Archives for July 2011

no such thing as moral relativism

So says Paul Boghossian in the New York Times, “The Maze of Moral Relativism”. He argues instead that attempts to hold to moral relativism only turns into nihilism, surely an unsatisfactory conclusion. In the end, he says, there have to be moral absolutes. He doesn’t appear to derive this from any revelation, but merely from logic. His column is interesting, regardless whether you agree or disagree with is conclusions.

Relativism about morality has come to play an increasingly important role in contemporary culture.  To many thoughtful people, and especially to those who are unwilling to derive their morality from a religion, it appears unavoidable.  Where would absolute facts about right and wrong come from, they reason, if there is no supreme being to decree them? We should reject moral absolutes, even as we keep our moral convictions, allowing that there can be right and wrong relative to this or that moral code, but no right and wrong per se.


The argument is significant because it shows that we should not rush to give up on absolute moral facts, mysterious as they can sometimes seem, for the world might seem even more mysterious without any normative vocabulary whatsoever.


typing oot fast

Do you ever find that your typing gets a little garbled, your fingers get ahead of your mind and the result is a mess?

One typo I do all the time is “ot” when I mean “to”. I think this happens because I am frequently typing NT and OT for the Testaments. This used to drive me crazy. I hate lifting my hand from the keyboard to fix this with spell-check so I created a Word macro to fix this on the fly.

Here it is:

Sub FixOT()

‘ FixOT Macro
‘ Macro recorded 1/1/99 by Donald C S Johnson

    Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdWord, Count:=1
    Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1, Extend:=wdExtend
    Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1
    Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=1
End Sub

I have this Macro attached to the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl-Shift-O”. It only works when you are one space past the typo… “ot “ (just before the second quote in the example.

And… I find that my fingers sometimes zip along and type “si” for “is” and “eb” for “be” and “yb” for “by” and any number of other dumb typing errors. My little macro gets used a lot.

If only it could fix all my typos… I still have plenty in the big words too!

It’s something like the way I talk. One of my friends used to say, “My tongue gets tangled around my eye-teeth and I can’t see what I’m saying.”

I don’t know if this of any interest to anyone, but it’s Friday and I have been making these typos a lot this week!


Choir of Creation – Ps 148

We are nearing the end of our study of the Psalms. Just two more to go! Tonight’s offering was Ps 148, a beautifully crafted psalm, full of powerful thoughts concerning God and his relationship to his people. As I presented the material, I felt a little ‘flat’, not as engaged as I had anticipated in the study. As I was thinking the process over, I thought that this was one psalm that could have used some visual aids and perhaps a bit different style. I alternate between a preaching style and a ‘Question/Answer’ style for the Psalms. (The Q & A style is also known as “read my mind”, since I seem to come up with incredibly obscure questions. I need to learn how to write leading questions!)

Psalm 148 is called the Choir of Creation by Derek Kidner, one of the supreme commentators on the Psalms. His little work is just outstanding and has taught me an incredible amount about Hebrew poetry and how to pick out the features of the psalms, not to mention keen insights into each individual psalm.

[Read more…]

that Martin!

I am reading an e-book translation of Martin Luther’s letter to a friend on translation. You can find it here: An Open Letter on Translating. The style is certainly Luther, in full bombast mode. To our ears, it sounds alternately crude, rude, and hilarious. Here is a paragraph I read to my wife, it should give you a flavor…

Now when the angel greets Mary, he says: “Greetings to you, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Well up to this point, this has simply been translated from the simple Latin, but tell me is that good German? Since when does a German speak like that—being "full of grace"? One would have to think about a keg "full of" beer or a purse "full of" money. So I translated it: "You gracious one". This way a German can at last think about what the angel meant by his greeting. Yet the papists rant about me corrupting the angelic greeting—and I still have not used the most satisfactory German translation. What if I had used the most satisfactory German and translated the salutation: "God says hello, Mary dear" (for that is what the angel was intending to say and what he would have said had he even been German!). If I had, I believe that they would  have hanged themselves out of their great devotion to dear Mary and because I have destroyed the greeting.

Bro. Martin is arguing against a charge that he mistranslated Rm 3.28 by adding in the word ‘alone’ to modify ‘faith’ where it says:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Martin’s point is that in translating, getting the meaning is more important than seeking a word-for-word correspondence. (He also says something to this effect, ‘If the papists don’t like my translation, let them write one of their own.’ He says this in a characteristically Martin-esque way.)

His letter is instructive and something that all of us concerned with the Bible and its translation should bear in mind. And it is entertaining to read at certain points!


commending a new blog

I’d like to introduce a new blog to you. It is written by an on-line friend who is known as “JG” on Sharper Iron. I have long appreciated JG’s contributions in the SI forum and have had some correspondence privately with him over the years that has been a blessing.

JG recently started writing at Mind Renewers. He is not a ranter and raver like me! I think you will find his writing challenging and uplifting.


the kindle changes many things

I haven’t posted for a while. I think the reason is my new Kindle. I have entered the e-book era with a vengeance, a little late, I suppose, but  I entered it nonetheless.

A whole world of e-books is available, much of it for no charge. Check out Project Gutenberg for many titles, already formatted for the Kindle.

In addition, I have saved many pdf books, booklets, and articles on my hard-drive over the years, meaning to read them later. My Kindle makes this much easier to accomplish. You can copy your pdf files right over to the Kindle, although you may want to edit the font size for best viewing … or convert that pdf to a Kindle format book. I have discovered several free software packages for performing this task and for managing Kindle content.

  • Calibre is a library and conversion program. I think you can convert books from B & N’s Nook format and other e-publishing formats into the Kindle format. (You can also convert from Kindle format to other formats if you use a different sort of reader.) Really an excellent program.
  • MobiPocket Creator is a program that converts pdfs into e-publishing format. I have discovered that it may require some formatting and html coding in some books, but it does get you started on the project. This site also offers books for sale, but I would recommend staying away from that portion of the site.
  • Sigil is a program that edits html and saves it in epub format. This allows you to customize your file to display how you would like it. Some knowledge of html is required.

There are other programs out there, perhaps some better than these. I’ve found these helpful, but my projects take on a life of their own and often consume a good deal of time.

As for reading, I find the Kindle to be quite handy – I seem to read a little faster with it as well. You do need good lighting, the e-ink technology can be read in sunlight, but no backlighting makes my living room somewhat problematic in the evenings.

I also am using the Kindle for preaching. I write my sermons in my ‘normal’ 8.5 by 5.5 templates and then copy and paste into a special template for the Kindle. I have to boost the font to 25 or 30 points, then print to a pdf, then copy over to the Kindle. But from there, the file reads very well in the pulpit and it means I can get away from my compulsive saving of paper notes.

One of these days,  I’d like to get an iPad for the preaching – it wouldn’t require “pumping up the fonts”, at least from having a look at a friend’s iPad. And it might be way more cool. However, for now, the Kindle is an affordable and very adequate solution.