Wednesday, November 25, 2020

No Truth

We certainly live in a post-truth age.  This term, post-truth, apparently came to the fore during Brexit and Trump, presumably describing how these two episodes succeeded, via “post” truth.  We can basically see that the West – and most significantly, the US – is divided in two camps that clearly believe the other is living in a world of post-truth.  Call these lies.

Russia gate, Ukraine, impeachment, Biden laptop computers, Covid, Clinton Foundation, voting machines, 4 AM vanloads of ballots.  This is just the last four years.  We each have a truth about each one of these; we cannot all be right.

Certain episodes are investigated, others are not.  Why?

Paul VanderKlay recently did a video on community building.  He opened with a slide, asking:

Was the US election clean?

Is the US and UK getting their COVID response right?

How should we regard climate change?

How can we know?

I responded:

Simple: Cui Bono.  Who benefits?  Centralized power and authority or decentralized power and authority?  Those in power want more power; those in control want more control.  This is one way to know the truth on each of these subjects. 

Those who want more power and control aren’t after more power and control for my benefit or the benefit of anyone listening to these videos or commenting here.

Political leaders and business leaders prefer centralized power.  Truth is irrelevant in this pursuit.  If lies are necessary in this pursuit, they will lie.  We see the marriage of these two in this cause.

But lies are always necessary in this pursuit of centralizing power.  Insufficient numbers will allow increased authoritarianism without being fed lies.

Neither the media nor the Department of Justice are acting in their appropriate role – pursuing truth in pursuit of justice.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it did so relatively peacefully.  Perhaps most people in the Soviet Union knew that they were being fed lies, hence, no conflict.

I don’t think the West will be as fortunate.  Each side is convinced the other is lying.  Neither is able to let go of this. 

No truth, no justice, no peace. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Problem of Teaching Ethics

Ryan Reeves offers a series on Lewis and Tolkien, taken from his classroom lectures at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.  In this video, entitled C.S. Lewis, Theology and the Space Trilogy, he raises an interesting discussion point. 

At a faculty retreat that was taken with a group of pastors, one of the professors from the seminary asked: what can we teach our theology students that we aren’t teaching?  In other words, when the students graduate and you get them, on what subjects are they falling short?

The answer: you could teach six courses on ethics, and it still wouldn’t be enough.  Not only would it not be enough, but the ethical issues we are facing are changing so fast that we can’t keep up.

Admittedly, ethical issues are changing very fast today.  But ethical issues have always been changing, and, at other times, quite fast.  We faced such issues in the 1960s regarding the sexual revolution and civil rights; in the 1920s regarding the family in post-war Europe especially; in the 1860s regarding slavery in the United States; in the 1790s regarding the use of the guillotine.  I could continue traveling through time in reverse.

In other words, we have faced such change before, both in speed and magnitude.  Unfortunately for us, each of those episodes preceded or followed a dramatic episode of violence.  My first point is that we have gone through many periods where we can’t keep up.  and this has come at a tremendous cost.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

My main point: in teaching ethics, teaching the issues of the moment is insufficient – one is always teaching on how to deal with that which already happened.  Each new question in ethics requires a new course to deal with that which has already overtaken society. 

By the time a theological seminary or a university develops a new course, sends enough students through it, and those students then are in a position to make an impact in their community, the horse is out of the barn – followed by four additional horses for which new courses have yet to be developed or new students have yet to be taught.

Such a course of action – giving men fish – will never offer the possibility of keeping up with change.  To keep up with change, one must teach men to fish.

Which brings me to the concept of natural law.  My thought when I heard Reeves recite this interchange: teach six courses on natural law, and you will greatly reduce the angst about keeping up with the new ethical changes coming at us at lightning speed.

There is such pushback on this concept, coming at us – I believe – from two main sources: first, from those who want to control society, and second, from those who find some reason to “fault” the concept.

Murray Rothbard exposed the first, writing, “the natural law provides the only sure ground for a continuing critique of governmental laws and decrees.”  It is through these governmental laws and – ever-increasingly – decrees that society is controlled.  What of unpacking the second?

Those who fault the concept of natural law have many arrows in their quivers: Aristotle’s physics and science have proven faulty (as if this has to do with his thoughts on metaphysics); Aquinas was Catholic (as was the entirety of the West for 1500 years); disagreement is found with the theology of other of Thomas’s teachings (as if these have to do with natural law); it is not Scripturally based (to which I have demonstrated the opposite).

Finally, which natural law (which comes to the ever-changing ethical environment that is inherent in man’s existence)?  But this is the point: natural law provides a foundation, a philosophical and theological framework by which one can address ever-changing ethical issues.  It doesn’t give answers to ethical questions that have not yet been asked; it offers a foundation and method by which to answer those questions yet to be asked.

There is no such things as “which natural law?”  there is only natural law, from which answers to ever-changing ethic questions can be derived.

The following issues are all addressed via natural law ethics:

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Irregular Equilibrium

Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton (ebook)

The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.

A simple example: a man is two men, with the right side a duplicate of the left.  Everything, in all appearances, confirms this as reality.  Until one gets to the heart.  Had he guessed as to the heart’s location, or that there would only be one heart, the scientist would be something more than a pure logician or mathematician.

Now, this is exactly the claim which I have since come to propound for Christianity. Not merely that it deduces logical truths, but that when it suddenly becomes illogical, it has found, so to speak, an illogical truth. It not only goes right about things, but it goes wrong (if one may say so) exactly where the things go wrong.

It is this point that Chesterton will consider: when something is found to be odd in Christian theology, it is only because something is odd in the truth.  The complications of our modern world prove this out better than any problem of faith.  Just as a scientist is proud of the complications in his science, so might one be proud of the complications of his faith.

But science can be proven, faith cannot.  What Chesterton found is that the more rational the proof, the less believable the science:

Our grandmothers were quite right when they said that Tom Paine and the free-thinkers unsettled the mind. They do. They unsettled mine horribly. The rationalist made me question whether reason was of any use whatever….

I find this in the black hole offered by the most scientific rationalist: we don’t have free will in any sense, as we are nothing more than the result of random atoms smashing together randomly.  These “rationalists” use reason to prove that there is no point in humans having reason.  All we have is an illusion of free will.  Talk about unsettling the mind – if this is where sola reason must lead, you can have it.

Chesterton would read much about Christianity – from the point of view of non-Christians and anti-Christians.  The more he read, the more he came across the extraordinary: Christianity was blamed for vices of all sorts, attacked from all sides.  And this was the issue: it was attacked from all sides – attacked for numerous contradictory reasons.

For example, Christianity is attacked for instilling morbid fear and terror that prevents men from seeking joy and liberty; as well, it is attacked for comforting men in providence.  Next, it is attacked for making men too timid, not willing to fight at all; as well, it is attacked for making men warriors.  It is attacked for claiming to be the one true religion by men who claim that mankind was “one church from Plato to Emerson.”

Chesterton was not yet moved:

…I did not conclude that the attack on Christianity was all wrong. I only concluded that if Christianity was wrong, it was very wrong indeed. …The only explanation which immediately occurred to my mind was that Christianity did not come from heaven, but from hell. Really, if Jesus of Nazareth was not Christ, He must have been Antichrist.

As we know, Chesterton’s story didn’t end there.  To his mind came another explanation.  Regarding an unknown man, some describe him as too short, others too tall.  Instead of concluding something in error about the unknown man, what if instead this discrepancy says something of those describing him?

Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the centre. Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad—in various ways.

Was there something morbid, not in Christianity but in the accusers, that would explain these discrepancies?  And it was by asking himself this question that Chesterton found the key to unlock the door.  The restraint of Christians saddens the hedonist; the faith of Christians angers the pessimists.

But this was still not quite enough.  There was both meekness in Christians and fierceness in the crusaders.  Christianity did not offer some mean between the two – it offered both, at the top of their game.  Christianity offered Christ – not as a centaur, but as very God and very man (and I know that the dispute on the meaning here caused perhaps the earliest rupture in the official Church).

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Look in the Mirror, My Friend

Hello, Mirror - so glad to see you my friend, it's been a while

Searching, Fearless - where do I begin to heal this wound of self-denial

-          This Dying Soul, Dream Theater

At least for the moment, Trump has lost the election.  Sure, we can point to dozens of anomalies, inconsistencies, manipulations, etc.  If these ever come to light and if action is taken by the appropriate authorities and if the result swings enough votes, then maybe Trump wins.  But that’s a lot of “ifs” that have to happen for one “maybe.”  I am not betting on it.

For a start, don’t count on anything coming from the DOJ or Barr.  First of all, absolutely nothing was done regarding the lies of the last four years, so why would they do anything now with less than two months to go? 

These are career bureaucrats, not about to jeopardize their standing with the new president – hell, they want Trump out anyway.  Even if Trump fires any of them now (or they resign, as a few have), Biden will hire them again on day two.

If any official action is taken, it will come only from the state level – state legislatures, state courts, etc.  I don’t even think the Supreme Court will get in the way of this.  When has Roberts had a spine on anything?

But my point isn’t really any of this.  My point is to put the blame where it belongs, and the blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of the large majority of republican voters over the last decades.  In other words, the blame falls on you.

You've been blinded, living lie a one-way cold existence all the while

Now it's time to stare the problem right between the eyes you long lost child

“Oh, they are lying to us about the ballots; they are manipulating the results; it is an overthrow of a legitimately elected president.”  Sure, exactly like what the US intelligence agencies and military have been doing for decades overseas.  Toppling governments, color revolutions, destroying dozens of countries.  You cheer it on then, and now that it is obvious that they are doing this to you (like it wasn’t obvious years ago) you complain?  On what basis?

You have accepted all the lies, all of the evil, all of the torture – not merely accepted it, but bathed in it and glorified it.  You cheered them on every Sunday morning in church.  When the one honest man, Ron Paul, told you otherwise, you booed him off of the stage.

Julian Assange published documents and videos exposing these crimes, and you call for a beheading.  Edward Snowden gave details on domestic spying, and you want life in prison. 

Every action taken by the same actors that now have handed you this election defeat, you have cheered.  Oh, but now you don’t like it.

 

Your fearless admissions

Will help expel your destructive obsessions

With my help I know you can

Be at one with God and man

 

This is something you have to own.  Admit it, beg God for forgiveness, and move forward in truth. 

This is on your shoulders.  Only you can fix it.

Conclusion

It's time you made your amends

Look in the mirror my friend

-          The Mirror, Dream Theater

Monday, November 9, 2020

Deliver Us From Evil

From my post on a discussion between two pastors, Paul VanderKlay and Paul Anleitner, comments were offered by RMB and ATL that are worth addressing in some detail.

One of the pastors asked, “How to recognize ‘this is the evil we are actively to resist.’”  This in the context of the current culture wars and riots that are tearing apart the United States and much of the Western world. 

I addressed this in the earlier post – the evil we are to resist is the evil that intends to destroy Christianity; it is the same evil that intends to destroy liberty.  Recognizing the perpetrators of this evil is easy, because they have no shame or fear in identifying themselves and their purpose – either against Christianity or against liberty. 

In any case, the comments opened new questions and topics. First, from RMB November 6, 2020 at 9:40 AM

I don't know exactly how to fight the culture war but by standing firm on what I know to be true and to be ready to tell others when the time comes.

This is exactly where to start.  It does not require any complicated decisions about taking violent or even political action (albeit, I know some consider political action to also be violent).  It merely requires speaking truthfully.

We know that the objective of the leaders of those marching in the streets is to destroy Christianity; they are avowed Marxists and have not been shy about saying so.  We know this is true of many in academia – especially in the various social sciences.  We see it in action in many of our political leaders; we see it in the major media.

We see it in too many church leaders – the financial, spiritual, and moral corruption have been well-documented, and, for the most part, well-ignored by the leadership.  The advocacy of military aggression, especially in the service of the Scofield Bible and the state of Israel.  The regular praise of military adventurism and those who execute it.  Spanning the globe in search of enemies to destroy.

We see it in much of the church’s reaction to the culture war, with confusion about BLM, the role of and purpose for family, and the abdication of responsibility to the state for moral teaching.

So, I can only say: RMB knows exactly how to fight the culture war.  The difficulty is that there are times when this might not be enough.  From A Texas Libertarian November 6, 2020 at 11:39 AM:

The really hard question is: how are we supposed to thwart the plans of those enthralled to it while still maintaining love for them in our hearts as our King commanded?

It isn’t as if we have a clear-cut answer from the Bible – even from Jesus.  Give me a moment to explain.  Jesus offered, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

We are also told to turn the other cheek.  Ultimately, Jesus forgave those who put Him on the cross.  Verses such as these are cited for those who find in Jesus’s teachings and life a very pacifist calling.  Some see this as the end of it. But it isn’t.

There are, apparently, over 600 laws and commandments in the Old Testament.  Jesus has, thankfully, summarized these to two, from Matthew 22:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now, I could be a little cheeky and say that the “love your enemy” part didn’t make the cut.  Well, there, I said it.  And, of course, just because Jesus didn’t include it in the top two (or add a third) doesn’t make what he said earlier about loving our enemies disappear. 

We know, for example, the story of the Good Samaritan.  He was able to love his enemy; the example is clear-cut and free of truly difficult ethical conflict for a Christian. 

But what if loving your neighbor and loving your enemy come into conflict? 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Turning Up the Heat

Biden defeats Trump in an election he made about character of the nation and the President.

This CNN headline came to my email at just before noon Eastern today.

I happen to be visiting what I can describe as small-town America.  Small town, yes, but close enough to a major city to be left-leaning.  Shortly after I saw this headline, car horns started honking.  This continued on and off – I couldn’t see the street, but could hear the horns.

A couple of hours later, I was out for a walk.  Around the corner, a car with the driver honking the horn.  Leaning out of the passenger window, Biden signs.  The next honking car, an American flag – curious, because many Biden supporters hate America.  A problem for the left – they all know what they are against; no common view of what they are for. 

In any case, supposedly Trump has people working on challenges in many states.  I say “supposedly” because supposedly Barr was investigating the nonsense of the last four years and still has done nothing.  In other words, is there anyone with actual authority that will lead a broad group of bureaucrats who are willing to do a proper investigation of issues important to those who voted for Trump?  Does such a group even exist that is willing to be so led?

So, let’s see what comes of these challenges.  If they happen, and if a couple are successful – thus eliminating this Biden “win” – just watch the fireworks begin.

I sometimes wonder if Trump was allowed to win the first time just for the purpose of offering the opportunity to tear the country apart – call this Act One.  This Act could have continued well-enough with a Trump win in 2020.  There is one way to make it a much more explosive performance.

There are dozens of anomalies in this election, and there are many paths to a Trump victory if enough of the right people wish to make it so.  You have read all of this elsewhere; I need not go into the realities and possibilities here.  Of course, that enough people would want to make a Trump victory happen is a big “if” – but would it be any more of a miracle than Trump winning four years ago?  No, not really. 

Which comes to what might be playing out as Act Two.  Pretending a Biden win, then reversing the course would be a great Act Two if one wanted to turn up the heat. 

The next two months will be entertaining, albeit maybe not survivable.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Two comments

Taken from a video discussion between Paul VanderKlay and Paul Anleitner.  Both are pastors – VanderKlay in Sacramento, Anleitner in Minneapolis.

My first comment:

The first five minutes or so of this conversation offers the best commentary that 2020 has been the fruit of evil.  No human power could have so easily infected the minds of men to willingly and suddenly abandon all the gifts that give life meaning - up to and including physical church attendance (to include Easter, and, soon enough, Christmas).  Whatever one believes of a proper understanding of Romans 13, it certainly isn't this.

What prompted this comment?  They discussed the world since corona – mostly VanderKlay discussed this.  His church was closed for the first three months, then opened, then the state wanted another shutdown, but he didn’t go for it.  He sees his parishioners deteriorating, especially the older ones.

VanderKlay laments that this is the new equilibrium.  No one has any idea what church looks like on the other end.  What will resolution of covid look like, etc.?  There is a tone of almost complete resignation.

Sadly, Anleitner says that his church shut down before any government decree.  “It was never really about meeting in person.”  Needless to say, this is stunning to me.

On to the second comment: At some point later in the discussion, they hit on the culture war.  They were discussing the attraction of Jordan Peterson.  He was saying many of the same things for many years prior to his rocket to fame.  One of the two Pauls noted: “The thing that really propelled [Peterson] was his entry into the culture war.”

Peterson could get people by the countless thousands to listen to him speak on the Bible – to spend real money to listen; they would come by the countless thousands to hear him speak about a life of meaning – to spend real money to listen. 

In other words, people spent money and came to hear Peterson speak on what the church should be speaking on for free every Sunday.  Yet churches are dying, despite not having a cover charge.

But what brought people to him was that he was not afraid to dive into the culture war, on the side of what I would describe as a natural law position.  Maybe church leaders could take a cue from this (and from Peterson’s positions on the matter) when discussing their concerns about why the congregation is stagnant or shrinking. 

But neither of these pastors want anything to do with this.  They don’t like the culture war stuff.  One of them said, paraphrased: “It is commendable that [John] Vervaeke doesn’t do the culture war stuff.”

My reaction?  No, it isn’t.  Perhaps don’t wonder why churches in the west are dying.  Destroy culture and you destroy meaning and, therefore, you destroy man.  Whose objective is it to destroy man?  It isn’t God’s, it’s the other guy’s.

Murray Rothbard would write, in 1992: “Yes, yes, you rotten hypocritical liberals, it's a culture war!”  It is a culture war, and, unfortunately, it is almost exclusively those on the side of evil that realize this.  My second comment at the site was on this point, the culture war:

One side of this culture war has the aim to destroy Christianity; the other side doesn't act accordingly, and, therefore, is losing.  Read Antonio Gramsci.

Gary North would write of Gramsci:

Gramsci in the 1930s acknowledged that Western society was deeply religious, and that the only way to achieve a proletarian revolution would be to break the faith of the masses of Western voters in Christianity and the moral system derived from Christianity. He placed religion and culture at the base of the pyramid.

Regarding Gramsci, Malachi Martin would write how the church must be adapted to a “this-worldly” vision of a communist “material paradise”:

They [communists] join with the Christian churches in brotherly dialogue and in common humanitarian ventures. But the object is to confirm the new Christianity in its anti-metaphysical and essentially atheistic pursuit of liberation from material inconvenience, from the fear of a nuclear holocaust, from sexual restriction of any kind and, finally, from all supernatural constrictions.... Total liberation is to construct the long-dreamed Leninist-Marxist Utopia.... By just that process, authored by Antonio Gramsci... has Western culture deprived itself of its lifeblood.

It was asked by Anleitner: “How to recognize ‘this is the evil we are actively to resist.’”  The evil we are to resist is right there, under your nose.  But too many Christian leaders either don’t want to engage in this battle or are fighting on the wrong side of it – either knowingly or unknowingly.  For those who are honest actors, the confusion stems from an ignorance of the value and necessity for natural law.

Conclusion

Ephesians 6: 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Do we think these principalities and powers are just floating out there, only in disembodied spirits?  I have offered that it is not the case; this evil prince works through human actors, real flesh and blood.  Don’t trust me?  The Apostle Paul gives his answer:

Ephesians 2: 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

The children of disobedience.  They are here, physically, today.  It is time to recognize this evil that we are actively to resist.

Epilogue

As mentioned, Anleitner pastors a church in Minneapolis; it is on the same street where George Floyd was shot.  He has had parishioners pulled from cars, beat up, etc., as he discusses in the last few minutes of the video.

Isn’t it obvious the evil we are actively to resist?