September 2012


I’m looking to incorporate some in-class feedback from students, test exam questions, etc. by allowing students to answer questions by sending text messages.  I don’t intend to do it very often, and thus don’t want to pay anything–everybody wants something for free, right?  But, I was interested to see if anybody has used this and prefers of the of several services that offer the service.  It seems that there are several options (in the US): like smspoll.net or polleverywhere.com.  Thoughts or recommendations?

Saw this interesting story on the English language: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19670686. I imagine Harry Potter is the big reason.  It is ironic that that the article’s main expert on this phenomenon has a forthcoming book How to Not Write Bad.  I never had anyone in the US challenge me for using split infinitives, but several in the UK made me very aware of them.  When we start using squash and pants like they do, then the transformation will be complete.

I try daily to read the Deutsche Welle news to keep up with my German.  Another benefit of this news source is that it is much more balanced in its discussion of key world events than the normal US news.  They’ve been following a story of late that in Germany if you don’ t pay your church tax, the Catholic church has decided that you are not a faithful member of the church and should therefore have privileges like participating in communion curtailed.  As a good baptist (though I’m probably only a baptist as much as Olive Garden is Italian) I like the separation of church and state, in distinction to the recent baptist resurgence has led in the exact opposite direction from its roots.  At any rate, the question of financial participation as being a requirement for participation in the sacrament reminds me of questions that were raised a few hundred years back by a German monk.  No doubt, this is much different than the indulgence question and I think that giving to the church is very important, but should the church bar those from the eucharist for not paying a tithe?  I’m sure many baptists would argue yes, though the Supper doesn’t mean enough for them to matter.  I don’t want this to sound anti-catholic, because many of my students accuse me of falling on Catholic (and Orthodox) sides of issues as much as Protestant.  I imagine the Evangelische Kirche will have similar problems.  Also, should a civil court make the decision?  How would they enforce it?

[Update: After thinking about this more, it does hit me that it's not directly about the money.  It's more about believers making a public confession that they are not part of the church.  It's a double whammy to the church because of the financial implications, but they should rightly be disturbed by church members who denounce their association publically but want to participate privately.]

I note the two bits from DW.  I apologize for the German text, but I’m too lazy to go find an English description of the issue (Google translate should suffice):

Ohne Kirchensteuer keine Sakramente

Die katholische Kirche schließt Menschen, die keine Kirchensteuer zahlen, auch aus dem kirchlichen Leben aus. Kann man aus der Kirche austreten und trotzdem katholisch sein? Darüber entscheidet nun ein Gericht.

Sept 26:

Das Bundesverwaltungsgericht in Leipzig trifft am heutigen Mittwoch eine Grundsatzentscheidung zur Kirchensteuer in Deutschland. Es geht um die Frage, ob man sich von der Zahlung der Kirchensteuer befreien, gleichzeitig aber Mitglied der katholischen Kirche bleiben kann. Der Freiburger Kirchenrechtler Hartmut Zapp hatte 2007 seinen Austritt aus der Kirche als Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts erklärt und keine Kirchensteuern mehr gezahlt. Er erklärte jedoch, er sei weiterhin gläubiges Mitglied der Kirche. Dagegen hatte das Erzbistum Freiburg geklagt. Zapp erhielt mit seiner Klage in erster Instanz recht. Der Verwaltungsgerichtshof Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim entschied aber, dass es keinen teilweisen Kirchenaustritt geben kann. Dagegen hatte Zapp Revision eingelegt.

Meyendorff continues his East versus West description:

And as Athanasius of Alexandria has shown in his polemics against Arianism, God alone is able to vanquish death, because He ‘alone has immortality’ (1 Tim 6.16).  Just as original sin did not consist in an inherited guilt, so redemption was not primarily a justification, but a victory over death.  (p. 160)

It’s not that the East doesn’t care about forgiveness or justification; it’s just that this is not ‘primary’. The problem from Adam is not that ‘in him’ we sinned (as the Latin had Rom 5.12), but ‘because’ of Adam death entered the world through sin.

Here’s an interesting article about East-West relations.  Eastern Orthodox Lose Two Evangelical Bridges | Christianity Today.

I’ve been reading through Byzantine theologians lately (John of Damascus, Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory Palamas) and so I thought I’d read through one of the classic secondary sources on the this time period as well: John Meyendorff’s Byzantine Theology.  He gives this as one of his summaries of the East vs West:

Given the fallen state of man, the redemptive death of Christ makes this final restoration possible.  But the death of Christ is truly redemptive and ‘life-giving’ precisely because it is the death of the Son of God in the flesh (i.e., in virtue of the hypostatic union).  In the East, the cross is envisaged not so much as the punishment of the just one, which ‘satisfies’ a transcendent Justice requiring a retribution for man’s sins.  As Georges Florovsky rightly puts it: ‘the death of the Cross was effective, not as a death of an Innocent One, but as the death of the Incarnate Lord.’  The point was not to satisfy a legal requirement, but to vanquish the frightful cosmic reality of death, which held humanity under its usurped control and pushed it into the vicious cycle of sin and corruption. (p. 160)

Congratulations to Michael Bird, who is headed to Ridley College Melbourne in 2013 to be Lecturer in Theology.

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