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

June 18, 2018

“I was the king of standing alone” -- Rateliff and the Night Sweats

by Nolan Cella and Paul Cella

If it sounds strange to talk of Rocky Mountain Soul, that’s because, until very recently, that sub-genre of music did not really exist; and it is only a slight exaggeration to say that a single band called it into existence.

The band we speak of, which made it fair to talk that way, only came to national prominence in 2015. Before that, the band’s frontman was reachable “for a curbside interview on any given day on South Broadway,” according to his hometown paper. I mean Nathaniel Rateliff (pronounced RATE-lif) and the Night Sweats, the R&B act out of the greatest city on the front range of the mighty Rocky Mountains.

The Queen City of the Rockies, the Mile High City: D-town stands unique. Sports-crazy, decadent, hard-Left on some things, she yet retains a distinct edge of the old granite don’t-tread-on-me attitude: the pioneer and mountain-man. For instance, marijuana decriminalization would have been impossible absent that strong strain: a lot of perfectly sober and respectable Republicans thought, “who the hell cares what those hippies waste their time on?”

By some measures one of the most secular cities in the country, Denver nevertheless boasts a vibrant Catholic diocese (the distinguished Charles Chaput, now Ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia, made a name for himself nationwide at his first archbishopric -- in Denver) and many strong biblical churches.

So the native of D-town, casting his gaze over the wide pastures of American Rhythm & Blues, and the supreme excellencies issuing forth therefrom, can only delight in the swelling pride which attends the news that Denver has its own R&B/soul genre.

“Go tell it on the mountains” holds musical as well as theological substance in Denver. Go tell it that Jesus Christ is born. Supreme king over all.

But also:

Go tell on the mountains that these dudes can play.

Continue reading "“I was the king of standing alone” -- Rateliff and the Night Sweats" »

June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day

June 14, 2018

Does John "narrate theologically"? On the perils of theological theory in history

I have noted in other posts the unjustified rhetoric that is often leveled at the Gospel of John to the effect that he is less historical than the synoptic Gospels. (See also Craig Evans's extensive comments to this effect here.) John is the red-headed step-child of historical Jesus studies. He is always assumed to be a problem, frequently assumed to be historically dubious on the flimsiest grounds. When something (like the fact that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus' cross) is found in the synoptic Gospels but not in John, the question is: What's historically wrong with John? When something (like the "I am" sayings) is found in John but not in the synoptic Gospels, the question is: What's historically wrong with John? Double standard duly noted.

In this post I want to examine some passages from the commentaries of eminent and learned New Testament scholar Craig Keener that illustrate the unwarranted bias against John and that also illustrate the negative effects of an undue mingling of theological interpretation with the attempt to answer the simple question, "Did this really happen?"

It goes without saying that my criticisms of Dr. Keener's ideas in these commentaries are in no way, shape, or form a personal attack but rather a part of our mutual search for truth concerning God's word.

Continue reading "Does John "narrate theologically"? On the perils of theological theory in history" »

June 10, 2018

R.I.P. Tom Wolfe [updated]

tom-wolfe-firing-line-1975-2.jpg

As a writer, the late Tom Wolfe manifested a truly subversive idea: that humor is fundamentally conservative. It emphasizes -- subtly, implicitly, but nevertheless perceptibly -- the traditional picture of mankind and his place in the world. He is unique in dignity but given to proliferating folly. He takes himself way too seriously. His social nature produces absurdities that he often cannot see. For these and other reasons, he willingly submits to petty tyrannies which in retrospect seem almost inconceivable. The humorist need only (no easy task, of course) expose the absurdities, pierce the self-importance, illuminate the folly, and ridicule the willing submission to humbug and phoniness. Nor should we neglect how frequent a trope in good humor is the jape at flawed authority: the bumbling bureaucrat, the feckless father, the officious colonel, the dreary clergyman. In a sense, humor is conservative because it has proven to be one of the most powerful methods of demonstrating that oldest of all conservative precepts: original sin. The Fall of Man, among many deductions, inevitably renders him an object of mirth.

Tom Wolfe had mirth in superabundance, and he did not fail to delight his readers with it. Wolfe’s riotous send-ups of intellectual, artistic, political, literary, and social fashion, so superbly satirized progressive pomposity, that it actually took a couple decades for progressives to realize it. For instance, many readers (even to this day) appear to have taken The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test as a kind of celebration or endorsement of that early hippie lifestyle. La Wik will only allow, delicately, that Wolfe was, “in some key ways different from the Pranksters.” You think? Those key ways include, but are not limited to: (a) dressing normal, (b) abjuring narcotics, (c) observing common bourgeois proprieties, and (d) regularly punctuating his descriptions of their antics with rapier thrusts of satirical brilliance. The counterculture took itself quite seriously, on the level of philosophy; Wolfe did not. He only took it seriously on the level of curiosity. What a strange creature is man and his works, that he could produce such a spectacle as this!

In time (certainly by 1975’s The Painted Word, though one marvels that anyone failed to perceive it years earlier), even the dullest Manhattan critic abandoned all hope and conceded that, alas, Tom Wolfe was not one of them.

But by then he had already made a successful career out of gutting them with his lively pen. His position was secure; no amount of denunciation, sneering, sanctimony or churlishness could dislodge him now.

Next he plunged himself into a nearly decade-long study of American masculinity, especially of the military sort. This superlative (and still very funny) literary turn began with the unforgettable fighter-pilot essay, “The Truest Sport: Jousting with Sam and Charlie”; includes “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce,” which, even 35 years on, is still reckoned the best short history of Silicon Valley available; and culminates in 1979’s The Right Stuff, which rendered the American test pilot and early space program in heroic and hilarious realism. We might say this period of Wolfe’s career did for middlebrow American writing what Reagan did for American politics: re-established it on a foundation of high-spirited patriotism.

(I will pass over his novels in silence, largely from a lack of sustained engagement with them -- except to advert to this fantastic essay from a few years back which examined a neglected aspect of their brilliance.)

Wolfe’s last book, The Kingdom of Speech -- while emphatically not the equal of his mid-career classics -- nevertheless features some uproarious humor directed at eminently deserving targets. Its core argument also rests on a very solid syllogism:

Evolutionary science cannot explain speech;
man cannot be understood in the absence of an understanding of speech;
therefore evolutionary science cannot fully explain man.

One need only read a few of the prominent reviews of this book to observe that it struck a nerve. Even into his 80s, Wolfe retained a sublime knack for puncturing fashionable pretensions.

Last month, America lost one of her finest chroniclers of that mysterious and wonderful creature called man. Tom Wolfe was a writer who grounded his work on diligent observation, and produced some of the funniest, most delightful and most illuminating books of the past half century. R.I.P.


UPDATE: below the fold is a video clip from the late 90s on The Late Show with David Letterman which nicely captures the spirit of Wolfe. No less than Donald Trump himself emerges as a topic of discussion.
_______________________
Image credit: Hoover Institute/YouTube

Continue reading "R.I.P. Tom Wolfe [updated]" »

June 8, 2018

Only one Jesus: The man who loves his friends

JesusMaryMartha.png It is a theological doctrine that God the Father loves all men and that God the Son manifests the love of God by coming to the world to die for our sins (John 3:16). It is a fact of history, visible throughout all four of our historical sources, the gospels, that Jesus of Nazareth was a man of strong affections who had special love for particular people.

While Jesus would go off alone to pray (e.g., Mark 1:35), he was not in general a "loner." He was a man who had friends, loved his friends, and wanted to be with them.

In this series, I continue to examine the unity of the personality of Jesus in the Gospel of John and the synoptic Gospels. In the previous entry I discussed several personality traits of Jesus that are constant across the gospels, including his being an emotional rather than a stoical person. This brings us to the particular way in which Jesus' affections were called out by his love for his friends. Here, too, we see that, pace the commonplaces of critical scholarship, the portrait of Jesus in John is not "very different" from the portrait in the synoptics. Rather, the documents present the same man, giving different instances of the same personality traits.

Continue reading "Only one Jesus: The man who loves his friends" »

June 6, 2018

The Eeyores are Right on Masterpiece Cake Shop

I must agree with Ben Shapiro and Andrew McCarthy as against (e.g.) David French's more positive take on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

It isn't an incremental step in the direction of anything. Obviously it's better that Sotomayor and Ginsberg didn't win. But the fact that Kagan and Breyer joined in the majority, writing a separate concurrence to make it absolutely explicit why they joined, and that Roberts (besides joining in the weak majority opinion) was MIA, show us where we really are. As McCarthy points out, this should have been a knock-down free speech case, given the massive and highly explicit first amendment jurisprudence on record, including jurisprudence that makes it absolutely clear that words are not required for "speech" in the legal sense. Both the opinions of Thomas/Gorsuch and Gorsuch/Alito make it clear that they would rule in Jack Philips's favor on straightforward first amendment grounds against compelled speech. (I haven't yet read both opinions in enough detail to know why those two opinions couldn't have been joined into one.) But Roberts was silent on that point, and Kennedy's written majority opinion is (to put it at its best) silent as well, noting that different cases may be decided differently, as long as the commission behaves itself more seemly. This raises the very real possibility that Jack Philips himself, if he returns to wedding cake baking tomorrow and refuses to bake wedding cakes to celebrate homosexual ceremonies, may be in hot water again.

David French tries to get something good out of the majority opinion's comments about other cases in which the Commission made different decisions concerning cakes with words opposing homosexuality. But the majority decision focused only on the fact that the commission found those words (which were anti-homosexual "marriage") to be "offensive." In other words, the commission was too blatant in its viewpoint bias. And what if no further such cases arise in the future to help Tomorrow Jack Philips when a new case comes up? How will that later commission be shown to be biased? Or what if that later commission takes its stand solely on the words/no words distinction, without any comments about offensiveness, which (one fears) is a place where Kennedy might be willing to agree with them, as against earlier SCOTUS precedents? And where would Roberts fall in that case?

Jack Philips needs some more good legal advice right about now concerning his future, and that advice should tell him that he isn't out of the woods. If he goes back to baking wedding cakes for the sake of his business's fiscal health, he may be back before a calmer, less rabid, more polished civil rights commission before you can say, "Kennedy."

June 3, 2018

Only one Jesus: Part 2 (plus) in a series

If this is part 2, you may ask, where is Part 1? And what in the world does the "plus" mean? I'm glad you asked!

Part 1 is here
, under the title of "Ecce Homo" with the subtitle "Only One Jesus." Take up and read! In it I discuss in more detail an example concerning Jesus and the Sabbath controversies and the wonderful way in which two completely different Sabbath controversies show the same man clearly speaking in John and Luke. I alluded to this example briefly in my recent debate with Craig Evans. And there's more in that entry besides, including Jesus' sarcastic and resigned way of speaking of his enemies.

The "plus" refers to this recent post on positive evidence for John's historicity and the similarity of the portrayal of Jesus in John and the synoptics that I did mention briefly in the debate with Evans. In the post I both list that evidence and draw some of it out in more detail. This includes, among many other things, the point that the author of John is actually scrupulous on several occasions to separate his own commentary from Jesus' words. There's a lot of good stuff there, so please have a look.

Continue reading "Only one Jesus: Part 2 (plus) in a series" »

May 28, 2018

On credentials

I have resisted for a long time the idea of entering into a discussion of my credentials. As reader John DePoe pointed out here, Dr. Licona has not-so-subtly tried to give the impression that I am some sort of unqualified hack. It's a little more difficult for him to do this with Tim (Esteemed Husband), who has a lengthy teaching career, is chairman of his department, and is an established, internationally known scholar with a specialty in the history of arguments for Christianity. So for the most part Licona has stuck to referring in public to my alleged lack of relevant credentials. But his recent outlining of the credentials that supposedly would be needed implicitly rules out Tim's being qualified either, though Tim has also criticized his approach.

It has become so odd that Licona seems to think of me as just some "blogger on the Internet" with nothing in the way of credentials besides a PhD in English that I have seriously come to wonder if he literally does not know about my extensive professional publication record in analytic philosophy, spanning two decades and coming up to the present. My CV is easy enough to look up, and my professional standing as a philosopher is mentioned in the blurb on the cover of my most recent book and on my bios in various places. But perhaps he has just managed to avoid this information. Have all of his followers avoided knowing it as well, or do they excuse the implication that I am only an utterly unqualified blogger by silently telling themselves that mere philosophy doesn't matter to the whole thing anyway?

In any event, though I dislike going into the matter of my credentials, with the recent podcasts that Dr. Licona has made, in which he publicly brings up the credentialist meme again and again, I have finally decided to address the issue of credentials head-on. Instead of my taking the time to repost and put in all the links, etc., here at W4, please see the full post here.

May 25, 2018

Dancing with the distinguished professor--Post III--Back to the positive evidence

It was a notable feature of my recent debate with Craig Evans (podcast here) that I dealt in details and new information, whereas Evans dealt mostly in generalities, repeated over and over again, and occasionally false specific statements. (See my earlier posts on the debate here and here.)

Continue reading "Dancing with the distinguished professor--Post III--Back to the positive evidence" »

May 24, 2018

Dancing with the distinguished professor--Post II

"The Question" about "Before Abraham was, I am" and "I and the Father are one"

While preparing for this debate on Unbelievable (podcast here, previous analysis post on the debate here), I had hoped that it would be possible to get Dr. Evans to admit his views about Jesus' sayings and the incidents surrounding them, if not immediately then at least fairly early on, by means some carefully worded questioning, and that at that point we could move on as quickly as possible to having a forthright debate about the historicity of John.

I was wrong. During the entire first portion of the debate, Evans took extra time (at a certain point his time spent talking compared to mine was at nearly a 2 to 1 ratio) to talk in obscure, dodgy terms about his views, to say obfuscating things such as, "The Gospel of John is indeed historical, but it's a mixture," and to misrepresent his own statements in 2012.

I did attempt to pin him down and clarify some of the issues between us. At minute 12:30ff, I asked this:

I would like to get you to state clearly what your position is concerning the historicity of, for example, the dialogue where Jesus is talking to the Jewish people and ends it by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am." And then they throw stones. And I just want to clarify before you answer that: I am not asking whether John quoted these things word-for-word or verbatim, but I am asking whether that incident occurred in addition to anything in the synoptics in an historically recognizable fashion.

Justin at this point (and I'm grateful to him for trying to get me more of an opportunity to speak), does not throw the ball back to Craig Evans but rather asks me why I think this is an important matter. What with my answer to that, more lengthy talk from Evans (in which he does not answer the question), and commercial breaks, etc., I do not return to pressing the question and getting Evans's answer until about minute 22:17. There I state what is obviously intended to be the same question like this:


And again, as I said before, I'm not asking whether you think that this is recorded verbatim. What I am asking, let's just take those two cases, and I'd kind of like to get a clear yes or no. Do you think that those two incidents, where Jesus was in these places, was having these discussions, these dialogues, and culminated by saying in the one case, "Before Abraham was, I am," and in the other case "I and the Father are one" and then they went to stone him. Do you think that those incidents, where he said those things, occurred in a recognizable way in history? What is your opinion on that?

And Evans answers, "I think they did." (Minute 22:53)

Continue reading "Dancing with the distinguished professor--Post II" »

May 21, 2018

Dancing with the distinguished professor--Post I

Late last week the podcast aired of my debate, recorded April 11, with Craig A. Evans on the subject "Is John's Gospel Historically Accurate" or (as stated on the podcast) "Does John's Gospel Present an Historically Accurate Picture of Jesus?" Here is the link. (Note to the podcast-averse, among whom I count myself: Evans's and my debate does not take the whole of the podcast. Our section goes to about 1 hour and 11 minutes. There is also a transcript available now thanks to reader Sean. See here.) Here are Part II and Part III of my analysis.

The debate represented a disappointing performance on the part of Dr. Evans, who (as we were reminded repeatedly) is the Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. Not only did Dr. Evans seriously misrepresent his own statements from 2012, he also was extremely unclear concerning his own current positions on the historicity of John, shifting within the course of this debate itself. To make matters worse, he repeatedly made use of outright false statements of fact in order to give various impressions. These included most prominently the false statement that there are seven "long I am discourses" in the Gospel of John, both preceded and followed by repeated references to these supposed (plural) "I am discourses."

My remarks on the debate will not follow any highly organized order and for that reason will be organized under headers for easier browsing.

Continue reading "Dancing with the distinguished professor--Post I" »

May 15, 2018

Transcript: Craig A. Evans--comments on the Gospel of John, 2012

In a few days, on May 19, the Unbelievable radio show will be releasing a podcast of my dialogue with Craig A. Evans on the historicity of John's Gospel. I have not yet heard that podcast myself. Due to some other things going on this weekend, I will probably be first posting and commenting on the debate next week, probably on Tuesday.

In the meanwhile, I want to post as background most of the statements that Evans made in 2012 about the Gospel of John in the course of two nights of debating skeptical NT scholar Bart Ehrman. There were others scattered throughout the debates, and some were revealing, but these are the comments of any length.

These are all available in video form. With each excerpt I will post a video link that is time-stamped, so that you can watch the discussion in context for yourself.

Continue reading "Transcript: Craig A. Evans--comments on the Gospel of John, 2012" »

May 12, 2018

12 Rules for Life – Some Preliminary Thoughts

Have our readers (or my fellow bloggers) been introduced to the phenomenon of Jordan Peterson? Peterson is a psychology professor and clinical psychologist who has become something of a darling of conservatives, wayward young men, and anti-PC folks of all political persuasions who appreciate Peterson’s willingness to take on the Left’s shibboleths and fight tough. His YouTube videos, which have made him famous, have over a million views and his Patreon website collects over $50K each month (for roughly the past year.) As an academic psychologist (first at Harvard and now at the University of Toronto) he had previously written only one rather dense book summarizing his thought (which is heavily influenced by Jung and Nietzsche, two thinkers that normally raised red flags for me) but he decided to write a more accessible book, 12 Rules for Life, which came out earlier this year and has been a best seller ever since.

Continue reading "12 Rules for Life – Some Preliminary Thoughts" »

May 7, 2018

On minimalism, the resurrection, and more: Response to Dr. Craig's podcast

Yesterday a podcast came out in which Dr. William Lane Craig answers some of my comments elsewhere (most recently here) about various of his views.

I think this is a very useful discussion, and I think that in responding to Dr. Craig, I can continue and encourage some very fruitful discussion.

The most important thing that I want to say at the outset is that I appreciate greatly Dr. Craig's and Kevin Harris's statements at the beginning of his podcast to the effect that it's possible to disagree and be friends. This is what academics do, and Christian academics in particular should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. That is incredibly important, and I want to maintain that spirit here. This is also one of the many reasons why I respect Dr. Craig so much as a Christian apologist and as a scholar.

I'm responding here chiefly because I think this is a fruitful thing to do. I want to emphasize that in no way, shape, or form am I challenging or pressing Dr. Craig to a never-ending back-and-forth, as it has been implied that I do with those I disagree with. On the contrary, it seems to me that perhaps the most useful thing that could happen here would be for people to read this response and the material in links that I provide from it to other places (that's important), listen to Dr. Craig's podcast, and ponder various issues and spin-off thoughts, perhaps having a discussion in the comments thread here.

Continue reading "On minimalism, the resurrection, and more: Response to Dr. Craig's podcast" »

May 4, 2018

Undesigned coincidences vs. Literary Devices on Bellator Christi [Updated]

[Update: I've decided to put into this post itself a list of some counterexamples to Licona's misleading claims about his, and others' positions. See below. These are also in the podcast on Bellator Christi.]

I had the privilege today to be on the Bellator Christi podcast with Brian Chilton discussing the contrast between the view of the Gospels supported by undesigned coincidences and that of the "literary device" theorists.

The link to the podcast is here. It was great fun being on the show and bringing these various strands together. These really are very different views of what kind of documents the Gospels are. I say this not because I start from an unargued assumption that the Gospels are artless, historical reportage but rather because this is what I find the Gospels to be upon investigation. Undesigned coincidences are just one portion of that argument. Brian was an excellent host, and we had a great conversation.

The podcast is a good introduction generally to undesigned coincidences, and the first good-sized segment of the show is devoted to that positive argument.

Continue reading "Undesigned coincidences vs. Literary Devices on Bellator Christi [Updated]" »

April 28, 2018

Going Chreia-zy

April 26, 2018

Book giveaway drawing!

Update: Gracious Hospital starts feeding Alfie

April 25, 2018

Alfie Evans: Power hunger and the death of the innocent

April 23, 2018

The real Elizabeth Jennings

 
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