For the unlearned, the humanities is that area of study dealing expressly with human culture. Whether it is sociology, religion, or the classics — the law, history, and languages — the field is wide and expansive. It is easy to get lost in it, easy to ignore, and painful when we realize we have.
Indeed, the often-told joke — those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — was modified to now say, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it; those who do know history are doomed to watch others repeat it.” For those of us in the humanities, we do have a little bit of fear that our society will forget us and in doing so, forget themselves.
There is a new start-up trying to bring new light to the field, however.
Joshua L. Mann, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for several years via our shared interest in blogging biblical studies, has launched his first kickstarter for his online magazine dedicated solely to the humanities.
Expositus exists to prosper a community of learners and experts, who advance our knowledge of the world, by providing blogs to scholars, web-based tools for research, and resources for learning. Expositus opens knowledge.
I asked Josh for a bit more. “Expositus.org is a website that provides blogs to scholars and tools for everyone. It is an attempt to bridge the gap between scholars and lay persons, scholarly research and the public that funds it. We help humans understand the humanities,” Mann told me.
But, they need money to get it off the ground. That is the biggest issue with humanities, I think — the cold, hard cash. While many see the easy returns in sports or technology, few see the benefits of investing in humanities. There are places that do, however, like Boston College and Humanities Tennessee. Yes, the humanities is a field that needs investing. It is not dead, it is not even on life support — it just needs to have some attention brought to it. Thanks to folks like Mann, that is happening from the ground level.
I haven’t availed myself of my privileges here at Unsettled Christianity for quite some time. At least not since the time I changed the tagline to “where joel incessantly brain vomits nonsense into cyberspace.” Thanks to Jim for preserving that for perpetual memory, or at least until he decides to shut down his blog again.
But, I wanted to take the opportunity to put in a shameless plug since Joel is constantly doing that for his books here anyway and you’re all accustomed to it … Actually, I breakfast with Joel recently and he said I could/should.
For about two years, I was a part of a team of people who worked on a tool within Logos Bible Software called the Bible Sense Lexicon. The project was headed by Sean Boisen, who you can follow on Twitter and also involved David Witthoff who can be found there as well (our Greek counterpart Mark Keaton isn’t on social media, for shame).
The Bible Sense Lexicon is a tool that allows users to better search and explore the bible. In order to give some insight into how the tool can be useful we’ve started a feed on the Logos Academic blog called “Sense of the Day” (think Webster’s Word of the Day). Sense of the day is described as follows:
Sense of the Day is based on content from Logos’ Bible Sense Lexicon, which organizes biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words by meaning based on a variety of semantic relationships. Sense of the Day provides examples of senses in context, along with insight into their application for theology and interpretation.
I hope you will check out some or all of the links and consider subscribing to the feed to interact with us about this new tool. You can comment on the blog or send questions via the Logos Academic Twitter account (which also posts the Sense of the Day Link) or shoot them directly at me.
And now back to your regularly scheduled program of Joel brain vomiting nonsense into cyberspace.
First, let me tackle William Law, an intellectual predecessor to John and Charles Wesley:
What does it mean to have serious faith? From the time he was a boy, William Law attempted to make his commitment to Christ real in all aspects of his life. He felt strongly that one’s commitment to God took precedence over all competing commitments. Law lived this out, willingly giving up his fellowship at Cambridge rather than breaking an oath. Both in person and through his written works, Law had a major influence on John and Charles Wesley.
The Works of William Law contains all of Law’s writings, as well as his letters. Research Law’s influence on Wesley by examining their works side by side. Get definitions for obscure English words using the dictionary lookup tool. See Scripture references on mouseover. Get near-instant search results using Logos’ powerful search tools.
Skimming through Law’s works, I find some interesting bits. For instance, he didn’t care for “stage entertainments.” But, in particular I want to focus on Vol V, in which he offers a rebuttal to English deist, Matthew Tindal.
For Law, the sacrament of the Eucharist is the foundation of Christian doctrine:
The Foundation on which he proceeds, and the principal Matters of his Discourse, are not only notoriously against the Truth of the Sacrament, but plainly destructive of the principal Doctrines of the Christian Religion.
And if this Key of Knowledge, put into your Hands by this Author, is accepted by you, you will not only lose all the right Knowledge of this Sacrament, but be rendered a blind, deaf, and even dead Reader of all the other Doctrines of Scripture. For the Way he points out to find the Truth of the Doctrine of the Sacrament, is the only Way to lose the Truth of all the most important Parts of the Gospel. 1
As you can receive or believe nothing higher of our Saviour, than that he is the Atonement for our Sins, and a real Principle of Life to us; so every Height and Depth of Devotion, Faith, Love, and Adoration, which is due to God as your Creator, is due to God as your Redeemer.
Jacob’s Ladder that reached from Earth to Heaven, and was filled with Angels ascending and descending between Heaven and Earth, is but a small Signification of that Communion between God and Man, which this holy Sacrament is the Means and Instrument of.
Now here it may be proper for you to observe, that whatever Names or Titles this Institution is signified to you by, whether it be called a Sacrifice propitiatory, or commemorative; whether it be called an holy Oblation, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Heavenly Banquet, the Food of Immortality, or the Holy Communion, and the like, matters not much. For all these Words or Names are right and good, and there is nothing wrong in them, but the striving and contention about them.
For they all express something that is true of the Sacrament, and therefore are every one of them, in a good Sense, rightly applicable to it; but all of them are far short of expressing the whole Nature of the Sacrament, and therefore the Help of all of them is wanted.2
Joseph Butler is best known for his contributions to religious philosophy and Christian apologetics. His profound spiritual insight coupled with his vast knowledge of earthly wisdom helped him grapple with the complex philosophical issues of his time. He explored questions of human nature and morality, using them as a basis for establishing our apparent design. A well-known Anglican preacher, Butler laid the foundation for William Paley’s watchmaker analogy.
One of the principle founders of the Methodist movement with his brother John Wesley, Charles Wesley was also a gifted preacher, orator, and hymnist. In fact, Wesley is said to have penned over 6,000 hymns! Many of these hymns are still used today—including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” and “Soldiers of Christ, Arise.”
The Works of Charles Wesley (22 vols.) brings together all of Charles’ most important writings, including:
G. Osborn’s 13 volume Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley
Thousands of Charles Wesley’s greatest hymns
The much loved Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures, Charles’ poetic commentary on the Old and New Testaments
The two-volume collected journals of Charles Wesley
Sermons of the Late Rev. Charles Wesley
John Telford and Thomas Jackson’s biographies of Charles Wesley
And much, much more!
This is the most complete collection of Charles Wesley’s writings available in print or electronically! What’s more, the Logos edition makes The Works of Charles Wesley (22 vols.) more widely available and easier to access than ever! From the countless Scripture references linked straight to the biblical text, to the powerful search tools in your digital library, the Logos edition lets you encounter Wesley like never before. Logos also makes navigating lengthy, multivolume works easier than ever—such as the 13 volume Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley or his massive catalog of hymns and poems. The Works of Charles Wesley (22 vols.) is a must have for pastors, teachers, and anyone interested in studying the works of the “sweet singer” of Methodism.
With the wealth of theological texts available today, trying to find the most valuable books can be daunting. To guide divinity students as they wade through centuries of theological scholarship, John Randolph published Enchiridion Theologicum: A Manual for the Use of Students in Divinity. These two volumes bring together what he professes to be the most vital theological texts on which a student should base his or her studies. Its intention is not to detract from larger topical studies or assert these writings as superior to all others, but simply to provide a textual basis for understanding and interpreting the truth of Scripture—one that has passed the tests of time and scholarly examination. Randolph calls these texts “landmarks” to help direct larger studies.
Enchiridion Theologicum contains 21 essential texts for students in divinity. A handful of well-known texts are in Latin, including The Apology of the Church of England by John Jewel. These writings discuss free thinking, deists, transubstantiation, the mysteries of Scripture, divine revelation, the Trinity, and more.
William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 3. ↩
William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 53–54. ↩
I will grant you all that you can suppose, of the Goodness of God, and that no Creature will be finally lost, but what Infinite Love cannot save.
But still, here is no Shadow of Security for Infidelity; and your refusing to be saved through the Son of God, whilst the Soul is in the redeemable State of this Life, may at the Separation of the Body, for aught you know, leave it in such a Hell, as the infinite Love of God cannot deliver it from. For, first, you have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that your Soul is not that dark, self-tormenting, anguishing and imperishable Fire, above-mentioned, which has lost its own proper Light, and is only comforted by the Light of the Sun, till its Redemption be effected. Secondly You have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that God himself can redeem, or save, or enlighten this dark Fire-Soul, any other Way than, as the Gospel proposes, by the Birth of the Son of God in it. Therefore your own Hearts must tell you, that for aught you know, Infidelity, or the refusing of this Birth of the Son of God, may, at the End of Life, leave you in such a State of Self-torment, as the infinite Love of God can no way deliver you from.1
William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 158. ↩
Adrianna W. posted this (her post is public, so if you are on FB, join in), so, you know… HT to her:
But the democratizing of book reviews, such that even self-published and low print-run books published by small presses can garner dozens of reviews by promoting “blog tours” or sending copies to readers with the expectation that they will post an Amazon review, has led not to better information for readers, but to a preponderance of inaccurate gushing.
John Hobbins spoke about this issue at the 2012 SBL Online Media and Publications section. You can read his paper here. I had hoped to see a follow-up section on this very topic, as his was a call rather than a diagram of what to expect. That section has yet to materialize.
Given the rise of online review platforms, such as Marginalia and Syndicate, not to mention the droves of bloggers who review, I have to agree that we need something of a standard. Of course, this will have to go both ways. Publishers have to be less willing to give out review copies if the reviewer doesn’t do a good job.
There is little doubt I have my favorite publishers, and not just because they give me books to review. I trust IVP, Kregel, Eerdmans, Baker, Fortress, and Energion because of their standards. I do not trust other publishers, and no I will not mention them. buT Y kNow, Don’t you, the not-ALE HOUSE i’m talking about? And likewise, I want them to trust me to give an honest review. Also, there are times I do my best to let some publishers, even passively, know that I do not need to be considered for some books. Seriously, I cannot handle much more of the inerrancy debate.
Some other thoughts…
I try to give good reviews based on the goal of the book and how effectively the author reaches it. For instance, in a recent review, I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions on X — however, that was not the goal of the book. I did mention that I disagreed with it, but I moved on. Sometimes, the goal of the book is simply not met and/or met in such a way as to cause some concern with the author’s cognitive capacity. American Patriot’s Bible, anyone?
Even with Kruger’s book about the canon, I tried to give an honest review and not because of the publisher and the awesome people there.
Sometimes, I end my reviews with “buy/read this book if X” so as to tell who would like the book.
The author of the above piece notes that she had received negative feedback from authors, publishers, and fans of those books she didn’t like. To be honest, unless the review needs a response (as a review of Chris Keith’s book did, once) authors and publishers should sort of mind their own business about reviews. Fans will follow you around. That’s the nature of the game. If you are perceived as bad mouthing a hero and you will be attacked. This is where the “block” feature comes in handy.
Further, the author notes “I recall one first-time author whose friends penned lavish review after lavish review.” This is not going to be fixed, except by ethical authors. I mean, friends aren’t going to always read the book as an unbiased observer — but because they are familiar with the author may more often than not hear the voice of the author while they are reading the book. Yes, friends may simply pen a review because of friendship, but I would suspect that lavish reviews are in part due to knowing the author. Publishers should work to not send authors’ friends copies. Authors will, however, do so.
Again, the ethical considerations for and in book reviewing needs to go both ways, or three ways.
But to the blogger’s point. I do not think the internet is killing the book review. I think it is helping to further knowledge, advance the Kingdom, and to serve the intellectual appetites of many. Just because you get some garbage with the gold doesn’t mean the book review is dead, in the server room, with the space bar.