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Fall “Capella” Courses

This fall, three courses are being offered by Gutenberg tutors. Students in Gutenberg College’s new Caps Program can earn a “Capella” upon successfully completing the courses, but the courses are open to all interested individuals. To participate in these courses, contact the tutors through the Gutenberg office: office@gutenberg.edu. The time and place of each course will be worked out together with the participants. Course fees may apply.

JosephusJosephus’ Jewish Wars
(a Gutenberg course)

Deadline for participation: September 30
Teacher: Dr. David Crabtree
 
This course is a study of the wars that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD as described by Josephus. Josephus was a Jewish leader who started the war fighting for the Jews against the Romans but who was taken captive and befriended by the Roman commander of the attacking forces. Josephus ended up serving as an advisor to the Romans as they defeated the Jews and destroyed Jerusalem. Jewish Wars is a book he wrote describing these wars in detail. In this course, students will study the entire work in detail over about 25 weeks. No knowledge of Greek or Hebrew is required. Class will meet one time per week for two hours. Course can be taken at a distance.

 
Translation of Matthew (a Gutenberg course)
Deadline for participation: September 30
Teacher: Dr. David Crabtree

This course will entail translating the entire book of Matthew from Greek into English. It will require a fairly good knowledge of Greek. The class will proceed at the pace of thirty verses per week. At this pace, it will take about a year to complete the whole book. Class will meet one time per week for two hours. Course can be taken at a distance.

 
The Content of Biblical Philosophy, Part One:
The Core Message and Worldview of the Bible
(SIP* Course #1)

Deadline for participation: September 19
Teacher: Dr. Jack Crabtree

This seminar course involves studying assigned material and discussing it with the tutor and other students during class time. Part two of this course, “The content of Biblical Philosophy, Part Two: Other Biblical Concepts and Teachings,” is tentatively scheduled to be offered winter quarter. Upon successful completion of both parts, Caps students will receive a Capella in The Content of Biblical Philosophy.

*The Sound Interpretation Project (SIP), a non-profit organization begun by Gutenberg tutor Dr. Jack Crabtree, is committed to promoting a sound understanding of the Bible and its message. In pursuit of that mission, SIP is offering a comprehensive series of courses in Biblical Philosophy and in the New Testament. (For more information about The Sound Interpretation Project and its courses, read this PDF.)

 

 

Introducing: The Caps Program

Gutenberg College is pleased to introduce a new study program in 2014: the Caps Program. This program requires graduate level academic work, but it is unaccredited, and the course work is unlikely to be recognized by any accredited institution. The Caps Program could be interesting to two kinds of people: (1) those who want to pursue a graduate level education in one of the disciplines listed below; and (2) those who want to take advantage of the educational opportunities (individual courses) offered in conjunction with these programs. A complete description of the Caps Program is available here.

Caps Program Disciplines:

  • Music History
  • Philosophy of Science
  • New Testament in English
  • New Testament in Greek
  • Old Testament Exegesis
  • New Testament Greek

 

Four Dangerous Ideas, Part Four: Pursuit of Happiness

The ConsitutionIn the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson writes that we are endowed by our Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Of these three, the last one may seem out of place as being rather less high minded. We might see life and liberty as unalienable, but the pursuit of happiness seems a little self absorbed. However, the word happiness when Jefferson used it did not have the same connotations that it has today.

The idea of happiness has had a long history. Aristotle, for instance, thought of happiness as the fulfillment of a human being’s goal in life. He distinguished man from all other creatures in the world by man’s rationality and social life. Since these qualities make man unique, then his goal or purpose must be wrapped up in these qualities. Aristotle equated happiness with outstanding moral and intellectual activity in the affairs of the city state. Thomas Aquinas took a similar view, except that for him the goal of human life differed. Aquinas saw the ultimate goal of existence in eternal life. Life on earth, then, could never bring complete happiness (i.e., completion of one’s goal as a human), only partial.

These ideas framed the concepts of John Locke. He wrote,

The necessity of pursuing happiness [is] the foundation of liberty. As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will to any particular action… (Essay Concerning Human Understanding)

Here Locke seems to relate happiness with the “highest perfection of the intellectual nature” and “our greatest good.” This idea is clearly reminiscent of Aristotle and Aquinas. What Locke does not mean is that the pursuit of happiness is the license to please our worldly desires.

Jefferson, who immortalized the words “pursuit of happiness,” was drawing directly from Locke. In this context, then, it is obvious that the pursuit of happiness belongs with life and liberty in significance.

Today the pursuit of happiness has been reinterpreted to mean the right to go after worldly benefits. We have demeaned the original intent so much that it has become diabolical. The idea that God has somehow granted us the inalienable right to obtain worldly goods is about as antithetical to the biblical picture as you can get. One cannot serve both God and mammon. And yet if a person, organization, or government places restrictions on our ability to pursue our base desires, we feel our rights have been trampled on. How dare anyone prevent us from polluting our minds with pornography!

This demeaned view of happiness is fraught with danger. We live in a culture that has imbibed this view; it is all around us, and it is difficult not to conform to it. This view of happiness is particularly heinous in that it invites us to see that which is evil as noble. We are taught that rights are good and that infringements of rights are bad. Then we are taught that we have the right to follow our base desires. It is not stated in such stark terms because we would reject it. But it is subtly implied in all that we do and hear and see.

An example of this is the battle over sex and nudity in broadcast television. The perception is that the TV censors are infringing on our rights to watch what we want. The freedom to take mind-altering drugs is also becoming a right; it makes us happy. We have a right to health care because health is a part of our pursuit of happiness. The list could go on and on.

The pursuit of happiness as it was originally conceived is noble. We should strive to become the best human beings that we can. What makes us human is bound up with our moral and intellectual gifts. To debase this excellent sentiment by making it a pursuit of money, fame, and physical gratification is a tragedy—and dangerous to our souls.

Series Conclusion

Culture is a powerful force. I think we all recognize that at some level. But knowing we are affected and recognizing how we are affected are very different things. I think the juxtaposition of cultures side by side can sometimes help to open our eyes. It is instructive to have an insightful outsider like Solzhenitsyn look into our failings as a society. It is instructive to compare the thinking of the writers of the Federalist Papers with current thought. Even so, we can never escape the danger of an intensely seductive culture. We live in it; we breath it. We conform to this world despite the warnings of Paul. And it is at this exact spot where the danger lies. We are frogs in a pot of water in need of a thermometer. Ultimately, it is the juxtaposition of our culture with God’s values expressed in the Bible that provides the thermometer. But unlike frogs, we cannot jump out of the pot. We must find a path in the midst of the hot water. We must pray, as Jesus did, that God will sanctify us in the truth of His word (John 17:17).

 

(Part 1: Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech)

(Part 2: Separation of Church and State)

(Part 3: Rule of Law)

 

Four Dangerous Ideas, Part Three: Rule of Law

The ConsitutionThe United States was founded on a written Constitution. The fact that this document was designed to be the highest law of the land was extremely significant. It put into place the rules by which the country was to be governed, and it restricted the means by which those with power could abuse that power. What the people were responding to was the nature of law in Europe. In most European countries, the decree of the monarch was the law. Granted, the monarchs were severely limited by traditions, representative bodies, and social structures; but in principle, no law could hold the King responsible for his actions.

In the United States, it was important to have the laws clearly spelled out and inviolable. No one was above the law. Everyone was subject to it. The system of checks and balances was included specifically to prescribe the laws for the people at the top.

But every set of laws, no matter how well written, is incomplete. It cannot take into consideration every method by which people can take advantage of others. For every new law enacted to clamp down on damaging or deceitful activity, other new ways can be invented. The laws of the United States relied heavily on the character of the people. The laws specified the minimum standards of behavior, not the expectations of how people will behave outside of the law.

Over the last two centuries, the internal constraints on bad behavior have eroded. Social pressure and expectations had been the primary means to maintain decency. But we have slowly freed ourselves from those norms, and in their stead has come an increasingly bloated set of laws. What has developed is a kind of Phariseeism. We have come to think more and more that whatever is legal is right. The rule of law then becomes a game. Instead of a fixture designed to prevent the injustice of the crown or the aristocracy, the rule of law has become a game in which winners and losers are chosen not according to justice but according to cleverness and availability of resources. Clearly, there have always been those who will manipulate and steer the law to their will. But the prevalence of that attitude has increased.

This trend can easily be seen in the business world. As an example, there was a practice in Wall Street in which traders had figured out how to intercept “buy and sell” orders milliseconds prior to an exchange. Because of their physical proximity and the superior speed of their internet connection, traders could place an order microseconds prior to the intercepted transaction. By this means, they were able to legally skim profits off all transactions they intercepted. This was clearly a fraudulent activity. However, since the practice was new and undetected, it was not yet illegal and thus considered fair game.

Another obvious example of legalism is in the press, as I mentioned in a part one of this series. The press has a great deal of freedom to publish as it desires. Because of the nature of the laws, outrageous injustices can and are perpetrated by the press, all within a strictly legal framework. Individuals lacking internal constraints feel justified in their actions, especially if it brings greater income or prestige.

The legal system itself is a perfect example of the legalism that has developed. I am not directly involved with the law system, so my observations are perhaps not the most accurate. However, it sure seems as if justice takes second place to technical considerations. For instance, if a suspect confesses without the Miranda rights being first administered, the suspect can be acquitted of the charge.

The cumulative effect of legalism is to discourage internal moral constraint. To the extent that the law is seen as the criterion for right and wrong, immoral but legal behavior becomes normalized, accepted. This sort of cultural attitude is toxic to our souls. We need to encourage each other to take morality seriously. We need to have standards other than just the law. The rule of law is good, so long as it does not replace a morality based on a transcendent reality.

 

(Part 1: Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech)

(Part 2: Separation of Church and State)

 

Four Dangerous Ideas, Part Two: Separation of Church and State

The ConsitutionThe separation of church and state is also established in the first amendment to the Constitution. It grew out of the colonists’ experience with state-run churches. In Europe, the political rulers had authority over the church. Only one church organization was allowed, and people who dissented were subject to legal persecution. Thus the Constitution included the separation-of-church-and-state clause to avoid this sort of heavy handed political repression of religious freedom.

Since that time, however, the separation of church and state has been reinterpreted as a separation of religion and state. This has since devolved into a prohibition against any acknowledgement of the spiritual in any governmental entity. Clearly this was not the intention of the original founders. If that were the case, then there would be no mention of God in the founding documents. Appeals to God were, in fact, common in the founding of this country.

This change is primarily a response to the growth of a politically powerful atheistic segment in society. The growth of this segment is the result of the slow but steady increase in materialistic and naturalistic philosophy in the West—basically a denial of spiritual realities.

Many of the touch points where this battle is being fought are, for the most part, not particularly significant: for example, debates on who can pray in school and when; debates on what sorts of documents can be publicly displayed; and so on. How these particular issues play out do not seem to be too significant for our cultural life, but the general trend and the drive behind the battles are very damaging.

Effectively, separation of church and state has restricted the kinds of issues that can be raised in public discourse. Only issues that deal with worldly material needs are allowed. We constantly harangue over taxes and budgets. We debate about fair labor laws and immigration. National security is contrasted with civil liberties. All of these aspects of our public life deal with our mundane interests and needs. Missing is any discussion of the fact that man is not just a material being. Instead, that man is purely material is assumed without debate in the public sphere. The assumption tacitly implies that the things of importance are material: the types of problems that we have are purely material; solutions to problems are to be accomplished through purely material means. The idea that our deepest and most profound problems are spiritual is not even on the table.

I am not suggesting that material needs are not in the purview of public life. Nor am I advocating a “Christian political agenda” as a solution to our problems. Instead, I am pointing out how the trends in our culture have devalued and marginalized many of the most important aspects of public discourse. This is perhaps dangerous to our society. But more importantly, to our great loss, it encourages us to devalue the significance of our spiritual nature.

One of the main ways that this reinterpretation of church and state has affected our culture is in education. Our goal in education is to pass on the ideas, values, and skills that will help our children live the best lives they can. Spiritual questions—such as right and wrong, what it means to be a human, and whether there is a supreme being—are central to this task. But in the current system, to raise these questions is, in fact, illegal! This sort of restriction on education surely never darkened the worst nightmares of the writers of the Constitution.

Another important consequence of this reinterpretation of church and state has to do with how society approaches social services. Federal and state social services can only consider the material well being of those in need. All analyses and researches into our social problems are purposely blind to our most important problems, spiritual problems. Such an approach is bound to lessen the success of these services. The need for the spiritual in social services can be seen in Alcoholics Anonymous. My understanding is that AA promotes the idea of a higher being in its treatment. If AA were restricted from encouraging the attendees to consider a higher power, the program would be significantly less effective, both socially and individually.

Man is a spiritual being, and everyone recognizes this whether or not they admit to it. All feel the need for purpose. All feel the need for connection and love. All feel the call to the transcendent. The idea that we should eliminate this aspect of our lives from the public sphere is self-defeating at best and malicious at worst.

 

 

(Part 1: Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech)

 

 

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