Friday, December 9, 2011

Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals

When I first began to post on Paul Johnson’s excellent book on secular intellectuals, I thought I would post a little here and a little there on each of the figures he chronicles. But what I discovered was that to do so would be to sound like a broken record. The personal circumstances and the extent of the influence of each person he describes vary, but the ideals to which they were committed being the same, their character and behavior were for the most part identical. So rather than making as many posts as a full review would require, let me simply quote Johnson’s own summary.
We are now at the end of our enquiry. It is just about two hundred years since the secular intellectuals began to replace the old clerisy as the guides and mentors of mankind. We have looked at a number of individual cases of those who sought to counsel humanity. We have examined their moral and judgmental qualifications for this task. In particular, we have examined their attitude to truth, the way in which they seek for and evaluate evidence, their response not just to humanity in general but to human beings in particular, the way they treat their friends, colleagues, servants and above all their own families. We have touched on the social and political consequences of following their advice.
What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public skepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the right of academics, writers and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that skepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is – beware of intellectuals. Nor merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements issued from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events. For intellectuals, far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behavior.  Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action. Above all, we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget, that people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Right decision for the wrong reason

A quick follow up to my last post. A small church in eastern Kentucky found itself at the center of controversy last week when it was reported that the church had voted to ban interracial couples from membership. Thankfully, they have since reversed course. When I saw the headline I was hopeful that the church had recognized its sinful error. I was dismayed, however, to read the real reason behind the reversal.
Stacy Stepp, pastor of the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, told The Associated Press that the vote by nine people last week was declared null and void after it was determined that new bylaws can't run contrary to local, state or national laws. He said the proposal was discriminatory, therefore it couldn't be adopted.
It was the right decision to reverse an unbiblical standard for church membership. The problem is that the right decision was made for the wrong reason. The mere fact that the church's position was "contrary to local, state or national laws" was not sufficient to overturn it. What if local, state, or national laws should require what God forbids or forbid what God requires? What if...oh, I don't know...say an evil tyrant should be intent on exterminating the Jews and should pass a law prohibiting the church from coming to the aid of their Jewish neighbors? Should we sit on our hands and do nothing, so as not to act contrary to local, state or national laws? Scripture is pretty clear on this point:  "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29, see also Acts 4:19-20).

The pastor recognizes that a ban on interracial marriage is discriminatory, and that such discrimination is contrary to the laws of the land. But does he not recognize that it is also contrary to the word of God? This should be the real reason for reversing course.

Sadly, the story gets even worse. In an effort to undo the damage,

Stepp said about 30 people who attended church services voted on a new resolution that welcomes "believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color." (You can find the story here.)
Regardless of race or color? Yes and amen! Regardless of creed? Not so much. Apparently they are unaware of the contradiction. They welcome believers regardless of their creed, which is the same as saying, they welcome believers regardless of whether or not they believe. Believers are identified by their creed (what they believe). Churches are defined by their creed. Will they welcome into membership someone who denies the deity of Christ? The inspiration and authority of Scripture as the word of God? Substitionary atonement? The necessity of conversion? If they welcome people regardless of creed, they must. But to do so is to destroy the church.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rousseau: The State as Messiah

One of the most important things that distinguishes conservatives from liberals is that the latter tend to believe more government is the answer to everything. Rousseau was one of the first (at least in modern times) to champion this delusional notion.
He wrote ‘those who control a people’s opinions control its actions.’ Such control is established by treating citizens, from infancy, as children of the State, trained to ‘consider themselves only in their relationship to the Body of the State’.  ‘For being nothing except by it, they will be nothing except for it. It will have all they have and will be all they are.’  Again, this anticipates Mussolini’s central Fascist doctrine: ‘Everything within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.’ The educational process was thus the key to the success of the cultural engineering needed to make the State acceptable and successful; the axis of Rousseau’s ideals was the citizen as child and the State as parent, and he insisted the government should have complete charge of the upbringing of all children.  Hence – and this is the true revolution Rousseau’s ideas brought about – he moved the political process to the very centre of human existence by making the legislator, who is also a pedagogue, into the new Messiah, capable of solving all human problems by creating New Men. ‘Everything,’ he wrote ‘is at root dependent on politics.’ Virtue is the product of good government. Vices belong less to man, than to man badly governed.’ The political process, and the new kind of state it brings into being, are the universal remedies for the ills of mankind.  Politics will do all. Rousseau thus prepared the blueprint for the principal delusions and follies of the twentieth century. (Paul Johnson, Intellectuals, pp. 23-24).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Creation in six days?

Is it best to understand creation as six literal days?

Yes it is, and I think it’s apparent to anyone reading the text without any preconceived notions to defend, that the author intends his account to be taken as a literal historical narrative, and not merely in a figurative sense.

Many try to combine the biblical account of creation with the theory of evolution and of course to do that you need to greatly extend the length of time that appears in the Bible. Taking the chronology of the Bible at face value only gives us about 6,000 years, not nearly enough time for evolution to take place. So where do we find the necessary time? We insert it into the account of creation, by taking the days of the creation week not as literal 24 hour days, but as symbolic of very long periods of time.

But Dr. Ken Gentry, who has written extensively on this subject, gives several reasons to take each of the days of the creation week as a literal 24-hour period.

First, he mentions what he calls the “Argument from primary meaning.” In the vast majority of instances in which the word “day” appears in Scripture it refers to a normal 24-hour day; and this usual meaning ought to be retained unless there is some compelling reason from the context that requires us to take it in a different sense. And there is no such reason in the Genesis 1.

Gentry mentions, secondly, the “argument from explicit qualification.” He says, “Moses carefully qualifies each of the six creative days with the phraseology:  ‘evening and morning.’ The qualification is a deliberate defining of the concept of day. Outside of Genesis 1 the words ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ occur together in thirty-seven verses. In each instance it speaks of a normal day.” (He cites Exodus 18:13 and 27:21 as examples.)

Thirdly, Gentry mentions the “argument from ordinal prefix.” He means the enumeration of the days of the creation week. The text refers to the first day, the second day, the third day, and so on. There is not a single instance where such an enumeration of days refers to anything other than literal days.

He also mentions what he calls the “argument from divine exemplar,” by which he means that God patterned man’s work week after his own:  “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:9, 11).

Gentry also mentions the “argument from alternative idiom.” The idea here is that there were other more natural ways of expressing the notion that creation took place over vast eras of time.

There are still other problems with taking a non-literal view of the six days of creation. Most importantly, it turns the whole New Testament teaching concerning sin and redemption on its head. Paul teaches that sin entered into the world through one man, and as a consequence, death entered as well (Rom. 5:12-21). And it was not just man that it affected. He says that the creation itself was “subjected to futility” and “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:20-21). But the theory of evolution, even theistic evolution, requires millions of years of death and decay before the appearance of man, and so before the appearance of sin. Death, then, is not a result of sin; it’s inherent in the world as God made it.

In addition, the idea of theistic evolution, presents God as bumbling old fool. It took him years of trial and error before he finally got things right, if indeed he has gotten them right. We have who knows how many millions of species he developed through the process of evolution, only to become extinct because they were not fit enough to survive. And finally through all the eons of time, when he eventually found a form for man that pleased him, he endowed him with a soul.

Is this really the picture of God that we get in Scripture, a God who creates by trial and error? No! God created the world good. It was perfect in form from the beginning. It was the handiwork of an infinitely wise and powerful creator. But he created man with the ability to serve him freely or not, with great rewards if he chose wisely, and terrible consequences—not only for himself but for all creation—if he chose poorly.

We know that he chose poorly. He disobeyed his God; and as a consequence of sin, death and decay entered the world. Man grows old. He gets sick. He dies. Species go extinct—not as the result of a haphazard process of creation through evolution—but because the entire creation was subjected to the curse.

I will not deny that there are otherwise good Christian people who take a different view of the matter; but they are making a sinful and needless compromise by departing from the plain meaning of Scripture.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Class warfare new and old

I have been posting excerpts from Paul Johnson's book Intellectuals. Here's another about Rousseau, the great icon of the French Revolution, the source of all our modern ills. See if it doesn't sound like certain occupiers and ne'er -do-wells (and their elected accomplices fomenting class warfare) you've heard about lately .
[Rousseau's] writings also a bound with radical bitterness.  ‘I hate the great, I hate their rank, their harshness, their prejudices, their pettiness, all their vice.’ He wrote to one grand lady: ‘It is the wealthy class, your class, that steals from mine the bread of my children,’* and he admitted to a certain resentment against the rich and successful, as if their wealth and happiness had been gained at my expense’. The rich were ‘hungry wolves who, once having tasted human flesh, refuse any other nourishment.’ His many powerful aphorisms, which make his books so sharply attractive especially to the young, are radical in tone. ‘The fruits of the earth belong to us all, the earth itself to none.’ ‘Man is born free and is everywhere in chains.’ His entry in the Encyclopedie on ‘Political Economy’ sums up the attitude of the ruling class; ‘You need me for I am rich and you are poor.  Let us make an agreement: I will allow you to have the honour of serving me, provided you give me whatever you have left for the trouble I shall take to command you.’
* You know...the five children he abandoned.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What about women holding public office?

Christian women are admonished to be subject to their husbands. How would this affect a Christian woman holding political office?

This is a bit problematic, isn’t it? Scripture and experience both teach us that God has created our very nature and relations as human beings with the need for a hierarchical order.

This need is evident in the three basic institutions by which God has been pleased to organize society:  the family, the church, and the State. There must be leaders who are held responsible by God for the accomplishment of his purpose in each of these institutions and who are consequently entrusted by God with authority to govern them.

The Scriptures are equally clear that God has ordained men to be the head of each of these institutions. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians with respect to the home, “The head of a wife is her husband” (1 Cor. 11:3; cf. Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1-6).

And with respect to the church, he instructs Timothy and Titus to appoint men as elders and deacons and to lead in prayer and preaching (1 Tim. 2:12; 3:1f.; Tit. 1:5f.).

With respect to civil government, we read in the book of Deuteronomy that Moses instructed Israel, “Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deut. 1:13).

On the other hand, God has ordained that a woman’s primary calling is to be a helper to her husband (Gen. 2:18). Paul refers to this when he says that the woman was made for the man, and not the man for the woman (1 Cor. 11:9). Her helping role consists largely in her tending to the needs of the family by “bearing children and managing the household” (1 Tim. 5:14). This does not mean, however, that she cannot be active in economic pursuits. Proverbs 31 speaks of the virtuous wife who makes garments and sells them and buys a field from the fruit of her earnings (Prov. 31:16, 24). Nor does it mean that she cannot engage in some forms of ministry, such as ministries of mercy (Acts 9:36-39) and teaching other women in the church (Tit. 2:3-4).

Now, I should add that because God has ordained the roles of the sexes, he has created men and women to be different. He has created them with natures suited to their respective callings. This is something we all know, but are reluctant to say because we are afraid of being politically incorrect. Men and women are different—not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too. These differences do not mean that men are better than women in general, or that women are better than men in general. But it does mean that men are better at some things than women, and women are better at other things than men. This is how God created us.

It’s important that we keep these things in mind because all kinds of problems arise when we ignore the order that God has created.

All things being equal, we should prefer male candidates for public office over female ones. This is the biblical norm. But not all things are equal, because not all candidates are equal. What I have described is the ideal. But we live in a fallen world, and things are highly disordered. Circumstances are such now that we may well find ourselves in a position that the views of a female candidate for public office are far better than the views of a male candidate. If you’re faced with a choice between a female candidate, who holds a biblical view of the issues, pitted against a male candidate who doesn’t…it’s a no brainer. You vote for the female candidate.

If she should be elected, it will present some unique challenges for her and her husband, and how they relate to one another, because in the home he is her head, but in the civil sphere she is his head. Presumably she sought public office with his approval and blessing and he is willing to live with the demands on her time and energy that her office will necessarily impose upon her. By permitting her to run for office he has already tacitly agreed to these things. But in the home she must still honor him as her head.

In the meantime, however, we ought to labor for a reformation of our homes, our churches, and our civil government that we might return to a more biblical view of the sexes and recover the order which God originally intended.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rousseau: The citizen of Plato's Republic

In a previous post I quoted Paul Johnson's analysis of Rousseau as a father. I continue...
It is right to dwell on his desertion of his children not only because it is the most striking single example of his inhumanity but because it is organically part of the process which produced his theory of politics and the role of the state... Since Rousseau felt as a child, it followed he could not bring up children of his own. Something had to take his place, and that something was the State, in the form of the orphanage.
Hence, he argued, what he did was 'a good and sensible arrangement'. It was exactly what Plato had advocated... 'I thought I was performing the act of a citizen and a father and I looked on myself as a member of Plato's Republic...
What began as a process of personal self-justification in a particular case--a series of hasty, ill thought-out excuses for behaviour he must have known, initially, was unnatural--gradually evolved as repetition and growing self esteem hardened them into genuine convictions, into the proposition that education was the key to social and moral improvement and, this being so, it was the concern of the State. The State must form the minds of all, not only as children (as it had done to Rousseau's in the orphanage) but as adult citizens. By a curious chain of infamous moral logic, Rousseau's iniquity as a parent was linked to his ideological offspring, the future totalitarian state. (pp. 22-23)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Democracy revisited

A while back I wrote a piece on the danger of idolizing of democracy.  Further evidence that democracy is not an inherent good can be found here and here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doug Wilson has some good observations about the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
Ten guys go to eat at a restaurant every week for lunch. Five of them eat free. One of them picks up the tab for forty percent, and four of them pay the other sixty. Then one day the five guys decide to beat up the one rich guy, because they have heard that he was not willing to pay his "fair share." Wallis calls these five worthies "citizen economists." I call them citizen moochers, citizen deadbeats, citizen layabouts, citizen lotus eaters, citizen slackers, citizen spongers . . . or, as I guess we would say nowadays, citizen economists. But after the thrashing they gave him after that lunch, he didn't show up the next week. Quite baffling and mysterious, the whole thing. (Read more here)

Rousseau's Inhumane Humanity

Paul Johnson shows how Rousseau presented himself as a great lover of humanity. But as so often happens with those who love man in general, he had a complete disregard for men in particular. He seemed to be wholly incapable of loving anyone but himself.
He was a man, he said, born to love, and he taught the doctrine of love more persistently than most ecclesiastics. How well, then, did he express his love by those nature had placed closest to him? The death of his mother deprived him, from birth, of a normal family life. He could have no feelings for her, one way or another, since he never knew her. But he showed no affection, or indeed interest in, other members of his family. His father meant nothing to him, and his death was merely an opportunity to inherit. At this point Rousseau's concern for his long-lost brother revived to the extent of certifying him dead, so the family money could be his. He saw his family in terms of cash. (p. 18)
Was Rousseau capable of loving a woman without strong selfish reservations? ... Of Therese Levasseur, the twenty-three-year-old laundress whom he made his mistress in 1745 and who remained with him thirty-three years until his death, he said he 'never felt the least glimmering of love for her...the sensual needs I satisfied with her were purely sexual and were nothing to do with her as an individual.' 'I told her,' he wrote, 'I would never leave her and I would never marry her.' (p. 19)
Since a large part of Rousseau's reputation rests on his theories about the upbringing of children--more education is the main, underlying theme of his Discours, Emile, the Social Contract and even La Nouvelle Heloise--it is curious that, in real life as opposed to writing, he took so little interest in children... It comes as sickening shock to discover what Rousseau did to his own children.
The first was born to Therese in the winter of 1746-47. We do not know its sex. It was never named. With (he says) 'the greatest difficulty in the world', he persuaded Therese that the baby must be abandoned 'to save her honour'. She 'obeyed with a sigh'. He place a cypher-card in the infant's clothing and told the midwife to drop off the bundle at the Hopital des Enfants-trouves. Four other babies he had by Therese were disposed of in exactly the same manner, except that he did not trouble to insert a cypher-card after the first. None had names. It is unlikely that any of them survived long. A history of this institution which appeared in 1746 in the Mercure de France makes it clear that it was overwhelmed by abandoned infants, over 3000 a year. In 1758 Rousseau himself noted that the total had risen to 5082. By 1772 it averaged nearly 8000. Two-thirds of the babies died in their first year. An average of fourteen out of every hundred survived to the age of seven, and of these five grew to maturity, most of them becoming beggars and vagabonds. Rousseau did not even note the dates of the births of his five children and never took any interest in what happened to them, except once in 1761, when he believed Therese was dying and made a perfunctory attempt, soon discontinued, to use the cypher to discover the whereabouts of the first child... (p. 21)
To have children was 'an inconvenience'. He could not afford it. 'How could I achieve the tranquillity of mind necessary for my work, my garret filled with domestic cares and the noise of children?' He would have been forced to stoop to degrading work, 'to all those infamous acts which fill me with such justified horror'. 'I know full well no father is more tender than I would have been'... As for cruelty, how could anyone of his outstanding moral character be guilty of such a thing? ' ardent love of the great, the true, the beautiful and the just; my horror of evil of every kind, my utter inability to hate or injure or even to think of it; the sweet and lively emotion which I feel at the sight of all that is virtuous, generous and amiable; is it possible, I ask, that all these can ever agree in the same heart with the depravity which, without the least scruple, tramples underfoot the sweetest of obligations? No! I feel, and loudly assert--it is impossible! Never, for a single moment in his life, could Jean-Jacques Rousseau have been a man without feeling, without compassion, or an unnatural father.' (p. 22)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Whatever became of the Ten Lost Tribes?

I would say that it is a bit misleading to refer to the ten tribes as “lost.”

For those who may be not aware of what is meant by “the Ten Lost Tribes,” let me briefly explain.

After the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided. The two southern-most tribes of Judah and Benjamin were loyal to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The ten tribes to the north chose a man from the tribe of Ephraim, named Jeroboam, to be their king. The northern kingdom was known as Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah.

The two kingdoms sometimes lived in peace with one another and sometimes were at war. But after about 200 years, the Assyrians came in 722 b.c. and defeated the northern kingdom and took many of its citizens into exile.

Something very similar took place about 150 years later to the southern kingdom of Judah. It was overrun by the Babylonians, Jerusalem was destroyed and thousands of Jews were led away into captivity in foreign lands.

After many years, the Babylonians themselves were conquered, and their conquerors, the Persians, permitted the Jews to return to their homeland.

The idea of the Ten “Lost” Tribes originates with the assumption that permission for the Jews to return only applied to those who were taken from the southern kingdom by the Babylonians. But it would have applied to all Jews, even to those from the northern kingdom. The Jews of the northern kingdom were exiled by the Assyrians. The Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonians—who then took control of the Jews living in the Assyrian Empire. And the Babylonians were in turn conquered by the Medes and Persians, who permitted the Jews to return to their homeland.

So all the Jews were allowed to return, not just those from the two tribes comprising the southern kingdom. That those from the other tribes returned as well can be seen from the fact that when the returned exiles rebuilt the temple it was formally dedicated with sacrifices “for all Israel.” These sacrifices included “12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel” (Ezra 6:17).

In addition to this we should consider the prophecy uttered by Ezekiel, who was himself in Exile. He spoke of the reunification of Israel.

The word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms (Ezek. 37:15-22).

In the New Testament James addresses his letter to the Jews of the Diaspora (those living outside the Promised Land), “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (Jas. 1:1). In the Gospel of Luke we find a prophetess named Anna from the tribe of Asher, one of the supposedly “lost” tribes.

The only sense in which the ten tribes could really be said to be “lost” is in the sense that they never regained the independent political status they once had. But this was according to God’s purpose, as Ezekiel told us. The Lord reunited them with the other two tribes into one nation at the time of the return of the Jews from captivity.

We should be wary, therefore, of those who seek to locate the so-called “Lost Tribes” in the British Isles (as per the teaching of the late Herbert W. Armstrong) or identify the Lost Tribes with the American Indians (as per the teaching of the Mormons). Neither teaching has a single shred of Biblical or historical support.

The fact of the matter is that the “Ten Lost” tribes are not really lost.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rousseau: The Boor

"From an early age he wished to shine in society. In particular he wanted the smiles of society women. 'Seamstresses,' he wrote, 'chambermaids, shopgirls did not tempt me. I needed young ladies.' But he was an obvious and ineradicable provincial, in many ways boorish, ill-bred. His initial attempts to break into society, in the 1740s, by playing society's own game, were complete failures; his first play for the favours of a married society woman was a humiliating disaster.

"However, after the success of his essay revealed to him the rich rewards for playing the card of Nature, he reversed his tactics. Instead of trying to conceal his boorishness, he emphasized it. He made a virtue of it... He deliberately stressed sentiment as opposed to convention, the impulse of the heart rather than manners. 'My sentiments,' he said, 'are such that they must not be disguised. They dispense me from being polite.' He admitted he was 'uncouth, unpleasant and rude on principle. I do not care twopence for your courtiers. I am a barbarian.' Or again:  'I have things in my heart which absolve me from being good-mannered.' " (Paul Johnson, Intellectuals, pp. 11-12)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life is bigger than politics

Lawrence O'Donnell's interview of Herman Cain last week illustrates one of the major differences between liberals and conservatives (of the paleo variety). The Left sees all of life as being essentially political. There is not a problem in the world that can not and should not be addressed politically. O'Donnell found fault with Cain for abiding by the advice of his father to "keep his nose clean" by avoiding the civil rights marches and sit-ins in the 1960s. Instead, Cain diligently applied himself to his studies to earn a B. A. in mathematics in 1968 from Morehouse College and then a master's degree in computer science from Purdue in 1971 while working full time in ballistics for the U.S. Department of the Navy. And of course he went on to have a very successful career in business. In doing so, he "saved" and created far more j0bs (for people of all colors) than the current administration could ever hope to do.

"Tsk, tsk," says Mr. O'Donnell. "You should have been joining the civil rights demonstrators."
“Mr. Cain, in fact you were in college from 1963 to 1967, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, exactly when the most important demonstrations and protests were going on. You could easily, as a student at Morehouse have actively participated in the kinds of protests that got African-Americans the rights they enjoy today. You watched from that perspective at Morehouse when you were not participating in those processes…black college students from around the country and white college students from around the country come to the South and be murdered fighting for the right of African-Americans. Do you regret sitting on those sidelines at that time?”

Sitting on the sidelines? The assumption is blatantly obvious. For Mr. O'Donnell, as for Leftists generally, the only solutions to the ills of society are political solutions--often in response to the agitations of street protesters.

Herman Cain chose a different path. Although he encountered plenty of discrimination growing up, he didn't complain that life was unfair and that Jim Crow kept him down. He didn't appeal to the government to help him succeed. He understood that life is bigger than politics and there are other ways to go about improving one's lot in life. He went about his work with such diligence and such a degree of excellence that he made himself indispensable to those who were looking for the skills he possessed...and he was richly rewarded for it. He is a self-made man. This is one of reasons--perhaps the biggest reason--for his dramatic rise in the polls. He embodies the old virtues of diligence, thrift, hard work, and self-reliance, leading to prosperity, versus the whining entitlement mentality of the Left.

Cain's success should come as no surprise. Similar success will come to anyone willing to put forth the same kind of effort. This is the way of a free market economy. In a competitive environment racial discrimination makes no sense. It's self-defeating. Cain's uber competence made him a man in demand. It's what enabled him to scale the corporate ladder. In so doing, he paved the way for other black businessmen, since he undoubtedly busted the racial stereo-types of any racists he may have encountered along the way. Thus, he was waging his own battle against racial discrimination. Perhaps it wasn't as flashy as Mr. O'Donnell would have liked. Perhaps it didn't garner as many headlines as the sit-ins and marches. But one does have to wonder if, in the long run, his way will not be shown to have been far more effective.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Self-pity meets vanity

Paul Johnson highlights two of Rousseau's most obnoxious character traits.
Although indulged in some ways, he emerged from childhood with a strong sense of deprivation and - perhaps his most marked personal characteristic - self-pity. (p. 5)
To the unprejudiced modern eye he does not seem to have had much to grumble about. Yet Rousseau was one of the greatest grumblers in the history of literature. He insisted that his life had been one of misery and persecution. (p. 9)
Behind the self-pity lay an overpowering egoism, a feeling that he was quite unlike other men, both in his sufferings and his qualities. He wrote: 'What could your miseries have in common with mine? My situation is unique, unheard of since the beginning of time...' Equally, 'The person who can love me as I can love is still to be born.' 'No one ever had more talent for loving.' 'I was born to be the best friend that ever existed.' 'I would leave this life with apprehension if I knew a better man than me.' 'Show me a better man than me, a heart more loving, more tender, more sensitive...' 'Posterity will honour me...because it is my due.' 'I rejoice in myself.' ' consolation lies in my self-esteem.' '...if there were a single enlightened government in Europe, it would have erected statues to me.' (p. 10)
As a matter of fact, self-pity and vanity go hand in hand. The more extravagant one's self-conceit the greater the sense of injustice when one suffers hardships and disappointments.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rousseau: "An Encyclopeadia of Modern Thought"

The title of Paul Johnson's book is, Intellectuals:  From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, but he actually begins with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who embodied all the ideals of the French Revolution, the source of all our modern ills. It would be hard to overestimate Rousseau's influence on the modern world, even on people who have never read him.
Rousseau was the first to combine all the salient characteristics of the modern Promethean:  the assertion of his right to reject the existing order in its entirety; confidence in his capacity to refashion it from the bottom accordance with principles of his own devising; belief that this could be achieved by the political process; and, not least, recognition of the huge part instinct, intuition and impulse play in human conduct. He believed he had a unique love for humanity and had been endowed with unprecedented gifts and insights to increase its felicity. An astonishing number of people, in his own day and since, have taken him at his own valuation...
Rousseau altered some of the basic assumptions of civilized man and shifted around the furniture of the human mind. The span of his influence is dramatically wide but it can be grouped under five main headings. First...he popularized and to some extent invented the cult of nature... He introduced the critique of urban sophistication. He identified and branded the artificialities of civilization...
Second...Rousseau taught distrust, gradual improvements...and looked for a far more radical solution.  He insisted that reason itself had severe limitations as the means to cure society. That did not mean, however, that the human mind was inadequate to bring about the necessary changes, because it has hidden, untapped resources of poetic insight and intuition which must be used to overrule the sterilizing dictates of reason...
Third...[his writings were] the beginning of both the Romantic movement and of modern introspective literature.
The fourth concept Rousseau popularized was in some ways the most pervasive of all. When society evolves from its primitive state of nature to urban sophistication, he argued, man is corrupted: his natural transformed into a far more pernicious instinct...which combines vanity and self-esteem, each man rating himself by what others think of him and thus seeking to impress them by his money, strength, brains and moral superiority. His natural selfishness becomes competitive and acquisitive.
The evil of competition, as he saw it, which destroys man's inborn communal sense and encourages all his most evil traits, including his desire to exploit others, led Rousseau to distrust private property as the source of social crime. His fifth innovation, then, on the very eve of the Industrial Revolution, was to develop the elements of a critique of capitalism...
All culture brings problems since it is man's association with others which brings out his evil propensities... The culture in which man lived, itself an evolving, artificial construct, dictated man's behaviour, and you could  improve, indeed totally transform, his behaviour by changing the culture and competitive forces which produced it - that is by social engineering.
These ideas are so wide-ranging as to constitute, almost by themselves, an encyclopeadia of modern thought. (pp. 2-4)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Secular Intellectuals

I have just picked up Paul Johnson's Intellectuals:  From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, and am delighted with the introductory paragraphs:

Over the past two hundred years the influence of intellectuals has grown steadily. Indeed, the rise of the secular intellectual has been a key factor in shaping the modern world. Seen against the long perspective of history it is in many ways a new phenomenon.  It is true that in the earlier incarnations as priests, scribes and soothsayers, intellectuals have laid claim to guide society from the very beginning. But as guardians of hieratic cultures, whether primitive or sophisticated, their moral and ideological innovations were limited by the canons of external authority and by the inheritance of tradition. They were not, and could not be, free spirits, adventurers of the mind.
With the decline of clerical power in the eighteenth century, a new kind of mentor emerged to fill the vacuum and capture the ear of society. The secular intellectual might be deist, sceptic or atheist. But he was just as ready as any pontiff or presbyter to tell mankind how to conduct its affairs. He proclaimed, from the start, a special devotion to the interests of humanity and an evangelical duty to advance them by his teaching. He brought to this self-appointed task a far more radical approach than his clerical predecessors. He felt himself bound by no corpus of revealed religion. The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive code of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide. For the first time in human history, and with growing confidence and audacity, men arose to assert that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellect: more, that they could devise formulae whereby not merely the structure of society but the fundamental habits of human beings could be transformed for the better. Unlike their sacerdotal predecessors, they were not servants and interpreters of the gods but substitutes. Their hero was Prometheus, who stole the celestial fire and brought it to earth.
One of the most marked characteristics of the new secular intellectuals was the relish with which they subjected religion and its protagonists to critical scrutiny. How far had they benefited or harmed humanity, these great systems of faith? To what extent had these popes and pastors lived up to their precepts, of purity and truthfulness, of charity and benevolence? The verdicts pronounced on both churches and clergy were harsh. Now, after two centuries during which the influence of religion has continued to decline, and secular intellectuals have played an ever-growing role in shaping our attitudes and institutions, it is time to examine their record, both public and personal. In particular, I want to focus on the moral and judgmental credential s of intellectuals to tell mankind how to conduct itself. How did they run their own lives? With what degree of rectitude did they behave to family, friends and associates? Were they just in their sexual and financial dealings? Did they tell, and write, the truth? And how have their own systems stood up to the test of time and praxis?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God gave them up to dishonorable passions

As you have probably heard, the repeal of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy forbidding homosexuals from openly acknowledging their perversion takes effect today. Have you ever wondered how our Founders would have dealt with the issue? Wonder no more.

As noted in Bowers vs. Hardwick (1986), "Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and was forbidden by the laws of the original 13 States when they ratified the Bill of Rights." In some states the penalty for homosexual acts was death.

In his Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments for the state of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson proposed the punishment of castration.

And what of George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental army?
At a General Court Marshall, on March 10, 1778, a Lieutenant Enslin was "tried for attempting to commit sodomy with John Monhort." He was also tried for "Perjury in swearing to false Accounts." Enslin was "found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War." He was dismissed from the service "with infmay. His Excellency the Commander in Chief [George Washington] approve[d] the sentence and with Abhorrence and Destestation of such infamous Crimes order[ed] Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of the all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return." (See Gary DeMar, America's Christian History:  The Untold Story, p. 170)
Woe to us when perversion is not only practiced, but when society also gives its official approval. See Romans 1:32.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thomas Sowell gives a good explanation (and historical example) of why "tax hikes on the rich" do not increase federal revenue--and in fact do just the opposite--and why such taxes on the "rich" harm the overall economy.

Ninety years ago — in 1921 — federal income tax policies reached an absurdity that many people today seem to want to repeat. Those who believe in high taxes on "the rich" got their way. The tax rate on people in the top income bracket was 73 percent in 1921 (more)

The Fallacy of Moral Equivalence

Andrew Sandlin has a good post on "The Fallacy of Moral Equivalence."
The trick is to deflect attention from great evils by focusing attention on opponents’ lesser evils — or no evils at all... (more)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Down another slippery slope

We said it was coming, but they didn't believe us. They said we were over-reacting, exaggerating, just trying to scare people.

They were wrong. We were simply pointing out the logical implications of their position.

The magnificent R. L. Dabney (1820-1898) understood better than any in his day the consequences of ideas. He lived in a day of rapid social change that seems almost tame by comparison with what's going on today. In his essay, Women's Rights Women, he wrote,
In our day, innovations march with so rapid a stride that they quite take away one's breath. The fantastical project of yesterday, which was mentioned only to be ridiculed, is to-day the audacious reform, and will be to-morrow the accomplished fact.
Speaking of the usual conservative reaction to "fantastical" social projects, he says,
This is the party [conservatives] which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will to-morrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom.
We have seen this very scenario play itself out with respect to the "fantastical project" of normalizing sexual deviancy. Sodomites argued that whatever two consenting adults did behind closed doors should be legal. At first conservatives balked. Eventually they acquiesced. "Well, as long as you keep it to yourself." And one by one states repealed laws against sodomy. Those that didn't had them overturned by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

Then the homos wanted to "come out." They didn't want to keep their deviancy secret. They wanted social acceptance. If their lifestyle wasn't illegal, they argued, no one should be able to discriminate against them. And so morally conscientious landlords and business owners now face prosecution if they refuse to rent to or hire a homosexual. The "right" of one man to be perverse trumps the right of another to be a faithful Christian.

As usual, after initial resistance, conservatives caved. Actually, they did more than just cave. As Dabney said, "the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism." Conservatives have embraced the notion that all discrimination is wrong, regardless of the basis for the discrimination. "Well, of course, people shouldn't discriminate!" As if moral discrimination is the same thing as racial discrimination; as if skin color and behavior belong to the same category. Sheesh!

After achieving the "right" to come out and not be discriminated against in employment or housing on the basis of sexual orientation (instead, Christian landlords and employers are now discriminated against because it's never a question of discrimination versus no discrimination, but always a question of who does the discriminating and on what basis), they demanded even more. They must be given the right to marry. Conservatives raised a protest. But many were willing to compromise with civil unions or domestic partnerships, which essentially have all the legal implications of marriage without the name. Homos were still not satisfied. If there is any difference at all, even if only the name, it is unfair, unequal, unjust!

Most conservatives are still opposed to homosexual marriage. But just wait, once it is a fait accompli, as is rapidly happening (same sex unions are now legal in six states: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.), it will become one of their cherished notions. "How can we deny two people who love each other the right to marry? It's one thing to be personally opposed to it, but that doesn't mean we should legally prevent it."

But...and here's the point of this post...this reasoning necessarily leads to the normalizing of other forms of sexual deviancy, forms that would cause the average person to gasp with horror. Critics have been pointing this out for years, but those on the other side have said we were exaggerating, that we were trying to scare people so they wouldn't be favorable to legalizing and normalizing same sex relationships.

For a number of years we have pointed out that nothing prevents the same reasoning from being used to justify pedophilia. The advocates of homosexuality objected. Strenuously. Even our friends thought our objections were overblown. But they weren't. Here's is the evidence.
A group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals say it's time to change the way society views individuals who have physical attractions to children.
The organization, which calls itself B4U-Act, is lobbying for changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the guideline of standards on mental health that's put together by the American Psychiatric Association... 
B4U-Act said that 38 individuals attended a symposium in Baltimore last week, including researchers from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the universities of Illinois and Louisville... [T]he speakers in attendance concluded that "minor-attracted" individuals are largely misunderstood and should not be criminalized even as their actions should be discouraged. (Read more here)
This is the first step:  decriminalization. But, you say, they concluded the actions of "minor-attracted" individuals should be discouraged. Yes they did. But once pedophilia passes from the category of "illegal" to the category of  "legal but discouraged," the argument will be, "If it's legal, why should it be discouraged, especially if the adult and minor truly love each other and if both give their consent?" The progression is inevitable. The conclusion is contained in the premises.

This is what happens when a culture abandons God. "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done" (Rom. 1:28). G. K. Chesteron once said, "When a man does not believe in God, the danger is not that he will believe in nothing, but that he will believe in anything." We are witnessing the dire consequences of our banishment of God from government working themselves out before our eyes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rich Man, Poor Man

I have long been suspicious of the government's definition of poverty, largely because there was a time in my life when I and my family fell into that category, though we never thought of ourselves as poor. True, we had to watch every penny we spent. We rarely went out to eat. We didn't have cable TV. We often bought second hand clothes. We worried when it was time for new tires or when the washer broke down. But we had everything we really needed, to wit, food and shelter. Would we have liked to have more? Certainly. Who doesn't? But we had everything we really needed.

Since then - all thanks be to God - things have improved for us. At the time, however, I had to wonder about the definition of poverty. It seemed to me to be a politicized definition. The greater number of people who are classified as poor mean a greater number of people likely to vote for a candidate who promises to go to bat for them.

Bill Whittle over at PJTV has produced an excellent video showing just how "bad off" the poor in the U.S. really are. In my opinion, it is a must see. The statistics are enlightening and the description of envy is spot on.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Barbarism at last

Ran across this quote today from Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Pretty much sums up the course of U.S. history thus far.
There is the moral of all human tales;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First freedom and then Glory - when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

He was against it before he was for it

Gary North comments (Obama vs. Obama) on a speech that then Senator Obama gave on the floor of the Senate in the 2006 in which he expressed his opposition to raising the debt ceiling.
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.
Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is "trillion" with a "T." That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion. 
Obama then was better than Obama now.

Economic Facts and Fallacies

I have just finished Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies. Like everything he writes it is well worth reading. In it he dispels the most common assumptions of the Left about how an economy works. He excels at showing how government policies affect economic activity by creating incentives or disincentives for particular behaviors, frequently making the point that policies must be evaluated in terms of their actual results, not their intentions. He provides many examples of laws passed with the intention of helping minorities, the poor, and women, that in their actual results do far more harm than good.

The chapters include:
(1) The Power of Fallacies
(2) Urban Facts and Fallacies
(3) Male-Female Facts and Fallacies
(4) Academic Facts and Fallacies
(5) Income Facts and Fallacies
(6) Racial Facts and Fallacies
(7) Third World Facts and Fallacies
(8) Parting Thoughts
Someone has said that Sowell is a national treasure. I agree. I only wish more people in Washington would read him. In fact, no one should open his mouth to speak on the subjects of race, politics, or economics without first reading him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What atom told you so?

          Professor A. T. Heist peered over the top of his glasses and across the desk with a disconcerting look at Christian, whom until very recently he regarded as his star pupil…despite his name.
          “Look,” he said, barely controlling his anger, “I called you into my office to try to reason with you. You’re a bright kid. You’ve got a promising future. Your interaction in the class has made the semester interesting, not only for the other students but for me as well. But this is simply unacceptable.”
          “I still don’t understand why.”
          The professor slumped back in his chair, the exasperation obvious.
          “All right, one more time,” he said at last. “And I’ll try to make it just as plain and clear as I can.”
          He leaned forward and glared at Christian through narrowed eyes, pausing for dramatic effect. And then in the most authoritative tone he could muster, he said, “You can’t do this!”
          He emphasized the “can’t” by pounding the desk with his fist. Receiving the brunt of the blow was Christian’s term paper, which looked as if it had a lost a fight with a red pen.
          “Yes, you have already said so, Dr. Heist. But again I have to ask, why? It’s one thing to tell me I can’t; it’s another thing to explain why.”
          “Because it’s wrong, that’s why. You can’t copy someone else’s work and claim it as your own. That’s plagiarism.”
          “I’m aware of what it’s called, Doctor. But why is it wrong?”
          The professor slumped back into his chair again and looked at Christian doubtfully. “Do you really expect me to believe you don’t understand why it’s wrong?”
          “Look, Doctor, I have enjoyed your class and I’ve learned a great deal. I have to admit that when I was first told I had to take a philosophy course I was a bit uneasy. Philosophy had always seemed so abstract, but you really made the subject come alive for me, and so far it’s been my favorite class. It’s revolutionized my thinking.”
          The professor did his best to suppress a satisfied smile. He enjoyed the role he played as the enlightener of the young. He saw himself as a sort of secular savior, leading his students out of the darkness of the unexamined life. He had always felt a special pity for students from religious homes, whose poor benighted parents had passed on to their children the superstitions of the premodern world.
          He found Christian to be a particularly interesting student. He had had many other religious students before, but none quite like Christian. Christian participated in class discussions far more often, and far more thoughtfully. He was surprisingly confident in his convictions. The professor could tell from the beginning he was going to be a tough nut to crack. But Christian was too bright not to be convinced by a cogent argument, and the professor was sure that with a little patience he would eventually come around.
          Nor was he disappointed. Throughout the semester Christian showed he clearly understood the materialist philosophy. Much better than the other students, even those who had embraced it. Indeed, he wondered at times if Christian understood it better than he did himself. On several occasions, in class discussions and writing assignments, Christian fleshed out the implications of the philosophy more fully than he had done himself.
          Yet for all this Christian stubbornly persisted in his religious beliefs. That’s why the professor was so pleased when he read Christian’s term paper. The nut appeared to have finally cracked. Christian seemed to write as one who had embraced the materialist philosophy.
          It wasn’t until a day or so after he read the paper that the professor began to feel uneasy. There was something vaguely familiar about it. He hadn’t noticed it at first. But it came to him over the weekend. A line he had read somewhere before. A familiar phrase here. An expression there. He re-read the paper. His suspicions were heightened. He did an internet search to make sure. There it was. Christian had copied word for word the substance of a fairly well-known essay from a philosophical journal, added his own introduction and conclusion, and turned it in as his own work.
          The professor was disappointed and angry…
          “Have you not taught us, Doctor, that matter is all there is—no god, no soul, no spirit—just matter and energy?”
          “Yes, of course, that’s the essence of materialism. But let’s not stray from our point.”
          “I see it as very much related to our point.”
          “We’re talking about your conduct, Christian—your plagiarism—not a fine point of metaphysics.”
          “But conduct and metaphysics are related, aren’t they. You made the point several times in class. That’s why I’m having trouble understanding why you are so upset with me.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “You spent a good deal of time showing us that matter is all there is. It’s the ultimate reality. Nothing above or beyond it.”
          “Yes, yes, this is all very elementary.”
          “And matter does not prescribe any norms for human behavior, nor can it. Right? It has no will. Matter just is. And you can’t move from is to ought. Isn’t this what you’ve taught us, or have I missed something along the way?”
          “No you’re correct. Matter itself gives us no moral imperative, no standards for behavior. And I think I see where you’re going with this.”
          “Right. All semester you’ve taught us that there are no fixed moral standards—that everything is relative and depends upon the situation. Well, I just applied what you taught us about situational ethics to the term paper situation. That’s why it’s so puzzling that you’re so angry with me and tell me that plagiarism is wrong.”
          “Don’t play games with me Christian. It’s wrong and you know it’s wrong.”
          “What atom told you so, sir?”
          “Look, don’t be smart with me, Christian. If you were the one who had done the original research and had written the essay, you wouldn’t want someone to plagiarize your work—to steal your intellectual property.”
          “Are you applying the Golden Rule? That’s an odd thing for someone like you to do.”
          “The Golden Rule is not unique to the teaching of Jesus, Christian. Other religious leaders have taught the same thing, even non-religious thinkers, like Kant, who said, ‘Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.’ So the Golden Rule, as you call it, is not a bad ethic to live by, even for a materialist.”
          “But are you saying it’s a norm which everyone ought to live by, or that it’s just a personal preference of yours that people would live by it?”
          “I’m saying the world would be a lot better place if everyone lived by it.”
          “And is making the world a better place something we ought to do?” asked Christian.
          “Of course it is!”
          “What atom told you so, sir?”
          “It’s just a given.”
          “Given by what? Or by Whom?”
          The professor stroked his beard and looked Christian over carefully, musing. He was doing it again. Christian was pushing the implications of the philosophy further than the professor had ever thought to do before. And by the twinkle in his eye, he concluded Christian had cleverly planned the whole thing.
          The professor was right about one thing. Christian was not like any student he ever had before.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A really bright guy gets it wrong

Stephen Hawking, regarded as one of the world's leading physicists, has become more and more vocal about his atheism the closer he gets to the time when he will have to stand before his Maker to give an account of himself.

In The Grand Design, a book published last year, he stated that it was "not necessary to invoke get the universe going." Right...because we all know that something can come from nothing. Happens all the time.

Recently, in an interview published in The Guardian, he said, "There is no heaven or afterlife...; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." 

And how, exactly, does he know there is no heaven or afterlife? Is he speaking as a scientist? Then tell me, what experiments has this man of science performed in order to substantiate his claim? And have these experiments been repeated by others in order to verify the results? 

What's that you say? No experiments have been performed? And why is that, exactly? Oh, I see, it's because by the very nature of the case the claim is unverifiable by means of the scientific method. The soul is not a material object. Neither is heaven. They are not subject to empirical investigation.

On what basis then does he make so bold a claim? On the basis of his faith. He simply believes the natural world is all there is. And  if you grant the premise you must necessarily grant the conclusion. 

The physical world is all there is.
The soul is not a part of the physical world.
Therefore, the soul does not exist.
The logic is tight. If the premises are true, the conclusion is true. He and I agree on the second premise. It's the first premise where we differ. He says that the physical world [the cosmos] is a self-contained unit. It explains itself. I say it can't possibly explain itself.

Politics versus reality

A must read article by Thomas Sowell...
It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others. What matters in politics is what you can get the voters to believe, whether it bears any resemblance to reality or not.

Not only among politicians, but also among much of the media, and even among some of the public, the quest is not for truth about reality but for talking points that fit a vision or advance an agenda. Some seem to see it as a personal contest about who is best at fencing with words.
Read more here.

Quote de jour

"The way Social Security was set up was so financially shaky that anyone who set up a similar retirement scheme in the private sector could be sent to federal prison for fraud.

But you can't send a whole Congress to prison, however much they may deserve it." (Thomas Sowell)

You can read the whole column here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The end of the law?

What does Paul mean when he says in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”?

Let me first tell you what it does not mean. It does not mean that we do not have to keep the commandments. There is this silly notion about that the grace of God frees us from the obligation to obey him. Not so. If anything, grace increases our obligation to obey.

Paul says in his letter to Titus that the grace of God teaches us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Tit. 2:11-12).

In First Corinthians he says, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19).

In Hebrews we read that Christ has become the “source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9).

So when Paul says that Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” he is not saying that the law itself has come to an end and therefore we no longer need to obey God’s commandments. Rather, he is countering a common misunderstanding the Jews had concerning the law. In the two previous verses he said,
I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God [that is, the righteousness that comes from God as a gift through Christ], and seeking to establish their own [righteousness], they did not submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:2-3).
Paul is referring to the view of so many Jews at the time—and the view that he himself held before he came to know Christ—that it was possible to establish one’s own righteousness before God by a strict fulfillment of the law’s commands, especially in those things that set the Jews apart from other people, like the kosher and purity laws as they were explained and applied by the traditions of the elders. The law was viewed as a kind of ladder of merit by which one could climb into the favor of God.

This is what is behind a prayer in the Siddur, or Jewish prayer book.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who did not make me a gentile.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who did not make me a slave.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who did not make me a woman.
The rationale behind this prayer is that there are more commandments that apply to free men than to slaves, and more that apply to male slaves than to women. And if there are more commandmentss to obey, then there is a greater share of righteousness to be had by free men than by either slaves or women.

But Paul says, “No, no, no! That’s not how it works at all. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The word “end” in this passage is not to be taken in the sense of termination—as if the law is no more—but in the sense of goal. It’s the Greek word telos, from which we get the word teleology, which in philosophy is the study of purpose or design or in Aristotelian terms of final cause.

People will sometimes say, “I am working toward that end,” meaning, “I’m working toward that goal” or “for that purpose.”

So Paul says that Christ is the “end” of the law for righteousness. He means that Christ, and the righteousness to be had in him and through him, is the goal of the law. In other words, whatever one may have hoped to have achieved in the way of righteousness by the law is instead achieved in Christ.

In his letter to the Philippians Paul said, I would rather be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9).

This is a righteousness that is freely available to everyone, and in equal measure. It is not the case that a free male may achieve a greater share of righteousness than a male slave, and a male slave more than a woman. It’s this thinking that led Paul to say in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

It is true that more commandments apply to men than to women; and more to free men than to slaves. But righteousness is not reckoned by the number of commandments one fulfills, but by whether or not one is joined to Christ by faith. Jews and Gentiles, men and women, free men and slaves may all have an equal share in the righteousness of Christ because he is the end or goal of the law for righteousness. When you have him you have everything you need in the way of righteousness.

I wish to stress that this doesn’t mean that obedience to God’s commandments is unnecessary. We are to obey his commandments. How could it be otherwise? And besides, obedience is the natural and inevitable result of faith. If you believe God, then when he says do this or that, you will do it. If he says don’t do this or that, you won’t do it. It’s absurd to say that you believe in God when you don’t obey him.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not a chance!

Is there any such thing as luck or chance? For example, a basketball player takes a half-court shot at the buzzer and makes it. Do you think that it’s due to chance, to the player’s skill, or to God’s will?

We can rule out chance right off the bat. As Christians we shouldn’t be in the habit of talking about chance or luck because there’s no such thing. The world is governed by God, and everything that happens can be traced in one way or another back to God’s will. This doesn’t mean that God directly causes everything to happen, as if he’s the only agent at work, the only one who is truly acting; but it does mean that everything is under God’s control.

The Westminster Confession of Faith has an excellent statement on the providence of God.

God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly: yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. (Westminster Confession of Faith 5.1-2)

In other words, in any particular event there may be any one of a number of causes at work. When a basketball player makes a last second shot, for instance, he is exerting his will and effort according to his ability, developed through training and practice. The so-called laws of physics are also at work. But above, beyond, and over all is the will of God. From a merely human standpoint it may look like a lucky or unlucky shot. But from a Christian perspective, the shot goes in or it doesn’t because God either willed it or he didn’t.

What could be more random than a roll of the dice? But yet in Proverbs we’re told

The lot is cast into the lap,
     but its every decision is from the Lord (Prov. 16:33).

Consider what happened to Ahab, the wicked king of Israel. The Lord spoke through the mouth of the prophet Micaiah, who told the king that he was going to be killed in battle. Ahab didn’t believe him and went into battle anyway, and the Bible says,

Now a certain man drew his bow at random [not aiming at any one individual soldier, but aiming into the thick of the enemy] and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate… And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died (1 Ki. 22:34-35).

Lucky shot, right? Wrong. From a human perspective it seems lucky. From a human perspective the arrow seemed to hit its mark by chance. But it did so only because God willed it.

It’s true that the Syrian soldier exercised his will and put forth the physical effort necessary to shoot the arrow; it’s true that he used his best judgment under the circumstances to aim in such a way into the thick of the enemy so as to have the best possible chance of hitting someone; it’s true that the arrow flew according to the laws of physics, and that the person it hit just happened to be king Ahab; and it’s true that the arrow gave the king a deadly wound. But it’s also true that God was behind it all. He decreed that it should happen. But it came about through secondary causes.

Jesus tells us that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father in heaven (Matt. 10:29). Kings are among the mightiest of men, and sparrows among the least of animals; but neither one falls to the ground apart from the will of God. Paul tells us that God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). All things. But normally this involves a variety of second causes.

The last second shot that goes in then, is it due to God’s will or the player’s skill? Yes, both are true! The one thing we can rule out, however, is mere luck or chance, because no such thing exists.