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

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

Today is April 22, 2017. Do you know what that means, in human terms?

Everyone should know what today is, because today, in a special way, we entertain a vision of a better future for everyone.

It is, in fact, an inevitable future.

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April 19, 2017

Is This Conservatism?

Although the contributors here are by and large conservative, this site is not simply about conservatism, it is fundamentally about Christ Jesus. We profess Christ Jesus, and Him crucified. It is to Him that we commit ourselves without qualification, not to conservatism.

Still, we are more conservative than not. In this regard we perceive that conservatism bears a notable and vital relationship to our carrying out fully and wholly the Christian calling to embrace the Truth and live it in true freedom (i.e. freedom in the sense of John 8:32).

“Conservative” has taken on so many meanings to so many people that in usage it has begun to bear no more than a vague direction of an idea. However, not so long ago it did have a more determinate meaning, and it is still fair and honest to demand respect for that meaning as still recognizable, and demand recognition of the word as still capable of carrying that earlier meaning more truly than other meanings. I aim to set forth, again, what that is.

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Ten Years of What's Wrong with the World

Ten years ago, when I was a much younger man, What’s Wrong with the World appealed to me as an editor because it was ecumenical. That is to say, we all agreed on the core doctrines of Christianity (let us say, for simplicity, the Apostles Creed) while preserving without apology our differences in detail. Meanwhile, the keystone of our firm unity lay in our opposition: to the liberal spirit of the age, which among other outrages exposes our most vulnerable people to extra-legal execution, and denies the clear facts of mammalian biology; and to the marching might of the Islamic religion, with its endorsement of assassination, treachery and terror in the service of God.

Of those ten years it is difficult to compose a summary. Things have changed.

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April 18, 2017

Metaxas and Brierley interviews

Just a couple of interview links for those who like to listen to things.

My interview with Eric Metaxas became available this past week, and you can hear it here. It's about forty minutes long.

A much shorter interview with British talk-show host Justin Brierley, almost entirely on Acts, was tacked onto the end of a show here, starting about 1 hr., 9 1/2 minutes.

I'm also pleased to announce that a Kindle version of Hidden in Plain View is "in the works." I don't have a release date for it but hope it will be out within a couple of months. Of course, don't let that stop you from buying the physical version if you are so inclined! A joyous on-going Easter season to everyone!

April 15, 2017

The Empty Tomb

empty-tomb.jpg

Few things are more humbling than to properly place ourselves in the story of the Passion of Christ. We are among the disciples who fled after the arrest at Gethsemane. We are with Peter in the courtyard, denying our Lord. We are in the crowd, calling out, “Give us Barabbas!” We are cynically washing our hands, like Pilate. We are twisting together the crown of thorns and mocking him. We are casting lots for his garments.

Out of such humility, however, there emerges an essential truth: We could never do this for ourselves. We have no power to restore a right relationship with the holy and righteous Lord God.

We need the Cross. It is why, despite the horror of an innocent man, who was also God, betrayed, mocked, scorned, spit upon, beaten, executed, we can still call the Friday just past Good. Always it will be a solemn day, and yet a good day.

But we also need the Empty Tomb.

What extraordinary irony in that phrase! In a sense, and with apologies to grammarians, nothing was less empty than that empty tomb.

The celebration on Easter morning presents countless aspects for contemplation and rejoicing. It abounds with meaning. I’ll mention one aspect.

The Resurrection demonstrates conclusively that the sacrifice was acceptable. “It is finished,” He said. And the Risen Lord is certain proof of his Lordship, his conquest of sin and death. They are vanquished.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Hallelujah! He is risen.

April 12, 2017

Making the Inklings talk to the future--On Death

In C.S. Lewis's introduction to Athanasius's "On the Incarnation," he has this to say about reading books from other time periods.

Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

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April 4, 2017

Deathworks Everywhere

Rod Dreher just posted an interesting and long excerpt from an article about one of his favorite go to analysts of our cultural moment, Philip Rieff:

Rieff evinces more concern about the “triumph of the therapeutic” in his famous book of that name published in 1966. That work opens with the text of Yeats’s “Second Coming”—a sure sign that what follows will not be painted in the sunny colors of American progressivism. Rieff now worried that, though Christian culture had been all but entirely shattered, nothing had succeeded it; there were therefore no extant authoritative institutions whose demands and remissions (the culturally regulated relaxation of those demands) could be internalized, thereby acting to “bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs.” This failure of succession was no accident but rather the explicit program of the “modern cultural revolution,” which was deliberately being undertaken “not in the name of any new order of communal purpose” but for the “permanent disestablishment of any deeply internalized moral demands.”

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April 3, 2017

Relentless Strike by Sean Naylor

March 27, 2017

The Kids Are (NOT) Okay

March 25, 2017

Feast of the Annunciation: God Sent the Angel Gabriel

March 24, 2017

Timothy Miller and Philip Zodhiates sentencing updates

March 20, 2017

Jonathan McLatchie on OT Undesigned Coincidences