What’s Wrong with the World

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

« August 2017 | Main | October 2017 »

September 2017 Archives

September 2, 2017

Site Update

I've updated the site's spam settings to hopefully curb the uptick in spam.

If you comment, please, do not include more than 2 links. If you include more than 2 links, your comment will likely get junked and not even held in moderation.

September 3, 2017

A National Day of Prayer


Hurricane Harvey first made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Rockport, Texas, on the evening of August 25, 2017. The storm has since devastated communities in both Texas and Louisiana, claiming many lives, inflicting countless injuries, destroying or damaging tens of thousands of homes, and causing billions of dollars in damage. The entire Nation grieves with Texas and Louisiana. We are deeply grateful for those performing acts of service, and we pray for healing and comfort for those in need.

Americans have always come to the aid of their fellow countrymen — friend helping friend, neighbor helping neighbor, and stranger helping stranger — and we vow to do so in response to Hurricane Harvey. From the beginning of our Nation, Americans have joined together in prayer during times of great need, to ask for God’s blessings and guidance.

This tradition dates to June 12, 1775, when the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of prayer following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and April 30, 1789, when President George Washington, during the Nation’s first Presidential inauguration, asked Americans to pray for God’s protection and favor.

When we look across Texas and Louisiana, we see the American spirit of service embodied by countless men and women. Brave first responders have rescued those stranded in drowning cars and rising water. Families have given food and shelter to those in need. Houses of worship have organized efforts to clean up communities and repair damaged homes. Individuals of every background are striving for the same goal — to aid and comfort people facing devastating losses. As Americans, we know that no challenge is too great for us to overcome.

As response and recovery efforts continue, and as Americans provide much needed relief to the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are reminded of Scripture’s promise that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Melania and I are grateful to everyone devoting time, effort, and resources to the ongoing response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. We invite all Americans to join us as we continue to pray for those who have lost family members or friends, and for those who are suffering in this time of crisis.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our National Response and Recovery Efforts. We give thanks for the generosity and goodness of all those who have responded to the needs of their fellow Americans.

I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers today for all those harmed by Hurricane Harvey, including people who have lost family members or been injured, those who have lost homes or other property, and our first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and medical professionals leading the response and recovery efforts.

Each of us, in our own way, may call upon our God for strength and comfort during this difficult time. I call on all Americans and houses of worship throughout the Nation to join in one voice of prayer, as we seek to uplift one another and assist those suffering from the consequences of this terrible storm.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.


September 6, 2017

New Testament interpretation in the real world

New Testament scholars are particularly prone to ivory tower disease. A symptom of this disease is that one interprets one's subject matter texts (in this case, the books of the New Testament) without any reference to the ways in which people behave in the real world. This leads to a preference for convoluted redactive, literary theories over far more probable theories such as, "This author had additional information" or "This author remembered the wording at this point slightly differently from the other author," or "This author was not attempting to give an explicit chronology but was just relating events that happened at around the same time," and so forth. Recently I have been realizing that some Roman historians have ivory tower disease as well--a subject on which I will have a lot more to say in later posts.

Ivory tower disease leads to a lot of silly statements, and for some reason John the Evangelist comes in for many of the worst of these. For example, here is the influential classicist (who also does New Testament studies) Richard Burridge throwing John under the bus as an accurate reporter and doing so by way of dubious generalizations about ancient people and the concept of truth:

We must not transfer these modern concepts to ancient texts without considering their understandings of truth and myth, lies and fiction. To modern minds, 'myth' means something untrue, a 'fairy-story'; in the ancient world, myth was the medium whereby profound truth, more truly true than mere facts could ever be, was communicated. The opposite of truth is not fiction, but lies and deception; yet even history can be used to deceive, while stories can bring truth. This issue of truth and fiction in the ancient world is too complex to cover in detail here. However, the most important point to remember is that the ancients were more interested in the moral worth and philosophical value of statements than their logical status, in truth more than facts....Unfortunately, the debate between so-called 'conservatives' and 'liberals' about authenticity is often conducted in twenty-first-century terms. As one student asked me, 'Why does John keep fabricating material about Jesus despite his expressed concern for the "truth"?' However, the negative connotation of 'fabrication' is modern. Four Gospels, One Jesus? A Symbolic Reading, pp. 169-170

Continue reading "New Testament interpretation in the real world" »

September 11, 2017

Hoaxer or historical witness: The Johannine Dilemma

In C.S. Lewis's exposition of his famous Liar, Lunatic, or Lord trilemma concerning Jesus Christ, he says,

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

I mean to argue for a similar dilemma for the author of the Gospel of John. As discussed in the previous post, John comes in for a lot of fashionable talk to the effect that he would have considered it completely legitimate to change things deliberately, relating non-factual claims as if they were factual, and that this would have been acceptable in his own time because the ancients were more concerned with Truth than with mere facts. In that post I gave a quotation to that effect from classicist Richard Burridge, who also does work on the New Testament. Here is a similar quotation, also about John, from New Testament scholar Michael Licona, who also does work on Roman history.

John often chose to sacrifice accuracy on the ground level of precise reporting, preferring to provide his readers with an accurate, higher-level view of the person and mission of Jesus. Why Are There Differences in the Gospels, p. 115 Emphasis added

Licona footnotes Burridge's chapter on John, from which I debunked a couple of examples in the last post, in support of this sweeping declaration. Note how strong a claim this is. This isn't just a claim that John occasionally made a slight mistake or that John didn't always make clear what chronological order he was implying or that John sometimes paraphrased people's words rather than quoting verbatim. This is a much stronger claim than any of those. And indeed Licona's own examples bear out the fact that he really is saying that John often changed things deliberately to what was non-factual in order to make a better story or a theological point.

To give only the most striking example in the book, Licona quite seriously suggests (though he does not definitely come down in favor of) the hypothesis that John invented ("crafted") the Doubting Thomas sequence "in order to rebuke those who, like Thomas, heard about Jesus's resurrection and failed to believe." (p. 177) Licona suggests this as a possible resolution to the supposed discrepancy in the fact that Luke says that Jesus appeared to "the eleven" (Luke 24:33) while John, apparently speaking of the same appearance, says that Thomas was not with the group, making only ten (out of the original twelve) present (John 20:19-24). Licona is unenthusiastic about the far simpler idea that Luke was using "the eleven" as a generic idiom for the group without intending to convey the precise number of disciples present at that moment. He does not even contemplate the also far simpler hypothesis that Luke happened not to be informed that Thomas was not there on that occasion and thus assumed from being told that "the disciples" were there that eleven disciples were present. John, on this simple theory, gives the more exact account. This, of course, would make John even more knowledgeable about precise details than Luke, a direct counterexample to the picture of John that Licona gives in the quotation above.

These sorts of claims about John are the parallel to what Lewis calls the "really foolish thing" that people say about Jesus. In the case of Jesus, people didn't want to say that he was God or that he was a liar or insane, so they invented a merely great human teacher Jesus. Lewis says, rightly, that Jesus didn't mean to leave open that option. Similarly, those who make such statements about John don't want, for some reason, to say either that John was always intending to report literal historical facts (and therefore that, if he gets something wrong, he gets it wrong while trying to get it right) or that John was a clever propagandist and liar. Instead they want to present us with a tertium quid: John had "literary license" to make things up or change things to be non-factual and put them in his Gospel (Burridge explicitly uses the word "fabricate"), without any signal to his readers that he is doing so and while appearing to give literal reportage. But this doesn't count as a deception despite the fact that it makes him unreliable "on the ground level" of literal fact, because of...literary and genre reasons rooted in the supposed different ways people thought back then, from which we can conclude that John's audience wouldn't have minded this sort of fabrication.

I want to challenge that tertium quid and press back to the dilemma: Either John was an historical witness with the intention of being historically accurate "on the ground level of reporting" or he was a highly creative liar.

Continue reading "Hoaxer or historical witness: The Johannine Dilemma" »

September 16, 2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

See here.

Our brother in the Lord, Nabeel Qureshi, about whose cancer I wrote earlier, has gone to be with the Lord today.

And we also bless thy holy name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, especially Nabeel, beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

September 19, 2017

A Couple of Culture War Notes

By way of follow-up to this post about the Tenneses, the farmers banned from the East Lansing farmers market, we have a momentary bit of good news. A federal judge has enjoined the city of East Lansing for the moment, requiring them to allow the farm to sell in the farmer's market. Of course, they've already lost several months of profit in that market, but it's better than nothing. This is just a temporary injunction for relief, based on the judge's perception that their federal case has enough merit on a couple of its points that it has some probability of succeeding at trial. That might, of course, not happen, or a sensible decision at trial might be overturned on appeal.

The federal judge was apparently somewhat impressed by the argument that the city retaliated against Mr. Tennes for engaging in 1st amendment- protected speech--an interesting argument, and one that I wish could be applied more widely. Apparently the mayor of East Lansing left an incriminating e-mail around in which he implied that the Tenneses should be punished even if they stopped holding weddings at their farm altogether (which they temporarily did) simply for comments about marriage on their Facebook page. Anyway, this story isn't over, but it's a nice reprieve.

Continue reading "A Couple of Culture War Notes" »

September 21, 2017

Flowchart: On alleged literary devices


This is just the first entry in which I intend to display this flowchart. You'll be seeing it again! Here I want to discuss the flowchart itself and how it applies both to biblical and to non-biblical texts. The intention is to provide a framework for evaluating the claims of Richard Burridge, Michael Licona, and various Roman history scholars concerning the alleged presence of fictionalizing "literary devices" in an ostensibly historical work.

Continue reading "Flowchart: On alleged literary devices" »

September 25, 2017

Standing at attention for the National Anthem

One reason I stand for the National Anthem consists in this: that in our country, peaceful protest against and symbolic defiance of the Executive is not punishable at law.

The Chief Executive may make an ass of himself, unburdening on us all his idiot musings on patriotism, the flag, and the honor due to the nation; he may even recommend vulgarly that such defiance be treated punitively by those private employers paying these defiers: and yet his views, substantively, mean little. The Chief Executive’s views cannot even effect a private penalty for defiance.

Over the course of most of human history, even symbolic defiance of the authorities, and a fortiori the Chief Executive’s authority, would have been met with 2am arrest and confinement without trial to a rotten dungeon. Or, if you were a great noble, knight, seignior, or grandee, it would have been met with war.

So a reason I stand at attention for our National Anthem, is that Our Lord has blessed me, and so shown kindness to his wayward son, as to permit me to live in such a country. That liberty was not won easily, nor is it preserved easily. President Washington spoke in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of the “signal favors of Almighty God” to America; and among them is the liberty of protest peaceful.

For there is much, all too much, deserving of strenuous protest in our land.

Whether ostentatiously declining to stand at attention for the National Anthem at a football game, amounts to a wise use of that liberty, or a fitting response to that signal favor, is a question I leave aside for the moment.

What I do not leave aside is what I feel is my duty to emphasize as a profound fact, for which most of us, when we think hard on it, have gratitude:

In our country the ill-mannered bluster of the Chief Executive has no real force. The President stated that peaceful protestors during the National Anthem should be fired: and almost no one for even a moment imagined that it would be so. The Rooney family is going to fire Mike Tomlin and Antonio Brown? Arthur Blank is going to fire Julio Jones? Laughable.

[Cleaned up for typos]