Saturday, December 30, 2023

My Ever-Shrinking Intersection


Given the ever-widening and fragmented divisions in a society gripped in revolution, I guess this should be no surprise….

Where to start this tale?  For simplicity, a return to 2008 and the financial crisis.  I found myself on the side of those who contacted congress to vote against TARP.  I remember Maria Bartiromo, then on CNBC, whining to the camera, “come on people…”, blaming the people for being against bailing out the institutions that, after the Federal Reserve and federal government, were most responsible for the financial calamity then realized.

After going down in defeat, the real arm-twisting began in congress, and the TARP bill was passed on the next vote – despite overwhelming public opposition (I recall 80% - 90% or more calls to congress against).

Even though by this time, September 2008, the media had done its job of burying the Ron Paul presidential campaign, it was clear that this uprising by voters reflected the economic views advocated by Ron Paul. 

Not that many of these same voters appreciated some of Paul’s other views at the time…. I was firmly against the earlier invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it wasn’t clear that these notions were shared by those who also were against the TARP bailout.  Many booed Paul when he spoke of the adventurism of US foreign military action.

Shortly thereafter, Occupy Wall Street.  Whatever the origins of this events, I understood and sympathized with the objective.

What camp did this all place me in?  Certainly, my views were influenced by the non-aggression principle, but the divisions in society were not yet nearly as clear as they are today.

However, the signs were already there, even before TARP and Occupy Wall Street.  Barack Obama first verbalized the divide he worked so hard to thereafter create, when, in April 2008 on the campaign trail, he offered:

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

So, he dumped on the workers who had lost their blue-collar jobs, he dumped on gun owners, he dumped on those concerned about unchecked immigration, and he dumped on religious people (and clearly this meant Christians).  Obama’s statement perhaps most clearly describes the divide in America today – but not quite all of it.  And I was on the wrong side.

But, again, this didn’t really make clear my place – as war and military worship didn’t quite fit into my picture.  Many of those same people who were clinging to their guns and religion worshipped the military, went to churches on Sunday that sang military songs and paraded the US flag.  I wasn’t on their side.  But even the left was no longer protested the wars, not once Obama was warmonger-in-chief.

Picture my ever-shrinking intersection in the Venn Diagram of all US residents….

Basically, this divide remained stable but grew more secure through Obama’s term in office, now starting to offer clear evidence of the addition of the rainbow.  In the 2016 election campaign, Hilary Clinton labeled Trump supporters a basket of deplorables. 

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And, unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Clinton completed the picture of the divide, to ensure inclusion of the rainbow.  Now, she noted that many of his supporters wanted a change, but this didn’t clean the stink of her larger comment – and she didn’t really want it cleaned up.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

A New Blog


I have decided to start a new blog (and still will continue with this one).  The most immediate reason is that the workings of blogger by google continue to be unstable, and I am tired of trying to find solutions to these irregularly occurring but annoying issues. 

As you should be able to tell: I work alone – no editor and no technical support.  I want to focus on writing and engaging with you.  Blogger makes this quite difficult at times.  The most current issues: it seems neither method of following this blog is working consistently.  Perhaps it is just me, but I am not receiving notifications from either method of following the blog.

The new blog will focus on and is titled My Christian Journey.  I will post items specific to this – continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, The Reformation as Renewal, etc.  If you are interested in continuing on this road with me, head over to the new blog and subscribe.  I think there is a way I can export the current mailing list to the new blog; however, I am choosing not to do this for two reasons:

·         I don’t want to assume everyone here wants to subscribe to the new blog

·         I don’t want to spend more time trying to figure out how to do this.

I will continue to post at this site – bionic mosquito – for items outside of or very tangential to the subject of this journey.

Monday, December 18, 2023

What Man Took From God…


…he has no power to repay.

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

This is the second and final post covering the first half of Anselm’s work, in which he deals with the objections of the infidels.  Already in his first half of this half, he did, what seems to me, a thorough job on the question of why God became man (and why Jesus had to be God-man).  But he isn’t done.  I ended the previous post with the following:

Does even a perfect man (if such a thing were to exist) have sufficient honor to restore to God the honor stolen from God?  Can this theoretical perfect man have enough honor to restore the cumulative and ongoing honor taken by every rational creature that ever existed and will exist on earth?

One man?  Only man?  I think the question answers itself.

Anselm begins here, in chapter XII, with the question: would it have been proper for God to put away man’s sin solely by His compassion, and without any payment for the honor stolen from Him?

… if sin is neither paid for nor punished, it is subject to no law. … It is, therefore, not proper for God thus to pass over sin unpunished.

This leaves the question: isn’t God completely free to do as He wills? 

… if sin be passed by unpunished, viz., that with God there will be no difference between the guilty and the not guilty; and this is unbecoming to God.

The answer is, or should be, clearly, no. 

Wherefore, if it be not fitting for God to do anything unjustly, or out of course, it does not belong to his liberty or compassion or will to let the sinner go unpunished who makes no return to God of what the sinner has defrauded him.

We should not interpret or understand things in a manner that calls into question God’s dignity.  Nor can God be frivolous in relation to His creation and the order in it:

Moreover, when it is said that what God wishes is just, and that what He does not wish is unjust, we must not understand that if God wished anything improper it would be just, simply because he wished it. For if God wishes to lie, we must not conclude that it is right to lie, but rather that he is not God.

Which comes back to the point raised by Duns Scotus (and addressed here), where he taught something akin to – though he would deny this – God being a capricious God.  For perspective, Scotus wrote about two centuries after Anselm. 

There are some things silly to attribute to or ask about God; there are some things which are…impossible for Him.  Would God lie?  This would not be God.

So, what is proper for God?  What would not be unbecoming of Him?  What would be just?  What has the sinner defrauded of Him that must be returned?  These are the questions asked, and per Anselm there is only one way God can answer these and not be improper for Him, or not make of Him a liar – hence not be God.

Having established that God must be just, that sin must be dealt with – that anything less would make God not God – Anselm returns to the question of the honor stolen from God which clearly must be repaid:

In the order of things, there is nothing less to be endured than that the creature should take away the honor due the Creator, and not restore what he has taken away.

As Boso replies, nothing is more plain than this.  Therefore, one cannot say that God should endure this injustice which is greater than any other possible injustice.  In such a case, to resolve this greatest injustice requires the most supreme justice – a justice which is impossible for any human to satisfy.

Therefore the honor taken away must be repaid, or punishment must follow; otherwise, either God will not be just to himself, or he will be weak in respect to both parties; and this it is impious even to think of.

Returning to the theme developed even in the first part of this book: man does not posses sufficient honor such that a man’s sacrifice can restore the honor taken from God.  “…it is impious even to think of.”

Friday, December 15, 2023

Blessed are the Merciful…


…for they shall obtain mercy.

MHA: The merciful who are spoken of in the fifth Beatitude are those who possess the compassion and love that reflect divine love, who do not divide people into friends or enemies, evil or good, righteous or unrighteous. 

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

This Beatitude makes clear the turn toward the internal disposition of the Christian.  As shall be seen later in the Sermon, Jesus places a great emphasis on “being,” and not only on “doing”; one can consider the entire gospel in this manner.  Doing will come, but only after being – disposition – is understood and lived.

DMLJ: A Christian is something before he does anything; and we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians. … To be a Christian, I say, is to possess a certain character and therefore to be a certain type of person.

It is our attitude and character that identifies us as Christians, and this is necessary before the “doing” means anything.  We see this around us: individuals, avowedly not Christian, “do” many good things.  Due to a strong human will, they can, largely, control their actions.  But what is their disposition?  What is their attitude?  Have they walked through the previous Beatitudes to come to this point?

DMLJ: Going a step further, we can put it like this.  We are not meant to control our Christianity; our Christianity is meant to control us.

Works are only “good” if they come out of this Christian attitude.  It is the Spirit that controls me; because of this, I act. 

So, what is this mercy?  First, what it is not.  It doesn’t mean we are to be easygoing, to not see things, or if we see things, to act as if these do not matter.  This is to believe that there is such a thing as mercy while ignoring the law or pretending it does not exist or apply.  But there is law.

Metropolitan Alfeyev points to the references in the Old Testament of God’s mercy, often combined with His benevolence and lovingkindness.  However, he takes it somewhere that I am not comfortable to go, separating law and justice from mercy:

MHA: …the God of the Old Testament…

Metropolitan Alfeyev describes the Old Testament God as primarily a just judge, with God’s mercy tied to the person’s conduct.  The New Testament God demonstrates mercy independent of the human condition.  He makes a distinction of the behavior and actions of God in the Old Testament vs. the New Testament.

Metropolitan Alfeyev continues by citing Isaac the Syrian, who writes “mercy is opposed to justice.”  This is true enough, but mercy can only come into play if one considers that there is something that is just, the violation of which will call forth mercy.  In other words, the law.  There is no possibility of mercy without the law and without a just lawgiver and a just adjudicator.  The two go hand in hand, which is one reason I cannot separate the Old Testament God from the New Testament God.  Mercy and justice both exist throughout.

Lloyd-Jones explains this point:

DMLJ: …whatever I may decide as to the meaning of ‘merciful’ is also true of God … breaking the law is unthinkable when we are talking about God.

God is merciful; He is also righteous and just.  However we are to understand mercy, it must include these.  Mercy and truth have to come together; to think of mercy at the expense of considering truth and law is not true mercy.

God did show mercy, truth, and justice through the death and resurrection of Christ.  Mercy, truth, and justice were all on display.  And this, among other reasons, is what gives me great pause when reading Metropolitan Alfeyev’s words on this point.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

A Capricious God?


[Scotus] abandoned Thomas’s marriage between metaphysics [being] and theology [divinity].  The two should be kept separate from one another because their subject is not the same.

Richard Cross summarizes the consequence: “none of the principles or axioms of theology are shared by any other kind of study: metaphysics or natural science… So nothing that we can know about God by natural reason belongs to the study of theology.”

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

John Duns Scotus, a late thirteenth century Scholastic, was one of the most significant Scholastics after Aquinas and perhaps the first well-known Scholastic to break with Aquinas.  In addition to Thomas, he would break with Henry of Ghent and Bonaventure as well.  He set a new trajectory, one that would be later followed by William of Ockham and Gabriel Biel.

In 1277 and on the three-year anniversary of Thomas’s death, Stephen (Étienne) Tempier, bishop of Paris, would publish his Condemnation.  He did not say who he was condemning, but the focus was on the use of reason and Aristotelian philosophy and logic; hence, Thomism was in the cross-hairs, although unnamed.

Philosophy should be kept separate from theology due to its limitations.  For example, philosophy cannot tell us exactly how or why God acts as He does.  Reason cannot be used to box God in.  God is free to act even in ways that defy rationality and morality.  At least this is the claim.  Of course, if the apostle Paul can find good use of Epicurean and Stoic philosophy in order to bring people to Christ….

Voluntarism and nominalism are underneath this thinking, and reason and metaphysics are tossed aside.  As to which is the chicken and which is the egg in this transition, historians remain divided.  Suffice it to say, the connection of one to the other seems clear.

Thomas insisted on the harmony of faith and reason, theology and philosophy, but Tempier trumpeted the disposal of such a paradigm…

Reason was to be confined to philosophy and faith confined to revelation; it wasn’t an atheist who developed this division, but leading intellectuals in the Church.  The argument would be extended directly against Thomas, when in 1286, the Franciscan John Peckham would take the Condemnation to its logical outcome.  And the is the divide that provides the backdrop to the University of Paris on the eve of Scotus’s arrival.

The idea would have been totally alien to Thomas: how can knowledge and love be partitioned into separate spheres?  God is the source of all knowledge and all truth. 

This separation of theology from philosophy had significant consequences. 

Scotus incubated a voluntarism that elevated the divine will to a state of unparalleled enigmatic sovereignty.  For Scotus, God possesses contra-causal freedom (or what is today labelled libertarian freedom).

God’s will is never determined by something or someone else; He can always choose to do whatever He will choose to do.  God can do whatever He pleases, with no limitations on God’s freedom.  Now, He cannot contradict Himself or His holy character, nor can He violate self-evident truths.  But whatever is otherwise possible, God can accomplish.

Whatever God decides, it is good and fitting. …As Scotus said, “Without contradiction the will could will the opposite, and thus it could justly will such.”

For me, this is all a bit confusing.  I will explain it as I understand it: Scotus advocates a reality of randomness by God when looked at through such a lens – an unpredictability.  Hence, we cannot expect consistent behavior from Him, nor is He even bound by the conditions that He Himself has set.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Worthwhile Review


A few years ago, after more than one failure, I decided to no longer comment on current stories immediately, unless my views were contrary to the narrative found in establishment sources.  The last straw was my immediate comment on the death of Goerge Floyd, and my mea culpa two months later.  Those of you who have ben around here for a few years will remember this history. 

Why bring this up now?  There is a video out on Rumble: "The Fall of Minneapolis."  Take ninety minutes to watch it.  Yes, for those who have paid attention to the development of this story, there will not be much that is new.  But someone took the time to put it all together in one place.

Well, some things are new (at least since the first few months of the story) – or at least worth seeing: the body camera footage that was not made available until months after the event – after the mostly peaceful riots during the summer of 2020 already took their toll; interviews with several Minneapolis police officers who retired shortly after the events; an interview of Chauvin’s mother; a reminder of the lying on the witness stand; a reminder of the cowardliness of local officials and corruption of national politicians and others; phone interviews with Chauvin and one other of the police officers now in prison.

In many ways it is heart wrenching; in other ways it is blood-boiling. 

Yes, God has turned His face from this country.  Of this there is no doubt.  Fallen man is left to his own devices; there is no safety net. 

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.