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

November 3, 2019

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

by Nolan Cella and Paul Cella

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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.

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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

Scholars will sometimes imply that the dialogues in John are artificial by saying that the misunderstandings of Jesus’ interlocutors provide an opportunity for Jesus to develop his theological ideas further. Even when a scholar does not say so explicitly, it is difficult to avoid hearing the implication that John at least partially invented the audience confusions, questions, and interruptions to “set up” Jesus’ further theological expositions, as if the interlocutors are two-dimensional stooges. For example, with reference to how John “develops” Jesus’ “discourses,” Craig Keener says,

As Dodd and others have noted, John develops most of his discourses the same way: Jesus’ statement, then the objection or question of a misunderstanding interlocutor, and finally a discourse (either complete in itself or including other interlocutions). John usually limits speaking characters to two (a unified group counting as a single chorus) in his major discourse sections, as in Greek drama. (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, p. 68)
This gives a rather surprisingly artifical impression.

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August 18, 2019

Government by algorithm

Matthew B. Crawford’s lengthy essay in the latest number of American Affairs, “Algorithmic Governance and Political Legitimacy,” imposes heavy demands on the reader — it may require several cups of coffee, and it will certainly require setting aside your phone — but the slog is worth it.

The writer, a motorcycle mechanic who moonlights as a philosopher (or maybe it’s the other way around), unfolds a profound theory to explain, and to a certain degree defend, the populist revolts that have roiled politics around the world in recent years. He draws on many sources, but the most salient are interrelated developments in the technology sector and government. The argument, though very complex, might be summarized thusly: the technocratic effort to replace government by natural persuasion and consent, with government by rationalistic algorithm and nudge, has introduced a crisis of legitimacy, the resolution of which we cannot yet foresee.

Government by persuasion and consent, you see, results in an ineradicable untidiness. Persuasion may be conditional, consent may be refused; ornery men will stoneface the most perfect logical syllogism; the indecisive may withdraw consent at the most perfectly inopportune moment. The whole thing presents to the rationalistic mind an excruciating muddle. One does not often find deliberative assemblies — school boards, city councils, parliaments — filled up with trained engineers. One finds them filled up with lawyers; engineers often regard them as akin to torture.

The engineering mind, meanwhile, produced the algorithm. Therefore, government by algorithm is mechanistic, indeed automated. Its edicts emerge from behind an impenetrable veil of high-end mathematics backed by supreme computing power. As Crawford puts it, with sly understatement: “One reason why algorithms have become attractive to elites is that they can be used to install the automated enforcement of cut­ting‑edge social norms.”

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August 16, 2019

Finding that strange balance

The current political situation in the United States has created a climate that makes it difficult for someone who takes my positions to say much.

On the one hand, if I speak up about the severe evils of social and political leftism, if I emphasize the union of the social and the political "on the ground" in daily American life, everyone will assume that I am (not to put too fine a point on it) saying, "Vote Trump!" in not-so-subtly-coded language. Which I am not saying.

On the other hand, if I make it clear that, yes, even now in 2019 I call myself "Never Trump" and do not intend ever to vote for this particular candidate, if I make it clear that I still consider the current President to have no character and little knowledge and that I think that whatever good he has done has come from taking the advice of others, I invite all the utter, endless weariness of getting harangued about how not voting is "giving a vote" or "giving half a vote" to the Democrats, and so on, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. Which I refuse to get involved in debating. (Fun fact: I was arguing against all of that phony mathematics about "giving a vote to the other side" more than ten years ago, before it entered anyone's dreams that Donald Trump would ever run for President, much less that he would do so as a Republican.)

And unfortunately, back on the other hand, a phrase like "I'm Never Trump" has now come in some circles to mean, "I have a lot of sympathy with progressives" or "I'm not a really hard-line social conservative" or "I have contempt for anyone who voted for Trump or will do so in 2020," all of which are untrue of me, by a large margin. Notice to progressives and progressive fellow travelers: I'm probably just about as "deplorable" or more so on the policy issues you care about as the people you think you get to despise because they vote for Trump. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Either way, someone is likely to think that I'm signaling something I'm not signaling. And such accidental signaling can occur so easily. For example, my post about the "scale of not-so-niceness" might be taken to be a coded "Vote Trump!" post, since "not being too nice" is supposed to be part of what people are in favor of when they harangue you about how you have to Vote Trump. But that post wasn't saying that at all. This possibility of false signaling produces a curious kind of paralysis. It is tempting never to say anything again about any issue that could be deemed "political," but that would be a mistake as well.

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August 12, 2019

Social sadism

Someone on Facebook recently used the phrase "social sadism" for the use of coercion to make people affirm things that are manifestly absurd as a means of social control and never-ending revolution. This move is, of course, familiar to readers of 1984 in the famous, "How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?" scene.

I had, however, never heard that particular phrase, and it struck me as profound. In 2009 my small city passed an early version of a "sexual orientation and gender identity" law, with some of us die-hards fighting against it. Not long after it passed, the following story made the rounds: Two men visited a local department store and went to the women's clothing section, where a young lady was working. Taking a skirt off the rack, one of the men went into the women's changing room and tried on the skirt. As the story went, that wasn't all. He then came out, wearing the skirt, approached the young, female employee and asked her, "How does it look on me?"

That, my friends, is social sadism.

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August 4, 2019

JPII Institute on Marriage and the Family: RIP

July 30, 2019

Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

July 10, 2019

Is this the end for Vincent Lambert?

July 8, 2019

The prophecy dilemma for literary device theorists

June 29, 2019

The Lydia McGrew scale of Not-So-Niceness