What’s Wrong with the World

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The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

June 24, 2017

New Undesigned Coincidence supporting Pauline authorship of 2 Timothy

While writing up my chronology of the Pauline epistles, I was re-reading the name references in 2 Timothy. Here's one:

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 2 Timothy 4:14-15

Some have suggested that this may be the same person referred to in Acts 19:33, a Jew who stepped forward and tried to address the crowd in the amphitheater during the riot in Ephesus. That seems unlikely, however, for such a move was risky, and that Alexander appears to have intended to "make a defense to the crowd" and is silenced by the angry worshipers of Diana. It's unclear what the point of his "defense" was, but since the rioters were angry at Paul (for teaching the people monotheism and thus reducing the market for shrines of Diana), it seems unlikely that that Alexander was a coppersmith himself or would have stuck his neck out during the riot. The name was not uncommon.

More plausible is the identification of Alexander the coppersmith in 2 Timothy 4 with the Alexander whom Paul anathematizes in I Timothy 1:20, especially given the close connection between I Timothy and 2 Timothy. Apparently this person, whoever he was, was a possible danger to Timothy as well. We may conjecture that he was located wherever Timothy was ministering at that time.

This is the coincidence I see: If you were going to forge a letter as from Paul at the end of his life (as 2 Timothy purports to be) and give him an enemy to complain about, and if you wanted to "place" Timothy at Ephesus (as 1 Timothy apparently does in 1:3), and if you had access to Acts, whom would you choose?

A little reading of Acts 19 makes the answer obvious: Demetrius the silversmith.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Acts 19:23-28

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June 18, 2017

Josh Ritter the Smiling Folk-Rock Mountain Man

360px-Josh-Ritter.jpg

Josh Ritter of the State of Idaho has been composing, singing and smiling through a pretty impressive streak of musical success over the course of a decade and more.

This man, a contemporary of mine in both age and region of origin, consistently (a) delights with his lyrical complexity and verve; (b) honors America with his inspired evocations of her lands and people; (c) and, featuring a tight band, simply rocks.

What follows is a setlist and brief commentary. No obligation falls on anyone to favor the man’s music; but I do feel obliged to give my reasons for why I do.

Begin with this triumvirate of genius: “Wolves,” “To the Dogs or Whoever,” and “Where the Night Goes.”

Listen to those three tunes and you’ll discover a vigorous upbeat rock band backing an American poetic performer of power and subtlety.

Want more?

There is the zaniness and verbal fun of “The Next to the Last True Romantic,” or the infectious cacophony of “Rumors.” “See Me Through,” a somewhat obscure classic, mimics John Lennon’s “Imagine” without the pretentious lyrics: pretentious lyrics are by far the worst problem with “Imagine.”

Next up, consider the deep American synthesis of “Folk Bloodbath,” which rivals any Dylan or even Johnny Cash version of Delia & Lewis Collins and that whole legendary drama. Among the many brilliant sentences is this one: “Out of Stackalee’s came Stackalee’s cold lonely little ghost.”

Following that, take in the hilarious cynicism of “Galahad.” This song has a handful of off-color cracks, but its deep sense of fun carries through: like its best line this song is “More error than knight-errantry.”

Moving along:

One of Ritter’s earliest, “Kathleen,” while nearly fifteen years old, has aged extremely well. “Snow Is Gone,” of roughly the same vintage, backs it up.

Following all these, “Monster Ballads” seems to me among the most beautiful of its kind in my lifetime. That rounds it out. Ten songs. There is the reader’s setlist.

(One extra? Okay: the live version of “Golden Age of Radio” in Dublin, Ireland, the country where this grinning American mountain man, by some fascinating romance of chance, first caught fire.)

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June 16, 2017

Chronology of the Pauline epistles

New post up at my personal blog giving my reconstruction of the full chronology of the Pauline epistles. Obviously, much of this is not original, but if you're interested in the subject, you might like to see a full list.

June 15, 2017

Better enforcement and violence

Opinion question: How much would it help to reduce violent crime against political opponents if we had more consistent law enforcement of laws against

1) actual threats, including electronic threats,
2) actual violent assault, including punching, etc.?

Let me clarify: I am not implying that more consistent enforcement would have directly prevented the recent assassination attempt against Republicans by James Hodgkinson, since as far as I know he hadn't gone so far as explicit threats before.

But I get the strong impression that our law enforcement is overwhelmed by Internet threats and that many are going unpunished even though clearly illegal. Obviously, the First Amendment does not protect literal threats of death, rape, etc.

And then we have the cowardly college administrators who are not pressing for prosecution of violent students who shut down speakers.

I can't help wondering if there would be something akin to a "broken window strategy" that might help, at least in some particular jurisdiction: If you threaten our residents or people within our jurisdiction, yes, even by e-mail, and a fortiori if you actually are the aggressor and punch someone just because you don't like his political views, we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law in an entirely non-partisan manner--i.e., regardless of what party or political side you espouse or attack. And yes, even if you are technically a minor.

Would it make a difference?

June 11, 2017

Colin Hemer on the genre of Luke and Acts

No time to cross-post this properly, but I have a new post up with a wonderful quotation from the late Colin Hemer on the genre of Luke and Acts. Enjoy. The quote even if not my commentary thereon.

June 4, 2017

Ontario--Parents who don't affirm LGBT agenda at risk of losing their kids

I realize that the title looks like clickbait, and I put the phrase "at risk of" in there deliberately as a qualifier, but what has just happened in Ontario is highly alarming for the reason stated in the title. Under a recently passed law, parents who are not gay-affirming or transgenderism-affirming, whose own children decide to identify with these ideologies, may lose the kids for that reason.

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Giving the devil his due

Since I posted on the disturbing news that it looked like the new DOJ might defend the Obama-era contraception mandate, it is only fair to post this update.

As of 5/23/17, the CBO shows an "interim final rule" has been posted by Tom Price's HHS concerning "coverage of certain preventative services under the affordable care act." A copy of the interim rule has been leaked, and it would apparently allow any employer or insurance company to refuse to cover contraceptive drugs on the basis of moral or religious objections. This amounts to a partial rollback of the Obama HHS contraception mandate, though frankly I think even amoral employers and insurers should not be required to provide birth control either. But set that aside. It is to a large extent what I was urging should be done. The interim final rule is just one bureaucratic step away from being made final, and I trust this will provide the DOJ all the cover they need to stop defending the suit against the rule.

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May 24, 2017

Further push for killing for organs

This article came from Wesley J. Smith last September, but I'm just now getting around to highlighting it.

A fairly recent piece by a bioethicist named Zoe Fritz has argued yet again for killing for organs. Fritz is especially pushing it for people who would otherwise be dehydrated to death.

The active-passive distinction is very important in ethics, but when it comes to deliberately dehydrating someone to death for whose care you are responsible, then that is a form of murder just as much as a lethal injection. The answer, of course, is not to murder people at all. Fritz takes it in the opposite direction (it's almost impossible to do a reductio on the culture of death, because they will always embrace the reductio) and opts for active murder.

Her idea is a lethal injection to stop the heart, followed by taking organs. She appears unaware that stopping the heart isn't really what organ transplant teams most want, especially if it's going to be stopped for more than, say, five minutes. On the contrary, they want the heart to keep going as long as possible, especially if you're trying to get some vital organ other than kidneys, and especially if you're trying to get the heart itself. But I have little doubt that if she were brought up to speed by this pair of doctors she would be happy to opt instead for their idea: Just taking the patient off to surgery and killing him by removing his vital organs, which are nicely oxygenated right up until the last moment. (Presumably you take his heart last.)

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May 20, 2017

Paging the new Secretary of Agriculture

You may (or may not) have seen this story. Briefly, the Obama secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack, issued a letter in July of 2015 against all "harassment" based upon, inter alia, sexual orientation and gender identity, including "disrespectful" speech on these matters. Pursuant to this letter, USDA officials in Michigan have threatened to shut down a farm (by refusing to inspect the beef) if the owners put an article in the break room that opposes homosexual "marriage"--an article, by the way, which no employee was obligated to read and which appeared alongside articles supporting homosexual "marriage."

Let me emphasize: What Vilsack wrote, that gave inspectors this power, was just a letter. It was a diktat. It followed no special process. It was a pure exercise of bureaucratic power by the then-secretary. This empowered USDA meat inspectors (!) to inspect and micromanage the contents of articles in break rooms at meat facilities all over the U.S., including family farms run by Christians.

And let me also emphasize: Since this was a letter issued by one man, a simple diktat, a simple exercise of power by one bureaucrat, it would be very easy for a different man in that same position to rescind the letter. A perfectly easy thing. We now have a new Secretary of Agriculture. His name is Sonny Perdue (former Georgia Governor). He was appointed by new President Trump. He could just issue a new letter rescinding the old letter, and he could instruct his meat inspectors that they are not ideology inspectors.

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May 11, 2017

Classical Liberalism and Conservatism

This post is a continuation of discussions generated with our 10th anniversary offerings. We have had a tiny bit of a clash in prior threads about how conservatism relates to classical liberalism. Apparently, there is a fairly broad notion that conservatism as a movement springs out of classical liberalism, a view quite explicit in this article by Samuel Goldman; how it does so may be debated, whether as a subset of it, or some other phenomenon. At the same time, reactionary traditionalists use this notion as a whip with which to accuse conservatism of problematic commitments to political modernism. I think both the notion and the attack mode are basically mistaken, and hope to show why.

We can’t really explain classical liberalism without first discussing the historical use of “liberal”. The English word, of course, springs from the Latin ‘libero’, which in its simplest interpretation is ‘free’. But the concept did not start with the Romans, they borrowed it from the Greeks.

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Oregon's SB494--a new attack on human life

Oregon Right to Life has been mobilizing callers and e-mailers early in 2017 against a new bill, SB294, that would raise the disturbing possibility of allowing the denial of ordinary food and water to patients who are able to eat and drink. It is fortunate that they have been on the ball to this extent, as it looks like it may suffice to derail the bill. ORTL was given the opportunity to bring testimony before legislators against the bill. But what will happen remains uncertain.

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May 5, 2017

The "ur-source" theory of undesigned coincidences

In my book Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, I discuss possible alternative explanations for the coincidences. Alternative to what? Alternative to the idea that the authors of the books either were eyewitnesses or had access to eyewitness testimony (as in the case of Mark and Luke) and that the details of the works fit together because they (or their human sources) were witnesses to the truth.

The alternatives I discussed, where relevant, were a) an author deliberately "planted" this appearance of coincidence to make his story seem plausible or b) an author was influenced by his knowledge of the other document(s) in question, even if he did not intend to deceive, or c) bare coincidence of one kind or another with no other special explanation in reality connecting the accounts.

I've noticed a couple of people in different contexts making reference, usually without any detail, to another supposed explanation, and recently someone wrote to me with a question about it. Roughly (and it's never spelled out to any great extent) the theory here is what I'll call an "ur-source" or "ur-text" theory, and it hypothesizes that there is some now-lost source or tradition (the implication is that this was written, though it usually isn't specified whether written or oral), for which we have no other evidence (in other words, now lost), that may or may not have been true, that contained both parts of the coincidence and from which the subsequent authors merely selectively copied. This theory, by postulating another "source," allows the question of the truth of what is stated to be postponed, pushed off into the mists. Maybe this ur-source itself was true, maybe it wasn't. Since we don't have it, we don't know what it was like in other respects. We don't know its provenance. We don't know if it came from an actual eyewitness. So maybe these things happened and maybe they didn't. But anyway, the idea of actual truthful testimony from people "in the know" has been cast into doubt and replaced with a fuzzy picture of "some other source," remarkably detailed (as far as the specifics that go to make up the coincidence in question), from which the authors of the documents we actually have copied little bits, giving the illusion of an undesigned coincidence between documents derived from independent sources.

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April 30, 2017

Anniversary Post - Conservatism and Nationalism or “Patriots, Please Stop Your Moral Preening and Start Singing Our National Anthem!”

I wanted to use the occasion of the ten year anniversary at What’s Wrong with the World, along with Tony’s excellent summary of our understanding of conservative ideas to explore in more detail one of my particular interests, the subject of national identity and the relationship between conservatism and nationalism. To do so, I am aided by the recent exploration and debate of this very subject held by the magazine National Review – you can get up to speed with most of the background pieces I will be quoting from via this summary piece. In short, back in February, Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote a cover story for the magazine in which they argued that conservatives should embrace a “sensible and moderate form of nationalism” against many of the arguments that are often raised against such an embrace by modern day liberals (it goes without saying) but even by many modern day conservatives:

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OT Undesigned Coincidence: The High Places

This new undesigned coincidence is one I ran into myself while reading, in Isaiah 36, a passage that is the same almost word-for-word in 2 Kings--a circumstance for which we don't know the precise explanation. My own guess is that Isaiah came first and that the chronicler of Kings used it.

In any event, virtually all of the material for this coincidence is found in I and 2 Kings, which were originally just one book. Nobody knows for sure who wrote it (one theory is that it was Jeremiah), but since it covers hundreds of years of history, obviously the final compiler was using a lot of earlier material and didn't witness it all himself. The indications I will use to resolve a question are subtle and widespread; hardly the sort of thing even a single compiler or author would make up and spread around to make his narrative look more plausible.

The coincidence begins with a slightly surprising aspect of the taunts leveled by the Assyrian envoy Rabshakeh against the people of Jerusalem in I Kings 18. This is pretty much classic ANE trash talking. Sennacherib has already conquered several other towns of Judah, is building an empire, and the envoys are trying to create dissension within the besieged city. When those sent out to negotiate with them ask them to pipe down (to speak in a language they understand but the people on the walls don't), the Assyrians yell even louder to the people on the walls, in Hebrew, which they know they will understand.

The first part of the taunt from the Assyrians actually alleges that Yahweh himself is in favor of the Assyrian conquest of Judah, and gives a surprising reason:

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April 26, 2017

Anniversary Post--Conservatism Without Craziness

When we authors at W4 started thinking about the tenth anniversary of the blog, various suggestions were made as to who might write what. The idea was mooted that perhaps my contribution to our anniversary series might be a post on what is worse about the world now than when the blog started--an assignment in keeping with my gloomy bent and reputation.

Of course there are many possible answers. The homosexual and transsexual agendas have advanced with a speed I never would have predicted ten years ago. Things have gotten to such a pass that a man, now living in Hawaii, has sued the state of Idaho (in federal court) for refusing to let him change his designation on his birth certificate to female, because he identifies himself as a woman. Would that one could laugh this off as a frivolous suit with no possibility of success, but one certainly can’t be sure of that anymore.

But what seems to me perhaps the saddest change in the last ten years is the further fragmentation of conservatism in that time period.

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April 22, 2017

An International Day of Celebration

April 19, 2017

Is This Conservatism?

Ten Years of What's Wrong with the World

April 18, 2017

Metaxas and Brierley interviews

April 15, 2017

The Empty Tomb