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

March 5, 2021

The disjunctions of risk in an old-fashioned world

In a recent Facebook post set to public, Bret Laird, a pastor here in the Kalamazoo area, makes an excellent point: All the talk about the alleged Christian duty to curtail our meetings due to Covid ignores the very nature of risk in the world in which Christianity was born and spread--the whole world, in fact, up to the early 1900s at least. Pastor Laird uses the discovery of penicillin and antibiotics early in the 20th century as a starting point for his discussion.

I would like to jump off from Pastor Laird's comments and make similar comments of my own, without using his specific numbers. Just to be "generous", let's take this piece's estimate from September of about 1% infection fatality rate for Covid, noting that this is in an article that is trying to debunk an overly rosy view of the virus's harmfulness. As the piece notes, some estimates of IFR have been lower, but let's take the higher one. Of course, that rate varies greatly from one group to another. Well and good. The case fatality ratio (which involves only detected cases and hence will be higher, since it involves more symptomatic people) has been wildly differently estimated from one country to another. The WHO more or less throws up its hands and suggests trying to avoid one's biases, noting that estimates of this ratio have ranged from .1 to 25%!

Now, let's consider a world with no antibiotics and no vaccines. The world, in fact, in which Christianity came into existence. The world in which the Jewish people came into existence. The world in which God commanded multiple feasts per year (in the Old Testament) and many sacrifices, which had to be carried out in Jerusalem once Solomon built the Temple. The world in which Christians were commanded not to forsake the assembling of themselves together. The world in which 3,000 people were baptized into the new Christian faith on the day of Pentecost. The world of pilgrimages, evangelistic meetings, huge numbers receiving Communion together, the world of "greet one another with a holy kiss."

Continue reading "The disjunctions of risk in an old-fashioned world" »

March 4, 2021

Updates on Lisa Miller and Philip Zodhiates

Philip Zodhiates' release date is supposed to be March 26, 2021. It looks like the civil suit against him and all the others will get going full-bore in June. I wonder whether Lisa Miller's criminal case will delay this at all.

I get updates on some of these things because I get e-mails from the 419 Fund. I'm not exactly sure how one gets on their e-mail list, though I'm happy that I got on it somehow, but here is their contact form. Otherwise it can be hard to learn much. Sometimes additional entries that (I think) should be posted on Philip's prison blog are posted to the 419 Fund blog. This happened recently. Check out the February 12 entry, here. (There doesn't seem to be a way to link individual entries.)

On Lisa Miller, besides on the 419 Fund, one can find updates on this blog that I found called Ain't Complicated, here. After voluntarily turning herself in, she has been arraigned on charges of conspiracy and international parental kidnapping. She is currently in Buffalo, New York.

Her daughter, Isabella (now going on 19 years old), apparently remains in Nicaragua and has emphatically stated that she has no intention of testifying against Lisa or any of those who helped them. As an adult Isabella is hopefully safe from being forcibly (at least legally forcibly) brought to the United States. She has apparently successfully petitioned to have her name removed from the lawsuit against her mother by stating emphatically that anyone purporting to represent her in that suit is acting against her wishes.

Meanwhile, Janet Jenkins has issued the following utterly creepy and ridiculous statement via her lawyer:

The Jenkins family wants Isabella to know that they have always kept prayer lists going for her, and she has never been out of their thoughts. The family longs for Isabella’s safe return and want her to know that they still celebrate her birthday and that her childhood bedroom is ready and waiting for her.

What? I mean, come on! The couple separated when Isabella was eighteen months old. She was only back there to visit Jenkins for occasional times thereafter until she was about seven years old and has lived in Nicaragua ever since. She is now eighteen years old. Why in the world would anyone mention her "childhood bedroom" in such a message? Even if one believes that Jenkins is in the right in this whole vendetta, you'd have to know that Isabella has not the remotest interest in her "childhood bedroom" back in Vermont. Such a sympathizer (with Jenkins) would doubtless say that Isabella has been brainwashed. But even on that premise, there can be no possible point to sending her a message that her childhood bedroom is waiting for her! That is bound to disgust her and make her feel stalked. What is wrong with you people? Obviously this statement was issued for the sympathizers who are so blindly partisan that they will think it is touching. Good grief.

Continue reading "Updates on Lisa Miller and Philip Zodhiates" »

The Eye of the Beholder is now out!

I've been working like a beaver recently on the release of The Eye of the Beholder: The Gospel of John as Historical Reportage. That is to say, I've been doing interviews and posting about it, trying to find out if it's available in Australia and the UK (it wasn't for a couple of days when I expected it to be), sharing content about it to social media, making videos, and so forth, while keeping life going otherwise.

I owe a lot to What's Wrong With the World for the space to publish a lot of related material in an earlier form. Here is the Gospel of John tag, if you want to read some of this for free in its beta version, as it were.

The Eye of the Beholder was released on March 1, 2021, just this past Monday. For those of you who get info. about this from this blog and/or aren't on Facebook, here are some relevant links, with apologies for making this post mostly a link dump. But believe me: There's tons of content at the links. First, how can you get the book itself? Here's the link at Amazon and here it is at Barnes & Noble. It makes no difference to my royalties or to my publisher's profits which site you buy it from. If you are in the UK, you can search Amazon, UK, for it, and the same (now) in both Australia and Canada. This is fitting, since I have endorsements from prominent scholars in all of those countries!

Of course, high-profile endorsers don't have to mean that I'm right, but at least they should mean that the book is worth a place at the table. I'm really humbly grateful to the Lord, and the endorsers, and my publisher, Nathan Ward, for the star-studded roster we got this time, including Stanley Porter, Thomas Schreiner, philosopher Bob Larmer, Paul N. Anderson, Alan Thompson, and more. Here are the endorsements in PDF. This should lay to rest various claims to the effect that my work is unworthy of attention due to my lack of such-and-such specific credentials. Nathan went out and asked for endorsements from Johannine and New Testament scholars whom I did not think of, or whom I would have expected to ignore the request due to their eminence or busyness, and he got them. (This reminds me of a collect about those things which for our unworthiness we dare not and for our blindness we cannot ask.) Some scholars also contacted me spontaneously after the publication of The Mirror or the Mask expressing interest in supporting my work. And in a couple of cases scholars' names were suggested to me by their former students: "You should contact professor so-and-so. I think he might be interested in your work."

One thing that we can't seem to get to work for love or money at Amazon is the "see inside" function. (At least not until it comes out in Kindle, perhaps in a year, at which point you will be able to see inside the Kindle version.) Perhaps one has to have a rich uncle who is good friends with Bezos to get See Inside The Book to work, but that's okay, because I anticipated that, and I have free samples, with publisher permission, available elsewhere. Here is Chapter I. Here is the Conclusion. Here is the Table of contents.

Continue reading "The Eye of the Beholder is now out!" »

February 21, 2021

We must obey God rather than men

I don't know who has or has not heard about this already, but Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is in jail for holding church meetings contrary to the current Covid regulations there. Here is just one MSM story about it. Here is a story about the shocking fact that the church met again this morning in defiance of the orders and in support of its jailed pastor. Good for them!

Pastor Coates will not be released pending trial because he isn't willing to agree to the extreme restrictions. More on just how extreme in a moment. Also, because he has been "caught" (by Mounties attending his suspicious church to check up on them several Sundays in a row), he himself wouldn't be allowed to go to the church at all until his trial, even if he were to grovel and submit, which he won't do. I'm going to link several Tweets here showing screen-capped statements by his wife, Erin Coates, about the nature of the restrictions and the conditions put upon him for release. Here, here, here, here, and here.

Continue reading "We must obey God rather than men" »

February 15, 2021

Ignatius and the Star of Bethlehem (Guest post by John C. Evans)

(The post below has been provided by my on-line friend, Roman Catholic theology student John C. Evans of Book and Spade. It was first published there. The ideas in it are John's. I provided only some light editing. In fact, I have given John pushback on some of the theories therein, but I am happy to provide him with a wider forum to share his interesting thoughts on the subject. LM)

The letter to the Ephesians attributed to early second-century martyr Ignatius of Antioch conspicuously stands out from the six other epistles generally believed by mainstream scholars to be authentic. This is largely due to a famous or infamous passage toward the end of the letter, comprising chapters 18 and 19, in which Ignatius, on his way to execution in Rome, seemingly diverges from the flow of his discourse to expound the events surrounding the passion and nativity of Christ.

The minimalist scholar will inevitably hold to the conviction that these references constitute merely one layer in a series of “ecclesiastical traditions” of dubious origin, with little to no foundation in the person of the historical Jesus. Such a conviction, however, is founded on the presupposition that either the apostolic memory died before Ignatius gave his life in Rome toward the very dawn of the second century or that the successors to the Apostles had little concern for historicity as we would conceive of it. However, such a presupposition ignores two steady streams of evidence branching from a wealth of patristic sources.

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January 30, 2021

Philip Zodhiates is still in prison [Updated]

I have been wanting to say something about Philip Zodhiates for some time, because he is still in federal prison, a true prisoner of conscience, and because I now have more readers of my work who are probably completely unaware of the case. People are often shocked when I describe it.

Check out the tag, here, for more posts. But briefly, here is a summary:

More than eighteen years ago, Lisa Miller entered into a civil union with Janet Jenkins in Vermont. (Please remember this story next time someone advocates civil unions as not as "bad" from a conservative p.o.v. as gay "marriage." They're legally identical.)


Continue reading "Philip Zodhiates is still in prison [Updated]" »

January 21, 2021

An irony of minimalism in defending the resurrection

For some time I've been writing and speaking about the problems with a certain minimalistic approach to arguing for Christianity that has become popular in evangelical circles in the last several decades. (See, e.g., here, here, and here.) Sometimes it goes by the name of the "minimal facts" approach. But not always. The apologetics giant William Lane Craig refers to the facts in question as "core facts" rather than "minimal facts" and includes the empty tomb among them, whereas the father of the minimal facts approach, Gary Habermas, does not include the empty tomb among his set of minimal facts. But as I have pointed out, the difference there is far more terminological than substantive, since in both cases the core fact or minimal fact that the disciples had appearance experiences is kept vague in order to be able to rope in a lot of scholars and say that they accept it. This causes a lot of epistemic trouble when one tries to argue for the physical resurrection of Jesus, since it's precisely the physical details that give us reason to think that Jesus was physically raised. It shouldn't need saying, but the reason Christians think he was physically raised is because we think he appeared physically to his disciples. (Obviously.) The mainstream scholar Wolfhart Pannenberg, who thought the resurrection accounts in the Gospels were heavily embellished, apparently thought that Jesus' body really disappeared and that in that sense he was "physically raised," but that he went immediately to heaven and that the appearances to the disciples were visions sent by God to the disciples and bore little resemblance to the appearances recounted in the Gospels. I'd say that at that point the meaning of "physically raised" has been changed almost beyond recognition and also that the epistemic support for believing in anything objective at all is gravely undermined.

This point was brought home to me recently by watching a series of video discussions between Michael Licona and Dale Allison. (Videos here, here, here, and here.) Allison is a little hard to characterize. He speaks of himself as a Christian (PCUSA), and Licona calls him a "fellow believer." He talks in the interviews about his prayer practices, which involve a yoga mat and icons. He's obviously a theist of some sort. That much I think can be said definitely. But Allison is and always has been profoundly ambivalent about the physical resurrection of Jesus and treats it very much as up in the air, and he obviously thinks it quite plausible that the resurrection narratives in the Gospels are highly embellished and that the details of those narratives, such as Jesus' eating with his disciples, were added for apologetic purposes. Licona is a strong advocate of the minimal approach and tries to do everything "through Paul," and in the interaction with Allison, it cuts no ice. Mind you, Allison is a naturally somewhat skeptical fellow. As he rather charmingly explains, there are four of him inwardly. They all get along with one another, though they disagree. What is interesting to notice is that none of these four "Dale Allisons" believes that robust, orthodox Christianity, including fully physical appearances, is historically justified by the objective evidence. So it is entirely plausible as a sociological and psychological matter that a discussion with someone who takes a more maximal approach to the resurrection would also cut no ice with Allison. But I consider Licona's attempts to counter him, most of them going "through Paul" (e.g., trying to treat Paul as our main or or even only eyewitness of the resurrection whose account has come down to us) to be objectively far weaker than the available arguments really are and hence consider it somewhat understandable that Allison bats them aside.

In reflecting on their interaction, I thought of an irony concerning the minimalist approach and the way that it bills itself, and I posted this on Facebook.

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January 7, 2021

Pain is the price of patriotism

The events of the last few days here in the U.S. could almost have been calculated to break the heart of anyone who loves this country. First I'm referring to the loss of the Senate to the Democrats. And here I solidly blame none other than our feckless man-child of a President, Donald Trump. In a distant alternative possible universe, had Trump been less narcissistic, had he thought that something mattered besides himself, he would have taken the spotlight off the presidential election shortly after November 3 (whatever he thought about the fairness of the results) and focused solidly on using his considerable influence with his base to rally the voters for the Georgia runoffs. Well, we all know how that went, including Lin Wood's insane recommendation to Republican voters to stay home. The elections were close. Had Trump barnstormed Georgia on behalf of those candidates, the Democrats might not have won the Senate. I don't usually indulge in such what-ifs, and there are plenty of places where I think Trump gets blamed that are far more complicated than they are made to appear in Punditland, but this one is just too darned obvious.

And then, of course, the Capitol-storming yesterday, deadly for at least four people, deadly for any remaining shred of American dignity. (The news media seem to be notably coy about three of these--who they were and what exactly happened--but about Ashli Babbitt, the woman whom the police shot, there seems to be little doubt about what happened.) This ridiculous attempt at insurrection (seriously?) will be treated as iconic of conservatism for decades to come (at least) and used as a stick with which to beat everyone who supports conservative ideals and ideas. Don't like gay "marriage"? Well, you're just like those terrifying insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol building. Maybe you're planning terrorism, even. Don't think a man can turn into a woman? The same. Support the lives of the unborn--man, you're a scary person. And on, ad infinitum.

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January 5, 2021

COVID Vaccines and Moral Evaluation

Now that there are COVID vaccines being rolled out by pharmaceutical companies, a moral question has arisen because some (or all) of them have utilized cell lines that originally came from aborted babies in their development or testing. Can we use such vaccines, or does doing so constitute immoral cooperation with the evil of abortion?

Two Catholic sources have concluded that the answer is: yes, we can use them, with caveats. Both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and the US bishops’ conference, have stated that using vaccines from such cell lines is morally permissible in certain circumstances, if those are the only vaccines available. They obviously base their conclusion on the fact that there is medically serious reason to use the vaccine given the public health situation, so it is not automatically the case that they would have come to the same conclusion about just any illness vaccine. It is clear that they are using the doctrine of “cooperation with evil” (CwE) which sets out criteria for where it is morally acceptable to do something that is in some way connected to an immoral act, and distinguishes those from cases where it is not morally permissible.

Unfortunately, there are other Catholic sources that are rejecting that conclusion. Bishops Athanasius Schneider and Strickland have issued public comments saying that using the vaccines is wrong. In both cases they accept CwE as a moral principle, but find that it does not permit using the vaccines. Bp. Schneider said:

In the case of vaccines made from the cell lines of aborted human fetuses, we see a clear contradiction between the Catholic doctrine to categorically, and beyond the shadow of any doubt, reject abortion in all cases as a grave moral evil that cries out to heaven for vengeance (see Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2268, n. 2270), and the practice of regarding vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines as morally acceptable in exceptional cases of “urgent need” — on the grounds of remote, passive, material cooperation. To argue that such vaccines can be morally licit if there is no alternative is in itself contradictory and cannot be acceptable for Catholics….

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December 29, 2020

Opposite indignations

I just posted this set public on Facebook:

A big part of the reason why we are so divided over Covid is that different groups have widely different opinions about what sufferings connected (directly or indirectly) with this virus are properly blamed on someone. One group treats catching the virus itself as presumptively blameworthy. Someone, somewhere must have been careless, must have not worn a mask, must have been disregarding what the speaker regards as mere reasonable caution. Perhaps the sick person himself. Perhaps someone he came into contact with. In contrast, this group tends to regard tragedies that result from virus restrictions (suicides, loss of business, lack of social contact) as either the inevitable results of the virus (hence not blameable or a proper cause for indignation) or as *also* blameable on people who don't follow other restrictions: "If we'd all just worn masks or if we all would just wear masks, be reasonably cautious, etc., this would all be over." The other group (in which I openly include myself) thinks this is about as opposite and incorrect as it gets. Catching the virus itself is *normally* not anyone's moral *fault*. The proposed cautions and rules are *far* beyond mere "minor caution" (partly because we disagree with the first group about what counts as mere "minor caution"), and there is no reason at all to think that some particular person's death was the result of someone's failing to abide by some kind of obvious prudence. And the restrictions, especially *but not solely* those imposed by fiat/law (some are imposed by officials of particular organizations, some imposed by relatives and parents, some imposed by insurance companies, etc.) are rightly to be blamed for the harms they cause because they are unnecessary, are caused by human choice, and ought to be able to be *seen* to be doing more harm than good. Therefore they are a rightful target of righteous indignation, and people's getting sick with a highly contagious virus is not.

Once we recognize the vast differences between these perspectives and realize that people like me think that people like someone else have literally *reversed* "what/who should be blamed" with "what/who should not be blamed," we can recognize that it's futile and will probably do more harm than good to tone-police each other, to ask each other merely to feel sorry for people, to tell each other not to "politicize" the matter, etc. However these differences of belief arose in the first place (and I, for one, hope that I would have held the beliefs here that I do even if that had meant aligning myself with "the left"), they are a combination of deep differences both about the empirical realities of the situation and about who is to blame and what is important. Unless you can change those, we're going to be indignant with each other.

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December 23, 2020

The weary world rejoices

IMG_1470.JPG I don't need to tell you that the world is weary. And anybody who has been reading my posts here and on Facebook can figure out some of the reasons why I think the world is weary. There are, of course, plenty more. I don't need to start listing all the evils of the world, some of which you can agree with me about even if we disagree about others.

Those of us who are Christians and also "literary types" know of a certain kind of literature in which the characters have big epiphanies about the eternal import of their smallest actions. You might call this the Charles Williams trope. Williams has a scene where a woman is being annoying and a guard announcing the trains at a train station is entirely polite to her. Williams goes into rather purple rhapsodies about the eternal value of his two words, "Yes, lady." Similarly, in C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, Mark Studdock is ordered to desecrate a crucifix. He's an agnostic, so the symbol means nothing to him, and he can't figure out why he's being told to do it. His wicked employer Frost tells him that they have found this to be necessary to the training of people in their organization. Studdock finally says, "It's all nonsense, and I'm damned if I'll do any such thing." Lewis, of course, means the reader to realize that Studdock's words have far more literal meaning than he intends. Like Caiaphas, we all sometimes speak prophecy without knowing it, and everything means more than we can possibly realize.

But this creates a bit of a problem in its own right for imaginative types.

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December 5, 2020

Youtube series on the Virgin Birth

In case it seems that I'm not being Christmasy enough, in actual fact I've gotten pulled into quite a bit of conversation about the Virgin Birth. I've just started a Youtube series about the Virgin Birth, and the first video of that is out, here. Please consider subscribing to my Youtube channel and hitting the bell so that you get notifications.

Recording on it may be somewhat slow, though, because I've agreed to a debate on the Virgin Birth and infancy narratives (I usually refuse debates), which will be recorded on December 11. Plus I'm indexing The Eye of the Beholder--a huge and rather boring task. I did an interview yesterday about some objections to the birth narratives. That link is here.

Triablogue has a roundup of some great resources on the veracity of the infancy accounts and the Virgin Birth. See that link roundup here. Jason Engwer has done some stalwart work there. Theological blogger Steve Hays of Triablogue passed away from cancer during 2020. He was a great soldier for the faith.

So a blessed Advent to everyone, and if you don't hear from me again for a while, a Merry Christmas.

By the way, I heard a new Gospel Christmas song on the radio yesterday that Mr. Google does not seem to know about. It was mostly about the lost sheep. Here, from memory, are a few fragments of the words:

"Mary gave birth to light." "...the darkness we mistook for the light."

Chorus

O what love the Good Shepherd has shown
To leave the ninety and nine
To go back for that one sheep, lost and alone.
I'm the one he came back to find.

November 26, 2020

A blessed Thanksgiving

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With very little eloquence, here is a Rockwell painting whose title mentions "freedom" and that shows family members gathering to celebrate a holiday--neither of these a thing that one would have thought either political or controversial exactly one year ago.

Blessings for Thanksgiving to anyone who reads this, especially faithful readers. May God grant us all strength today and in the coming months and years, both to do His will and to remain thankful for what we have.

Here's one small piece of "worldly" good news today.

November 21, 2020

Wackadoodle theories, the election, and the death of the republic

Herewith more scarcely-edited musings:

It should go without saying that election fraud is a bad thing and should be prosecuted, even if it doesn't change the result of the election. Suppose (which doesn't seem unreasonable) that the election fraud that has occurred this time around hasn't changed the outcome. Nonetheless, if it goes unprosecuted it may change the result in another year with a closer contest. Emboldened, bad actors will do even more.

The enablement by the media has been absolutely appalling and blatantly partisan. Bullying whistleblowers (such as the postal worker) and demonizing everyone who takes allegations seriously, together with an unspoken but all-too-real political double standard, sends a message.

Continue reading "Wackadoodle theories, the election, and the death of the republic" »

November 6, 2020

Witness and the crisis of the American Republic

Here (verbatim) is what I just posted on Facebook:

It is a surreal experience re-reading Whittaker Chambers's book Witness in 2020 while watching, by sign after sign, the loss of our free republic. Chambers, after his break with Communism, was a true and intense American patriot. Though a painfully shy and intensely private man, Chambers believed that it was God's purpose that he subject himself to ridicule, calumny, and hatred, not to mention the public exposure of his own sins, both personal and national, in an attempt to waken the nation from its complacent slumber and save the republic for future generations. Witness testifies to the overwhelming pain that his testimony in late 1948 and early 1949 cost him. When one knows more of the story, not mentioned in the book, one sees this even more clearly--namely, that Chambers had to confess in his testimony to having been bisexual during his time as a Communist spy and to having had homosexual trysts, which (he said) he completely turned away from after his religious conversion and break with Communism. This moral admission was ruthlessly used against him as part of a campaign to portray him as mentally unstable in order to discredit his testimony to the Communist conspiracy of which he had been a part.

All of this he endured, to the breaking point of pressure (he attempted suicide once during the case) and beyond, because of his love for our country and his desire that it should continue to exist in peace and freedom.

Continue reading "Witness and the crisis of the American Republic" »

October 27, 2020

Defending Pope Francis from “Civil Unions”

October 22, 2020

Temple cleansing, new FB post, etc.

September 29, 2020

It should hurt sometimes

September 22, 2020

What Evidentialism is not, redux

September 17, 2020

Some posts from this summer, mostly on New Testament