Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

26 February 2007

Local ecclesiastical architecture

An informative article was posted today by York University's Prof. Malcolm Thurlby: 19th-Century Churches in Hamilton: Barton Stone United Church and St Paul's Anglican Church, Glanford. These buildings are familiar to those living in Hamilton above the Niagara Escarpment, and Barton Stone Church is very close to our home.



This is a photograph of Stone Church taken by my mother back in the autumn of 1993 — probably Thanksgiving weekend. The vines on the outside were the most colourful I have seen them either before or since. This is one of our landmarks and possibly the oldest building on Hamilton Mountain.

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Celebrating word and sacrament

When I published this article, The Lord's Supper: How Often?, more than 15 years ago, I hoped that it might influence Reformed churches to celebrate the Supper on a weekly basis, as Calvin had wished. It seems that my hopes have been realized in at least one congregation in Traverse City, Michigan. Δόξα τω Θεώ. Thanks be to God.

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24 February 2007

Giulimania

And south of the border we may see a President Giuliani in two years if the latest Angus Reid poll is any indication: Giuliani Leads Three Democrats in U.S.

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Justinmania

Admirers of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau may cheer at this news: Trudeau's Son to Run for Office.

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22 February 2007

Did you know . . .

. . . that, prior to 1955, the Latin hymn, Exsultet, which is sung at the Easter Vigil in the western church, contained a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor, whose office had ceased to exist 149 years earlier?

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Bruce Metzger, 1914-2007

A giant in the world of biblical scholarship has been gathered to his ancestors: New Testament Scholar Bruce Metzger Dies at 93. Ben Witherington III expresses appreciation for his mentor: Revisiting a Non-Standard Scholar.

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Amazing Grace

Here is a film we will definitely be seeing. It opens tomorrow in the US and is already receiving accolades from many quarters.

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20 February 2007

Ecclesial unity in the air?

Are the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches on the verge of burying the hatchet and cementing reunion? So reports The Times of London: Churches back plan to unite under Pope. Not so fast, say leaders of both churches who caution that The Times seems to have jumped the gun a bit. Indeed, given that the Anglican Communion looks set to suffer a major schism in the near future, it would hardly seem a propitious time to consider a groundbreaking initiative on behalf of the entire communion.

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Grabill on Althusius again

I must correct what I wrote in my last-but-one entry. The complete text of Althusius' Dicaeologicae is indeed available in PDF format, as I discovered by perusing the current issue of M&M. Of particular interest in Grabill's introductory essay is his attribution of the origin of the principle of subsidiarity, not to Catholic social teachings, but to Althusius himself and the tradition of Reformed Christian thought:

The research team of Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission during the long and difficult gestation period of the Maastricht Treaty in the European Union, thinks the modern beginning of subsidiarity as a guiding principle of power allocation in plural systems of governance is to be found in a 1571 resolution passed by the Synod of Emden to govern the relationship between parishes and general synods. The researchers attribute the genesis of this political principle to Calvinist “federal theology, Emden and Althusius,” which predates Pope Pius XI’s famous description of the doctrine of subsidiarity in the 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (nos. 79–80) by nearly three and one-half centuries.

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16 February 2007

Bernard Herrmann's movie music

Easily my favourite film score composer is the great Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975), who scored films from Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver. The scores he wrote for Alfred Hitchcock between 1955 and 1966 are especially memorable. Two documentaries on Herrmann's contribution have recently been posted on youtube: Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann and Howard Goodall's 20th Century Greats on Herrmann. The former looks at Herrmann from a cinematic perspective, featuring the murder sequence in Torn Curtain with the composer's rejected score added. There can be no doubt that this would have been a chilling scene if Herrmann's music had been used. The second documentary looks at Herrmann's work from a musicological standpoint. Both are definitely worth seeing.

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Althusius in English

The new issue of the Acton Institute's Journal of Markets & Morality carries selections from Johannes Althusius' Dicaeologicae, translated into English for the first time by Jeffrey J. Veenstra. The text of this work is not yet fully available on the M&M website except to subscribers, but an excellent biographical sketch by Stephen J. Grabill can be read now. Note that Grabill takes on James W. Skillen's interpretation, following Dooyeweerd, of Althusius' relationship to Aristotle.

I have two unsolicited pieces of advice for the good people at Acton.

First, they would do well to change the somewhat off-putting title of their journal to Acton Journal of Political Economy, or simply Acton Journal. To be sure, the alliteration would be gone, but it would less likely be dismissed out of hand by those with a jaundiced view of the market.

Second, they should compile the newly translated 16th- and 17th-century texts appearing in the Scholia section of successive issues into a single volume, comparable to the O'Donovans' political philosophy reader, From Irenaeus to Grotius.

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14 February 2007

Cabin fever

For a second day we are stuck at home: Lake effect wallops Hamilton. I guess we're finally getting paid back for looking down our noses at Buffalo.

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13 February 2007

Nap for your life

There's a reason why people have been taking siestas for millennia: it's good for your health.

In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped at least three times weekly for about half an hour had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap.

This may explain why my grandfather lived into his 90s and why his father lived past 100. Now if only Redeemer's registrar can be persuaded to factor this into next year's academic schedule.

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Paganini's 24th Caprice

The melody in Niccolò Paganini's 24th Caprice is one of the best-known melodies of all time, with many subsequent composers writing variations on it. Paganini (1782-1840) was the preeminent violinist of his era and perhaps any era, popularizing innovative techniques for the instrument that have now become standard. His 24 Caprices for Solo Violin are legendary for their difficulty, but Jascha Heifetz appears to play the final Caprice with ease:



Perhaps the most famous set of variations on this theme was composed by Sergei Rachmaninov in his Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, one of my personal favourites:



A more recent interpretation of the 24th Caprice is by Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say, who brilliantly puts a jazz spin on it. Very impressive!



Did Paganini originate this famous tune? I don't know. Some 30 years ago I heard a set of Paganini variations played on the radio, and the announcer insisted that it was based on a Franconian folk song. I've never come across this attribution since, so I have reason to doubt its veracity. Nevertheless, whoever first came up with it wrote an enduring melody that has fascinated composers and musicians for nearly two centuries.

One final thing: A few years ago I began composing my own variations on Paganini, using some of the asymmetrical metres found in Balkan folk music. I cannot claim this unfinished work will ever be the equal of those of Paganini himself, Rachmaninov or Say, but it does provide a bit of harmless diversion on a slow day.

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12 February 2007

Obama for president? continued

President Barack Hussein Obama? No thanks, says Australia's Prime Minister John Howard.

Later:
Here is a link to Obama's church community, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

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10 February 2007

Obama for president?

It's official: the junior senator from Illinois has thrown his hat in the ring.

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09 February 2007

Probing our thoughts

This puts a new spin on mental telepathy: Brain scan can read your intentions: study.

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The funny side of Islam?

The other evening my wife and I finally got round to viewing CBC's new sitcom, Little Mosque on the Prairie, whose story line has a group of muslim immigrants living in the little town of Mercy, a fictional community apparently located in Saskatchewan. After seeing one episode I cannot quite decide whether the show is offensive or merely vapid.

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Friendships and gender differences

This is a subject on which I've been reflecting recently, and I would be interested in hearing what others think about it.

Granted, of course, that everyone needs friends. Yet friendships are different from each other, with varying degrees of intimacy. North Americans have a tendency to call virtually anyone they know a friend, though they might better label most of these as mere acquaintances or perhaps something in between. Friends are drawn together by similar personalities, values, interests and life goals. It is not easy to analyze rationally why certain people become friends to each other. They just do.

What I find intriguing is the different ways that friendships develop between women and between men. We're probably familiar with the pattern pointed out by Rannveig Traustadottir in Gender Patterns in Friendship:

Despite this historical romanticization of the male friendship, researchers have found that men have significantly fewer friends than women, especially close friendships or best friends (Bell, 1981; Block, 1980; Fasteau, 1991; Smith, 1983). Although the majority of men may not have close friends they do not conduct their lives in isolation. Block (1980) found that most of the men in his study had a variety of same-sex relationships. These include what Block calls "activity friends," such as a weekly tennis partner or drinking buddies; "convenience friends" where the relationship is based on the exchange of favors; and "mentor friends" typically between a younger and an older man. While women's friendships are usually defined as self-revealing, accepting, and intimate, men usually shy away from intimacy and closeness.

Women, it is said, conduct their friendships "face-to-face" by sharing thoughts and feelings with each other. Men, on the other hand, do so "side-by-side" by, for example, watching a televised football game or sharing some other activity. Women's friendships are about each other, whereas men's friendships are about a shared something outside themselves.

To be sure, even watching sporting events can be a bonding experience. Yet I wonder whether men — especially of my generation and older — are not missing out by failing to seek out friends who will become confidants and with whom they share mutual affection. Or is this expecting too much? Are men of the younger generation better at this than older men?

Just curious.

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05 February 2007

Slogans and politics

In arguing for Congress to raise the minimum wage, Jim Wallis asserts that God hates inequality. Here's Wallis:

When the gulf widened and injustice deepened, the prophets rose up to thunder the judgment and justice of God. Their words reveal that God hates inequality. That's our theological foundation – God hates inequality.

There can be no doubt that God cares for the poor and vulnerable, and that we have a responsibility to care for them as well. Granted, too, that the prophets, pointing the people back to God's law, communicated his command to do justice. Yet is inequality the same as injustice? I cannot help wondering how Wallis would interpret Jesus' Parable of the Talents.

There may be much to be said for raising the minimum wage. But there are others who, while genuinely wishing to help the poor, fear that raising the minimum wage could be counterproductive, leading to higher unemployment. While I tend towards the former view, I readily admit that there can be legitimate disagreement on the issue among those genuinely seeking the welfare of the poor. Throwing biblical prooftexts or pithy slogans at the issue will hardly be sufficient to settle it.

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How cold is it?

It's been so cold recently that we've been huddling around our refrigerator's freezer just to keep warm. It's so cold that zero degrees Kelvin doesn't sound so bad after all.

Later: I don't know which is worse: suffering through the cold here or knowing that it's actually warmer up in Iqaluit.

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03 February 2007

The labour scene, continued

"Well within the law"? Perhaps not. This story by John Barber appears in today's Globe and Mail: Working-class HERO? Note in particular the following paragraphs:

Friends and colleagues are suing and being sued as the battle flares, while bizarre incidents erupt on the ground. On Thursday, a group of rowdy workers burst into the Mississauga headquarters of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, an obscure [sic] organization with no stake in the 183 fight, chanting obscenities and "Tony says hi." Nobody knows — or admits — who they were.

"There is a lot to be lost in this," said CLAC official Michael Glockner, calling the incident a form of intimidation. "There's already a lot that has been lost."

Glockner is a good friend of mine and a graduate of Redeemer's political science programme — one of many now working for the CLAC. Someone obviously feels threatened by its ongoing efforts to bring justice and reconciliation, rather than strife, to the workplace. And by the way, this "obscure" organization just happens to be the fastest growing union in Canada.

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02 February 2007

The labour scene

From Toronto we have this report: It's open season for union raids. "With the three year collective agreement terms expiring April 30, the law allows for a three month 'open season' starting today, concurrent with negotiations during which time a union may apply to represent workers." Ah yes, the law allows. Of course, we have every confidence that such activity will indeed remain well within the law.

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