Upcoming from Verbum (Logos)

Verbum is charging ahead with more releases, many now on “pre-pub.” This means they’re gathering interesting by taking pre-orders, at a reduced price. That enables them to determine user interest in a certain title or bundle.

For example, Edward Schillebeeckx Collected Works (14 vols.), isn’t really something at the top of my list. But tell me you’re working on Select Works of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI (21 vols.)The Homilies and Angeli of Pope John Paul II (8 vols.) by John Paul II, or the first English translation of Aquinas’ Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah: English and Latin (2 vols.), and I’m there, baby.

A new, larger Benedict/Ratzinger set is also on the way. The Select Works of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI (21 vols.) includes the following items:

 Another nice set, currently on community pricing, is Post-Reformation Catholic Thought and Piety (27 vols.). With community pricing, people bid on the highest price they’re willing to pay for the set. If the set goes lower, you pay the lesser price.

Here’s the official description of this set:

The Catholic Church has honored only 35 people with the title “Doctor of the Church,” recognizing them for their eminent learning and great sanctity. Nine of these thinkers have lived in the past five centuries: St. John of Ávila (1500–1569), St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), St. John of the Cross (1542–1591), St. Peter Canisius (1521–1597), St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559–1619), St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622), St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787), and St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). Their brilliant works vary from Scriptural commentary, to mystical poetry, to catechetical instruction and spiritual direction, and will add historical, intellectual, and spiritual depth to your Logos library.

The Post-Reformation Catholic Thought and Piety (27 vols.) collection offers writings from each of these modern Doctors (with the exceptions of St. John of Ávila and Thérèse of Lisieux—whose Story of a Soul is available separately). Taken together, their writings provide a window into Catholic thought and piety as the Church faced the struggles of the Reformation and of modern society. But they are of more than historical importance. As is evidenced in their continued and profound influence on contemporary Christian thought and piety, the insights and spiritual accomplishments of the modern Doctors are of enduring value.

News From Verbum: Android App, Ignatius Study Bible, & More

Verbum for Android

Verbum (formerly Logos Catholic Bible Study Software) has some news:

  • First off, the software is finally available for Android devices, with a free app that provides access to your Verbum library. Check it out at either Google Play or Amazon.
  •  The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is coming to the system and is now on pre-order. This package includes the RSV 2nd Catholic Edition, and comes with not only the whole New Testament, but also the first two available OT books from the series: Genesis and Exodus. This is a great work from Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. It’s perfectly accessible to everyday readers, but I’ve also made use of it in graduate-level work.
  • Some big announcements should be coming soon, including more packages and releases from Ignatius Press and Liturgical Press.
  • Verbum is hiring. They need Spanish-Language Marketing Specialist, a National Software Presenter, and a Marketing Assistant, all from their Bellingham WA offices.

I use Verbum almost every day and it’s essential to my work and my study. Check out the packages.

Verbum: The New Logos for Catholics

I’ve used Logos Bible study software for used for many years, so when they began creating products aimed at the Catholic market, I was delighted. In the past year, Logos has been adding new titles and features specifically for Catholics, and now they have decided to turn that product line into its own brand: Verbum.

Thus far, I haven’t too deeply into some of the new features, but I’m pleased to see the easier search functions for catechism, church fathers, and church documents. These allow you to see, for example, every church document referencing John 1:1. It was possible to create groups like this manually, but it was labor intensive and each collection had to be updated each time a new text was added to the library.

I’m also pleased to see a much more robust set of Latin tools to compliment to Greek and Hebrew tools already developed by Logos. Evangelicals have no real need for Latin, but for Catholics in can be essential. I’m in a class on Christology right now where my ability to instantly swap back and forth between the Latin and English texts of the Summa is essential. St. Thomas requires some very special understanding of terminology and language, and sometimes it can really only be grasped at the Latin level.

The new series is offered in five packages ranging from Basic (226 resources) to Capstone (1020 resources). You can see what each package offers and decide which is the best fit for your needs. If you use the coupon code “Logos5Verbum” you get 15% off.

I had a chance to ask Andrew Jones, Director of Catholic Products for Logos, some questions about the new product line:

Why was Verbum created, and what distinguishes it from Logos?

What we’ve done with Verbum is taken the Logos 5 software and tweaked it here and there to make it better for Catholics. The idea was that while most of the tools and functions of Logos have great value to both Catholics and Protestants, there are certain things that Catholics do differently that needed our attention. Not least among these is our preferred texts. The software relies on a certain prioritized list of books. Whenever two books could occupy the same place, the software orders them according to this priority list. So, one of the things that we have done with Verbum is put the Catholic works at the top of the list. This may seem like a minor tweak, but it actually has significant consequences

Was there a feeling that Catholics needed a product that was somewhat separate from Logos, which is product with strong Evangelical roots?

There is just no way around the fact that Catholics and Evangelicals approach the study of Christianity in different ways and making use of different resources. It is a testament to the versatility of Logos’s software that Catholics could use it for our style of study and Evangelicals could use it for theirs. This remains the case. Verbum has all the functionality of the main Logos 5 product line. However, I felt that Catholics could be better served by producing a special version of the software just for them. It was important that Catholics could just pull the product off the shelve, open it up, and start using it without having to negotiate any sort of denominational “problems.” So, when you open Verbum for the first time, you will see a Catholic Bible, the Catholic lectionary, a Catholic blog feed and things like that. Verbum users are still a part of the Logos universe, with all the benefits that go along with that, but they have their own home now.

What are some of the new tools that are specifically tailored for Catholics?

One of the things we did was create default segments within the library of texts. There are three of them: Catechism, Church Fathers, and Church Documents. These segments allow for some simple, but very useful, functionality. For example, if you are doing a search on the word “Eucharist,” you can very quickly limit it to just the writings of the Church Fathers or to the Catechism. We have incorporated these segments into what we call the Passage Guide. The Passage Guide is a tool that behaves like a dynamic study Bible. So, if you are reading a certain passage in the Bible, the tool goes into your library, pulls out relevant information on that passage, and presents it to you in a useful format. In Verbum’s Passage Guide, you can see immediately how the Catechism uses the passage in question, where the documents of the Magisterium have cited it, and how the Church Fathers treated it. You can also see when the passage is read in Mass and with what other readings. This is in addition to the normal Passage Guide tools like cross references, parallel passages, maps, commentaries, and the like. You get the same sort of behavior in other Logos tools.

What are some of the new features of Logos Version 5

Logos 5 has a bunch of new features. For example, with the Clause Search you can do things like search for every sentence in the Bible where Jesus is the subject and Peter is the indirect object, even if pronouns are used. We have the Universal Timeline, which makes dates in Logos resources links, so that you can immediately see a certain event within the context of world or Biblical history. There’s the Topic Guide that allows you to pull information from the Bible and from throughout your library that is relevant for a certain topic. There’re new smart search features that suggest possible queries that are far more complex than that of a search engine like Google. We also have a lot of social media functionality. So, you can make a note in your Bible or Catechism or any other work and share it with a group. The members of the group can reply to your note and make their own—You can study the faith together with discussion threads right in the texts.

What are some of the new books being added to the base packages? 

We’ve added scores of books. We have the all the papal encyclicals since 1740; we have the Papal Exhortations and Constitutions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI; we have a reverse interlinear of the RSVCE; we have sermons of St. Thomas Aquinas, history works, reference books, and of course many, many different Bible texts. The full lists can be seen here.

Study the Catechism in a Year With Logos

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and to offer a opportunity to reflect on the gift of our faith, Pope Benedict has declared a Year of Faith beginning October 11th. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wants this to a be a year for people to “deepen their knowledge of the primary documents of the Second Vatican Council and their study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The best way to do this is to study the Catechism, and Logos Bible Software is offering a neat way to do just that.

Using Logos’s Faithlife tools and their bible study software, you can read the Catechism along with a group of the faithful, make comments, ask questions, and discuss issues. You can sign up for the program by going here and clicking the Join button. Once you connect Faithlife with your Logos software, this little icon will appear on your Logos homepage:

As you can see, it offers weekly readings in small chunks, and the Faithlife tools allow you to comment upon and discuss the readings each week. Even better, Logos offers free apps for the major mobile devices, so you can follow the reading plan and discussions that way as well.

The beauty of Logos is that it hyperlinks all the Biblical citations so you can pop to them instantly. If you have one of the bigger Logos sets, this power extends to even more citations, so if St. Thomas or a Council document is cited and you own that resource, you can see a quote or reference in context. There is simply no better way to study the Catechism than with Logos. Yes, it gets expensive to have all those resources, but if you’re a student, serious layperson, or involved in some ministry, it’s an excellent tool to own.

You can read more about the program at Verbum, the official blog for the Logos Catholic program.

An example of the Logos CCC, with hyperlinks straight to a specific Summa citation

If you use the coupon code WS18543, you’ll even save 15% off the 9-volume CCC Collection, and it works on base packages as well. Ends Sunday.

Find out more about the Logos CCC here, or view a tutorial here.

 

[Sticky] WIN a Logos Catholic Scholar’s Library Worth $790

Logos Bible Software has graciously offered to provide a Complete Logos Catholic Scholar’s Library to one lucky reader of God and the Machine. The package is worth $790, and you can read more about it here. I’ve written an overview of the software, and an update on some recent additions.

Click on this link to enter the contest via the Punchtab app. The link takes you to the bottom of this page, where you can type in your name and email address in order to enter the contest. This information will NOT be made public.

Continue reading

Revisiting Bioshock

As details about Bioshock Infinite continue to emerge, it seems clear that the game is shaping up to be every bit as challenging and potentially controversial as the original Bioshock.

How serious is writer Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games about creating worthy sequel to one of the best, most intelligent, games ever made? Well, here’s one of the propaganda images from the upcoming game (due in the Fall), and here’s a tag attached to immigrants in the game world. (Note how the preferred “Partition A” includes anyone of European origins except for “Papist, Gypsy, Irish, Greek, Impaired or Sickly.”) With subject matter including eugenics, race, religion, politics, theocracy, nationalism, transhumanism, and more, Bioshock Infinite is shaping up to be even more provocative than the original.

And that’s going to be quite a feat, because even five years later, no one has come close to making a game that addresses serious issues so effectively. Bioshock was the game that finally got me off the sidelines and into the Catholic writing thing. I’d been thinking about using my long experience writing about games to cover the medium from a uniquely Catholic angle, much like my friend Steven D. Greydanus does for films. I just wan’t sure I had a “Catholic voice” after so many years of toiling in the secular media. I really didn’t know if I had anything to offer.

Bioshock changed that. It demanded serious coverage. It hit a sweet spot among my areas of knowledge: gaming, religion, philosophy, objectivism (I’m a lapsed Libertarian), pulp fiction, and transhumanism. I wrote the piece that follows in January of 2008 and gave it to my blogmother, Julie D., to use on the group blog Catholic Media Review. I used it to pitch the idea of continuing game coverage to the National Catholic Register, where the awesome and much-missed Dave Pearson took a chance and gave me a regular spot. That in turn became a regular gig as a Catholic journalist, and for those who knew me 10 years ago, that’s just … weird. But wonderful.

Anyway, didn’t mean to ramble on so as a simple introduction to a game review, but Bioshock was a turning point not only for games as an intelligent medium capable of conveying ideas and exploring morally complex issues, but also for me personally as a writer. As this blog continues to cover tech, gaming, and transhumanism, I thought it was worthwhile to have the entire review housed over here.

Bioshock

Rated: M
Content: Bioshock is a game for adults. It includes use of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes as a gameplay element; strong, R-rated language; blood and gore; intense violence; and sexual, religious, moral, and ethical themes. Not for kids.

When game journalists and editors sit down to hash out an annual awards issue, the “Best Game of the Year” Award usually takes a least a little conversation and debate.

In 2007, the conversation was short: “Does anyone think any game other than Bioshock is worthy of Game of the Year? Anyone?  Anyone? Let’s move on then.”

In a year flush with fantastic, smart, well-crafted games for consoles, computers, and handhelds, Bioshock stands out as one of the rare game games to transcend its format. Bioshock is a game, make no mistake: you run around collecting things, shooting monsters, enhancing your character, unlocking new locations, and performing all the other functions associated with a role-playing action shooter.  But there’s more here. Much more.

Narrative complexity, character development, and even thematic depth are fairly common coin in modern game design, but Bioshock takes it further, probing issues of morality, bioethics, and the nature of the self, all within the context of a Libertarian/Objectivist Dystopia.

Those who follow computer gaming have been awaiting Bioshock for a long time. Its creators call it a “spiritual heir” to System Shock, a sci-fi game which remains one of the landmarks in PC gaming history. System Shock was a deep, first person experience that offered a vivid world and narrative, then let you progress through combat, stealth, puzzles, or any combination of the three. Bioshock’s developer, Irrational Games, is staffed with some of the original System Shock team, and several of System Shock’s core elements have been carried forth into a new and even better game experience.

Bioshock begins in 1960, as a plane crashes into the middle of the ocean, leaving only one survivor: you.  Swimming through the burning wreckage, you encounter a strange kind of lighthouse rising out of the deep like some Lovecraftian monolith. Inside, a bathysphere takes you to the bottom of the ocean, and a city of wonder hidden there.  This city is the work of a megalomaniacal visionary named Andrew Ryan, who named it Rapture.

Ryan is a radical Objectivist millionaire who seeks to create an anarcho-capitalist utopia, He’s Ayn Rand via Charles Foster Kane, with a bit of Howard Hughes tossed in for good measure.  Rapture is his monument to narcissism. Its soaring architecture and burnished brass seem like set designs by Albert Speer for an Art Deco production of Atlas Shrugged. These are not mere monuments to the ego of one man. Although Ryan’s cult of personality is complete and smothering—his voice (acted by Armin Shimerman) blaring from loudspeakers, his mottos carved into stone—Rapture is designed to create an entire city full of narcissists. The worship of self is central, as Ryan makes clear in one of his many pronouncements:

“Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? No! says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor. No! says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God. No! says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture.”

What is the most vicious obscenity ever visited on mankind? To Ryan, it’s not slavery, the holocaust, Nazism, Bolshevism … it’s altruism. Altruism is the great lie that inverts the proper order of things. All the evils  of the world are brought on because people are conditioned to consider the needs of the other. In Ryan’s (and Rand’s) philosophy, they should think only of themselves. Rapture was created so that scientists would be able to conduct research free of the ethical constrains of civilization, so artists would not be bound by outdated moral codes, where the only rule would be the Law of Thelema: “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

Ryan builds the city in secret, and populates it with his own special selection of handpicked “brights”. As you’d expect from such a libertarian wonderland untethered from morality or restraint, it doesn’t take long for Rapture to descend into utter chaos. When you finally reach it, it’s already a leaking husk overrun by genetic mutants as various factions fight for power. The story of Rapture’s collapse emerges piecemeal through messages and recordings collected in the course of exploration. It’s a technique used to great effect in the original System Shock, and it works even better here.

Rapture’s collapse is an object lesson in what happens when bioethics break down. The city is undone by genetic tampering, as people attempt to turn themselves into Gods with gene modifying drugs. God’s work is imperfect, people are told, so science must step in to improve it. At the top of the crumbling pyramid is Ryan, with his Godlike delusions and warped philosophy. He sees Rapture as a New Eden. Indeed, two of the gameplay elements are “ADAM”, a mutagen which allows people to modify their genetic structure to enhance certain powers, and “EVE,” the fuel for these genetic mutations. In order to get through Rapture, your character needs to become one of these mutants without sinking too far into madness. It’s a dangerous balance, and in the end only love is able to bring you back, if you choose the path of love.

As you need more and more of these drugs to progress through the game, you’re forced to make moral choices. You see, roaming throughout Rapture are a chilling pair of creatures: Big Daddy and Little Sister. Big Daddies are huge genetic mutants in heavily armed diving suits. Little Sisters are innocent looking little girls with ponytails, cute little dresses … and giant needles they use to suck the ADAM out of mutants after the Big Daddies kill them.

The Little Sisters are the work a female holocaust survivor, Dr. Tennenbaum, who creates them to produce ADAM. She thought the girls could be used without consequence, but didn’t count on them retaining their childlike characteristics. They’re still little girls, who sing, and laugh, and play. As Tennenbaum says at one point: “I look at genes all day long, and never do I see the blueprint of sin. I could blame the Germans, but in truth, I did not find tormentors in the Prison Camp, but kindred spirits. These children I brutalized have awoken something inside that for most is beautiful and natural, but in me, is an abomination… my maternal instinct.”

Life will find a way, however. Dr. Tennenbaum’s maternal instincts win out. She turns into the Sisters’ protector, and find herself on the run inside Rapture. She forces the player to make a choice. As the character, we have been told to kill the Big Daddies and suck the ADAM out of the Little Sisters, a process that will kill them. Tennenbaum begs us to save the girls. Through her process, a smaller amount of ADAM can be extracted, leaving the girls alive and freed of the drug’s control. In return, she offers a vague promise of some reward down the road.

Which do you choose? It’s just a game, after all. The choices don’t matter. Expediency should win out.

But time and again, when I’ve spoken to people about it, they always say they left the Little Sisters alive. Since doing so changes the way the game unfolds (and ultimately ends), some may go back and harvest just to see the alternate ending, but most feel uncomfortable with it. (Both endings are easily found on YouTube.) There’s a strange feeling of rightness that comes from healing the Sisters. It becomes a part of the risk/reward cycle of the game. It also leads to an absolutely boffo “good” ending. (Killing the girls results in a “bad” ending, making it clear just where the developers’ sympathies lie.)

From a pure gameplay perspective, Bioshock can be called a first person shooter, but that would sell it short. The combat elements are handled elegantly, with many ways to approach each enemy. As you progress, you pick up Plasmids and Genetic Tonics, which can be loaded into a finite number of slots on your character. These genetic modifications add different kinds of attacks, but also enhance various physical, engineering, and combat skills. By using special stations, you can customize your character with very specific attacks and skills, enabling each player to create a unique character. You can thus customize your character to approach the game in a variety of ways, with an emphasis on hacking, stealth, frontal combat, and so on. The game also incorporates System Shock’s “hacking” mode, which allows users to solve puzzles (styled on the Water Works tile game) to bypass certain obstacles or gain bonuses.

There is much more in Bioshock than this, and a simple listing of features always comes up short in conveying just how immersive and engrossing this game is. The world itself is a richly detailed art deco hell populated with a large cast of characters and creepy enemies. Narrative emerges through recordings and messages left behind, with both major and minor characters sketched through deft little clips pieced together along the way.

Bioshock shows us a stark picture of what Libertarianism and Objectivism would look like in the real world. I spent ten years supporting the Libertarian Party through votes and donations before I finally grew up. It is, and always shall be, a philosophy of children. Unfettered individualism does not lead to an Objectivist Utopia. It leads simply to Rapture, and the hell of a society filled with narcissists trying to make themselves gods. Bioshock puts you in the middle of that hell, and forces you to choose a side.

It’s the kind of choice a radical Objectivist like Ryan would believe is irrelevant to society, but it has an absolutely central effect on how the game plays out, leaving us with a very clear message about right and wrong and the place of the individual in society.  Games just don’t get better than this.

Bioshock is available at Amazon.

Huge St. Thomas Aquinas News from Logos

This could be big. Logos Bible Software is hoping to commission and publish the first complete English translations of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on the Sentences of Peter LombardCommentary on the Prophet Isaiah, and Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah. All three texts will come with both the Latin original and a new English translation.

Logos has placed these titles in their pre-pub program in order to gauge interest and raise money for the translations. No word yet on who will be doing the translations, but Andrew Jones of Logos (who has completed his dissertation and will earn his PhD in Medieval ecclesiastical history next month) says it “will likely be a team effort. It is a very big project and is going to take some time to raise the money and find the scholars to work on it. As we collect pre-orders, we will nail down more aspects of the project and post more information about it. Aquinas’ commentaries on Jeremiah and Isaiah are much smaller and we will be able to do a lot of the work in house. Louis St. Hilaire, our patristics product manager, and I will work on these. We will then get them reviewed by outside scholars. The translations will be high-quality and accurate, and ultimately I’ll be responsible for the style of translation. ”

You don’t need to buy the full Logos package to order or even read these texts. Any book you buy from Logos comes with a free download of the software engine. It doesn’t have all the texts that make the platform so powerful, but it certainly allows you to read, search and annotate any text you’ve purchased. Continue reading

Logos Goes Catholic

The Exegetical Guide (click to enlarge)

One of the things I plan to cover here at God and the Machine is the way we use software and technology to study and evangelize the faith. Logos Bible Study software is one of the tools I use every day. Until last fall, it’s usefulness was limited for Catholics because it had a decidedly Protestant, and predominantly Evangelical, bent. The “scripture teaching” of someone like John MacArthur, for example, is less than useless: it’s pernicious.

Catholics, therefore, had to content themselves with Logos’ superb language analysis tools and overlook the dubious exegetical material. That’s all now changed now that Logos has taken a deep dive into the Catholic market with a series of starter bundles and add-ons. The base packages are the Catholic Scholar’s Library ($790), the Catholic Scripture Study Library ($490), and the Catholic Foundations Library ($250)

I wrote about the initial packages in this National Catholic Register story:

In order to explore this living tradition, Logos has assembled a package with a healthy selection of Church fathers and doctors, council documents, devotional works and theological works.  At its heart are multiple English language translations, led by the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, the New American Bible and the Douay-Rheims, and supplemented by the King James Bible and other non-Catholic translations. The Biblia Sacra Vulga and Clementine Vulgate are included, as well as numerous English-Greek and English-Hebrew reverse interlinear versions, synopses, parallel Gospels and harmonies.

The first layer of critical material is a selection of commentaries by Father John MacEvilly, Father George Haydock, Father Raymond Brown and Bishop Frederick Justus Knecht, as well as the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Venerable Bede’s commentary on Revelation. The second layer of critical material is comprised of the complete Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, along with the Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae (Latin and English, with the option to switch instantly between each), most of the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman, and a good selection of documents of Church councils.

There are also dozens of Catholic theological and historical works, including all four volumes of Father John Meier’s A Marginal Jew, along with works by Joseph Pohle, G.K. Chesterton, Ludwig Ott and others. Dozens of works by and about the saints are included: Sts. Augustine, Thérèse of Lisieux, John of the Cross, Bernard, Teresa of Avila, Francis, Ignatius and others. Almost all of the major devotional works, as well as the complete Butler’s Lives of the Saints, are here.

The Catholic Lectionary is included, as well as the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and other, non-Catholic lectionaries. Reference works provide instant access to information, with numerous Bible dictionaries, concordances and historical background material. Not all of these reference works are specifically Catholic.

The biggest problem with the packages are their cost. This puts them out of the reach of many users, but it’s hard to argue with the pricing structure. This is not a document dump, but a powerful piece of software along the lines of Microsoft Office ($250), Photoshop ($700), or QuarkXPress ($800). I’ve used cheaper Bible software, and they just don’t compare. The original language tools alone are a staggering boon for people who want to dig into the Hebrew or Greek sources of the scripture texts.

The project is being managed by Andrew Jones, a Catholic professor of medieval history who has taught at St. Louis University and Lindenwood University. Andrew has staggering plans for Logos, which I plan to discuss as we go along. Check out Logos.com for more information.