Monday 25 December 2017

Monday quote

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: "a virgin's womb and an empty tomb". Jesus entered our world through a door marked,"No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

Peter Larson

Monday 18 December 2017

Monday quote

Legalism arises when Christian communities try to have the fruit of discernment (the ability to make fine distinctions) without having the maturity that is necessary.

Douglas Wilson, Hebrews Through New Eyes.

Monday 11 December 2017

Monday quote

Sober advice to keep quiet and carry a large stick trumps sounding off while wielding a toothpick.

Victor Davis Hanson

Monday 4 December 2017

Monday quote

The up-coming generation don’t seem to realise that democracy has two drivers: the right to advocate, and the right to dissent. It would quite possibly come as a surprise to many to learn that the latter persists even after legislation has been passed.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek.

Monday 27 November 2017

Monday quote

God designed your emotions to be gauges, not guides. They’re meant to report to you, not rule you.

Jon Bloom.

Monday 20 November 2017

Monday quote

The atheistic view of evil is totally inadequate in light of reality. It is subjective, arbitrary, and meaningless.

Steve Kumar and Jonathan Sarfati. Christianity for Skeptics, p56.

Monday 13 November 2017

Monday quote

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957).

Monday 6 November 2017

Monday quote

I have learned in other fields of study how transitory the "assured results of modern scholarship" may be, how soon scholarship ceases to be modern.

C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism", Christian Reflections.

Saturday 4 November 2017

An egalitarian interpretation of the woman's curse

The first 3 chapters of Genesis profoundly impact on the rest of Scripture. Many discussions of other passages of Scripture hinge on what Genesis means. Previously I have written on the curse placed on the woman in Eden. The conclusion was that the curse could mean
  1. Your desire is against your husband [curse] but he is to lead you [right action]; or
  2. Your desire will be against your husband [curse] and he will dominate you [curse].
With the first seeming more likely.

This is based on the parallel between the phraseology in Genesis 3 and 4.
To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pain in conception;
in pain you shall bear children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3)
And Yahweh said to Cain,
“Why are you angry, and why is your face fallen?
If you do well will I not accept you?
But if you do not do well,
sin is crouching at the door.
And its desire is for you,
but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4)
Others have pointed to the use of "desire" in Canticles.
I belong to my beloved,
and he desires me!
This is a positive use of the term desire, though desire need not be intrinsically positive. The context can show whether a term is positive or negative, as seen by the use in Genesis 4. But if "desire" is being used in a positive sense in Genesis 3, how can we make sense of it?

If the passage should be translated, "Your desire will be toward your husband", then the curse is in him ruling over her in a way that was not intended. Taking a cue from Canticles: the man desires his wife. It may be prior to the Fall that man desired his wife much in the way that Solomon desires the Shullamite. Canticles is an example of the pre-Fall situation. God created man to desire his wife and a wife to desire her husband. The curse is then the change in attitude of the man from desiring his wife to dominating his wife, all while she maintains her desire.
“I will greatly increase your pain in conception;
in pain you shall bear children.
Your desire will [continue to] be for your husband,
and he [will no longer desire you but instead he] shall rule over you.
This interpretation is more egalitarian.

Although this interpretation is worth contemplating, there are a couple of potential difficulties.
  1. The curse on the woman is God forming a sinful attitude in the man.
  2. Men seem to desire women generally, and sexual desire in a man for his wife may be greater than her sexual desire.
The first is of some concern as it could suggest that sin in more of a male problem. It is not uncommon in the modern West to blame men for their failings as being intrinsic to them, and to excuse women for their failings as being reactions to sinful situations extrinsic to them. While external factors do come into play, externalising our failures and not acknowledging them as our sin is unbiblical. Also, by making the problem one of a husband's domineering attitude it may imply that difficulties within marriage are predominantly due to husbands.

The second is not so much concerning but rather it does not seem to match reality. Men often (though not always) sexually desire their wives more than the other way around. To resolve this one could argue for a desire of women to be cared and protected. This may be true but it removes the connection to Canticles which has a strong romantic and sexual overlay.

Monday 30 October 2017

Monday quote

My pessimism extends to the point of even suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists.

Jean Rostand

Monday 23 October 2017

Monday quote

I am certain that large percentage of the money that I spend on taxes is wasted and in many cases, worse than wasted—that is, it is wealth destroying. I would rather give out money to random people on the street than pay taxes to a destructive government.

Monday 16 October 2017

Monday quote

Sometimes life is not about being happy, it's about doing what is right.

Mrs Patton.

Monday 9 October 2017

Monday quote

History will show you not all the answers, but it’ll tell you a lot of the questions to ask and furthermore, it will show you how other people have dealt successfully or unsuccessfully with similar type issues.

James Mattis (1950–).

Monday 2 October 2017

Tuesday 26 September 2017

When does personhood begin?

There are arguments for personhood beginning at fertilisation, at implantation in the womb, at birth.

Fertilisation seems possible. It is a specific time that 2 gametes which are not persons become a single cell. This single cell has a continuity with the person born. That is, there is a discontinuity at fertilisation and no discontinuities thereafter, and there is little disagreement that the sperm and egg are not persons.

However embryos split into two sometimes and humans can also artificially split them and continue to split them. Some argue that a new soul occurs when an embryo splits into 2 (which is a somewhat reasonable argument). More problematic is the issue of multiple embryos combining to form a mosaic. Does this mosaic baby have 2 souls, or do 2 souls become 1, or does 1 die (probably not as both cell lines continue in various ways)?

Further, the embryo becomes 2 distinct structures: the baby and the placenta. The latter supports the baby through pregnancy but it is not exactly part of the baby. The embryo can develop solely into support organs (placenta) in a molar pregnancy (hydatidiform mole) and there does not appear to be a person at any stage even though fertilisation has taken place.

The problem with womb being the definition of personhood is what about ectopics that survive? Abdominal gestation occurs rarely but they are clearly babies. Ectopic pregnancies are usually tubal, but can occur elsewhere, and abdominal pregnancies may have started out tubal.

Theologically traducianism implies personhood at conception for continuity. There must always be a soul because the soul is inherited. Conversely, if the concept of the new creation of souls (creationism) is correct, this potentially allows for a gap between conception and personhood. Note that these arguments (traducianism and creationism) are a result of the theology and our theology should be scriptural. So what does the Bible argue for?

Birth seems too late. Many scriptures point to personhood starting before birth, though to argue specifically for fertilisation from the Bible is a little harder. Job talks about the night he was conceived (Job 3:3).

Although previously I thought conception equalled personhood, I am now not so certain. In Scripture life is very clearly connected to blood. Combining this with what we know about human physiology, one could argue for circulating blood: a heart and blood cells. Death should be defined by absence of a beating heart (not brain death). If this is the case then perhaps personhood starts when the heart and blood cells are made: about 2–3 weeks post conception. Note that this is 4–5 weeks after usual dating; pregnancy dates are calculated from last menstruation which is (usually) about 2 weeks prior to fertilisation.

There is also an enigmatic verse in Ecclesiastes that says
As you do not know the way the spirit [ruach] comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. (11:5)
It is unknown whether ruach should be translated "spirit" or "wind" here, but if it is the former, it is at least possible that God sends the spirit into a fetus in a way that we do not understand.

Monday 25 September 2017

Monday quote

Is there any man that thinks in chains like the man who calls himself a free-thinker? Is there any man so credulous as the man who will not believe in the Bible? He swallows a ton of difficulties, and yet complains that we have swallowed an ounce of them. He has much more need of faith of a certain sort than we have, for scepticism has far harder problems than faith.

C. H. Spurgeon

Sunday 24 September 2017

Worldview thinking

Peter Leithart wrote a critique on worldview thinking back in 2003. Some of this may be in reaction to how he was seeing this played out at the time. Nevertheless, I don't find the complaints generally valid.

God has an opinion about everything. As God is truth, his opinion is correct. In as much as we think correctly we are thinking God's thoughts after him. At its simplest: the Christian worldview is the worldview of God; of Christ.

All people have a worldview. All worldviews are at least somewhat incorrect and usually inconsistent in places. One may therefore complain that we cannot know God's thoughts for certain, which is true. Because we are not outside ourselves how can we, with an imperfect worldview, know the true worldview. The errant man is chasing an inerrant truth external to himself but is only judging with his own errant perspective.

These complaints are true enough. But they are not insurmountable. And they neglect how we know and approximate truth.

Leithart's complaints are: 1) how do we get external to ourselves to judge (as my above paragraph); 2) worldview thinking is intellectual, specifically how do we know whether our worldview forms our externals compared to whether our externals shape our worldview; 3) worldview presupposes a birds eye view; and 4) worldview philosophy overrides theology.

The 4th complaint is merely a problem to avoid. And it is not a problem confined to worldview thinking. It is a problem all men take to the Bible, at least men who see the Bible giving a somewhat consistent testimony. We all systematise to some extent and we all categorise our ideas; thus our prior ideas may frame our theology at the expense of Scripture. Fine as a warning, but a warning all men need. And at least worldview thinking reminds us that theology is philosophy, or rather our philosophy is our theology.

The first 3 complaints are very much related. It is a confusion that appears to come from a more binary perspective: truth is not falsehood. Which is entirely correct. But falsehood is not entirely untrue and incompletely understanding is not necessarily false understanding.

We gain knowledge by degrees and we modify our thinking incrementally. This is a design feature. We learn from our elders, and our reason. And our ability to reason leads us into increasing amounts of truth. So complaint 2 is in fact not a problem, but why worldview thinking works. Our thinking comes from our surroundings and shapes our surroundings. That is how we grow in knowledge. God gives all men nature from which we gain knowledge. He gives us all the ability to reason. These externals (nature and reason) lead us to more truth. And the truth allows us to modify our environment based on that truth. It is a spiral of gaining more and more truth. Worldview thinking does not know everything that is true, rather it gains knowledge of the truth. Thus complaints 1 and 3 are also dealt with. We don't get external to ourselves, but we judge from what true knowledge we do have, using that knowledge to weed out wrong ideas and gain new right ideas. And we do end up getting a bird's eye view or sorts, only incomplete, out of focus and a few misinterpreted pictures. But as our view gets better the gaps are slowly filled in, items come into focus, and we come to realise that some of the things we thought we were seeing are in fact something else.

Or to change the analogy. We struggle with advanced calculus but we can count. We learn our times tables. We are taught what primes are. Then the trigonometry we were getting wrong we now get right; and not only do we get it right, we can see why it is right.

Further to natural knowledge we have Scriptural knowledge. This gives us greater understanding than natural knowledge and curbs the extent our reasoning can mislead us. When we submit ourselves to Scripture we allow God to guide us into truth increasingly. The spiral goes inward to truth.

This also explains why those who consciously reject God have a tendency away from the truth; how overtime their worldview becomes increasingly incorrect. Worldviews are not just an intellectual exercise. We need faith that God has given us reason. We need faith in our fundamental presuppositions, and faith that God will guide our divine-originating (but broken) reason into truth. Those who reject trust in God grow in foolishness as God does not protect them from their faulty presumptions and faulty reasoning.

Monday 18 September 2017

Monday quote

Violation of conscience is a grave act against man. It is the most painful blow inflicted on human dignity. It is, in a certain sense, worse than inflicting physical death.

Pope John Paul II (1982).

Under the threat of losing their jobs, citizens are being forced to sign declarations that do not agree with their conscience and with their convictions,... Violation of conscience is a grave act against man. It is the most painful blow inflicted on human dignity. It is, in a certain sense, worse than inflicting physical death, murder.... The principle of respect of conscience is a fundamental right of man, guaranteed by constitutions and by international accords. I raise my voice to God, together with all men of good will, so that the consciences of my countrymen are not suffocated.

Monday 11 September 2017

Monday quote

Those who refuse to let their opponents dispute have no right to complain if they hear instead lewd catcalls in the streets; in a sense, it is what they have chosen.

C.S. Lewis.

Monday 4 September 2017

Monday quote

A common argument in modern culture is that differences between the sexes are essentially social constructs;... it is in fact social constructs that allow sexual differences to be minimised.

Matthew Hosier.

Monday 28 August 2017

Monday quote

You’re born. You suffer. You die. Fortunately, there’s a loophole.

Billy Graham

Monday 21 August 2017

Monday quote

People often form "strong opinions" based on "weak statistics."

Alan Reynolds

Monday 14 August 2017

Monday quote

The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.

Attributed to Vladimir Lenin by John Maynard Keynes.

Monday 7 August 2017

Monday quote

History will show you not all the answers, but it’ll tell you a lot of the questions to ask and furthermore, it will show you how other people have dealt successfully or unsuccessfully with similar type issues.

James Mattis.

Monday 31 July 2017

Monday quote

Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

Monday 24 July 2017

Monday quote

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.

William Paley

Monday 17 July 2017

Monday quote

It is not enough to mean well in life. One must also do well. And the two are frequently not the same thing.

Dennis Prager

Monday 10 July 2017

Monday quote

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Winston Churchill

Sunday 9 July 2017

Brain death

In an earlier post some years back Blair D raised the question of brain death. He mentioned those who are considered brain dead
I have never known of a person diagnosed as brain dead to breathe, in a manner consistent with life sustaining way, for very long. In other words the brain dead person has commenced the process of dying.
and those in a persistent vegetative state
To the clinicians and she was as good as dead in that she was deemed to have none of the higher brain functions remaining intact and therefore was described as a "living brain stem" but no more. No ability to perceive, experience (to give meaning to) and or communicate in any way.
One needs to be careful how death, including brain death, is defined, this should not be happening,
Stephen Thorpe, then 17, was placed in a medically-induced coma following a multi-car pileup....

Although a team of four physicians insisted that his son was “brain-dead” following the wreck, Thorpe’s father enlisted the help of a general practitioner and a neurologist, who demonstrated that his son still had brain wave activity.  The doctors agreed to bring him out of the coma, and five weeks later Thorpe left the hospital, having almost completely recovered.

Today, the 21-year-old with “brain damage” is studying accounting at a local university.
Now many people whose brains are non-functional following trauma never recover, they fail to wake up ever. However because some do wake up, perhaps brain death may not be the best way to define death. This position is consistent with what I understand the biblical definition of death to be. If we are going to have "brain death" then we need to have absent brain function. If there is no brain function then such a person will stop breathing because breathing is controlled by the brain. (The heart is affected by the brain but can continue to function without brain input.) Heart cessation will occur shortly following breathing cessation.

Then why not call brain death a form of death when there is no brain activity in the region that causes respiration? Perhaps medically this could be a definition. However the situation could arise where the breathing centre of the brain has some damage (temporary or permanent) but the person retains higher cognitive functions. He will then be aware that his breathing is being maintained artificially (similar to high neck injuries). So for brain death we need evidence of minimal brain activity, no awareness, and lack of respiratory effort. Even with all these we cannot be certain of irreversibility and people can be maintained in this situation for years. Contra cardiac cessation which is permanent after several minutes (somewhat depending on the temperature).

If we accept that death is cardiac (plus or minus respiratory), where does that leave us with those who are considered brain dead or others who are in a persistent vegetative state?

This is actually a different question to whether or not brain death is death. I would phrase the question: Can we withhold medical treatment from a minimally conscious person who is unlikely to recover?

Which raises another question: What is medical treatment?

The answer to the first question is a guarded yes. If a person is thought to be permanently brain damaged and is in an induced coma the least one should do is "wake" him up. Assessment of response to stimuli should involve significant stimuli in the absence of sedation. But if there is strong evidence for irreversible brain damage and no response to stimuli (without sedation) and the person is without consciousness, then I see no ethical command to maintain life using ongoing medical treatment. This is not to say that  providing such medical treatment is necessarily immoral, rather that there is not an automatic moral responsibility to maintain life artificially indefinitely.

Which leads to the second question: What is medical treatment? If a person is unable to breathe then the removal of ventilation will lead to cessation of respiration followed shortly by cardiac arrest and death. If a person is able to breathe then they may continue to live for several days but die from kidney failure without fluid. The provision of air via an artificial respirator is considered medical treatment because it is a high-tech intervention. The provision of water and food via a feeding tube is not considered high-tech and it is often assumed that this is not a medical intervention but providing the essentials of life. However the respirator is also providing an essential of life: oxygen. That a respirator happens to be more complex than a tube is morally irrelevant. What is relevant is that we are providing air or water or food for the patient. That the person cannot breathe for themselves or swallow for themselves means that we are providing not just vitals for life but the mechanism of receiving vitals.

Brain death may not be the best definition of death. There is no moral duty to maintain medical treatment for someone who is brain dead. Medical treatment is providing the mechanism of receiving the vitals of life regardless of how high-tech that mechanism is.

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Why faith isn't a work

A Calvinist complaint against Arminianism is that the latter implies works based salvation. Both sides agree that the Arminian perspective is that a man takes part in the salvation process: that is, a person must agree to God's call to salvation. Arminians claim that salvation itself is still from God, that we are unable to save ourselves.

Calvinists sometimes argue that any involvement of a person in the salvation process makes salvation works based and not faith based. The problem with this claim is that this understanding of works does not line up with Scripture.

Faith is a decision. It is trust placed in someone. Faith is contrasted with works, and works are activities we do. Works are things like obeying the commandments, helping the needy, fasting, giving money to God's work. These are all behaviours.

Faith is related more to the mind, works more to the body (though we must be cautious with this distinction). Now it is true that faith may involve a specific action (ie. a work), but this action is not the faith per se, rather it is the acting out of the faith decision; an action which proves that the faith is real and not just an empty assertion.

Monday 3 July 2017

Monday quote

God does not even tempt men to do evil, much less sovereignly and unchangeably determine that they will.

Leighton C. Flowers.

Monday 26 June 2017

Monday quote

Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

C.S. Lewis. "Equality," Present Concerns.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Comparisons and the downgrading of harm

It is human nature to compare and it is also common to want sympathy. As such it is common to compare our experiences or our situation to other situations, especially situations that evoke agreement and concern. If our friends and colleagues are sympathetic to, or affirm, a specific scenario, they are likely to affirm a related one.

Everyone acknowledges that Fred was unfairly dismissed from his job. If my dismissal had similarities to Fred's then there will be agreement that my dismissal was also unfair. If renal colic is seriously painful then my renal colic was very sore. If Jane had all her money stolen and struggles to pay the bills then others may empathetic with my privation.

Whether or not a comparison works (or should work) depends on the validity of it. Are similar circumstances involved? Similarities to Fred's dismissal may be largely superficial. An episode renal colic may have been treated with effective analgesia early on. Poverty may be due to laziness and frivolous spending.

So not all comparisons are valid. The problem with invalid comparisons can be greater. This can occur when we share an experience with our interlocutor. If I share a experience with the person making a comparison then I compare his experience to mine. Let's say that John, Steve and Fred all got fired. Steve thinks his situation was unfair and in talking to John, Steve likens his situation to Fred which was clearly unfair. But if John thinks that his own situation was predominantly his own fault, and John works with Steve and not Fred, then rather than agree that Steve was unfairly dismissed like Fred was, John is more likely to think that Fred probably deserved it.

Equating the serious with the less serious often does not make people think that the less serious is more serious than it is. Rather they downgrade their opinion of the more serious. If you ran so hard you had a serious cramp that felt like you had broken a bone, and say so, someone else may think that that cramp is all part of hard training and perhaps broken bones are not as painful as he had been led to believe.

This is the principle of extreme comparisons. When we compare the less extreme to the more extreme in order to invoke passion about the less extreme, our listeners may depreciate the more extreme. Further, subsequently less passion may be elicited for the more extreme.

Monday 19 June 2017

Monday quote

The evidence is not responsible for satisfying the biases of the historian; rather, the historian is responsible for setting aside his biases and considering the evidence.

Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus.

Monday 12 June 2017

Monday quote

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday 5 June 2017

Monday quote

Some people confuse incapability of a certain vice with virtue.


Monday 22 May 2017

Monday quote

Whoever wishes peace among peoples must fight statism.

Ludwig von Mises

Monday 15 May 2017

Monday quote

Measure your wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.

Monday 8 May 2017

Monday quote

There is a difference between not concealing and flaunting.

CS Lewis

Monday 1 May 2017

Monday quote

A taste for kitsch among the well-to-do is a sign of spiritual impoverishment; but among the poor, it represents a striving for beauty, an aspiration without the likelihood of fulfilment.

Theodore Dalrymple, Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.

Monday 17 April 2017

Monday quote

Liberty is to be measured not by what the law permits you to do, but by—to use a whimsical criterion—how far from your house you feel comfortable allowing your child to play.

Anthony M. Esolen

Sunday 16 April 2017

Resurrection Sunday

Two millennia ago our Lord was put to death. Not just any death, death on a cross. The Law of Moses pronounced: Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree (Deu 21:23; Gal 3:13). The Romans reserved crucifixion for non-citizens. It was a shameful death. Dealt out to criminals. Jesus became the lowest: dead, and death in shame.

But he rose again. As Paul writes about God's mighty power in us, that God also
worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, (Eph 1:20-22)
Jesus, from shameful death to:

The right hand of God. Next to God and above every created thing.

Above the mighty angels, above the spiritual beings who rule in this world, above the demons and all evil spiritual powers.

Above every person of fame. Above all kings, rulers and emperors on this earth.

And not just in this current epoch, the world as it is from Adam until now. But in the next age, the ages after Jesus returns.

And Jesus now rules the universe. He is over absolutely everything. There is nothing in all creation that is not under Jesus' command.

From the lowest death to supreme ruler of the universe.

And one day all will confess that Jesus is Lord of all (Phi 2:11).

Monday 10 April 2017

Monday quote

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Charles Mackay (1814–1889).

Monday 3 April 2017

Monday quote

What modern people want to be made to understand is simply that all argument begins with an assumption; that is, with something that you do not doubt. You can, of course, if you like, doubt the assumption at the beginning of your argument, but in that case you are beginning a different argument with another assumption at the beginning of it. Every argument begins with an infallible dogma, and that infallible dogma can only be disputed by falling back on some other infallible dogma; you can never prove your first statement or it would not be your first.

GK Chesterton

Monday 27 March 2017

Monday quote

Economic freedom cannot guarantee political liberty and the just autonomy of the institutions of civil society, but, in the absence of economic liberty, other honorable personal and institutional freedoms are rarely secure.

Robert P. George

Monday 20 March 2017

Monday quote

Professing to being liberal and caring, after all, in this era, is more important than being so.

Victor Davis Hanson

Monday 13 March 2017

Monday quote

The praise even which one cannot accept is sweet from a true mouth.

George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie.

Monday 6 March 2017

Monday quote

Because we trust in God alone, we can allow our fellow image bearers the liberty that God himself grants us.

John Bolt, Economic Shalom.

Monday 27 February 2017

Monday quote

I am deeply convinced that any permanent, regular, administrative system, whose aim will be to provide for the needs of the poor, will breed more miseries than it can cure.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859).

Thursday 23 February 2017

Were Nazi's left wing?

Nazi and fascist are just insults implying that your politics are evil. It is predominantly used by the left against the right. This is not a modern phenomenon, it was done by the communists decades ago.

The problem is that insults often carry meaning. When a man calls another stupid, or a fool, it is an insult that his opponent lacks intelligence. If man calls another a hater it means his opponent lacks love, or kindness. Now there is plenty of inconsistency such that idiots call others idiots, and that "hater" is predominantly used by those sold out to vitriol. Even so, "stupid" and "hate" carry their meaning. But Nazi implies that you have a bad ideology that will lead to murder and genocide. This is concerning because if ideology leads to genocide, which it can, then it matters what that ideology is.

I have read that the Nazi's were not socialist, that there was nothing left-wing about Nazism at all, that fascism is right-wing and right-wing ideologues use this term self referentially.

False rhetoric benefits from lack of clarity and misuse of terms. But if fascism was left-wing and we convince right leaning people to abandon right leaning ideas because they are fascist, then they may adopt ideas that are more fascist than those which they already hold. It seems counter productive to hate a position while increasingly adopting it.

There seems to be several concepts that are traditionally left and right though various groups have adopted them over time. Eugenics was taken up by the left decades ago but has since been rejected by them in the main. To broadly categorise, concepts could be divided into left and right economics, left and right social policy, and nationalism versus globalism. Whereas economics and social policy has more definitively divided along the left and the right, nationalism and globalism are  not clearly divided along those lines.

Fascists were clearly nationalists compared with the communists of yore. But being expansionist does not seem to be particularly a nationalist or globalist position as can be seen by the Soviets and the Nazis.

The categorisation of a party can be seen by both their policies and (especially) their behaviour. In as much as what they enforce, or attempt to enforce, their policies are reliable. In as much as their policies are not enforced, or the party acts contrary to such policy, the positions are a sham (or propaganda).

Below are the 25 policies of the Nazi Party from 1920 until the end of World War 2. I will categorise the positions and the reader can see how fascism (at least the Nazi variant) is best described.


The Party Program of the National Socialist German Workers' Party summarised in 25 points.

1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples.

Nationalist. Expansionist.

2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.

Not clearly left or right.

3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population.

Economic left. Possibly expansionist.

4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race.

Nationalist. Specifically anti-Semitic.

5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.


6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.


7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.

Social left. Nationalist.

8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.


9. All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.

Not clearly left or right. Depends what is meant by this statement.

10. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all Consequently we demand:

Social left.

11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.

Economic left.

12. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.

Not clearly left or right.

13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).

Economic left.

14. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.

Economic left.

15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.

Social left.

16. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.

Economic left.

17. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.

Economic left excepting taxes.

Abolition of land tax economic right.

18. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.

Possibly social left

19. We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.

Possibly nationalist.

20. The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbuergerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession.

Social left.

21. The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.

Social left.

22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.


23. We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press. In order to enable the provision of a German press, we demand, that: a. All writers and employees of the newspapers appearing in the German language be members of the race: b. Non-German newspapers be required to have the express permission of the State to be published. They may not be printed in the German language: c. Non-Germans are forbidden by law any financial interest in German publications, or any influence on them, and as punishment for violations the closing of such a publication as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-German concerned. Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands.

Social left.

24. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: common utility precedes individual utility.

Social right. Anti-Semitic.

25. For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general. The forming of state and profession chambers for the execution of the laws made by the Reich within the various states of the confederation. The leaders of the Party promise, if necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration.

Social left.


So of 25 statements, with some overlap, we have
  • Not clearly left or right: 2
  • Economic left: 6
  • Social left: 8
  • Economic right: 1
  • Social right: 1
  • Nationalist: 8
  • Expansionist: 2
  • Anti-Semitic: 2
Unless one considers nationalism specifically a right-wing phenomenon, the policies of the Nazi party cannot be considered right-wing, let alone extreme right-wing.

This is a little more complicated in that item #17 was subsequently explained as allowing private ownership with the provision of expropriation if necessary, and also preventing speculation by Jews. This would increase the number of anti-Semitic points and make the sole economic right point unlikely. Further, item #24 is likely to be predominantly anti-Semitic and the subsequent opposition of the Nazis to churches who spoke against them makes the sole social right item also unlikely.

Monday 20 February 2017

Monday quote

Where a reputation for intolerance is more feared than a reputation for vice itself, all manner of evil may be expected to flourish.

Theodore Dalrymple

Sunday 19 February 2017

Diversity in truth

Christians often say that differences are good, and diversity is to be celebrated. This is all very good when it comes to evangelising all the nations, and recognising that we have different personalities, and God gives various gifts. Not everyone in the church needs to have the same favourite meal, or drive the same car.

But there is a problem with applauding differences in our post modern age. Not all differences are good. Some differences are bad. They may be useful, but still best avoided.

An obvious example: it is not good that some Christians oppose murder and others think it a good idea. It is not good that some Christians think that Jesus literally rose from the dead and other read this figuratively. Or try: it is not good that some Christians oppose fornication and others don't have a problem with it.

God is a God of truth. And in as much as a value has a truth component then all men are better off believing this truth; especially in the church.

Now this is not going to be the case. God takes us where we are are makes us like Christ. It can be difficult to jettison cultural values we have accrued but are in opposition to kingdom values. This is okay, and we grow in Christ and the strong are gracious with the weak. Nevertheless, this is not saying that it is good that Christians have different views on truth. We may have different perspectives on complicated issues. But in as much as we resolve these perspectives, our beliefs will increasingly align with Jesus. Paul says
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
There are a range of things we need to do as Christians, not the least works of obedience. Paul says that we are also to renew our minds. We are to modify our thinking to conform it to God's. By this we understand God's will. By this we know what is good, what is acceptable, what is perfect.

Likewise to the Philippians he writes
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (Phi 1:9-10)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, (Phi 1:27)
It is the case that we will (initially) differ in our thoughts about some things. But this is not a good thing, it merely is. We are to strive for like-mindedness. This suggests—at least in part—a common cause. But extends to knowledge and discernment.

Elsewhere Paul notes disagreement among the Corinthians.
I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1Co 11:18-19)
Does this suggest that at times disagreements over truth and doctrine are good? Not at all. Such disagreements may be useful, but it is certainly problematic if you are the example of error by which others are commended. Just before this Paul writes,
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (1Co 11:17)
Disagreements are not to be commended. It is the case the Paul was rebuking behaviour that led to people being left out. Even so, he rebukes their behaviour saying this is how they are to act. This is the truth of the matter and your behaviour is to align with this. Their factions may have been useful in demonstrating those who were in the right; still, best not be in the errant faction.

Now it is possible to be correct and be churlish about it. No one should want to be that guy. We are to speak the truth in love. But be wary of those who celebrate diversity of opinion in matters of truth. They may happen to be right on a particular point. But they may also wish to hold false views while refusing to accept correction. And let not a cheerful disposition deceive you. Falsehood with a veneer of niceness is diabolical all the way down.

Monday 13 February 2017

Monday quote

If Yahweh is to be their Savior, Baal must go. Baal may be tolerant, but Yahweh is jealous. There can be no "limping between two opinions"

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Saturday 11 February 2017

James and Paul on justifying faith

Paul and James both write about justification by faith. Paul says it is by faith without works and James says that it is faith and works. Moreover, they both use Abraham as an exemplar.

Paul writes
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Rom 3:21-4:8)
Whereas James writes
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jam 2:14-26)
What should be noted is firstly, Paul is talking about works of the Mosaic Law, not doing works in general. Secondly, James is contrasting faith with faith; Paul is contrasting faith with works.

James is declaring the type of faith that justifies. Faith justifies. But one cannot just say he has faith, i.e. he believes such and such. The demons believe certain things and are not justified. We have faith by trusting. Trusting is proved in obedience. Anyone who does not obey does not trust. So faith isn't a word that means "believe" or "trust", rather it carries actual trust. Faith is more orbed than what those who were challenging James were claiming. James is saying that when we are talking about justifying faith, faith means something that both believes certain things and acts on those beliefs.

Paul is not addressing this aspect when he talks about faith. Paul is discussing the issue of earning one's salvation. Paul is not contrasting faith with faith a la James, Paul is contrasting faith with works; and in a way that addresses the aspect of working (obeying the Mosaic Law) as a way of earning salvation.

So the Jew who is obeying the Law as a way to get into heaven is told this will not get you into heaven. You don't get into heaven by doing what God commands because you will fail. You can't earn your way there, you must have faith in God.

But the man who knows that faith and not works is the way of salvation may be tempted to rest in just believing God exists. He needs to know that faith in God for salvation is deeper than just acknowledging his existence.

So if you are trying to earn your way to heaven you need to know that you can't. You must have faith. If you think that this faith is merely an intellectual assent that God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead then you need to know that it is not, faith is active.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Abortion and pro-life credentials

Matthew Lee Anderson argues for abortion being an important focus of the pro-life movement. He titles his article "People criticize pro-lifers for focusing so much on abortion. But there’s a reason we do."
Beneath these disputes lies a simple charge: Pro-lifers care about what happens in the womb, and nothing beyond it. Such a depiction is almost certainly a caricature. And yet it aggravates a real phenomenon: The pro-life movement has emphasized embryos in the womb for reasons that go to the heart of being “pro-life” itself.
And he makes some interesting arguments for why this is the case.

Yet I think that this is a problem with applying reason to something that is intended to be rhetorical. "Anti-abortion" used to be a term used by groups who oppose abortion. But it was seen as negative term. "Pro-life" was a more positive term and potentially more rhetorically effective. Perhaps it was. But to expand the term to cover all sorts of other issues takes away the focus from abortion. Now some of the other so-called pro-life positions may be worth addressing: the debate over euthanasia comes to mind. Some are particularly unhelpful, such as opposition to capital punishment or war. This equivocates on killing and conflates innocent humans with those who are not innocent, or those killing the innocent with those who may be protecting the innocent.

But whatever the merit of other "pro-life" positions, the emphasis on everything else except abortion takes the focus off abortion. Wilberforce fought against slavery. Perhaps rather than antislavery we could frame his fight as pro-liberty. And what other concerns should pro-liberty have? Opposing excessive taxation. Opposing laws that limit our freedoms? These other issues have merit and their relationship to slavery may be even closer than many people realise. Nevertheless, such an insistence on these other issues changes the focus of the fight which is reforming and removing laws concerning slavery.

Abortion is a battle worth fighting on its own. A man need not prove his credentials that he is "pro-life" however his opponents define this. Perhaps it is time to re-use "anti-abortion". Do we need to use a positive term for rhetorical effectiveness? God, after all, hates idolatry (Deu 16:22), wickedness (Psa 45:7), false witnesses (Pro 6:19), and arrogant men (Pro 6:17).

Monday 6 February 2017

Monday quote

What a movement needs for its own survival is not a set of concessions won in the past, though these may be celebrated, but an inventory of demands still outstanding, grievances still unassuaged, and "enemies" still to be dealt with.

Thomas Sowell, Affirmative Action Around the World.

Sunday 5 February 2017

The right to promiscuity

Ex-feminist Kristen Hatten gave a speech to a pro-life group on the connection between Marxism and feminism. A moderately interesting read; interesting that she was not familiar with the history of communism until more recently. This suggests that a large number of people, and especially Millennials, may be ignorant of the evils of Stalin and Mao and not nearly cautious enough about socialist and atheist ideology.

Unrelated to communism but commenting about attaching the pro-life movement to other objectives she mentions a scene from King of the Hill which is somewhat perceptive
There was one episode where Bobby, the little boy, got really into Christian ROCK. His mom was all for it, because she was just happy her boy was into Jesus. But the dad, old uptight Hank Hill, wasn't into it. And the entire episode you're sitting there thinking, c'mon Hank, lighten up! So there's a little bit of ROCK involved. He's still loving Jesus!

At the end of the episode Hank takes his son into the garage and hands him this box and says open it up. And inside the box are all these lame old things that Bobby used to think were cool. Like, imagine Pokemon being in that box in like ten years, although Pokemon may never die, it seems. But Bobby looks at all these old toys and says, “Yeah, these are lame, I was such a baby.”

And Hank says, “Son, one day soon, this Christian ROCK is going to go into this box. And I don't want Jesus going in there with it.” 
Now this may have been as much of a slur—an unwarranted one—on Christian rock music. Nor are these types of concerns necessarily likely to actualise. Though it does remind us to keep the central things central.

Considering abortion: recently there has been media coverage of women protesting the president in the United States. Other than the odd idea that women's liberty amounts to little more than unfettered access to abortion, modern protest signs and props for solidarity among women are most intriguing. This is not new but I had not noticed the connection before.

Modern women protest with a focus on vaginas; the ignorance of many, including adult women, of the difference between a vulva and a vagina not withstanding. The vagina is the symbol. Rhetorically this focuses on coitus. Women are justifying their sexual liberty and condemning those who would restrict sex. The focus is on the right to promiscuity. We see the same message in a slut walk.

Except this symbol has not been the focus of womanhood previously. The symbols of a women were not vaginas but wombs and breasts. The focus was not on the ability to have sex, rather the ability to conceive and carry a child. And after birth to nurture through nursing. This change kind of makes sense in a perverse way. The freedom to have sex and avoid pregnancy, or remove the child if one inadvertently gets pregnant, would not well be served by the symbols of fertility, parity and lactation.

Monday 30 January 2017

Monday quote

If you go to a theater for a $10 flick, and you hand the cashier a $20, you expect $10 in change, not $5 or $2. It doesn't matter that in "his truth" or in "his story" $5 + $10 = $20, the real truth is that $10 + $10 = $20, and nobody can tell you different. Even if you are a card-carrying post-modern, some things are absolutely true. Math is one of them, at least when you are buying and selling using your own money.

Tom Pittman

Monday 23 January 2017

Monday quote

It had never occurred to me, as a general moral principle, that two educated men were for ever forbidden to talk sense about a particular topic, because a lot of other people had already voted on it. What is the matter with that attitude is the loss of the freedom of the mind. There can be no liberty of thought unless it is ready to unsettle what has recently been settled, as well as what has long been settled. We are perpetually being told in the papers that what is wanted is a strong man who will do things. What is wanted is a strong man who will undo things; and that will be a real test of strength.

GK Chesterton

Sunday 22 January 2017

Hypocrisy: false virtue signalling or injustice

The New York times references a study on why we dislike hypocrites.
We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication — not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.
The authors blame the issue of honesty: hypocrites signal virtue that they do not have

I don't think this rightly identifies the reason we dislike hypocrisy, though in part this may be due to the definition of hypocrisy. From the abstract
We propose that hypocrites are disliked because their condemnation sends a false signal about their personal conduct, deceptively suggesting that they behave morally. We show that verbal condemnation signals moral goodness (Study 1) and does so even more convincingly than directly stating that one behaves morally (Study 2). We then demonstrate that people judge hypocrites negatively — even more negatively than people who directly make false statements about their morality (Study 3). Finally, we show that “honest” hypocrites — who avoid false signaling by admitting to committing the condemned transgression — are not perceived negatively even though their actions contradict their stated values (Study 4). Critically, the same is not true of hypocrites who engage in false signaling but admit to unrelated transgressions (Study 5).
Hypocrisy is more than not practising what you preach. Paul noted that some preach the gospel out of envy and that, motives wrong, at least Christ is preached (Phi 1:15). Their false virtue signalling, while rejected by him, did not put him him out of sorts (though perhaps Paul was able to identify a benefit that most cannot?). I am not so sure that we dislike hypocrisy because we encounter people fail to live up to what they claim.

The issue of hypocrisy is more in the condemnation aspect of it. Hypocrites do more than just fail to live their morals. Rather that they exempt themselves from the rules for specious reasons while asking others to abide by them. It is as if you and they are being judged in the same court for the same thing and they are the judge. Then they condemn you and acquit themselves.

It is an attack on justice. Not so much an issue of honesty, that they falsely claim their virtue; but an issue of injustice, where a hypocrite demonstrates that he is, in fact, an unjust person and yet he takes on the role of judge and jury.

Monday 16 January 2017

Monday quote

How quickly death unrobes the great.

Charles Spurgeon, (1834–1892).

Friday 13 January 2017

Husband help

While men can be unobservant to a fault, their wives can have unreasonable expectations and they can find the negative in genuine attempts at helpfulness. Ingratitude will make a husband believe that while he needs to be kind, at times it does not seem to be worth it. Here is some (increasingly difficult) suggested advice.

Wives, if you are expecting to do a job and your husband does it for you; don't complain, be grateful.

If he completes the job
  • Don't complain that he did not do the job the way you would do it;
  • Be grateful that you do not have to do the job.

If he does not do the job to your standards
  • Don't complain that the job is substandard;
  • Be grateful the job is essentially done and can be quickly spruced up.

If he doesn't finish the job
  • Don't complain the job is incomplete;
  • Be grateful that there is a smaller job to do than otherwise.

If he creates as much work as he saves
  • Don't complain that he created work for you, he didn't;
  • Be grateful he is wanting to help.

If, in the unlikely scenario, he creates more work than he saves
  • Don't complain about all the work he caused you;
  • Be grateful he made a gesture;
  • And if this happens on a regular basis, let him know at an appropriate time that he may be better suited to other tasks.
And whatever you do, don't ask a man to do a job for you while he if actively doing it.

Monday 9 January 2017

Monday quote

We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes.

Isaac Newton

Monday 2 January 2017

Monday quote

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

Mark Twain.


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