June 2016 Archives
June 1, 2016
Why do bad doubts happen to good people?
I've been thinking lately about deconversion stories. If one hangs around on the Internet long enough, one certainly runs across them. A theme that sometimes crops up is that the person did not want to deconvert. Looking over the deconvert's shoulder at the flimsiness of the arguments that led him away from Christianity, one is permitted to wonder about that, but it is what a deconvert will sometimes say, and presumably he believes it when he says it: "I didn't want to deconvert. I struggled. I asked God to help me keep my faith, to speak to me, to reach out to me. God didn't help, or didn't help enough, and now here I am--I'm not a Christian anymore."
June 3, 2016
New post on "genre" in the gospels
Recently New Testament scholar Michael Licona has been doing a written debate with Bart Ehrman. Links to their entire back-and-forth can be found here.
In the course of that discussion, Ehrman argues that the infancy accounts in Matthew and Luke are radically at odds with each other, though oddly enough he brings up only one actual apparent discrepancy between the accounts. (Namely, that Luke seems to have thought that the Holy Family went back directly from Jerusalem to Nazareth, whereas Matthew would put the slaughter of the innocents and the flight into Egypt and residence in Egypt at this point in the story.) The rest of Ehrman's discussion consists of mocking the census account in Luke and working the chestnut that it never happened, etc.
June 7, 2016
Soulless, sordid, drunken sex with a drunken stranger is not rape
Well, I've decided to go ahead and get myself in a certain amount of trouble. Needless to say, comments will be moderated carefully. Graphic comments will be edited or deleted.
Since my Facebook news feed exploded with outraged posts about the Brock Turner case at Stanford University, I've been mulling over whether to say anything. But things have been a little quiet around here, and I do have something to say, so I've decided to launch out. I may even be bold enough to post a link on Facebook; you never know.
Here's my understanding: Brock Turner has been convicted of intending to rape an intoxicated person and of (here I am deliberately following my own rules on not being graphic) engaging in certain sexual behavior that in other circumstances would be considered foreplay or groping with an intoxicated person and with an unconscious person (those being the same person). Whether the woman (whose name I can't seem to find) actually passed out in the course of their encounter or only shortly thereafter remains, shall we say, ambiguous, but evidently prosecutors and a jury thought she passed out in the course thereof. Both were highly intoxicated. He claims that he never took his clothes off, and apparently prosecutors agree.
Turner's account and the woman's account are actually compatible, so I think it's only fair to believe both of them. She's traumatized because she doesn't remember anything about what happened, doesn't remember Turner or know him from Adam, and because the procedures for investigating possible rape after she was found, passed out behind the frat house, were in themselves highly invasive and upsetting. He's clearly a guy with a completely empty, soulless view of sex who merely thought he was "hooking up," while he was drunk, with an equally intoxicated stranger. As it turns out, apparently engaging in sexual activity with someone who's intoxicated is a crime in California, so the prosecutors had a cut and dried case on that point. The "intent to rape" seems a little more dubious as a matter of evidence, but evidently they convinced a jury.
June 13, 2016
Jihad in Orlando
When one of the sons of Jihad undertakes to enact his sick parody of soldiering by visiting butchery by high velocity rifle round on unarmed carousers, we are invited to think about anything but the simple facts. Every possible distraction is introduced to baffle our reasoning minds from compassing reality.
Given this cloud of unknowing, we will restate reality.
So by way of repetition, and in the face of paralyzing ennui, we affirm that this act of despicable treachery, this razzia in Orlando, arises out of the Islamic religion.
It does not arise out of the character of Americans, any more than Paris arose out of the character of Frenchmen or Brussels out of the character of Belgians; it arises out of the authentic doctrine and deep antiquity of Islam.
Notice that we do not add emollient modifiers or phony suffixes. Islam itself is a perpetual menace to peace and civilized life. American policy should be oriented, without qualification or apology, toward diminishing its presence and its influence upon our country.
June 14, 2016
Ideas Versus? Identity
For the past couple of years I have been toying with writing a big piece about what is now known as “neo-reaction” or the “alternative right” (or “alt-right” for short.) I have been a regular reader of a variety of their writers and websites on and off for years beginning, of course, with the infamous Mencius Moldbug. All of the sudden, coinciding with the success of the Trump candidacy, it seems like everyone and their brother is writing the definitive ’take-down’ of the “alt-right” or explaining just what neo-reaction is all about or why we should all be scared of their ideas.
June 15, 2016
Sentiment vs. Sainthood
The aftermath of the recent jihad murders in Orlando, like the aftermath of every other mass shooting (and for that matter every celebrity death) has been marked by a vast tide of undirected emotion and sentiment. In addition to the inevitable debates (over gun control, for example), the world of social media is awash in calls to one another to pray for Orlando and expressions of emotion over the shooting.
There are worse things than soppy sentimentalism. Cruelty and hard-heartedness, for example. But I want to be one voice stating that sentiment for the sake of sentiment has its drawbacks and that American culture is in grave danger of thinking just the opposite--namely, that sentiment for the sake of sentiment is inherently virtuous.
June 18, 2016
California's SB 1146
California's legislature is trying to tighten the screws on Christian colleges in that state. Here, as best as I understand it, is the legal situation. California's S.B. 1146 (text here) amends a law that applies to all schools in the state whose students receive state money for their education. It amends it in such a way that religious schools will find it much harder to get an exemption from "discrimination" provisions that apply to all the usual areas, including homosexuality, the transgender agenda, and even religion! That's right: Religious schools in California whose students receive government aid, despite being religious schools, wouldn't be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion! So they wouldn't be able to keep their distinctively religious character at all. The only schools that could get an exemption would be those that are controlled wholly by a denomination and whose purpose is confined to training students for the ministry. So Christian liberal arts colleges would either have to forego all government funding for their students or else abandon their distinctive moral and religious characteristics. As far as I can tell, if the schools were to forego all state and federal aid both for the school and for all of the students, they could avoid the impact of the legislation. I'm open to being corrected on that perception.
June 21, 2016
When I was down, you just stood there grinning
In terms of sheer brazenness, it would be difficult to exceed this extraordinary specimen. George Soros writes in The Guardian to counsel against the Brexit; and this guy has got a lot of nerve.
To start off, sterling is almost certain to fall steeply and quickly if there is a vote to leave– even more so after yesterday’s rebound as markets reacted to the shift in opinion polls towards remain. I would expect this devaluation to be bigger and more disruptive than the 15% devaluation that occurred in September 1992, when I was fortunate enough to make a substantial profit for my hedge fund investors, at the expense of the Bank of England and the British government. [ . . .]
Brexiters seem to recognise that a sharp devaluation would be almost inevitable after Brexit, but argue that this would be healthy, despite the big losses of purchasing power for British households. In 1992 the devaluation actually proved very helpful to the British economy, and subsequently I was even praised for my role in helping to bring it about.
Now, whatever we may think of this Hungarian usurer, it would be imprudent to dismiss his views of financial markets; but as a friend shrewdly points out, if Soros really believed the pound sterling might lose 20% of its value after a British farewell to the European Union, we would not be hearing about it in the pages of The Guardian.
Since a true estimate of his real views could only be gleaned from the non-public details of the positions held by his investment funds, I’m constrained to answer in an allusive fashion.
(It appears that Bob Dylan songs have been removed from Youtube. More’s the pity. I’m forced to rely on this tolerable cover version.)
June 24, 2016
Didja ever notice...
...that the people who say big banks must be broken up think that big governments must not be?
June 27, 2016
The extreme improbability of one's own life
C.S. Lewis, writing about New Testament criticism, says, "[R]eflection on the extreme improbability of his own life--by historical standards--seems to me a profitable exercise for everyone. It encourages a due agnosticism." ("Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Christian Reflections, p. 164)
Lewis was talking about the over-confidence with which NT scholars make up the history of a biblical narrative and the unwarranted conclusions that they draw. His example from his own life was this: Suppose that someone in the future learned that he abandoned Christianity in his teens and also that he had an atheist tutor in his teens who had a great influence on him. It would seem indubitable to such an historian that the tutor influenced Lewis to abandon Christianity and therefore that any earlier texts that seemed to show that he was already an atheist before going to the tutor must be "backwards projections." But, as Lewis points out based on his own knowledge, the conjectural historian would be wrong, as in fact he did abandon Christianity before going to the atheist tutor.
June 28, 2016
Free, live webinar Saturday on undesigned coincidences
I will be speaking this Saturday at a free webinar on undesigned coincidences in the gospels and Acts, hosted by Online Apologetics Academy run by Jonathan McLatchie. I'm told the webinar can handle up to 100 participants at a time, plus it will be recorded for future listening. It starts at 3 p.m. eastern time on Zoom, which is very easy to use. (Speaking as a technophobe who just used it yesterday, I can say that it's easy.) Your computer will download a little software for Zoom, and you will choose a user name, and you can then enter the webinar. Here is the information with a link to Zoom. Don't be confused if you're in the U.S. by the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. time given at the top of the entry for me. That's actually UK time!
I'll be speaking for between 40 minutes and an hour and then taking questions for an hour or two from participants.
Entering the darkness: The dousing of the natural light
The evil in our country is accelerating, and there is no good way to say that.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court did what has been predicted for a long time: We could say that it "struck down" Roe v. Wade, but in the wrong direction. Roe allowed the states to regulate mid-term and late-term abortion for the mother's health. Texas tried to do just that. The justices then formed themselves into a medical board and struck down the Texas regulations because they made it too hard for babies to be killed! The regulations themselves, even if some lawmakers did (heaven forfend) have a pro-life motive in passing them, were legally and medically quite reasonable from the perspective of the "health of the mother," but the justices didn't care about that. The absolute ability to kill the unborn must be maintained and made widely available, even at the risk of additional lives.
Meanwhile, I just got an e-mail from a reader about the California law SB 1146. This isn't a reader I've ever corresponded with, so I know nothing about her, but I can draw some conclusions from the fact that she asked why it isn't reasonable for the state of California to rule that "if you want to discriminate" you can't receive state funding! So now refusing to refer to a man as a woman and house him in the women's dormitory at college is "wanting to discriminate." The country has jumped the shark.
June 30, 2016
Things are getting serious in Russia
Russia has a long history of, shall we say, uneasy relations with Protestant Christians. This neither began nor ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. The idea appears to be widespread that non-Russian Orthodox groups are "cults" and that their attempts to make converts are ipso facto illicit. See the brief paragraph on religious freedom in Russia here. See also this article from 1998.