Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 4
June 1997

Published by Theodore Plantinga

In this issue ....

Are you looking forward to being "dejobbed"? Futurists seem to like the idea, but the voters are against it. Click here to read "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs."

Are some people more married than others? Is marital status a matter of interpretation nowadays? Click here to read "Marriage as an Honorific Estate."

Lots of new stuff has come out about Schilder lately. Has it helped us overcome the great rift? Click here to read "Commemorating Schilder: Have We Learned Anything Yet?"


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. If I inform you of a website, I will simply pass on the address. But for the most part I will comment here on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

What this country needs .... When I attended St. John's High School, a large public school in Winnipeg, the students were quite active politically -- much more than the students in the Christian high school in Hamilton which my daughter now attends. A favorite student cause was the "ban the bomb" movement. We were in favor of nuclear disarmament. I'm not sure just where I stood on the issue; I was Vice President of the student body during my grade 11 year, and I suppose that, like most politicians, I played my cards close to my chest. But I do recall that I -- like virtually every student -- was convinced that Canada should not possess nuclear weapons. I persevered in that conviction all my life. I think I hold it still, but I'm not entirely sure. You see, David Frum has confronted us with a modest argument for Canada getting its own "force de frappe," as the French like to call it. The argument forms a small part of a recent collection of essays and short pieces entitled What's Right: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America (New York: Basic Books, 1996). Most of the book, as the title indicates, is about US issues, but there is some stuff on Canada, for Frum is a Canadian who continues to follow our politics with interest. Frum worries about "the seeping psychic costs of taking shelter behind the warships, troops, and missiles of someone else," which, he claims, "have gnawed at the country's always fragile self-esteem." The upshot? "Canada has tried to compensate for this military dependency by erecting cultural and economic barriers to foreign influence. It hasn't worked. The trouble with Canada is not that it doesn't produce its own television shows, but that it doesn't defend its own borders" (p. 147). In other words, what this country needs is not a good five-cent cigar but an atomic bomb -- or probably a whole bunch of them. I'm not yet convinced but it is certainly an interesting argument. For the rest, the book is made up of essays on leading political figures on the right, reflections on public policy issues, and book reviews. It's well worth a look.

O Brave New World ... Just recently I read Bill Gates's book The Road Ahead, which is his insider's look at the brave new world of new technologies that he and others are bringing us. Gates is a man whom many people seem to fear and/or dislike. I rather liked him -- at least in his author's persona. I'm sure computer experts scoff at the book, but those whose computer interest is mainly cultural can learn a good deal from it, as I certainly did. If you haven't read the book yet but plan to, do get the so-called revised edition (Penguin, 1996), which he published after he "got religion" concerning the internet, for much of the interesting speculation concerning the future is bound up with the phenomenon of the internet. There is also speculation on how the computers of the future will respond not to your keyboarded input but to your voice and even your gestures (to say nothing of your doodles). It sounds rather fanciful to me; I'd rather communicate via the keyboard. It may be somewhat feasible technically to gesture and bark at the computer, but I doubt whether it will ever catch on. I still avoid the use of the mouse as much as I can. I much prefer keyboard-activated commands and macros.

Shuffle off to Buffalo? No, the lyrics of the old song do not quite fit here. Perhaps a half-truth. Mary-Leigh Morbey, Redeemer's lively art history prof, who has served us since 1984 (yes, back at the old campus), surprised and saddened the college community recently with her announcement that she was headed for Brock University in St. Catharines, which is about halfway to Buffalo. I don't know the inside story, but apparently she received an offer that was just too good to turn down, especially as regards research opportunities. Prof. Morbey will certainly be missed, most of all by her students, in whom she created a deep sense of involvement in the academic work of the college that sometimes left the other profs envious. Now, art has potential for such collaboration, since it involves working with material things -- and not just thinking disembodied Cartesian thoughts. But to orchestrate such a spirit of teamwork and collaboration is an impressive accomplishment. Suffice it to say that Prof. Morbey leaves big shoes behind. I'm not sure my clumsy metaphor adds up to a compliment that a lady would treasure, but I do wish her God's blessings on her work at Brock University.

What is the CRC synod up to? I don't have a synod report to offer, or even a commentary on one of the issues. But I do want to encourage Christian Reformed readers to reflect carefully on the changes being proposed by the so-called Board of Trustees of the denomination (not a Reformed notion, by the way) with regard to the relationship between the local congregation and the denomination. I believe the new proposals add up to a cardinal error. To find out what's at stake, read Cornel Venema's fine analysis in the June 1987 issue of Outlook, pp. 12-16. Venema maintains: "... the problem with these proposals lies in the doctrine of the church that they reflect" (p. 15). In this case, as in so many others, we need to dig into the presuppositions.

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.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

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