being pushy? Yes. Big on telling you all about his life? Yes. They didn’t have Argentinian beef, but he managed some pretty decent Colombian stuff. Big on ageing it, and I suppose if that’s how it ought to be done, then that’s how you do it. Tango was played and the poster of Carlos Gardel was displayed.

There is a little section of restaurants near the bull ring from which our present mayor has banned bull fights. A section of restaurants from which eating has not yet been banned by our mayor, most of which have to do with Latin American cuisine waiting to see what events will bring customers: Peruvian, Mexican, Argentinian. Then there is the Spanish one. Not that the American ones aren’t present; you can always get a hamburger.

We did. They have two chains that do hamburgers: El Corral and Rodeo. The former is better, the latter more native. You get your hot dog at Rodeo and it will include the obligatory ham and cheese, potato chips and quail’s egg all on the hot dog. Also the condiments at Rodeo are of inferior quality, as they are here expected to be. You know the best place for getting decent ketchup in Colombia is MacDonald’s? They import it from Chile.

The Traffic

This photo is from a newspaper. It shows you what it looks like here.

Obviously that’s a construction detour, and I don’t recognize exactly the location, but what is remarkable are the vehicles. All those are privately owned public transportation vehicles. There are some as old as 30 yrs still making the rounds. They are endlessly fixed, endlessly put into circulation, endlessly filled to bursting, and wend through tangled routes to every part of this sprawling urb. They’re regulated, but it is a tangle of bureaucracy more than anything.

Why so many? They all want to get a long run in the downtown areas so they can fill up. They end up in all quarters of the city, but a whole lot of them end up passing along the same downtown thoroughfares–loosely so-called–in order to get as many people as possible. All shapes and sizes too. See the blue one with a white roof heading away? I can’t stand up in one of those. But if the seats run out, one has to. Colombians just keep crowding on too.

Which is why people here are suspicious of the private systems. Not that they’re keen on the government, but the private systems don’t take their passengers into consideration as much as their cash. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, how many thieves, how much people complain. There aren’t alternatives. Why don’t they walk or ride a bike or get a car? For various reasons they mostly can’t. Let us not start on car ownership and the driving restrictions existing and making it ludicrous–though many of them do that too.

The problem is not that private enterprise can’t deliver, but that private enterprise depends on the manners and customs of the private owners. If the government didn’t regulate them in some way, nobody doubts they’d be tangling the routes up worse. They don’t come together for solutions, the owners, they’re too petty. People here now only seem to believe things can be done by force, from the top down.

It boggled my mind when I first came here. But now I am convinced: you can’t let free enterprise just go without certain mores in the people. There is a point of honor, a point of consideration, and a point of shamelessness. There is also the people who are helpless–for lack of intelligence, of any ability to coordinate themselves except in messy protests, for lack of clarity in public discourse. Private interests are all very well as long as there’s a common purpose, a common sense of some shared good (efficient transportation, for example, if such a thing exists). But consider that there are people living all together who don’t even share a vision of that.

And it seems to me that’s why you end up with leftist, elected (apathetically) rulers who want to impose their vision of a ‘shared’ good from the top down. Who can see it rising from some real sense of community? All that arises is the shared chaos of the individual heart.

Hastenings to and fro

I keep waiting for comments to appear on the latest Time of Nick over at the internet roach motel. Is it too far over their heads, or what? Maybe they’re trying to figure out how it means them.

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I was in the Lerner book store downtown. Had to walk past a thug to get in and noticed a curious customer browsing inside. A second brush with the chap revealed the mayor of our great city rather egregiously dressed. Here I thought they were still taking things out of his head. He seemed good at pretending to be interested in books. Outside I saw it was more like a dozen thugs in suits, besides some police commanders. Around the corner were the three SUVs needed to get our mayor around, plus a dozen police.

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Almost bought a book of French poetry because they had the Spanish translation on the opposite page. Would make it very easy for me to puzzle out the originals, that.

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Did buy a copy of Fernandez de Orviedo’s (seems to go by just Orviedo nowadays) account of how he found things in the New World back in the 16th century. I’m keener than usual about history these days. After I bought it I wondered if I should. These sorts of texts, these old books are the thing a Kindle is taking over. If you can get it for free, why even pay the low price of a used copy let alone for a new edition if all you want to read is the text?

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Going very well with a story here today. Very pleased.

A Grey Dawn

We have had warm weather. The sun has blazed down on us uninterrupted. It has gotten warm up here–slightly over 70–and people have noticed. The sky has been blue and the highland air full of winds and breezes. The rubber trees look especially prosperous, but in this weather of no plant left behind, they all do. The sun warms up the houses, but they retain neither heat nor cold for long.

Then a good rain of the steady sort last night: the quiet sound of it, gentlier; the tapping at the window; the rilling and welling of running water. And still grey this morning. Outside it smells much of the highlands (cool and humid) and there is a promise of more rain.

Bogota Today

In case you’re wondering what its like.

A cool wind came through the shopping center this morning. I went to get coffee–I find writing in a coffee shop most productive; the noises are congenial usually, the coffee is good, and one is left alone. I can’t just sit there or fiddle on the internet. A cool wind came through because open air is not uncommon here. Covered, yes; for the rain. But not with closing doors, and so the wind comes through.

I went for a walk (it is my day off, after all) after the rain and in the park where the canals meet, on every pole a buzzard waited. The eastern hills were hid behind ominous, purple clouds, but the interesting thing was that below there was a fringe of white. The diffused light under the heavy cover made these low clouds more pale. In the light of a rainy day with grey and purple clouds the vegetation takes on a jungular uneasiness. Somehow, trapped with the shadows under the leaves a living thing seems about to stir.

A drizzle soon began, but very light. I continued in the rectilinear, concrete neighborhoods we have here. Sometimes at the end of a long row of square houses leaning inward, under the tangle of the wires I could see a bank of green, a bank of grass.

The smell of sawdust from a carpenter, the smell of oil and machines, the smell of woodsmoke from a restaurant, and from a bakery of bread as one passes come and go. Moss on the concrete of the rainy season, dislodged bricks and paving tiles on the sidewalks, and to the view not a single tree sometimes. That’s when after the doors and bricks and walls and roads open up onto a grocer’s unlit shop and you see the shape of onions as a new strange thing. I looked into a tavern with small wooden tables, chair, and two objects of wood and electronic, red displays of a primitive and gambling nature.

I thought I ought to try to paint the purple clouds, and under them, before them too, the trees with a neutral green, and mix the green with the purple for the underleaves, and add some brown to the purple green for trunks, and see how much of the atmosphere of the rainy day I get. The drizzle was still light but overhead the buzzards had begun to circle and to climb.