What’s Wrong with the World

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


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

March 8, 2020

The Roots of Our Partisan Divide

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

American society today is divided by party and by ideology in a way it has perhaps not been since the Civil War. I have just published a book that, among other things, suggests why this is. It is called The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties. It runs from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the election of Donald J. Trump. You can get a good idea of the drift of the narrative from its chapter titles: 1963, Race, Sex, War, Debt, Diversity, Winners, and Losers.

I can end part of the suspense right now—Democrats are the winners. Their party won the 1960s—they gained money, power, and prestige. The GOP is the party of the people who lost those things.

So starts one of the best articles I have seen so far on the divisions in America since the 60's, an article by Christopher Caldwell, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. It's remarkable for quite a number of things, particularly the vision necessary in identifying the divisions and their causes. The article appears as the banner article (for now) on the Imprimis site by Hillsdale College.

The central point of the article is introduced by this:

Continue reading "The Roots of Our Partisan Divide" »

February 11, 2020

Good American music


There’s minimal loss in repetition: Our country labors under many political distempers and grievous social poisons, but her popular music is not one of them. In fact, American popular music, in my estimation, erects itself like a trophy in opposition to decadence. Our politics, our commerce, our public conversation, our discourse may well be in a state of deep and dark decadence, but at least we can still enjoy a well-composed tune.

The volume of well-composed tunes, of simply high-quality songs that fill you with warmth, speaks to a creative popular force, standing at defiance of cynical profit, bitter political division, and social media monomania, which we Americans might well take heart in.

I speak not disinterestly when I start with the fine Denver-based country-blues band Coal Town Reunion. The lead singer, John-Paul Maxfield, grew up with me and my brothers, across 17th Avenue Parkway in east Denver. In other words, we’re old friends. A successful businessman in the recycling industry by his own right, John-Paul finally took the step from a fantastic guitarist and singer in private settings (he played for my brother’s bachelor party in Evergreen) to a publicly labelled band in 2017, with an EP that included the classic “John Wayne’s Grave,” along with several other excellent tunes. Then last year these guys released another album featuring my favs “Alibi” and “Hide and Seek.” I keep waiting and watching for when they’ll come play a show here in ATL. I also get a yuk out of the fact that even Coloradans affect a warm Southern accent when they play country.

Here in this space, mention has already been made of Lord Huron, Nate Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Leon Bridges, Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle. And of course Bob Dylan.

Speaking of Dylan: are you interested in a superb album that resonates with Dylan’s late-60s Nashville charm? If so, check out the young Kentuckian Ian Noe. His album Between the Country might claim top honors for 2019 Americana. Start with “Letter to Madeline” and “Barbara’s Song.”

The Kentucky Renaissance continues with Sturgill Simpson and his protégé Tyler Childers. The Bluegrass State churns out some great songs. “Sea Stories,” “Mercury in Retrograde,” “Universal Sound” and “All Your’n” are your openers.

Or what about Saskatchewan country? Yes, you read that right: it turns out that way up in the desolate Canadian plains they produce excellent country showmen. Okay, he’s not American but our alliance with Canada presents itself as one of the most successful alliances in history, so -- Colter Wall, North American talent. Check him out: “Thirteen Silver Dollars” and “Sleeping on the Blacktop.”

While folks in New Hampshire haul themselves to the polls to pick a clown to stand against the other clown, let’s take comfort in the richness of our nation’s musical performers.

January 28, 2020

Kobe, Memories, and Redemption

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) … I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. (Ecclesiastes 3:17)

When I saw the news of Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday I was genuinely shocked – a young (retired) athlete cut down in his prime is a tragic story no matter how it unfolds, but to have grown up a fan of the NBA and to have watched this young man literally grow up before your eyes and then die before becoming an old man…it is a stark reminder that King Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes rings true at a time like this.

Continue reading "Kobe, Memories, and Redemption" »

January 23, 2020

John--The Man Who Saw, now at RC

I have a new blog post on John's reliability as a guest blog post at Ratio Christi. In the interests of time, I'm not going to cross-post the entire thing, with links, but I will post the beginning here and put it under the "John" tag so that readers who browse the "John" tag here at W4 will find it.

In case you haven’t heard, the Gospel of John is different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But then again, maybe you’ve noticed this already! The other three Gospels often tell the same stories, sometimes even in similar words, while John goes his own way, often giving us information about what Jesus did and said that is found nowhere in the three Synoptic Gospels. Most of us who think of ourselves as evangelical Christians, especially if we self-identify as conservative Christians, never thought that that made John less historical, though. Not even a little bit. But you might be surprised at how widespread that view is, even among some scholars normally thought of as evangelical. For example, Craig A. Evans has said, when challenged by skeptic Bart Ehrman,

I suspect we don’t have too much difference on John. My view is the gospel of John is a horse of another color altogether. It’s a different genre.... So, I don’t disagree with you too much on that point. I think John is studded with historical details. Maybe you called them nuggets. That’s not a bad way of describing John. But I think the Synoptics are more than just some nuggets.

Evans has also said,

The principle source for material from which we may derive a portrait of the historical Jesus are the three Synoptic gospels--Matthew, Mark and Luke. They are called Synoptic because they overlap a lot, and we can see them together, which is what the Greek word means, see them together in parallel columns. John’s Gospel is another matter. What genre is it? It’s not another Synoptic Gospel, as some would like to think. All agree that there is some history in John, but is it primarily history, or is it something else?

See more here.

These questions about John’s robust historicity are understandably troubling to Christians for whom the Gospel is no less beloved than the other three, and often regarded as a great favorite. Do we really have to place these kinds of brackets around John because he might be of a partially non-historical genre?

For that matter, the Synoptic Gospels haven’t fared all that well when it comes to scholarly claims that they contain deliberate historical alterations. I have documented and rebutted such claims extensively, some of them from evangelical scholars whose names might be surprising, in my most recent book, The Mirror or the Mask. But John definitely comes in for an extra helping of doubt.

The wonderful thing is, though, that all this skepticism is misplaced. In fact, John demonstrates his historical intention constantly, both in his explicit statements (e.g., John 19:35) and in many subtle details.

Rest of the post is here.

January 13, 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


There is much cause for worry concerning the entire US Navy SEAL command. The strength of this proposition I draw from some of the deeper reporting, and wider commentary, which has accompanied the President’s pardon of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, combined with long interest in the fabled Navy unit in which he served, until his recent retirement concomitant with said pardon.

Good summaries of the details of Gallagher’s trial can he found in various places, including the Navy Times and the fascinating special ops blog SOFREP.com. In brief outline, Gallagher was accused by his former SEAL comrades of terrible crimes; investigated and brought to trial by the Navy’s internal police unit; cleared of all but the most minor charge in a dramatic courtroom reversal, when an immunized prosecution witness introduced reasonable doubt; then pardoned of the remaining charge by Trump. Following this came a bureaucratic wrestling match among the Navy, the DOD and the White House, which after several intriguing surprises, ended up costing the Navy Secretary his job.

Continue reading "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" »

December 24, 2019

O Night Divine


But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Mt. 1:20)

One of the happier trends among Roman Catholics in recent years has been a deliberate recovery of the traditions of Advent, which attract increasing commentary and reflection with every passing year. Christmastide itself is, it has to be said, burdened by very high expectations that in this era of constant plenty are difficult to satisfy. Compared with the simple joy and serenity of the Nativity, Advent recalls a tale of great peril, revelation, even adventure. It is a story of spiritual combat and historical rupture on the grandest scale, and so it is well that Christians in this time of seemingly apocalyptic darkness are drawn to ever-closer study of its central characters, and to the remembrance of that virtue that each of them has in common: Courage, that disdain of the fallen world which comes from Faith.

Continue reading "O Night Divine" »

December 12, 2019

Late autumn Longreads

Christoper Caldwell’s Claremont Review of Books essay on the Brexit drama, while by now somewhat dated, still rewards an attentive read. The general trend of his argument will strike many readers as familiar, but to this he adds a number of penetrating insights with wider application.

An excerpt in The Atlantic of Jack Goldsmith’s new book In Hoffa’s Shadow, rivets the attention and raises numerous fascinating questions. Goldsmith worked as a government lawyer in the GWB administration, and, finding himself thrust into the feverish debates over detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects after September 11th, to say no more made a bit of a name for himself. He also has a family connection to the vanished labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, by which connection he interweaves a related discussion of law enforcement challenges and excesses. Perhaps most fascinating is his analysis of how often legislative efforts, originally designed to check law enforcement excesses, end up producing contrary effects.

Meanwhile, I haven’t read an interview comparable to this in many a long year -- if indeed I’ve ever read one. David Samuels, Literary Editor at Tablet magazine, trades banter, anecdote, analysis and wisdom with Angelo Codevilla, the multi-talented scholar, farmer, polemicist, former Hill staffer and foreign service officer. A reader who could agree with every provocation and insinuation propounded by these two lively men, is a reader rather more comfortable with contradiction than most. Still, an interview better contrived to amuse, uplift and edify strikes me as difficult to imagine.

Finally, the story of the late-20th century US versus Anglo-French commercial race for an economically viable supersonic airliner is not, perhaps, one that immediately perks up the ears of interest. But I can assure you that, on the evidence of this article in Air Power History (scroll down in this PDF to page 5), in this case those unperked ears of interest will have let the reader down. The story amounts to an inherently absorbing one, with lessons and revelations to spare.

(Hat tip to Jack Baruth of Riverside Green for that last link.)

December 10, 2019

The Mirror or the Mask is now fully available!

It's here!

The Mirror or the Mask: Liberating the Gospels From Literary Devices is now fully available. Here is the link to the page of my publisher, DeWard Publishing, with fulfillment through Amazon.

Please do share this information to your social media accounts if you have them. You can follow me on Facebook and share from there as well.

With blurbs by John Warwick Montgomery, J. P. Moreland, Peter J. Williams, Craig Blomberg, Jack Collins, Jonathan McLatchie, Tom Gilson, Paul Nelson, and more!

December 7, 2019

Keeping clear about "transferral" and centurions

This post is about various possible interpretations of the episode of the centurion and his servant, narrated in Luke 7 and Matthew 8.

When we think about the Gospels or any historical account, or even about daily speech, we need to make careful distinctions. Unfortunately, careful distinctions are not always a hallmark of modern biblical scholarship. One place where such a distinction is not consistently made is between fact-changing “transferral” and non-fact-changing “transferral.”

If I say, “I’m building a house,” anyone who knew even a small amount about both me and current American culture would immediately know that I am not personally building the house with a hammer and nails. They would know, from my situation, that I’m hiring someone else to build it. This is obviously non-fact-changing “transferral”--I’m referring to myself as building the house while commissioning it, knowing that everyone will understand.

Continue reading "Keeping clear about "transferral" and centurions" »

November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving, 2019 Edition

We who are Christians and Americans have much to be thankful for, and I will here elaborate a few of those things.

First of all is the gift by God, that gift of infinite value: salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the God made man who gave his life for us sinners. The second is attached to it as the other side of the coin: the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, our savior; faith in the Church He founded, faith in all that He promised.

I put these before and above the gift of life itself, because they are worth far more: as the martyrs and prophets declared, faith is to be preferred over life itself, if God-hating men make it a choice between one or the other. But faith and salvation pre-suppose the gift of life, so we are thankful for that gift of life in the very midst of being thankful for salvation and faith. And necessarily, if we are thankful for the gift of life, we are also thankful for our parents and families, from whom we receive life and so much more – ideally, the first school of that permanent, faithful love that is our calling here in this world.

Like with our parents, we must be thankful also to our patria, our homeland, which comprises both the society in which we live (in particular, our nation) and the formal expression of that society in its overarching principles of organization (including, but not limited to, its government). St. Thomas confirmed what the earlier Fathers and Doctors taught, that we owe filial reverence to the patria, after the reverence we owe our parents, and for somewhat the same reasons (though in different way). This filial reverence is in part thankfulness, and the proper name of this virtue is patriotism.

Under this heading, one of the common features of America for which so many people express gratitude is our freedom. And indeed, this is something for which we should be immensely grateful.

But what does it mean? What is this freedom that we celebrate?

Continue reading "Thanksgiving, 2019 Edition" »

November 3, 2019

“Just throw my bones in a hole in the ground” -- Lord Huron's spectral harmonies

by Nolan Cella and Paul Cella


Let’s say as things now stand your interests in music run toward the ethereal and harmonic sector of Americana. Put more picturesquely, imagine yourself in the mood for some cool and moody indie-rock from the Old Northwest Territory.

Perhaps for the moment you prefer the gigantic mild skies, the Great Lakes, the bitter winters: this you prefer to the sunbaked woods of rockabilly or country or swampy Southern blues. Your heart yearns for the Northwest Ordinance, not the Mason-Dixon Line.

Why, you could hardly do better than give Lord Huron a listen. Led by the golden-tongued Michigander Ben Schneider, the band takes their name from the third largest of the Great Lakes.

Third largest? Affirmative. It turns out that Lake Huron is nothing less than the world’s third largest lake; and given its extraordinary proliferation of tangled inlets and islands, by some measures this inland monster has more freshwater shoreline than any body of water on earth. Exceeded only in water volume by its siblings Superior and Michigan, Old Man Huron is a lord of waters indeed.

Lord Huron the band plays music that resembles the expanse of the Great Lakes: vast and mysterious, seductive and formidable. Now based in L.A., these guys have carved out a nice little niche for themselves in the constellation of American music. Each of their three albums, Lonesome Dreams (2012), Strange Trails (2015), and last year’s Vide Noir, represents a successful foray into a kind of atmospheric grove-rock sound that leans on harmonies and chiming guitars to enchant the listener. On stage, the band projects a professionalism that is occasionally broken by a contagious burst of wild emotion. They portray the world of a shaman telling tales of mythical vision-quests while instilling wisdom on life and manhood; a lively image of the world in this confused era.

Continue reading "“Just throw my bones in a hole in the ground” -- Lord Huron's spectral harmonies" »

October 29, 2019

The Mirror or the Mask is available for pre-order

I'm pleased to announce that The Mirror or the Mask: Liberating the Gospels From Literary Devices is available for pre-order earlier than expected. Copies will ship after the physical launch date of December 10.

The book has blurbs by eminent British New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams, eminent American New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, international legal, biblical, and apologetics scholar John Warwick Montgomery, Old Testament scholar Jack Collins, and well-known Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland. More blurbs are forthcoming in the book from biblical scholars, scientists, philosophers, and apologists.

Here is the description on the order page:

In recent years a number of evangelical scholars have claimed that the Gospel authors felt free to present events in one way even though they knew that the reality was different. Analytic philosopher Lydia McGrew brings her training in the evaluation of evidence to bear, investigates these theories about the evangelists’ literary standards in detail, and finds them wanting. At the same time she provides a nuanced, positive view of the Gospels that she dubs the reportage model. Clearing away misconceptions of this model, McGrew amasses objective evidence that the evangelists are honest, careful reporters who tell it like it is. Meticulous, well-informed, and accessible, The Mirror or the Mask is an important addition to the libraries of laymen, pastors, apologists, and scholars who want to know whether the Gospels are reliable.

Pre-order your copy, and please share the link.

October 28, 2019

What does it mean to say that John "tweaks" history?

My new book, The Mirror or the Mask: Liberating the Gospels From Literary Devices, will be available for pre-order very, very soon and fully "out" by December 10. In it, as readers of this blog know by now, I rebut claims that the Gospel authors knowingly and deliberately altered facts for literary or theological reasons. I also present and defend a nuanced, positive view of the Gospels' historicity that I dub the reportage model.

Another book, no doubt much more widely anticipated than mine, that was in press at approximately the same time and has recently come out is Christobiography, by eminent New Testament scholar Craig Keener. Because the two books were in press at overlapping times, I did not have access to the particular wording of his work that he put into Christobiography until after my own book was typeset. (I did give Dr. Keener the heads-up about my own work more than a year ago and urged him at that time to read it in blog post form.) The result of this partial overlap in the processing of the physical books is that my own research on Keener's work was based on a more scattered set of his many works--his commentaries on various books of the Bible and a 2016 anthology called Biographies and Jesus that he both edited and contributed to on the subject of the genre of the Gospels.

In Christobiography Keener has gathered up and summarized many of his views on these subjects, and I have now verified that he does not contradict his earlier writings on the topics I am discussing nor show a change in his views. I am also unable to find anywhere in this book where Keener anticipates my objections, answers them, or requires me to change my arguments. In fact, he repeats several of the points that I critique in The Mirror or the Mask, sometimes in similar wording. I just had to find them while writing The Mirror or the Mask by more arduous labor in his other works. He also expounds these views in more detail in the other works I have used for research. In Christobiography he also provides no new evidence for the claim that the Gospels are Greco-Roman bioi. Rather, as in the anthology Biographies and Jesus, Keener takes that genre as a given and seeks to place the Gospels' reliability within the range that he, Licona, and others believe was the normal range of historical reliability allowed by that genre. Christobiography also, even more than any of Keener's earlier works, defers explicitly to Michael Licona's book Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?, with numerous footnotes that "punt" to Licona's claims. Hence my detailed critique of Why Are There Differences in The Mirror or the Mask is pertinent to Christobiography as well.

Because Christobiography is so new, interviews and posts about it are popping up around the Internet, and these usually take the form of implying that the emphasis of the book and of Keener's theories and statements is entirely a positive one for the reliability of the Gospels. This article by Dr. Keener himself in Influence is an example.

And indeed, like many of Keener's other works, Christobiography claims that the Gospels are reliable. What is odd, however, is the combination of that statement with the repeated deference to Licona's views that the evangelists (frequently, according to Licona) considered themselves licensed to change the facts. And Keener himself, though seldom giving specific examples, will frequently move back and forth between strong statements about how reliable the Gospels are and vague allusions to flexibility and freedom in narration. (See esp. his Chapters 5, 11, and 13.)

Occasionally he actually comes down to specifics, though this occurs more often in his commentaries. And these specifics are troubling. He does so most of all (though not, I want to emphasize, exclusively) for the Gospel of John. His most recent common word for what he thinks John did with history is "tweaking."

My concern is that the ambiguity of Keener's writing (often more ambiguous than that of Licona) may cause readers to be unaware of what he is getting at and to think that his emphasis upon reliability is entirely solid and is qualified only in ways that no one but the wildest extremist could possibly object to. That is simply not the case. I have given some concrete examples in this earlier post.

Continue reading "What does it mean to say that John "tweaks" history?" »

October 27, 2019

The Recent Zoo Synod and the Infallibility of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

One of the troublesome things that has come up in the Amazing Zoo Synod in Rome over the past couple of weeks is the tired, foolish nonsense of ordaining women. Or, as they couch it, “considering” or “examining” or “reflecting on” the possibility of ordaining women.

Stupidissimus. The issue is closed. Pope John Paul II addressed it, and by his declaration settled it for all time. You can’t remain Catholic when you bring back for debate a question that has been definitively settled by the Church, settled at the highest level of authority precisely and expressly to remove all doubt.

When did JPII do this? In 1994, in the papal Apostolic Letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” (hereafter, “OS”). He said:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

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October 24, 2019

The evil of the zero-sum game knows no bottom

One thing that we have to realize is that the homosexual and transgender agenda doesn't really have a bottom line to its evil. It's not like it's going to get "so bad and no further." It just keeps on getting worse and worse. I believe metaphysically that evil cannot create, but that doesn't mean in this practical world that evil people cannot get creative with evil.

This is why I really have very little patience with attempts to tone police talk about homosexuality and transgenderism. I can feel pity for perverts and gender-confused individuals. I feel more pity when they don't want to have these feelings and are attempting to affirm their normal identity rather than glorying in their abnormal identity. But I have no illusions about the activists among them and their "allies" who are trying to change society. And there are going to be many, many victims.

Social media has been keeping us informed about this horrific story about a 7-year-old boy, James Younger, whose mother wants to give him drugs to block puberty and, later, other drugs for his "transition." The poor kid is obviously deeply confused by his mother but not by his father.

Obviously, petitions have no legal force, and I have no idea whether the governor's investigation can do anything either. Family law courts have enormous power.

This would certainly be a case where parental "kidnapping" would be morally justified, as in the Lisa Miller case, but it would be very difficult as the custody is already at least shared, whereas Lisa Miller physically had Isabella with her. Plus there are two boys involved--twins, though I gather they may be fraternal twins? And of course travel is even more closely monitored than it was when Lisa took Isabella out of the country. Her odds of getting away were low. The father's odds here would be even lower, which means the odds of his being caught and sent to federal prison even higher. And as we know from the Miller case, anyone who helps them will be pursued with Javert-like obsession to the ends of the earth (literally) and brought back to be imprisoned as well. So it's unlikely that Mr. Younger can get away with it.

There is little to do but pray for him and for his son James.

And oh, btw, trollish comments to the effect that women in general are evil and that that's why this is happening will be deleted summarily. The mother does, in fact, appear to be evil in this case. But that's an individual. I also happen to be a woman, and I would love to see "heads roll" (metaphorically and legally speaking) for all of those who are abusing James in this way.

October 21, 2019

Commander Fravor on Joe Rogan

October 12, 2019

Getting Dr. Geisler right

September 24, 2019

What makes this song great?

September 18, 2019

Choice Devours Itself: Murder affirmed in the Netherlands

September 15, 2019

Brexit and the independent substance of populism