Academic smackdowns #1

From John Stackhouse, Making the Best of It, 208, n. 34:

This is just one of many places in which I could signal, as I do now, both my frequent confusion about what Stanley Hauerwas is saying in his many writings, and my likely disagreement with him on some (but by no means all) key points. … Indeed, given Brother Hauerwas’s current prominence, I must confess that I find him—despite his oft-praised penchant for the exciting phrase—so frequently obscure, as well as so frequently implausible, that I have focused my attention herein on the more intelligible and provocative work of his mentor, John Howard Yoder.

David Davis on the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill

Great interview in the Guardian with David Davis:

In every other country in the world, post-Snowden, people are holding their government’s feet to the fire on these issues, but in Britain we idly let this happen. We’re the country that invented James Bond and we like our spies. We have a wonderful illusion about our security services, a very comforting illusion. But it means we’re too comfortable. Because for the past 200 years we haven’t had a Stasi or a Gestapo, we are intellectually lazy about it, so it’s an uphill battle. Even people who are broadly on my side of the political spectrum in believing in privacy and liberty tend to take the state at its word too often.

Paperless productivity

I’ve had a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 for ages, and have recently been making a bigger effort to keep on top of scanning & shredding. A couple of tweaks have helped a lot with this.

The first is installing the ScanSnap ix500 software over top of the S1300 software. This comes with a separate application (Scannable PDF converter) for OCR-ing the PDF files. You can choose this as the destination for the ScanSnap manager, and then also set ScanSnap manager to do its work in the background (Preferences, Status Display, uncheck “Show the scan progress status”).

I then used the instructions on this page to make the Scannable PDF converter app run in the background. Note that I’d already set it to OCR the files immediately, and had set up the directory structure to scan into.

Now when I have a spare moment I just put a document in the scanner. Even if the computer’s screen is locked, the scan and OCR take place in the background, and if I’m using the machine nothing shows up on screen.

All the resulting files end up in Documents/Inbox, and I’ve put a shortcut to the Inbox folder in my Finder sidebar. I’ve also configured the View settings for the Inbox folder to show just the name of the file and date added, with a large preview pane beside the folder list. I can then easily work my way through the scanned files.

Next I’m going to start using Hazel to pick out those files which are easy to move into my folder structure and automate their filing.

Email apps

The Mac email app leaves droppings all over my Gmail Drafts folders, is very slow at sending messages, and has no integration with my todo apps (Asana + something else). Search works perfectly though, and given that I have about 50,000 messages saved search has to be perfect for my email.

Problems with other apps:

  • Mail Pilot: no Exchange support, todo within email not integrated to other apps
  • Mailbox: no Exchange support, no todo integrations
  • Airmail: bit clunky, can integrate with Things/Omni/Evernote but not Asana/Wunderlist etc., no iOS app
  • CloudMagic: iOS app is almost perfect, great integrations and interface, but no Mac app

GTD apps

My ideal GTD app would offer:

  • great native interface on Mac and iOS
  • reliable fast sync
  • next/later/someday split
  • shared lists or even better, ability to delegate tasks
  • location reminders like Checkmark (i.e. multiple physical locations for a location category, such as “Groceries”)

Nice to have:

  • Reminders auto-import
  • Ability for 3rd party apps to interact (mainly email clients)

Reasons why I don’t like particular apps:

  • Todoist: due-date-based interface; you can do GTD but it’s clearly not the priority, Mac app is clunky
  • Things: no sharing, no location reminders, limited app integration
  • Wunderlist: no location reminders, no someday category
  • Checkmark: location reminders can’t be in a project/list, no Mac app, no app integration
  • OmniFocus: no sharing, complicated interface, Mac App especially takes way too much screen space per task, limited app integration
  • 2Do: clunky interface, sync unreliable
  • Asana: clunky interface (still my preference for teams but not good enough for personal GTD), no Mac app

Novum Testamentum article

My journal article on Jesus and debt-forgiveness, with the catchy title, “Did Jesus Oppose the prosbul in the Forgiveness Petition of the Lord’s Prayer?”, has been published in the current issue of Novum Testamentum. Here’s the abstract:

NT 56.3_233-244_1447_Drake.indd

The forgiveness petition of the Lord’s Prayer includes the condition that the petitioner must forgive their own “debtors,” widely taken to be a metaphorical reference to sin- forgiveness. In this article, I argue that to Jesus’ contemporaries “debt” would have been an unusual way of referring to sin, and that the choices made by the Matthean and Lukan redactors show that they understood the Jesus-saying to enjoin debt-forgiveness as well as sin-forgiveness. The prosbul was the only way for pious contemporaries to avoid the Torah’s requirement to periodically forgive debts, and so Jesus opposed the prosbul by enjoining precisely the behaviour which the prosbul made unnecessary.



Tolerance is often seen as a great virtue in Western societies, and has at times been held out as a moral absolute. The problem is that some points of view seem intolerable. Most obviously, those calling for universal tolerance cannot generally tolerate those who are themselves intolerant or call on others to be intolerant.

To those who are not Christian, the views of Christians are sometimes intolerable, and this results in inconsistency over the degree to which tolerance is commanded as a public virtue. Christians, particularly evangelicals, are often urged to be tolerant of ethical systems which contradict our own viewpoint. Disagreeing with the majority in society is seen as disagreeable behaviour. Our own views cannot be tolerated.

But I was fascinated to see the same kind of argument being made in an academic theological review recently. As I was reading through the latest set of RBL reviews, I noticed that this rather critical reviewer starts her concluding paragraph with this statement:

That people are more willing to adhere to biblically based theological convictions than they are to searching out the implications of their convictions is something that we, in the twenty-first century, can no longer afford to tolerate from otherwise loving people.

The reviewer agrees with the book’s author about what the text of 1 Peter says. But while she is refreshingly honest that her disagreement is with the Biblical text (rather than simply its interpretation), I was rather horrified by her explicit statement that those who honestly follow the injunctions of the Bible must not be tolerated any longer.


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