Friday, February 29, 2008

Weirdness upon weirdness

As some of you know (particularly my current and former students), I have a real bug about plagiarism. There's no insult I take more personally than when a student of mine cheats on an assignment.

When I grade papers, I'm constantly looking for things that don't sound "student-ish," etc., some of the tipoffs that plagiarism has taken place.

I've been grading papers this week, summary & response to part of a chapter from a rather excellent book, LeAnn Snow Flesher's Left Behind? The Facts Behind the Fiction. And a couple of students have misused the word "fluidity." They've both misused the word in ways similar to one another. And yet they clearly aren't plagiarizing each other, and there's no hint of them simultaneously plagiarizing a third source.

What am I to conclude? SOMEHOW these two students have both, by some cosmic hiccough, misused the same word in the same way on the same assignment for the same professor, and it's entirely concidental? There is no better explanation--at least, not that I know of.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Ultimate GUY Movie List

What are the top five essential ultimate GUY movies? I mean: the movies that, if you're male and you don't like them, you have to forfeit your Man card. What are they?

Here's my list.

1. The Godfather I and II; okay, that's cheating. But it wasn't personal, it was business.

2. Animal House; the funniest movie ever made; Caddyshack is a distant second. Best line (of many): "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life."

3. Gladiator: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." 'Nuff said.

4. The Shawshank Redemption: the best "buddy" movie ever made.

5. Pulp Fiction: Samuel L. Jackson's monologue is transcendent:

"There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17: 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.' "

"I been sayin' that @#$% for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your @#$%. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a @#$% before you popped a cap in his @#$%. But I saw some @#$% this mornin' made me think twice. Now I'm thinkin': it could mean you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here, he's the shepherd protecting my righteous @#$% in the valley of darkness."

"Or it could be you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that. But that @#$% ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd."

Honorable mention: Magnolia, 28 Days Later, The Usual Suspects, Dr. Strangelove, The Good the Bad & the Ugly, Alien, Fight Club, the whole LOTR thing, etc.


Tonight's LOST

Ah, what a perfect episode, and what a perfect ending!

Man, I love this show. I'm haunted by the likelihood that the producers won't be able to pull it off, at some point they're going to pull a Twin Peaks and give us a stupid explanation. But Lost is the most fascinating sustained puzzle I've ever watched.

Part of it is that the characters are interesting and appealing and have incredibly detailed back stories. Part of it is that the action and suspense are top-notch; the twists and turns are truly shocking, but they always seem plausible.

Anyway. GREAT stuff.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

LOVE this quote

From Charlie Wilson's War, a darn good movie:

"A boy is given a horse on his 14th birthday. Everyone in the village says, 'Oh how wonderful.' But a Zen master who lives in the village says, 'We'll see.' The boy falls off the horse and breaks his foot. Everyone in the village says, 'Oh how awful.' The Zen master says, 'We'll see.' The village is thrown into war and all the young men have to go to war. But, because of the broken foot, the boy stays behind. Everyone says, 'Oh, how wonderful.' And the Zen master says, 'We'll see.' "

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Caffeine, How I Love Thee!

Caffeine, how I love thee! Let me count the ways!

Most of the flavor that you get from coffee comes from volatile oils that the beans contain. The problem with volatile oils is that they're volatile; in other words, they dissolve / evaporate / degrade when they come into contact with heat / air.

This, btw, is why coffee made in a percolator smells so good (all the volatile oils are evaporating into the ether) and tastes so flat ("all the oils go bye bye!")

Since Christmas, I've been making my coffee in a french press, a personal travel press from Starbucks. (Yes, a gift from my dear wife.) I'm using the same brand and grind of coffee that I always use.

But I've noticed a flavor in the press coffee that I don't find in drip coffee; apparently it's one of those volatile oils. Because of the differing amounts of heat and air involved, this particular oil evaporates in drip coffee but not in press coffee. (I've also found that particular taste in cold brewed coffee, such as coffee from a Toddy Coffee maker.)

The flavor in question is a very rich, molasses or liquorice-y taste; dark and subtle, not overpowering. It gives the coffee a complex kind of sweetness that drip coffee with sugar doesn't have. DARN good.

And unless you use a press or cold brew your coffee, you have no idea what I'm talking about.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lectures, 26 February

Two 75-minute lectures today; Tuesday & Thursday are my heavy days. (I have an online class that I tend on MWF, no lecture classes.)

In my Gospel of Matthew class, we covered Mt 12.22-50 (which sets the stage for the parables in chapter 13) and then chapter 13.

It's always interesting to watch students, most of who are VERY familiar with these parables, try to read them historically. I take them through the parables once in a very surface reading, something like what they'd get in Sunday School. "The farmer represents _____? The seed represents _______? Why does some seed grow and some seed NOT?"

But then I back them off and show them how critical difference changes the meaning of a text. In Matt 12.22-50, Matthew shows us how and why (from his perspective) Israel as a group was rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. Their reasons: Jesus wasn't doing what they thought a Messiah should do! They thought the Messiah would come with force, and immediately reward the good people and punish the bad. That's what they expected when the Kingdom came.

Instead, Jesus says:
  • When the kingdom comes, it comes through teaching.
  • It comes by invitation, not by force.
  • It comes in secret, and works secretly until BOOM suddenly it's taken over the whole place.
  • It coexists with evil; you won't be able to tell who the good people are and who the bad people are, because appearances will be deceiving.
It's one of my favorite lectures every year; in fact, I give it both in Gospel of Matthew AND in Biblical Theology class.

As for my theology class; I tried to cover the high points of OT theology from Moses through Jeremiah in a single 75 minute lecture. Simply not possible.

The high points as I see them:
  • The law, how do New Covenant people relate to the Old Covenant?
  • Theological patterns from the Exodus; the tenderness and harshness of God;
  • The conquest;
  • David: 2 Sam 7.11 "Son of David," David and Bathsheba, how his sin effects his reign as king;
  • Isaiah 1-39 and the military messiah; Isaiah 40 - 66 and the Suffering Servant;
  • Jeremiah 31.31-34 and the new covenant.
I covered all of this EXCEPT Isaiah. I was running out of voice, and I knew that I would not have time to cover all of Isaiah and Jeremiah. So I jumped ahead to Jeremiah. Next lecture, I'll go back and cover Isaiah and how confused the Messianic expectations were when Jesus came. Then I'll get into the gospels.

Thursday, I only have one lecture to give (GMatt.) My Theology class will be meeting in the library, where I will show them tools for their vocational theology papers. I told them; "If you need help with your vocational theology paper, I will be available Thursday to do crisis counseling, show you what books you should begin with and how to use them, etc."

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Monday, February 25, 2008


One of my addictions (no pun intended) is A&E's show Intervention. It follows an addict--usually drugs or alcohol, but also occasionally people with eating disorders, or who cut themselves, etc. The producers pretend that they're shooting a documentary on addiction--which in truth they are. But the kicker is that there's an intervention at the end, and the producers will pay for the addict to go into treatment.

It's a brutal show, every bit as gut wrenching as Reservoir Dogs or Fight Club. It's also fascinating and incredibly revealing.

One of the hardest things to watch, one of the most brutal things to experience in media today, is the family that is torn apart by addictions, or the addict who is struggling against his / her demons.

Tonight's show: young man, Iraq war veteran. Alcoholic; drinks constantly. His family is co-dependent, their love for him and their sympathy over his experiences in Iraq and the ways life had mistreated him led them to enable his addiction.

They had the intervention. The kid agreed to go into treatment, but he left after three weeks and started drinking again. The parents refused to enable him, wouldn't let him live in their house or drive their vehicles. So he's been living with friends and drinking every day.

Couldn't beat the demons.

I've always thought that addiction was a great model for understanding sin and its effects on us. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and "Wretched man that I am; who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Mt 5.3 and Romans 7.24, respectively) point us to our powerlessness over sin.

It's not that we can't do good things on our own power; I'm not a Calvinist, I don't believe in total depravity. Rather, it is that we can't consistently do what's good. Like alcoholics who can keep a handle on things for a while, function in their jobs for a while, we can for a time keep a lid on things by superhuman effort. But we eventually fall off the wagon, unless we admit our powerlessness and our need for the Spirit to obey in us from the inside out (Rom 8.1-11).

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Monday: A Summary

Here's what I did today:
  • Graded a TON of papers: seriously, I graded papers for at least six hours today, and I'm not done;
  • Made phone calls;
  • Set up an interview; we're hiring at least two new profs, and I set up the travel arrangements, etc., for one of the candidates;
  • Ate a crappy lunch in the KCU cafeteria;
  • Went to the bank and signed a paper;
  • Gassed up the KCU car that I drove to Columbus last night;
  • Make more phone calls;
  • Got sleepy.

OK, so here's what I did. I was sleepy, all afternoon logy, so I made coffee in my french press. I was SO FREAKING DESPERATE for the caffeine that, instead of creaming and sugaring it in a cup like I normally do, I just drank it black, straight out of the spout of the french press.

I'm allowed to do that, right? Drink coffee directly out of my french press, with no implements or dishes between? Does anyone else do that? If so, do they sugar (and cream?) it in the press?

Anyway. My headache's gone, and I think I can manage to stay awake for at least one more hour.

More papers to grade. Eesh.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday, 24 February 2008

For the last few weeks, I've been driving up from Grayson (Kentucky) to Columbus (Ohio) every Sunday afternoon. The purpose of the trips is to teach my theology class at East Pointe Christian Church.

It's been a blast. I really enjoy the people there, and theology is my favorite thing to teach. The trip is a little over 2.5 hours, which is enough to unwind but not too much, and the scenery is nice.

How do I approach theology? A lot of storytelling; a lot of reading texts and asking, "Why does he do this?" and "What does THAT mean?" and "Does this teach us something about relating to God?", etc. Here's an example:

Genesis 15: Abraham has been walking with God for 25 years. God comes to Abe and says, "It's me, Abraham, the one who protects and takes care of you." And Abraham says, "Gee, God, that's nice. But I don't have a kid yet, and I'm starting to get old. Don't you think it's time?"

And God takes Abe out and shows him the stars: "That's how many children you're going to have." And "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Then I ask:
  • What does it mean "Abe believed God"? Does that = Abe decided that God was telling him the truth? Or is there something deeper there, some kind of surrender or commitment beyond agreeing on a cognitive / intellectual level?
  • What does it mean that God credited something to Abraham as righteousness? What is God determining or promising to do?
Then I continue:

So Abraham entrusts himself to God, but he wants something more. So he asks: How do I know this promise is true? And God has him bring out animals and cut them in half, and lay the halves so that there's a path between them. This is an ancient covenant ceremony; you and the person you're entering the covenant with walk together between the halves of the animals. The point: if YOU break the covenant, they can cut you in half. And if THEY break the covenant, you can cut them in half.

Only Abraham doesn't walk between the halves. God walks through alone.

Then I ask: What's the point? Why does God walk through and Abe doesn't?

Etc., etc. Stories lead to theology. It's not about propositions, it's about the Redemptive Acts of God.

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And Who Is Perry L. Stepp, Ph.D.?

  • Husband of 22 years to Elizabeth, father of Kayla Josh Anna.
  • Christian, Conservative, Deadhead, (Dallas) Cowboy fan
  • Dean of the Sack School of Bible and Ministry, Kentucky Christian University
  • Associate Professor, New Testament and Theology
  • Contributor to the scholarly NT studies blog,
  • Author of two scholarly monographs and the forthcoming Reading Paul's Letters to Individuals in the Reading the New Testament series from Smyth & Helwys
  • Coffee drinker
  • Deadhead (5-8-77 Cornell, YO!)
  • Eternal juvenile

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Repost: Who / What is Theophilus Punk?

The name, "Theophilus Punk": it's a conflation of several plays on words.

When I was in Bible College (Dallas Christian College) back in the early 1980's, I wanted to get together a group of freaks like myself to play improvised heavy-metal-acid-jazz music--imagine REM meets Black Sabbath meets Grateful Dead meets In a Silent Way-era Miles Davis, and I wanted to call the band Theophilus Punk. Of course, WANTING to form a band is a lot different than FORMING a band, so it never happened.

Anyway: the plays on words: The first, of course, is a play on the name of legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. Monk was the lyrical anarchist of bebop piano, who wrote such classics as " 'Round Midnight," "Straight, No Chaser," and "Blue Monk."

The second is a play on the name "Theophilus." Theophilus, which is an ancient Greek name meaning "lover of God," was the patron who supported the early Christian biographer Luke while he wrote the gospel and the book of Acts which we now have in the New Testament.

As for the "punk" part--well, you can probably figure it out on your own. I had a wide and deep rebellious streak when younger, and--though I've repented of all that and become wise and respectable--I still have a little edginess in my character.

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