Category Archives: Philosophy

Compassion

Here I sit, listening to Bruce Springsteen… yeah… ok, on with the thought.

A while ago I wrote for Independence Day that we do not live in a Christian nation, and neither do we really live in the free country that we dream of: all that is left is the dream. I said that I  was afraid that we have already slipped so far down the slope into despotism that the options to clamber back out as a nation are grim and few. We are passing, what the Tocqueville critical mass… In that same post I shared a poem (a just ok sort of poem) where I wrote this:

O Lord I know not if to pray
For justice swift and soon today,
Or if like Abraham, to plead
For yet more time and grace indeed!

I put a lot of weight to the songs that people listen to, and to what they say. And while listening to ‘The River’ I put words to a long held thought.

With the key verse being:

“I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care”

And suddenly, it was clear that many (or most) Republicans have given up on Republicans… the voters don’t trust any of the people running for office, and there are so very many tired people: people who have slid the most of the way into the final nihilism of Godlessness that they are like the monopoly player against whom the rules now feel stacked, who cannot win no matter what, and they flip the table. At least Trump doesn’t pretend to be truthful… at least he doesn’t pretend to be moral. He is the candidate for the guy in ‘The River’. These people who vote for Trump, who support Trump, deserve… compassion.  They do not need or deserve condescension or hatred or bitterness for their support of the ‘kick the table over’ candidate. Any opportunists jumping on the Trump-train for their own benefit deserve excoriated… but the normal Trump voter has been abandoned by the education system (Almost no one is well educated, even with a Bachelor’s degree) and trapped into unproductive lives, and have largely abandoned Christ. They believe that if they are good, God will give them good things, and therefore: since they are miserable, they prefer to not think about God at all rather than follow the logic to its end.

They need, like most people in this sick and wicked world, compassion, and the preaching of the Law out of compassion, so that their ears are ready for the Gospel.

(And, perhaps the hardest thing to accept is that, despite the stink of nihilism and despair, perhaps they are right about one thing – perhaps America has past the point of no return on the path to despotism, and that a reformer (Cruz) wont be able to do any good, and that the only option left is to kick over the table and draw the steel at ones side. … In which case the proper response is probably to buy ammo… and step into the storm with with the ‘joy of Giants, the joy without a cause’)

 

((You should really click through and read that last link… Kurt Schlichter appears to be one of the last sane people on the Internet… so click through and read the other stuff he writes too.))

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PS… if Kasich doesn’t do well in IN today, and Cruz wins… I predict that Kasich will drop out and endorse Trump within a week…. 

An Offensive Weapon.

I’d like to start this post with a stanza of one of my favorite hymns: Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying, by Stephen P. Starke.

 Though around us death is seething,
    God, His two-edged sword unsheathing,
    By His Spirit life is breathing
       Through the living, active Word.

And now: The Church of Christ Wields an Offensive Weapon.

There is an image of a warrior that resides in the back (or sometimes the front) of everyone’s mind. There is another image that, though usually pushed much further back in the mind, also takes its residence in everyone’s mind: A man dying on his knees. The warrior is tall, he is strong, his grip is iron, his eyes are bright. He may be ruthless and wicked, or kind, a shield to the weak: but he is strong. His enemies fear encountering him. The man dying on his knees is weak, pathetic even. He is bound and has been tortured. His head is shaved and he is thin from being a prisoner. In the mind’s eye, this man is broken into pieces: he is not a man; he is a heap of the fragments of a man. And yet he sings. This man, this broken and dying man, is a witness: a martyr. His blood is spilled because he refuses to deny his Lord Jesus.

Strange, how the mind’s vision is so poor. We ought to look again at the two men before us. It is a paradox that confronts us. When Christ came into this world, everything went inside-out and topsy-turvy. In reality, everything went right-side-up: but if everyone else is upside down, the one who sees the world right side up is ‘topsy-turvy’. When the people of God sing ‘The white robed army of martyr’s praises you’, we confess that these saints, who died ‘poorly’, in truth, died well; that these who were slaughtered with their hands tied, fought and even triumphed in the war.

In today’s world, the church spends most of its time defending itself. It defends its doctrine. It defends its right to speak about what it believes. It defends the lives of the old and the unborn. All this good, yet something of a shame. It is a shame because the church is fundamentally made and equipped for offence. It does not primarily exist to defend its values, or its doctrines or its people. The Holy Church wields, despite appearances, a sharp and well-made sword. It is made to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ It sends its warriors out, and often, they die, and the church grows. The strange paradox that slaughter has never annihilated the Christian faith is explained by the fact that in death, the martyr’s victory over the devil is won for him, and the sword of the church strikes true.

And again, the many in the church spend their time doing their best to sound good. The most charitable construction of this is that they are trying to not be misunderstood: so let us think that. Yet, it is a travesty that the church cares overmuch if it offends people. It is not a coincidence that offensive (the technical term for attacking in a fight) and offensive (as in someone was offended) are the same word. The church has been literally guaranteed to offend people. Are people offended when they are told they are sinning? Yes. Are they offended when they are told that this thing, that the church ought to call a favorite sin, that makes them feel so happy, is going to damn them to hell? Yes! Do people loathe it when they are told that even nice people, people they liked a lot, will go to eternal damnation (which is torment) if they do not have faith? Obviously!

And yet: those who engage in sexual perversion need to be told that they are committing sins, that they are perverted. Likewise, people who gossip need to hear that their gossip is also a vile sin that must be repented of. People within, and especially without, the church must hear the conviction of the Law of God. Without the condemnation of the Law, the Gospel has no impact.

The church must be offensive and call evil, evil; and good: good. The Devil, the world and one’s own flesh will scream. People will take you to court, they will close down your businesses with lawsuits, they will threaten you and may one day again make martyrs in the streets. But consider this: the Church is filled with warriors intended to be specialists in offensive combat, and the most potent weapon in her armaments is the witness of the lifeblood of the saints.

I opened with a great hymn, now I will close with a great comic… If you haven’t spent time reading through at Adam4d, you ought to. Click through for the whole strip.

What kind though, Todd? [silence]

A Short Defense of Mysticism

Here is the introduction for the ‘Essays in Lutheran Mysticism’.

In our heavily scientized society, it is tempting to forget, in our great human arrogance, that God is not understandable. We as Christians confess that God is beyond our understanding, yet we often treat Him and His works as if this misunderstanding is one that is just barely out of the reach of Human reason. In fact, the only real difference effectively between the scientism of the modern world and the modern Christian is this: The secularist believes that all things which are currently out of reach will be eventually within reach, while the modern Christian often behaves as though the Nature and Mind of God are barely out of reach and will always remain ever so slightly out of reach. In reality the Godhead is infinitely out of reach. We have forgotten the Mystery (and in a real sense also the Majesty) of God.

In nearly every case this abandonment of the mystery of God is tied to intellectual arrogance as if the creator could ever be understood by the creation. Instead I propose a return to the appreciation of mysticism – not a mysticism that claiming that everything and every attribute of God is unknowable – rather a mysticism of humility. This mysticism recognizes that, while in the Holy Writ, God provides precise detail and clear language in all things necessary to salvation, the human mind is not capable of assimilating the whole (or even a fraction) of the infinite knowledge and wisdom and character and emotion of the Godhead. Thus, in many cases, we are therefore dependent on catching glimpses of God – and be as Moses who turned aside his face upon hearing the whisper of God.

There is a second reason I believe that a return to mysticism is important. This reason is about the state of the unbeliever in today’s Post-modern world. Every age has its own particular virtues and vices: often the latter is indeed a perversion of the former. That these virtues are warped does not negate the ability of the Word of God to sanctify them, and use them to great ends. I believe that the when the underlying virtue of an era’s vice is employed it can have a profound impact upon the lost of that time. St. Paul did not tell the Athenians to stop being so logical and feel more. Consider this: personal belief is a powerful component of the post-modern world, while one of the most distinguishable parts of Christian doctrine is that our relationship to God is a personal, intimate one: that of children with their father. Again, consider the pervasive lie of ‘what is true for you’, and consider the uncorrupted reality of the paradox. Lastly, the post-modern man feels as though his very soul is withered by the arid heat of impersonal science. The post-modern wanders in search of wonder, and ‘their very sins are sad’. In this world, I contend that it is the role of the Christian to be the last rationalist, the last empiricist, the last mystic, and the last hedonist all combined.

So here is my recommendation which may  feel like a paradox: intellectually rigorous mysticism.

Blog announcment

Hello, this is to kick off a series of posts (of indefinite length) in which I attempt to do some constructive philosophy. (Most philosophy these days is either learning what someone else said, parsing, or tearing down people’s worldviews… This will be none of those.)

I thought about writing essays for a little book or something, but I’d rather post them for people to read; it seems to me that if you think you have something interesting to say, you shouldn’t try to charge anyone for it. One ought to at least write enough to convince people that what one says is interesting.

And that brings us to this; what, if it was a book would be ‘Essays in Lutheran Mysticism’. The reason I want to do this will become plain as the essays roll out. But in general, I think the many do not realize that while Luke 2 was written by a scientist and historian, John 1 was written by a mystic.

You can expect a real intro essay (largely to delineate why I think orthodox mysticism is important) in the next day or two… I hope you enjoy it… I have this (probably lost cause) hope that  there may be entertaining arguments in the comments…

 

 

The Korean Kid Hypothesis

Just today, I gave my final exam. I certainly hope that my students knew at least some of the answers. Over the last few days I had a number of office hours and a decent number of my students showed up. It doesn’t really matter how it came up, but I ended up sharing with 5-6 students one of my favorite maxims. It is a proverb of mine. I know that sounds pretentious, but stick with me… its a good one. I told them this:

‘No matter how good you are at something, there is always a Korean 9-year old who is better than you.’

It is a reminder to anyone who is the best in their geographical area, or their school, or their set of acquaintances, that the ocean of possible talent is huge. It is also a reminder of how one becomes excellent at something: hard work, lots and lots of hard work. Starting with some talent is helpful, but at the end of the day, it is hard work and nothing else that makes someone excellent at something.

And that is the Korean Kid Hypothesis.

Vanity

It has been so long since blogging, so long since writing what I wanted to write that I am full up of ideas and don’t have the time or patience to write them all out, so I made a list, a list of things that are true.

1) The grass is green.

2) The snow is white.

2b) The snow is crystalline, therefore purified, water.

3) The night sky is black.

4) The tyrannical impulse of the nannies in this world is almost to the point that I could be permanently branded a racist for points 2 and 3 above.

5) Old people being nostalgic inspires exactly zero young people.

6) To restate 5, your ‘good old days’ never existed.

7) I am sick to exhaustion of people telling me ‘Conservative should do X, Y or Z’ or “don’t enjoy Star Wars, it is ‘unredeemed Pagan’”. We enjoy Star Wars because it is a riot while ‘The Children of Hurin’ is soul-crushingly sad. As a corollary, those pimple-faced wimps that everyone complains about, that de-masculinization of the American man, not sure I buy the premise. I think the reality may be that in the past the weak died, and now we can feed everyone. I think its possible that the only way to have a society of a bunch of really tough people is if 10% of the population dies every few years to plagues and wars. I for one am willing to make the trade. Also, a lot of those ‘pimple faced kids’ care more about life and joy and their liberty that you old curmudgeons who want to dictate what they can enjoy or say or do ever feel.

8) Is it any wonder that no young person wants to be an adult? The country, the church, the communities are all run by the ancient who treat them with disdain and dismiss them as incompetents. There is almost no place in this world, where the old hold on to power with the grasp of a miser, for the young to stretch out and be at liberty to be their own adults.

9) Increased oil production drives down prices, even on a global scale.

10) Given the chance, the free market will kill the cartel every time.

11) Liquid water is mighty wet stuff.

12) Accusations of any crime must be supported by evidence. The magnitude of the accusation carries no weight outside the kangaroo courts of tyrants.

13) False accusations that ruin someone’s life should have weighty penalties attached, otherwise the witch-hunters point at anyone they don’t link, shout ‘Witch’ and the innocent burn at the stake. (See: ‘Salam’, and ‘Duke Lacrosse’)

14) That I believe that 12 and 13 applies to accusations of rape as well as any other accusation of any crime apparently makes me a rape-denier or worse rape-apologist to some people.

15) Irrespective of what people in 4 and 14 think, the truth matters.

15b) There can be no such thing as a lie told to illustrate the truth. Its a lie,                      and  it cannot point to the truth.

16) Eventually, every worldview, every set of beliefs that is not founded upon truth will itself be crushed into tiny fragments by the truth.

17) Sometimes 16 takes a very long time.

18) There are whales in our oceans and trees in forests because of the exploitation of oil.

19) Wind farms slaughter birds and bats.

20) A philosophy of truth that does not include the ability to communicate that truth is fundamentally useless for science: the mass adoption of such a philosophy will return science to the black magic of a priestly caste, i.e. the state that Christian men found science in to begin with.

21) Andrew Klavan is almost always right.

22) If you are unmarried and without children you must put massive effort into serving others, otherwise you are becoming more selfish and self-centered every day.

23) Having a family is sanctifying, because you are constantly required to surrender your wants to the needs of your family: and this is very good.

24) Babies are great, but toddlers are awesome.

25) This morning Leonidas was saying ‘stumble trip. Stumble trip…’ (while moving his feet up and down) ‘WHATS THAT??’ (while pointing) and then in a near roar ‘A BEAR!!!!!’ ‘Raaaaar!’ (With his hands up like bear claws)… Toddlers are awesome.

26)  I probably made 20 paper airplanes over the weekend, at the incessant request for ‘Airpane… airpane’ from a little boy holding yet another flat piece of paper… He even threw a couple such that they flew a little…Toddlers are awesome.

27) The campaign against ebola amounts to nothing more than whack-a-mole… every time the disease lets up a little, we scale back our efforts as if trying to ensure it becomes endemic to the region. If it starts to recede, we should be doubling or tripling our efforts in order to stomp it out of existence…

28) Fighting terrorists should be done the same way, when they are losing, hit them even harder until they are crushed. The goal of campaigns against Ebola and terrorism isn’t containment, the goal is elimination.

29) Ebola doesn’t have to get out of control, it merely has to outlast us. It (obviously) doesn’t know it, but if it lasts long enough those socities will break down entirely and then it will explode out of control.

30) The terrorists, on the other hand, know this full well. ISIS is the ‘exploding out of control’ phase.

31) The grass is green.

Let us end with a fantastic poem from Chesterton.

Ecclesiastes: G. K. Chesterton

There is one sin: to call a green leaf grey,

Whereat the sun in heaven shuddereth

There is one blasphemy: for death to pray,

For God alone knoweth the praise of death.

There is one creed: ‘neith no world-terror’s wing

Apples forget to grow on apple-trees.

There is one thing is needful – everything-

The rest is vanity of vanities.

 

PS. If you want to argue about any of these… I’d be happy to do combat in the comments.

Subversive Art

This is from Michael Totten’s recent dispatch from Cuba (although for obvious reasons, he is already back.)

Many of Figueroa’s pictures seem to me quietly subversive in the most subtle of ways, not because they’re anti-communist but because they’re non-communist. That’s my take, anyway. Neither he nor his wife said a single word critical of the regime. Maybe I’m wrong. This is my interpretation. I own it.

But listen to what Cristina said next.

“You should go to the art museum,” she said, “the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Everyone who goes there is struck by a Flavio Garciandia painting from 1975. You have to realize that everything was political then. Cuban art was required to serve socialist principles. The Beatles were banned. Yet Garciandia painted a picture of a pretty girl laying in a field of grass and called it ‘All You Need is Love’ after the Beatles song. The museum immediately bought the painting for a small sum and prominently displayed it. Things started to change after that.”

All You Need is Love

So Garciandia the painter and the art museum curators mounted a protest. Not only did they get away with it, it had the desired effect.

Only in a communist country or an Islamist theocracy would such acts be considered rebellious. Few in Europe or the United States would even notice that painting. It certainly wouldn’t be a political lightning bolt. Only in a totalitarian country where every damn thing under the sun has to be ideological can such a blatantly apolitical painting be considered political.

You should read the whole thing as well as the one before it. In order they are:

Welcome to Cuba

The Once Great City of Havana