Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Dr. Gaffin Weighs In

In response to my post about the proper spelling of Van Tilian, Dr. Richard Gaffin, Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, sent me the following note:

I’ve read your “Van Tilian or Van Tillian? The Debate Settled” with considerable interest and appreciation/satisfaction. It addresses what has been one of my pet peeves over the years.

May I add to your reasons one, it seems to me, even more decisive? There are two Dutch surnames, Van Till as well as Van Til (e.g. Howard Van Till, an emeritus professor at Calvin College). So, Van Tillian is correct only for Van Till, as it can only be Van Tilian for Van Til!

I think we can stick a fork in this debate, because it’s done.

Van Tilian or Van Tillian? The Debate Settled

Cornelius Van TilScholars have long debated the proper pronunciation of the name ‘Augustine’. Should it be aw-GUS-tin, as argued here, or AW-gus-teen, as argued here? (For the record: the former is correct.)

Equally important, if not more so, is the debate over whether one who follows the apologetic method of Cornelius Van Til is properly labeled Van Tilian or Van Tillian. Here I offer three arguments for the former. Taken together these arguments surely provide a decisive answer to this longstanding dispute.

1. Argument from Statistics

Standard Google searches for the relevant phrases turn up the following counts:

  • VanTilian — about 1,600 results
  • Van Tilian — about 11,600 results
  • Combined — about 13,200 results
  • VanTillian — about 4,760 results
  • Van Tillian — about 7,970 results
  • Combined — about 12,730 results

The winner, by a nose: Van Tilian.

2. Argument from Analogy

Consider:

  • Brazil → Brazilian
  • Civil → Civilian
  • Virgil → Virgilian

Therefore:

  • Van Til → Van Tilian

3. Argument from Parsimony

“Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” (William of Ockham)

A second L is obviously unnecessary, therefore: Van Tilian.

Q.E.D.

Christian Prisoners of Conscience

A call to pray for Pastor Wang Yi:

https://barnabasfund.org/us/Christian-Prisoners-of-Conscience/Wang-Yi

See also Pastor Wang’s “declaration of faithful disobedience”. Christians in the West will often quote Matthew 10:28; he is living it out as an example to all of us.

Nothing Outside the Text

“There is nothing outside the text” is arguably the most famous (and most debated) pronouncement of Jacques Derrida.

Suitably reinterpreted, I suggest it would serve as a good motto for aspiring preachers — and perhaps for some seasoned preachers too!

Who knows: maybe the French provocateur would have approved of this gratuitous reconstruction of his maxim. Vive la différance!

To Err is Humorous (2017 Edition)

It’s that most wonderful time of the year: grading season. As I’ve noted before, there’s an occasional silver lining to this otherwise purgatorial duty, namely, occasionally encountering an amusing typo or other lapsus calami. Five years ago I posted a collection of these gaffes, and as an act of solidarity with my fellow professors, I now post a second batch. (All are genuine.)

First, however, let me repeat some important words of qualification from my earlier post:

I should emphasize that most of these are innocent mistakes and no reflection on the abilities of the students who wrote them. Some of them appeared in otherwise excellent papers. They’re the sort of errors any of us could make, and many of us have made, especially when under the pressure of a deadline or ambushed by the AutoCorrect feature of our word processors. So enjoy them, but don’t forget that these are human errors — and we’re all human.

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To Err is Humorous (Sometimes)

I love my job. But one part of it I could happily forgo: grading papers. I know I’m far from alone. (One of my colleagues quips, “I teach for free, but they have to pay me to grade papers.”) I estimate that I’m looking down the barrel at nearly 40 hours of grading for this semester’s classes.

However, this oppressive cloud does have a (thin) silver lining: the opportunity to encounter some amusing typos or bloopers. I’ve collected a number of these gems since I started teaching, and this would certainly be a fitting time of year to share them. But before I do, I should emphasize that most of these are innocent mistakes and no reflection on the abilities of the students who wrote them. Some of them appeared in otherwise excellent papers. They’re the sort of errors any of us could make, and many of us have made, especially when under the pressure of a deadline or ambushed by the AutoCorrect feature of our word processors. So enjoy them, but don’t forget that these are human errors — and we’re all human.

With that caveat in place, I dedicate the following to all of my fallow grazers.

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The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of “Blogger’s Block”
























References

  1. Upper, D. (1974) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 7, 479.
  2. Molloy, G.N. (1983) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: a replication. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 566.
  3. Hermann, B.P. (1984) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: a partial failure to replicate. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 350.
  4. Olson, K.R. (1984) Unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: a review of the literature. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 59, 158.
  5. Skinner, N.F., Perlini, A.H., Fric, L., Werstine, E.P., and Calla, J. (1985) The unsuccessful group-treatment of “writer’s block.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 61, 298.
  6. Skinner, N.F., and Perlini, A.H. (1996) The unsuccessful group-treatment of “writer’s block”: a ten-year follow-up. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 82, 138.

Three Fundamental Laws of the Internet

Three fundamental laws of the Internet:

  1. Data Persists.
  2. Emails Escape.
  3. Passwords Break.

From which three injunctions follow:

  1. Don’t post or publish anything to the Internet that 5, 10, or 20 years from now you might not want people to see.
  2. Don’t write anything in a private email that you couldn’t bear to become public.
  3. Don’t be the weakest link in the chain: choose strong passwords, keep them secure, and change them regularly. (You can check the strength of your current passwords here and generate new ones here.)

Epictetus on Scholarly Braggadocio

I came across the following gem in the Enchiridion of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus:

If someone brags because he understands the books of Chrysippus and can explain them, say to yourself: “If Chrysippus had not written unclearly, this fellow would have nothing to brag about.” (49)

For further comic effect, try replacing ‘Chrysippus’ with the name of almost any celebrated modern theologian.

Run by Baptists?

Presbyterian Rehabilitation Center

I pass this van on the way to church every Sunday morning and it never fails to give me a chuckle. Silly, I know.