What’s Wrong with the World

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

About

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 22, 2017

The Great American Eclipse

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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.

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“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

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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

In I Kings 15:25-27 we learn that, in the time of Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, the Israelite city of Gibbethon belonged to the Philistines. Nadab was besieging Gibbethon, trying to get it back, when he was attacked and killed by another Israelite named Baasha, who then reigned in his stead.

J. J. Blunt, from whom I borrowed this coincidence, raises the question as to why Gibbethon had fallen to the Philistines in the first place. He admits, of course, that it may be impossible to find out. There were Philistines around. They probably sometimes took cities. Maybe that's the end of the story as far as we know here about three thousand years later. But Blunt has an idea worth considering.

Continue reading "Old Testament undesigned coincidences: The loss of Gibbethon" »

July 19, 2017

Selling blueberries as a countercultural act

A new case of leftist totalitarianism bears watching. The city of East Lansing, Michigan, gerrymandered a sexual orientation discrimination ordinance specifically for purposes of banning a farmer from a farmer's market in East Lansing, even though his farm is not located in East Lansing and even though his real or hypothetical acts of discrimination--refusing to host same-sex "weddings" on his farm--would take place in Charlotte, a different town.

In August, 2016, farmer Steve Tennes stated on Facebook that he would not host a lesbian "wedding" at the farm (though he does sometimes rent the farm for weddings) and affirmed his view that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Continue reading "Selling blueberries as a countercultural act" »

July 15, 2017

Stewardship as The Blob

In 1958, Steve McQueen starred (if it can be called that) in the movie “The Blob”. It was the typical 1950s new-kind-of-monster movie. All you need to know about the Blob is that, like its name implies, it had no integral parts or structure, but its appetite was voracious and universal. Now you know exactly how the movie plays out.

In the modern Church, if you pay attention to the right issues, such as property and charitable giving and use of resources, you run into the concept of “stewardship”. It is a perfectly good word, with perfectly good meaning and application in the Church, with perfectly good provenance, no less than St. Peter:

"As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pt 4:10).

Unfortunately, because in the modern Church you are hard pressed to find anyone who stewardships* his mind, the concept has become like The Blob: without any internal structure, and of universal and voracious appetite. EVERYTHING good is “stewardship”.

(*Beware nouns, especially nouns in the universal / conceptual form, that become verbs).

Continue reading "Stewardship as The Blob" »

July 9, 2017

Fretting is my spiritual gift

New post up at my personal blog on the spiritual discipline and theological issues surrounding worry.

July 2, 2017

Trump admin takes away with the left hand

One of the few attempts to cross the pons asinorum of Republican presidencies that the current administration has made was its rescinding a 2016 overreaching Obama administration policy requiring public schools (and other schools receiving Title IX funds) to let boys use the girls' bathrooms and shower and locker rooms. That was in February.

But if you thought it was over, you were wrong. Now the Trump administration has issued a new memo to Office of Civil Rights field officers stating that they should treat it prima facie as a case of "gender-based harassment" if a Title IX-receiving school "refus[es] to use a transgender student's preferred name or pronouns when the school uses preferred names for gender-conforming students...." Don't you just love the insinuation that calling a real girl student "she" is just using a "preferred" pronoun of the real girl, as if when you call little Sally "she" you're just going along with what she prefers? Hence, you're harming little Jimmy and harassing him on the basis of sex if he thinks of himself as female and demands that you call him "she" as well, and you refuse, since you used Sally's preferred pronoun but won't use Jimmy's. Cute, huh?

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June 30, 2017

Power and the death of the innocent

I have hesitated thus far to comment on the Charlie Gard case, partly because of acedia. Also, though, because I feared that anything I would say about the difference between ordinary and extraordinary care and about the greater evil of killing people by withholding ordinary care and by active euthanasia would be taken amiss as expressing approval of the UK government's actions in this case. Since in this case they are insisting on withdrawing ventilator support, which I believe is extraordinary care, I hesitate to use terms like "killing" the child, for if it were "killing" here, then it would be killing even when parents consent or other relatives consent to withdrawing ventilator support. It's important for pro-lifers to maintain the ordinary/extraordinary distinction. But at the same time, I am actually heartened even in the midst of this situation by the outrage of so many at the wickedly high-handed behavior of the British government. After all, the parents have raised the money to take Charlie to the United States; the government simply won't let him go. They think they know what is best for him, which is that he should be allowed to die. And that is chilling.

In the midst of my hesitation, I saw today a post by a Facebook friend on the subject (though it starts with a different case) and got permission to post it, though anonymously. Though I haven't researched the Italian case he starts with, I fully believe it. It's too typical. My only quibble is with the word "killed" in the final sentence. But there is so much truth here about the lust for power that I decided to let him write most of my blog post on this subject.

Continue reading "Power and the death of the innocent" »

June 29, 2017

Hidden in Plain View Kindle Edition

A Kindle edition of Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts is available for pre-order from Amazon today for only $4.99. This special price will continue until July 10, when the Kindle edition will go to $9.99. This is especially good for those who are in remote locations or prefer not to pay shipping, or just for people who like a Kindle edition. Spread the word. The book continues of course to be available in paperback, here and here.

June 26, 2017

Surrender, Or Else...

We’ve all watched the Scene in the Errol Flynn type of swash-buckler movie, or read the passage in a book: The Hero manages to defeat single-handedly some of the henchmen and escape the last one, grab a sword, and run after the evil Villain who is trying to abduct his lovely Girl. Villain throws the Girl from himself and turns around pulling out his own sword. The two go at it hammer and tongs, nearly at a match because Hero is tired from a long chase and defeating the henchmen. Out of desperation Hero tries a trick move his (sidekick) Friend has told him about, but he has never practiced, and surprising to both men, it succeeds: it knocks the sword out of Villain’s hand.

They pause for a moment, the sword pointed at Villain’s neck, and Hero declares: “yield, and your life will be spared.”

Villain has no intention of living behind bars or letting Hero win. “Never!” he shouts.

Hero magnanimously gestures at the sword on the ground, and says, “then let’s finish this”.

Continue reading "Surrender, Or Else..." »

June 24, 2017

New Undesigned Coincidence supporting Pauline authorship of 2 Timothy

June 18, 2017

Josh Ritter the Smiling Folk-Rock Mountain Man

June 16, 2017

Chronology of the Pauline epistles

June 15, 2017

Better enforcement and violence

June 11, 2017

Colin Hemer on the genre of Luke and Acts

 
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