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

September 22, 2020

What Evidentialism is not, redux

Here's a shortish but somewhat meaty Facebook post, referring to an old post of mine, on what evidentialism in apologetics is not and on how not to fall into the fallacy of objections. I'm testing this thing where people without FB accounts just click on the link. Here's the link.

September 17, 2020

Some posts from this summer, mostly on New Testament

Here are a few more posts (with links) that originally went up on Facebook. Most recent of these are on top. I'm putting the content in here, but sometimes there are comments, and I think those are visible if you click on the link, even if you don't have a FB account.

September 10

C. S. Lewis's Liar, Lunatic, or Lord trilemma argument is relevant to the prior probability of the resurrection. This is pretty cool, because it means that it is an independent reason to expect Jesus to rise from the dead. It depends upon an evaluation of Jesus' character as shown in the Gospels, not upon an evaluation of the specific claims by alleged witnesses that he rose from the dead. Of course, like the specific evidence for the resurrection, making the trilemma argument depends upon being willing to argue for the strong reliability of the Gospels. But that's something we can and should be doing.

Continue reading "Some posts from this summer, mostly on New Testament" »

September 15, 2020

It's been a long year already: My blogging update

Well, it's been a long nine-month year so far.

An e-mail I received yesterday tipped me off to the fact that (newflash) not everybody in the world uses Facebook, and for that reason alone it is possible that there are those who have been readers of W4 in the past who don't know where I've gone and who might be concerned. While W4 is a group blog, and while the last several posts here were actually not written by me, the fact is that I have written a lot of the content in the past. I therefore apologize for having waited so long to say anything here about why the long silence and also apologize in advance for what might seem like the rank egoism of this post on a group blog. (I did check the idea of such a post in general terms with the editor.) It's intended for those readers who might be interested in such an update.

So an update: I'm fine and healthy and among the lucky ones. I have much to give thanks for. The last six months have been psychologically difficult, though I have far less reason to be saying that than so many, many others.

It may well be that Western civilization is finally on its last legs. In fact, I fear that it is. Talk about what's wrong with the world! Here is one of the only recent posts I have written as a blog post (as opposed to posting on Facebook). In it I discuss my position on the Covid lockdowns. I also mention the horribly tragic death of pro-life warrior Mike Adams, which was a great shock and grief, though I had never been privileged to meet him, and I hint at fears that the world is more or less coming to an end.

The events of this year have to some extent had a paralyzing effect on me. I've been especially shocked and shaken by the divisions among conservatives and Christians in light of the pandemic and responses to it, just when we need to be most united. It seems imperative to me for those who serve Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, especially in their incarnate Christian form, to see the need to preserve what is good and beautiful and the extreme danger of destruction and irrecoverable harm (to individuals and groups) caused by shutting down normal life and giving up our freedoms.

I've been truly shocked by the unchecked rioting in our cities, by the wickedly supine and even pro-riot response of too many local and/or state governments, and perhaps most of all by Christians who have made excuses for the evil destruction. I knew the world was bad, but this bad? There was a feeling of impossibility about saying much of anything, especially in such a divided world, and especially on a blog called "What's Wrong With the World."

Yet if things are getting much, much darker in this world, that means it is all the more important, as the title of that post says, to "live right on." (A phrase borrowed from a novel by Wendell Berry.) It's good to be coming out of that feeling of paralysis and sensing that some good things are being accomplished. All the good will not be lost, and nothing that we do for the greatest Good, which is God, can ever finally be lost.

In the words of Our Lord: "Work, for the night cometh, when no man can work." And, "Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

Despite everything, these months have been surprisingly productive for me in terms of writing and other work accomplished. The short version as to why you haven't seen me here more is that I've been working hard on various projects (such as a summer video series and my latest book manuscript) and that the majority of my posting is now being done either in the more ephemeral realm of Facebook (my profile is here) or on my erstwhile personal blog, Extra Thoughts, which has now become a repository for any "traditional" blogging that I do and also for an archive of a lot of past posts.

Continue reading "It's been a long year already: My blogging update" »

May 24, 2020

91-Divoc

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The virus came down like the wolf on the fold
And his proteins were gleaming in purple and gold

Having all made ourselves epidemiologists and biochemists, combined with virulogists and supply-chain experts, I propose that we undertake a retrospective of what has happened in the last 3 months.

Continue reading "91-Divoc" »

April 12, 2020

Behold!

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If we reflect upon the attributes of God, surely among the most astounding (though one trembles to undertake some hierarchy of the ineffable) must be the Incarnation. That God might don the flesh and dwell with us, truly as man and not some facsimile or intricate illusion, amounts to the kind of paradox that can only come to seem pedestrian precisely because it did happen. Even many who reject it are nevertheless resigned to it. We might almost say the triumph of Christianity lies in the persistent indifference to its central doctrine.

Ho hum, another Christmas. Ho hum, another Good Friday. Ho hum, another Easter.

But when Pilate pronounced those two Latin words — “Ecce homo” — he shook the foundations of the world. Probably he meant it as a sneer, a last mean insult after appalling abuse and mockery. Or possibly his cynicism subsided for a moment, replaced by a weary remnant or fleeting flash of pity. (Do we see something similar when, as recorded by St. Matthew, Pilate tells the priests and Pharisees to detail their own blasted guard for the tomb — cynicism or conscience?)

In any case, this phrase in this context, “behold the man,” contemplated in full, discloses unplumbable depths. Pair it with Christ’s words in answer to the Incredulity of St. Thomas — “behold my hands” — and we encounter again the incarnate reality, the bodily fact, of the Son of Man; stricken, afflicted, accursed; and then risen, radiant, triumphant. We behold our Lord and Savior.

The word appears nearly thirty times in the Apocalypse of St. John. “Behold, I have set before you the open door.” “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” “Behold, I am making all things new.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me.”

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But whatever this is, it is no ho hum Easter, is it? In obedience another prophetic text in Scripture — “seek the welfare of the city” — we are prevented this Easter from beholding one another, from beholding the Body of Christ gathered, except by means of attenuating technology. Mistake me not: we bless the Lord for that technology! Had this plague struck even a decade ago, how much greater and more trying would have been the isolation. Still, we celebrate today under an unnatural attenuation: the isolation is real and aching. The Lord’s Supper remains for most of us in abeyance. We wonder how long before the right hand of fellowship might be extended again without trepidation, how long before the voices of many families, rather than a single family, might join to sing our beloved hymns of praise.

But we may still behold our Lord. And the empty tomb He left behind.

April 10, 2020

RIP John Prine

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Disinclined to suffer the cynical reassurance that the virus “only kills the elderly,” which so often manifests itself as “devil take the hindmost” -- even if the hindmost here include, for example, our dwindling numbers of Second World War veterans -- I’ll confine myself to lamenting the loss to the virus of one elderly and immunocompromised man, John Prine; and lamenting also that we have no means to visit “sweet revenge, sweet revenge, without fail,” on Covid-19.

Resqueiscat in pace.

March 29, 2020

Money in the Garden of Eden?

One of the perennial questions – though considered somewhat lightweight – is whether, had there never been sin in the world, would money have come into existence as part of the world of commerce? I admit that it may seem of small moment, given that sin DID occur, and that for several thousand years now we have seen money as not only an item of temptation but even in some sense a core facet of the sin of greed. Yet I think that answering this question helps put economic principles into a clearer light, and for this reason it is not wholly trivial.

I will be working with the Catholic understanding of the state Adam and Even enjoyed in the Garden of Eden, which may have a few small differences from how most other Christians view the matter. In that understanding, Adam and Even enjoyed what we call “original justice”, which entails a special set of gifts over and above the basic and all-important one of sanctifying grace (which is the indwelling of God Himself in the soul as its enlivening principle of spiritual life). The most important gifts in original justice show up in the fact that with their human wills being conformed perfectly to love of God through grace, so also their other faculties – including the appetible faculties and emotions – were subject to reason and will so that they were obediential rather than disruptive: they would feel hunger when and to the extent it was reasonable to feel hunger. One consequence is the immortality they were endowed with: with the body subject to the will, and the will corresponding to God, they were not subject to illness or death. This freedom from illness was (so far as I understand the teaching) extended to the external world as also freedom from intrusive events that would have been gravely troublesome, such as fatal earthquakes, floods, fires, etc.

Continue reading "Money in the Garden of Eden?" »

March 8, 2020

The Roots of Our Partisan Divide

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

American society today is divided by party and by ideology in a way it has perhaps not been since the Civil War. I have just published a book that, among other things, suggests why this is. It is called The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties. It runs from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the election of Donald J. Trump. You can get a good idea of the drift of the narrative from its chapter titles: 1963, Race, Sex, War, Debt, Diversity, Winners, and Losers.

I can end part of the suspense right now—Democrats are the winners. Their party won the 1960s—they gained money, power, and prestige. The GOP is the party of the people who lost those things.

So starts one of the best articles I have seen so far on the divisions in America since the 60's, an article by Christopher Caldwell, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. It's remarkable for quite a number of things, particularly the vision necessary in identifying the divisions and their causes. The article appears as the banner article (for now) on the Imprimis site by Hillsdale College.

The central point of the article is introduced by this:

Continue reading "The Roots of Our Partisan Divide" »

February 11, 2020

Good American music

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There’s minimal loss in repetition: Our country labors under many political distempers and grievous social poisons, but her popular music is not one of them. In fact, American popular music, in my estimation, erects itself like a trophy in opposition to decadence. Our politics, our commerce, our public conversation, our discourse may well be in a state of deep and dark decadence, but at least we can still enjoy a well-composed tune.

The volume of well-composed tunes, of simply high-quality songs that fill you with warmth, speaks to a creative popular force, standing at defiance of cynical profit, bitter political division, and social media monomania, which we Americans might well take heart in.

I speak not disinterestly when I start with the fine Denver-based country-blues band Coal Town Reunion. The lead singer, John-Paul Maxfield, grew up with me and my brothers, across 17th Avenue Parkway in east Denver. In other words, we’re old friends. A successful businessman in the recycling industry by his own right, John-Paul finally took the step from a fantastic guitarist and singer in private settings (he played for my brother’s bachelor party in Evergreen) to a publicly labelled band in 2017, with an EP that included the classic “John Wayne’s Grave,” along with several other excellent tunes. Then last year these guys released another album featuring my favs “Alibi” and “Hide and Seek.” I keep waiting and watching for when they’ll come play a show here in ATL. I also get a yuk out of the fact that even Coloradans affect a warm Southern accent when they play country.

Here in this space, mention has already been made of Lord Huron, Nate Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Leon Bridges, Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle. And of course Bob Dylan.

Speaking of Dylan: are you interested in a superb album that resonates with Dylan’s late-60s Nashville charm? If so, check out the young Kentuckian Ian Noe. His album Between the Country might claim top honors for 2019 Americana. Start with “Letter to Madeline” and “Barbara’s Song.”

The Kentucky Renaissance continues with Sturgill Simpson and his protégé Tyler Childers. The Bluegrass State churns out some great songs. “Sea Stories,” “Mercury in Retrograde,” “Universal Sound” and “All Your’n” are your openers.

Or what about Saskatchewan country? Yes, you read that right: it turns out that way up in the desolate Canadian plains they produce excellent country showmen. Okay, he’s not American but our alliance with Canada presents itself as one of the most successful alliances in history, so -- Colter Wall, North American talent. Check him out: “Thirteen Silver Dollars” and “Sleeping on the Blacktop.”

While folks in New Hampshire haul themselves to the polls to pick a clown to stand against the other clown, let’s take comfort in the richness of our nation’s musical performers.

January 28, 2020

Kobe, Memories, and Redemption

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) … I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. (Ecclesiastes 3:17)

When I saw the news of Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday I was genuinely shocked – a young (retired) athlete cut down in his prime is a tragic story no matter how it unfolds, but to have grown up a fan of the NBA and to have watched this young man literally grow up before your eyes and then die before becoming an old man…it is a stark reminder that King Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes rings true at a time like this.

Continue reading "Kobe, Memories, and Redemption" »

January 23, 2020

John--The Man Who Saw, now at RC

I have a new blog post on John's reliability as a guest blog post at Ratio Christi. In the interests of time, I'm not going to cross-post the entire thing, with links, but I will post the beginning here and put it under the "John" tag so that readers who browse the "John" tag here at W4 will find it.

In case you haven’t heard, the Gospel of John is different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But then again, maybe you’ve noticed this already! The other three Gospels often tell the same stories, sometimes even in similar words, while John goes his own way, often giving us information about what Jesus did and said that is found nowhere in the three Synoptic Gospels. Most of us who think of ourselves as evangelical Christians, especially if we self-identify as conservative Christians, never thought that that made John less historical, though. Not even a little bit. But you might be surprised at how widespread that view is, even among some scholars normally thought of as evangelical. For example, Craig A. Evans has said, when challenged by skeptic Bart Ehrman,


I suspect we don’t have too much difference on John. My view is the gospel of John is a horse of another color altogether. It’s a different genre.... So, I don’t disagree with you too much on that point. I think John is studded with historical details. Maybe you called them nuggets. That’s not a bad way of describing John. But I think the Synoptics are more than just some nuggets.

Evans has also said,

The principle source for material from which we may derive a portrait of the historical Jesus are the three Synoptic gospels--Matthew, Mark and Luke. They are called Synoptic because they overlap a lot, and we can see them together, which is what the Greek word means, see them together in parallel columns. John’s Gospel is another matter. What genre is it? It’s not another Synoptic Gospel, as some would like to think. All agree that there is some history in John, but is it primarily history, or is it something else?

See more here.

These questions about John’s robust historicity are understandably troubling to Christians for whom the Gospel is no less beloved than the other three, and often regarded as a great favorite. Do we really have to place these kinds of brackets around John because he might be of a partially non-historical genre?

For that matter, the Synoptic Gospels haven’t fared all that well when it comes to scholarly claims that they contain deliberate historical alterations. I have documented and rebutted such claims extensively, some of them from evangelical scholars whose names might be surprising, in my most recent book, The Mirror or the Mask. But John definitely comes in for an extra helping of doubt.

The wonderful thing is, though, that all this skepticism is misplaced. In fact, John demonstrates his historical intention constantly, both in his explicit statements (e.g., John 19:35) and in many subtle details.

Rest of the post is here.

January 13, 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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There is much cause for worry concerning the entire US Navy SEAL command. The strength of this proposition I draw from some of the deeper reporting, and wider commentary, which has accompanied the President’s pardon of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, combined with long interest in the fabled Navy unit in which he served, until his recent retirement concomitant with said pardon.

Good summaries of the details of Gallagher’s trial can he found in various places, including the Navy Times and the fascinating special ops blog SOFREP.com. In brief outline, Gallagher was accused by his former SEAL comrades of terrible crimes; investigated and brought to trial by the Navy’s internal police unit; cleared of all but the most minor charge in a dramatic courtroom reversal, when an immunized prosecution witness introduced reasonable doubt; then pardoned of the remaining charge by Trump. Following this came a bureaucratic wrestling match among the Navy, the DOD and the White House, which after several intriguing surprises, ended up costing the Navy Secretary his job.

Continue reading "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" »

December 24, 2019

O Night Divine

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But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Mt. 1:20)

One of the happier trends among Roman Catholics in recent years has been a deliberate recovery of the traditions of Advent, which attract increasing commentary and reflection with every passing year. Christmastide itself is, it has to be said, burdened by very high expectations that in this era of constant plenty are difficult to satisfy. Compared with the simple joy and serenity of the Nativity, Advent recalls a tale of great peril, revelation, even adventure. It is a story of spiritual combat and historical rupture on the grandest scale, and so it is well that Christians in this time of seemingly apocalyptic darkness are drawn to ever-closer study of its central characters, and to the remembrance of that virtue that each of them has in common: Courage, that disdain of the fallen world which comes from Faith.

Continue reading "O Night Divine" »

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

November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving, 2019 Edition

November 3, 2019

“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

October 28, 2019

What does it mean to say that John "tweaks" history?