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November 2014 Archives

November 1, 2014

Unexplained allusions: The sons of thunder

I have written in various places, as has my husband, Tim, about the argument for the historicity of the gospels and Acts from undesigned coincidences. I won't try to link all of those posts, but you can start here, here, and here. (One of these has links to a series Tim did on the subject.)

A related but slightly different line of evidence is the argument from unexplained allusions.

As it happens, one half of many an undesigned coincidence is an (otherwise) unexplained allusion. For example, Luke tells us that Pilate, prompted by the Jewish leaders' charge of sedition against Jesus, asks Jesus if he is a king. Jesus confirms that he is, and Pilate, surprisingly, returns and tells the crowd, "I find no fault in him." This is an unexplained turn of events which apparently alludes to some part of their conversation not recorded in Luke. And indeed, we find in John that Jesus says more, telling Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" and assuring Pilate that his disciples are not going to fight to deliver him. The extra information in John explains what is unexplained in Luke: Why did Pilate say that he found no fault in Jesus after Jesus had apparently confirmed the charge that he was setting himself up as a king? The two passages fit together like two pieces of a puzzle to give us a realistic picture of a portion of Jesus' trial. Each one is written in exactly the casual way one would expect to find from a witness (in Luke's case, whatever witness was his source) who does not stop to explain every bit of his story but merely tells events as they now come back to him.

Sometimes, we find an unexplained allusion for which we never get an explanation. This, too, is evidence for the historicity of the text. In Mark (and only in Mark), we find the following, in a list of Jesus' twelve disciples:

And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder. (Mark 3:16-17)

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November 3, 2014

Coalition Politics Revisited

It is no longer true that a coalition of orthodox or bible-believing Christians can form a governing majority in America. It may have been true within living memory, and it may well still be true within certain states, but the idea of a national coalition of Christians gaining and exercising, through representative institutions, the decisive governing authority in the Republic, is now an illusion fit only for illusionists and their audience, most of whom are the enemies of Christianity.

Necessity, therefore, compels orthodox Christians to seek out active political alliances with Americans outside the faith. A political rhetoric which finds its purpose in civic persuasion short of conversion, cannot be inherently disreputable for Christians, unless all action toward the common good short of conversion is disreputable.

It is of course true that conversion to the Creed of the Cross is part of the common good of all mankind; but it is not true that by declining to embrace that Creed, a man ceases to have a common good, which is set before him in such a way as to be intelligible.

According to these postulates, I judge it impossible, as a matter of right reason, for Christians to leave off the work of persuading non-Christians to join their political efforts toward the common good. Reasoning rightly, a follower of Christ cannot endorse political quietism or withdrawal from politics. He must join with the rest of America in the rough and tumble of coalition politics in a federal republic.

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November 7, 2014

Alan Jacobs is Confused About the Demands of Charity

If you don’t regularly read anything by the writer Alan Jacobs, you should correct that deficiency in your life by checking out his “Tumblr” (which is like a blog) here. He is a smart, generally orthodox Christian writer, who was an English professor at Wheaton College for many years and recently was hired at Baylor. He has written many books, although the only one I read was Original Sin: A Cultural History, which I found to be informative and lively throughout. In other words, if I could write half as well as Professor Jacobs, I would be a happy man.

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November 10, 2014

Poland has a judge problem

Poland has a judge problem. Although abortion is much more restricted in Poland than it is in the U.S., a Polish judge has ordered pro-life protesters to stop saying that abortion is killing. But it gets worse. The judge has dictated language to the pro-lifers (or at least to one of the pro-lifers, Jacek Kotula) for an apology to the hospital at which they were protesting. She (the judge) tells Kotula that he must say the following:

[By] organizing pickets and manifestations in defense of unborn children, I was spreading false information about the work of the hospital Pro-Familia in Rzeszow. In particular, I was spreading information that the babies in this hospital were being killed.

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November 13, 2014

Don't "settle"

I have a rather lengthy post at my personal blog in which I critique this article by Mark Regnerus.

Due to the nature of the material, comments are closed here; please do comment on the post at Extra Thoughts if you should feel so moved. I usually approve very quickly, and, as readers of that blog know, I almost always approve even critical comments. My concern is not with evading criticism of my own work but with keeping things from getting graphic. Remember, too, that it is impossible even for the blog owner to edit comments at a Google blog. It's all or nothing--publish or don't publish.

I understand from interactions I have had elsewhere that Prof. Regnerus has loyal friends. That's great, and I am entirely prepared to believe that he is a wonderful person in every way. However, special pleading simply will not do when it comes to content, and in my opinion, what he has written is open to important criticism, which is why I've bothered to criticize it.

November 17, 2014

What evidentialism is not

I often identify myself as an evidentialist in the realm of religious knowledge. I find, however, that there are some misconceptions floating about as to what evidentialism is or entails. Herewith, some hopefully useful clarifications.

1) Evidentialism is not the position that emotions are only for people who are stupid.

Evidentialism should not be confused with a Spock-like philosophy that feelings and emotions are to be scorned and avoided. Rather, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ should be based on facts and evidence. We can trust Jesus because we have reason to do so. This gives us the freedom to commit ourselves emotionally and psychologically to God.

The problem arises when one bases one's beliefs upon one's emotions. That ordering leaves one vulnerable to emotional and other arational appeals from other religions. It also leaves one vulnerable to losing one's faith when the emotions are no longer there. Get it in the right order, and then connect the prose and the passion. That's what Christianity is all about.

An analogy from marriage may help: We can rightly be vulnerable with our spouses because we have good reason to trust our spouses. Vulnerability and emotion are very important in a good marriage. It would, on the other hand, be extremely foolish to "gin up" trust in a spouse or prospective spouse by making oneself vulnerable and thereby prompting emotions of total commitment that have no rational basis.

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November 18, 2014

He who pays the piper, Chapter #3,459,621

A Swiss canton has passed a regulation that all nursing homes in its jurisdiction that accept government funding must cooperate with assisted suicide. The nursing homes must set aside a death room where suicide assisters from the ghoulish organization Exit will kill people. If anyone from the home tries to stop these assisted suicides, the patient who wants to die can complain.

Here are the rigorous (!) regulations:

The law establishes some conditions for such procedures. The disease or condition must be serious and incurable and other end-of-life options must be discussed.

Notice, if this were relevant, that "serious and incurable" doesn't even mean "fatal," much less that the person is presently dying. Not that it would be right deliberately to kill the person if he were presently dying, either, but one just gets so tired of the dishonest claims of strict regulations and restrictions after a while.

Notice, too, that there is no mention of guarding people with dementia from "choosing" this option without full understanding or under pressure. Nor is this point merely theoretical. Suicide is not illegal for dementia patients in Switzerland.

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November 25, 2014

"Doing Something" in Ferguson, MO

As usual, Andrew McCarthy provides an erudite and level-headed response to the current goings-on in Ferguson, MO. One of the more dispiriting indications of just how far the Progressivist rot has gone is the eagerness of so many to throw aside basic civic traditions and Constitutional strictures in the name of "just doing something." Just doing something supersedes such trifling concerns as law, custom, tradition, and the basic integrity of our republican form of government. (The many unprincipled defenses of the President's recent usurpation of Congressional law-making authority are another recent case in point.) Much the same sentiments were advanced during the trial of George Zimmerman, with the ever-loathsome Michael Savage, no friend of the anti-Zimmerman lynch mob, seriously demanding on air that the mob be given "something" for their trouble, perhaps a mere manslaughter conviction.

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November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

When set in the light of the achievements of our ancestors in America, the condition to which our generations have brought the Republic is all the more stark; and what measure of thanksgiving we can offer as a country seems rather meager. We’re thankful for the good things we inherited and have since destroyed?

With real bite, the American patriot may ask if degringolade be his fate. He reflects on his ancestors: for them, the crown of liberty; for us, the yoke of its impending demise. From them, the hope of improvement; for us the despair of decline.

But when, in 1789, George Washington set down such a supplication as this:

I do recommend and assign [Thanksgiving] to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

-- when General Washington proclaimed these words throughout the land, he owed his place and station to the Providence of the Lord God no less than we do. That fact alone is cause for gratitude.

We who may be near to the end of this American experiment have greater reason to give thanks for its beginnings, than those who, near to its precarious origin, could not even say whether it would endure long enough to establish perennial Thanksgiving. The faithful son holds up the honorable memory of his greater fathers, all the more resolutely when his humility shows him how lesser he truly is.

Our fathers were greater than we: in wisdom, in piety, in patience, in courage, in fealty to the bonds of blood. And they gave thanks. This day is national, it is republican, it is democratic. In elegant genuineness of phrasing, as in Washington’s above, Americans set aside a day of thanksgiving. The whole general will of the American people swells with gratitude to God for “His kind care and protection of the people of this country,” before their day of dissolution.

Anyone who has attended a prayer meeting can attest to the fact that some of the most aggrieved, the most distressed, the most afflicted, articulate the most robust thanksgivings. Only the coldest heart is not moved by the gravely ill, the crippled, the bereaved, praising God for some good in another part of the life of the Body of Christ. Indeed, it is gratitude that distinguishes the whole religious orientation, and in a sense all our traditions are an expression of gratitude for things received, but unearned.

America is gravely ill, crippled, bereaved. But we can all give thanks for the many goods the Lord has bestowed.

Even in the midst of this present darkness, there is such bounty as man has never tasted; there is wonder and bliss at the natural beauty of the land, which even now lies unspoiled by the wrath of the Almighty; there is great store of knowledge, and freedom to use it to the betterment of our spiritual condition; there is yet much joy in fellowship, and peace from the strife and terror of the world outside; and though it is much faded and fills us with longing, there is the memory of our great and glorious past, a testament of what might be if we amend our ways and prevail upon the hearts of our brethren.

Remember the charge delivered by the prophet Jeremiah to people carried away from their home in bondage and humiliation:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

It is with gratitude that we pray for the welfare of our cities, our states, our nation. Above all, we give thanks for that defiance of death and darkness, that treasured-up hope of final victory, which is firm foundation of all who profess Christ crucified.

November 28, 2014

The zero-sum game: We don't want no stinkin' discussion

A friend recently alerted me to this flap. In brief: At Marquette University, a university in the Jesuit tradition (ahem), a philosophy grad TA recently hushed up a student who advocated the traditional side on the issue of homosexual "marriage." She stated that his views were "inappropriate" and "homophobic" (of course), likened them to racist remarks (of course), and said that they constitute disallowed and offensive speech in the classroom, since some homosexual student might overhear and have his feelings hurt. She indicated that it was her policy not to allow such opinions to be expressed and suggested that he drop the course if not willing to abide by this policy. (Notice that this article from Inside Higher Ed, not a conservative source, confirms this account of what Cheryl Abbate said. Since the student recorded part of the conversation, it is difficult to deny. I hasten to add, if anyone wonders, that if the student did indeed lie initially about whether he was recording the conversation, that was wrong. He should have said, "Heck, yeah, I'm recording it. Why, are you ashamed of what you've been saying?")

You really cannot make this stuff up. Interestingly, the lefty blogger and poli. sci. professor [Correction: Philosophy professor at University of South Carolina] Justin Weinberg makes an unconvincing effort to spin this as not being about shutting up conservatives and disallowing the expression of conservative views. His first spin on the story is that the student was trying to derail discussion and that the TA was simply exercising her legitimate judgement about whom to call on and what discussions to encourage so as not to waste class time. He even goes so far as to say, in direct contradiction to what Abbate herself is recorded as having said to the student, that "the event at the center of this controversy does not appear to be one of speech being shut down because it is offensive." But then, Weinberg falls back on saying that the Marquette University harassment policy forbids the expression of traditional views of marriage and that therefore the TA had no choice but to suppress them. She was only following policy, you know!

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