Showing posts from 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

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 unbiblica l 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

Interracial marriage, take two

I happened across this headline:  Kentucky Church Bans Interracial Couples From Joining Congregation , and decided to post a link to a previous Ask the Pastor question:  What About Interracial Marriage?

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 i

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

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 f

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 e

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 growi

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 .
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 woma

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 Babylon

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, unpleas

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.

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 apprehens

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 h

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 se

Hypocrisy writ large


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 "foun
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 )

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 aim

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

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.

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 peop

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 d

We need more men like this

Senator Marco Rubio's first speech on the floor of the Senate.

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,

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 .

Happy Fourth of July

Here are 10 Things You Might Not Know About America's Independence .

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 its

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