Friday, August 18, 2017

Saturday debate on Islam

Why Evangelicals are Drawn to the Alt-Right

Aids to prayer

A friend recently asked, "What ideas or practices have helped you grow in prayer?"

i) I think it varies depending on what you're going through at any particular point in life. What may be helpful when life is going well may be inadequate during a crisis or dry spells.

ii) Some Christians find it useful to keep a prayer journal. That way they have a record of answered prayer. More generally, it's easy to forget all the things we've been through once they're past. But reviewing that periodically can provide a sense of providential care. 

iii) Another thing: it's good to alternate between praying for our own needs and praying for others. Intercessory prayer keeps us from becoming too depressingly focussed our own problems. And taking a break by praying for others enables us to come back to our own problems somewhat refreshed.

iv) Can be good to read/watch (credible) testimonies of answered prayer. Even if your own prayer life seems to be spinning its wheels, evidence of God at work in the lives of others can be inspirational. Reminds one of God's reality, even if he doesn't seem to be palpable in your own life at the time. Two examples:

v) In my experience, there's value to looking back on evil. Looking back on a particular ordeal in one's life and say to yourself, "Well, at least I've put that much behind me! At least I'll never have to go through that again! Maybe the worst is behind me." 

I realize it's too soon for Christians undergoing a crisis to be able to have that detached perspective. But if you get beyond point, it will be a relief to consign that to the past. And even if you're not at that point as of yet, and it's nowhere in sight, even so, it is good to anticipate a time of life when you can view your current ordeal in retrospect. It's an outlook I've been cultivating lately. Remembering events I'm happy now lie in the past.

Death and flooding

I suspect that when many people read about Noah's flood, they assume the victims died by drowning. And that has some implications of the depth of the flood, since you can only drown in water that's over your head (or above your neck).

Now, I'm no expert, but it seems obvious to me that there are various ways to die in a flood short of drowning. Suppose there's standing water at waist-level or chest-level for just a month. You can still breathe. You won't die by suffocation. However:

i) You can't sleep because you can't lie down. But there comes a point when the urge to sleep is irrepressible. So you can only keep your head above water for so long.

ii) Other than fruit trees (which are seasonal), you have nothing to eat. You can't even see where food is, because it's submerged. 

Stored dry foods will be spoiled by the flood waters. Wineskins suffer the same fate. No waterproof containers. No tupperware in the ancient world. 

You can't hunt game. Standing water impedes mobility. Even if you could catch game or livestock, you can't cook it. And the flood will drown the low-slung livestock.

iii) You don't have drinking water. The flood waters are polluted. So you either drink contaminated water or die of thirst.

iv) Depending on the temperature, you can die of hypothermia. 

v) Depending on the rapidity of the deluge, Noah's neighbors might not have time to evacuate to high ground, assuming they lived in the vicinity of high ground. 

It also depends on the direction of the floodwaters. If torrential floodwaters are rushing downstream, that will impede ability to reach high ground. You'd either be heading into the floodwaters or be overtaken by the floodwaters.

And even if coastal flooding was the primary source, causing rivers to back up, you could still be overtaken by the deluge, and swept away by strong currents. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Effacing the past

Predictably, SJWs lobby to tear down offensive monuments. A few observations:

I'm not an absolutist about this. I don't think it's intrinsically wrong to tear down some monuments. But in general I'm opposed to it:

i) If and when we're going to tear down monuments, that should enjoy broad-based public support. That shouldn't be decided by an unrepresentative faction of malcontents.

ii) As a rule, we shouldn't efface history. Rather, we should learn from history. 

I oppose the erection of Confederate monuments. But once it's there, has been there for decades, that becomes integrated into the history of a place, and it's a good thing to see visible layers of the past.

iii) SJWs are insatiable. They don't stop when you capitulate to their incessant demands. To the contrary, that emboldens them to demand more. 

Where does it end? If some people find churches and synagogues offensive, should they be torn down? If a private homeowner has a crèche on his front yard during the Christmas season, should that be removed because some atheists are offended? Should yarmulkas be banned if Muslims are offended? Should bikinis be outlawed if Muslims are offended? 

iv) It reflects the obsession with empty symbolism. Tearing down Confederate monuments doesn't do anything to improve the lives of Black Americans. That's a cheap substitute and decoy that deflects attention away from real problems and real solutions.

v) So often it's whites who presume to speak on behalf of minorities. That's very paternalistic. 

Kinists and libertarians

There's an intriguing relationship between libertarianism and white racism, viz. Kinists, neo-Confederates. By that I mean, these groups overlap. So what's the nature of the relationship?

The relationship is asymmetrical. Libertarianism doesn't logically entail white racism (or racism generally). And it's not a domino effect, where one thing automatically leads to another.

But while you can be a libertarian but not be a white racist (indeed, many or most are not), at least in my anecdotal experience, Kinists and neo-Confederates are typically libertarians. So what's the connection? The very fact that there's some correlation despite the lack of logical continuity invites a special explanation to account for the overlap.

What's the entry point? Do they start with libertarianism, then migrate to Kinism/Southern nationalism? Do they start with Kinism/Southern nationalism and migrate to libertarianism? Do they start with theonomy and migrate to Kinism/Southern nationalism? Do they start with Kinism/Southern nationalism and migrate to theonomy? Is there a one-stop shopping site where they get the whole package?

We might begin by distinguishing between reasonable libertarians and the lunatic fringe. I asked a couple of libertarian (or libertarian-leaning) friends about who they thought were the best representatives of libertarian ideology. The combined list was Bastiat, David Boaz, Isaiah Berlin, Friedman, Haywek, Nozick, Rothbard, and von Mises–along with thinkers whose work underpins libertarianism, viz., Locke, Mill, Paine.  

Let's cite those as a benchmark for reasonable libertarians. Presumably, there's no logical trajectory from their socioeconomic and political views to white racism. BTW, although I'm not a libertarian, I'm sympathetic to some libertarian principles. 

On the other hand, there's what I'll dub the wing of the libertarian movement. Other examples include Michael Butler and Timothy Harris. 

A malarial swamp of conspiracy theories. 9/11 Truthers. JKF conspiracy buffs. The usual suspects, viz. Trilateral Commission, Skull & Bones. A whole alternate narrative about American foreign policy. 

There've been many debacles in American foreign policy. But the pundits I've referencing invariably impute the most underhanded motives to American foreign policymakers. Fiascos can't be explained by anything as mundane as human folly and foibles. No, the motives must be more nefarious–like the invisible omnipresent Jewish lobby. This fosters a mindset which makes Kinism and Southern nationalism more plausible by placing that within an overarching historical narrative. 

Another potential entry point is the intersection between Calvinism and Southern Presbyterianism, a la Thornwell, Dabney. That's an adventitious association or historical accident. A temporary confluence and a particular place and time. A counterpart would be Francis Nigel Lee. I dissected that a few years ago:

I think the upshot is that libertarianism and white racism sometimes overlap, not because those ideas logically group together, but because people group certain ideas, and when certain people form groups, especially like-minded people, there's a synergistic effect. 

Don't like Confederate statues? Don't make one

Remember the "Don't like abortion, don't have one" line? Why do SJWs apply the same logic to Confederate statues? Or statues of Washington, Jefferson et al. Don't like it? Don't make it! Don't look at it!

Tearing down statues

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


From a blue-ribbon liberal:

Is corporate confession vicarious repentance?

We've seen a recent fad in which evangelical "leaders" think white Christians have a duty to exercise vicarious repentance for the sins of their racist forebears. This is defended on the grounds that Scripture contains corporate confessions (e.g. Dan 9, Ezra 9, Neh 9; 2 Chron 34). Is that analogous?

i) Let's begins with a comparison. Suppose you attend a church in which the pastor, elder, or lector recites a corporate confession. Is that vicarious repentance? No.

It uses the third-person plural, not because one person is confessing on behalf of and in place of another person, but because it's about more than one person. It's about each and everybody in attendance. When the speaker recites the corporate confession, he mentally includes himself. The confession is distributively collective. 

The corporate confession is about the living, not the dead. As the congregation listens, individuals are supposed to apply that to themselves. Agree in prayer with the words of the confession. Mentally assent to the words.

Although the pastor (elder, lector) is speaking on their behalf and in their stead, he's not repenting on their behalf and in their stead. It's no different in principle that a confession which the congregation recites in unison. It's just a different mode. Instead of everyone confessing the same prayer out loud, there's one speaker while everyone else listens along, in a contrite spirit, and silently assents to the confession.  

The corporate confessions in Scripture are like that.

ii) Apropos (i), it's meaningless to repent on behalf of and in place of, say, James Thornwell, Robert Lewis Dabney, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis et al. because they never shared the penitent attitude of the living supplicant. They didn't think they had anything to repent of in that regard. They thought their attitudes, and actions were justified. So vicarious repentance, in this context, involves the counterintuitive notion of repenting for another despite their impenitent attitude. That's diametrically opposed to my first example, where the principle of corporate confession is predicated on shared contrition. 

iii) When you read corporate confessions in Scripture, the reason they bring up the sins of their forbears is not to repent for what former generations did, but to acknowledge a chain of events leading up to the current situation. The living find themselves in this situation, not only for their own sins, but because the iniquity of former generations brought down divine judgment in the form of the Assyrian deportation, Babylonian Exile, and the like. It's not the living confessing for the dead, but the living remembering how God warned Israel that he would punish covenant-breakers. 

iv) Finally, it's about the horrified realization that some of the living are now repeating the sins of their wayward ancestors. They have yet to learn the lesson.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

When exorcists need help, they call him

Does the Quran promote peace?


Debate: Does the Quran Promote Peace?

 · Hosted by Imam Mahdi Center - IMC

Even atheists are more likely to distrust fellow atheists (takes one to know one)

False apology syndrome–I'm sorry for your sins

The Alt-Reich

I don't know if this is even worth remarking on, but I'll comment on a few statements by two alt-right spokesmen, just to sample alt-right ideology:

We don't hate conservative Christians, we simply reject them as potential allies because they are useless failures inclined to do more harm than good to the nations. Their Christianity is cucked, and therefore dying; it won't be long before they embrace female pastors and honoring loving relationships between consenting adults of any of the 57 genders.

I wonder if Theodore Beale really believes that, or if this is just hyperbolic polemical rhetoric. 

i) To begin with, there's nothing necessarily liberal about the ordination of women. That's practiced by the Assemblies of God, not because it's a liberal denomination, but due to its charismatic theology. You also had restorationist denominations in the 19C, coming out of the holiness movement, that ordained women. Once again, that wasn't due to liberal theology. 

To be sure, in the 20C, the ordination of women is typically associated with mainline denominations that are in a secularizing death spiral. 

ii) More to the point, the ordination of women is usually a litmus test differentiating conservative denominations from liberal or liberalizing denominations. Does Beale have any hard evidence that conservative denominations are trending towards the ordination of women?

iii) The efforts of the power elite to strong-arm acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism has stiffened resistance on the part of conservative evangelicals. It's has a winnowing effect, by splitting nominal evangelicals from Bible-believing Christians. 

iv) In the case of the Catholic church, there has been a nearly wholesale embrace of the "social justice" agenda. And that's been accelerated by the pontificate of Francis. So Beale's strictures are applicable to the Catholic church.

v) In addition, there are evangelical "leaders" and spokesmen who are panting to catch up with the parade when it comes to vicarious repentance for the sins of our ancestors, profuse apologies for the alleged mistreatment of homosexuals by the church, opposition to efforts to rein in Muslim immigration and illegal immigration. Critical race theory making inroads into the SBC. Opposition to reparative therapy.

To that extent, some evangelical "leaders" are guilty as charged. However, that exposes a rift between evangelical elites and the rank-and-file. I daresay most evangelical laymen won't follow suit.

vi) However, it's my impression that alt-right opposition to Christianity runs deeper. It seems to mirror the Nietzschean contempt for Christianity as a "slave religion". And, in a sense, Nietzsche was right. Christianity has a nonnegotiable commitment to protecting the innocent; protecting the most vulnerable members of society. Extending mercy to those who are needy through no fault of their own. Defending victims of injustice. Insofar as the alt-right is Nietzschean, the alt-right is inimical to fundamental Christian values. 

First, God Himself divided humanity at the Tower of Babel and pushed humans into different nationalities, so there is nothing “ungodly” about doing so...Third, the alt-right does not have an idol of ‘whiteness’; rather, it recognizes the simple fact that whites, or whites of different ethnicities, have the right to exist in their own nation-states unmolested by other groups—which is precisely the same right that other groups currently enjoy around the world.

i) Damien disregards the fact that God confused their language as punishment for their hubris. That action inhibited them from colluding in evil. But that's hardly a human ideal.

ii) There's a basic difference between forced integration and freedom of association. The alt-right makes an idol of whiteness by acting as if racial purity is intrinsically superior to interracial associations. In addition, there is no pure Aryan culture, and even if there were, that's not superior to combining the best that every culture has to offer. 

"Blood and soil"

I'll make a few more comments on the rally in Charlottesville:

i) The "news" media has a habit of arbitrarily singling out particular incidents as if they have special significance. This feeds on itself, because other people treat the incident as significant because the media did. So there's a boot-strapping process in which an incident which had no intrinsic significance acquires ascribed significance because many people begin to confer artificial significance on that otherwise insignificant incident. 

ii) I'd like to say something about terminology. Labels like "white nationalists" and "white supremacists" are common designations. I think "white segregationist" is more accurate than "white nationalist". 

I've read some alt-right folks deny that they are white supremacists. However, there doesn't seem to be much point in promoting segregation unless you think your race or culture is superior. Are they going to say, "whites are inferior, white culture is inferior, that's why we need to preserve it!"?

iii) SJWs think we have a duty to monitor and denounce every real or perceived manifestation of white racism. Now, there are situations where we should comment on bona fide racism. However, I'm not going to come running every time you yank my chain. That gives you control over the agenda. But I have my own priorities. You don't get to dictate the agenda to me.

iv) There's the question of what's accomplished by the obligatory denunciations. The alt-right thrives on denunciations. It reinforces their self-image as the persecuted righteous remnant. 

If you're going to respond at all, sometimes the best response is ridicule. Take Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden. To the extent that anything is effective with these groups, mockery is more effective than taking them seriously. 

v) To freak out over every manifestation of real or perceived white racism takes them more seriously than they deserve. Should we reward publicity hounds with the publicity they crave? There's an fundamental difference between Nazism in the sense of an ideology enabled by the Wehrmacht, and Nazism in the sense of ragtag bands of teen and twenty-something losers dolling up in costumes, shouting slogans, and making ineffectual hand gestures.

This has been around for a long time. Back in 1998 you had American History X

In the 70s, Richard G. Butler garnered disproportionate attention from his compound in Idaho. Something to pad out the paper on a slow news day. Likewise, you had the widely publicized march in Skokie back in 1978.

Generally, white supremacists are a fringe group with no influence. That's why it usually makes sense to ignore them.

Take the notion of a white homeland. Within the foreseeable future, there's no realistic possibility that white segregationists will be able to secede from the union and withdraw into caucasian enclaves. So why even bother to critique a position that's futile? It's a purely academic debate. That prospect is simply not in the cards.  

vi) I'd add that denunciations of white racism tend to have a self-congratulatory vibe. But it doesn't take any courage to denounce an obvious, but politically impotent evil. Unlike members of the French and Italian resistance, you're not putting your life on the line. Isn't there something terribly banal about reviling an evil that every reasonable person already agrees is evil? So the shrill moral preening and back-patting is misplaced. 

I'm struck by the alacrity with which "evangelical leaders" rushed in to disassociate themselves from the white supremacist rally. But no rational person would associate them with that event in the first place. And for SJWs who are quick to tar evangelicalism with sexism, racism, "homophobia," "transphobia" and the like, no disclaimers, however emphatic, will remove the indelible stain imputed to them.  

vii) Why do SJWs have this obsessive need to play the thought police? Ironically, that's symptomatic of their moral insecurity. Because secular progressives have no basis for objective moral norms, they suffer from the compulsive need to remind elite opinion-makers of their unconditional loyalty to the liberal orthodoxy du jour. Secular morality can and does change overnight. It's easy to fall out of favor with the king. When that happens, off with your head! So there's this compulsive, frenzied need to constantly demonstrate their undying allegiance to the party line as a condition of social acceptance within their subculture.  

viii) In fairness, it might be said that a significant percentage of Trump voters are alt-right. That raises the question of whether this is a social movement which the election of Trump empowers. And that's a legitimate concern. 

But thus far I don't see much evidence that the Trump presidency has empowered the alt-right. It looks like he pandered to that demographic for cynical reasons. Having gotten elected, he no longer needs their votes. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Institutional racism is alive and well–on the Left

Tit for tat identity politics

Parsing Ezekiel's temple

Readers will find themselves embarrassed by these chapters [i.e. Ezk 40-48]. To some extent at least they were presumably presented as normative for the future. Yet the postexilic community, even when adoption of their rulings was within its power, found other models of worship, while the different orientation of the Christian faith has left these chapters outdated. Must one relegate them to a drawer of lost hopes and disappointed dreams, like faded photographs? To resort to dispensationalism and postpone them to a literal fulfillment in a yet future time strikes the author as a desperate expedient  that sincerely attempts to preserve belief in an inerrantist prophecy. The canon of scriptures, Jewish and Christian, took unfulfillment in stride, ever commending the reading of them as the very word of God to each believing generation. L. Allen, Ezekiel 20-48 (Word, 1990), 214-15.

i) This raises a serious issue. Millennial movements and millennial cults routinely make false predictions. What distinguishes a millennial cult from a millennial movement is if the leader and members double down after their predictions fail. To outsiders, Christians who defend the inerrancy of Bible prophecy seem to be guilty of the same special pleading. So we do need to be able to address the challenge.

ii) Allen's final sentence is misleading. The canon doesn't take unfulfillment in stride from the canonical standpoint. To the contrary, the distinction between true and false prophets is fundamental to biblical theology. 

iii) Suppose, for argument's sake, that Ezk 40-48 is a program to replace Solomon's temple. Did exilic Jews really expect that to happen after their repatriation? Solomon's temple, which was far less ambitious, was built by human means. The postexilic community didn't have anything approaching the resources necessary to build the temple complex envisioned by Ezekiel. How could they realistically expect that to happen after returning to Palestine? Wouldn't thoughtful members of Ezekiel's audience find his vision puzzling or idealistic? So that's one of several dubious assumptions underlying Allen's interpretation and assessment. 

Barring supernatural intervention, it would require modern construction equipment to build the temple complex envisioned by Ezekiel. 

iv) Let's consider some other dubious assumptions he makes. A vision of a temple has no date. A vision of a temple doesn't place that structure in the past, near future, or far future. A vision of a temple is neutral on the timeframe. 

As a practical matter, Ezekiel's audience could rule out a past realization. But respecting the future, there's nothing in the vision itself that selects for the near-term or long-term. It's just a verbal description of a mental image of a temple complex. 

v) By the same token, a vision of a temple is not, in itself, a promise, prediction, or building program. Compare it to dreams. Some dreams are ordinary while other dreams are revelatory. But you don't know ahead of time which is which. At best, you only know after the fact if the dream was ordinary or revelatory. If it comes true, then it was prophetic. But that's not something you can discern in advance. 

Moreover, the benefit of hindsight works better in the short-term than the long-term. In the case of any true prophecy, there's an interval between the time of the prophecy and the time of fulfillment. Before then, the prophecy was apparently false. Nothing happened…until it happened! 

vi) Suppose, for argument's sake, that Ezekiel's vision is not a promise, prediction, or building program. Would that still be edifying?

Solomon's temple was destroyed. Ezekiel has a vision of a new temple that, in a sense, will replace it. Even if that's not literal, it could still be meaningful. Not a vision of the future, but a picturesque metaphor or analogy for the future. A way of saying the exilic community has a future. God will restore the Jews to their homeland. The Mosaic cultus will resume. God hasn't given up on Israel. 

Does Genesis Teach that the Earth is Young? A Conversation with Dr. C. John Collins