What’s Wrong with the World

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

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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

LordHuron1.png

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

Retired Navy Commander David Fravor sat down for two hours with Joe Rogan on his podcast earlier this month. While it is too much to say that this appearance settled forever the question of the existence of UFOs, we can certainly say that it came very close.

To declare with finality that UFOs do not exist, one must perforce label Fravor a liar, a fool, or a lunatic. Given his credentials, such a declaration opens the declarer to the same triad of reproach.

Continue reading "Commander Fravor on Joe Rogan" »

October 12, 2019

Getting Dr. Geisler right

Dr. Norman L. Geisler was one of the foremost defenders of the doctrine of inerrancy in the 20th and early 21st centuries. A tireless and prolific author, he was also an advocate of a rapprochement between evangelicalism and Thomistic philosophy. He passed away just this summer, on July 1, 2019.

One of the things that Dr. Geisler was known for in the years before his death was his set of serious objections to the literary device theories and genre criticism of evangelical apologist and scholar Michael Licona. Geisler held that Licona's views were incompatible with any doctrine of inerrancy worth the name and was alarmed by the redefinition of the term in a way that he believed rendered it meaningless. He wrote many articles on the subject and in fact got a bit of a name for himself as (allegedly) a witch hunter with a personal vendetta--a reputation that he (not surprisingly) disputed.

On Friday, October 11, Southern Evangelical Seminary hosted a dialogue between Michael Licona and Richard Howe (the latter being what one might call an old-fashioned inerrantist) on the question of what constitutes inerrancy. The video is available here. I make no claim whatsoever to have watched all of it, or even close.

At one point (about 23 minutes in), my name comes up in Dr. Licona's presentation, with a bit of snark about my not being an inerrantist--as, indeed, I am not and have made no secret of not being. Interestingly, this fact seems not to bother the inerrantist hard-liners nearly as much as it seems to bother Dr. Licona. The reference to my alleged "flat-footed literalism" is an unfortunately typical bit of rhetoric in lieu of answering my arguments. I've argued that Licona is wrong about the existence and the evangelists' use of fact-changing literary devices. Some of these arguments have existed for well over a year and a half in blog post form, but as a matter of public record, Licona refuses to engage with them. But I don't intend to talk about Licona's mention of me except extremely briefly. I'm more or less willing to regard it as free publicity. I will note further only that Licona continues to ignore my careful definition of the term "fictionalization." As I have said over and over again (see here and here), that term as I define it does not per se entail deceptiveness, though I do think that in fact the Gospel authors would have been deceptive if they had engaged in invisible factual change. That is because I also disagree (and have argued in detail for my position) with Licona's claim that the Gospel authors were writing in a genre like our biopics in which audiences expected invisible factual changes, though they couldn't tell where they arose. The term "fictionalization," however, is intended to include such movies, books, etc. See my many posts on this topic and read my forthcoming book, The Mirror or the Mask. And indeed we would unhesitatingly call such artistic productions in our own time "partially fictionalized," without necessarily intending any disparagement. I use the term "fictionalizing" as synonymous with "fact-changing." It refers to the fact that the alleged alterations in question are 1) invisible (the narratives appear realistic), 2) deliberate, 3) contrary to fact.

But that's not what this post is about. Instead, this post is about an eyebrow-raising representation of the views of Dr. Norman Geisler himself concerning chronology, which Licona uses to try to catch Dr. Howe. I'm glad to say that Howe patiently makes the relevant distinction and says that he would have to see the context of the quote from Dr. Geisler, thus avoiding any appearance of falling for a "gotcha."

Continue reading "Getting Dr. Geisler right" »

September 24, 2019

What makes this song great?

Children for many years have no choice but to embrace the aesthetic tastes of their parents. Later on, they may come to resent this as an imposition; or they may come to respect those tastes and to some degree affirm them as their own.

Either way, for most people there exists a moment when at certain work or production emerges as the first: that is, the first creative work to which he or she were drawn inexorably as an individual. For me, while I grew up with The Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the rest of it, the first song that really spiked me, qua me, was the Canadian rock band Rush’s classic “Limelight.”

This tune I’ve heard about a thousand times, but the opening guitar riff, even now, thirty years later, still hits me right in the lizard brain.

Recently I discovered the fantastic Youtube channel of Atlanta’s own Rick Beato. If you want 22 minutes of sophisticated musical analysis of “Limelight,” here it is:

What’s impressive about those 22 minutes is that Beato’s absolutely genuine enthusiasm carries the whole thing. Simply riveting. His whole “What Makes This Song Great” series amounts to an authentic celebration of human creativity.

Another point concerns how Beato got ahold of all these separate tracks from the original production. That’s not something anyone can get; and indeed, some of Beato’s videos start with warnings that publishers might take the video down. “As we know, the Beatles are blockers,” he says in one episode.

Whether that raises a question about digital capitalism’s inherent perversity -- blocking people who are encouraging your product -- is a topic I leave for another time.

September 18, 2019

Choice Devours Itself: Murder affirmed in the Netherlands

Readers may or may not remember the story I posted about 2 1/2 years ago concerning the Dutch doctor who told family members to hold down an elderly woman so that she (the doctor) could administer a lethal injection. The doctor had secretly drugged the woman in her coffee, but she woke up and put up a fight for her life, so they held her down and killed her anyway.

There was an itty bit of tut-tutting surrounding this, and the Dutch called for a trial, not (mind you) so that justice would be done for this open act of forcible murder, but so that the court could exonerate the doctor, thus paving the way for more such acts. Yep, really. They said so in scarcely coded language at the time.

Well, that all went just as predicted.

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September 15, 2019

Brexit and the independent substance of populism

The level of bitterness contained in the following two interrogatory sentences rather jolts the unwary reader:

But what then happens to the cultural-political strands that seem, with apologies to the good consciences of socialist and liberal Leavers, such reliable markers of Leave sentiment? Unquestioning patriotism, nativism, belief in white British supremacy, fear of Muslims, bring-backery, the search for traitors, faith privileged over evidence, ersatz imperial nostalgia, exaggerated expectations of familial favours from the white rulers of ex-colonies, climate change scepticism, the yearning for a return to the gender and racial stereotypes of forty years ago, the belief that ‘civil servant’ and ‘corrupt, meddling bureaucrat’ are synonyms, the glorification of the British military?

There is something marvelous in that cavalcade of insinuation.

For context, the writer proposes to his readers the repudiation of Brexit, or some quiet, papered-over vitiation of it; but to his credit, he immediately recognizes that one cannot merely wave away a majority of the electorate of the United Kingdom. That would be ill-advised.

Nevertheless, right now Remainers scheme to win the election they lost, essentially by means of an imposture of democracy.

Now, I grant that it may be unwise to present to the undifferentiated electorate, in the form of a gigantic plebiscite composed of an up-or-down vote, questions of grave national urgency; but once presented, it is doubly unwise to thwart that decision by underhanded means, thus usurping the decision-making role that the plebiscite was designed to embody.

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September 10, 2019

Vouchers for Home Schooling in Michigan--an update

Back in 2017 I wrote a post, which I encourage you to go and read now as background, on the emergence of what is in effect a state money voucher system for home schoolers in Michigan.

Here's just a very short version, but please do read the older post: Over the years, home schoolers in Michigan have built up a number of co-op organizations that look somewhat like part-time Christian schools. They meet in their own venue, usually one day a week, and provide classes that home schoolers purchase on an a la carte basis, run by qualified tutors. This has greatly expanded the flexibility of home schooling options. Several years ago the Michigan public school districts began offering both classes held at the public schools that home schoolers could take and also (here's the rub) tuition reimbursement for classes taken with these other organizations.

The legal problem is that Michigan has an extremely explicit provision in its state Constitution forbidding vouchers and financial aid, direct or indirect, of any kind to religious parochial schools. (I will quote this provision below.)

In 2017 there was the inevitable crackdown on the Christian nature of the organizations receiving these funds, and one organization (which I did not name and will continue not to name) caved in and forbade its teachers to lead prayers, etc. It was at that time that I reported on the situation.

Continue reading "Vouchers for Home Schooling in Michigan--an update" »

September 9, 2019

The realism of Jesus' dialogues in John

August 18, 2019

Government by algorithm

August 16, 2019

Finding that strange balance

August 12, 2019

Social sadism

August 4, 2019

JPII Institute on Marriage and the Family: RIP