July 24, 2016
I am currently reading the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. In literary terms, it has some flaws. Ideologically, it is self-consciously non-religious but advocates ethical humanism with a commitment to moral objectivity.
There is a horrifying scene in which boys and teachers at an elite Nazi school are forced to throw water over a bound prisoner in the freezing cold, a process that freezes the prisoner to death. Only one refuses. He pours out bucket after bucket of water on the ground, saying, "I will not." He later pays the price.
That ability to draw a line, to say, "I will not" is important to all human beings. There has to be something about which you will say that, a line you will not cross, a thing you will not do. If not, you have lost yourself.
In Vermont right now, some doctors are being told that they have to do something, and they are saying, "I will not." Their lawyers for the ADF (these are people really doing something for the cause of the right and the good) have filed a lawsuit on their behalf. The complaint is here.
July 20, 2016
There's been a recent brouhaha connected with Twitter concerning a certain columnist whom I'll just call Kilo. I ignore Twitter as much as possible. I have no Twitter account, and not much in my life would change if Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow. In fact, I doubt it was a very well-conceived idea to begin with.
I'm taking note of this particular brouhaha because of what it reflects about a certain segment of the population that calls itself "conservative" but is anything but.
July 18, 2016
An argument for the historicity of the Gospels that deserves attention is the argument from the reticence of the evangelists. Here's, in outline, how it goes: Consider the hypothesis that the Gospels are, or include, later, legendary stories. Then look at various places where human curiosity is not gratified in the Gospels by added stories, where one might expect these if the Gospel authors were not constrained by their actual knowledge or the information they got from real sources close to the facts.
This argument is closely related to the apparent reticence of the Gospel authors to "read back in" theological interests into early material.
July 14, 2016
In Orwell’s novel 1984, in chapters 2 and 3 of part Three, during the interrogation and dialogue between Winston Smith and O’Brien (sadly, I could mine these sections of the novel for posts here the rest of my life); O'Brien asks Winston if, in his opinion, the past has real existence and, saying that Winston is no metaphysician, he continues by affirming that:
until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects where the past is still happening?
Winston replies in the negative and O’Brien questions him “then where does the past exist, if at all?”
In one of the most blatant instances of the "choice devours itself" phenomenon to come along in a while, the Dutch medical association has written out guidelines on starving and dehydrating people to death that order doctors to continue dehydrating patients who ask for water or food. Such requests are to be treated as "delirium" on the part of a person who had previously (allegedly) consented to be dehydrated to death. The person is to be medicated into quietness if necessary so that he will "reach his goal" of dying.
These guidelines apply even to food and fluids received by mouth.
July 12, 2016
First, an update on SB 1146. The law has been amended in the following ways, making it worse.
--It now is absolutely explicit that it applies not only to student admissions but also to hiring.
--The law is explicit that "transgender" students would have to be accommodated in the facilities of their "gender identity."
--The law is now clear that homosexual "married" couples would have to be accommodated in married student housing, if such is offered.
The law has evidently had some cosmetic changes made to it which I hope will not induce any schools to compromise or withdraw their opposition.
--It permits schools that accept state funds (via their students) to require "mandatory religious practices," presumably such things as going to chapel. This is apparently a softening of the stance on prohibiting "religious discrimination."
--It permits such schools to enforce "moral codes," as long as these are applied universally without regard to a student's claim to sexual orientation or gender identity. So what does this mean? It means that as a Christian school you can't have a "moral code" that bans specifically homosexual practice, though you can require students to confine homosexual practice to pseudo-marriage. Wow, I'm so impressed!
The National Catholic Register rightly sees that this should mean that any faithful religious school (naturally, the NCR is applying it specifically to Catholic schools) will have to forego state funds if this law passes the Assembly and is signed.
July 9, 2016
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
With the great Russian’s famous sentences before him, a Dallas native and long-time friend of this blog, John Zmirak, has produced the best thing yet written about Friday’s treason against the men in blue.
Last night, someone tore out a piece of America. Five hard-working, brave policemen of the City of Dallas are dead. Seven others lie wounded, as do two civilians. Racial resentments, not wholly groundless, have been needlessly inflamed. All this in Dallas, a vibrant, economically thriving city where before the shooting, cops were posing for photos with the Black Lives Matter protestors whom they were there protecting; where misconduct by members of our highly diverse police force has plummeted thanks to higher quality training; where the black citizen carrying the AR-15 whom someone misidentified as a suspect was in fact a law-abiding gun owner exercising his Second Amendment rights, who handed his rifle to the cops in case they needed it.
As Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at the prayer rally I just left in downtown Dallas’ Thanksgiving Square, “We will not let that person steal this democracy from us.” The mood here isn’t sour. At that rally, evangelical preachers black and white, a rabbi, an imam, and the city’s Catholic bishop led a multiracial crowd of more than 1,000 in prayers for the police and for racial healing. We held hands and prayed, and the Salvation Army band sweltered for our benefit, playing “God Bless America.”
Nationally, things are bleaker. Social media bubble with charges and counter-charges. Each of the major presidential candidates is so divisive that it’s a blessing neither of them chose to visit. It’s also very sad: presidential election opponents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush and Al Gore, could have (and probably would have) changed their plans and made an appearance in Dallas, after the worst strike against law enforcement in more than 100 years. This year, neither of the candidates has any place preaching healing or unity.
Just before adducing Solzhenitsyn’s line, Zmirak articulates some fundamental truths, relating to very sensitive matters, which are forever wanting articulate repetition.
Last night brought me back to New York City in the 1970s. If you’ve never seen it, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam is a powerful document of memory. It immerses you in the moment when a rampant serial killer (Son of Sam), a record heat wave, an electrical blackout and massive street looting brought our nation’s greatest city to the brink of civic collapse. The film depicts the powerful role that racial division plays in making order harder to keep and justice tougher to find.
But ultimately, it isn’t the conflict between one group and another that causes chaos. In a lily-white society like 1930s Germany, or an all-black republic like 1990s Rwanda, we will still find sufficient divisions to make us hate each other, if that’s where our hearts incline. And incline there they will, if we don’t push back continually against the powerful currents that otherwise sweep us along — the world, the flesh and the devil.
July 6, 2016
Iowa bureaucrats have written up a FAQ about a 2007 Iowa "public accommodations" law. This FAQ says that churches whose services are open to the public or any church services such as daycares are subject to the Iowa laws against "discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. See the ADF brief here.
The ADF is completely right to see this as a direct, sweeping, broadside attack on the ability of churches in Iowa to preach and proclaim the truth concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. Church services are by their very nature open to the public, especially for churches that attempt to evangelize and actively desire to invite non-members to hear the gospel, and church-run facilities such as schools and daycares do usually permit non-members to use them. That does not mean that they have no distinctive religious identity nor that they do not serve, in the Commission's words, a "bona fide religious purpose."
But a failure to allow men to use women's bathrooms and any preaching of conservative norms on "sexual orientation and gender identity" might make homosexuals and transgenders feel "unwelcome" and might fail to "accommodate" them, and hence, given the Commission's interpretation, would be against the law if the church services are open to the public.
July 3, 2016
After a tissue of innuendo, comprising several paragraphs in which unsubtle references to Nazism stand in for context on an Austrian election six week ago, followed by several more paragraphs of artless diversion, The New York Times finally gets around to reporting the real story: that it looks like pro-EU politicians stole the election in Austria.
Or at least, it looks that way enough that the Austrian Constitutional Court has ordered a new election.
When polls closed in the May 22 runoff, [the Euroskeptic candidate] was leading, but a final count that included about 700,000 postal ballots put [the pro-EU candidate] ahead by roughly 31,000 votes. [Complaints were filed] with the Constitutional Court about irregularities in 94 of 117 electoral districts.
The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Gerhart Holzinger, announced on Friday that “the runoff must be repeated in all of Austria,” and said the decision was guided solely by the court’s mission to protect the rule of law and democracy.
Now bear with me. We know that for many of the The New York Times’ precocious reporters, history began around 2008, but some of us are old enough to remember a certain contested election here in the United States at the turn of the century. Maybe some of the Times reporters have heard of it; I cannot say.
What I can say is this: Imagine a The New York Times article describing, say, the Florida Supreme Court’s intervention on behalf of Albert Gore against George W. Bush, which commenced by reminding readers that a majority of that Court’s judges hailed from the formerly segregationist Florida Democratic Party, and then proceeded to bury the lede that the state’s presidential election results had been called into question and a statewide recount ordered.
I submit that such an article is quite beyond the imagination of any reasoning man.
But here we are, ten days after the biggest political blow the European Union has ever suffered — at the hands of a British public exasperated with the EU’s contempt for popular autonomy — and the Times is reporting a high court’s vacating of a major European nation’s popular election as if the only angle of consequence is the aid and comfort it gives to “far-right” parties.
“Austria’s Far Right Presents the E.U. With a New Test at the Polls” — that is, honest to goodness, the headline chosen by the Times. The headline to this blog is demonstrably more accurate.
June 30, 2016
Russia has a long history of, shall we say, uneasy relations with Protestant Christians. This neither began nor ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. The idea appears to be widespread that non-Russian Orthodox groups are "cults" and that their attempts to make converts are ipso facto illicit. See the brief paragraph on religious freedom in Russia here. See also this article from 1998.
June 28, 2016
The evil in our country is accelerating, and there is no good way to say that.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court did what has been predicted for a long time: We could say that it "struck down" Roe v. Wade, but in the wrong direction. Roe allowed the states to regulate mid-term and late-term abortion for the mother's health. Texas tried to do just that. The justices then formed themselves into a medical board and struck down the Texas regulations because they made it too hard for babies to be killed! The regulations themselves, even if some lawmakers did (heaven forfend) have a pro-life motive in passing them, were legally and medically quite reasonable from the perspective of the "health of the mother," but the justices didn't care about that. The absolute ability to kill the unborn must be maintained and made widely available, even at the risk of additional lives.
Meanwhile, I just got an e-mail from a reader about the California law SB 1146. This isn't a reader I've ever corresponded with, so I know nothing about her, but I can draw some conclusions from the fact that she asked why it isn't reasonable for the state of California to rule that "if you want to discriminate" you can't receive state funding! So now refusing to refer to a man as a woman and house him in the women's dormitory at college is "wanting to discriminate." The country has jumped the shark.
I will be speaking this Saturday at a free webinar on undesigned coincidences in the gospels and Acts, hosted by Online Apologetics Academy run by Jonathan McLatchie. I'm told the webinar can handle up to 100 participants at a time, plus it will be recorded for future listening. It starts at 3 p.m. eastern time on Zoom, which is very easy to use. (Speaking as a technophobe who just used it yesterday, I can say that it's easy.) Your computer will download a little software for Zoom, and you will choose a user name, and you can then enter the webinar. Here is the information with a link to Zoom. Don't be confused if you're in the U.S. by the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. time given at the top of the entry for me. That's actually UK time!
I'll be speaking for between 40 minutes and an hour and then taking questions for an hour or two from participants.
June 27, 2016
C.S. Lewis, writing about New Testament criticism, says, "[R]eflection on the extreme improbability of his own life--by historical standards--seems to me a profitable exercise for everyone. It encourages a due agnosticism." ("Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Christian Reflections, p. 164)
Lewis was talking about the over-confidence with which NT scholars make up the history of a biblical narrative and the unwarranted conclusions that they draw. His example from his own life was this: Suppose that someone in the future learned that he abandoned Christianity in his teens and also that he had an atheist tutor in his teens who had a great influence on him. It would seem indubitable to such an historian that the tutor influenced Lewis to abandon Christianity and therefore that any earlier texts that seemed to show that he was already an atheist before going to the tutor must be "backwards projections." But, as Lewis points out based on his own knowledge, the conjectural historian would be wrong, as in fact he did abandon Christianity before going to the atheist tutor.
June 24, 2016
...that the people who say big banks must be broken up think that big governments must not be?
June 21, 2016
In terms of sheer brazenness, it would be difficult to exceed this extraordinary specimen. George Soros writes in The Guardian to counsel against the Brexit; and this guy has got a lot of nerve.
To start off, sterling is almost certain to fall steeply and quickly if there is a vote to leave– even more so after yesterday’s rebound as markets reacted to the shift in opinion polls towards remain. I would expect this devaluation to be bigger and more disruptive than the 15% devaluation that occurred in September 1992, when I was fortunate enough to make a substantial profit for my hedge fund investors, at the expense of the Bank of England and the British government. [ . . .]
Brexiters seem to recognise that a sharp devaluation would be almost inevitable after Brexit, but argue that this would be healthy, despite the big losses of purchasing power for British households. In 1992 the devaluation actually proved very helpful to the British economy, and subsequently I was even praised for my role in helping to bring it about.
Now, whatever we may think of this Hungarian usurer, it would be imprudent to dismiss his views of financial markets; but as a friend shrewdly points out, if Soros really believed the pound sterling might lose 20% of its value after a British farewell to the European Union, we would not be hearing about it in the pages of The Guardian.
Since a true estimate of his real views could only be gleaned from the non-public details of the positions held by his investment funds, I’m constrained to answer in an allusive fashion.
(It appears that Bob Dylan songs have been removed from Youtube. More’s the pity. I’m forced to rely on this tolerable cover version.)