Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Joy in Beantown

I'm reading all sorts of news stories all over the internet now about how David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are both on this infamous list of 104 baseball players to tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Now of course, Manny has already tested positive this year, and served his suspension, so this isn't really huge news. Ortiz is a much bigger story, and a much bigger disappointment, but unfortunately, I can't say I'm really all that surprised (though, to be fair to Papi, there are only a handful players in the game who would really, genuinely surprise me at this point - Jason Varitek and Derek Jeter spring immediately to mind, but there are others).

As to the whole PED issue is a quagmire with no quick or easy answers, so far as I can see. Focusing on which players have used in the past and how to handle things like stats, records, championships, and the like is just going to prolong a problem that is best handled only by a solid drug policy moving forward, and the steady application of time.

But what really hacks me off is this list. The players who agreed to be tested in 2003 were guaranteed two things: that there would be no penalties for positive tests, and that the results would be destroyed immediately after the league was finished with the study it was conducting, so that they would never become public. Obviously that didn't happen. What did happen is that the Feds seized the list, which shortly thereafter became a court-sealed document. But the list is still becoming public. Not all at once, mind. No, the names are leaking out in ones and twos every few months, so that just as the media frenzy over one is dying down, out pops another. A-Rod's results not a big story anymore? Alright, let's release Sammy Sosa's name. Sosa turns out not to be a huge story? The media frenzy died down too quickly? Darn, well, let's toss out a couple names from the Red Sox, that'll make news! Because that's what this is. This is some lousy [expletive deleted] who has been entrusted with confidential information getting his jollies by stirring things up. Nobody benefits from that. The list ought to have been destroyed, because that's what the players were promised. But if the results were going to be released, then they should've been released all at once. The only people who benefit from this trickle of information are the jackass doing the trickling, and the media, who now have something new to blather about for awhile.

This whole mess is just rotten from one end to the other. The fact that there are and have been players using drugs is awful and wrong, but the way this list from 2003 is being handled is infuriating and, in my opinion, just as wrong.

Friday, July 03, 2009

On Language Learning

One of the myriad Biblical studies blogs I read posted a link to a post on yet another blog, here, where Dr. Mark McGinniss comments on the link between admiring the Biblical languages and willingness to endure the difficulties of learning them. I absolutely agree: if you admire the Biblical languages, you will be willing to put forth the effort of learning to read them.

I think there's more that may be said, though. I've been party to (or observer of) a number of conversations at Asbury, both in person and on the school's internet discussion forum, on the necessity of language study, particularly for those entering into congregational ministry. There are a whole range of (very excellent) arguments given as to why the clergy ought to have good working knowledge of the Biblical languages (and, to be honest, I'm fighting the temptation to jump off-topic in that direction).

There are also a number of arguments on the other side. Asbury only requires 2-3 semesters (combined) of Greek and Hebrew for an M.Div. There are many who think that is plenty, and many who think it's too much (I happen to think it quite inadequate, but I digress). The most common arguments usually center on two points: 1)Learning these languages is difficult and time consuming. 2)Does a pastor really need to do the legwork of reading the Greek/Hebrew him-(or her)-self when there are so many resources - commentaries and dictionaries and whatnot - that have already covered the same ground?

My view, for what it's worth, is that these two objections are linked. The perceived difficulty of learning the Biblical languages is inversely proportional to the perceived need to learn them. Or, to put it another way, the more sure you are that you need to be able to read Greek and Hebrew to understand Scripture, the easier (though still not "easy") you will find it to learn to read Greek and Hebrew. Conversely, the less persuaded you are that you need to learn the languages, the more difficult and onerous the task will seem.

This really goes for learning any language, not just Biblical Greek and Hebrew. That, I suspect, is part of the reason immersion is the best method of language learning: entering an environment where you cannot communicate with the people around you creates - or should create - an intense perceived need to learn their language. Another example: I taught myself to read French this past January. It's a lovely language, and I'd had the books I used to learn it for several months, but did not start learning it until very early January. Why? Because my Ph.D. program required that I pass a competency exam in French, which was scheduled for February 1. The need to learn a language facilitates the task of learning that language. (For those curious, I did pass the exam, and developed quite a fondness for French along the way.)

All that being so, then, a seminary student who does not think that learning the Biblical languages is particularly necessary to his or her career in the pastorate will find it harder to learn the languages than someone who (like myself) regards it as crucial. So, to Dr. McGinniss's excellent observation - "If you admire the use of Hebrew (or Greek), you will weather the frustration" - I would add the following: if you feel that the use and knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is important or valuable, you will find the frustrations easier to weather.