Saturday, September 20, 2014

A new web-log you may find interesting

A friend of mine has started a new web-log, Departing Horeb, which will be about Orthodox theology as informed by Biblical scholarship and the history of the ancient Near East. The name comes from the incident when, after the revelation of the glory of God to all of Israel at Horeb (Sinai), they are commanded to go into the wilderness. This is representative of the spiritual life - we are shown God, and then we enter a long, hard journey with little to comfort us. It is hard to leave Horeb, but necessary. As the name suggests, he is willing to tackle the hard questions that you run into in the wilderness and will have little of that damnable "certainty" people often claim to have. The first bit of actual content is also about a subject which I have been interested in: the biblical commands to beat your children with a stick.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A certain segment of the population would be scandalized.

A certain Christian leader has a more complicated relationship with God than simple 100% certainty 100% of the time.

I find it refreshing that the leader of some large Christian group is willing to discuss openly the interplay of doubt and faith for a modern audience, since I am quite certain that it was not problematic to have this sort of posture in the distant past (it would be expressed somewhat differently), but in the modern era any sort of intellectual questioning in some circles became completely subversive and was repressed. In many corners of Christendom, this leads to an official fideism with a large number of, say, teenagers running off to college to find that the pat religious instructions about faith which do not admit any sort of "doubt" cause them to abandon God because they can't stop the questions. And questions mean you are doubting, so you have no faith. This is an unfortunate conclusion. But uncertainty is scary and it takes quite a lot of courage to admit uncertainty and unknow what you know. It is terra incognita. But the sane people have learned to deal with it. But there are no easy answers.

Or maybe the world began 7522 years ago and we do have all the answers. The real problem of doubt is how do we crucify the mind so that we ignore everything that appears to be true about the world. Answer: faith!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What is the Orthodox stance on beating your children?

On the one hand, the Bible commands us to do so (with a stick!). Further, it is legal in these United States. Therefore, it is a very popular option for American Christian Conservatives and therefore for many Orthodox Christians as well. I suspect most "spare the rod", but I think many would be surprised at how often implements gets used. One proponent of the "beating your children" camp is popular internet commentator Fr John Whiteford. He ably makes the scriptural case (and includes patristic references) for hitting your children, perhaps with sticks, when they misbehave. It is not only a permissible option in this view, but a mandatory one.

On the other hand, all the research indicates that beating your children has bad outcomes in the long run and in the short run doesn't do better than other effective methods of discipline. It further teaches children that hitting people is an appropriate way of getting things in order. For more on the research, see this article (note: it's a review article in a law journal by a scientist, not a science article, but it seems to be a fair summary of the research). In short, it doesn't work as well as other forms of discipline as discipline and it has bad side effects.

I'm not saying you are a bad parent if you beat your children (perhaps with a stick). I'm suggesting that you should reconsider your methods in light of the damage you are causing, despite what some appear to think the Church teaches about the proper way to discipline your child (ie with a stick).