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? '...my 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.' '...my 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 of...progressive, 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 selfishness...is 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?