Thursday, December 7, 2023

Only Words Can Hurt


My sticks and stones can never hurt you, but your calling me names hurts me.

Apparently calling for genocide when one has no means of carrying it out is a problem, but perpetrating genocide without saying the word directly is A-OK.

New York CNN  — The presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania faced intense scrutiny on Wednesday from business leaders, donors and politicians following their testimony at a House hearing on antisemitism on campus and calls for genocide in Israel.

The criticism focused on the university leaders’ answers to questions on Tuesday about whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates their respective school’s code of conduct on bullying or harassment.

None of the school leaders explicitly said that calling for the genocide of Jews would necessarily violate their code of conduct. Instead, they explained it would depend on the circumstances and conduct.

Now, so I am not misunderstood.  I do not support calling for genocide, even if one does not have the means to perpetrate the act.  Genocide is serious business, and I would question the intellectual and emotional condition of anyone who would state such a thing – even if they live in mom’s basement with Cheetos dust and all that.  It is a sign of a troubled mind.

But this compared to being on the receiving end of genocide – does it matter to those being genocided that the perpetrators won’t say the word?

So, the rules: call for genocide even though you have no means of carrying it out: bad; calling out those who commit genocide even though they won’t recognize the term: also bad.


Yet, so I am further not misunderstood: jamming a bunch of college kids for speaking out against gencoding Palestinians is…let’s say, the act of a spoiled child who didn’t get enough of the rod when he was young.


The climate on college campuses is interesting.  I have found that many college kids just enjoy going to protests.  Ask them what the protest is about, and they just shrug their shoulders.  They don’t know.  It’s almost like just going to a party, I guess.

Stupid?  Maybe.  But compared to what else is being done by youth in this age group?  Almost harmless.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Blessed are They Which do Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness…


…for they shall be filled.

DMLJ: In this verse we have one of the most notable statements of the Christian gospel and everything that it has to give us.  Let me describe it as the great charter for every seeking soul, the outstanding declaration of the Christian gospel…

MHA: Righteousness is the quality that, according to the Sermon on the Mount, is to be the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ disciples, who constitute the Church.

DMLJ: I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, Vol.2 - The Sermon on the Mount, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

Jesus speaks of righteousness five times in this Sermon.  He speaks of it in other gospel accounts as well, for example at the Last Supper in John’s account.  It is a key Biblical concept: in the Old Testament it referred primarily to following God’s commandments; to be righteous and just was a necessary condition for taking possession of the promised land.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst?  Metropolitan Alfeyev offers:

In the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Psalms, the image of thirst is used to describe a person’s strong and burning desire for God, to fulfill his law and commandments.

“My soul thirsteth for God…”; “My soul has thirsted for thee”; “…my soul thirsteth after thee.”

It is to be aware of a very deep need; in physical terms, as offered by Jesus, it is the most fundamental need we have in order to sustain life.  These are not passing feelings – hunger and thirst do not go away until they are satisfied.  In fact, these increase without intervention.  To increasingly hunger and thirst is to cause pain, even agony.  It puts us in the state of desperately wanting to resolve our condition.

Lloyd-Jones points out: we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Jesus did not say we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  This would suggest that the righteousness is something we can strive for on our own.  No, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  It is something outside of us, beyond our ability.

DMLJ: …whenever you put happiness before righteousness, you will be doomed to misery. …They alone are truly happy who are seeking to be righteous.

In other words, our highest purpose isn’t to search out happiness (blessedness) – even in the proper understand of Beatitudo: other-regarding action.  If we are after happiness as the highest value, we will fall short, always.  It is only by holding righteousness – to be Christ-like – as the highest value that we will find true happiness.

What does righteousness mean?  It is certainly something more than honoring contracts; it is more than general respectability or general morality.  In a concordance, one will find it sometimes will mean justification, but often it means even more than this – to include sanctification.  In other words, it is the desire to be free from sin in all its forms; it is a desire to be right with God.

DMLJ: The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who sees that sin and rebellion have separated him from the face of God… Our first parents were made righteous in the presence of God.  They dwelt and walked with Him.  That is the relationship such a man desires.

Monday, December 4, 2023

A Quick Hit on Romans 13


Paul VanderKlay has done his weekly Sunday School class on Romans 13.  He offers a fairly balanced approach – at least noting that there are times to disobey the governing authority that is the state. 

My comment in the comment section:

A few thoughts:

It is correct to note that the “government” in the United States is the Constitution.  Unfortunately, the only part of the Constitution that still seems to be respected is the period of election for the various national offices – and even this idea of “election” is now questioned by far more than half of the country, and not for no cause.

My understanding is that the Greek word translated as “governing authorities” can mean authorities at any level, for example, for the family, for the Church, and for the state.  Hence, some people apply Paul’s words to mean we may (even must) defy governing authorities if they step out of their proper role – for example, when the state tells us how to raise our children, or when the state tells us if we can go to church on Sunday.

Finally, I have often wondered why we only look at this passage as Paul writing to the subjects / citizens.  He is at least equally writing to the governing authorities – setting the limits and boundaries about how these authorities should act.  In the case of the state, when they punish wrongdoers, they are acting according to Paul’s teaching.  When the state punishes right-doers (as is many times the case, even today and even in the United States), the state is acting against Paul’s teaching.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Christian Platonism


The Great Tradition’s critical appropriation of Platonism is apparent in both the East and the West.

The Reformation as Renewal: Retrieving the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, by Matthew Barrett

Having reviewed the Reformation’s connections to Thomistic thought and having provided an overview of Platonism, Barrett now moves to reviewing how some aspects of Platonism were utilized to better understand and explain theological realities: faith first, then understanding. 

Neoplatonists would incorporate the transcendental of Plato with the concreteness of Aristotle, one strengthening the other while clearing away certain weaknesses in both.  Ultimately, both Augustine and Aquinas would locate Plato’s exemplary causes in the mind of God. 

However, The Great Tradition did not crudely transfer raw Platonism into Christianity.  For example, Platonism held to an idea of the pre-existing soul, something foreign to Christian understanding.  Further, Platonism knew the goal – to ascend to heaven – but did not know how to get there.  They thought that the philosopher could be his own savior; however, for the Christian, the only savior was Christ. 

“By the time of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE,” says Lloyd Gerson, “self-declared Christians who wanted to reflect philosophically on their religion did so almost exclusively within a Platonic context.”

Other philosophies, such as Epicureanism and Stoicism, wouldn’t work.  One or the other of these would hold to ideas such as: The gods didn’t care, all was material, there was no idea of man reaching the highest place or the gods reaching down to man.  If one was to utilize a philosophy of the time to tell the Christian story, it was only through this Neoplatonist lens that the Christian story could properly be told.

The gospel gave Augustine the map needed to reach the homeland the Platonists could only gaze at from afar.

As an aside: Jacob’s Ladder and The Tower of Babel are instructive here.  God moves first.  Jacob did not attempt to climb the ladder up to God – the method of the philosopher as his own savior.  He did not say, “If I will be with God.”  Instead, he said “If God will be with me….”  The same issue holds in The Tower of Babel: men attempting to climb to God, instead of the Christian understanding that it is God who first comes down to us.

And it is right here that all of the Jordan Peterson twelve rules falls short.  The philosopher cannot be his own savior.  Rules designed to climb will never suffice; we must first understand that we are fallen and must be picked up.  (Glen Scrivener at Speak Life explains this very well in his reaction to Peterson’s speech at ARC.)

Returning to Barrett: Christian Platonism offered building blocks for early Christian doctrine: anti-materialism – bodies and properties are not all that exist; anti-mechanism – the natural order cannot be fully explained by physical or mechanical causes; anti-nominalism – reality is not made up merely of individuals, as two individual objects can be the same in essence; anti-relativism – human beings are not the measure of all things; and anti-skepticism – the real can, in some way, be present to us.

When the apostle Paul cited classical Greek philosophers – In him we live and move and have our being – he described God’s transcendent reality with a participation metaphysic.  And this may be the key word: participation. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Repaying Stolen Honor


From the theme on which it was published I have called it Cur Deus Homo, and have divided it into two short books.  The first contains objections of the infidels…and also the reply of the believers…[and] proves, by absolute reasons, the impossibility that any man should be saved without [Christ].

Cur Deus Homo: Why God Became Man, St. Anselm (also available online)

Anselm begins by stating that his purpose is not to satisfy believers of their faith through reason, but to offer to believers reasons for their faith such that they may stand against anyone who demands these.  It is necessary to accept the deep things by faith, but then helpful, even necessary (in defense), to delve into these through reason.

The issue being addressed here:

… for what cause or necessity, in sooth, God became man, and by his own death, as we believe and affirm, restored life to the world; when he might have done this, by means of some other being, angelic or human, or merely by his will.

All the while, Anslem recognizes that what ought to be sufficient on this topic has already been said by the fathers (as I have previously offered the words of St. Atanasius as one such example).

Boso cautiously plays the role of the infidel, asking questions and raising objections.  For example, that we dishonor God by claiming that he descended into the womb of a virgin and grew on the nourishment of men.  Anselm offers that it is no injustice, but cause to give to God the highest honor and thanks.  God offered to us the greatest love possible.

Why our salvation had to come through a man (as opposed to through an angel or simply a decree from God) is considered: as death came through the human race, life had to also come through the human race; as the first sin was through a woman, restoration of life had to come through a woman; and as sin came through the eating of the tree, life had to come through a man suffering on a tree.

But it is not sufficient to consider that man alone could do this work:

Do you not perceive that, if any other being should rescue man from eternal death, man would rightly be adjudged as the servant of that being?

We were created to be servants of God, not servants of man or servants of angels.  In sum, there is necessary reason that Christ was man and necessary reason that Christ was God.  But as I am only on page ten (at this point of the argument) of eighty-four pages, there is clearly much more to be said on this topic: Boso doesn’t let it go at this, therefore neither does Anselm.

Boso: For if he could not save sinners in any other way than by condemning the just, where is his omnipotence?  If, however, he could, but did not wish to, how shall we sustain his wisdom and justice?

We will find, through this study, that, once again, God can do anything except the nonsensical.

Anselm: For the Father did not compel him to suffer death, or even allow him to be slain, against his will, but of his own accord he endured death for the salvation of men.

To which Boso again objects: there are many passages which seem to indicate obedience as opposed to Christ’s free will.

It was obedience that demanded of Christ that he maintain truth and justice, and it was for this that the Jews persecuted him unto death.  It seems clearly inconceivable that God might be capable of violating the perfect law that God created.  Hence, Christ had to be obedient to this law of truth and justice, because He created it perfectly.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Blessed are the Meek…


…for they shall inherit the earth.

“Meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonour or in praise….it is a mark of extreme meekness, even in the presence of one’s offender, to be peacefully and lovingly disposed towards him in one’s heart.”

-          John Climacus, as quoted by Metropolitan Alfeyev

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, Vol.2 - The Sermon on the Mount, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

The world understands that the opposite of meek, as the world commonly understands the term, is necessary if one is to succeed: to “inherit the earth.” Strength, power, self-assurance, and aggressiveness.  These are the characteristics of those who will inherit – at least this is how the world sees it.

DMLJ: Once more, then, we are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.  It is a difference in quality, an essential difference.  He is a new man, a new creation….

And if we are not “altogether different” and a “new creation,” this speaks to us and where we stand in our Christian faith, not to the teaching of Jesus.

MHA: Jesus’ commandments can seem difficult to fulfill, but fulfilling them brings peace to the soul, because doing so frees the soul from the burden of earthly cares.  The means of acquiring this inner peace is meekness and humility.

John Chrysostom paraphrases this as follows:

“…if thou duly perform His words, the burden will be light… But how are they duly performed?  If thou art become lowly, and meek, and gentle.”

I am reminded of a Jordan Peterson story: he would ask a student if he would like to play a game.  After an affirmative reply, Peterson would simply state: “You go first.”  No discussion of rules, objectives, etc.  No game board.  Nothing like that.  Of course, with this unlimited and absolute freedom, the student stood frozen, unable to do anything.

Fulfilling Jesus’s commandments frees us; doing this bring peace to our soul.  This gives us freedom to now play the game.

Lloyd-Jones reminds that Matthew was writing primarily to the Jews, and the Jews had a different idea of the kingdom: materialistic, military, with a Messiah that would lead them to victory (not much has changed in this regard).  Therefore Matthew, early in his gospel account, strives to disabuse the Jews of this notion.

DMLJ: Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. … It is my attitude towards myself; and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others.

Metropolitan Alfeyev examines the word “meek,” and how it is used in the Septuagint to translate a whole range of Hebrew words (and then offers these in English): whole, perfect, in both a physical and religious sense; humble, stooping; destitute, poor, needy, uncomplaining, submissive.  There is another Greek word also close in meaning that can be understood as calm or soft.

He also offers a few verses from Proverbs that contrast meekness with envy, wrath, or anger.  Some other Old Testament passages about meekness are interpreted in the New Testament as foreshadowings of Jesus Christ.  Christ, who is called or referred to as a lamb multiple times, offers a picture of meekness.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Letting Go of the Reins


We, in the name of a demented constitutionalism, have dashed out the brains of far more infants than Hamas could ever dream of. That’s the problem with those Third-World pikers—they simply don’t know how to scale. And not only does their ineptitude not know how to scale, these ignorant barbarians slaughtered the infants of their enemies instead of doing what civilized Westerners do, which is to target their own citizens.

Evangelical Doctors, Coughing Up Blood, Doug Wilson (video, blog)

Setting aside that I still don’t know that there is any evidence of Hamas deliberately targeting infants, the line is humorous, biting, and profound.  Wilson introduces this post with the vote in Ohio to enshrine abortion in the state constitution.

So am I about to lay the responsibility for America’s condition at the feet of the evangelical church? Why, yes. Yes, I am. … In a time when our nation has declared open war on the God of heaven, despising His law/word, we, ostensibly His people, have responded with a farrago of lame theological excuses…

He then goes on to describe some of these lame theological excuses – the taking of the two kingdoms idea not just to an extreme but to two different corners; a concern that “any Presbyterian attempt to save the babies is just a trick that will enable them to flog Baptists again…” (a reference to the paranoia and misunderstanding of what Wilson, at least, means by Christian nationalism).

That “vixen” known as secularism has had its way with everyone in town; everyone knows what’s going on except for the evangelicals.  What these evangelicals, and others, don’t see is that we are already, now, today, living in under the wrath of God. 

Wilson points to Romans 1 to demonstrate that God does not have to do anything to demonstrate His wrath; He just stops doing.  I also have described this as one of God’s purposes for giving us the natural law ethic: when we violate it so blatantly and extensively, God does not have to do anything – the ramifications of such prolonged violations will do all the doing necessary.

God just lets go of the reins:

This stallion has long fancied himself a Pegasus, and so the moment the rider gets off and lets go of the reins, that idea is immediately put to the test at the very first cliff.

I guess time for me to insert: as the stallion is falling at free fall speed, he can still report “OK so far!”  Which is how many see our situation today: OK so far; unfortunately this includes many Christian leaders.  But it isn’t as if the judgement is somewhere ahead of us; we are living the judgement today.

…the sins of woke America were revealed when the permit for the first pride parade was obtained.

And we are living in His judgement for our agreeing to slaughter tens of millions of babies, which comes to the quote with which I opened this post.  And this in a land of tens of millions of Evangelical Christians, many of whom still can’t get it through their heads that you’ve got to serve somebody; there has to be something at the top of the value chain.  Not just that there has to bethere will be.  And if it isn’t God and God’s law, it will be something else.

So, we keep pretending that belief is optional, personal; everyone can have their own god at the top – this is our secular society and it is the society acceptable to Christians who believe that there is no concern about God’s Kingdom until after we see Jesus coming down in the clouds.

We have read this story before, many times in the Bible:

This is supplemented with claims that all those gnarly things the Bible talks about are not the same thing as what we are doing. Our Sodom is not like their Sodom. Our Moloch is not like their Moloch. Our scribes who mutter deceits are not like their scribes who muttered deceits.

Oh, but they are, like peas in a pod.