Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Sons of Disobedience

 

…the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

Paraphrase from Ephesians 2:2

It is not difficult to imagine that we have entered one more dark history of humanity on a long string of dark histories.  I want to say that others have suffered much worse, and they have.  We can think of those in the path of Genghis Khan; the early Christians under Rome; medieval Europeans under siege by Vikings, Huns, or Charlemagne; almost anyone in France in the late eighteenth century; Armenians in the Ottoman Empire; those living in between Germany and the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s; Chinese under Mao; Vietnamese under napalm; Arabs under drones.

But I think I am on safe ground to consider that never before in the recorded history of humanity has the entire population of the world been under siege simultaneously and placed in a medical experiment, forced to face the risk of early death regardless of the path chosen.  All of humanity; one-hundred percent.  More than seven billion people.

Ephesians 6: 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

These sons of disobedience, are they merely ghosts?  Or do they walk among us, flesh and blood?  Certainly, as the Apostle Paul writes, they are in the heavenly places, but he also writes that they are world forces.  We find this reality elsewhere:

1 Peter 5: 8(b) Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The Apostle Peter doesn’t say he is floating, coming only in a dream to fill our heads with evil thoughts.  He prowls, like a lion; he devours – a physical act. 

Jesus furthers this idea that they walk among us, on the surface quite religious and devout.  He says to the Pharisees:

John 8: 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Those to whom Jesus is speaking are the sons of disobedience; the sons of their father, the devil.  They want to do the devil’s work.  We see them on television daily; they fill every major outlet.  Their father was a murderer from the beginning, and they want to do his work.  We also have come to see them in positions of church leadership, bowing in obedience to the sons of disobedience, speaking lies as their father does.  They are doing their father’s work and teaching others that they also must do their father’s work.

One of the paths I have taken at this blog is a significant examination of the many false histories we have been taught, the lies used to justify action, the way evil was described as virtuous.  When I began that journey, I was already somewhat skeptical of the narrative; as I worked through that journey, I have come to conclude that everything being described to us about meaningful events in our history is a lie.

The sons of disobedience always lie, because their father always lies.  It is in their nature because it is their father’s nature.  Every major event in my lifetime (and for centuries before this) has been based on a lie or explained away by a lie. 

For this reason, I didn’t believe for a minute that we faced a plague of medieval proportions (see my earliest thoughts here, here, and here – all from March 2020).  I didn’t need to have a complete answer of the truth; just that I knew what we were being told was a lie.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

When Private Property Isn’t

  

My comment, at the Mises site:

[From the author of the piece]: "This does not mean that someone cannot be prevented from accessing certain venues or activities when their rightful owners set preventive sanitary rules...."

BM: Libertarians must really get past this kind of thinking. Does anyone believe that airlines, social media companies, mainstream media companies, any large company of any type is a private company in any meaningful sense? How quickly and suddenly they bow to government dictates no matter how draconian, and what punishment will befall them if they don't. Willingly or through coercion, they do the state's bidding.

The piece was about forced vaccinations.

There is much about private property that isn’t private.  At one extreme – consider it the closest to a libertarian ideal: we have property, acquired via voluntary transaction; either produced from other materials, acquired in trade, developed in code, etc.  Yet, even at this extreme, try not paying property tax on the property, or income tax on the privately earned income, etc.  The property isn’t purely private in the sense of the owner have complete control over use and disposition.

At the other extreme…libertarians and Austrian economists will use the phrase “crony capitalism.”  If this phrase is to mean anything, it has to indicate that the private property (necessary for a system of capitalism) has not been earned or acquired in a manner that fits the above definition of private property: acquired via voluntary transaction.  Instead, it has been “earned” via government connection.

Examples of this abound: perhaps the most obvious is banking, especially money center banks.  Others include military contractors, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, tech and social media companies, mainstream media, etc.  It could also include any company or industry that petitions the state for something (as opposed to petitioning the state to not do something or to stop doing something).

These crony capitalist companies do the state’s bidding.  They lobby for funds, lobby for regulations, and in exchange, they pay the piper by dancing to his tune.  They realize the consequences of just saying no.  Why do such a thing, when saying yes pays so well?  Can the property that results from such an arrangement be described as “private”?

There is a large area in between, of course.  The most unfortunate, and taken from the last sixteen months: any church or small business that did not enforce or abide by state mandates faced the potential of being crushed, and its pastor or owner faced prison.  One cannot call this property “private,” though through no transgression of the owner.

But the entities that hold property via crony-capitalism can in no way be considered holders of private property.  They are extensions of the state, really not much different than the military, department of (in)justice, the various spy agencies, etc.

Conclusion

Libertarians really need not make the caveat, as was done in the statement I cited at the opening of this post.  Instead, the proper caveat should be that much of what is considered private property isn’t. 

Until this is fully embraced and understood, well…we are like the dupe, falling for the con of the shell game.  Complain about government encroachment and defend the so-called private entities that are just as much a means of that encroachment as any government employee.  Yes, such libertarians may be following the right shell, but there is a second one virtually equally as dangerous to liberty.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Cementing Division

 

The way to reunion was therefore open to the first pope who sincerely desired to pursue it.

But none did.

The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation, by John Strickland

Most groups, when small and, especially, when persecuted, find it easier to overlook differences and stick together on the big things.  Once size and power are achieved, factions come to the surface – authority over a smaller group is more valuable to many than playing a lessor role in a larger group.

So, I read this sentence, cited above and referring to the time shortly after the Great Schism, and – even taking Strickland’s narrative at face value – find myself asking: why?  Why would any pope decide to pursue it when there was little need to do so from a standpoint of security, scale, etc.? 

The division could only be reversed through one of two equally unlikely scenarios: the abdication of the newly created Roman Catholic papal monarchy of the West, or the capitulation to it of the Orthodox East.  Neither ever occurred.

And, unexamined to any great degree: why would the patriarch in the East desire it, except for aid to hold off the armies of Islam and Turks?  Which was subsequently done.  Which raises an interesting question: why ask the West for help – hence launching the first Crusade – and believe nothing would be expected in return?

With this preamble out of the way, a quick look at four important documents – two of these forged: we have already touched on The Donation of Constantine, purporting that all authority – both over the episcopate and over the state – was bestowed on the bishop of Rome.  First used in the eleventh century, it was penned a couple of centuries earlier, and well after Constantine’s death.  But this was not known at the time.

There is also a collection of legal precedents attributed to one Isidorus Mercator.  It, too, was a fabrication – but also initially unknown to be so.  It claimed to include canons of the early Church fathers, but also was composed in the ninth century.  It would also assert papal supremacy.

Humbert – who stood as the highest Christian authority in the West after Leo’s death and before a new pope was named – would write a three-volume Three Books against the Simoniacs.  As the title suggests, the volumes addressed simony, offering necessary reforms.  But it also introduced a new claim: the papacy, as an institution, would be the necessary intermediator for the experience of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Finally, the Papal Dictate, from 1075: the pope may be judged by no one; the pope alone is rightly to be called universal; the pope alone shall have his name called in the churches; the pope possesses the exclusive power to make new laws; the pope may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a synod.  The Church of Rome has never erred and shall never err to all eternity.

What followed in the West: a rapid succession of popes, militarism – even against Christians – blessed by the Church and in exchange for fealty to Rome; excommunication of the Western emperor.  What was to come to the East was equally significant.

The Turks, following in the wake of the Huns and the Mongols before them, would sweep in from the east – even conquering land previously conquered by the Arabs. 

An example of this outrageous behavior by the Turks is offered:

In 1004 an effort was made to undermine the Christians’ paradisiacal subculture by outlawing the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at Pascha.

Can you imagine?  Passing laws that outlaw Christians from meeting at Easter?  What ungodly hordes!  Only tyrannical dictators would ever dare such a dastardly deed.  That could never happen in a free country.  But I digress (only slightly).

Friday, July 23, 2021

Of Man and Christ

 

This book needs a preliminary note that its scope be not misunderstood. The view suggested is historical rather than theological…

The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton (ebook)

…this study is not specially concerned with the differences between a Catholic and a Protestant.

Which should work well for my purposes….

Much of it is devoted to many sorts of Pagans rather than any sort of Christians; and its thesis is that those who say that Christ stands side by side with similar myths, and his religion side by side with similar religions, are only repeating a very stale formula contradicted by a very striking fact.

Chesterton will examine two main topics: first, the creature called man; second, the man called Christ.  He will examine how, in each case, the entity being examined (man, Christ) is not merely another of a type (animal, religious figure), but something wholly different.

He suggests that the best critic of Christianity is not someone who was born into it and rejected it, or born into a culture shaped by it but personally never accepted the faith; a follower of Confucius would be a better critic, as he would be somewhat more impartial.  Instead, the now non-Christian critic of Christianity…

…will suddenly turn round and revile the Church for not having prevented the War, which they themselves did not want to prevent…

The problem of evil, often brought as a criticism of Christianity, is no less a problem outside of Christianity.  In fact, much of what we label “evil” today is only so labeled because Christianity made it so.  What was considered virtuous ethical behavior in Greece or Rome would be looked at today by all but the most vile as a hell on earth.

When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.

This speaks to a criticism often uttered by Jordan Peterson, and I will paraphrase because I don’t want to look for anything precise: Christians don’t act as though they believe it.  To which I have thought…wait a minute.  Christians say we are fallen, and when we prove it, you say that this demonstrates that we aren’t Christian.  When one finds that the object being measured falls short, only a fool would place the fault on the yardstick.

They cannot be Christians and they cannot leave off being Anti-Christians. …They still live in the shadow of the faith and have lost the light of the faith.

This reminds me of a statement by Tom Holland and something similar from Rene Girard: they criticize Christianity by referring to Christianity.  They have no other basis by which to criticize – certainly not in the western traditions.

The worst judge [of Christianity] of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

The modern atheists tangle with the most stereotypical and fundamentalist Christian ideas, ignoring or ignorant of the work of two-thousand years – from Ignatius of Antioch (said to be a disciple of John the Apostle) to C.S. Lewis, and hundreds of brilliant theologians and philosophers in between.

Which leads Chesterton to the point of this work:

I mean that just as the Church seems to grow more remarkable when it is fairly compared with the common religious life of mankind, so mankind itself seems to grow more remarkable when we compare it with the common life of nature.

The Christian Church is as different from other religions as man is from the rest of creation.  The critics of Christianity don’t see this because they are not detached from Christianity.  Like the iconoclast, the critic – the scientific-evolutionist or the comparative religions professor – is not impartial. 

…I should be ashamed to talk such nonsense about the Lama of Thibet as they do about the Pope of Rome, or to have as little sympathy with Julian the Apostate as they have with the Society of Jesus.

Well, many of the former critics love the current pope of Rome, so that’s something that has changed.  As to the Jesuits…those better steeped in Catholic Church history might do better than I can at explaining what has happened to the Jesuits since Chesterton wrote these words.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Descartes: Yes, or No?

 

Or maybe?

A question, from RMB:

What are ways a Protestant church can become more non-Cartesian in your view?

My response:

I think it would help if the Bible was not taken [solely] in a historical / scientific way throughout. Certainly, much of it is history, but much of it can be read in other ways - even multiple ways.

I think the idea of "proof texts" ("see, this proves it"), is valuable but can be overused. On many topics, there cannot be such certainty, as holders of a different view also have their "proof texts." Jehovah's Witnesses can point to text to demonstrate that Jesus was just a man.

I think more leaning on the early Church fathers would help. We have the work of some who were disciples of the original disciples. For many centuries, they lived in a culture that better understood the times of Jesus while He was on earth. Sola Scriptura is valuable, but interpretation requires context, and these early church fathers lived in the context.

Having said all of that, my experience in both a Protestant church and an Orthodox church has shown me that the latter should do much more teaching of Scripture, beginning with the young.

Those are just some initial thoughts.

A question was asked of Paul VanderKlay, on a similar issue.  Keep in mind as you read through this post, that VanderKlay is a Dutch Reformed pastor and attended Calvin Seminary.  In other words, at least traditionally / stereotypically, he comes out of a denomination as traditional as any Protestant denomination, one where even a painting is not allowed in the church (maybe I am exaggerating a little, but I don’t believe so).  It is all words, no symbolism.

So, the question was about the issues in modern Biblical scholarship, historical positivism, grammatical historicism, etc.  Following are some of PVK’s comments interspersed with my thoughts:

The first thing he goes to is a commentary series, authored by the earliest Church fathers.  It isn’t exactly this: it is a recent compilation of things written by these fathers, organized and sorted by the passages / subjects as if it was written as a commentary.  The key relevant point: he starts by going to the early Church fathers – not Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc.  Not even Augustine (albeit Augustine might be quoted in the book he offered).

One of the things you realize: people have read the Bible in very different ways over the life of the Church, and before the Church in the Jewish tradition.  This evokes a feeling of pluralism.

He notes: we grow up in a tradition and understand the Bible within the context of that tradition: based on this context, we each feel confident in proclaiming that “this is what the passage means.”  But it isn’t the only tradition.  How to evaluate competing histories of interpretation?

He then describes events beginning with Erasmus and his examination of Jerome’s Vulgate when compared to ancient documents.  Suffice it to say, Erasmus found several discrepancies.  Then we have Luther, who leaned on Erasmus and also did his own work, then others who said maybe Luther didn’t get it all right.  Yes, these are translations, but translations lead to interpretation (and vice versa).

Which leads to a sort of pluralism, multiple texts in multiple languages throughout history; even older texts are found, often altering, modifying, or reinforcing that which was understood before.  All of this leads to the question: what is the right answer, the right interpretation, the right understanding?  And many Christians (certainly Protestant) have chosen to answer this through the lens of modernity.

Modernity: science, facts, historical accuracy and verifiability, in accord with the laws of physics.  What Vervaeke earlier described as the Cartesian view; his comments are repeated:

This is the difference between a Cartesian and a theological approach to knowledge, because the Cartesian approach is ‘I don’t have to undergo transformation in fundamentally in who I am in order to know.  I just have to properly organize my propositions.’

But if you go before Descartes, even reading was pursued not informatively but transformatively.  The idea was ‘unless I go through fundamental transformations, there are deep truths that will not be disclosed to me.’  That’s a conformity theory of knowing as opposed to a representational theory of knowing.

And what happens, what I am saying, is that people feel themselves being conformed to the reality of the logos.

The Cartesian view: It’s all propositions, scientifically and historically accurate, testable, factual; the only kind of knowledge is propositional knowledge.  It is a method based on modernity, and many Christians have fallen into playing the game by the modernist’s (ultimately, the enemy’s) rules.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Historical Filters

 

In 1050, Leo convened a council in the southern Italian town of Siponto:

It ruled that the Greek practices of the local churches were to be abolished and that Latin practices must take their place.

The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation, by John Strickland

I will come to the meaning of the title of this post shortly, but to tell the meaning requires a bit of review.

Strickland is continuing to review some of the backstory prior to the Great Schism of 1054; southern Italy was historically under the authority of the Eastern Church, and followed its practices.  By this time, as the Church in Rome, through the Normans, was expanding its reach to the south, Leo wanted a cleansing.

The effort was met equally in the East.  Patriarch Michael Cerularius returned the favor, requiring long-established Latin churches to convert to Greek practice.  Whenever he met resistance, he had these churches shut down.  But his actions were not limited to Latin churches:

Byzantium had annexed much of Armenia in 1024.  This had brought into the empire an Ancient Eastern church with customs different from those of the Greeks.  One of these was the use of unleavened bread.

As was the case in the Latin Church.  The differences went further, as the Armenian Church was a Monophysite church, not having adopted the language of Chalcedon.  In any case, Michael’s actions made enemies of the Armenians.  Instead of retaining a friendly demeanor toward these people in the east who could help defend against the Turks, he alienated them.

This issue of unleavened vs. leavened bread was, it seems, the pretext of what, by now, was inevitable.  Leo of Ohrid (an Eastern Leo, not to be confused with the Pope) would write to Pope Leo on this matter, offering details behind the use of leavened bread. 

The reply, instead of engaging on the points, only focused on the issue that if the pope decides something, it is decided for the Church.  The pope cannot be wrong – despite earlier popes having been anathematized for other doctrinal or theological transgressions.

One last attempt at reconciliation was offered by both the Eastern Emperor Constantine and the Patriarch Michael.  This did not prevent the delegation from the West from departing for Constantinople – and certain mis-translations from the Greek to the Latin (purposeful or not) did not help in this matter.

Throughout, Humbert, a confidant of and advisor to the pope, played a leading role – even to lead the delegation to the East.  He was author or advisor regarding much of the correspondence from Rome to Constantinople; he was the one who would first present the Donation of Constantine which proclaimed papal preeminence, falsely composed likely in the eighth century but not discovered to be so until much later.

And, by now, Pope Leo had died – thereby removing any authority Humbert had in his mission (and it is almost certain that Humbert undoubtedly knew of this event).  And throughout, Strickland presents most (but not all) of the correspondence and discussion flowing from East to West as respectful and based on a historical theological understanding, the replies from Humbert are labeled as violent and abusive.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Why They Hate Natural Law

 

A friend sent me an essay by John Daniel Davidson, entitled “Calling Natural Law ‘White Nationalism’ Is Racist, Period.”  For the background behind the purpose of Davidson’s essay:

An innocuous comment from Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney, suggesting we need to teach natural law in public schools, prompted Matthew J. Peterson to reply that it’s not enough to ban critical race theory, we need to replace it with natural law. This in turn inspired Yale University philosophy professor Jason Stanley to aver (in a since-deleted tweet) that natural law is “a dogwhistle to white Christian Nationalism.”

What followed, as described by Davidson, was…

…a string of outraged tweets about natural law, mostly from people who don’t seem to know what natural law is, confusing it for social Darwinism or some such.

It is clear that many people do not understand natural law.  I suspect this is by design, an intentional effort via public education, mass media, and government policy developed to supply a compliant and malleable population, one that is left with a superficial understanding of liberty – the same liberty held by the lion in the zoo.

But what about the idea that natural law is confused with Social Darwinism?

Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest,” a phrase proposed by the British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer.

I will suggest…if man does not have as his telos, his purpose – in fact, his highest purpose – as love, Social Darwinism is quite natural.  Instead of natural law, we get the law of nature – similar words, very different meaning: survival of the fittest.  But natural law grounded in and refined through Christianity holds no such view.  Love is man’s purpose, his telos.  Survival of the fittest does not fit into a worldview that is guided by a natural law ethic.

Returning to Davidson, and writing about Professor Stanley:

He should also know that suggesting, as Peterson did, that an education grounded in natural law is infinitely superior to one grounded in critical race theory isn’t some kind of racist dogwhistle.

If we want to live as human beings, it is true.  Of course, who is any longer surprised about the quality and substance of the professors at the top universities in the country?  The long march through the institutions didn’t take very long after all.

Indeed, he should know that natural law stands in stark opposition to racism of any kind, because it posits that all human beings, regardless of their race or any other characteristic, have inherent rights, which can be discovered and applied through reason. Those rights arise from the fact of their humanity, not their race or religion.

Yes…and no.  Natural law does stand in stark opposition to racism because God breathed into man – all men and all women.  Yes, this specific form and meaning of equality can be known and discovered by believer and non-believer alike.

But, no: natural law should not be confused with natural rights.  Natural law is an ethic, describing how one should behave and act; natural rights are behaviors that one can demand from another.  Natural law demands that I act charitably, however no one has a natural right to force me to do so.

My natural rights are limited to my body and my property.  Don’t hit first, don’t take my stuff.  The non-aggression principle.  This isn’t just me saying it; Thomas Aquinas deals with this in question 96 in the Summa: The power of human law.  In Article 2, he asks “Whether it belongs to the human law to repress all vices?”  He answers: