From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




The Dean Recommends: No, God Isn't Transgender

By Robert A. J. Gagnon
August 15, 2016

In what has to be a new low for the New York Times, the Gray Lady (or should we now say the Bearded Lady?) has published an op-ed piece titled “Is God Transgender?” by a New York rabbi named Mark Sameth. Cousin to a man who “transitioned to a woman” in the 1970s, Sameth contends that “the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender.” He marshals many purported examples of gender fluidity in the Hebrew scriptures, in order to argue that religion should not be put in service of “social prejudices” against transgendering. But his treatment of the Bible amounts to propaganda, not scholarship.

Proposing that the God of Israel was worshipped originally as “a dual-gendered deity,” the rabbi asserts, untenably, that the etymological derivation of Yahweh is “He/She” (HUHI). His argument requires that the Tetragrammaton be read, not from right to left (as Hebrew always is), but from left to right:

The four-Hebrew-letter name of God, which scholars refer to as the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, was probably not pronounced “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” as some have guessed. The Israelite priests would have read the letters in reverse as Hu/Hi—in other words, the hidden name of God was Hebrew for “He/She.”

But biblical scholars are in general agreement that “Yahweh” is derived from the third-person singular of the verb “to be” (hayah), whether a qal imperfect (“he is” or “he will be”) or the causative hiphil imperfect (“he causes to come into being, he creates”). This view is confirmed by numerous lines of evidence: the interpretation given in Exod 3:14 (“Say to the sons of Israel, ‘ehyeh [‘I am’ or ‘I will be’ (who I am/will be)] sent me to you”); the use of shortened forms of Yahweh at the end (“Yah” or “Yahu”) or beginning (“Yeho” or “Yo”) of Hebrew names; the spelling “Yabe” known to the Samaritans; and transliterations “Yao,” “Ya-ou-e,” and “Ya-ou-ai” in some Greek texts. No historical evidence supports Sameth’s reading—only his own sex ideology. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, August 25, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: The Secular Regime

By P. Andrew Sandlin
August 18, 2016

We live in a radically and increasingly secular society. This secularization has several prominent historical roots, and it would be reductionist to attribute it to only factor. My point isn’t so much to offer a genealogy, however, but a brief diagnosis.

First, we need to know what secularism is.

Secularism Defined

Secularization doesn’t mean that people no longer believe in God. It means that people no longer believe that God has any interest in culture. “[T]he process of secularization,” states Christopher Dawson, “arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.”[1] It’s possible for many people in a society to believe in God and Christianity and still live in a secular society. This is precisely the case in the West, and even in North America. Secularization isn’t the conviction that God doesn’t exist (it isn’t the same as theoretical atheism). It’s the idea that God doesn’t exist in any influential way in a society. Cultural secularists are rarely interested in what we’d call metaphysical issues; they just don’t want God or any religion crimping their style, and especially their sex lives. Secularization is the abolition of the Triune God from everywhere except between anybody’s two ears or, at best, the family, and the church between 10:00 a.m. and noon on Sunday. Secularization means that God and Christianity simply have no official or formal bearing (and have, in fact, practically no bearing at all) on politics, education, art, science, architecture, music, technology, media and so on.

Plausibility Structure

This secularism has created a massive plausibility structure. By that I mean, it has remanded Christian truth as culturally relevant to the far reaches of society. It has de-privileged Christian discourse. It has ruled it not wrong, but simply out of bounds. Secularism is a faith so widespread that it no longer needs to be defended or even promoted tenaciously. Almost everybody holds it, and to believe differently is not so much to be opposed as to be ignored. Racial equality (for example) is part of our plausibility structure (it also happens to be biblically correct). People today in the West who claim that Whites or Asians are superior to Blacks or Hispanics aren’t persecuted; they are ignored as kooks and cranks. Yet 250 years ago, this was an idea that was hotly disputed in the populace, including by educated elites. By contrast, if you say today that marijuana should be legalized, you’ll get a real fight on your hands. That’s because pot legalization is not a segment of the plausibility structure like racial equality is. Read the rest at docsandlin.com.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Tuesday, August 23, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Samford to Honor Seven Alumni at Homecoming

By Mary Wimberley
August 17, 2016

Samford University will honor seven outstanding graduates during homecoming activities in November.

Honorees include four Alumni of the Year, one Outstanding Young Alumna and two recipients of the new Humanitarian of the Year award.

Alumni of the Year honorees are William R. Baggett, Class of 1957, Keith Herron, Class of 1986, Fred Kingren, Class of 1982, and Anne Glaze Stone, Class of 1967. Class of 2007 graduate Kathryn Anne Murnane is the Outstanding Young Alumna of the Year.

Carolyn Maull McKinstry, who earned a Master of Divinity from Samford’s Beeson Divinity School in 2008, and Stephen B. Moss, a 1968 graduate of Cumberland School of Law, are inaugural recipients of the humanitarian award.

The Humanitarian of the Year award was established this year to recognize Samford graduates of distinction, wide respect and acknowledged leadership who have made outstanding contributions to better the lives of those around them by staying true to the Samford mission.

All seven honorees will be recognized at events throughout homecoming weekend, including the 175th anniversary ball Friday, Nov. 11. Read the rest at Samford University.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, August 22, 2016
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