Sunday, the only people who showed up for our 9 am young adults class were me, the co-teacher I alternate with, and an older gentleman who wasn’t too thrilled with the study in his other group. This sort of turnout is not uncommon for young adults, sadly. There’s not much incentive to get up and study the Bible an hour before church. But, that’s another story. It was a start, at least.

I want to start this study by giving a general idea of the city of Corinth so we can understand what life was like for the Corinthian Christians.

Map of the Roman Empire [Click “view image” for a larger version.]

Corinth was a rich port city in the province of Achaia. The isthmus of Corinth connected the land of Achaia, which made it difficult to pass goods through that area, yet it nonetheless was possible to take goods by land to the other side of the isthmus and then use boats to continue the shipment. So, despite that oddity, the city was a fairly rich port town with just the right location to be a hub for sailing to/from Rome.

In addition to the decadence that comes with wealth, there’s the vice that comes with sailors on shore leave: gambling, binge drinking, and prostitution. On that last note, there was a temple to Aphrodite on the Pinnacle of Corinth, a mountain just south of the city. One could easily hire out a sacred prostitute and “worship” the deity.

Surrounded by decadence, (sometimes) dishonest business practices, and sexual immorality, we could say that the Corinthians lived in what today we could call a mix between L.A. and Las Vegas.

Now that we’ve gotten a handle on what sort of city Corinth was, I want to do a brief overview of what an epistle normally looks like.

Introduction: The author states his name and the name of his scribe, then the intended recipients, followed by a greeting. Back in those days, the author dictated aloud what he wanted to be written, and his scribe would jot it down in shorthand. Then, they’d go over it together and make corrections as needed, double-checking both what the scribe thought he heard and what the author meant. Then the scribe would write a second draft in complete words which was to be sent.

Opening prayer: Sometimes a mere formality, the opening prayer was a way to show concern for the person you were writing to. It was a natural way to build a connection before moving to the body of the letter. For most authors, it held no more genuine meaning than the “Dear so-and-so” of our letter formatting does.

After this was the body of the letter, and then closing greetings. Since not everyone had the resources or time to write, someone might hear that you’re writing to so-and-so and say, “oh! Tell them I said hi!” And that was usually put at the end.

It’s real.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has been in controversy for a while over what the Canadian National Post calls a “witch hunt.” Essentially, there are four small Christian schools that they’ve been investigating because the CAUT believes that these small schools, whose student bodies together total about 6,000, are not academically free because they require standards of Christian conduct as well as faculty statements of faith. You can find their statement of faith on academic freedom here. They believe that while individuals may be able to hold whatever biases they want, institutions must grant the absolute freedom “without restriction by prescribed doctrine” and without institutional censorship.

While I respect their beliefs, I’d ask them not to force it on me. Given that we live in a world with people of diverging faiths, it’s fair to have non-confessional institutions. However: is access to their definition of academic freedom threatened? Is the existence of academic freedom at stake in blacklisting four very small, private Christian universities?

It is not. One can very easily find it by going to one of the numerous non-confessional institutions situated throughout Canada and the U.S.

For more specific details in the case of one of the four schools, OnCampus has an article explaining some of the complications. That particular case seems like a gray area, and there were actual faculty complaints involved. In the other three schools, however, it does not seem that any complaints were involved.

The CAUT’s academic freedom statement of faith is clarified by their model clause on academic freedom, a template for universities to adopt. Their statement’s sixth bullet point says this:

Academic freedom must not be confused with institutional autonomy. Post-secondary institutions are autonomous to the extent that they can set policies independent of outside influence. That very autonomy can protect academic freedom from a hostile external environment, but it can also facilitate an internal assault on academic freedom. To undermine or suppress academic freedom is a serious abuse of institutional autonomy.

However, the counterpart in their model clause says

Academic freedom as a right belongs to individuals and not to the institution. Institutional autonomy shall not take precedence over academic freedom. Any claim by the employer that institutional autonomy takes priority over the academic freedom of individuals is a form of institutional censorship.

I believe this is the root of the problem: institutions themselves do not have academic freedom. This means that while individuals may commit to Christianity, it is unacceptable (they say) to have a Christian institution. If that were true, then institutions could be only nominally Christian in the same way Notre Dame is nominally Irish. Whereas genuine racial segregation in schooling is unacceptable, how is religious segregation of this sort also unacceptable?

To be part of a religion is not to have a strong tendency towards a particular worldview. No; it is to lay all the chips down and hold nothing back. 100% commitment is just part and parcel of what it means to be Christian. If the institution cannot demand this, then essentially it is unlawful to form a Christian institution.

For info on hiring bias in the other direction (secular school refusing to hire an evangelical), see also: the Inside Higher Ed piece “New Stars Shine on Christian Researcher” (HT: John Hobbins)

Every now and then I stumble across a blog post that is simply a gem to read. All too often, it’s John Hobbins over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry. But since he may be a sometimes-reader, I’m not going to spend time flattering him.

Today’s super-amazing post comes from Evangel, where Rev. McCain found an excellent piece of satire in regards to the ELCA decision to bless homosexual coupling.

Without further adieu: Temple Prostitution: A Modest Proposal.

I’ve never had an answer for that, although if a discussion of pacifism lasts for 15 minutes or more, one side or the other will bring up Hitler. It’s inevitable.

I’d say that the proper response is the one the Holy Spirit led within Germany. In other words, the one that actually happened. Here is an article from Time magazine’s Dec 23, 1940 issue, found on their archive: Religion: German Martyrs. Note how a certain famous Jewish agnostic would actually be moved by this response that he saw.

Apparently, that particular Jewish agnostic later said of this article: “It’s true that I made a statement which corresponds approximately with the text you quoted. I made this statement during the first years of the Nazi regime — much earlier than 1940 — and my expressions were a little more moderate.”

Amy K. Hall over at Evangel asks, “What are our Moral Blind Spots? I have often asked myself what future generations will condemn us for. She points to a Washington Post article written by Princeton professor of Philosophy Kwame Anthony Appiah that sets down three characteristics our past moral blind spots have had in common:

1. Proponents of the practice have already heard counterarguments and dismissed them.

2. Proponents of the practice do not provide moral counterarguments, but only argue from tradition, human nature, or necessity.

3. Proponents engage in willful ignorance of what Al Gore calls “inconvenient truths.”

Amy Hall herself points out a vital characteristic from a Christian perspective: past atrocities involve a denial of the intrinsic human value of a certain group of human beings.

Amy lists the four contenders Kwame listed in his WaPo article that meet his three criteria for potential blind spots: our prison system, factory farming, the isolation of the elderly, and the environment. She then asks us to list more possible blind spots.

Naturally, I would have to add:

abortion: sets the unborn as second-class human beings or as non-human. See William Brennan’s Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives for a brief history of dehumanizing speech and how it promotes atrocities. You’ll see a shocking set of parallels between the way people spoke of blacks, Jews, women, etc. and how some speak of the unborn today.

terrorism: self-explanatory.

war (especially nuclear): No threat is more terrifying than the capacity and implicit willingness to wipe out an entire population and leave the ground naught but a radioactive wasteland. Abortion looks at the lives of two and [usually] kills one to the perceived benefit of the other. A two-way war likewise ruins one side to the perceived benefit of the other. Both are, at best, 50% effective.

pornography: fuels sexual addictions and is itself a sexual addiction apart from satyriasis/nymphomania. Women are used up and thrown away; both men and women have their views of sex corrupted by porn.

abuse of women’s rights: lower wages for doing the same job just as well as men; sexual exploitation; discrimination in employment; exploitation by doctors — why get a radioactive mammogram yearly to check for breast cancer, when radioactivity can cause cancer?!

abuse of men’s rights: men have no say in whether their unborn children live or die; men get less than half custody in divorce but must still pay half the child’s upkeep; the rape case motto of “a woman never lies” trumps the golden rule of “innocent until proven guilty; nobody seems bothered that men live 5 years less on average and commit suicide 4 times as frequently; lack of “prostate cancer awareness month”; discrimination in employment; public reacts with less horror when men suffer violence or rape; men get heavier sentences for the same crime, thus are more vulnerable to prison rape since imprisoned more frequently

So, there’s the additions I’d make to the list and some brief reasons why. Are there any you’d add as possible moral blind spots? Any reasons on mine you’d elaborate? Anything on my list you wouldn’t put on yours?

Now that I experience the joy of WordPress, let’s have a discussion.