Friday, April 26, 2024

The Liberal Utopia


What was valued was not an orientation toward the kingdom of heaven but confidence that America offered a utopian alternative to it.

The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars, by John Strickland

Strickland begins this chapter on liberalism with World War Two (he has offered much work on the reasons and drivers behind liberalism in the many earlier chapters).  With Nazi fascism defeated, communism in the east and liberalism in the west were left to stand off against each other.

Toward the war’s conclusion, of course, the west, led by the United States, would carpet bomb Dresden and drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Total warfare had exposed the shortcomings of utopia to all Christendom.

I think this was well exposed in the Great War, and in the United States in the (so-called) Civil War before this.  Yet, I take Strickland’s point: without the transcendent, every strongman is quite sure of what utopia should look like.

America was the free world; Nazi Germany, the slave world.  One must live and one must die.  Propaganda through film and other means would help shape these narratives.  Ideology replaced Christianity, and therefore it was up to ideology (liberalism) to offer the solution against another ideology (fascism).

John Locke offered inspiration.  The United States was the first nation to embrace this liberal philosophy, this ideology as the basis for societal formation.  Individual liberty was to become the highest good, and it was the trademark of the United States. 

The individual was free to define and create himself.  John Stuart Mill kept it simple: pleasure and happiness, these would guide.  Utilitarianism.  This was determined on a case-by-case basis; nothing transcendent here.  A free exchange of ideas would provide the light to shine the way.

…individuals would reach conclusions about right and wrong on their own.  This would yield a utopia of individual liberty.

Post-war America had a mission: to spread this ideal around the world; to evangelize.  American exceptionalism.  Of course, this trend started from the beginning – a manifest destiny took the former colonies to the west coast of North America and beyond.  Now all of Western Europe was at her feet, as was Japan in the Far East. 

Religious diversity would drive a strengthened national identity.  Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox from eastern Europe, Jews.  Given this diversity, another uniting force was required, and the nation-state was happy to offer the alternative.

The “American Way.” It has been observed that this phrase appeared in the New York Times about 700 times from the Civil War to 1932.  In just the subsequent decade, coincidentally coinciding with the build up to war – a war that most Americans didn’t want – it appeared over 2200 times.

The “American Dream.”  This phrase was coined in 1931 – not really the dreamiest of times.  Each individual had an “inherent right to be restricted by no barriers.”  Man’s nature is not fixed – a plasticity, to be shaped individually. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Continuities and Discontinuities


“It doesn’t matter what we believe in, as long as we believe.”

-          From the diary of Joseph Goebbels

The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars, by John Strickland

In this chapter, Strickland moves from the Communism of the Soviet Union to the National Socialism of Germany (next will come a look into the Liberalism of the West).  Just as in the chapter on Communism, there is much here that will sound, unfortunately, as if it is being written about today’s western democracies.  This chapter adds another dimension: a striking mirror to Israel’s actions regarding Palestinians in Gaza.

National Socialism was the most bestial vision of the West ever concocted.  More even than Communism, it promised to replace decrepit humanism and moralistic Christianity with a totally new moral order unrestrained by reason or mercy.

I struggle with this statement.  Was National Socialism somehow worse in this regard than Communism?  It is the story we are supposed to believe: Hitler, not Stalin, has become the stand-in for Satan.  But regarding this “totally new moral order unrestrained by reason or mercy,” one could argue that National Socialism at least held some mercy toward Germans. 

This mercy toward Germans can be seen in the three nihilistic convictions that lay at the heart of National Socialism:

“…the existence of a master race, the inferiority of other races, and the need for a war of racial annihilation.”

By the way, is this not inarguably the view of Israel when it comes to their position and against the position of Palestinians? 

In any case, for whom did Communism, under Stalin, hold any mercy?  He purged those even in his inner circles, let alone Russian, Ukrainian, or Georgian commoners.  In the battle of “most bestial,” Stalin killed far more civilians before the first shot was fired in Europe in World War Two than did Hitler.

As to the first conviction, the existence of a master race, Strickland sees this as necessary within Hitler’s framework as a defense of “Christendom in general and Germany in particular.”  This is a second statement which is baffling to me. 

There is nothing in Hitler’s actions that were a defense of Christendom.  Worship was of Hitler; allegiance was sworn to Hitler.  Strickland offers many examples that counter his own assertion:

·         Mixing Wagnerian nationalism with Nietzschean worship of the will…

·         …the West was built by a master race called the Aryans.

·         …preserved Aryan supremacy through morally unflinching expansion and conquest.

·         …racist nationalism…

·         …the racial transformation of the world…

·         …evolutionary ideas about an Aryan master race…

·         …individual human beings have no innate value.

·         “A stronger generation will drive out the weaklings,” Hitler claimed.

There is no defense of Christendom here, not in any sense to understand the word.  And this points to one of the problems I have had with Strickland’s entire narrative arc (as valuable as I have found his work in many ways).  His narrative depends on hinging the problems of the West to the schism of 1054.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Bible and Slavery


Slavery in the Bible: Answering Atheist Critiques, Gavin Ortlund

What follows is my comment at the video, but meaningfully expanded:


It really is inappropriate to accuse God, through the Bible, of condoning or endorsing slavery.  God gave His standard in the opening of the Bible: man is made in the image of God. 

Genesis 1: 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

The implications of this are easily deduced, not only regarding slavery, but regarding all human interaction.

It strikes me that the root of this critique regarding the Bible and slavery is the unwillingness to acknowledge man’s fall, the depth of that fall, and the consuming power of sin over man.

If this is acknowledged, then one can grasp the idea that God understood that achieving thousands of years of ethical, Christian, progress in one day was not possible given man’s depth in sin.  Many of the Old Testament commandments are a reflection of this: God was reigning in the corruption, trying to bring it under some control, setting standards to minimize the chaos.

Slavery, along with many other behaviors that ran counter to the truth that all men are created in God’s image, was accepted as morally just in every society.  Man first had to be brought into a condition where the corruption was minimized.  They were not at all ready for returning to the condition intended in the Garden.

We know this, if for no other reason, than Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  “Ye have heard it said…But I say unto you….” In addition to the Pharisees and scribes modifying some of these commandments, they didn’t go all the way; they only dealt with action, the observable behavior.  Jesus made clear that the point was the heart, not merely superficial action.  Get the heart right, then you can understand and live properly with your fellow man who is created in God’s image – as God intended.

We also see this in the teaching of the apostle Paul regarding slavery, the relationship between husband and wife, parents and children.  In the Roman world of his time, with the accepted ethic of slavery, of a male citizen satisfying his desire to ejaculate in any orifice available to him, with the tossing of babies into the sewer, Paul’s message was infinitely more radical than anything we have seen since within the context of time.

Jesus’s teaching is not seen as merely reigning in the chaos; He is preaching an entirely new man – but not really a new man.  It was man as intended in creation, before the fall.  Which comes back to Genesis 1:27.  This was God’s intent for man in creation, and man’s fall tore him away from God’s design.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere, taught the intent of the law, and brought to us the next level of understanding – consistent with the law, but not as a new law to follow.  He taught a change of the heart; this was what God intended all along.


Knowing the depth of man’s fall, was there another way?  A way that recognized man had free will to act?  A way that would not have turned all of mankind into God’s slaves?  

I don’t see it.


As an aside: slavery was an improvement over what came before.  In battle, defeated enemies were slaughtered, to the last.  Someone figured out that some of the defeated might be more valuable as slaves. 

I would guess most of the conquered preferred this option to death; those that didn’t certainly had the ability to change their circumstance to that which they preferred.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Christ Pantocrator


About Jordan Peterson’s horrendous tweet at Netanyahu: “Give ‘em hell.  Enough is enough.”

I check [my moral compass] as follows: the only people who suffer in such situations are the common people who have or want nothing to do with such violence, who want nothing more than to raise their children, give them a good education, have a decent job, feed their families.

All of the actors – the movers and shakers?  None of them are physically at risk.  They have either put these wheels in motion or are trying to figure out how to leverage these events to their advantage – or both.

I wrote that just a few days after October 7.  We can see now, although it was obvious then, what those who were to support the state of Israel were calling for when they used words like Peterson’s.

Given what we have seen the last several months, the mea culpas should be flowing.  Very few are….


This episode was certain to tear the left apart, as there was nothing that held the elite and the raving masses together other than hate for western civilization.  It turns out the raving masses were consistent in their application, and the elites didn’t like that:

The Left is Consuming Itself

This was a certainty – just as feminism was going to be consumed by trans athletes, support for people of color ™ was going to be embraced until it touched on the people of color living between the river and the sea ™.

It isn’t just the left that has its zanies:

Well, the so-called right isn’t doing any better, with one outdoing the other on the desire to fulfill zany end-times lunacy.

Christian Zionists for Genocide?

Speaking of zany end-times lunacy…. Can we put a knife in the horrendous blasphemy that is Scofield, once and for all?

This followed by an image of John Hagee entitled “Israel: God’s Battle-Ax.”  Well, yes on the battle-ax part.  But is it God’s? 


How are these Scofield evangelicals going to handle the antisemitism of saying “Christ is King”?  What happens to these Scofield evangelicals when they decide they can’t withstand the social pressure of saying such words?  What happens to them when the following words are labelled antisemitic, hence cancelling Jesus?

·         A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

·         But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

·         Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

·         But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

·         Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Doug Wilson points out that it is the evangelical Zionists that are the bulwark against crazy in America – given their size and voting power.  Yes, maybe.  But sooner or later this bulwark is going to have to choose: Just who, or what, is their king? 

Romans 9:5(b) Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.

Christ Pantocrator: Christ, ruler of all.  That would make Him king.


No, no trope or dog whistle here.  I have used this phrase many times in the past in posts that have nothing to do with current controversies, for example, August 2021:

In this chapter, Strickland offers descriptions of several of the icons one will find in an Eastern Orthodox church.  Christ Pantocrator at the top of the dome; Mary and the infant Jesus above the alter.  To see these icons (and dozens of others) in person is truly a moving experience, something that I believe is a loss in most, if not all, protestant churches.