Sunday, July 31, 2005

Zubazintine Theology

There is a discussion of Zubizantine philosophy at the Crimson Catholic blog. This inspired me to discuss a similar theology that exploded on to the scene, but whose life was ephemeral.

One of the many examples of natural evil that weightlifters will cite is the clinginess of fabric as well as the tight seams rubbing the skin raw. Many have lost faith in God because the fabric of their exercise gear did not expand with their ever-bulging muscles.

It was at this time that a revival, or, at least, a theodicy was required.

Enter Zubaz-wear. As if God were giving proof that, yes, he did care about the comfort of muscle-bound gym-members, Zubaz wear stretched and expanded along with the muscles of the man who was pumping iron. This spawned Zubazantine Theology, whose heyday was in the early 1990's.

Basic tenets of Three-Point Zubazantine Theology may be summarized by the acronym "TGE":

(1) T --- tapered ankles on the pants, with the outer leg measurement exceeding the inner leg measurement, preventing the rubbing of fabric along one's inner thighs.

(2) G --- garish and ostentatious design is necessary, if only to attract a mate in lieu of giving off a scent.

(3) E --- elastic waistband for maximal comfort in bending over for various squat and rowing exercises.

A picture of Zubaz pants can be found here.

[[Where do I stand? Just as I uphold parts of TULIP but yet refuse to call myself "Reformed," I uphold the E and am a semi-T, but I'm not a Zubazintine. I consider G to be downright heretical, so I guess that makes me a 1.5-point Zubazintine.]]

But is Zubazintine theology the real deal? If so, it faded from the collective consciousness rather quickly. Many people joined the Church of Zubaz. Alas, the Church soon split into two- and single-point Zubazintines, with some upholding the T and the G, but at the same time denying the E. Some even went so far as to uphold merely the G.

Very quickly, it seems, those who had married into the spirit of the age soon found themselves as widowers. Let that be a lesson for those who today gauge their theology's practice and correctness according to the modern standards of tolerance, inclusion, and how warm-n-toasty it makes you feel...

Knowing Christ

There is a genus of quotes and attitudes out there in popular culture, the church-at-large, and in various websites that, possibly without being conscious of the fact, attacks the centrality of scripture in Christian revelation and praxis. One such example is Kevin D. Johnson's latest post, titled A Thirst For Living Water.

I will interact with KDJ's post in the usual PP idiom. His post will be blockquoted and italicized. My comments will follow in the usual font.

We make a mistake if we think that our central concern as Christians should be to properly exegete the text of Scripture. Nor should we be entertaining the idea that such should be the primary concern of the Christian minister. Bible study of course is important but our central concern should be Christ. Men thirst for the Living Water, not how we ought to practice hermeneutics. Catholicity is based on our identity in Christ, not our ability to agree with one another on the meaning and interpretation of the biblical text.


(1) The seemingly obvious reply here is to just as how one's central concern can be Christ apart from the proper understanding of scripture?

(a) The local liberal churches have their cuddly Marxist Jesus who would cheer on the pregnant girl as she goes to the Planned Parenthood center in her electric car to "have a medical procedure done" --- after all, her career comes first. Jesus wants her to make as much as the men down the street after all, since He was a feminist at heart. Also, she should be able to pursue those rock-my-world orgasms in a consequence-free manner to enjoy the, ah, pleasures of God's creation.

(b) The commie Jesus of liberation theology would cheer on the revolutionary who seizes the private property, and possibly the life, of others.

(c) The Arian Jesus of the Watchtower, far from fully sharing in the divine nature, is a "little-g god," functionally not being much more than a trusted associate of Jehovah, the one true God.

Barring some sort of special revelation outside of what we already have, namely, scripture, how are we to know and ascertain our "identity in Christ," whatever that fuzzy term means? Do we go at this playing colour-by-numbers? Do we await a light on the road to the local Quickie Mart where the resurrected Jesus reveals Himself to us in full?

Apart from special revelation, I know of know other way to confidently learn what God wants us to know about Christ apart from what is revealed to us in the canonical writings. Perhaps KDJ has a more direct line of revelation than I do.

KDJ continues:

There are men who have advocated that men should be overly trained–and trained well–in the so-called science of biblical hermeneutics. Oddly enough these are men who advocate sola scriptura and turn a blind eye to tradition–except of course the tradition they value. Where does the Bible say that men should be trained so? Not only did the original authors of the New Testament generally avoid the sort of historical/grammatical method of interpreting the Scripture they had available to them, they often employed methods that today would be declared unacceptable by those who feel free to call biblical hermeneutics a science.


Sweeping statements such as these are exceedingly poor. It is not that they might be true but no evidence for their truth is provided; it is rather that the statements themselves are blatantly false. Consider Archbishop Trench's Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord or his corresponding Parables volume. These 19th century classics are chock full of historical considerations as to what others have said. Confer also Cranfield's two-volume ICC Romans Commentary, where a full range of patristic opinion is cited relative to problematic portions of the Greek text. Confer most of the volumes in the NICNT series as well.

Where does the Bible say that men should be trained as KDJ illustrates, he then asks. Some subpoints:

(i) KDJ seems to forget about the Rabbinic culture!
(ii) The people in Jesus' day were contemporaries of the culture and idiom employed in the sacred texts. We study things in seminary today so that we can better read the text as did the contemporaries.
(iii) Again, not having been eyewitnesses or intimates of Jesus, how are we supposed to know about Him what it is we are supposed to know apart from some preserved written record?

And so, I must ask, what sort of training did the original twelve Apostles have in interpreting Scripture? How many years of seminary did they get under their belt prior to our Lord’s death? A common divinity degree these days takes three years, sometimes four. Do you really think it is reasonable to argue that Jesus spent three years teaching them how to be exceptional exegetes of Scripture before he turned the entire Church over to them? I don’t remember the text of Scripture telling us that Jesus was engaged in such things in any explicit way. Perhaps it is it more likely that Christ taught them about other more central concerns.


The first question of the above quote is the same sort of line I heard in grad school when talking to the liberal Christians at the campus quadrangle. When, say, it was pointed out that the Greek text meant what we conservatives have said on a hot button issue, say, homosexuality, the obscurantist line about being too detail-obsessed was put forward by the liberal, and then I would be treated to what the liberal's version of the fuzzy eco-friendly Savior would've thought, which, coincidentally, happened to always [without exception] conform to the spirit of multiculturalism and the militant tolerance-ism espoused by the liberal.

The sad thing is that KDJ is, reportedly, on my side of the fence, and yet he asks just what sort of training the twelve apostles had in an attempt to bolster his previous assertion that our central concern should be Christ as compared to knowing the scriptures.

The answer to his query is, once again, obvious upon a moment of thought:

(i) The apostles had two to three years of intimate social intercourse with Jesus, having him directly for teaching, the witnessing of wonders, and such. The apostles could always ask Jesus just what he meant. In contradistinction, we moderns don't get that sort of intimacy, so we have to make do with the text. It would be nice if, say, Jesus materialized by my desk and said this is what the "righteousness of God" in Rom 1:16 *really* means...". It would save a lot of work! Alas, I'm not expecting that sort of special treatment.

(ii) Is KDJ once again forgetting about the Rabbinic culture that existed in Jesus' day? Does he think that the apostles merely sat around and emoted with Jesus instead of consulting the very OT scriptures that point to Jesus?

KDJ continues:

Perhaps catholicity would be easier for us if we stuck to those things that are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ–namely, knowing and obeying Him. Did the Apostles pour over the Scriptures during their tenure with Jesus? Were the Scriptures even available for their use as they went from town to town (of course, we forget that the Genevan Study Bible was unavailable to them at the time!)? Or, did they learn from their Master “the way, and the truth, and the life”? Not that learning how to study the Scriptures or properly interpret them is unimportant–but what is more important than obedience and devotion to the person of Christ? I’m not saying that we ought to be producing uneducated ministers or somehow that a seminary education is useless. Far from it. I’m speaking to what ought to be central.


Who cares about catholicity if it isn't founded on something objective? Hays puts it even more strenuously: "Catholicity is Kevin's idol, not mine."

Again, let it be noted that KDJ seems to think that knowing and obeying Jesus are somehow independent of the text --- we on the other hand say that the text is logically prior to knowing and obeying Jesus in the light of some special revelation.

After questioning the role of hermeneutics and caricaturing those who hold to sola scriptura a paragraph or two ago, KDJ states Not that learning how to study the Scriptures or properly interpret them is unimportant.... The problem here is, once again, that without some special sort of revelation, we need the scriptures to know and obey Christ. This isn't a matter of degree, where we can say we know and obey Christ and view scripture's importance on some sliding continuum with one endpoint meaning "not important at all" and the other meaning "totally important." We're dealing with a binary affair for somebody without special revelation: scripture is either logically prior or not logically prior to understanding, knowing, and obeying Christ.

More from KDJ:

With Christ as our center, catholicity becomes an easier task. Catholicity ought to be based on the person of Christ at least as much–if not more–as it is based on a common understanding of the faith and how we view the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to be diligent to present ourselves approved to God but even those who advocate strict grammatical exegesis on this passage must admit that such diligence is about so much more than merely properly interpreting the text of Scripture through diligent study. “Accurately handling the word of truth” is about properly putting forth the person and gospel of Christ and not merely how we ought to be studying Scripture.


I'm really not sure that KDJ understands grammatical-historical exegesis, which is nothing different than reading any other document from antiquity. In my experience, I've never seen the dichotomy over 2 Tim 2:15 that Kevin presents in conservative evangelical circles.

Anything I say here in response to Kevin's other dichotomy between interpreting scripture and "putting forth the person and gospel of Christ" will be repetitive, already being found in the above material. Like a vinyl long-play 33 on the turntable that causes the needle to skip back to the same point so that the same part of the tune is played repeatedly, so it seems that this artificial "centrality" issue is the scratch on the KDJ record.

Proceeding, KDJ writes:

It is a common mistake for those who advocate a strict solo scriptura view to think that their read of Scripture is decidedly the correct “one interpretation” and that it has little to do with tradition. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t the case. For tradition exists wherever men exist. they will say. Or, “…everyone of us needs to know how to gain an accurate knowledge of the Word of God”. Never mind that seminaries didn’t exist during the New Testament era and that men and women were often enrolled into service in the New Testament era quite rapidly after their conversion with little or no training in anything at all let alone training in the proper use of the Scriptures. Never mind that what each of us need is Christ first and not merely a way to accurately understand the Scriptures.


O the outrage of somebody asserting that they have ascertained the meaning of the text! Is there no end to the pretensions of men?

Again, KDJ comes off here like some Unitarian liberal sitting in a booth at the campus quadrangle who passes out literature that is meant to be understood, but at the same time denies that the Bible can be understood. Logocentrism for thee, but not for me.

What do we do when somebody claims to have the correct interpretation? We don't faint in outrage, requiring smelling salts and state-sponsered therapists to help us recover from the shock to our modern sensibilities. Instead, we look at the text and the evidence for the interpretation, and we decide accordingly. Again, this isn't a novum among Evangelicals or those of us in the inerrancy and sola scriptura camps.

KDJ then seems to put a few quotes in the text regarding people on our side [it seems], and, for the life of me, I don't see what is so scary about those quotes.

(i) “We must have a trained seminary educated clergy–they must be able to handle the word of God accurately and without error!”

(ii) “…everyone of us needs to know how to gain an accurate knowledge of the Word of God”.

More scandal! Clergy who accuately handle scripture! What heresy will conservatives come up with next? A fourth person of the Trinity?

KDJ mentions then that there were no seminaries in the NT days. Again, we mention the Rabbinic culture for the multiple-th time. Also, we mention again the obvious reply that KDJ is comparing apples and oranges here. We are far removed from the time of the apostles and Jesus, and we therefore have to acclimate ourselves to knowledge of the culture, history, language, etc of those days. The people KDJ mentions were already part of the culture, history, language. And the fact that some of them "were often enrolled into service in the New Testament era quite rapidly after their conversion with little or no training in anything at all let alone training in the proper use of the Scriptures" doesn't do anything for his thesis either, because we're not in the same situation as those ancients.

Here's a throwaway paragraph:

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. The study of the Scriptures is important. Properly intrepreting them to the best of our ability is also important. But these things are not central to the salvation of men’s souls. We are called to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8), not witnesses of just how we ought to be interpreting Scriptures.


After spending a good portion of his post talking about Christ and knowledge of Christ apart from its scriptural norming, and after spending some time caricaturing sola scriptura adherents as well as those who dare think that they can interpret scripture properly, KDJ, despite his disclaimer, rings hollow here.

This entire paragraph reminds me of an encounter I had with some environmental people while walking back from class. They hand me a leaflet promoting solar power and wanting to make things more difficult for oil businesses, restricting or forbidding the off-shore drilling of oil. They want to regulate business and make it harder to obtain oil. The group is supported by other Marxist groups and parties. Add a fair amount of "business, EVIL!" rhetoric. But at the end they'll say "We're all for business and low prices....," after promoting agendas that will reduce supply, cost businesses more money, and generally make it more difficult and expensive to reduce the supply. Classic throwaway line. And KDJ isn't much different here than the Birkenstock-wearing enviro-chick in this encounter, except that he doubtless bathes much more frequently and is part of the evil capitalist oppressor paradigm that she loathes!

We must preach Christ and Him crucified. Our job is not to call men to accurately interpret Scripture. Our job as witnesses is to tell forth Christ and the gospel that can set men free. Men thirst for Christ, not biblical hermeneutics. Men need Christ, not instructions on how to properly understand the Bible.


If I preach Christ and Him crucified, I'll turn to scripture, and hopefully I'll be accurate. But that's just me.

Remember that late-70's/early-80's TV show The Greatest American Hero, where the guy gets this superhero suit but somehow loses or fails to obtain the instruction manual for using the suit and the provided super powers? That's the image that comes to mind when I read the final quoted sentence above.

Calling men to Christ moves us to the sort of catholicity that we all need–union, obedience, and fellowship with the Son of God. A life defined by and obedient to Christ, not merely by our limited understanding of difficult texts in Scripture. Early Christians belonged to “the Way” (Acts 9:2) and not the “Society for Understanding Scripture Aright”. We need to recover an emphasis on what is central rather than continue to discuss matters that are secondary. That is how we will begin to recover a Reformational contribution to catholicity.


Kevin D. Johnson must be receiving special revelation on a regular basis to say such things confidently. He somehow knows Jesus apart from scripture. Perhaps I can move to Phoenix --- a city in which I'd dearly love to live --- and get a job at Areopagus Coffee helping my newfound guru KDJ make a lot of money, and then in the spare time I'd sit at his feet and he could expound his special revelations to me, and I could forego the centrality of scripture. Instead of reviewing Greek and once again forgetting a third declension noun paradigm or a principal part of an irregular verb, I could learn about Jesus along with the metaphysical differences between Sanka, Folgers, Sumatran Grade One Mandehling and Colombian Amanecer Santa Isabella. Everybody wins!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pedantic Politics 3B [Too Hot To Handle] --- Guns, Guns, Guns

In this thread I'll state my views on guns and a few related items. Again, I have humble goals here, mainly trying to be reasonably clear and give some basis for why I hold what I hold.

(1) Guns, gun ownership, etc are neither objectively good nor bad.

(2) In a free society, people, if they are viewed as responsible agents and not wards of the State, have the God-given right to protect themselves. In fact, they are irresponsible if they do not protect themselves. Guns are but one way of protecting one's self.

The typical leftist line is that sometimes bad things happen when people own guns. Here's a cry-in-your-hankie story about some boy who played with Daddy's gun and shot a friend by mistake. After that, have a good emoting over some poor victim of domestic abuse featuring a gun. If that doesn't make you want to sit in a pile of ashes while scraping yourself with pottery shards, think about the people in, say, the South Side of Chicago who live in constant fear of gangs and their associated gun violence.

And so the leftist litany of individal sob stories goes; we are led to believe that guns are objectively bad, and that these individual cases are universal statements about all citizens in an allegedly free country.

But such an extension is empirically false, for such three-hankie-cry stories listed above are newsworthy precisely because they represent exceptional behavior among, to put it nicely, the more poorly raised and bred members of society. I have yet to see any visual or written media stories with headlines such as Man Keeps Gun Unlocked and Away From His Boys --- Everybody's Fine or Home Intruder Declines To Break Into Home on 1611 King James Way --- "That homeowner reportedly owns a gun," says intruder.

In a free society, bad or unlucky things happen in the rounds of human intercourse. Some people catch breaks; other people get the Capital-S-Shaft. Laws that are made with the idea of attempting to even out the variation inherent in the total set of human experiences are ultimately futile, and they infantilize people, reducing them to a subhuman capacity. So, while there will be a few sob stories about some gun tragedy that could've been prevented, this is no reason to make universal statements about guns being objectively bad, and then to pass laws making guns forbidden in many respects. This isn't thoughtful civic policy consonant with an allegedly free people --- it is the histrionic reaction of drama queen politicians and social activists. In general, I want the State out of my life. It is not there to ensure that I succeed or fail, nor do I want it there to ensure, as Thomas Sowell calls it, some degree of "Cosmic Justice."

(3) Should law-abiding citizens be allowed to carry weapons with them? Absolutely. I can personally find no real consistency between those who support gun rights for people on their own property but deny at the same time those same people taking guns off of their property. Every sort of argument that I've seen for holding the former but not the latter has been pretty silly, reeking of special pleading and such.

At this point, those who support gun control can again provide some sob stories about how, in states where concealed laws exist [Go Texas!], something bad happened as a result of this, with the conclusion being along the lines of stating that concealed carry laws must go. And again, we're dealing with the leftist mentality that is bent on ensuring cosmic justice so that we're all equal with respect to our lives.

I happen to contend that an armed society is a very polite society, and those who might try to mug me just might very well think differently about it if they knew that I was a pistol-packin' Pedantic Protestant. And, if they tried, they could find out the hard way.

On a somewhat related note, I find the feminist histrionics regarding rape and domestic abuse to be silly. For all of the blather about girl-power, feminine empowerment [I hate the word "empowerment" btw], etc, these silly "Take Back the Night" rallies and other histrionics [I'm over-using that word] really do the opposite, for they make women more dependent on the collective, the all-knowing State. If a woman is raped every [insert small time interval here] as feminists claim, wouldn't that make packing heat desirable for women? But, instead of lobbying for women to be able to be more self-sufficient as to their defense --- You Go Girl! --- the feminists are telling the women in essence to rely on the police and the State. Of course, most feminists supported Bill Clinton, so one doesn't expect much on principle here!

Of course, private property owners can set their own rules regarding guns and such on their property. If a restaurant, say, wants to make patrons check in their guns at the door and such, then the restaurant has every right to do so, and, if people don't like it, they can presumably go someplace else that will let them eat with their guns.

(4) The State should not have anything to do with private gun ownership.

When I lived in Illinois, I owned a firearm card, which needed to be presented on every purchase of guns [and ammo as well I believe]. Now I have no criminal record --- I've never even gotten a ticket, yet the State can monitor me in peaceful commerce. It makes me queasy to know that the State has a database on what I own and such. In theory, with such information, the State can confiscate the weaponry of all those people who have followed the Law.

I'm of the opinion that the State should fear the citizens, and not the other way around.

(5) You're an extremist if you view the right to bear arms from the perspective of protecting yourself from possible predatory action of the State.

Or so many supposedly conservative Republicans might state.

But, this was indeed one of the intentions of the Founders of our country. On a personal level, as mentioned above, I want the State to fear the citizenry, and I'd like for politicians to quake in fear knowing that an armed citizenry just might rise up in protest and violently overthrow the government. But that's just me.

One response that I've run into is that such a principle, even if practiced doesn't matter. Little ol' me with my handguns, shotguns, etc, won't be able to fend off, say, a tank or one Army specialist with advanced weaponry. And this is true.

But then the objection burns itself up on its own fuel. If the standard weaponry for self-defense is flimsy and pathetic when compared against the expensive hi-tech gadgetry used by the police and military, why am I a threat, especially since I'm a law-abiding tax-paying citizen?

(6) From a scriptural perspective, I have often wondered if, in the horrible event where somebody is trying to kill me and I have a loaded gun in hand, I could actually shoot to kill somebody. Should I just the thug in the leg and hope to immobilize him and then wait for the police? Am I under some sort of obligation to not kill even if my life is threatened?

The practical answer is that it is completely unreasonable to expect somebody whose life is immediately threatened to try to "gently shoot" the thug. There is no clear scriptural address to something like this. Therefore, the practicalities of the situation seem to give clear warrant to shoot and not worry about where you hit. But, even in this case, speaking only for myself, I'd feel psychic pain in killing somebody, even if they deserve it.

I'll stop this thread here. There are other points I could've addressed, but it is late, and what I've written, though quite informal, seems to do as decent a job as any as putting forth my views on guns. In this view, I'm firmly "on the reservation" as a libertarian here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More on Campus Free Speech

Wendy McElroy has another article along the lines of "free speech for me but not for thee," put up at LewRockwell.com.

It is more of the usual biz --- free speech doesn't mean free speech when it is applied to somebody outside of the progressive/leftist/feminist/etc sphere of things. This also says a bit about the tolerance of various feminist studies professors.

[I'm lazy today....this is all I can muster. PedPol 3B is coming tomorrow, most likely.]

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Shepherd Boy Learns Greek NT

The following account is taken from the great Baptist scholar Archibald T. Robertson's wonderful little The Minister and His Greek New Testament in the early part of the 20th century. Arguably the most wonderful portion of the little book is this account, titled John Brown of Haddington (Or Learning Greek Without A Teacher). There is no moral to my posting this; it is here for the enjoyment of the reader. I kept this story in mind about a decade or so when beginning my own automathic forays into the Greek NT.

Fortunately, the chapter is online at this link, so I don't have to type in the entire chapter. [In fact, the Biblecentre.net site has a lot of worthy works online where they can be read for free.]

********************BEGINQUOTE

CHAPTER IX

JOHN BROWN OF HADDINGTON

OR LEARNING GREEK WITHOUT A TEACHER



THERE are few stories more thrilling than the simple narrative of John Brown of Haddington, as he came to be called. The facts are all given in the fascinating biography by Robert Mackenzie, published in 1918. The list of his important works cover three pages (347-9) and include A Dictionary of the Holy Bible, republished as late as 1868. The dates of his books run from 1758 to 1785. The Self-interpreting Bible was reissued in America in 1919, with 26 editions in all. “Brown’s Bible” came to be a treasure to ministers. For twenty years at Haddington, Scotland, in connection with his pastorate, he acted as professor of theology to about thirty students each year, who came to sit at his feet. He sided with the Erskines and the United Presbyterian Church, which later in 1900 was united with the Free Church of Scotland as the United Free Church. But our interest in John Brown, who became the greatest preacher and scholar of his people during this period, lies in the marvellous zeal exhibited by him for acquiring knowledge. He was born in 1722 in Carpow near Abernethy in Perthshire. His father was in winter a weaver of flax on the little farm and a fisher of salmon in the summer. He had taught himself to read and had current religious literature in his little home. Thus the son formed a taste for good reading. It was the law that a schoolmaster should be appointed for every parish, but in the strife between Prelacy and Presbytery little regard was paid to the law. When a school was held, it might be a cowshed, a stable, a family vault, or a hovel. John Brown had a few months in a school like this, but the fire was kindled in his mind and soul that was to become a great light. He read what catechisms he could get. “My parents’ circumstances did not allow them to afford me any more, but a very few quarters at school, for reading, writing, and arithmetic, one month of which, without their allowance, I bestowed on Latin.” So he tells the pathetic story.

But where did the Greek come in? “My father dying about the eleventh year of my age and my mother soon after, I was left a poor orphan, who had almost nothing to depend on, but the providence of God.” That and his own pluck and courage. He found shelter in a religious family, but had fever four times during the year and seemed a mere wisp of a boy. In his twelfth year he was converted. He became the herd-boy for John Ogilvie for several years on the sheep farm of Mieckle Bein. Ogilvie was an elder of the church at Abernethy, who had never learned to read. He was fond of having the shepherd boy read to him. He built a shelter on Colzie Hill for that purpose, where they could watch the sheep and have spiritual communings.

Young John Brown borrowed what Latin books he could and used them so well that he mastered the language. He had two hours at noon each day for rest. But he used this time to go to his minister at Abernethy, Rev. Alexander Moncrieff, or to Rev. J. Johnstone, a minister at Arngask, several miles away. These set him tasks in Latin, which he finished with dispatch.

Latin led to Greek, but in a curious way. He hesitated to ask help about the Greek, as it was not so commonly known as Latin. So he took an old Latin grammar, his copy of Ovid, and went to work to find out the Greek alphabet by the use of the proper names in the genealogies of Christ in Matthew and Luke. This was the key to unlock the door between Latin and Greek. He had borrowed a copy of the Greek New Testament and kept on his comparative study till he learned the sounds of the Greek letters. He learned the meanings of the words by comparing short ones with the English translation. He made comparisons of the endings with the Latin and thus made a rough grammar for himself. Now and then he would ask questions of a Mr. Reid in the neighbourhood.

He became anxious to get for himself a copy of the Greek New Testament. It was twenty-four miles to St. Andrews, where there was a copy to be had. He got his friend, Henry Ferney, to look after his flock, and set out one evening for St. Andrews and arrived there next morning. This was in 1738, and he was only sixteen. He was footsore and weary and found the book store of Alexander McCulloch. Let us follow Mackenzie (pp. 26 f.): “Going in, he startled the shopman by asking for a Greek New Testament. He was a very raw-looking lad at the time, his clothes were rough, homespun, and ragged, and his feet were bare. ‘What would YOU do wi’ that book? You’ll no can read it,’ said the bookseller. ‘I’ll try to read it,’ was the humble answer of the would-be purchaser. Meanwhile some of the professors had come into the shop, and, nearing the table, and surveying the youth, questioned him closely as to what he was, where he came from, and who had taught him. Then one of them, not unlikely Francis Pringle, then Professor of Greek, asked the bookseller to bring a Greek New Testament, and throwing it down on the counter, said: ‘Boy, if you can read that book, you shall have it for nothing.’ He took it up eagerly, read a passage to the astonishment of those in the shop, and marched out with the gift, so worthily won in triumph. By the afternoon, he was back at duty on the hills of Abernethy, studying his New Testament the while, in the midst of his flock.” This simple narrative is eloquent in its portrayal of the determination of the poor shepherd boy of Abernethy to know the Greek New Testament. This very copy of the Greek New Testament, a precious heirloom, has been handed down to the fifth John Brown in lineal descent of Greenhill Place, Edinburgh.

But there is a tragic sequel before the final triumph of young John Brown. There were some young men in Abernethy studying for the ministry who became jealous of the shepherd lad who had forged ahead of them in his knowledge of the Greek New Testament. One of them, William Moncrieff, son of the minister at Abernethy, said to him one day: “I’m sure the de’il has taught you some words.” This seemed to John Brown a jest, but it was an expression of jealousy that led to serious consequences. John Brown added Hebrew to his Latin and Greek, and the suspicion of witchcraft grew apace. Even John Wesley in his Journal for May 25, 1768, expressed sorrow that the English had given up belief in witchcraft, for “the giving up of witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible.” In 1743 the ministers of the Secession in Scotland deplored the repeal by Parliament of the law against witchcraft for the punishment of witches.

Unfortunately his pastor, Rev. Alexander Moncrieff of Abernethy, gave heed to the charge of witchcraft as the explanation of John Brown’s knowledge of Greek. This slander followed young Brown for five years. On June 16, 1746, the elders and session of the church at Abernethy by unanimous vote gave John Brown a clear certificate of full membership in the church; but even so Rev. Alexander Moncrieff, the pastor, refused to sign it and left it to the clerk of the session. The narrow preacher continued to throw difficulties in the way of the brilliant young scholar, who was struggling towards the light. Later in 1752, some members of the church at Abernethy were brought by Moncrieff before the session for going to hear John Brown, “a pretended minister.” But the young man fought his way on as peddler, soldier, schoolmaster, divinity student, and finally pastor at Haddington, theological professor and great scholar and author.

It is a romantic story that puts to rout all the flimsy excuses of preachers to-day who excuse themselves for ignorance of the Greek New Testament or for indifference and neglect after learning how to read it.

*****************ENDQUOTE

$10,000 Question

What do the following posters have in common?

c.t.
Xenophon
Alexander
Thucydides 67
Caroline Trace
Crankmonster

"Pleasant" And "DMV" Can Indeed Appear In The Same Sentence Without The Universe Collapsing In Laughter

Before putting up Part 3B of the PedPol series [dealing with guns and the right to bear arms], I have to report a positive thing.

I have recently relocated to California to begin a new life that hopefully is an improvement over my academic life in the frozen wasteland of the Midwestern part of the country. Much progress still must be made for the operation to be considered a success.

Upon moving to CA, one must in relatively short time apply for a CA Driver's License. I think back to the 80's when I had my paperwork, exam, and driver's test as a teenager at a particular DMV branch: a sea of people, cranky employees, everything seemingly designed and done with a "screw you" attitude. Some 17 years later, I was expecting the same thing.

But here is where the internet is a good thing. You can make appointments online with the CA DMV. I made an appointment for around 9am or so, and the place was clean, spacious, and, best of all, no long lines. The clerks were friendly, and, without having to read the CA Driver's Handbook, I passed the written exam, being fortunate to get some questions correct where I wasn't quite sure. Getting a CA license took no more than 35 minutes or so, and that's counting the time to take the exam, be photographed, fill out some forms. This let me get out of there quickly, head to the university, and do truly important things, such as discuss why none of my tennis strokes generate topspin, making me the worst player ever at the tennis club.

So, while I hate bureacracy, Big Government, etc [and you'll see the froth in later installments of the PedPol series, assuredly], the little jaunt at the DMV today was
as pleasant as an experience with Big Gov't could be.

Now we just have to get the Chevy registered with the State of CA, which will, alas extract several pounds and pence from the Pedantic Pocketbook.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Coffee Conversations Kicks the Can [?]

Kevin D. Johnson, owner of a few Areopagus Coffee stores in the Phoenix area [I'm jealous of anybody who lives in Phoenix], has seemingly closed down his Coffee Conversations weblog. Perhaps business is taking off and he no longer has the time, in which case may he rake in the coin and take his place in the world of successful businessmen if he hasn't done so already. Perhaps he has other interests that are taking up his time. Or, perhaps, he just doesn't want to do it anymore, which of course is his right, as blogging can eat up more time than planned!

These reasons are speculative. One nonspeculative clue as to why he closed down his blog is given by one of his final posts:

I’m done with the overly critical spirit I’ve learned all too well from certain Reformed pastors and laymen over the last five years.

I’m done with the cynical and partisan ecclesiastical showmanship and pride.

I’m done with the cowardly ravaging gossip that goes on in Certain Reformed Evangelical Circles.

I’m done with those who condemn without first looking at their own errors.

I’m done with the biting sarcasm that often accompanies such condemnation.

I’m done with a prejudice against Rome and other communions that exists merely because they are different.

I’m done with the idolatry of our own opinion in Reformedville.

I’m done with an idolatry in Reformed churches that rivals anything Rome has ever had to offer.

I’m done with men who have shown themselves to be neither friends nor brothers.


Even though I'm not in the Reformed camp, I have followed his writings and those he opposes with a general interest.

Johnson's writings have, for the roughly long 18-month period I've read them, been those of a provocateur and of a highly personal nature, and I've more than once had the feeling that despite all of the talk about catholicity and unity, certain ideas that various conservative Evangelicals hold are a priori not welcome.

One such idea is that somehow an Evangelical such as myself [as a stand-in for the great bogeymen of Reformed Catholicism] is grossly deficient in how I read the Bible and apply it to various areas, such as Roman Catholicism, say. Now I haven't been attacked personally in any substantial way, but my position has been declared deficient and such by the likes of Johnson and his ally [if this is the right term] Timothy Enloe, not to mention the amateurish band of philosophers who discuss epistemological affairs. Among the inventory of my deficiencies are charges such as: (i) I lack a community through which I may interpret scripture, and (ii) the grammatical-historical method leaves me at a great loss, among other things.

To my knowledge, I've never seen an actual argument or evidence produced in favor of the charges given in (i) or (ii). What I have seen is plenty of bravado and churlish claims, not done in a spirit of jest but in a style that fits right in with a group of people who take themselves far too seriously as the anointed shepherds who will guide we lost Modernistically-imprisoned sheep to a greener pasture. While I would imagine that both Enloe and Johnson and I are on the same side on a lot of things, especially in the idea of culture-at-large, I see the same sort of bullying and condescension that is more appropriate for a leftist professor who will brook no challenges nor allow any competing ideas to take hold in their classroom.

As a consequence, it is interesting that Johnson merely has a quotation from the New Testament on his blog. And, I ask in all seriousness, what I am supposed to do with this? Presumably, I'm reading the page by myself; am I to have a "community" with me as I read it? And, if I try it on my own, am I not being a logocentric and arrogant maverick by assigning fixed meanings to the words on my own? Am I not, as Tim Enloe would put it, being mechanistic with my parsing of verbs as I run the text through my Mark V Exegete-O-Matic 4000? It would have been nice if, for once, the goods would've been delivered and a little blurb on "How to Read the Bible" was attached, so that I could get the full import of the quoted passage. Is there a meaning to the text? If so, what is it? Or are there other equally valid meanings? Can I say that that passage means "Buy A Lot of Areopagus Coffee NOW!!" because my community says so? Etc, etc, etc.

But for now, all I see are some black pixels superimposed on a white background. God help me if I read it like any other written text, for then I'm shackling myself in a
logocentric prison with Enlightenment-styled shackles, and we're all supposed to know that such a thing is an objectively bad thing, since my side of the fence is constantly berated for its allegedly modernistic, Cartesian, and mechanistic views of things. For all I know, the words could be random ink-blots we're supposed to look at and play free-association, a la a Rorschach Test. I see a duck, no, now a sheep, no, now a balloon, no, now a cup of joe, no, wait a minute, I think I see an airplane, wait, that's not it, I see a cocker spaniel...

On the other hand, maybe Johnson assumes that those of us in the benighted world of conservative Evangelicalism can read and understand the text. If so, how is the given passage different from the other parts of the Bible that we can read and fix a meaning to the text to this passage but not to others? That is another question worth asking.

We'll have to answer that one on our own, it seems.

Related article: click here for some other comments from another perspective.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

"The Myth of Hitler's Pope"

Here is an interesting link by Thomas E. Woods Jr relative to the charge that Pope Pius XII was somehow complicit with the Nazi regime or, put more broadly, that he "didn't do enough for the Jews" under the umbrella of Nazi Germany.

Dr Woods is the author of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, among other things. From what I've read of his, he's an engaging guy who knows of what he speaks.

I have enough problems with Roman Catholicism as it is [otherwise I'd be the Pedantic Something-Else!], but if one wants to criticize Rome, one should be fair about it. On the issue of Pius XII, I'm with the Roman Church on this one, based on what I presently know.

Pedantic Politics 3a [Too Hot To Handle] --- Abortion

What's a person with libertarian sensibilities to think about, say, abortion? I'll attempt to give my side of things in [as mentioned in the previous post] a brief manner. And, it will be easily noted that my position is a minority position in libertarian thought.

My position, briefly stated, is this: Regardless of the point in development, and regardless of the utilitarian value in performing an abortion, abortion is the termination of a civically innocent person's life, and hence is an immoral use of force, and thus wrong.

The statement above is given from a civic perspective. For a Biblical perspective, one can refer to a link such as this to see some common arguments.

Some discussion points regarding my position given above:

(1) A sperm is not a human being. Neither is an egg. These statements seem clear. But, a fertilized egg in my book is a human being. This admittedly runs quite contrary to even some positions that would be labelled "pro-life." Where do I get this position, which would doubtless be considered quite extreme?

The answer to that question lies in the fact that, for every temporal attempt at demarcation along the lines of before time amount t in the womb we're not dealing with a human being, and beyond time t in the womb we're dealing with a human, I can find fatal flaws regarding the given time t. This is true in my own thought experiments, as well as in discussing this issue with others.

In fact, I have a real problem with the idea of a fertilized egg becoming human. This seems like a confusion between an essential property and an accidental property --- it doesn't sound right. [I had the same problem with the notion of becoming human in sci-fi materials as well: (i) I thought Cmdr. Data's attempts to lose his android nature and become human were pretty reductionistic relative to what it means to be human; (ii) The ending of the Bicentennial Man movie (adapted from a classic Asimov story) where the robot is declared human by some one-world state was similarly confused in my book.]

(2) When it is found that I am pro-life, interlocution proceeds to determine what exceptional cases exist for which I'd back down from my claim that abortion is wrong. The typical exceptional cases generally run along these lines:

(i) The mother's life is at risk if she carries the child.
(ii) The child, if born, will be born into some God-awful situation.
(iii) The child has some serious sort of defect. [This is a special case of situation (ii) just mentioned.]
(iv) It would greatly inconvenience the mother, father, etc, for the child to be born.
(v) The way in which the child is conceived was somehow wrong.

The idea, it seems, is that one's heartstrings will be tugged [and they certainly are tugged] and he'll feel rather extreme, heartless, and so on, for taking a position such as the one I take.

But the emotional effects of such appeals, regardless of whether the appeals are made strictly to induce an emotional reaction or not, undercuts the person making the appeal, for all of these points can be turned against the interlocutor. For example, I could turn (i) around and say something like So you'd kill somebody who has committed no evil in order to preserve your own life?. I could turn around (ii) and say something like So you are now an arbiter for humanity, in that you are deciding for other people what situations are life-worthy?. Emotional appeals cut both ways.

Regardless though of whether the points (i)-(v) above are mentioned sincerely or rhetorically, they still need some sort of brief addressing.

Brief answer to (i): the status of being "human" does not depend on whether others think you are. For example, every government in the world could declare me to be non-human, but that wouldn't change the ontology of the situation. And, from an ethical perspective, even if an unborn child's existence threatened the life of the mother, it really is the easy way out to stipulate that the fetus is inhuman. We can't go around re-defining terms just because they have might have unpleasant or uncomfortable consequences.

On a personal note, one thing that does irk me is this idea in the abortion culture that, until the mother decides that she'll carry the child, the child is nothing but a lump of cells, but after the declaration or decision, that same lump of cells is worthy of devotion and the natural maternal instincts. God will surely judge those who promulgate those attitudes.

Brief answer to (ii): there is no guarantee nor promise, whether from a Christian perspective or a secular perspective, that life is some pleasant and easy affair. My guess is that most of human existence has been one of suffering and death. This is especially true if one holds to the various variants of Darwinistic thinking out there. It is only in the last century in the first world countries that the masses are allowed to think of life in rosy terms --- even today most of the poorer people in the Western world have a high standard of living. The point of this is to say: so what?

Another difficulty that arises with utilitarian considerations such as (ii) is the question of just what constitutes a bad situation. This would seem to be something that, in theory, would have to be handled case-by-case. But laws and such are to apply to all people at least in our society, and there is no room [from what I've seen] for laws based on discretionary judgement.

Even if the difficulty above is disposed of [or, equivalently, if my objection itself is incorrect], we then run into the question of just who decides that a situation is so bad for an unborn child that, somehow, it is OK to terminate that child's life. Do people really want to trust the State with the power of life or death over innocent people? I know that I don't. Given the proclivity of men to let the end justify the means, I would bet a lot of money on a slippery slope towards euthanasia if the State were granted this omnibus power.

Brief answer to (iii): Here, I'll have to rely on the answer to (ii) to suffice. I do not know physiological implications and the entire range of deformities possible. Therefore, it is quite possible, that, in this special case, there is a hole in my position.

Brief answer to (iv): The reply here is along the lines of the reply to (i). One's ontology doesn't seem in any way affected by what others think. The fact that an unwanted pregnancy may hinder Ms. X's movement up the corporate ladder, say, doesn't impinge on one's ontology. In most of these sorts of situations, Ms. X knew the risks when she enjoying the world's favorite indoor contact sport.

What about (v)? This is possibly the most emotively-laden contingency. To say that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape and incest is to truly invite the term extremist as well as a host of other terms which imply that you're not a modern compassionate human being.

I'd like to be mainstream and considered compassionate, but again, what appear to be simple truths get in the way.

Consider the thought experiment: Child A is conceived by Mr and Mrs Perfect; Child B is conceived in a prostitute as a result of her pimp raping her. Is there a true ontological basis for saying that Child A is human while the other is not? I myself cannot find one. If people can find one, they're certainly welcome to comment in the comment box!

There is also the idea that, from my perspective, one compounds an already great evil [the rape or incestual act, say], with another evil [the termination of an innocent human life]. Does the fact that life is unfair merit a person taking it out on someone else who had no say in the matter?

Point (2) dealt with situations (i)-(v). Let's turn to Point (3).

(3) For me, the great majority of abortion cases boils down to this: a group of people presuming the right to determine the life or death of an innocent group of people who cannot resist, cannot fight back, and cannot reason for their position.

From a perspective of find liberty to be an objectively good thing, such a situation is intolerable.

From a popular perspective, what appears to be driving a large part of the abortion-favoring culture is not principle, but rather a desire for sex without consequences.

[Unlike certain Christians as well as certain Roman Catholics, I have no problem with birth control that prevents fertilization, "pulling out," sex-strictly-for-pleasure's sake, getting one's tubes tied, etc. From a Biblical perspective, I see no injunction for Christian families to have children.]

I would contend that sex-without-consequences is really the driving force behind abortion right. Much of marketing and popular culture points towards an attitude of "do it," with "good sex" as ubiquitous a goal as any other. Throw in the denigration of marriage, the feminist desire to emulate the worst parts of male promiscuity, etc, and it, for me at least, is hard to see how I could be wrong on this statement.

From a civic perspective, consenting adults ought to be able to have sex any which way they please with any other consenting adults. But with the pleasure comes a risk, a contingency that another life will begin in the process. That the contingency came up in the improbable fertilization is, well, what it is. People know these things when they start to fool around --- it isn't a secret.

Let's turn to (4).

(4) What do I think about the famous 1973 Roe decision? Answer: even were I to have no scruples about abortion, I sure wouldn't want my position upheld by the sort of arguments given by SCOTUS. I'm of the opinion that the US Constitution is silent on the issue, and, thus from a legal perspective, the 10th Amendment leaves the issue to the individual states in the union. Naturally, I'd like all of the states to share my view and realize that abortion is what I claim it is, so that all of the state legislatures could declare it illegal. But, in reality, I think that most states would make it legal, while some would make it illegal.

Do I want Roe overturned? Answer: Of course. But, even in this happy situation, SCOTUS would merely be leaving the matter to the state legislatures, and we're back to the previous paragraph's situation. But that is better than nothing.

(5) How does one deal with the mentality that considers abortion not-wrong, or even a good thing?

I suppose that, in the end, like any other manifestation of the innate human rebellion against God --- a rebellion of all men are fully part --- only by the agency of the Holy Spirit through what God has revealed to us in the scriptures can we wield an effective weapon.

(6) Is your position on abortion religious in motivation?

I can only speak for myself here, saying that I had roughly the same view on abortion [as stated above] even during my atheist days.

Conclusion

There are many other points worth discussing, but this entry is already long enough. This entry doubtless has many deficiencies, but it spells out some thoughts in a reasonably readable fashion, and seems to indicate clearly where I stand on this issue. [Note: this entry was done in one fell swoop on the spur of the moment.] If there are ambiguities, those among the 43 readers per day can certainly let me know about it.

Useful resource: Libertarians for Life

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pedantic Politics 3 [Too Hot To Handle] --- Prologue

The little Pedantic Politics series exists merely to spell out a general outline of my politics and such. [It also makes good blog fodder.] The goal is to be reasonably clear and give some indication as to why I hold what I hold, nothing more. The brief justifications for my positions are not intended to be full-fledged apologetics, or even semi-fledged apologetics. At the same time, I have to stand by what I say, even in its brief form, or otherwise I'm trying to have the double pleasure of expressing opinions without allowing myself to be criticized!

In Part 3 of this little series, I shall be dealing with alphabetized sub-parts employing lowercase Roman letters on various hot-button topics and giving, in modern parlance, my "take."

Fellow evangelicals may find that I'm too libertine or anarchist for their tastes. I certainly know that I'm too libertarian for the tastes of any stripe of Republican or Democrat in general. In short, I inhabit an in-between zone that is sparsely populated, definitely not being "Left," but certainly not "Right" either by what the term has presently come to mean.

Before beginning the various parts of PedPol 3, I'll try to be as transparent as possible, listing some guiding principles that have shaped my thoughts.

(1) The civic and moral levels overlap, but are not one and the same. There seems to be nothing illogical about thinking something is morally wrong while saying at the same time that it shouldn't be the State's business.

(2) I assume that people are free moral agents who have the capacity of being responsible for themselves. Whether they actually are doesn't concern me. People have, in my book, the right to be irresponsible, provided that their irresponsibility doesn't directly harm other people or property.

(3) The fact that a law in the books says X does not imply that X has any sort of ontological moral standing. It may, or it may not, depending on the individual situation.

(4) We live in a secular state, not a Christian state. Whether I like this is irrelevant --- this is just how things happen to presently be. My goal, were I to play a a social engineer who could tinker with society-at-large, would be to protect my life and way of life. Whether those on the opposite side of the fence --- secular humanists, leftists, etc, prosper at the same time is not my concern.

Oh, one important note --- some of the hot-button issues are universally controversial [abortion, say], while other of the hot-button issues may not be important to the reader as they are to me, for reasons good and/or bad.

Finally, the subtitle of Part 3, Too Hot To Handle, was taken from Steve Hays' title regarding a discussion of ethics on his Triablogue. It is quite possible that the Hays cannon will be turned on the PP pea-shooter [or, equivalently, a gun with a little flag that comes out saying "Bang!"] after my dark libertarian side is exposed to the world!

Friday, July 22, 2005

There Is No God

I went out to buy some new running shoes this Friday afternoon, and while opening the glove compartment, the latch that keeps the glove compartment door shut just gave out and broke.

That isn't a big deal on paper, but there is the fact that there was no feasible way of keeping the glove compartment door shut, which meant that the compartment light would stay on, which meant that the battery would quickly die, which would mean that I'd have to procure alternative transportation to the campus come Monday and have to pay not only for a new glove compartment door, but also for a new battery.

As this great evil occurred late this Friday afternoon [when it would be too late to take the car in to a Chevy dealership] I tore my garment and sat in an ashheap scraping myself with shards of broken pottery. After this, I tried for 90 minutes or so to take out the bulb, but it was behind a bunch of other things. So, I spent another 45 minutes trying to find a garage that would take out the bulb, so that I wouldn't have to worry about the battery running out.

The garage was found, and things are on the mend. However, this took about 3 hours of life planned to do other things, such as, for example, write a blog entry [probably "Pedantic Politics 3"] that would've been interesting, say, responding to Frank's points in a comment below, as compared to advertising my newly found atheism immediately after this bit of impersonal evil shook my worldview.

If God were to exist, I wouldn't have had this travail. But, I had this travail, and an argument by contraposition thus shows in airtight fashion that God doesn't exist. I suppose we'll be changing this site's name to Alliterative Atheist soon.

[EDIT: I changed the title but forgot to change the first paragraph, so, yes, the 80's Q*Bert reference did not belong with the new title. The original title of the post was !@#$%%^&*, which should ring a bell for Q*Bert players. I also noticed a disturbing lack of consistency in verb tenses used. Those have hopefully been fixed.]

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pedantic Politics --- Part 2

My political stance is anti-collectivist by nature. In fact, I'm as impenitent as one can be when it comes to having strong negative feelings towards collectivist mentalities.

But what do I mean by collectivist? And, do I oppose families, church bodies, communes, etc, merely because people are to a certain degree pooling their time, resources, and energies together? Are these not collectivist?

Yes, they are. But they're not the collectivism at which I protest. What I mean is involuntary collectivism.

For example, when a man and woman meet and marry, at least in our culture, their decision to live their lives as one [both in a certain legal sense and in a certain sense before God], sharing their money, talents, sexualities, etc, they are acting in a collectivist sense, but in this case they presumably want to do so out of their own free agency in the matter. So, marriage is a collective, but a good collective [at least in theory]. When the Mr and Mrs get the gleam in their eyes and nine months later little Junior enters the world, the Mr and Mrs presumably know and knew at the time the fun was had that the existence of little Junior was a real contingency, and the Mr and Mrs then [again, in theory] agree to sublimate their own desires and such to the sustenance and upraising of little Junior.

Another example: people with common religious beliefs form worship groups that share time, resources, common interests, etc. This too is collectivistic by nature, but again the collective is voluntarily formed [unless we're dealing with some thought-controlling cult]. People in this particular collective can get in and get out of it depending on their own personal agency -- nobody is forcing them to do so.

A third example: insurance pools are where a group of people pool their money, each person knowing that, in all likelihood, they will not see [hopefully] the benefits of paying the premiums. In this sense, various limit theorems in probability, such as the Central Limit Theorem [one of the most beautiful results in all of science, I might add], help insurance companies and such plan for expenses, profit, etc.

A fourth example: a bunch of hippies in a commune. During grad school days in the mid-90's I saw plenty of hippies. If they want to get together, pool their resources, eat common meals, have no private property, and have sex with everybody else in the commune, then, they're engaging in voluntary collectivism.

I have no problems on a civic level with these examples above, precisely because the people who are letting themselves be collectivized know what they're getting into, and they are not under any threat of force if they leave the collective. The marriage example also fits into this --- if we're dealing with adults who take marriage seriously, there is no government force involved in leaving the marriage or abandoning little Junior, but there are natural social mores as well as financial consequences that one would know about when deciding to get married.

As I've gotten older, though, I recoil ever more strongly against all of the involuntary collectivist schemes I see. Some examples with questions that would be considered quite curt if not rude in today's enlightened culture:

(1) Public schools. Why must I, a single never-married man, pay and subsidize the education of other couples' children? They did not consult me when they had sex, and, they knew that a good roll in the hay just might lead to little Junior. Yet now, society-at-large expects me to pay for their actions and the consequences for those actions. And, more salt is rubbed into the wound when one sees the general incompetence of the educational establishment, along with its reinforcement of the very collectivist schemes I do not like!

(2) Social Security. I call this "socialist security" because it is, again, forced collectivism. What moral debt to I owe anonymous older people today under a secular government? Why do I "owe" them? In most situations, the older people were supposedly responsible younger people at one time --- why did they not plan for themselves? And what nobility or virtue is there in merely being old?

I'd have no problems with SS if it were voluntary: "You pay X% of your money in for Y years in exchange for payments according to Plan Z." But, even though I think I could do a better job with that portion of my income earmarked for SS than the government, I have no choice --- I must pay.

(3) State-sponsored medicine. Why am I responsible for paying for somebody else's medical care? When did we get this idea that a complete stranger X must pay in part for a complete stranger Y's health care? Did not Y plan things or at least make a responsible attempt to do so?

When the elderly voting bloc wants "cheap affordable" prescription drugs and health care, what they're really saying is that they want the State to force somebody else to pay for something that they should be paying for themselves!

(4) Also of major importance is any sort of income tax. It wasn't until the progressive era in the early 20th century that the US Constitution was amended [16th Amendment, if I recall correctly] to give Congress the power to tax incomes. I oppose income taxation not on the basis of the punitive rates at which we are taxed, but on the sheer principle of the matter. A good chunk of my middle-class salary is taken and redistributed to businesses, individuals, and various other things, which things I may or may not agree with. And, this collectivist notion is taken as an assumed fact of reality today --- to question it is to invite comparisons to radical individualism. We are forced to open up a private side of our lives to pay into the collective, and private businesses are used in large part to do the State's dirty work. Again, I ask just why I have some moral obligation to support businesses, Welfare Moms, or any other group that is out there.

The common question I ask for (1)-(4) is this: why do I owe you what you claim?

During my leftist college student days, this simple question above, and its lack of a coherent answer, is what started my own personal drift away from collectivist thinking.

In the next thread, cleverly named "Part 3," I'll continue my written-on-a-cocktail-napkin sketch of politics-in-general according to the PP idiom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pedantic Politics --- Part 1

I identify myself first and foremost as an Evangelical Christian. [Though those who know me can produce a great inventory of my moral failings and lack of success in living up to the scriptural ethos.] By this, I mean that I take the OT and NT as the final authority in those matters spoken to by the texts, and, contrary to the tone of the majority, I'll make quite scandalizing and exclusivist claims about how Christianity accurately describes reality, which means that claims contrary to my claims are, in my book, false.

But, given that I'm not a hermit, I have to live and interact with the world-at-large, so I have what I believe is a fairly-carefully thought-out political worldview, as well. This worldview would've been described long ago as classic liberalism, but now, it is somewhat a misnomer, since the term liberal connotes a system of beliefs and principles that I found morally abhorrent and in contradistinction to the nature of men. In today's parlance, the term Christian libertarian is a better fit, though I strongly disagree with the oft-stated libertarian claim that abortion is a strictly personal affair as well as the general leaning towards unrestricted immigration. The locus of my politics, if anybody cares, is found in Frederic Bastiat's The Law. This pamphlet from around 1850, and immediately following the French Revolution, is as fresh and modern as anything today, in terms of ideas. In my estimation, Bastiat knew the difference between real liberty and counterfeit liberty!

How many political theorists do you see saying things like this?

We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life.

But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.

Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.


In other words, our life is not, on the political level, one devoted to an abstract and omnipotent State, but dedicated to preserving, developing, and perfecting that which God has entrusted to us.

Also, one's life, liberty and property, are, according to Bastiat, prior to any sort of legal system or State. For this to make sense, Bastiat assumes the following, among other things:

(a) The God of Western theism exists

(b) There is an objective standard of good and evil that exists independently of man and State

(c) Life, liberty, and private property are inherently good things.

Note too that Bastiat exposes those politicians and demagogues who would attempt to make freedom, liberty, and property the effects of their politics.

Considering that I work in the American academy, where just about every negation to the above is held with a militant fervor, the words of Bastiat, over 150 years old, are meat and sustenance to my mind. At any rate, I could blog constantly on The Law section-by-section over the next month.

Here is some more interesting food-for-thought, courtesy again of Mr Bastiat:

Socialists look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations. This is so true that, if by chance, the socialists have any doubts about the success of these combinations, they will demand that a small portion of mankind be set aside to experiment upon. The popular idea of trying all systems is well known. And one socialist leader has been known seriously to demand that the Constituent Assembly give him a small district with all its inhabitants, to try his experiments upon.

In the same manner, an inventor makes a model before he constructs the full-sized machine; the chemist wastes some chemicals — the farmer wastes some seeds and land — to try out an idea.

But what a difference there is between the gardener and his trees, between the inventor and his machine, between the chemist and his elements, between the farmer and his seeds! And in all sincerity, the socialist thinks that there is the same difference between him and mankind!

It is no wonder that the writers of the nineteenth century look upon society as an artificial creation of the legislator's genius. This idea — the fruit of classical education — has taken possession of all the intellectuals and famous writers of our country. To these intellectuals and writers, the relationship between persons and the legislator appears to be the same as the relationship between the clay and the potter.

Moreover, even where they have consented to recognize a principle of action in the heart of man — and a principle of discernment in man's intellect — they have considered these gifts from God to be fatal gifts. They have thought that persons, under the impulse of these two gifts, would fatally tend to ruin themselves. They assume that if the legislators left persons free to follow their own inclinations, they would arrive at atheism instead of religion, ignorance instead of knowledge, poverty instead of production and exchange.


Brief commentary on this passage:

(1) Listening to many fellow academics and those in charge of the academy, I can empirically testify that our self-proclaimed intellectual superiors in the academy do view the masses as clay to be molded according to whatever theory the alleged superior holds, just as Bastiat states.

(a) For example, I have seen white males in tenured positions publicly lamenting and wringing their hands over the fact that not enough people of a victim-class have an academic position. The solution is to bypass qualified white male candidates in order to hire the less-qualified victim candidate. Note that the man wringing his hands suffers no negatives in the entire affair: he keeps his job, and he is allowed to feel smug and righteous about his compassion and care for the victim groups. However, the more-qualified white male [or, more generally, anybody in an oppressor class] is rejected. The rejected one is the piece of clay for the socially engineering potter.

(b) Speech codes in the academy. People have probably read enough about these elsewhere. Here again, we have a group of self-appointed social engineers deigning certain speech as harmful, offensive, etc, because it does not conform with their politics. I remember at my faculty orientation meeting, we were supposed to stand up before others and confess how we've been racist, sexist, etc. I refused to do so, because I will not conform my speech to these people.

(2) The above snippet of Bastiat also covers the redistribution of wealth. Here, we see both of the major parties in the US act as if the State has the right to take as much of your money as they wish, to be used as the State wishes. And do not delude yourselves: the Republican party is just as criminal and complicit in this. The fact that Republican legislators may claim to take less of your money than the Democrats may or may not be true; the point still remains though that your money and property are not your own --- they are yours until the State decides it can redistribute them for purposes deemed more noble, more practical, etc.

What would I like to see? In the most general of terms, I'd like a true honoring of private property, the idea that people are sovereign and are not to be treated as experimental units to conform to somebody else's idea of "social justice" or "progress," and I'd like to see people keep their wealth and the fruits of their labors without having to have the State take a part of it from them. Both parties in the US are disappointments. I expect disappointment from the Democrats, because they're well on the way to full socialism; the Republican party, though, is the real disappointment, as it has affectations of being the party of liberty and smaller government.

I have spoken in very broad brushstroke terms here, but I'd like to get specific. Just what is liberty? My answer is expressed quite nicely by Bastiat:
Actually, what is the political struggle that we witness? It is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty. And what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world? Is it not the union of all liberties — liberty of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of travel, of labor, of trade? In short, is not liberty the freedom of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as he does not harm other persons while doing so? Is not liberty the destruction of all despotism — including, of course, legal despotism? Finally, is not liberty the restricting of the law only to its rational sphere of organizing the right of the individual to lawful self-defense; of punishing injustice?

It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted, especially in France. This is greatly due to a fatal desire — learned from the teachings of antiquity — that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy.


Ah, Monsieur Bastiat! Thou speakest the truth!

Monday, July 18, 2005

The 2005 Frank Turk Memorial Link-Fest

Frank needs some loving at his blog. Please link to him.

Frank's a good listener, and he'll "be there for you," to steal a Seinfeld reference.

Frank on Bono is found here.

For a snapshot of the deeper side of Frank, peruse this link. The first sentence may very well change your life!

To see Frank's more creative, "feminine" side, try this link.

Frank's graphical capacities are also stunning. Try this. Its fecund profoundity escapes me, but it must be important.

Most people don't know that Frank has a PhD in Sociological Arithmetic from New St Andrews college, home of the intellectuals who will save we benighted fundies from ourselves. See an excerpt of his doctoral dissertation here, and note again his graphical prowess.

Yes, let's show Frank the love; link to him, give him a big hug, send him a cookie bouquet with smiley-face mug, or, as the bumper sticker on Volvos and Volkswagen vans says: practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty on/for Frank.

[A few more relatively serious threads (especially when compared to this flight of whimsy) on charity will be forthcoming. Frank just needed a pick-me-up, and if one can't use his own blog to pull somebody else out of context and make jokes at the expense of an ally, well, dear reader, just what can he do?!?!]

Charity Is Not Spending Other People's Money

Here is an article that accurately summarizes my personal feelings regarding the entire "Live 8" affair.


Brief PP Commentary:

There is what appears to me to be a simple fact that is often lost on a fairly large number of people as well as the two major political parties in our country: Person A has no right to feel smug, superior, righteous, etc, after lobbying the State to take money, property, wealth, assets, etc, from Person B and redistributing it to Person C, regardless of C's situation.

Walking around campus both in my undergrad, grad student, and professor days, I saw students, university intellectuals, politicians, make these great moral grandstanding claims about why Group X, being victimized by situations, history, bad luck, etc, deserved to be subsidized by taxpayers and businesses. Upon Group X's getting what they want, the intellectual or politician is lionized and receives the praise of men. But the intellectual and politician merely spent the money of other people, not his own. Furthermore, people who didn't pay the taxes were ultimately threatened with the sort of nightmare that a predatory government can inflict --- liens, holds, arrest, seizing of private property, etc. This is hardly charity, but, in its starkest and most uncomfortably honest terms, it is the State using the threat of bad-things-in-general to redistribute wealth.

Let's use accurate language in these situations: when rock singers want to lobby governments to forgive debts to foreign countries, no matter how much their hearts may be sincere about it, they should really state something like: we want taxpayers and businesses in the wealthier nations to pay for our version of justice, utopia, and the like. That would be a lot more honest than the preening and self-righteous posturing coming from a group of artists.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I Do Hatchet Jobs For A Small Fee

Somebody has apparently forgotten about (c) 2005 by Pedantic Protestant that is hidden in the fine print of every post.

The dastardly Red Romanist has stolen my alliterative description of him [reminscent of 60's Batman dialogue], and nary a farthing has dropped into the PP coffers as a result. This represents outright theft, and exposes RR for the scoundrel and scalawag that he is.

With his image irreparably defenestrated, we may as well go all the way and expose him for the morally mountebanking cad that he truly is:

(1) He once took twelve items through a 10-items-or-less express lane. This shows a contempt for society and manners.

(2) He loaned a friend a videotape copy of a baseball game, despite NOT having the permission and/or express written consent of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball? So much for private property!

(3) He has, according to rumor, driven 67mph on a highway with a 65mph speed limit. Lawbreaking anarchist!

(4) He has crossed the street while the "Don't Walk" sign is flashing. Oh, the arrogance and maverickism of the man who thinks he's entitled to flaunt his individuality over others!

(5) He has threatened in crayon-written letters to "out" me on the EWTN channel. Backstabbing betrayer!

(6) He lives in Southern California. He doubtless talks to his plastic surgeon and tanning consultant more than his priest! O vain, vapid narcissist!

And this is but the tip of the iceberg! Imagine the depravities that we cannot see!

Yes, remember these serious-as-blasphemy sins when he lectures you on Nestorianism, Crypto-Nestorianism, Pseudo-Nestorianism, Crypto-Pseudo-Nestorianism, Crypto-Apollinario-Pseudo-Nestorianism, and Cyrillean-Pseudo-Post-Aristotelian-Pre-Semi-Mono-Nestorianism! Do you really want to take seriously the philsophical fulminations of somebody whose character has been so truly impugned above?

Tim on Tim --- Part 2

Tim McGrew has responded to Tim Enloe's response here.
[Tim Enloe's response to McGrew was given here.]

For my part: I've said what I've had to say throughout the last series of threads, and I'm confident that my assertions have been well-supported with specific examples.

In the spirit of the relevant portion of McGrew's second response, I'll add something to clarify things for the readers out there. Like McGrew, I'm an impenitent and shameless critic of postmodernism, or any sort of -ism that states [or implies] that my normal cognitive reading or reasoning abilities is not what it states. I am fully convinced nearly to the point of mathematical certainty that, on those rare occasions when somebody does nail something like postmodernism down to something specific, one will either get:

(i) Something demonstrably false or self-stultifying,
(ii) Something that is nothing but jargon-laden gobbledygook, or
(iii) Something that is true, but is already a well-known truth, and hence it can't be credited to "postmodernism" or whatever -ism one is advancing.

Examples of (i): when somebody writes something deconstructive or in denial of authorial intent [or something like that]. This is self-stultifying because the protagonist himself has an authorial intent --- to deconstruct a given text.

A second example of (i): again along self-stultifying lines, when one pomo cites the work of another pomo as if the latter pomo is somehow supportive of the former pomo. This again implies that the former pomo has captured the true meaning of the latter pomo's text, which again, if not in theory, is something which is functionally denied by the pomo's I've seen and dealt with.

Examples of (ii): here is an example quickly gleaned from the internet. Or, see, as has been linked here before, something like A is for Abductive for a supposedly Christian attempt to jump onto the bandwagon. To hear from one of the prophets himself, one could pretty much open Of Grammatology to just about any page to instantiate (ii).

For (iii): In my own experience, I've seen postmodernists talk about context, genre, the fact that language is not static/mechanical, etc, with this great affectation of stunning intellectual profundity. I personally don't know one evangelical who isn't aware of this nor fails to practice this. This is of course an anecdotal statement, but, alas, the books are still boxed up and not here yet!

Perhaps I've stated this before, but I'll state it again. If postmodernism was confined to the dark and remote corner of the humanities/philosophy world that it deserves, never having a chance to see the light of day in the Christian Church, then I could dismiss it as a hobbyist's fantasyland. However, materials that go under the name "postmodern" or "postmodernism" are making a certain degree of headway in the church, and that worries me.

I've been reassured in private that God can use postmodern material to, say, bring somebody to faith. I can certainly admit that possibility. At the same time, what must be kept in mind is the fact that God uses X to bring about some good does not imply in any way that X itself is good or immune from criticism and examination. God often uses bad things or bad people for His purposes. And postmodernism and the dilettantish [this sounds uncharitable, but it is what I consider true] adherents to postmodernism [or what they think is postmodernism] is something that, at least in my book, has no redeeming qualities.

Another strain of argument that I've seen is that, putting it roughly [but accurately], we live in postmodern times [whatever that means], and we can no more change that fact than the fact that, say, the world is round or that it is 2005. By way of response, one could agree that we can't change those facts, but then neither can we change the laws of logic, evidence, the scriptural texts, and so on. The scriptural witness and admonitions within are what they are, whether we like them or not or consider them authoritative or not. Christianity is not a fluid worldview that is supposed to change in substantial ways along with the culture-at-large, but instead is a worldview composed of timeless metaphysical propositions concerning God and the universe as well as asserting that certain space-time phenomena did, in fact, occur. I don't think, personally, we need to put new wine in the wineskin.

At any rate, the above editorial material, semi-rigorous at the most charitable estimation of it, is where I stand on things.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

In Case You Missed Last Week's Episode...

A quick recap of the latest episode in the Tim Enloe saga:

Enloe first produces this essay.

After that, Tim McGrew responded to Enloe's essay.

After this, both Enloe and his associate [at least in this affair] Kevin Johnson did, among other things, the following:

(1) Backtrack from their generally authoritative tone.

(2) Make sweeping claims [without providing evidence] that the sort of response that McGrew gave:
(a) instantiated "academic hubris,"
(b) instantiated a lack of charity and graciousness,
(c) instantiated somebody all-too-impressed with the letters after their last name
(d) is representative of the sorts of things through which "smarter" folks, "as compared to mere lettered academics," can see.
(e) represents "mere academics."

(3) Met with disdain any requests for specific examples of the claims made in (2). [But see my response here.]

[Note: for more requests for evidence to uphold the Enloe/Johnson sweeping claims, see Steve Hays' requests for evidence here; my request can be seen here.]

After a post here linking to examples of Tim Enloe's calm, measured reasoning and charity, where again Enloe's charges are unsupported by any sort of given actual instantiations, [and if one makes charges of the gravity Enloe makes, one should have evidence!], and after Enloe's demurral regarding responding to McGrew, we arrived at the present stage.

To Tim Enloe's credit, he has decided to respond to the McGrew piece.

On the technical merits, if any, of Enloe's response, I shall let Dr McGrew respond, if he so chooses. For now, I observe the following:

(1) Once more, sweeping unsubstantiated claims regarding Svendsen [and others] are made, where the sweeping claims are serious enough, impugning the integrity, competency, etc, of the individual, to where there must be evidence provided lest one is merely engaging in a campaign of potshots. Examples:

(a) Fourth paragraph:
Certain types of apologists--e.g., Eric Svendsen and a few others--tend to speak in stark absolutes regarding their methods and the conclusions they draw from their use of the methods. Men such as these think in very simplistic Black Hat / White Hat terms, and it shows in the way they constantly, deprecatorily, treat others who disagree with them.


Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

Let us observe too the simplistic Black Hat/White Hat treatment that Enloe is giving to Svendsen and a few others here; and let us observe the deprecatory remarks coming from Tim's keyboard.

(b) Eleventh paragraph:
Now perhaps I'm wrong in making this association between Descartes's method and these men's methods, but if one has read any Descartes firsthand and spent any serious time considering secondary works of scholarship, and then spends enough time reading Svendsen and White and their exegetical like, one can easily be forgiven for concluding that they have bought into Descartes hook, line, and sinker and simply do not realize that fact or know about the problems that philosophers often point out regarding Cartesian thinking.


Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

Steve Hays' comments regarding Enloe's penchant for bringing out talismanic names and words and stringing them together comes to my mind.

(c) Twelfth paragraph:
It's an open question whether Eric Svendsen has the wherewithal to correct me, since his degree in exegesis, which is coupled with an open scorn for other fields of study relative to that field, typically leads him to issue "corrections" that consist merely of repeating the very things that are under dispute, and / or to make accusations about things such as "postmodernism", of which it is evident he has a very poor understanding. I want to see constructive conversations take place, want to see the level of consciousness in Internet Protestantdom raised--which is one reason I think it's so important to take a stand against the obscurantizing portrayals of many issues done by men like Svendsen. Ironically, Svendsen's bringing McGrew into this in order to expose my simplistic-ness has exactly served the purpose of showing how simplistic some of Svendsen's views actually are.


Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

As for Tim's desire for constructive conversations, those can't really begin until we're sure of terms and specifics. He seems to prefer, based on what he writes, to deal in the most abstract generalities.

(d) Thirteenth paragraph:
Dr. McGrew is probably unaware of the extremism which his friend Svendsen's blog entries very often demonstrate about people who disagree with his conclusions about various items of doctrine. For instance, Svendsen's (and White's) persistently vague, extremely condemnatory rhetoric about the evils of "postmodernism" and people whom they identify as embracing it and therefore "falling away" from "clear biblical truth" and leaving us with nothing but "relativism" is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind with remarks like this one from my paper...


Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

Let me add something else here: the big deal is not whether Svendsen or anybody is condemnatory. The important points are:

(i) Whether the condemnation is just, and
(ii) Whether the point of contention merits the wrong side being condemned.

Surely Enloe, who claims to know how to do exegesis, has read the condemnations of Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John in the NT! If somebody is following in the footsteps of these aforementioned NT authors, then, even if one proves that somebody else is condemnatory, so what? This isn't Oprah, where everything is A-OK and any challenges to our worldview are met with a good cry and vague platitudes about spirituality and open-mindedness!

(e) Following the quote after the quote above, the lead sentence of the fifteenth [or fourteenth, depending on how one counts Enloe's quote in the piece]:
Anyone who has dealt with Svendsen and his followers long enough knows quite well what I am talking about.


This is not true. I've dealt with "Svendsen and his followers long enough" and, despite a number of exegetical disagreements, political disagreements, and some philosophical disagreements, I don't "know quite well" of what Enloe is talking about. If we want to make a charitable allowance for hyperbole in Enloe's statement, we may make it. But then the question is, once again, so what?. We could boomerang the statement back to something regarding Enloe: Anybody who has dealt with Enloe and his followers long enough knows quite well his propensity for intellectual affectation, sweeping claims, caricatures, etc. This makes me yawn.

(f) Same paragraph. Here Enloe pats himself on the back:
Perhaps I am wrong to trace such rhetoric back to the influences of Cartesianism, etc., but if so, at least I am making the kind of mistake that causes others to take notice and ask the kinds of deeper questions about Svendsen and his like that they simply do not encourage to be asked themselves.


Are readers overcome with this sense of Tim Enloe's noble and tragic sacrifice of his own correctness because he causes others "to take notice and ask the kinds of deeper questions about Svendsen and his like that they simply do not encourage to be asked themselves"? When you think you're a hard luck case, do you look at poor Tim Enloe and think of the heroic sacrifice he makes pounding out those banal generalities from his keyboard, making your situation seem fine by comparison? My answers are both in the negative.

Once again, a big claim, zero evidence.

(g) Same paragraph. This is getting a bit depressing by now:
Svendsen once claimed that his exegetical prowess enables him to divorce his mind from all preconceived biases when he sits down to do exegesis, so that what he does in his exegesis is just get directly at divine truth itself.


Apparently, being Tim Enloe means you can caricature people without having to back anything up. Again, the reader should see that this isn't merely Tim on a bad hair day or in the painful throes of some male menstrual cycle, but it is par for the course.

Well, point (1), consisting of parts (a)-(g) was long. But it serves as evidence for the claim that Enloe has some sort of fixation with James White and Eric Svendsen. Would the reader write a response to a critique of one's statements on foundationalism and throw in at least seven reasonably detailed and inflammatory statements about somebody?

(2) There is a prevalent attitude that details are not particuarly important, and that the material is not designed for academics.

(a) See the second paragraph of Enloe's essay. It is all about getting "interesting conversations going about interesting issues, and to bring these issues to the attention of an audience composed primarily of laymen," according to Enloe. Nothing wrong with this, but if one wants to popularize some ideas and posture as an intellectual vanguard, one needs to still be factually correct and have some idea as to the advanced matters and details.

(b) If I've counted correctly, Enloe, in the seventh paragraph, alleges that what he wrote was adequate for his limited purposes, and he was not trying to give some definitive treatment. This is fine. However, errors are errors. Sometimes, one makes a mistake and it doesn't blunt the force of the argument. Other mistakes are fatal to an argument. In what category are Enloe's mistakes? He doesn't clarify matters here.

(3) Tim Enloe surprises this small corner of the internet by admitting that he is not an expert on certain things.

(a) Paragraph eight: Is Tim an expert on the subjects mentioned in this paragraph [this is what the context seems to indicate]? "Of course not." Let's remember this if at some future point he decides to harangue people with his broad philosophical charges and name-drops. Let's also remember that if he says something along these lines in the future, he may very well be correct, but, like everybody else, he needs to have an actual argument as compared to overheated rhetoric.

(b) Paragraph eleven: Tim has "a mere B.A. level understanding of Descartes." No problem here. I'm probably, at best, at Tim Enloe's level here, though the money is on his out-Descartesing me. However, the problem arises when Tim says something like

Truly, in spite of their overweening pride of place about their educations in Evangelical seminaries, they are not even the best of the Evangelical tradition but are mere fringe fanatics hanging on the edges of a much larger, more eclectic movement and yet absurdly pretending to represent the mainstream. Their "Gospel" is a reductionistic obsession with a radicalized Baconian mechanism, their concept of "truth" an uncritical Cartesian chimera, their pretensions to superior spirituality a ludicrous slander on the very Holy Spirit they claim guides their thoughts and actions.


[One of the choice quotes from the AOMin link above.]

Enloe seems to have a split personality. When confronted by those in the know, he is a bit more humble. But when the cat is away, so speaking, Enloe, as in the above quote, sees no problem in using his omnibus declarations. This is not honest.

One thing that piqued me to write about this whole thing is Tim Enloe's recurring habit of denigrating Evangelical schools, Bible colleges, etc, because, in the mind of Enloe, they don't deal with his emphases, or, because they're uninitiated into the glorious mysteries that the Enloe reading list contains. On the one hand, if somebody who is still an undergraduate wants to criticize schools, he certainly has the right to do so. But, good arguments need to be made as to how they're deficient. From what I've seen, we once again, you may guess, get banal generalities in place of actual instantiations.

(4) This point was mentioned at the end of (1): the fixation with Svendsen et al that goes throughout the article.

(a) Paragraph four: In discussing McGrew's issues with Enloe's definition of foundationalism, Enloe starts bringing up Svendsen. Since it is a safe bet that Enloe's feelings about Svendsen are logically independent of foundationalism, the reader is left rather befuddled at this change of topic.

(b) Paragraph nine: [I fear, due to a poor page break in printing, that I may be off by a paragraph number or two in these lists. This paragraph deals with "Pyrrhonism in the 17th century."] Enloe brings up David King's Scripture volumes and, in a similar spirit to (1), makes another sweeping claim about King employing "all manner of Pyrrhonistic arguments against the Catholics." One might pull a hamstring of calf muscle stopping like a dime on that and changing directions!

(c) Paragraph eleven: Somehow, in discussing his own inadequacies as a Cartesian scholar, Enloe again drags in the Svendsen-non-sequitur. This is old news, but, it is good to document these things from time to time.

(d) Paragraph twelve: in responding to McGrew's comments on Cartesian foundationalists, somehow, Enloe leaps to McGrew's being unaware "of the extremism which his friend Svendsen's blog entries very often demonstrate about people who disagree with his conclusions about various items of doctrine." Where did this statement about Svendsen come from in this discussion? The fixation continues.

Conclusion

Leaving technical points aside [waiting to see if McGrew responds], Enloe's response has the following documented characteristics:

(1) More big sweeping claims that we're just supposed to take at face value.

(2) An attitude that details aren't important given the audience.

(3) Stealing Hays' language, a faux-innocence, where the faux comes from comparing Enloe's more humble stance in this paper with what he has said about others elsewhere.

(4) A fixation with Svendsen et al whereby discussions of topics will suddenly shift to accusatory charges against Svendsen and his brood.

At this point, the depressing thread ends.

[EDIT: Fixed some spelling errors, added a marginal amount of material.]