Saturday, August 29, 2020

I See the Need for a Clearly Articulated Christian Worldview

Jason Engwer and I have been having some discussions in the comment threads from some of my recent blog posts about an idea, a hypothesis that I have been proposing, which involves a link between what the Roman Catholic Church of the past, and what “wokism” is and is doing in the present. He believes that it is not a good idea, not a good hypothesis, and I know that I have not provided a complete argument for it.

As I mentioned in the comments, I had been hoping to get some feedback with the intention that I would be able to work out my thoughts more fully. Jason would prefer that I not use Triablogue for that particular kind of thing, and of course I will defer to his wishes.

But I am interested in having a discussion.

As someone who is a conservative, Reformed, evangelical Christian, I am alarmed by recent trends in politics and culture, and I imagine that some of you are as well. Francis Schaeffer’s excellent question comes to mind: “how then should we live?” What role should Christians play in all of this? I have frequently in my life been a keen observer of politics. Other times, not so much, depending on what’s going on in my own life. I would imagine that’s true for most of you as well. I seem to be watching more closely these days.

As a writer, I am hugely aware that “words have meanings”. It should be evident to all that definitions are fluctuating almost by the day. Words and concepts such as “racism”, “anti-racism”, “justice”, “social justice”, even “liberal” and “conservative” get thrown about, and often, people today are using the same words, but using different definitions in their minds, and consequently while it looks as if they are having a conversation, in real life, they are talking at cross-purposes, and not having a genuine conversation at all.

The pure speed of conversation, through “social media” such as Twitter and Facebook enable us to see events, form opinions, and to dive into “discussions”, without even knowing the full details of a thing.

These are times, I believe, when people’s thoughts and concepts are in flux, and as a result, people are changing their ways of thinking. Some popular examples include someone like the former comedian Dave Rubin, who is a “gay” “married” “classical liberal” “atheist”, who recently has, through various discussions, found himself to be more apt to “believe there is a God” and to have a generally more conservative outlook in life.

The independent YouTube journalist Tim Pool, too, whom I watch, cut his teeth, so to speak, by “live streaming” news reports from the “Occupy Wall Street” protests from some years ago. Now he is watching closely as rioting is pretty much a constant thing in some Democrat-run cities, and though he considers himself a “social liberal”, in his commentaries, he currently despises the Democrats for allowing things, and he has placed himself firmly in the Trump column for this upcoming election.

Given that this is a time of flux, I believe that the times are ripe for, and needful of, a clearly articulated Christian worldview to make its way onto the public stage.

We can all see what the phenomenon that I am calling “wokism” is and is doing. It is having a profound effect on the national discussions, including everything from the rioting in cities, the role of police and police departments, the role of individuals (generally, a conservative viewpoint) vs the role of “aggrieved groups” (generally, a leftist viewpoint).

One reason for this may be found in academia. It is said (and many of you will be aware of this narrative) that anti-war protesters of the political left went into academia because of the draft deferrals that could be gained by following that path. They found movement there to be kind of “free and easy”, and over a few decades, new “fields of study” emerged, some legitimate, some not (in a parasitic kind of way) – “race studies”, “women’s studies”, “gender studies” – and concepts such as “intersectionality” and “anti-racism” have emerged. New methods, too, emerged. In the meanwhile, those in charge of some of these “studies” have found the concept of “Tenure” to be their ally, in the effort to spread these new lines of thought. Whole new moralities, and in fact, moralities pursued with religious fervor, seem to have taken root and bloomed to fruition before our eyes.

(For anyone who is interested, Roger Kimball is a constant and excellent observer of such things, and has documented the process in his work, “Tenured Radicals”.)

The subject matter is confused and confusing. Even the church is being caught up in things. When George Floyd was killed, I became involved in discussions with church members, and my pastor became involved. My church is located in a city area, where there are multiple college campuses, and inner-city churches nearby. The concept of “anti-racism” came to the forefront. The concept basically says, “if you’re not an anti-racist, you are a racist”. This of course involves definitions that have been changed, without us having been involved in the effort to change those definitions.

I found myself on the opposite side of the discussion from some church members who wanted to support the #BlackLivesMatter” movement. Of course as we have seen, that organization is owned and run and funded and staffed by self-described Marxists, and I just can’t see myself supporting anything that is Marxist.

That’s all for now. More later, Lord willing. Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Friday, August 28, 2020

How Dare You!

I know I'm more than a week late to the party, but this might be one of the most important videos online now, and not just because I found out about it due to Nameless Apologist taking offense at yet another thing that Manly Men do.  I encourage you to watch the entire video to get the full context of David Wood's actions here, but it is a bit long.  If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, you should at least familiarize yourself with the immediate context starting around the 1:40:00 mark.  But for the portion everyone is interested in, begin around 1:49:00.

That's right, David Wood...oh wait, I almost forgot. DOCTOR David Wood--who went to an actually accredited university (as opposed to an "unaccredited online university")--ate a page he tore out of the Quran!

To be fair, he spat it out after chewing for quite some time so he didn't actually eat it.  

But now Doctor Wood is being attacked by the girlie men who are afraid the feels of those who wish to murder ex-Muslims, to violate their wives, and to do unspeakable things to their children might be pained by seeing the satanic verses that inspired them to engage in such depravity gnawed on.  Especially since Allah couldn't even be bothered to cut the good Dr. Wood's aorta in retaliation.

Yes, that's right. Nameless Apologist is once again upset, not by the depravity that the demonic book drives people to commit, but by the fact that Dr. Wood did not show respect toward that evil book.  Consistency is only virtuous when you're actually hitting the target though.

How dare Dr. Wood not show at least the same respect that King Josiah showed to the Asherah poles in 2 Kings 23:14!  How dare Dr. Wood not show the same reverence that King Hezekiah showed the pagan altars in 2 Chronicles 31:1!  I mean, Nameless Apologist does not wish for us to use the example of Elijah and how he treated the prophets of Baal--he was quite adamant on this point since, he boldly declares, our hearts are black and wicked and we're not prophets. So let Josiah and Hezekiah be our examples then! They were also not prophets, and their hearts were just as "black" as ours are, having been redeemed.

But but but 1 Peter 3:15 says respect!

Yeah, and "respect" must mean what Nameless Apologist declares it to mean and it must be applied 100% in all circumstances no matter what.  Yes. much respect did Paul show Peter in Galatians 2:11-14, opposing him to his face in a shame-based society?  

You're not the apostle Paul!

Okay, but clearly you can still see that respecting a person doesn't mean respecting their idols. Right? When someone views an evil text as sacred, it is not respecting them to give RESPECT to those evil scriptures!

But they'll eat the Bible in retaliation!


You know, I realized something. David Wood is a hero. Girlie men are sobbing about it.

I think 2020 is getting back to normal.

The Political Papacy and its related Cancel Culture

The papacy has a long history of political illegitimacy, based on forgeries.

In the eighth century, Constantine was known primarily through the account of him in the legend of Pope Sylvester. In this he was incorrectly portrayed as an emperor who had persecuted Christianity until struck down with leprosy. On rejecting the suggestion of his pagan priests that he bathe in the blood of sacrificed babies, he had a vision of Saints Peter and Paul telling him to find Bishop Sylvester, who cured, healed and baptized him. Onto this core narrative was grafted the [false] claim that when Constantine subsequently decided to leave for the East, out of gratitude he entrusted Pope Sylvester with a set of imperial regalia, including a crown, and with the authority for himself and his successors to appoint an emperor in the West should circumstances ever require it. (Collins, Roger. Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy (p. 148). Basic Books. Kindle Edition).

The “Donation of Constantine”, cited above, and an ancillary “Constitution of Constantine” of course were forgeries, a fact that was not known until the late 1400s, but the documents were “probably not written until the ninth century” and “the ideas behind it were older and may have developed in the papal court”. “Their widespread acceptance enabled Leo to make Charles [Charlemagne] emperor on papal authority” (Collins, p. 150).

The nexus of politics and “the Church” was never so great as it was during the medieval years. According to Collins, “virtually every other Western emperor before the sixteenth century wanted papal coronation to legitimize his authority” (Collins, p. 150).

Many of you will have heard of the document Unam Sanctam , promulgated inn 1302, which concludes with the famous statement, “we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff”.

This is not a religious sentiment. It is a statement written to a King of France, and the reasoning is political:

For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: ‘Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms’ and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man’ [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven’ etc., [Mt 16:19].

This form of political papacy had its own “cancel culture”. It is outlined by William of Ockham in his “A Short Discourse on the Tyrannical Government”. The longer title is known as:

William of Ockham

A Short Discourse on the Tyrannical Government
Over Things Divine and Human,
But Especially Over the Empire
And Those Subject to the Empire
Usurped by Some Who are
Called Highest Pontiff

In a prologue, he affirms that he is aware of “the faith handed down by Christ and the Apostles” (p. 4). Further:

If I do unwittingly say anything contrary to it, I am ready to be corrected by anyone at all who can show me the truth; an as well I will by my own inquiry and by asking others at the appropriate time and place, with careful attention seek the truth (p. 4).

So Ockham, a Franciscan, an honest man, was committed to his idea of “Church” and Christian doctrine.

But he rejects the view that the papacy has secular authority. In Book 1, Chapter 1, sets out an argument that he disbelieves, and works to disprove, but one that is extant throughout “the Church”, that one may dare not question the pope’s political power.

Since I am about to investigate many matters concerning the power of the pope, I have decided, because of the error of some who fear papal power more than God’s, to inquire first whether thorough examination of the nature and extent of the pope’s power is permissible and without danger of just accusation. There are some – too ready to please men, by whose will they can now be raised, now lowered – who dare assert that no one is permitted to inquire about the pope’s power by disputation (p. 5).

Yes, there have been worldly leaders who have been more than happy to kill or imprison individuals who spoke out against themselves and their governments.

But this is, in what we know as “Christendom”, the original “Cancel Culture”.

They rely on this, that according to the canon and civil laws no one is permitted “to dispute about the ruler’s jurisdiction”; therefore, a fortiori, it is not permissible to dispute about the power of the supreme pontiff, lest one commit the crime of sacrilege.

This is the very same phenomenon that is seen with the Twitter mobs and the Leftist mobs – “we have decided upon what is political orthodoxy – whether it be speech about race or gender or the environment or whatever”.

Ockham was excommunicated (which excludes him from the sacraments and therefore from salvation) and exiled. He died “unreconciled”.

“You are not even permitted to inquire about our standard orthodoxy on this”.

Comments, questions?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Medievalism as “Source”

Just by way of clarification, I wanted to illustrate what I was thinking when I said that “Roman Catholicism is the source of damage in our culture today”. I did not intend to say that it was the Roman Catholic religion that is causing all of the problems.

My intention was to talk about the “history of ideas”, and in that sense, in the illustration nearby, you can see that in the flow and history of ideas, especially in talking about western Europe, that there was a very long time when Roman Catholicism was the only game in town.
On 4 September 476, one hundred years after the Goths crossed the Danube, the last Roman emperor in the west, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed, and it was the descendants of those Gothic refugees who provided the military core of one of the main successor states to the Empire: the Visigothic kingdom. … (Heather, Peter. The Fall of the Roman Empire (p. xi). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)
The papacy after that point held to a “two-swords” theory of power and authority. In 494 AD, not long after the city of Rome was sacked, “Pope Gelasius” wrote to the then-emperor Anastasius “on the superiority of the spiritual over temporal power”:
There are two powers, august Emperor, by which this world is chiefly ruled, namely, the sacred authority of the priests and the royal power. Of these that of the priests is the more weighty, since they have to render an account for even the kings of men in the divine judgment.

You are also aware, dear son, that while you are permitted honorably to rule over human kind, yet in things divine you bow your head humbly before the leaders of the clergy and await from their hands the means of your salvation.

In the reception and proper disposition of the heavenly mysteries you recognize that you should be subordinate rather than superior to the religious order, and that in these matters you depend on their judgment rather than wish to force them to follow your will.
This pronouncement set the tone for political order in western Europe for the next 1000 years.
And so, when I say that Roman Catholicism was THE source for all of our cultural and political difficulties today, it is this event that I had in mind.

* * *
Just to give you a brief outline of the political history of Europe from that point, the pope, “Pope Leo”, crowned Charlemagne as emperor of the Holy Roman empire in 800 AD. By 1054, the eastern and western churches officially split (after much bickering prior), effectively severing the western from the eastern empire as well. The “high middle ages” represent almost a total “reconstruction” of the old Roman empire. Peter Heather cites a letter of Peter Damian, who was one of the Cardinals in the inner circle of the Roman hierarchy in the eleventh century:
Now the Roman Church, the see of the apostles, should imitate the ancient court of the Romans. Just as of old the earthly Senate strove to subdue the whole multitude of the peoples to the Roman Empire, so now the ministers of the apostolic see, the spiritual senators of the Church Universal, should make it their sole business by their laws to subdue the human race to God, the true emperor. (Heather, Peter. The Restoration of Rome (p. 388). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

This was a period of period of great accomplishment. Local church and monastic “schools” came together over time, eventually leading to the founding of the great universities of Bologna, Paris, and Oxford. New religious orders such as the Dominicans (teachers) and Franciscans (“friars minor”) formed and also developed “schools of thought”. Writers such as Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, and others worked greatly to synthesize what was known of Christian doctrine.

That period also offered many troubles. Thomas Aquinas wrote a long work, “Error of the Greeks”, which gave reasons that the eastern churches should submit to the papacy – it had to be retracted later, because its arguments were found to be heavily reliant on forged documents that were rampant during the prior centuries.

The “great schism” also developed during that time, when political infighting led to a time when there were two and even three “popes” in place. English kings realized that their land-owning allies would not necessarily fight every war without having some say-so, leading to the development of a bi-cameral parliament.

William of Ockham dared to write about “papal tyranny”. Marsellius of Padua wrote a treatise that led to the idea that government involvement of the citizenry that would provide for the best political systems.

* * *
During that 1000 year period, however, there was really only the one source of political power, and its “source” was the papacy. All political and religious thought was either an affirmation of or rejection of the thinking and institutions that were in place at the time.

With this kind of history in mind, it is hard for me to imagine that I “overreact” to Roman Catholicism, by the way. There is such a thing as specialization. Nobody ever said that Stephen Hawking (for example) spent too much of his life studying physics.

It seems to me that most people don’t pay enough attention to it, and in that way, they are missing a lot. The damage is not a surface kind of damage. It lies deeper, in the underlying thinking of things.

That kind of phenomenon is still in place today, although to a much lesser degree. It is the kind of thing I have in mind as I write this.

So, back to First Things. THEY SAY: “Culture is the root of politics, and religion is the root of culture.” For a 1000 year period of time, the papacy was at the root of religion AND politics. Perhaps there is some of that they would want you to stop thinking about. At the time of the Reformation, John Calvin was absolutely right to say that the papacy was the institution through which “satan has polluted every good thing that God has appointed for our salvation.” I did not think it would be controversial on a Reformed blog to repeat such a thing.

The historical papacy has polluted much else, too, and the effects are still with us today, either in the form of affirmations of, or rejections of, papal thinking and teaching.

I say all of this as background for some of the things I hope to discuss going forward. Perhaps I should have outlined it better before I got started. As I said in an earlier comment, I do appreciate your feedback and even your objections. If I’m going to be writing about this topic moving forward (as I hope to do), it is true that “iron sharpens iron”, and you all are helping me to better focus my thoughts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Facts Don't Care About Your Religious Feelings

Ben Shapiro's line, "Facts don't care about your feelings.", is popular among political conservatives. And it should be. It's a good line. At the time I'm writing this, the tweet just linked has close to 400000 likes. The line and variants of it are often repeated, featured in memes, etc.

But it's remarkable how many conservatives have far less concern about facts and reason in religious contexts. If you follow religious discussions at political web sites, on political talk radio, on political television programs, and so forth, you notice that there isn't much interest in religion and that the few religious discussions that do occur tend to be of a shallow nature intellectually. There's often not much depth in their political discussions either. The people who go to these web sites, listen to these radio shows, etc. largely want somebody else, like Shapiro, to do the intellectual work for them. But at least there's more interest shown in intellectual matters and more intellectual work done by laymen in political contexts than in religious ones. And they don't just know more about politics than religion. They also seem to know a lot more about sports, humor, movies, music, and other subjects than they do about religious matters.

Political conservatives are better than the average American in a lot of ways. (See the sources linked here for some of the relevant documentation.) Most Americans don't care much about intellectual issues in religious or political contexts. But if political conservatives are going to be so (rightly) critical of the emotionalism of the political left, and they're going to keep showing so much interest in sentiments like the one expressed in Shapiro's popular line, they ought to be making far more of an effort to be consistent about it. The sentiment Shapiro is expressing matters more in religion than it does in politics, but people act as though the opposite is true.

Monday, August 24, 2020

White European Males

Someone in the comments of my previous article, “Roman Catholicism is the source of damage in our culture today”, suggested that I was “sounding like the Westboro kooks who think they're the only 20 people who are pure enough to be saved”.

I assure you that I am not intending to sound this way. I’m not going to be like Martin Luther, throwing ink wells at the devil in his room, and nor am I going to go into screeds about “know nothings”.

Instead I am taking seriously some of the things that the Roman Catholic Church officially says, the way they have positioned themselves “in the world”. I’m looking at their history, and political philosophy and I am trying to understand how this country, a mere 30 years after the fall of communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, can have so many agitators working to implement socialism today.

It’s “white European males” who find themselves at the bottom of all the “intersectionality” charts these days – It is “white European males” who are said by those on “the left” to be responsible for most of the evils in the world. I look at Roman Catholicism, which undoubtedly, for hundreds of years, was the primary intellectual environment for “white European males”, and I’m saying to myself, “I wonder if there’s a connection”.

With all of this in mind, I am an enthusiastic Trump voter who believes that the left/right divide has aligned itself on the person of Donald Trump, precisely because Trump is not an ideological person. He calls himself a “counter-puncher”, and it is purely an act of Providence, I am sure, that the United States finds itself today with a “political left” that is almost wholly united in its zeal against Trump.

So the “conservativism” that we see in Trump is almost purely a response by him to “counter-punch” against “the political left”, which at a political level includes virtually all Democrats, some “NeverTrump” Republicans, and some high-minded Christians who will never vote for someone who is less pure in his personal life than, say, John Piper. And which, at a cultural level, includes the news media, most colleges and universities, lots and lots of younger people who are just caught up in “the spirit of the age” (which is largely embodied by “wokism”).

In 2016, I had many conversations with fellow Triablogue writers, to the effect that Trump wasn’t conservative, that he would show his liberal side. And he has done so with his recent pronouncement that he is the most “gay-friendly” president in history – a thing that makes me cringe, but I try to understand it in context.

With that said, I still think voting for Trump is the best way to address the most immediate problems that we face today, particularly in the US. While it’s a big world, and there are many “enemies” (including Islam, Communist China, biological warfare, nefarious former KGB agents, and even mere apathy) I think “wokism” (which I am using as a catch-all phrase to include its intellectual parent, Marxism, and its like-minded relatives that we know as “Critical theory”, “Cultural Marxism”, Critical Race Theory”, “intersectionality”, “anti-Racism” “cancel culture”, and things like that), is the greatest threat to our country today.

And again I say this from the perspective of a Christian, “in the world but not of the world”, looking at what I can do, in the Romans 13 sense, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities”, in a land in which “we the people” are tasked with something like “self-government” through institutions that have been set up to function in a realm where concepts of “Republic” and “democracy” are in the forefront.

I’m not going to claim I have all the answers here. I have a lot of questions. I’ve haven’t written much lately, but I’ve been reading a lot, and I want to share what I’m learning.

We live in a culture where “white European males” are the ones who have come out at the bottom of the intersectionality charts. They and their paternalism are seen to be the greatest evils that the world is facing today.

There’s a saying, I don’t know if it’s true, that “a definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results”. If that’s the case, it doesn’t seem to me that we want to move back in the direction of Roman Catholicism, and in fact, while we want to look for Christian solutions, we certainly don’t want, moving forward, to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Roman Catholicism is the source of damage in our culture today

I have spent a lot of time watching our culture. Sometimes it seems as if Roman Catholics, such as Robert George of Princeton (in our day) or Michael Novak (from days gone by) have been our allies in “culture wars”. 

While some of their thinking may be sound, their underlying view of reality is damaged by their Roman Catholicism. Their Roman Catholicism is the very problem, not part of the solution. 

Go to the First Things website and the header on their pop-up request for donations says:

“Culture is the root of politics, and religion is the root of culture.” – Richard John Neuhaus

Our culture has been tearing itself apart, led philosophically by a form of Kantianism that enables human beings to “construct” their own realities, and at a more visceral level by the concept of Marxism as it manifests itself in what is essentially “a new religion”: “Wokism”. 

 “Wokism” (or simply “leftism”) brings with it a raft of new “moralities”, including “Cultural Marxism”, “Critical Theory”, “Critical Race Theory”, “anti-racism”, “Intersectionality”, the search for “equality”, whatever you want to call them. 

They are all names for “things you gotta do if you want to be saved” in the eyes of this world. It is a religion as much as any other set of beliefs is a religion.

If it’s true that “religion is the root of culture” (and I believe it is), then we need to take the idea that Roman Catholicism is the source of the damages a step further. 

John Calvin said in Institutes 4.1.1 the papacy was the institution through which “satan has polluted every good thing that God has appointed for our salvation.” 

Looking around at our world today, no truer statement has ever been uttered. Neuhaus was, and First Things is, a channel of satan into our culture, because it supports the papacy, and by extension, Roman Catholicism

We must never forget this, and Christianity must from this moment forward work to eliminate the concept of papacy as “a good thing”. 

Roman Catholicism likes to use Genesis 3:15 as some sort of proof or prophecy for its Marian dogmas:

The Lord God said to the serpent ... He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

But rather, what an apt metaphor it is for the way that “the papacy” has hobbled Christianity since its “development” in the fourth and fifth centuries. 

It is said that slaves were “hobbled” by cutting the Achilles tendon, and preventing them from running away. 

It is the concept of “the papacy” that has hobbled Christianity, and its ability to affect “culture” in a Godly way, since the days before it "historically developed" (Klaus Schatz, "Papal Primacy", p. 36). 

Think about it. Your comments?