Monday, February 06, 2012

Oxford diary.

* I'm staying at Wycliffe Hall, only about three or four blocks from my studies.  College Park is even closer, so I did manage to get in one run so far, down to the Cherwell, around where the ducks mill before a small waterfall, then around again.  But it was starting to snow -- yeah, that's my excuse -- so I didn't go more than one round.

* Each night it would get colder.  One morning, the pond by the river was frozen, with a little skirting of ice where the water intruded into land a few inches.  The next morning, chunks of ice were floating free.  The next morning, the river was almost frozen over, as was the quarter-mile long, shallow pond or lake in Port Meadow.  The ice was only about an inch and a half thick, but lots of people were walking on it with their kids on Saturday, and some grown men had out hockey sticks and were going at it.  As I walked across the ice, though, it snappy, crackled, and popped -- not thick enough for me, yet. 

* Then that night it snowed, turned to rain, clouds, then fog, and the ice was ruined. 

* I've been reading Alvin Plantinga lately.  I had planned to buy a book or two before leaving for the UK, but had to print off a few chapters, instead.  Some brilliant stuff. 

Last night chatted with a Chinese fellow (Mr. Chen) studying "math, physics, and philosophy."  I asked him a bit about it -- the philosophy seemed a bit too mathematical for my taste -- then asked if he'd read Plantinga.  "He's my teacher!"  He replied.  "Warranted Christian Belief is the book that led me to become a Christian!"

Who says arguments don't convince people? 

Plantinga is, indeed, lucidity on skates: the air crackles, the ice beneath does not, his humor is fatal, killing you with the friendly absuridity to which your argument has just been reduced,

* Tim Keller is rumored to be speaking at Oxford Town Hall this week.  May have to go. 

* Wycliffe Hall is a nice place to stay: the room is warm enough, things generally work, people are helpful.  I prefer Commonwealth House, though, because there are more internationals, and people are coming and going more -- you don't feel at all like you're butting in on a group of colleagues, as sometimes I do at Wycliffe. 

* They're building a museum across the alley from Commonwealth, or trying to (it'll take ten million pounds!) called "Story Museum," or something like that.  It'll be a museum to remember all the great stories created in Oxford: Alice in Wonderland, Middle Earth, Narnia, Pullman's Dark Materials, or whatever they're called.  For the first time, I almost wish my dissertation were not nearing completion . . . A wonderful idea.   And in a great location!  (It'll also be across the street from Christ Church College, where Lewis Carroll was math teacher.  And heck, while we're mentioning it, Lawrence of Arabia went to St. Aldates, behind Commonwealth -- that's almost a fairy tale.  No comment on Mr. Of Arabia's romantic proclivities intended.) 

* Meanwhile, back in the real world, the snow has turned to mush, and walking become difficult.  It's supposed to freeze again the next few nights. 

* My seminar seems to have been a success.  Dr. Farr led it.  During the seminar, he went around the room and asked each scholar whether he subscribed to exclusivism, inclusivism, or pluralism, the three usual choices.  (Which I had just been explaining, also berating.)  No one chose pluralism, which is good -- I'd been dumping on it most of all -- but maybe half chose exclusivism, despite my objections, and one or two volunteered that he agreed with me that the game was rigged wrongly. 

Dr. Farr studied with John Hick, the pre-eminent pluralist.  I asked him to say which he favored; his reply seemed surprisingly mumbled -- or is that nuanced -- but I gathered he saw something to Hick's position, anyway. 


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