Friday, December 31, 2010

Cultural approach to organizations

In the HBO hit series The Sopranos, each meeting of the mafia bosses and “made men” began and ended with a handshake and hug where all the participants gave each other a firm couple of slaps on the back while standing in momentary embrace. Simple social gestures such as these handshakes and hugs are laden with meaning in many different cultures, but they don’t necessarily hold the same measure of meaning whenever they are employed. For instance, in the Sopranos episodes, these gestures functioned as forms of social communication and were designed to reinforce bonds of peace and loyalty between mafia members; however, when these gestures were not exchanged between members at the beginning and of meetings called “sit downs” it indicated that there was division and possibly even hostility brewing between the parties in question, which could eventually have serious if not deadly consequences if the problem was not resolved. It hardly goes without saying, that physical gestures such as handshakes and hugging, communicate that same kind of meaning and significance in most cultural settings. The difference in meaning does not lie in the physical exchange itself, rather it owes to a communal attribution assigned to these gestures when performed in certain situations. This concept of assigned meanings for such mundane social interactions as handshakes and hugs illustrates how certain activities within organizations take on the function of ritual, designed to communicate values and meaning which are important within the framework of a given organizational context. Other communicative features, beyond rituals, of organizational life which provide insight into the values and culture of an organization are stories, myths, vocabulary, and metaphors. These various modes of communication form the backbone of the approach to organizational study called “cultural theory” of organizational analysis.

Cultural theory

Organizational research, from a communication perspective, took a new turn in the early 1980’s when Pacanowski and O’donnell-Trujillo (1982) proposed an alternative approach to studying organizations. Three primary issues were identified as reasons justifying the proposal for a different approach to organizational analysis: the conceptualization of what constituted an organization, the managerial bias predominant in organizational studies literature, and the dominant use of quantitative methods of analysis. A case was made by Pacanowski and O’donnell-Trujillo that the balance of organizational literature focused too narrowly on business firms and government agencies, while virtually no attention was paid to other kinds of organizations, resulting in a truncated understanding of the operations of organizations. In place of such a narrow focus, they argued that an organization is “the interlocked actions of collectivity” (p.122). What they meant was that an organization consists of places where people gather to get things done including everything from business firms to Friday poker nights to discreet family units. By enlarging the definition and conceptualization of organization, a door was opened for a broader analysis of the inner workings of groups or collectives united around certain loyalties, commitments, values, and associations. Another concern, managerial bias, added a further argument in favor of their proposal. Noting that “more things are going on in organizations than getting the job done” they complained that a managerial bias in research tended to focus narrowly on issues of utility and efficiency without ever looking under the other stones which comprised the life of an organization (p.116). Finally, they pointed out that the almost exclusive use of quantitative methods of analysis biased the research findings and imposed unnecessary limitations on research. To address the research constraints created by a quantitative methodology, they proposed an ethnographic approach to organizational study where researchers would have the opportunity to observe, interview, and analyze so that “the organizational experiences are understood in terms of the understandings of organizational members” (p.127).

Having identified concerns related above, which were typical of what was, at that time, the “traditional” approach to organizational studies, Pacanowski and O’donnell-Trujillo (1982), outlined a cultural approach to organizational studies which was consciously and explicitly “communication-based” (p.121). The underlying rationale for a communication-based approach was their working presupposition that communication creates and sustains organizational life and reality; by analyzing the various modes of communication employed in a specific organization, researchers would be able to understand how communication was used by organizational members to make sense of their experience and thus, would “uncover an organizations culture” (p.124). In order to get at the meaning constructed by organizational members by means of communication, and in turn uncover the organizational culture, they proposed that researchers study “indicators and displayers of organizational sense-making” including, but not limited to: constructs, facts, practices, vocabulary, metaphors, stories, and rites and rituals (p.124-126). Through becoming embedded within a culture in order to gain firsthand knowledge through observation and interviews, the researcher is enabled to build a plausible case for how organizational members “communicatively make sense of their interlocked actions” (p.127). The concerns, methods, and communication focus set forth by Pacanowski and O’donnell-Trujillo (1982) form the backdrop and constituent parts of the cultural approach to organizational analysis which was further developed in subsequent research by communication scholars.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Communication as dialogue

Dialogue and the situated individual

On account of the very nature of the human social situation, all human communication is dialogue according to Eisenberg, Goodall, & Tretheway (2010). Humans are “situated individuals” caught up in the dialectical tension between what Mead calls “the story of I” and “the story of me” (38). This distinction amounts to what a person is in their closet (the story of I) versus the person they are in the world (story of me). In the closet, they have a developed sense of self, with their own unique thoughts, creative insights, and personal identity while in the social world, they feel the pull to think and act according the constraints prevailing within their community. In this sense, constraints are limitations set upon the creativity and freedom of the self in “the story of I” and help form the context for the self in interpreting and then appropriately navigating the social world in “the story of me” (38). Since the human social experience does not exist in radical isolation, but is rather inescapably caught up in this interface between the public and private self, communication is appropriately understood as dialogue. '

Dialogue as mindful communication

Dialogue represents the intersection of the individual and the community in a conversation about the meaning or interpretation of things effecting both groups. At the level of individual self, participation in this constructive conversation begins with conscious thoughtful reflection. This is what Eisenberg et al., call “mindful communication” (41). When a particular group is faced with conflict or possible negative outcomes, individuals come together and communicate mindfully in order to construct an interpretation which is rational and strategic. At the group level, conversation includes “listening” as thoughtful ideas are communicated. This added dimension of listening now draws into the discussion the concepts of equity and quality.

Dialogue as equitable transaction

Equity, in group conversation, addresses the problem of “voice.” Voice, according to Eisenberg et al., involves not only the questions of who may participate in the conversation, when, and for how long, but the additional question of whether individuap participants maintain the confidence that they are permitted to contribute their perspective without fear of reprisal at the hands of the dominant (43).  This issue of voice is an especially important consideration in situations where tensions exist between opinions of superiors and subordinates. In a situation such as this, the outstanding concern is not only who will be allowed to speak but who will be heard, and why? This last thought leads to a discussion of the quality of communication.

Dialogue as empathic communication

One response to the set of questions addressed in the concern above, about who would be allowed to speak and be heard is that of empathic communication. Empathic communication is “the ability to understand or imagine the world as another person understands or imagines it” (43). This perspective represents an attempt to try to appreciate opinions of others without being judgmental of those viewpoints which are contradictory to the prevailing opinion. In the sense that it offers voice to members in conversation and permits participation without vilification it does address the questions raised, but only up to a point. It has been successfully argued by Buber, that empathic communication tends to objectify other participants rather than include them as fellow interpreters. Buber’s concern is that merely permitting verbal participation without judgment does not necessarily entail voice for the other person if the opinion is immediately discarded all the while leaving the superficial impression that all parties are equal participants in dialogue.

Dialogue as real meeting

The counterproposal to empathic communication is dialogue as real meeting (43). On this construction, dialogue is built on a foundation of mutual respect for all involved and it acknowledges all parties as equal interpreters. Two components sharply distinguish this perspective from empathic communication. First, in dialogue as real meeting, all who contribute to the dialogue share responsibility for the conversation and are equally responsible for the risks taken as a result of the dialogue. This clearly goes beyond permitting participation without judgment in that it invites participation for all who desire to share responsibility for the outcome whether it ends up positively or negatively. Second, in dialogue as real meeting, discussion is not merely for the purpose of exchanging ideas or information in order to learn, it is engaged in for the purpose of revising how the parties involved actually understand something (46). Obviously, this involves far more than simply getting someone’s “take” on a situation for the sake of information; it involves being open to changing an opinion as the result of soliciting the perspective of another. Taking such a risk in opening up this kind of dialogue certainly requires that enormous respect must be granted up front to those invited into such a conversation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mediatorial Kingship of Jesus Christ Pt.3 (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

Having addressed the relationship of the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ to the bodily resurrection of believers from 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, I want to focus attention on a different issue. Intertwined around Paul's theologically rich exposition of the guarantee of bodily resurrection, is some very profound insight into the nature of Christ's contemporary kingdom rule. Specifically, this text leads us to engage the debate which centers on the so-called TWO-KINGDOM THEOLOGY. Our aim in this post is to concentrate on defending the Biblical, and confessionally Reformed view that Christ has TWO KINGDOMS.

First, let's set forth some of the classical distinctions and terminology typically used the two kingdom discussion. Historically, Reformed theological reflection on the kingdom of Christ has distinguished between the kingdom of power and the kingdom of grace and glory. The kingdom of power is Christ's rule over creation and providence in view of his concern to rule, build, and preserve his church; and the kingdom of grace is Christ's special rule over the church as the God-man, while the kingdom of glory is the eternal state of glorification following upon the consummation of this age. As we will see below, this is a crucial distinction we must maintain in the kingly rule of Christ; otherwise, failing to distinguish between the two kingdoms, will lead to substantial tension in the theological formulation of the ontological Trinity.

Second, let's just make it clear that the classic, Reformed tradition has made this distinction. John Calvin in his Institutes unambiguously upholds two kingdom construction of Christ's kingly rule when he says:

We must here set forth a distinction. This, then, is the distinction: that there is one kind of understanding of earthly things; another of heavenly. I call “earthly things” those which do not pertain to God or his Kingdom, to true justice, or to the blessedness of the future life; but which have their significance and relationship with regard to the present life and are, in a sense, confined within its bounds. I call “heavenly things” the pure knowledge of God, the nature of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom. The first class includes government, household management, all mechanical skills, and the liberal arts. In the second are the knowledge of God and of his will, and the rule by which we conform our lives to it (2.2.13)

Let us observe that in man government is twofold: the one spiritual, by which the conscience is trained to piety and divine worship; the other civil, by which the individual is instructed in those duties which, as men and citizens, we are bold to perform (see Book 4, chap. 10, sec. 3-6). To these two forms are commonly given the not inappropriate names of spiritual and temporal jurisdiction, intimating that the former species has reference to the life of the soul, while the latter relates to matters of the present life, not only to food and clothing, but to the enacting of laws which require a man to live among his fellows purely honorably, and modestly. The former has its seat within the soul, the latter only regulates the external conduct. We may call the one the spiritual, the other the civil kingdom. Now, these two, as we have divided them, are always to be viewed apart from each other. When the one is considered, we should call off our minds, and not allow them to think of the other (3.19.15)

But he who knows to distinguish between the body and the soul, between the present fleeting life and that which is future and eternal, will have no difficulty in understanding that the spiritual kingdom of Christ and civil government are things very widely separated (4.20.1).

Alright, you might say, "those quotes are fairly clear; Calvin seems to make a distinction in the kingly administration of Christ's rule, between his governance of the church, and his rule over creation in general. But that is just Calvin, and we know he was somewhat influenced by Luther, so probably, the rest of the Reformed theologians who stand at a greater temporal distance from Luther, don't maintain this distinction." That is a false understanding of Reformed thought. Ursinus, in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, commenting on the 2nd petition of the Lord's Prayer, "thy kingdom come," makes the following distinctions regarding the kingdom of God:

The kingdom of God is that in which God alone rules and exercises dominion over all creatures; but especially does he govern and preserve the church. This kingdom is universal. The special kingdom of God—that which he exercises in his church consists in sending the Son from the Father, from the very beginning of the world, that he might institute and preserve the ministry of the church, and accomplish his purposes by it—that he might gather a church from the whole human race by his word and Spirit—rule, preserve and defend it against all enemies (p.1118).
It is very clear from this first, initial comment on the 2nd petition, that Ursinus is making a distinction in the kingly rule of Christ. On the one hand, he acknowledges a kingly rule of Christ that is over all. But then, on the other hand, he explains that along side that rule, which is over all things and creatures, that Christ has a "special kingdom" which is Christ's kingly rule over the church. In subsequent remarks he expands upon and clarifies this twofold kingdom of Christ. He argues that the rule of Christ that we pray for in the 2nd petition is the rule of Christ which is "spiritual" and which he has already identified as the "special kingdom." Then he goes on to characterize this special kingdom in a manner similar to Calvin, explaining, "It is commonly spoken of and distinguished as the Kingdom of grace and of glory" (p.1119). In making use of these categories "kingdom of grace" and "kingdom of glory" he is simply clarifying the point that the kingdom of grace bears within its womb the consummate kingdom, the kingdom of glory, that is, the glorified eternal state. This is precisely the meaning in view today, when Biblical theologians describe and distinguish between this interadventual period and the eternal state by using the terminology of "already and not-yet." The "already" is the current reign of Christ manifest in the his kingly rule in the hearts of believers, and the "not-yet," as the full manifestation and outworking of Christ's saving rule in the glorified, eternal state.

Let's add one more Reformed stallwart to the mix here, Francis Turretin. Expounding upon the mediatorial kingship of Christ, Turretin offers the following distinction: we must distinguish between the twofold kingdom belonging to Christ: one natural or essential; the other mediatorial and economical. Christ possesses the former over all creatures with glory and majesty equal to the Father and Holy Spirit. The latter (according to the economy of grace) he administers in a peculiar manner as God-man. The former extends equally over all creatures; the latter is terminated especially on the church (16th question, p.486, vol.2). Obviously, Turretin is working with the kingdom categories typically used in classical Reformed discussion about the kingdom. In general, we can conclude from these three references that the Reformed were clear to distinguish between the administration of Christ's kingly rule over creation and providence, and his kingly rule over the church. The rule over nature was grounded in his eternal being, shared with the Father and Holy Spirity, peculiarly administered for a time as the God-man; while, the rule over the church was Christ's very own special rule, received, exercised, and administered as the reward and fruit of his mediatorial, redemptive work.

Third, having clarified the classic, historic, Reformed teaching concerning the kingdom, let's pause to examine how 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 bears on this important distinction. Without thinking on v24 for too long, one begins to see an apparent problem when Paul explains that Jesus Christ will "hand over the kingdom to the Father." Now add to that indications of the temporal limitations of his rule in v25, implied in the words "he must reign UNTIL." Finally, v28 forces us to grasp at some sort of a distinction in order to save the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity when Paul says, "then the Son also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him." Verse 28 falls on the heals of Paul's clarification that the application of the words of Psalm 8:6 to Jesus, "all things are under subject to his feet," does not involve a subjection of the Father to Christ. Rather, the Father is excepted, and once the total conquest of Christ's enemies has been achieved, then "the Son" will himself be subjected to the Father.

This language causes insuperable problems theologically, if Paul's intention is to actually refer to the 2nd person of the Trinity, when he says "the Son" will be subject to the Father. If that language is designed to identify "the Son" with the second person of the Trinity, then it must follow that the Son of God is ontologically subordinate to the Father, and thus we would be forced to conclude that there is ontological hierarchy and subordination within the Trinity. In other words, we would have confess that the Son is less divine, and less authoritative than the Father. Of course, that would be completely out of accord with the full sweep of scripture which repeatedly affirms the full essential parity of the persons of the Trinity. But there have been many unscrupulous interepreters in the history of Christianity who have taken the word "Son" here to refer to the second divine person, the Son, and they have argued that such a referent, with its consequenent subordination, is consistent with the language of v24 that Christ will deliver over the kingdom to the Father, the language of v25 which implies a termination to Christ's kingly rule, and finally, to the exception clause of v27 which not only clarifies that the Father is not subject to the Son, but seems to imply, that the Son is indeed subordinate to the Father.

So, what then is the solution? Well, the solution lies in making a distinction between the kingdoms. When Paul explains that Christ must deliver over the kingdom, has a temporary rule, is subject to the Father, and eventually will yield up his authority and openly subject himself to the Father, we must see these remarks as references to Christ's mediatorial rule. The key is to see that the kingdom rule in view here in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is Christ's kingly rule over creation and providence, which he exercises as the God-man, throughout the interadventual period, and maintains with a view to his rule and preservation of the church. Charles Hodge, in commenting on v24, makes this explanation of the kingly rule in view here:

The Scriptures constantly teach that Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of his dominion there is no end. In what sense, then, can he be said to deliver up his kingdom? Paul refers here to that dominion to which he was exalted after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to his hands. This kingdom, which he exercises as the Theanthropos, and which extends over all principalities and powers, he is to deliver up when the work of redemption is accomplished. He was invested with this dominion in his mediatorial character for the purpose of carrying on his work to its consummation. When that is done, i.e. when he has subdued all his enemies, then he will no longer reign over the universe as Mediator, but only as God; while his headship over his people is to continue for ever.

With that clarification in view, we are positioned to interpet the reference to "the Son" in the phrase "then the Son Himself will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him" in way that is contextually sensitive and theologically coherent. The reference to "the Son" in v28 is not a reference to the 2nd person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God; rather, it is a messianic title, designating Jesus as the royal Son of Psalm 2 and 110 who delivers over his rule, once he has thoroughly conquered his foes. Again, Hodge offers a nuanced defense of this interpretive decision when he argues:

This passage is evidently parallel with that in v. 24. The subjection of the Son to the Father here means precisely what is there meant by his delivering up the kingdom to God even the Father. The thing done, and the person who does it, are the same. The subjection here spoken of is not predicated of the eternal Logos, the second person of the Trinity, any more than the kingdom spoken of in v. 24 is the dominion which belongs essentially to Christ as God. As there the word Christ designates the Theanthropos, so does the word Son here designate, not the Logos as such, but the Logos as incarnate. It is not the subjection of the Son as Son, but of the Son as Theanthropos of which the apostle here speaks.

There you have it. Hodge in defending his interpetation of "Son" as a messianic title, grounds his interpretation by appealing to classic Reformed christological categories which include both his person and his offices.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is one passage among others that has led to the classic Reformed distinction between the spheres of Christ's kingly rule. In vew of the theological problems inherent in a one kingdom view,discussed above, it is incumbent upon Christians who want to maintain fidelity to scripture, theology, and the creeds and confessions of the Church, to recognize and uphold the distinction between the kingdom of power and the kingdom of grace and glory. Failure to do so only leads to dangerous theological confusion which can potentially mislead the saints and provide fotter for heretics who seek the destruction of orthodox Trinitarian theology and Christology. However, acknowledging the fact and necessity of this distinction, does not by itself require one to subscribe to a single, monolithic view of the implications of this distinction for culture and politics. How the confession of these distinctions in Christ's kingly rule bears upon the issue of the relationship between church and culture will have to be left for the next post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Mediatorial Kingship of Jesus Christ Pt.2 (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

With the two powerful and spiritually exhilerating words "but now," Paul's argument temporarily transitions from arguments for bodily resurrection to two arguments GUARANTEEING FUTURE BODILY RESURRECTION in vv20-28. It is worth noting here, that Paul will continue the line of thought which is dropped in v19, picking it back up in vv.29-32, with two more arguments for the resurrection. This time, the arguments will be practical in nature, and then he will conclude his series of arguments in vv.33-34 with a trenchant critique of the Corinthians and an admonition to ammend their ways.

As stated above, there are two arguments set forth in vv.20-28 which serve to GUARANTEE future bodily resurrection. One argument pertains to the covenant headship of Jesus Christ, and the other pertains to the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ. Though the former is a rich vein of thought, our interest here lies in explaining the relationship of Christ's mediatorial kingship to Paul's guarantee of bodily resurrection, since this relationship is often obscured or overlooked entirely. It seems a significant reason why this relationship of Christ's kingship to the guarantee of bodily resurrection is overlooked is because on the surface of things, it looks like Paul temporarily drops the topic of providing pastoral consolation by unfolding the idea of guarantee, and instead, transitions to the subject of eschatology, specifically, the unfolding of the timeline of certain last days events.

Let's take just a moment to offer a possible explanation for why the relationship between Christ's mediatorial kingship and future bodily resurrection is often obscured or entirely missed altogether. In verse 23 Paul explains that when Jesus comes in glory at the end of the age the dead in Christ will be raised upon his glorious appearance. At this point, in v24, Paul begings to unfold the sequence of eschatological events which culminate in the end of the age and the consumation of the eternal kingdom of God. The beginning of verse 24 says, "then comes the end." If you connect the thought of verse 24 back to v23 you can see that Paul is saying that once Jesus returns, the resurrection will take place and then the end of the age will come. Paul spells out a sort of time line for the end times, albeit truncated and oversimplified since he leaves out a number of other details revealed in other parts of scripture. The two clauses in v24 that immediately follow "then comes the end" further unfold WHEN the end will come. Kingdom consummation will follow fast upon the heels of Jesus handing the kingdom over to the father and after he has abolished all authority and power. Those 5 facts provide a significant amount of clarity concerning the unfolding of the events of the last days: Christ returns in glory, the dead rise, Christ puts down all authority, rule, and power, Christ hands over the kingdom to the Father, and finally the end comes.

However, an important question to consider in reflecting on these 5 rich facts is why does Paul include them here? Are these facts simply given to provide the church information about the events of the last days or are these facts given as as part of Paul's argument guaranteeing the resurrection of believers? In order to answer that question and to appreciate the fact that Paul has not transitioned from one topic to another (from resurrection to eschatology), but rather develops a second, rich, theological argument guaranteeing bodily resurrection, focus must turn to the very first word of v25. Notice the first word in v25, "for." That conjunction marks cause, reason, or explanation. In this case it looks back immediately to the last clause of v24. To help clarify things a bit, we must correct the NASV translation of the last clause and change "when" to "after" since the grammatical construction requires it. That means that this second clause clarifies when the end will come; the "end" is "after" Christ has abolished his enemies, then he will deliver over the kingdom to God the Father. It is clear by the grammatical construction Paul uses that verse 25 not only explains why the end times sequence of events must unfold as Paul explains, but it also signals that Paul is developing a second argument guaranteeing the bodily resurrection. Verse 25 explains why the kingdom cannot be delivered over until AFTER all enemies listed in v24 are destroyed. It is a PROPHETIC NECESSITY that Christ reigns UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet. Paul quotes from Psalm 110:1 in v25 in order to ground his argument for the unfolding of the eschatogolical chain events as described in vv23-24.

At this point you might not yet fully see how this represents a second argument guaranteeing the resurrection. After all, it may seem that Paul has only explained why certain end times events must follow the order set forth by Paul in vv23-24. The connection between Christ's kingly rule and bodily resurrection is made more clear by the thought Paul adds in v26 and v27. In v26 Paul adds one more enemy to the list of things that must be destroyed by Christ before he returns, and that enemy is death. The fact that Paul is adding one more enemy to the list of enemies to be destroyed before the end is signaled by his repetition of the verb "destroyed" found in the last clause of v24. By isolating "death" and setting it off on its own, Paul is indicating that there is a climax to Christ's conquest: all authority, rule, and power, and FINALLY-----DEATH! Death is the most powerful kingdom enemy, and the conquest of death is held off until the end that its destruction will mark the punctuation of of Christ's climactic kingdom victory. So in effect, Paul is saying that Christ cannot bring about the end by handing over the kingdom unto the Father UNTIL he has destroyed all rule, authority, power, and finally, death itself.

Staying with the flow of thought a bit longer, notice that v27 gives the reason why Christ MUST destroy death: FOR HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET. Paul quotes here from Psalm 8:6 and explains again, that it is a PROPHETIC NECESSITY that Christ conquer death and CRUSH THIS KINGDOM ENEMY UNDER HIS FEET as part of his kingly rule. Add all this together and the relationship between Christ's mediatorial kingship and future bodily resurrection become quite clear. Paul argues that the end will come when he delivers the kingdom over to the Father after Christ's returns in glory, which simultaneously activates the resurrection of the dead and the climactic conquest of his enemies including all rule, authority, power, and death. Why must it all happen in this order? PROPHETIC NECESSITY! Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:6 prophecy that Christ MUST RULE AS KING until he has stomped out all opposition to his kingly rule. Only after every enemy has been DECISIVELY CONQUERED will Jesus hand over the mediatorial kingdom to the Father.

In vv.24-28 Paul brings out a huge theological argument to assure the hearts and minds of all believers that there will be a bodily resurrection in the future. Christ's mediatorial kingship requires that he must reign until death is conquered. The obvious sign of the death's total defeat is the bodily resurrection. When soul and body are gloriously and powerfully reunited there will be no doubt at all that Christ is king over all and that he has definitively DESTROYED THE POWER OF DEATH FOREVER AND EVER.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Mediatorial Kingship of Jesus Christ Pt.1 (1Corinthians 15:24-28)



1Corinthians 15 is one of the most rich and challenging passages in all of the Pauline literature. At the outset of the chapter Paul exercises the Corinthian's collective memory by reminding them of the fundamental principles of the gospel (vv.1-11). According to Paul the gospel is that which: he preacehd to them, it is what they received, what they stand upon, and is what saves them. Recounting gospel truths moves from catechesis to admonition as Paul commands the Corinthians to CONTINUE embracing the gospel unto the end in order to be saved (v2).

That pastoral note of admonition is an important rhetorical frame which contextualizes the proclamation of the bodily resurrection of Christ, which forms the central core of Paul's gospel. In unfolding the evidentiary basis of the bodily resurrection of Christ, it is apparent that Paul is doing more than ticking off a series of "facts" about Christ's resurrection. Rather than forming mere talking points in an apologetic encounter, these "facts" are both polemical and pastoral. On the one hand they are designed to provide objective proof of Christ's resurrection and on the other they are designed to innoculate the Corinthian believers against the spiritually corrosive effects of a false spirituality that seems to be within ear shot of some of the Corinthian believers. If the Corinthian Christians fail to heed Paul's admonition to continue embracing by faith the gospel he delivered to them, they are in danger of making shipwreck of their faith.

The double-edged nature of Paul's proclamation of Christ's bodily resurrection, already indicated in the admonition of verse 2, emerges in verse 12 and following. After placing the bodily resurrection of Christ on a firm factual footing, Paul discloses the driving concern of chapter 15 when he says, "12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised." It turns out, that the real issue in chapter 15 is not so much the apologetic need to defend the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Christ as it is to show its foundational significance both for the gospel and for believers. Specifically Paul's concern is to show the inseparable connection between Christ's resurrection and the future bodily resurrection of believers. As the logic of the argument unfolds it is clear you cannot have one without the other: either Christ rose from the dead therefore ensuring the bodily resurrection of believers, or believers don't rise bodily from the dead therefore implying Christ did not rise. The enormous danger of the novel and false spirituality circulating within hearing range of some Corinthian believers is now exposed as an ideology which is antithetical to the Christian gospel.

In verses 14-19 Paul attacks the false ideology by drawing out 1 overarching consequence of this false doctrine and then develops 4 spiritually devastating implications from it. The 1 giant overarching logical consequence of this false teaching is found in v13: if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised. Paul makes it unmistakeably plain here that the believer's resurrection is so intertwined with Christ's resurrection that if you reject a bodily resurrection of believers, you must also reject the historical fact of Christ's bodily resurrection. The rest of what Paul has to say in vv.14-19 is an UNFOLDING of the implications of that false idea:
-1- apostolic preaching is VAIN(that is, lacking in content or truth---and that the apostles are false witnesses)- v14
-2- faith is vain - v17
-3- Dead believers have perished forever – v18
-4- Christians are the most miserable of all people – v19

Fortunately for believers, the signal that these dreadful implications of the false ideology are all wrong is found in those 2 soul thrilling words at the outset of v20, "BUT NOW."

Coming to v20 it is clear that Paul is taking up a new line of thought. On the one hand those 2 words, "but now" speak a thousand words of relief for the believer. What they express is that you can come back to all those dreadful implications of vv13-19(no bodily resurrection, apostolic preaching is empty, faith is vain, hope is lost, Christianity is miserable) and turn them all INSIDE OUT so they read BUT NOW:
-there is a resurrection of the body
-apostolic preaching is fruitful
-faith is the instrument of justification
-deceased believers-are in Christ—and we will see them again
-Christianity is the only faith that makes life meaningful & brings real joy.

All these things are indisputably true because the apostles testified to a real historical FACT when they said Christ rose from the dead bodily. Because that was true, so it is true that believers will rise bodily from the dead.

On the other hand, these 2 words, "but now" move us into an argument for the GUARANTEE of the bodily resurrection of believers. In verses 20-28 Paul develops 2 lines of argument guaranteeing the resurrection of believers. The first is that the covenantal headship of Christ ensures that Christ really is the firstfruits of the resurrection (v20) and that just as certainly as all sin and die in Adam, so also, all who Christ's represents as covenant head will be raised bodily from the dead. All by itself, that is powerful and rich theological idea, but what we want to focus on here is the second argument to be developed in our next post, which is how the mediatorial kingship of Christ guarantees the bodily resurrection of believers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Outline of Proverbs 2

• chapter 2 serves as a literary setting for what is to follow in
chapters 3-7 by introducing themes that will be developed and
expanded upon subsequently:
- internalizing wisdom – 3:1; 4:1-5; 5:1; 7:1
- wisdom and preservation – 3:22-26; 4:6,10-13; 7:4-5
- deliverance from wicked man – 4:13-17 (2:12-15)
- warnings about sexual seduction – 5:1-23; 6:20-7:27 (2:16-19)
- obedience/blessing connection – 3:2,4,7-11,22-26,33-35; 4:10; 9:11-
12 (2:20-22)

I. The structure of chapter 2
A. condition-consequence connection – 2:1-11
1. condition – 2:1-4
2. consequence – 2:5-11
a. consequence sequence #1 – 5-8
b. consequence sequence #2 – 9-11
B. wisdom’s purpose – 2:12-22
1. deliverance from evil men – 2:12-15
2. deliverance from seductive women – 2:16-19
3. securing a blessed life – 2:20-22

II. The pursuit of wisdom – 2:1-11
A. conditions of wisdom
1. reception – vv1-2
a. receive my words – v1
b. treasure my commandments within you – v1
c. make your ear attentive to wisdom; incline heart...v2
2. prayer – v3
a. cry for discernment
b. lift your voice to understanding
3. searching – v4
a. seek her as silver
b. search for her as for hidden treasure
B. consequences of wisdom
1. consequence sequence #1
a. discern the fear of the Lord – v5
b. discover the knowledge of the Lord –v5
c. for the Lord gives wisdom – v6
d. from his mouth come knowledge and understanding – v6
e. he stores up wisdom for the upright – v7
f. he is a shield to those who walk in integrity –v7
g. guarding the paths of justice – v8
h. He preserves the way of His godly ones – v8
2. consequence sequence #2
a. then you will discern righteousness and justice – v9
b. equity and every good course – v9
c. wisdom will enter your heart- v10
d. knowledge will be pleasant to your soul – v10
e. discretion will guard you – v11
f. understanding will watch over your soul – v11

III. The purpose of wisdom – 2:12-22
A. deliverance from evil men – v12-15
B. deliverance from seductive women – v16-19
C. securing a blessed life – v20-22

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cluster Criticism of a Scientology video pt.3

The Interpretation

Analysis of the clusters in the Introduction to Dianetics video indicates that Dianetics offers a religious conversion experience through a commitment to rational self-determination, free from any concepts of atonement. Since Scientology presents itself as a religion, and because Dianetics is the process that initiates the religious journey prescribed by Scientology, the life-change that Dianetics proposes is fairly categorized in terms of religious conversion. What emerges from an analysis of the key terms and clusters of the Dianetics video which describe this conversion experience is a religious world view consisting of three component parts.

First, examination of the key term abberated along with the terms, concepts, and images which are associated with it, indicates that because humans are not strictly free moral agents, they are not therefore morally culpable for their depraved actions. Though the reactive-analytical mind dialectic, which forms the context of the conversion experience, bears formal characteristics reminiscent of a dualistic, Manichean view of reality with forces of good and evil vying against one another for supremacy, Dianetics nowhere construes these opposing cerebral states and their attendant behaviors in terms of moral categories. In fact, not only does it stop short of assigning moral culpability for moral transgressions while under the control of the reactive mind, it relieves the individual of all moral culpability by making individuals victims of immaterial and impersonal forces. This perspective is promoted and reinforced in multiple ways. Since engrams encoded upon the reactive minds of passive human subjects before birth are the catalysts for immoral behaviors consisting in abusive acts against other persons and their property, individuals lack free will. Further, characterizing the reactions of the reactive mind as stimulus responses has the effect of suppressing the rational volition of a human agent which is a necessary condition of culpability. Finally, by implying that the aberrated state is not one of freedom but bondage to irrational forces, Dianetics makes it clear that human action in the abberated state is not self-determined, and therefore free from accountability. Given this construction of the human predicament in the abberated condition, it is reasonable to conclude that individuals are not morally culpable for their actions.

Second, the first point builds the foundation for and leads to the subsequent point, that Dianetics proposes a religious experience that is free from any concept of atonement. This is already suggested by the fact that human agents acting out under the control of the reactive mind are not morally culpable for their actions since they have no free will. The logic is pat: no freedom, then no accountability; therefore, it is unnecessary to speak of placation or redemption since it would be illogical and unreasonable for a divine being to take offense at human action which was not rationally self-determined. Beyond that, the whole concept of “clearing” stands opposed to the concept of conversion through a redemptive act of atonement. The concept of conversion through confronting and permanently clearing a painful engram in order to deliver full control to the analytic mind without any expression of contrition, acts of expiation, or retribution, implies a worldview where there is no conscience, no overarching moral principles, or a divine being who is repulsed by immoral acts (Fromm, p.2). It is the scheme of Dianetics that engrams are the cause of depravity, and they are not atoned for, they are to simply be eradicated.

Before addressing the third component it is necessary to challenge that clearing is not really a religious conversion experience after all, rather it is a state of positive mental health induced by purely Freudian, psycho-therapeutic means, and is therefore fundamentally areligious. On the surface such a charge might appear to have some merit, after all, Hubbard himself acknowledges a profound influence of Freud upon his thinking. This is influence is evident in Hubbard’s view of the mind as consisting of the analytic, reactive, and somatic components, which is a rough parallel to Freud’s id, ego, and superego. Further, his insistence that unconscious mental processes are the cause of maladaptive behaviors clearly echoes Freudian thought (McCall, 2006). However, to draw a conclusion by focusing only on the formal parallels would be to miss the critical and essential points of difference between Hubbard’s science of Dianetics and Freud’s psychotherapy. For starters, Freud’s model of mental health was based upon self-understanding, as Fromm explains, “Freud's aim was to help the patient to understand the complexity of his mind, and his therapy was based on the concept that by understanding one's self one can free one's self from the bondage to irrational forces which cause unhappiness and mental illness (1950, p.1). Other significant differences between Freudian theory and methodology are apparent, not the least of which is that for Freud, the latent impulses which cause antisocial behavior are self-imposed psychological constructs which are confronted and discarded through greater self-understanding, while Dianetics explains that these subconscious catalytic impulses are physically etched upon the brain. Additionally, the manner of dealing with these subconscious impulses are entirely different. On the scheme of Dianetics, the subconscious is addressed and not through a therapeutic process of seeking self-understanding, but through following the prescribed auditing process of merely confronting engrams and running them through the filter of the rational analytic mind to discharge them of their power. Beside that consideration is another, which is that Hubbard was openly critical and even hostile toward Freud’s theory and method of psychotherapy because it was expressly anti-religious as McCall (2006) explains, “Hubbard reacted strongly to this position of psychoanalysis, saying ‘Only those who believe, as do psychiatrists and psychologists, that man is a soulless animal or who wish for their own reasons to keep man unhappy and oppressed are in conflict with Scientology’’’ (p.443). A final difference of note is that, auditing, which is the spiritual technology leading the way to the condition of clear, can be conducted not by a licensed therapist, but rather, only by an officially ordained Scientology clergy member, which of itself, characterizes the experience as expressly religious. These considerations taken as a whole, answer the charge, at least on Scientology’s manner or reckoning, that the religious experience offered by Dianetics is areligous psychotherapy.

Third, analysis of the key terms and clusters of Dianetics indicates a religious experience that is actualized by means of a commitment to rational self-determination. The path to clear is openly professed to be a self-determined effort to make use of spiritual “technology” where the individual is translated into a transcendent state characterized by rational self-control activated by the dominance of the analytic mind. At a superficial level it might appear that the state of clear proposed by Dianetics is an updated, albeit Western, version of the Budhist concept of bodhi, which is a state of intellectual and ethical perfection. Of course, the parallels are not accidental as Hubbard openly admitted to connecting his own religious ideology with Budhism. In fact, he even went so far as “proclaiming himself Maitreya,” a Budhist messiah figure who was prophesied to have a prosperous future rule over a prosperous city, in his poetic work entitled, The Hymn of Asia (Kent, 1996). The problem with reading Scientology as an updated form of Budhism is that the appearances of similarity are deceptive not substantive. Much of the evidence Hubbard offers to substantiate his claim to be the messianic Budha, including the claims that the messiah would appear in the West, have red hair, or that he would appear in a time of turmoil, are completely fabricated, as Kent (1996) says, “Almost none of the attributions that he (or his "editors") make to the figure are accurate” (p.29). Add to that the fact that the paths proposed by Budhism and Dianetics to achieve the state of bodhi, share almost nothing in common, as Kent again observes, “Scientology's system claims to work by eliminating the effects of traumatic events (or engrams), while traditional Buddhism asserts that practitioners can achieve its spiritual goal by combining moral discipline with methods of concentration” (p.32).

This comparison between Dianetics and Budhism is instructive on a couple of levels. Not only does it expose the distortions and untruths embedded in Scientology’s claims, it also provides further evidence for the claim being advanced which is that Dianetics offers a religious conversion experience through rational self-determination. In spite of Dianetics cloaking itself in some of the rhetorical and conceptual garb of Budhism, and Eastern religion more broadly, analysis of its terms and concepts discloses the fact that Dianetics privileges the intellect, granting it a hegemonic, god like status in the individual quest for enlightenment/conversion, while it provides no role for the moral, contemplative, and ascetic disciplines which are so central to the Budhist quest of reaching nirvana (Kent, 1996). In summary, after analyzing the various alternative models for understanding the process of reaching the clear, it is evident that Dianetics proposes a religious conversion experience that is actualized by means of a commitment to rational self-determination which bears no essential parallel to Budhist religious concepts.

In Conclusion

All that remains now, is to briefly discuss what the previous analysis of the cerebral operations discussed in the Dianetics video clip discloses about Scientology’s religious ideology. First, the world is essentially rational; therefore, logic is the means of living in harmony with it. Fromm (1950) likens Dianetics’ vision of reality to a machine and the clear person to a mechanical engineer who uses reason to navigate their way through it. By the application of logic, right decisions are made, and the individual’s survival is insured. Second, logic is the instrumental means of uniting with the divine. As discussed above, the clear condition, which is a permanent transcendent state, is achieved by the rational application of spiritual technology to achieve a state of self-mastery. Once clear, the individual is an analog of the alpha-theta who is the sole cause of the physical universe (Kent, 1999). Scientology proposes a religious experience and relationship with the divine which is actuated and governed by an impersonal, immaterial, rational means. Third, Scientology offers a portrait of the divine which is flat, free from mystery and ambiguity. If the clear state is a mirror image of the divine existence then it indicates that the divine exists in a state of transcendent being, characterized by rational self-mastery, and amorality. In some respects Dianetics’ supreme being has many affinities with Aristotle’s unmoved mover who is a passionless, amoral being, contemplating only itself.

This view of the divine constructed from the key terms and clusters of the Dianetics video illustrates Burke’s method of analyzing a rhetor’s worldview by examining the terministic screens contained within an artifact. Burke maintained that by analyzing key terms which directed attention to certain concepts and ideas while suppressing or deflecting attention from others, it was possible to construct central features of a rhetor’s thought. Applying this method to Scientology’s Dianetics video and analyzing what is primary and what is suppressed, reveals that Scientology’s religious ideology is shaped by belief in a passionless, amoral, transcendent being who is open to affiliating with individuals who have achieved a state of self-mastery through rational self-determination.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cluster Criticism of a Scientology video pt.2

The Key Terms

In the Dianetics video there is only one explicitly referenced key term, but there is a second key term which is implied. The first key term is “clear.” It is used only one time in the entire video but if this term were removed from the video or the Scientology lexicon, and not replaced by a similar word, it would gut the system of coherent meaning; so, clear, fits the criterion of ultimacy. Clear represents the entire goal of Dianetics. To be clear, means one is free, rational, happy, and transcendent, no longer susceptible to the irrational influences of sinister engrams deeply lodged in the reactive mind. The second key term is “abberated,” which in the system of Dianetics refers to the state of an individual prior to their decision to pursue clearing (McCall, 2006). Though not explicitly stated in the video, abberated is the term around which a whole series of negative cerebral terms, action verbs, and images of maladaptive behavior cluster. To be abberated, means one is enslaved, irrational, emotionally volatile, and repressed.

The Clusters

Abberated. The dominant idea associated with the key term abberrated is that of the reactive mind. This construction occurs two times in the video and is the referent of the pronoun “it” three times. Associated with reactive mind are a series of cerebral terms including negative thoughts, irrational, and think. Besides being associated with negative cerebral terms, the reactive mind is characterized by a state of motion through the use of an array of action terms such as throws, making, protecting, believing, reacting, and accumulating, which are all unthinking action responses to environmental stimuli. The frenetic picture of the reactive mind is further colored by the visual images of abusive behavior activated while under its control, including a hysterical woman screaming and throwing things at what is ostensibly her boyfriend, a man backhanding his small child, an employee in a verbal altercation with his boss, a man punching another man on a public sidewalk, and an elderly gentleman hollering at fellow motorists while driving on the freeway. One final concept associated with abberated, which is not explicitly stated but is certainly implied, is that of bondage. If the primary term associated with clear is “free” then by implication, the corresponding term associated with abberated must be “bondage.” That concept seems to be reinforced by whole series of supporting ideas mentioned already including irrationality and stimulus response antisocial behavioral outbursts. The overall picture that shapes up from the terms and images clustered around the key term abberated portrays individuals as victims, acting out in abusive ways under the tyrannical sway of uncontrollable irrational influences which are rooted in the sinister, subterranean compartment of the human mental apparatus called the reactive mind.

Clear. The dominant motif associated with the key term clear is “free.” The free state is the condition of being under the influence of the analytical mind. The analytical mind is characterized by machine like qualities as it makes survival decisions based upon a vast reservoir of memories, experiences, and logical calculations. A series of cerebral terms are associated with the analytical mind as well, such as think, decide, calculate, rational, imagination, and creativity. Visual images reinforce the concept of rational contemplation and self-control. One image shows a man using tools to fix a broken bike, then a woman playing a violin, a man proposing to his girlfriend, a couple engaged in playful banter, and a man interacting thoughtfully with a co-worker. In contrast to the frenetic state of activity associated with the reactive mind, the clear state is the condition of operating under the control of the wholly rational analytic mind. Additionally, clear is associated with states of being. The clear state is described as being able, being confident, being productive, being happy, and in short, being yourself. A final concept of transcendence seems to be clustered with clear. Transcendence is not only indicated by the words, concepts, images, and being verbs which characterize the clear state, but also by the juxtaposition of the outer visual frames which bracket the video presentation. The first series of images which introduce the subject of the video are scenes of people facing the camera while grieving over the death of a loved one, suggesting a sense of enclosure or constriction, while the video ends with a man who is clear, standing on a beach, facing away from the camera, looking out toward crashing waves and a panoramic skyline, suggesting an ever expanding future life characterized by limitless possibilities and freedom from constraint. An overall picture of survival, rationality, freedom, and transcendence emerges from the terms, concepts, and images which cluster around clear.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cluster Criticism of a Scientology video pt.1

The Artifact

The artifact proposed for rhetorical analysis in this post, “An Introduction to Dianetics,” is a 4 minute and 6 second video which attempts to introduce primary components of L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics: The Evolution of Science. This video explains how Dianetics can help individuals achieve life satisfaction and personal achievement through eradicating traumatic memories etched upon the mind. The message of the video is that individuals can empower themselves to live satisfying lives through eradicating powerful subconscious forces called engrams that are the cause of antisocial behaviors, negative thoughts, physical ailments, and painful emotions. Once these engrams are identified and eliminated, it is promised that the true “you” can emerge, unleashing an individual’s potential in the form of confidence, intelligence, productive, and creativity.

To better understand the concepts introduced in the video, a brief word of explanation is in order. In Dianetics, Hubbard (1983) explains that there are two parts of the human mind that are responsible for psycho-social behavior: the reactive mind and the analytic mind. According to Hubbard, on the one hand, the reactive mind, though it is always conscious, “neither remembers nor reasons but simply records all that occurs on a time track” while on the other hand, the analytic mind, “perceives, remembers and reasons” (1983, xii). These two minds interact to effect human emotions and behavior when the reactive mind “impinges engrams of physical pain and painful emotion onto the analytical mind when catalytic situations occur in relation to the one in which the reactive mind first recorded the pain” (Hubbard, 1983: xiii). According to the video, it is the discovery of Dianetics, that these engrams, a record of painful experiences, memories, emotions along with all of the circumstances in which they occurred, are formed in the reactive mind in the earliest stages of human development, even before birth (McCall, p.439). While these engrams are not accessible through the normal process of retrieval and recall, they are stimulated autonomically when a life experience bearing similar features to an engram occurs, triggering a suspension of the analytic mind, which in turn, causes the reactive mind to lash out in irrational thoughts and behavior.

In order to break free from the grip of antisocial, irrational behavior generated while under the sway of the reactive mind, Dianetics prescribes auditing. This occurs as a person trained in the principles of Dianetics causes a patient to go into a state of “reverie” by commanding the patient to close their eyes as the auditor counts out loud to seven and to then go back to the painful engram (Fromm, 1950). As the patient slips down the time track in the reactive mind, the engram is recalled, confronted, and then run through the analytical mind. Once this occurs, the engram permanently loses its negative charge and its capacity to effect thought and behavior. Though this whole procedure is not spelled out in detail in the video, this is precisely what is meant when it explains that Dianetics, “contains a technology to free yourself.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

A brief introduction to Burke's cluster criticism

According to Foss (2009), cluster criticism is a method of rhetorical analysis which helps critics “gain insights into rhetors by analyzing the terministic screens evidenced in their rhetoric.” Burke (1966) what he means by termnistic screens by comparing them to photographs of the same physical object made with different color lenses. The point Burke makes is that the very terms a rhetor uses effect the nature of a rhetor’s observations just as the lens color of a camera effects the representation of a photographed object. A rhetor’s terms then, represent a frame or lens through which they see the world and are cues which help identify the meanings they propose for their audience.

To help identify and analyze a rhetor’s terministic screen, cluster criticism is used by a critic not only to isolate the key terms used in an artifact but also the words that cluster around or are associated with the key terms. Key terms can be identified either by the frequency of their use, their intensity, or their ultimacy. Frequency is obvious, meaning that repeated use of a term signals its significance to the rhetor. Intensity is a bit less defined however. Foss explains that though a term may be used infrequently “it may be critical because it is central to the argument being made, represents an ultimate commitment, or conveys great depth of feeling” (2009, p.66) Finally, ultimacy, refers to “god and devil terms” used by an author. According to Foss, “God terms are ultimate terms that represent the ideal for a rhetor, while devil terms represent the ultimate negative or evil for a rhetor” (2009, p.67). To further illuminate and better appreciate the nuance of a key term, terms which cluster around them are to be identified. Terms cluster either by way of proximity, conjunction, juxtaposition, or cause and effect. Having identified the key terms and the clusters, the critic is ready to make some overall assessment about a rhetor’s worldview embedded in the artifact.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Message Framing part 3: Political Attack Ads

It seems that every election cycle a series of reports and editorials pieces surface, decrying the “poisoned nature of contemporary political discourse,” usually substantiated by anecdotal references to snippets taken from negative ads being run in particular races and campaigns. Of course, accompanying these criticisms of negative ads is the expression of sentiment calling for greater civility in our political discourse, while pundits and commentators simultaneously recollect the good old days when campaigns were just about the “issues.” Such expressions of both disgust and nostalgic longing for a pristine past are hardly rooted in a historically accurate understanding of American political campaigns. Since the founding of our republic, political campaigns have often been characterized by negativity and generous portions of mud-slinging. For instance, in the 1800 presidential campaign between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, one newspaper claimed that if Jefferson was elected president that murder, rape, and adultery would be openly practiced, while in the campaign of 1828, candidate Andrew Jackson was accused of, among other things, being a murderer and a son of a prostitute (Begley, 2008). Negative campaigning did not end there then only to and in the poisoned and polarized atmosphere of party politics in the 1980’s however; Abraham Lincoln, in the election of 1860, was described in such colorful terms as a “thief, ignoramus, buffoon and butcher” (Seiter and Gass, 2010, p.218), while Harry Truman compared Republicans to Hitler in the election of 1948, just after World War II (Knonhollz, 2008). Though it is evident from this handful of examples that so-called “attack ads” are as old as the republic, they are not however perceived to be as American as apple pie, as Underation (2009) explains, “Americans like to imagine their political discourse has a sense of moral excellence about it; in short, we like to imagine we are electing people who are morally sound and who speak to high-minded and large-hearted ideals that we are taught to embrace from our earliest years” (258). That dissonance between American civic virtue and actual political practice is a significant contributing factor to the palpable uneasiness so evident in both the public perception and discussion of political attack ads. Upon further review however, if done appropriately, it might not be the case that attack ads are all that un-American after all, since they are often rich in detail and chalk full of information which can assist the public in exercising their civic obligation to vote.

For some time, scholars have wrestled with developing a definition which is sufficiently clear and expansive. An early definition is offered by Pinkleton (1997) who explains that a negative ad is “any ad that carries discouraging words about an opponent” (p.20). A more nuanced definition is offered by Cheng and Riffe (2008) who claim that, in general, researchers seem to agree that negative political advertising directly assaults its target, citing an opponent’s broken promises, voting record, and public misstatements. In an effort to further clarify the rules of fair-play in the use of attack ads, Lau and Rovner (2009) make a distinction between ads about policy and ads which are essentially about character assassination. On the one hand, negative information about an incumbent’s policies, voting record, or failure to provide for his or her constituents provides suitable material for negative ads. Similarly, for non-incumbents, negative information such as a candidate’s experience or ideological belief that might provide clues to how the candidate may govern once in office is relevant matter to attack. On the other hand, salacious information about a candidate’s behavior in college or the candidate’s past marital problems are not matters of relevance to campaigns or to understanding of a candidates policy positions, nor are they necessarily future indicators of performance if elected. Therefore, such information is not suitable fodder for attack or analysis. A similar way of restating this clarification in more precise terms is found in the distinction, put forward by Seiter and Gass (2010), between argumentativeness and verbal aggression. They are argue that “being assertive or argumentative or being willing to advance one’s own position and refute the position of an opponent, is not the same thing as being hostile or verbally aggressive.” (219) In other words, argumentativeness focuses on policy and relevant character issues, while verbal aggression concerns ad hominem attacking. Based upon the discussion above, a negative ad is defined as an attack upon an opponent’s policy or past voting record or relevant character concerns, along with the implications which these might have for future decisions if elected to office.

Hughes (2003), distinguishes between two primary forms: attack political advertising and comparative political advertising. Attack political advertising involves an aggressive, one-sided assault designed to draw attention to an opponent’s weaknesses in either character or issue positions, while comparative political advertising identifies a competing candidate, draws comparisons, implies inferiority, and attempts to degrade prospective voter perceptions of the targeted candidate. The latter kind of ad can be either direct or implied. In the case of direct comparison ads, they use “a two-sided message to identify the targeted candidate and contrast specific aspects of the candidates’ records, experience or issue positions” while “implied comparative advertising is one-sided and does not mention the targeted candidate specifically” (164). Another form, the indirect comparative ad is employed in campaigns from time to time, but is rarely used effectively on account of it being overly subtle to serve the purpose of a negative ad.

A particularly interesting line of investigation into attack ads pertains to an examination of the situations in which they are utilized. In this connection a few separate studies are worthy of some consideration. First, Damore (2002), surveyed TV ads run by major party presidential candidates competing in general elections from 1976 to 1996 and came up with the following generalizations about the use of negative ads: negative campaign tactics are a function of candidate poll standings, of the behavior of their opponents at prior points in campaigns, of characteristics of issues in the campaign agenda, and of proximity to election day (679). Second, in a study of U.S. Senate campaigns between 1988 and 2002, Lau and Pomper (2001, 2004) found that negative ads were generally used by candidates who are behind, are in close elections, are challengers, are candidates with relatively few campaign resources, are Republicans, are males, and are candidates whose opponents are attacking them. Third, Airne and Benoit (2005) examined television spots from campaigns in the 2000 election reaching some significantly different results from these previous studies. Prior research had attributed negative ads to poll standing, to challenger status, and to Republican candidates, but Airne and Benoit found that “incumbents attacked at about the same level (35%) as challengers,” and that Democrats and Republicans attack at about the same rate (p.481). Other findings of interest in this study were that winners and losers attacked and acclaimed at about the same rate -- winners: 68%; losers: 66%)—however, winners discussed policy more than losers in their negative ads (64% to 60%), whereas losers focused more on character (40%, 36%) (p. 483). Clearly, this data exposes the fact that negative campaigning is neither a challenger issue or a party issue, rather, it is a widely, if not universally used media tool candidates use to disseminate their concerns to the voting public.

Now, moving on to address the question of undoubtedly the most interest, “do they work?” The answer is, “yes,” depending on who you talk to. For instance, ScienceDaily (2008) reported on a study by Phillips, Urbany, and Reynolds (2008) who conducted a field study of registered voters aged 18-23 using real advertisements from the 2004 presidential election. This study found that 14% of the participants who viewed an ad that attacked their preferred candidate – were influenced by the ad’s content and were moved in the direction of the advertising candidate while viewing positive ads did not lead to significant change in voter attitude. The article went on to note the significance of the study results commenting that, “77 percent of college-educated 18-24 year olds who were registered cast a vote in the 2004 presidential election, compared to 64 percent of registered voters as a whole” (“Young Voters,” 2008). A separate study, conducted by Tinkham, Lariscy, and Avery (2009), concluded that voters in the 60 and above age group are “the group that is most likely to yield behaviorally to the sponsor of a political ad” (117). This is truly a significant find given that “citizens over 60 both register to vote and do vote in higher percentages than any other age group” (105). Without getting into the game of citing study for study, it is notable that although there is disagreement among researchers, there is at the same time persistent belief in the effectiveness of negative ads as Seiter and Gass (2010) explain, “Campaign managers and political consultants are unequivocal in their belief that attack ads are highly effective” (227).

Since there is an apparent disconnect between public sentiments expressed about attack ads and the actual effectiveness of attack ads, it is worth taking a moment to offer a suggestion about why they work. The answer proposed here is rooted in message framing which has its roots in Prospect Theory (for an overview of PT, see the first article in this series). One component of the rhetorical strategy of message framing, which helps account for the effectiveness of attack ads, is the certainty effect. The certainty effect says that people underweight outcomes that are merely probable in comparison with certain outcomes, unless they are persuaded that their situation is perilous enough that they must take a risk in order to enhance it. That means, that most voters, even if they aren’t terribly thrilled with an incumbent are still less likely to vote for the challenger even if they perceive that he might do a better job. In that case, using only acclaim (positive) ads wont tend to secure the vote for the challenger since the voter is more likely to settle with what they know as safe, though not thoroughly desirable. Negative ads (loss framed ads) are necessary to get the voter to see that voting for the incumbent has the potential of causing serious economic or security harms to the voter.

The last point which remains to be addressed is what it is that makes an attack ad effective. Morris (2008) argues that the most effective attack ads share three characteristics: accuracy, believability, and thematic consistency. When ads do not meet these criteria, they backfire. A further component of effective ads is discussed by Knonholz (2008), who contends that effective negative ads are ads which are targeted to address concerns that voters already have about candidates or policies. In other words, if attack ads are to strike a responsive chord in voter perceptions they must be relevant to the context of the campaign and the concerns of voters (Seiter and Gass, 2010). Negative political ads that make an impact usually reflect and amplify bits of public thought and feeling according to Uderation (2009).

In conclusion, negative political campaigning is not new, and, like it or not, it is here to stay. Prior research has done some good work in clarifying certain positive aspects of negative ads while refuting false claims about its supposedly harmful effects. Much work remains however, in order to better understand why these ads are persuasive, what kinds of negative messages are actually effective, and under what circumstances they are most successfully employed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Proverbs 1:20-33 Wisom in the market square

(the substance of this study relies very heavily on an article by Dr. Bruce Waltke which is well worth getting your hands on if you can, Waltke, B. (1999). Lady Wisdom as Mediatrix. Presbyterion, 1-15.)

I. the setting
A. the town square
1. Excavations at Tel el-Qadi, ancient Dan, exposed a large, enclosed plaza between the outer and inner gates.
2. The outer gate functioned as the setting for court sessions and council meetings; the plaza was used for commercial trade and public meetings.
3. At the gate there existed a play of life involving commerce, the court, and administration that could not be mastered without wisdom
B. the parts of the town square
1. Street – refers to the areas outside the houses in a town setting
2. Square – located inside the city in front of the gate-streets and markets were gathering places for people--- seem Amos 5:16; Ruth 4:11 –at the gate
3. At the head of the noisy street – the image is of a noisy crowd
4. Entrance of the gates – describes more precisely the place spoken of in the second line of v20—this is the part of the city where legal and other public matters were handled
C. The sermon fits the setting
1. Lady Wisdom’s podium is the most prominent place in the city-the street, the public square, the top of the hills, and the gateways designate not diverse localities within the city—but aspects of the gate at the entrance of the city. She sets her podium on the highest wall.
2. Lady wisdom having chosen the most advantageous point of the city in order to be heard far and wide—delivers her speech with emotion and fervor to capture the attention of fools
a. Wisdom shouts –calls out to in order to get the attention of the people in the noise and confusion of a busy marketplace
b. She lifts her voice-she makes her voice heard—or causes them to listen to what she says
II. the speaker
A. Throughout this unit Wisdom is personified, that is, represented as a speaking person. Wisdom is a feminine noun that is why she is personified as a lady and not a man. Linguists have shown that, in general, the grammatical gender of a noun guided the poets imagination in his personification of lifeless objects.
B. Wisdom occurs frequently in the early chapters of Proverbs. She appears as a hostess -9:1-6, as a child playing in a primordial time – 8:22-31, as a sister—(a bride)—7:4—and as a guide 6:22
C. Waltke argues that Wisdom – designates a fixed, eternal, religio-social order, an order that God created, established and upheld
III. the audience
A. Naïve ones–same word used in v4—however it refers not just to immature and inexperienced people but rather to those who love ignorance, and deliberately refuse to listen to instruction in right living-they love foolishness
B. Simple-minded – about these people Kidner says, “mentally, he is naïve…morally he is willful and irresponsible… a man who is empty-headed
C. Scoffers –renders a term used in Psa 1:1; and Isa 29:20. It refers to people who openly scorn or ridicule God and religion—the term is often used in the Proverbs for a person expresses contempt for wisdom
D. Fools – a person who is insensible to moral truth and acts without regard to it
E. Covenant learners -v28-32—switch in personal pronoun –from “you” to “they”
IV. the message
A. the Speech is organized in two parts:
1. a sermon addressed to fools -20-27, cf 22---
2. a statement in third person addressed to the children of the covenant – 28-33
B. The sermon (vv22-27) has two sections –an invitation to fools 22-23 and denunciation of them 24—27
1. Her invitation to fools:
a. it is urgent, “how long?” – the rhetorical questions is is accusatory and it calls on the unwise to realize the acute crisis that confronts them and demands of them a change in direction. So it is essentially an admonition to repent.
b. it is addressed to naïve ones, scoffers, and fools
1) the naïve love not committing themselves to wisdom but remaining in an open state of seduction
2) fools simply hate knowledge—reject it or refuse it
c. it is an admonition to repent—Lady wisdom admonishes her audience to repent and strengthens her admonition with promise in v23
1) the admonitions
(a) turn- wisdom is addressing her words to the simple one, the scoffers, and the fools mentioned in v22. Turn comes from the Hebrew word, shub, – which has as its central meaning, to change course of direction. So LW demands a conscious and willing turning toward her reproach, a turning that entails a radical reorientation of their affections toward her teaching and a total repudiation of self-satisfaction with their love of folly
(b) Reproof-correction, reprimand, rebuke or scolding that Wisdom gives the foolish
2) The promise: I pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you
(a) I will pour out my spirit on you. Wisdom is likened to a fountain of water, a gushing spring for the person who will accept her instruction.It’s a promise of spiritual illumination, Eph. 1:17-18; 2Tim. 2:7
(b) I will make my words known. This simply repeats the thought of the previous line from a different perspective. My words = my thoughts, decisions
(c) Wisdom is accessible to all
(d) What does this tell us about the role of the church in world? (Matt. 5:14-16)
2. Her denunciation:
a. a scolding accusation for not listening to her-v24-25
1) LW left a door of hope open to fools in vv22-23 and now she shuts the door as indicated by the shift to the perfective tense. LW bases her judicial sentence against the simpletons on their deafening silence
2) She uses 4 predicates to describe the simpleton’s rejection of her sermon
(a) refused to listen–refusal to obey God’s commands
(b) paid no attention – means a conscious, willing and attentive use of the ears. She says, “you have completely ignored me.”
(c) neglected – let loose—to let slip through the fingers
(d) did not want my reproof – same word rendered give in 1:10

3) LW’s appeals
(a) I have called—invited or advised
(b) Stretched out my hand – refers to the gesture inviting someone to come toward the one calling. It is might be aimed at getting the attention of the fools.
b. giving the grounds for the judicial sentence that she will mock them at the time of their distress—vv26-27. Laugh and mock – express the inward joy and disdain a mighty conqueror feels toward the defeat of his abject enemies – Ps 2:4; 37:13; 59:8
3. Her judicial sentence:
a. she will not listen to them v26-
b. they will fall into calamity
1) v27-focuses on the degree of the coming disaster
2) Similes –like a storm—and – like a whirlwind. The combined simile aims to picture the calamity befalling fools as coming suddenly and as so catastrophic that nothing survives it
3) Calamity-refers to suffering, trouble, or disaster
4) Dread- refers to terror or fright
5) Whirlwind-a destructive and violent storm
6) Distress and anguish-pain and misery, express the strong negative emotions produced in the fools by the ruinous disaster
7) The mood of fools will change from complacency, stubbornness, and pride to extreme terror when their destruction comes

C. Her statement to the covenantal children:
1. the withdrawal of Lady Wisdom from the fool’s cries at the time of judgment–v28
a. Then – takes the audience beyond the judgment itself to LW’s deriding laughter v27 and decisive withdrawal v28 after disaster strikes
b. Fools will cry out to her and earnestly seek her, but she will not respond and will not be found
c. Call on me-at the time they call in their trouble—that is—after the distress and anguish take hold of them
d. I will not answer—I will pay no attention to you
e. They will seek me diligently-seek diligently – a word meaning to look for intently
f. Spurned- used in v7—fools despise wisdom –in v23—Wisdom asked the people to pay attention to “my reproof”—that is to the correction Wisdom gives to the fools because of their errors –the same is the sense in this verse
2. the inevitability of judgment for those who reject her- v29-31; now the judicial sentence comes
a. eat of the fruit of their own way – is an idiomatic way of saying that people must suffer the consequences of their conduct. Fruit refers to the storm and whirlwind (v27) with its accompanying distress and anxiety. The metaphor emphasizes the natural, inevitable consequence foolish living
b. satiated with their own devices –
1) satiated means to be filled or gratified to the point of being stuffed
2) devices—refers to mental activities such as evil plans, schemes, or intentions that may or may not have become actions
3. a generalizing substantiation condemning fools and commending the wise – v32-33
a. v32
1) The naïve-those of v22 who love their ignorance
2) Waywardness- refers to turning away from or refusing instruction in right living. The refusal to listen to instruction causes their death. Instead of turning toward LW’s rebuke, the simpletons turn away from it and implicitly toward sin; had they turned toward her rebuke they would have found life; by turning away from it they found death
3) Complacency – be at ease by neglecting or ignoring what should be done. Its a feeling of false security
4) Fools—stupid people are destroyed by their own lack of concern
b. v33-the discourse concludes with commendation of the wise
1) he who listens - The opposite of turning away from LW’s rebuke is listening to her
2) live secure – means be safe—have security—live in peace-this condition contrasts with the destruction of fools in v32
3) Be at ease –sense of having peace of mind, not being troubled by anxious thoughts and fears
4) Dread of evil- trouble, difficulties, or misfortune

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Introduction to Proverbs

(this outline is part one in a series on Proverbs I am doing for a home Bible study. I am using many different sources, but I credit here, Dr. Duane Garret and his NAC commentary and class lecture notes from Dr. Mark Futato.)

An introduction to Proverbs
By Rev. John Sawtelle

I. The author (s) of Proverbs
A. Solomon – 1:1; 10:1-22; 25:1-29:27 (compiled @ 300 years after his death; Solomon’s name can be translated to the number 375 in Hebrew characters, and this is the number of proverbs in this section). This constitutes a literary use of numbers, not an esoteric use.
B. Agur – ch.30
C. King Lemuel – 31:1-9
D. Sayings of the wise – 22:17; 24:23
II. The nature of Proverbs
A. they are royal
1. royalty-wisdom connection – Prov. 25:2; 1Kings 3:5-12, 16-28; 4:29-34; 10:1-7 (Solomon’s wisdom came from prayer: a prayer born out of humility (3:7-8); a specific prayer for wisdom (3:9); a prayer that was divinely answered (3:12; 4:29ff; 10:1-7)
2. royalty, wisdom, and the image of God – Gen. 1:28; 2:20,23 – naming is a dimension of subduing or kingship; royalty and wisdom are yoked in man’s calling to be a philosopher-scientist
B. they are “natural” –
1. the covenantal order of creation as the basis for wisdom: according to Proverbs, the world has a certain order to it, and living in harmony with that order is essential to peace and fulfillment (8:26ff). The biblical doctrine of creation is crucial to biblical wisdom. Proverbs strives to explain that moral order is rooted in the pattern of God’s creation, it is not itself some sort of independent entity (Garrett, 53).
2. Proverbs 6:6-9 illustrates the character-conduct-consequence nexus which is rooted in the very structure and order of creation
C. they are covenantal
1. wisdom is the embodiment of the law in day to day living – Dt. 4:6-8
2. wisdom moves within the sphere of the covenant
a. frequency and usage of the covenant name, “Lord,” indicates covenantal context of Proverbs (the name Yahweh, God’s covenantal name, is used 84 times in Proverbs, indicating a strong link between covenant and wisdom)
b. Proverbs applies the law of the covenant to daily life attitudes and experiences
1) 5th commandment – Dt. 5:16; Pro. 19:26; 15:5
2) 6th commandment – Dt. 5:17; Pro. 1:10-19
3) 7th commandment – Dt. 5:18; Pro. 2:16-19
4) 8th commandment – Dt. 5:19; Pro. 30:7-9
5) 9th commandment – Dt. 5:20 Pro. 12:17-19
6) 10th commandment – Dt. 5:21; Pro. 15:27
• Proverbs explains and applies covenant law to daily life in the form of terse maxims
c. Proverbs uses a literary form which is suitable for covenant wisdom (antithetical parallelism). This form is unique to Biblical wisdom (wisdom in other cultures is in the form of pithy one-liners), in that the antithesis between the 1st and the 2nd line depicts the either-or-nature of decision making. In other words, biblical wisdom sets before us a fork in the road, making every moment of life full of religious and covenantal significance: worship and obey the Lord or worship and obey idols
d. Proverbs articulates the outworking of the sanctions of the covenant in the life of the individual
1) side note: Duane Garrett’s comments mark out the lines of an important debate: does Israelite wisdom include a concept of divine retribution, or is it simply an act-consequence philosophy? This question brings us back to the issue of the relationship between Deuteronomy and Proverbs:
(a) divine retribution: the consequences of moral actions are divine rewards or punishments administered directly by God in accordance with the fidelity of an action with respect to the law
(b) act-consequence: each action contains within itself a link to reward or punishment according to the moral order which is embedded within creation itself
2) the Mosaic covenant included sanctions for corporate obedience or transgression – Dt. 28
3) Proverbs applies blessing and curse sanctions to individuals based on their own conduct – Pro 12:21,24; 13:13,18,21; 14:23; 15:9,31-32; 28:19; 19:16-17
3. the crucial concept of the “fear of the Lord” –
a. Proverbs 1:7 provides the context and backdrop for the proper understanding and application of the proverbs
b. the quest for wisdom must be in submission to the Maker of heaven and earth; having a relationship with the Lord of the covenant is the starting point for an ethical life
c. according to Proverbs and the Bible in general, the fear of the Lord is the frame of mind which is essential to all right thought and action
III. The purposes of Proverbs
A. structure unfolds purposes
1. synopsis (1:2): 2a attaining wisdom and discipline, 2b understanding words of insight
2. resumption-expansion (vv.3-6): vv3-4 expand upon 2a: moral development, vv5-6 expand upon 2b: mental development
B. 2 audiences addressed
1. supplement the simple – 1:4
a. the simple – those who are susceptible to deception, the morally deficient, inexperienced, naïve
b. the seduction of the simple – 7:7ff
c. the instruction of the simple – 9:4-6
d. the content: the simple are instructed in subtlety, to be adepts, clever, cunning, crafty; the same word is used of the serpent in Gen. 3:1; God wants His children to be equipped to handle people who are crafty; Jesus said we are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16)
2. instruct the wise – 1:5
a. hear – one must be willing to listen in order to gain wisdom
b. acquire wise counsel – literally “steering”
• Proverbs instructs both groups throughout, either directly or indirectly
IV. The literary devices of Proverbs
A. parallelism
1. synonymous parallelism – 16:18
2. antithetical parallelism – 17:22
3. synthetic parallelism – 10:18 (the 2nd line amplifies and expands upon the 1st line)
4. comparative parallelism – 25:12,25 (the 2nd line draws a comparison between some basic ethical or theological truth, or some illustration –usually from nature)
B. comparison – 16:18
C. juxtaposition – 25:14
D. numerical formula – 30:21,24,29
E. autobiographical point of view – 24:30-34

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dr. Waltke resigns over EVILUTION

If you have not read much about Dr. Waltke's resignation from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), check out this article on Huffington Post, .

My intention in posting this is not to villainize Dr. Waltke because of his theistic evolutionary views,or to spark a debate over which interpretation of Genesis 1 is correct, or to get into the broader topic of how natural revelation ought ought to shape our interpretation of scripture. The real issue I have with this incident is contained in a specific quote found in this article. RTS' interim president, Michael Milton, apparently defines the nub of the concern which caused Dr. Waltke's dismissal/resignation: the situation caused the school "heartache," but Waltke ultimately disobeyed the institution's mandate on evolution: No Darwinian talk allowed. So in the very words of the school president, the issue is not that Dr. Waltke holds to a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1, its that he moved from interpretation of special revelation to making judgments about natural revelation and advocated a nuanced view of theistic evolution to account for the origins of the universe.

Let's think through the issues here. RTS tolerates a variety of views on Genesis 1, including everything from Day Age to Framework Hypothesis to Accommodated Day theory, yet, all the while it permits this, it enforces a gag rule on the professors about their views concerning the age of the earth and the mechanism which generated the material world? To me, that is extremely suspect. Are we supposed to believe that all these professors who hold to non-literal views of Genesis 1 hold such positions without reference to or awareness of the massive, overwhelming, scientific consensus that the earth is billions of years old and is the product of naturalistic evolution? If you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you. It is utterly dishonest to concede that because of the supposedly open and shut case for an old earth it is obvious Genesis 1 cannot be interpreted literally, yet on the earth hand, allow no discussion or provide no guidance for students to think through the proposed scientific models which are used to account for the origins of creation. At minimum, the students deserve better than that, since they are the ones who have to stand before presbyteries and classes for orthodoxy exams, and they are the ones who have to answer questions from people in their churches who will want some help in thinking through the problem of origins and the age of the earth and the mechanisms involved, if the Genesis 1 is not meant to be taken literally after all. This gag rule constitutes a major disservice to the students and is a policy that is riddled with inconsistency.

Another problem I have with this is, where does the seminary draw the line in terms of other discussions which bear upon the interface of science with scripture? Is the line arbitrarily drawn at the point of discussion about origins only, but discussion is permitted on any other topic? I noticed that RTS has a program in marriage and family therapy which certainly interacts with science. So is the policy that, when it comes to the "hard" sciences professors are gagged, but when it comes to the social sciences they are free to comment? Why permit discussions about the social sciences though? There are certainly a number of theories in the social sciences that are a serious threat to the authority of scripture, the institution of the family, and Christian ethics, if the church accepts the findings of the social sciences as valid.

It seems to me that something else is going on here. I have no proof or insider evidence, but I think this has a lot more to do with donors than it does with discussions about scientific models of origins. I think it is about fear that the spigot which controls the cash flow from the donors might just put a squeeze on the seminary budget if word gets out of classroom discussions about the evolutionary bogeyman, and that some professors are OK with that scientific model. You say, well that is fairly cynical, and at any rate why shouldn't they have a concern not to offend their donors since the seminary ostensibly exists to serve churches where these donors attend. I am not advocating a lack of concern about the donors, I guess I am failing to see how the donors are not offended about non-literal views, which are clearly motivated by "scientific evidence" for an old earth, but the donors are offended about any discussion over whether there is a scientific model of origins which is consistent with scriptural principles.

There appears to be a real disconnect here: either the church has not come to grips with the fact that it has given science the authority to control its interpretation of one of the most foundational principles of Biblical faith, or the seminary tail is wagging the proverbial dog of the church and is intellectually bullying the pew to accept a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 but is at the same time closing its eyes to the implications of such a position. At the end of the day, I hope the resignation of Dr. Waltke stimulates a very robust and honest discussion about this issue in the churches, seminary classrooms, and the pulpits, so that the church comes to a more self-conscious view of what it believes and why.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Message Framing Pt2: Risky Behavior

Message framing (MF) is a rhetorical strategy, used in a wide range of persuasive messages in order to gain the compliance of a particular target audience. A very common use of MF is found in public service anouncements (PSA's). The specific use of MF we will discuss here is its application so PSA's addressing risky behavior by young people. Assuming the basic components of MF outlined in pt1 of this series, we will look at two primary rhetorical strategies employed by those using MF: messages that use gain-framed appeals which emphasize the positive benefits of compliance and loss-framed appeals which emphasize negative aspects of failing to comply with the persuasive appeal.

Recent research applying MF to PSA's has disclosed some helpful insights about what kinds of frames are most useful at securing positive college drinkresponses by a target audience and under what circumstances. With respect to college drinking, Gerend and Cullen (2008) found that gain-framed messages emphasizing the positive effects of moderate drinking were more effective than loss-framed messages if the gain-framed message was combined with an emphasis on the short-term benefitsof moderation rather than the long-term negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. Another study, focusing on the application of MF to anti-drug campaigns, Choi and Buster (2008) conluded that loss-frame messages were more effective with adolescents who either used pot or had friends who used pot, while gain-framed prevention messages were more effective at gaining compliance with adolescents who neither used pot in the past and had friends who were non-users. They reasoned that the difference in the effectiveness of the message frames came down to the assesment of risk by the message receivers. Adolescents who used pot, viewed non-use as risky since it entailed possible negative consequences, therefore, a message which framed continued use of pot negatively, as potentianlly dangerous, was more persuasive to them, while non-users simply needed reinforcement of the benefits of non-use since maitaining their current practice was not perceived as risky and involved certain gains. In another study, Marman and van de Putte (2008) found that persuasive appeals interacted with other message characteristics, subjective concerns, and context factors to produce compliance with anti-smoking messages. They were able to conclude that in the specific case where an individuals intention to quit smoking was high and the level of nicotene was high, loss-framed messages were more effective at gaining compliance. In the case where intention to quit was low and nicotene dependence was low, they concluded that gain-framed messages were more effective.

The conclusion to be drawn from the sampling of these 3 studies suggests that MF interacts with other message characteristics and context factors to effect compliance. Framing messages effectively for PSA's will require the persuader to accurately assess the receivers subjective conceptions of risk in relationship to the message of the appeal, carefully consider the nature of the PSA, and the characteristics of the target audience.