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

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 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 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 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 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 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.

August 29, 2017

Worldviews aren't modular

Via Rod Dreher comes this story of parents whose kindergartener was taught that boys can turn into girls. This was taught not only without the parents' knowledge or consent, but against their express wishes.

The principal (who, I can't help noting, is a woman) told the parents that there had been some misunderstanding when the parents thought the school had agreed not to discuss such topics without allowing an opt-out. She (the principal) said the parents would be allowed to opt out of sex education proper but not out of transgender propaganda.

I want to give a slightly contrary perspective here to the reaction that many conservatives may have. Sure, take it as read: The principal is a leftist ideologue, and so is the teacher. Yes, it was totally unnecessary for the teacher to read a transgender propaganda book and have a little show-and-tell with a "transgender" classmate changing into girlie clothes. Yes, they are pushing this deliberately and beyond what was just coming up on its own, even with a "transgender" kid in the class.

However: It was always folly to send your child to a secular school and just tell the teachers to let your child opt out of certain topics. Schools teach a worldview. What is important to the educators will be woven into the atmosphere and the curriculum of the school at multiple points. It won't be modular.

Continue reading "Worldviews aren't modular" »

August 23, 2017

Pray for Nabeel

I've been very burdened lately for Nabeel Qureshi, who is in the last stages of stomach cancer. Nabeel is (as readers may know) a missionary to Muslims. He and David Wood were arrested some years ago in Dearborn while peacefully and legally chatting with a Muslim group. I blogged a lot about that at the time. See a couple of the posts here and here. They subsequently won a lawsuit against the city, as the arrest was manifestly illegal. Nabeel, a former Muslim, has had a fruitful ministry bringing Muslims to know Jesus Christ as Savior.

Continue reading "Pray for Nabeel" »

August 22, 2017

The Great American Eclipse


The trouble with a total eclipse in North Georgia is that it attracts Atlanta traffic. US 23 figures as a fine road to the Appalachians; we’ve taken it to Tallulah Gorge for hikes without a hint of delay; but add every third Atlantan with an interest in astronomy and you’ve got yourself a mess.

I drove up from Atlanta to get inside the celebrated “path of totality”: in essence, the streak of moon shadow — actual interposition of the moon between us and the sun — which moved so fast it crossed from northern Oregon to Charleston, SC in less than 90 minutes. Probably it was the most impressive shadow to darken in the North American continent in my lifetime: To me, it was worth fighting the traffic.

Having packed a sandwich, water, chips, eclipse glasses, and a large peach (ironically, it came from California, not Georgia, the latter’s winter having been so mild it failed sufficiently to diminish the population of parasitic insects, thus depreciating the peach crop this year), I took to I-85 at about 9:30am and made the hour-and-45-minute drive in four hours. Some of that time was dedicated to a problem I had not anticipated: Round about Cornelia, GA, I pulled over for a quick stop. (Mind you: I had gassed up the vehicle before departure and therefore faced no worries under that head, but there remained the inevitable call of nature.)

I don’t know if you’re ever entered a rural gas station with simple natural plans in mind, only to discover that the line for the restroom exceeds 20 minutes, snaking around through the rows of junk food like a sweaty, overfed human serpent. Well, without wasting too much time on description of feelings, I can record that it is a bit of a letdown. Or maybe a thwarted letdown. Call it what you will.

In due time I pushed on. On the north side of Tallulah Gorge, folks commenced to stable their motorcars at the nearest green space, so I did the same. The crowd was diverse: Families, young folks, old folks, college kids, two local school buses letting out a crew of chattering children. A kindly middle-aged black man warned me off from the red ant pile near my car. A car with Colorado plates honked fraternally at my Coors (brewed in Golden, CO) tee shirt.

With 30 minutes to spare until totality, I walked past the state park ranger station and had a look around. There was a certain awkwardness: why the hell are we all just standing around, looking up at the hot sun? The occasional moment of skepticism creeps into the mind: what if nothing happens? Did the scientists measure precise celestial motion correctly? What if NASA miscalculated? Are we quite sure we haven’t all been taken for suckers?

And then, right in the middle of the Southern August heat and humidity, at the height of the day’s sun, a noticeable drop in temperature. A girl off to my left announced it: “Hey, do you feel that? It just got cooler, Mom!” And she was right.

Presently I became aware of the weirdness of the shadows. They didn’t seem quite right. The edges should have been crisp and stark, but instead evidenced a strange fuzziness. Indeed, the light in general gave the impression of the kind of haziness I associate with that post-thunderstorm soft glow you get when the sun returns after heavy rain. Crickets and cicadas cut loose with their evening noise.

Those specialized sunglasses they give you have an odd effect: Sure, they allow you to see the gradual eclipse of the sun, by staring safely straight at it; but they prevent you from taking a full glimpse of the world around you. So you find yourself hurried by events. “Holy moly, look at the sliver of the sun!” someone exclaims — and for good reason, for with the aid of those glasses the sun is receding rapidly from view. But then, right next to you: “Dad, the light seems so weird!” This is absolutely true: look back down to earth, remove the glasses, and glance around. The weird decaying light, now joined by a crackling energy, was approaching something like twilight. I noticed a few newer model cars with automatic headlights lit up. The thought stole into my mind that probably some poor soul, going about his business down there on US 23, somehow oblivious to the astronomical events and infuriated by the inexplicable traffic, suddenly found himself facing more terrifying mysteries: the sudden approach of evening six hours early.


“Mom, look, you don’t need the glasses anymore!”

Truer words have never been uttered. A pulsating shimmer crossed the world. It took our breath away. Hearty cheers for the darkness from crowds down by the highway. What in prior times would have inspired inexpressible terror and revulsion now drew applause and a joyful sound.

For around two minutes, we’re all spellbound by the magic of the heavenly bodies. Every visible horizon suggests a magnificent imminent sunset — or sunrise. Venus and (I think) Jupiter sparkle, clearly visible at midday. But the sun itself hangs black in the sky: deep, astounding black; the absence of light where it should always be. Those very planets are visible precisely because the sunlight they reflect is blocked from us by the moon.

Then the sunlight returns, a sudden shaft of brilliance: the diamond on the ring of the corona. Twilight has given way to mid-morning, and within minutes to something very close to full sun. A mere fraction of the sun’s light is more than adequate to light the world.

As we amble back to our cars, the earlier awkwardness has been replaced by comradery. “That was so cool.” “Just awesome.” “Really amazing.” “What an experience that was.” Strangers exchanging feeble superlatives, wholly inadequate to the task of description; but if language fails, hearts are full, and even the prospect of more hours fighting traffic to get home does not discourage us.

[All photos courtesy NASA]

August 18, 2017

People are free, not driven

Long-time readers of W4 know that I don't much like Russell Moore as a thinker and writer. In fact, he often (though not always) annoys me. I dislike his repeated flirting with liberal memes, his sneering hatred of the religious right, and his eyeroll-worthy breast-beating about all the supposed evil of conservative Christians' past. Here and here are two of my older posts on Moore, and here is my comment on his condemnation of Judge Roy Moore's stance on homosexual "marriage." I'm also not pleased by his knee-jerk denunciation of all so-called "reparative therapy" for homosexual inclinations.

In fact, over my time here at W4 I've been a bit of a watchdog on evangelicals' slide to the left. So you might think I'd be loudly cheering this post, which states that the reason some evangelicals are turning to the alt-right is because people like Moore are so lefty-lite.

Continue reading "People are free, not driven" »

August 13, 2017

Cowards, the Lot of Them

Who, you may ask, are The Cowards?

I would counter with a question in return: who isn’t?

Well, perhaps that’s not entirely fair. Not everyone. But the tendency is there, we all feel the pressure. Many give in, generally without even realizing it.

I would not say that the besetting sin of our modern / post-modern western culture is cowardice. More than likely, lust is the leading candidate. But not just sexual lust, although that’s the most obvious form of it: All of the lusts of the sensual appetites, including for food and drink and physical pleasure and physical satisfactions.

Yet this overarching evil allows cowardice to be a major player in the vices anyway, because cowardice is a concomitant vice in those given over to the vices of pleasures of the body: the softness of the life of lust encourages the cowardice of shying away from _anything_ physically difficult, including exercise, getting out of bed or off the couch, refraining from eating that last cookie, etc.

Continue reading "Cowards, the Lot of Them" »

August 9, 2017

Review of Easter Enigma by John Wenham

I've been recently enjoying reading (partially re-reading) Easter Enigma by the late Anglican New Testament scholar John Wenham (1913-1996).

Easter Enigma is Wenham's conjectural harmonization of the four gospels' Easter accounts, taking each at face value and trying to make a plausible picture that fits them all together. In some cases Wenham even "handicaps" himself--for example, by treating the long ending of Mark as authentic and requiring his version to explain it.

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August 8, 2017

The Preamble


All children in America ought to practice, for eventual memory recital, the Preamble to the United States Constitution.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for a common Defence, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America."

Now, while quite a mouthful, that sentence stands as a true wonder of declarative English. It demonstrates conclusively that persuasive writing consists largely in the quality of the verbs. Avoid wimpy passive-voice being verbs and substitute strong active verbs -- form, establish, insure, provide, promote, secure -- and you're well on your way to good English prose. Sure, you could cut that one into three sentences instead of one, but we’re still a work in progress.

The verb “ordain” evidences something singular because it introduces the elevated framework. Instead of a cleric or a church, we ordain a civil way of life, purposed toward these good things: unity, justice, peace, welfare, liberty. These things are good for all mankind. But no one guarantees them. They are fleeting and inconclusive. Thus the humility undergirding the whole sentence: nothing presented is foreordained. We must ordain it, with our own lives and decisions.

That’s our inheritance as Americans. “In order to” but no promises.

August 4, 2017

I'm Sorry

What do you mean when you say “I’m sorry”? Or offer an apology?

Under what conditions do you tend to say “I’m sorry” in offering an apology or otherwise?

What feelings are present in you when you say it?

Most of us have a pretty good feel for what it means and what we are doing when we use it, in broad terms. When you get down to cases, though, there could be some confusion about it. Actually, a fair amount.

Generally, you intend to convey some kind of regret. You wish something were otherwise. But in some cases, you are going further than regret about a state of affairs, it is regret about your own behavior that is at issue. And, to be still more specific, sometimes it is regret at having done something morally wrong: i.e. remorse for your morally culpable action that is responsible for that regrettable “state of affairs”.

Continue reading "I'm Sorry" »

July 27, 2017

New NT undesigned coincidence: Witnesses from the Beginning

This new undesigned coincidence was inspired by a passage in Richard Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, chapter 6, though Bauckham does not cast it in terms of an undesigned coincidence.

I received the idea in e-mail recently from a correspondent who has given me permission to cite him: Shane Rosenthal, producer of the national radio program The White Horse Inn and Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in St. Charles, MO, sent me this coincidence. The presentation here and the emphases are my own.

Continue reading "New NT undesigned coincidence: Witnesses from the Beginning" »

July 21, 2017

Old Testament undesigned coincidences: The loss of Gibbethon

July 19, 2017

Selling blueberries as a countercultural act

July 15, 2017

Stewardship as The Blob

July 9, 2017

Fretting is my spiritual gift

July 2, 2017

Trump admin takes away with the left hand

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