November 2008 Archives
November 3, 2008
Almost as stupid as “same-sex marriage”
A Japanese man is petitioning his government to allow marriage between human beings and… wait for it… cartoon characters. Moreover, he has so far convinced more than 1000 others to sign his petition. This is, apparently, not a joke. The man in question, who is thoroughly immersed in Japan’s thriving comic book subculture, explains that he feels more comfortable with “two-dimensional” people than with the “three-dimensional” kind.
Pro-Life, or Pro-Lie?
In the Church parking lot, on the way out of the Mass for the Feast of All Souls, I was handed this flyer:
As everyone who follows my writing knows, it is crystal clear to me that voting for Obama in this election is manifestly wrong. And with all the bishops speaking out on the issue it is becoming increasingly inexcusable.
Dewey defeats Truman?
November 4, 2008
Here is a piece from Fr. George Rutler in today's National Review Online.
November 5, 2008
On the grave obligations of Catholics who voted for Obama despite his positions on the life issues
Now that liberal Catholics have gotten what they wanted, I'm looking forward to seeing the constant stream of loud, relentless, and unequivocal denunciation of the legality of abortion from them. The obligatory constant, unrelenting public criticism of the Obama administration's abortion and embryonic stem cell research policies by Doug Kmiec is going to be particularly edifying to see.
My thoughts on the election
They were just published on the Between Two Worlds blog. An excerpt:
In what now passes for "comedy" at the BBC...
...(and please note that what follows is NSFW)...
Random Reflections, Post-Election
Yesterday's election was anticlimactic, in my experience, the culmination of something I anticipated early in 2006 - that the GOP would lose the Congress and then the Presidency. The cadres of the conservative movement, such as they are, and it is, were hellbent on riding the policies and ethos of the Bush administration headlong into the abyss, and this political suicide has now received its formal ratification. There is so much to be said about this occurrence, and this moment in our history, that of the nation and of conservatism, or what remains of conservatism; of the weaving of narratives there is no end, however, and that being the case - and being exhausted and wracked by a state of irritable boredom - I'll simply gesture in the direction of a narrative by citing some of the more interesting things I've read this week.
November 6, 2008
A Heap of Double-Effect
Suppose I am considering doing X, and doing X is a participatory cause of some sorites outcome Y. Suppose further that the sand pile in question is made of millions of grains of sand, and that in doing X I am adding one grain: that is, the end result will be a sand pile whether or not I do X (or whether or not I even exist, for that matter). I can only do X once, unless I live in Chicago.
Doing X will have two kinds of effects: effects which depend on our sand pile being larger than some other group's sand pile, and effects which will only occur if I personally do X.
Proposition: Under double-effect, if doing X has evil effects which obtain whether or not our sand pile is larger than their sand pile, I can only justify doing X on the basis of good effects which obtain whether or not our sand pile is larger than their sand pile.
That is, I am first and foremost morally responsible to justify the effects which directly flow from my own act.
Congratulations, you won! How can we help?
I acknowledge that this is going to be a difficult transition for Catholic supporters of Obama. Now that he has become the President-elect y'all have the difficult job ahead of turning on a dime. As long as it was a matter of Obama vs. McCain you had the wind of proportionate reason in your sails; but now the seas are dead calm, and soon the winds of justified action will be a-blowing the other way.
Now that we have a President elect, you see, there is no longer any justification for remote material cooperation in his wicked policies. Justified remote material cooperation with evil may have (I think it objectively did not, but lets set that aside) made it possible to choose him over McCain; but now we have the absolute condition of a chosen President. If proportionate reason ever existed for remote material cooperation with his evil policies before the election, they no longer do now. Now your obligation is reversed, as I alluded to earlier. Now your obligation is to oppose his evil policies with all your heart, mind, and strength; all the more so because of your choice to vote for him.
November 7, 2008
Why allow abortion but not “same-sex marriage”?
In an election otherwise disastrous for conservatism, “same-sex marriage” was banned in three more states, including even fruits-and-nuts California. And yet pro-life measures failed across the country. What gives? Why are so many people who will not scruple the butchering of unborn children (including even their own unborn children) nevertheless unwilling to make a sacrament of sodomy?
Return to Rome released
I found out yesterday that on November 5, Brazos Press officially released my new book, Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. Brazos has posted an online excerpt from the book (as a PDF), which you can retrieve here. As of November 12 Amazon.com will have copies in stock. But you can now order the book through the Brazos web site here.
An audio book version will be released soon. It will be read by none other than Grover Gardner, a frequent commentator on southernappeal.org. Grover, oddly enough, will be my voice. What a country!
Background information, including photos, can be found on the book's website, Returntorome.com.
November 8, 2008
The Measure of Sincerity
A number of people seem to have misunderstood my last post, so I'm going to make this more explicit.
Catholic Obama supporters justified their support of the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in history by appealing to the principle of double-effect. (Even those who did not work this out explicitly must have done so implicitly, in order for it to be justified). In other words, they supported Obama knowing of his wicked and vicious policies on the theory that there were other proportionate reasons to support him. Whether explicitly or implicitly, they appealed to the moral theology of double-effect to justify material cooperation with his vicious policies because they thought it would be good for him to be elected in spite of his vicious policies.
Any Catholic Obama supporters who did not vote for him on this basis were formally cooperating with Obama's wicked and vicious policies, committed a grave sin, and will go to Hell for it if they do not repent, confess, and do penance. I'm not really addressing those Catholics in my posts, but I do pray for their damned souls, that they may repent before it is too late.
Now that the election is over, the measure of Catholic Obama supporters' sincerity will be how vocally, publicly, unequivocally, and persistently Catholic Obama supporters oppose his vicious and wicked policies. They no longer have any proportionate reason to cooperate with his vicious and wicked policies, because the election is over. Furthermore, the fact that they materially cooperated with his wicked and vicious policies in the first place brings upon them an especially grave obligation to oppose those policies, just as a country which engages in war has a grave obligation to mitigate and repair damages - however unintended - caused by that war.
And it is in this vocal, public, unequivocal, and persistent opposition to Obama's vicious and wicked policies that Catholic Obama supporters can count on the help of social conservatives.
November 9, 2008
The Mass-Marketing of Hell
(Note: I originally wrote this post for my personal blog, which assumes the context of Catholic orthodoxy; but I thought it might also be of interest to the more general readership of What's Wrong with the World.)
A number of people reacted rather strongly to this post, as if I had said something shocking. The part that got the strongest reaction is where I re-state the Catholic doctrine that formal cooperation with grave evil is mortal sin, and that when we commit mortal sin that means we will go to Hell for eternal damnation unless we repent, confess, and do penance.
(As I mentioned in the comments, I don't know if God in His grace grants some or all a final chance at repentance upon death: I hope so, but too much of that kind of hope can easily turn into presumption, and in any case my hopes are not doctrine.)
I have a suspicion as to why the reaction to a simple restatement of doctrine in plain terms is so strong.
Barack Obama, God-King
"Plans are being made...to promote a national holiday for Barack Obama, who will become the nation's 44th president when he takes the oath of office Jan 20.
"'Yes We Can' planning rallies will be at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the downtown McDonald's restaurant, 1100 Kansas Ave., until Jan 13. The goals are to secure a national holiday in Obama's honor, to organize celebrations around his inauguration and to celebrate the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12 1809.
"At 7:30 a.m. on Inauguration Day, Obama Cake will be served at the downtown McDonald's..."
One wonders whether the "Obama-cake" will come with Obama-Cola - the saviour's blood to go with the saviour's body.
One wonders whether a little temple in Asia-Minor has yet been dedicated to his worship...
November 10, 2008
The truth about me and Intelligent Design
In a forthcoming article in Santa Clara Law Review vol. 49 (2009)--"The Courts, Natural Rights, and Religious Claims as Knowledge"--I spell out in a footnote my views on intelligent design. I decided to finally address this directly in an academic article because of the continued false portrayal of my views by several writers as well as by the anonymous and unaccountable "authors" of my Wikipedia entry. Because of my article's topic and the arguments and court cases I address, this article provided me, for the first time, with an opportunity to offer in a widely disseminated academic periodical a brief and clarifying footnote about my views that are in harmony with the article's purpose.
This is what I write:
November 11, 2008
The next love that dare not speak its name?
The legal expert gives almost a textbook circular argument. There's a Spiegel article on the case here.
November 12, 2008
Fighting for their faith?
I've been hearing lately by word of mouth about a study, which I haven't been able to track down yet on-line, that shows that more than 75% of Christian young people lose their faith within a year of going away to college. I haven't been able to hear of any breakdown of these as between those who go to Christian colleges and those who go to secular colleges. Perhaps they all went to secular colleges. The claim is that the #1 reason cited for the loss of faith was "intellectual doubts."
I'd like to gather some anecdotal evidence, here. For those of our readers and my co-bloggers who work with college students, does it seem to you that Christian young people who come to have doubts about their faith tend to seek help to resolve these--perhaps from a parent, a Christian professor, a pastor, or a priest--and don't find help that satisfies them? Or are they losing their faith under the influence of (say) their secular peers and professors without putting up any fight? Or are they trying a little to find answers to questions but not trying very hard? I realize that these things are going to fall along a whole spectrum. I can't help wondering to what extent the failure here is on the part of the young people to look, or perhaps to listen well to and heed good answers they are given, and to what extent the failure is on the part of their Christian guides and mentors to give them good answers.
November 13, 2008
Book excerpt: Defending the Republic
What’s Wrong with the World is privileged to present the reader with an excerpt from the newly-released Defending the Republic (© 2008 ISI Books), a collection of essays honoring the eminent scholar George W. Carey of Georgetown University, edited by Bruce P. Frohnen and Kenneth L. Grasso.
Professor Carey is the kind of scholar that anyone serious about a renewal of Conservatism will want to study with care. Few men have done more to explore and explicate the true contours of the American political tradition; while many men have earned far more renown for blurring, confounding, or even simply falsifying that tradition. It does not diminish his stature to say that Carey has lent his mind and hard work, in part, to the project of correcting the errors that Liberals and Progressives have thrown up like ramparts around the study of American political science. If anything is diminished by this fact, it is the field of political science itself, which has spent several generations chasing after charming sophistries, apparitions of hard science precision, and every Ivy League fashion under the sun.
The Federalist has been Professor Carey’s particular specialty. Against the common view of that work as little more than a piece of propaganda, designed simply to effect ratification of the Constitution, with and eye to specific constituencies and concerns, like some focus-group tested political speech from our own day — against this view Professor Carey has brought his considerable talents to bear. Far from a mere PR project, The Federalist is the source and sustainer of our constitutional tradition, and Conservatives who wish to recover that tradition would do well to begin their work with Carey’s sound teaching.
Professor Carey was also, of course, a frequent collaborator with Willmoore Kendall, before the latter’s untimely death, and together they produced several fine essays and what the editors of this volume call “one of the very few truly essential works in the study of American political thought,” The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition. If you haven’t read it, do so at your earliest convenience. It is a slender but formidable book, an exemplar of Kendall’s inimitable writing style, and the kind of bold but accessible and surefooted scholarship that academia aches for. A half-dozen clever snares laid for us by the Left could be disarmed, were Conservatives to embrace its theoretical framework.
The selection below is taken from the Editors’ Introduction. Many thanks to ISI for allowing us to excerpt it.
November 14, 2008
R.I.P. Fr. Clarke (1915-2008)
I just found out today that W. Norris Clarke, SJ died on June 10 of this year. Fr. Clarke was one of my professors at Fordham University, where I earned my PhD in philosophy in 1989. One of the philosophical giants of Thomistic philosophy in the 20th century, you can read more about Fr. Clarke here. Here is what I write about hin in Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic (Brazos Press, 2009):
My professors included the great Thomist philosopher W. Norris Clarke, SJ, from whom I took courses on both Thomas Aquinas and Metaphysics. There were no assigned textbooks for those classes except Fr. Clarke’s mimeographed notes, of which I still have copies and occasionally consult. It was up to the students to acquire the writings of the works we covered, which meant that I spent an enormous amount of time combing Fordham’s library shelves. Fr. Clarke was an amazing teacher. He not only knew his subject well and how to communicate it effectively, he exuded a sense of Christian joy and contentment that set a wonderful example for young aspiring Christian philosophers.
Eternal rest grant unto them him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
Dembski: "Frank Beckwith Finally Disowns ID"
It's an odd way to characterize a disagreement between critics of philosophical materialism over how best to approach the relationship between science, theology, and philosophy. I was under the impression that this was an open question over which Christians of good will could disagree.
I have no idea what it means to "disown ID," as if it were a prodigal son or unfaithful spouse. Since I never "owned" ID, I'm not sure how I can "disown" it.
Also on Dembski's blog are these ugly comments by Denyse O'Leary:
Honestly, Beckwith disowning ID reminds me of a guy divorcing his wife ten years after she’s run off with the plumber. The question isn’t “Why, Frankie, why?” but “Why, frankly, why?”.
Last I heard from Beckwith, he was defending John Lilley’s scorched earth campaign against the academic deans at Baylor (deans 1, scorched earth 0, as I recall - even at dysfunctional Baylor, there is some stuff you just can’t do).
My take is that some philosophy types will always hate ID because it asserts the priority of evidence over theory.
Ignoring the tasteless infidelity illustration, Denyse is simply mistaken that I defended injustice in the case of the unprincipled actions of Dr. Lilley. What I actually did suggest to Bill and Denyse is modesty and restraint prior to the acquisition of all the facts. To get a feel for my comments at the time, read Densye's blog entry which is followed by comments by me, Bill, Denyse, and my Baylor colleague Alexander Pruss.
Frankly, it is just plain weird to think of questioning ID and its relationship to the Christian worldview as some kind of flirtation with apostacy, as Bill and Denyse seem to be doing.
When the Santa Clara Law Review article is available, I will post a link to it.
November 15, 2008
Just found this online:
Fiore “Jimmy” Casella was a professional poker player from Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. He is known for his feat of winning three bracelets at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournaments. He was the uncle of Dr. Francis J. Beckwith, a Christian philosopher, scholar, and lecturer. In his latest book titled Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic, Dr. Francis J. Beckwith has mentioned the name of his uncle Jimmy Casella.
First Review of Return to Rome
November 16, 2008
Another review. Not so nice.
Here's another review of Return to Rome. IMHO, I do not believe that this review is the consequence of reading the book very carefully. In one place, for example, the reviewer confuses Protestantism with comments I made at a Boston College conference about anti-creedal Protestantism. In another place he misses my analogy between grace-works and God-man by thinking that I was referring to Jesus' works. But I wasn't. What I was suggesting is that Christ's humanity no more diminishes his deity than do our works performed in grace diminish God's grace. In a yet another place he thinks my comments about the scope of the Protestant canon is part of a defense of the Catholic canon. It is not. It is an analysis of the problem with the reconciling of two claims in terms of the ETS press release concerning my resignations from ETS: (1) that all theological knowledge is derived exclusively from Scripture, and (2) that the scope of the canon, an item of theological knowledge, is not derived from Scripture since it is logically prior to Scripture. As I write in the book, "[B]ecause the list of canonical books is itself not found in scripture—as one can find the Ten Commandments or the names of Christ’s Apostles—any such list, whether Protestant or Catholic, would be an item of extra-biblical theological knowledge." (p. 123).
Ironically, tomorrow the online magazine Inside Catholic will be publishing an essay of mine entitled, "Evangelical and Catholic," in which that portion of the book is excerpted. I will post a link to it tomorrow. In any event, this review is loaded with many, many mistakes like these. It seems that this well-meaning fellow has let his anger get the best of him. That's a real shame, since the spirit in which I offer the book was intended to inspire dialogue not diatribe. As I write in Return to Rome:
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:34-38)
In my post below on the subject of young people who lose their faith in college, I have been struck by many things in the excellent and informative reader responses. The one I will focus on here is the theme that comes up repeatedly of the total atmosphere at a secular college. Here's how commentator Paul put it:
It takes a lot of personal fortitude to hold onto what you believe in when everyone around you operates entirely on the presumption that it doesn't even exist. You have to be able to go home at night and think about it, you have to be able to drag yourself out early in the morning and go to church, you have to be able to say "eh, not this time" when good clean fun goes bad. Not everyone can do that. It's sort of a divide and conquer technique on the part of the devil---cut Catholics off from one another through social contexts that isolate them and leave little room for displays of faith, then pry each one open like a tin can.
November 17, 2008
Evangelical and Catholic
That is the title of the essay I published this morning in the online magazine, Inside Catholic. Here is how it begins:
November 19, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI on St. Paul and Justification
Horton: Only a subset of Calvinists and Lutherans can be Evangelicals
Nevertheless, if we are going to still use "evangelical" as a noun to define a body of Christians holding to a certain set of convictions, it is high time we got clear on these matters. An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic. The distinctives of evangelicalism were denied by Rome at the Council of Trent, by the Remonstrants in 1610, were confused and challenged by John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and have become either ignored or denied in contemporary "evangelicalism."
(HT: Classical Arminianism)
A Miscellany of Resistance
In this entry I called for civil disobedience by doctors in Victoria, Australia, to a law that says they must either participate in abortions or refer women seeking abortions to doctors who have no conscientious objection to abortion.
Wesley J. Smith has been talking about the theme of resistance to the culture of death. Being a lawyer (which I, fortunately, am not), he is not calling directly for civil disobedience but for other forms of resistance. In either event, the theme of resistance is a tremendously important one. Smith's simple point is that the legality of some atrocious act does not make it morally right and that individuals must find ways to stand up and say "no" to atrocious things, even when those things are legal. He might have said, but didn't, that we must stand athwart the path of history shouting, "Stop!" So here are a few suggestions and/or instances of resistance:
November 20, 2008
Notes on the crisis.
I'm standin' in the shadows with an aching heart
I'm lookin' at the world, tear itself apart
Here Dylan has given us a brilliant summation of the condition of the simple citizen in the face of the economic crisis that exploded in our faces in mid-September, and which may well prove more momentous than another calamity, another September, seven years earlier.
I can only speak as the simplest layman, and even that may be too bold. No doubt whatever I say about the crisis will include error, for the world of finance, despite by best efforts, remains to me mind-bogglingly opaque in many respects.
Nevertheless, I feel it is a perfectly defensible statement to say that we have beheld some astonishing sights in these last two months. At the height of the crisis in September, I asked a knowledgeable friend to try to explain what he was observing. He groped briefly for a way to convey it, then said, “Imagine you woke up and the sky was green instead of blue.” Another analogy he used was, “What if you looked, and found that the sun was rising in the west?”
November 21, 2008
CT: Evangelical Theological Society Votes Not to Amend
I am indebted (I suppose) to Steve Sailer for drawing my attention to this:
November 22, 2008
Some brief arguments for dualism, Part V
The next argument in our series is inspired by Karl Popper, and in particular by some ideas he first presented in his short article “Language and the Body-Mind Problem” (available in his collection Conjectures and Refutations) and repeated in The Self and Its Brain. As Popper originally formulated it, its immediate aim was to demonstrate the impossibility of a causal theory of linguistic meaning, but it is evident from some remarks he once made about F. A. Hayek’s book The Sensory Order that he also regarded it as a refutation of any causal theory of the mind. (See my essay “Hayek the Cognitive Scientist and Philosopher of Mind” in The Cambridge Companion to Hayek.) Hilary Putnam would later present a similar line of argument in his book Renewing Philosophy, though he does not seem to be aware of Popper’s version.
November 23, 2008
Lauren Richardson saved
For once, some good news: Some of you may have been following the case of Lauren Richardson, who was in great danger of being dehydrated to death in Delaware after a court order awarding custody to her mother, who said she intended to have Lauren's feeding tube removed. Via Secondhand Smoke comes the news that Lauren's mother has had a change of heart and that she and Lauren's father (who are divorced) have agreed on a custody arrangement in which Lauren will live at her father's house and continue to receive food, water, and care.
November 24, 2008
Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven?
Not if John W. Robbins has anything to say about it.
Because the Bourgeois Life is Unaesthetic and Anti-Heroic
Vox-Nova contributor Blackadder is perturbed by the ways in which fictional portrayals can distort our perception of certain aspects of reality and classes of persons. His points concerning stereotyped portrayals of gun violence on television and in the movies, and portrayals of minorities are well taken. He also suggests that something similar transpires with respect to portrayals of the world of business. There is, however, a difference between the examples. While one can easily imagine the portrayal of licit employments of violence, or sensitive portrayals of minority characters, it is not so easy to imagine interesting portrayals of the virtuous businessman. Blackadder writes:
November 25, 2008
Who considers this outrageous?
Here is a test case. Please tell me if you consider the investigation of the good people who donated a sign and their labor to a local school outrageous. If you do, please say why you think it is outrageous. Please also say what you think should be changed in the legal and/or bureaucratic situation so that volunteerism, altruism, and self-reliance are not stifled in this fashion. (Note that as things stand now all the other schools in the region where this is happening simply do not accept volunteer labor so that they don't run afoul of the "prevailing wage" regulation in question.)
Please assure me that this is a case of government intervention which we can all agree to condemn, in the name of the American spirit.
HT: W4 reader Jeff Singer
November 27, 2008
ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
A happy Thanksgiving Day to all our readers here at What's Wrong with the World.
November 28, 2008
On the Irrepressibility of Conscience
You never can tell about people, of course, but the truth is that you can tell a whole lot more about people - and I include myself here - than we would like to admit. That thought regularly crosses my mind when I read certain blogs.
We know what Catholics who endorsed Obama would be busy doing if their reasons for doing so, however objectively flawed in my view, were fully sincere. And to the credit of some, we do see evidence of that misguided sincerity. On the other hand there are things we should expect as the result of the pangs of a guilty conscience; and we see plenty of that too.
Muslim persecution of Christian converts. It's no cartoon.
This is the cover of a downloadable book on the persecution of Christian converts from Islam in Muslim countries. It is worth reading.
It is just amazing to me that people who claim offense over a cartoon can turn a blind eye, or perhaps in some cases lend a hand, to the inhumane persecution of those who freely walk away from the Muslim faith.
November 29, 2008
To whom do we belong?
I present the following deliberate overstatement to provoke discussion:
If a man does not believe that his body belongs to God, he ends by believing that his body belongs to the state.
Now, since I said that this is a deliberate overstatement, why would I say it? I don't actually think that everyone who starts out by denying that his body belongs to God ends by believing that his body belongs to the state. I'm not even sure that it could be shown statistically that the majority of individuals who start out by denying that their bodies belong to God end up believing that their bodies belong to the state.
The thought was sparked by this post and thread on Secondhand Smoke, though at the time I didn't have time to blog it. There WJS documents the recent suggestion of "organ conscription"--if we can't get "enough" organs from voluntary organ donation, the state should have the power to take them, either without permission or even against the wishes of unwilling donors.