Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Good Taste In Music and Canonicity

Complimenting someone on their good taste in music is weird because it implies that their taste in music is distinct from yours, yet good. It begs the question 'why aren't your two tastes in music identical?'. Think about it.

It reminds me of how everbody goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over Pevear's and Volokhonsky's translations of Russian classics like Tolstoy's "The Idiot". How would you know whether a work is truly a good translation or not?

I once heard about this philosopher of mathematics who failed to show up to the ceremony in which he was awarded a super rare and historical award because he said that there was nobody qualified to even decide whether he deserved it.

My old sensi once told me that he didn't give weight to compliments from blue belts, sense he was a black belt 5th degree.

But in the end the recognition of the greatness of something that you couldn't do yourself is perfectly reasonable. My friends Daniel, Jon, Max, and Chris all have good senses of musical goodness. I just can't seem to track down good tunes or track with various cultural movements.

BUT when I hear good music I can recognize it.

I can recognize beautiful paintings and though I have hands capable of painting I simply do not have the knack.

And my own inability to paint does not rightly prevent me from criticism or compliment.

A blue belt's inability to exact a side-thrust kick does not disqualify him from judging that another's is orthodox.

A panel's falling short of world-changing mathematical achievement by no means discredits them from rewarding such.

An American population's Russian illiteracy doesn't completely restrict their ability to appreciate the poeticism of a translation effort, or to marvel at reports of its accuracy.

Some of my beloved Christian brothers and sisters elevate our shared and cherished tradition to a particular authoritative status I believe only scripture itself should enjoy. "Who gave scripture its authority?" they have asked me.

Still there are other brothers and sisters who may hold scripture to be the highest authority, but who unfortunately therefore condemn all attempts at identifying and describing things, such as tradition or archaeology, that "prove" the Bible to be reliable or without error.

I personally believe that we should thread the needle: the Bible is uniquely inherently authoritative in the highest degree, and yet it is beneficial and even right that we nevertheless put it to the test, and seek out and describe things that attest to its credibility.

It is in the vein of recognizing another's good taste in music that I see that it is possible for a community to recognize books as canonical without it being so that said works in any way derive their authority from said community.

Similarly, while there are those who insist it is upside down to search for extrabiblical attestations to the reliability of the Bible, I insist it is quite reasonable. What other way are we to discern between self-proclaimed authorities? No, it is right that we catalog evidence in recognition of the Bible's credibility.

But let's keep these things in their proper places. The Bible is authoritative because it is God's Word, not because a group of humans said that it is God's Word.

Posted with LifeCast


  1. i'm sorry..did you just say "tolstoy's the idiot"? ARE YOU RETARDED?

    part of me thinks you did that on purpose, but another, better part of me is skeptical. i don't know man, but i couldn't help from pointing it out.

  2. nice post, Louis. come visit us soon so your wife can get some sunshine :)

  3. hey! thanks Amanda. we shall try

  4. I believe that Louis meant to say
    "Tolstoy is the idiot."
    Don't hate on him because he expresses truth via contractions and hyperbole.

  5. I liked your articulation of the justice of the non-expert opinion of the expert, since it is not something I would have consciously articulated myself, but is something that I find intuitively acceptable and true. I may have to agree with Brianna about Tolstoy though.

  6. Would you agree with this statement from the LBC?

    5._____We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
    ( John 16:13,14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 1 John 2:20, 27)


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