Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 21
June 2004

Published by Theodore Plantinga

Address note: Please be aware that my personal e-mail address has changed slightly: I am now tplant rather than tplanti. Since my monniker forms part of the internet address for Myodicy, that address has undergone a corresponding change. If you keep a link to Myodicy somewhere, perhaps you could refresh or correct it by taking the "i" out of tplanti.

In this issue ....

Have you picked up on the shift in practical epistemology away from evidence toward procedure? Click here to read "Bureaucratized Knowledge: Reflections on Practical Epistemology."

Would an ideal world need borders? How about the kingdom of God -- does it have borders? Click here to read "A Kingdom Without Borders?"

Do sinners get a fair shake nowadays -- or do they deserve sterner reproof? Dan Savage leaps to their defense. Click here to read "Sticking Up for Sinners."

The Groen Club at Calvin College has no official history. What did Evan Runner, its sponsor, make of it? Click here to read "Runner on the Groen Club."


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. What I mean to do in this space is comment on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

Terrorism and globalization. Much is written on these two pet aggravations of life in the twenty-first century. I find myself pulling a face almost every time they are mentioned. Of course one of them is supposed to be good, and one bad. But I am inclined to regard them both as bad. Still, because I am trying to retain something of an open mind, I took Alan Shipman's book The Globalization Myth (Cambridge, England: Icon Books, 2002) with me on vacation a few months ago. I ground my teeth some of the time while reading, but in the end I wound up respecting the argument. Philosophers don't know enough about economics, and often wind up speaking too soon. There may be more to the issue than we realize.

To find out what globalization has to do with terrorism and to get some light on what's upsetting so many Muslims of late, I recommend a pair of books by Bernard Lewis of Princeton University. The first of them is What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East (HarperCollins, 2002). Lewis was not one who was awakened by 9/11: the book was largely written by then but was given added relevance by the horrifying attack.

Lewis has been writing about the Middle East for many years. He supplements his fine account of the Muslim grievance in a book called The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (Random House, 2003). These two books are highly recommended for those who are still responding to 9/11 in "high-blood-pressure mode."

Also good on Islam and the twin challenges of terrorism and globalization is Roger Scruton's book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2002). Particularly sobering is what he says about the breeding ground for terrorism lying not in the supposedly backward and fanatical countries of the Middle East but in the overly broad-minded democracies of the West. More money for security and the military will not suffice to meet the challenge we now face: philosophical reform is needed! Scruton, after all, is a philosopher and does a masterful job of demonstrating the relevance of philosophical question to issues that face people in everyday life.

What a dope I was! I've never quite mastered the art of instructing others by telling tales about my own foibles -- some dumb thing I did (which only goes to show that ...), or some stupid idea or assumption I once fell for. But I have read many books and essays in this vein. The latest is David Denby American Sucker (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 2004), which deals with the dot-com madness that afflicted us just a few short years ago, when so many thought they would become rich by buying stocks in high-tech and internet companies that had never made a penny but had great promise for the future.

Denby, a film critic by trade, got caught up in the hysteria for personal reasons which he explains in the book. Along the way he learned a great deal about finance. His book also paints telling portraits of supposed gurus of high finance, on whose say-so Denby and countless other "suckers" (his term) gambled the family farm (or retirement nest egg) and lost. Denby may be a fool for falling for these shysters, but he is a wonderful writer. And one cannot help liking the man.

How much is enough? When does one get out? Deep questions indeed. Denby's book is the story of an encounter with greed. It took courage to expose one's own follies at such length. I salute the man, and I recommend the book to readers who, like me, might feel inclined to say: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

General information

This electronic journal is my way of keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, and so forth. It does not have a regular publication schedule. Feel free to download it and pass it around. You may even wish to send me a comment; I do not guarantee a response to each communication. If you wish to repost anything in this journal, please let me know. If you care to print something in paper form, this can also be arranged, provided that I retain the copyright so that I will remain free in my use of the material. Please regard the materials in Myodicy as copyrighted by me, except in the case of articles written by someone else. What is written in Myodicy should not be regarded as reflecting any official position or policy of Redeemer University College.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

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