Monday, March 30, 2009
Jazz Theologian (dates corrected)
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Aesthetic Torture in the Land of Possible Delight
The worst audio assault a sex-saturated, no-melody, no harmony, swaggering hip-hop eruption or idiocy. I was subjected to two selections by the same savage (whose name I do not know), who intoned, "You call me a philosopher, but I just want to..." You get the (non)idea. It had all the subtlety of a bulldozer gone berserk--although that would have sounded better. It was crude, rude, and lewd. Not all hip-hop spews these kinds of lyrics, of course; but the best-selling stuff does. What a sad commentary on our view of humanity, sexuality, and relationality. America is further east of Eden in this area than in probably any other dimension in life. Collectively--and not just in hip-hop--we are sexually insane. See Romans, chapter one, for the whole story and explanation.
Yet, while I was amidst hundreds of jazz CDs, no jazz was being played. Was it worth the torture of the sonic environment? It certainly made concentrating difficult.
There were also horrible noises made by some synthetically-twisted voice that sounded robotic and thoroughly ugly. I have no idea was genre of noise it was, but it was pointless and hopeless.
Thirty years ago, in his famous Harvard address Solzhenitsyn chastised America for the crassness of its popular culture, including music. But nothing then was a soul-shriveling, abrasive, abusive, and disgusting as what I heard today. The coarsening of culture means the corruption of souls. You are known by the company you keep and the music that buzzes in your ears and in your mind.
I detoxified upon returning home through prayer, Bible reading, and listening to Coltrane, Monk, Kenny Garrett, and Joshua Redman. And I did manage to purchase a two-disk CD from Stan Getz for only $2.00. I'm sure what I heard on the sound system would sell for far more...
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Why I am Pro-life: A Short, Nonsectarian Argument
Rather than taking up the legal reasoning and history of abortion in America (especially concerning Roe vs. Wade), this essay makes a simple, straightforward moral argument against abortion. Sadly, real arguments (reasoned defenses of a thesis or claim) are too rarely made on this issue. Instead, propaganda is exchanged. Given that the Obama administration is the most pro-abortion administration in the history of the United States, some clear moral reasoning is called for at this time.
The first premise of the argument is that human beings have unique and incomparable value in the world. Christians and Jews believe this is the case because we are made in God’s image and likeness. But anyone who holds that humans are special and worthy of unique moral consideration can grant this thesis (even if their worldview does not ultimately support it). Of course, those like Peter Singer who do not grant humans any special status will not be moved by this. We cannot help that. Many true and justified beliefs (concerning human beings and other matters) are denied by otherwise intelligent people.
Second, the burden of proof should always be on the one taking a human life and the benefit of doubt should always be given to the human life. This is not to say that human life should never be taken. In a fallen, cruel, and unfair world, sometimes life-taking is necessary, as most people will grant. Cases include self-defense, the prosecution of a just war, and capital punishment. Yet all unnecessary and intentional life-taking is murder, a deeply evil and repugnant offense against human beings. (This would also be acknowledged by those who believe it is never justifiable to take a human life.)
Third, abortion nearly always takes a human life intentionally and gratuitously and is, therefore, morally unjustified, deeply evil, and repugnant—given what we have said about human beings. No real argument can be brought against the claim that what creates a human pregnancy (a fetus) is a human being. Biologically, an entity joins its parents’ species at conception. Like produces like: apes procreate apes, rabbits procreate rabbits, and humans procreate humans. If the fetus is not human, what else could it possibly be? Could it be an ape or a rabbit? Of course not.
Some philosophers, such as Mary Anne Warren, have tried to drive a wedge between personhood and humanity. That is, all persons are not human (such as God, angels, ETs—if they exist), and not all humans are persons (fetuses or those who lose certain functions after having possessed them). While it is true that there may be persons who are not humans, it does not therefore follow that not all humans are persons. The fetus as a person in progress, not a potential person or nonperson.
When we separate personhood from humanity, we make personhood an achievement based on the possession of certain qualities. But what are these person-constituting qualities? Some say a basic level of consciousness; some assert viability outside the womb; some say a sense of self interest. All of these criteria would take away humanity from those in comas or other physically compromised situations. Humans can lose levels of consciousness through injuries, and even infants are not viable without intense human support. Moreover, who are we to say just what qualities make for membership in the moral community of persons? The stakes are very high in this question. If we are wrong in our identification of what qualities are sufficient for personhood and we allow a person to be killed, we have allowed the wrongful killing of nothing less than a person. Therefore, I argue that the best ontology is to regard personhood as a substance or essence that is given at conception. Even if one is not sure when personhood kicks in, one should err on the side of being conservative simply because so much is at stake.
Many argue that outside considerations experienced by the mother should overrule the value of the human embryo. But these considerations always involve issues of lesser moral weight than the conservation and protection of a human life. An unwanted pregnancy is difficult, but the answer is not to kill a human being. Moreover, a baby can be put up for adoption. There are many others who do want the child and would give him or her great love and support.
The only exemption to giving priority to the life of the fetus would be if there were a real threat to the life of the mother were the pregnancy to continue. In this case, the fetus functions as a kind of intruder that threatens the woman’s life. To abort the pregnancy would be tragic but allowable in this fallen and disoriented world awaiting its final redemption. Some mothers will nonetheless choose to continue the pregnancy to their own risk, but this is not morally required. It should be noted that these life-threatening situations are extremely rare.
This argument does not rely on any uniquely religious assumptions, although some religious people will find it compelling. I take it to be an item of natural law (what can be known about morality by virtue of being a human being) that human life has unique value. A case can be made against abortion by using the Bible (only the Old Testament or both the Old and New Testament combined) as the main moral source, but I have not given that argument here. Rather, this essay has given an argument on the basis of generally agreed upon moral principles. If it is to be refuted, one or more of those principles, or the reasoning used, needs to be refuted.
Although at the beginning of this essay, I claimed I would not take up the legal reasoning related to abortion, one simple point follows from my argument. In nearly every case, abortion should be illegal simply because the Constitution requires that innocent human life be protected from killing. Anti-abortion laws are not an intrusion of the state into the family any more than laws against murdering one’s parents are intrusions into the family.
Who Designed the Designer: A Response to Richard Dawkins
Think was only published in the UK until recently. I'm not sure if this issue is available in the US except in some libraries. As you will see, my argument challenges Dawkins's supposedly showstopping question to theists and also defends Intelligent Design.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Lessons from the Grasshoper: How Not to be Boring as You Age
1. Minimize talk about one's declining health. Yes, we need sympathy and advise as this mortal coil starts to uncoil in unpleasant and sometimes frightening ways. That is granted. However, there is nothing more boring and annoying than someone who fixates on his or her health to the exclusion of other things, especially things related to other people.
2. Being thankful for "the good old days" is fine. God has blessed you in days of yore. But remember Ecclesiastes 7:4 as well. "Do not say , 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions as." Yes, the yesteryear of thinner bodies, better memories, smaller prostates, and larger possibilities were wonderful and bountiful, but we press on to tasks, blessings, and challenges ahead--including the inestimable glory of fulfilled life with God and his chosen saints unending.
3. Associate with the younger souls. Listen to them; hang out with them; discern their vision for the Kingdom. Savor their idealism, however naive, however refreshing.
4. Savor and ponder your "grasshopperness." Ecclesiastes vouchsafes the most poignant and moving account of aging in the history of world literature in chapter 12.
1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"—
2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. verses 1-5.
The grasshopper (one of my aliases ) moves more slowly, experiencing life at a reduced rate. Think of the jazz saxophonist (I cannot remember his name) who confessed that when he was young, he played a bevy of breezy notes--a dazzling display of dexterity. Wow, impressive it was. Yet, as he got older, he got wiser, and played fewer notes, but with more information packed into them (this is Wynton Marsalis's description of the playing of the older Louis Armstrong), with more soul, with more restraint that opens up dimensions of aesthetics unreached by the plethora of running runs delivered at breakneck speed. Slower can be better. Leave the race; join the sagacious recline.
5. Cash in your chips of age. As we age, we earn some respect and log some miles. I can say that I have been studying apologetics for over thirty years. If said humbly, this adds ethos and pathos to your logos. Be an elder, a mentor, a gray hair who does dye his hair and pretend otherwise. As the incomparable King James puts it:
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.--Lev. 19:32.
As the Preacher said, "There is a time for every purpose under heaven." There is a time to get older, slower, more feeble. It has its unique strengths and opportunities. Savor them for the glory of God, the Ancient of Days.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Ditch Your Television
Keep Obama Away from Notre Dame
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
A Fresh, Clear Voice (material added)
I also note that Mark Levin's book, Liberty and Tyranny, is #1 at Amazon.com. Perhaps people are waking up and smelling the socialist/authoritarian poison in the air. I tried to purchase this today at Barnes and Noble, but it was sold out. Let me know if you have read it. He is an expert on the Constitution, which is a but a wax nose for most liberals. l learned much about the Constitution and attacks on it from attorney John Whitehead's excellent work, The Second American Revolution.
Distortions of Christianity
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Worse Than That
Friday, March 20, 2009
Where's My Teleprompter?
The New York Times story on this ignored Obama's mega-gaff
Troy Nunley Dr. Classes at Denver Seminary
Sunday, March 15, 2009
not by them.
Speech lines fed, read,
good, and dead.
Text channeled, narrowed,
Eyes look forward,
Looking at us.
aimed at it.
Eyes on their screen
Not their eyes on our eyes.
Their eyes on their camera, then
From our screen to our eyes,
Not their eyes on our eyes, screen-less.
The unreturned look.
Personality staged, arranged,
by artificial articulation,
The oracular eclipsed by
the mechanical (muse).
I move on to
lecture, book, and plain speech.
unprompted, but not unbidden.
Video redactor of reality,
of its bemused benefactors.
that we serve homeless words
aimed at our happy and hapless souls.
would be speech-less
--a word and world less prompted,
but not unbidden.
a concise incision,
cutting deep and wide,
across land and sea
that every knee
Friday, March 13, 2009
Philosophy at Denver Seminary
Tribute to Dr. Vernon Grounds
The Great Republican Disaster
I am a Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican third. The Republican party has made deep mistakes in recent years, betraying the Reagan Revolution with the nomination of McCain (however better he was than Obama) and failing to produce compelling orators who can dynamically communicate deep conservative principles. (Senator Jack Kemp could deliver, but he fell by the wayside after the 1996 presidential election, when he ran for Vice President. Instead we got the first Bush, who set things up for Clinton.) President George W. Bush was more conservative than McCain, but a terrible speaker and easy to parody and ridicule, sadly. But even Bush was not really a fiscal conservative, despite his other strengths.
The country is moving to the hard left with Obama. It seems there is little principled resistance at this point, outside of talk radio and a few senators and congresspeople. It is a time to lament.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Obama Among the Economists (updated)
To make this an educational opportunity and not simply a condemnation, I recommend the following on economics:
1. Anything on the topic by Thomas Sowell.
2. George Gilder, Weath and Poverty.
3. Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.
4. Richard John Neuhaus, Doing Well and Doing Good.
The Power of Presupposition: Wayne Shorter or Andrew Hill?
You see, my presupposition that this was "The All-Seeing Eye" affected and infected my interpretation of the music. Nevertheless, the presupposition wasn't so deep that it could not be refuted by evidence--in this case, simply checking which CD was one.
When we challenge the worldview of nonChristians, we must realize that their nonChristian presuppositions affect how they view the world. I learned this first from Francis Schaeffer and later from Cornelius Van Til. (I was even a Van Tillian--although a blessedly inconsistent one, since I often appealed to evidence in my apologetics--for a season, but later repented of it.) No one is a blank slate or a logic machine. Nevertheless, we can challenge these presuppositions--whether naturalistic or pantheistic or Islamic--on the basis of evidence that supports a contrary worldview, which itself uniquely explains the world, ourselves, and the future according to its unparalleled merits.
My presupposition as the which CD was in the changer was not so set, so deep, so systematic that it was impervious to counter-evidence. Of course, worldview beliefs are deeper than this; however, when we view them as revisable truth claims or hypotheses, we can grant their intellectual power without taking them to be impregnable.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Review of The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science
Jedd McFatter, a graduate of Denver Seminary with a Masters Degree in Philosophy of Religion, and now a graduate student in history, has written a fine review of Peter Harrison, The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 313 pages with index. £50.00, hardback. This sheds much light on the history and historiography of modern science and challenges some secular assumptions.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Barack Obama: Conditioner of Man (minor factual correction made)
Obama makes a good character as one of C.S. Lewis's "conditioners" in The Abolition of Man. These are power players who detach themselves from the objective moral law, and then try to manipulate people through the invention of "new values" and propaganda. Read The Abolition of Man for a prophetic warning--and for a description of Barack Obama as an amoral "conditioner."
Obama's policy violates four deep moral principles:
1. The Hippocratic Oath principle that doctors should "do no harm."
2. The principle that humans should never be treated merely as means to an end.
3. The principle that the most vulnerable among us should be given special protection and not exploited. See Matthew 25:31-46.
4. It comes down to this: "You shall not murder."
But this is done to "restore science to its proper place." This is chilling, ominous, and deeply wrong. Christians, wake up!
Addendem on Burkas
In a previous post, I likened bargaining with the Taliban (Obama's recent not-so-brilliant policy statement) to bargaining with Nazis. My driver back and forth from the car repair today was wise to mention that bargaining with Nazis would be easier. They were less religious and didn't think they'd get a passel of virgins in paradise when they died in jihad. Good point, Bob!
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Reach Out and Put on the Burka
It hasn't take Obama long to reveal his true colors. There are as many moderate Taliban members as there are moderate Nazis or Klu Klux Klan members. The Taliban sheltered Osama be Laden (remember him?): the man who engineered the worse terrorist attack on US soil in our history on September 11, 2001. Have we (has Obama) already forgotten? The Taliban is an an extremist Islamic party that wants women uneducated and covered from head to toe and which wants the infidels dead or subjected to themselves as dhimmis. These are the enemies of God, of civilization, and of the United States. To look for moderate members to negotiate with is to dine with the devil. Yet this is the essential problem with contemporary liberalism: it has no strong sense of real evil in the world. "Problems" are mere effects of root causes (economic and cultural). This makes for a Utopian foreign policy.
Many of us knew that Obama was soft on terrorism and ignorant (or worse) to the true nature of Islam as a totalistic ideology. (See the writings of Mark Gabriel, especially Islam and Terrorism and Culture Clash). We warned you. Now we all have to live with the absurd and .abominable results.
Denver Seminary graduate, Daniel Seatvet has a column called "Christianity and Culture Examiner."
Now for Something Completely Different...
Friday, March 06, 2009
Obama's Stem Cell Error
Morever, Obama is not restoring sound science or separating politics from science. He is violating a deep moral principle through federal (political) policy. He is using his political power to empower technologies that harm (in fact, kill) human beings. One should protect the most vulnerable among us. One should not treat human beings--at any stage or in any form--as mere material to be exploited for the potential benefit of other more powerful human beings. Sound science tells us that a human person begins at conception. Moral principle tells us to put the burden of proof on anyone for any reason who would kill this human being.
For a detailed philosophical development of the status and rights of the human embryo, see Embryo: A Defense of Human Life by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen.
Obama's Blackberry: Why Care?
"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.--Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:26).
Obama has been given permission to use a modified version of his Blackberry. Why should anyone care about this? From what I know, the Blackberry communications are not traceable or recorded anywhere. This means Obama has a mode of communication not subject to official recording, something mandated by law for sitting Presidents. Can we simply trust him to use it for merely personal matters of no consequence. Of course not. Anyone with that much power, must be held accountable.
As a radio host mentioned tonight (substituting on "The Savage Nation"), why couldn't Obama use it to get advice from his old crony William Ayers, a domestic terrorist? This would not be traceable, as would conversations on land line or conversations in the White House itself. As I wrote during the election Obama's connections to Ayers went very deep, but mainstream press never pressed this issue sufficiently. Now I find Ayers's book, Fugitive Days (a chronicle of his years of evading the Law) on sale at Kings Soopers. His rehabilitation has began in earnest. Obama will not likely officially sanction or be known to communicate to Ayers, but who knows when he might communicate with him--if the form of communication is absolutely secret? Who else would Obama talk to? What would we say? Apparently, we will never know, given this recent development, which seems ominous.
Once again, Obama is given a pass where he does not deserve one.
(I usually do not allow responses to my comments on Obama ]simply because they are typically very caustic], but in this case, if you can correct what I have said about the technology or the law, I will post your critical comments.)
This is not surprise to me, knowing Obama's politics. Perhaps some evangelicals who voted for Obama will be surprised and outraged. One hopes so.
Monday, March 02, 2009
in a universe.
in a verse.
parts of universe.
Reverse the perverse
in part by verse.
Verse versus universe;
Universe versus verse:
The poem told.
The telling done.
The verses fixed.
The world unjinxed.