Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doug Groothuis, "Understanding the New Atheism, Part II"

My new essay on TrueU has just been published. In it, I defend the New Testament against some of the criticisms of the new atheists.

Warning: Curmudgeon Has Watched 12 Minutes of TV (On Line) and He is Not Happy About It

One of my colleagues sent me this link to a "60 Minutes" report on the deportment of "millennials." Of course, this is not a social science study (it is television, for heaven's sake), but it does chime with things I've read (such as UnChristian by David Kinnaman) and things I've seen, such as my students playing on their laptops while I pour out my soul during a lecture.

What do you think, especially you "millennials" out there?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book review of a modern classic

[This review was published in the early 1990s in The Christian Scholars Review. I have used this book nearly every year I have taught at Denver Seminary. It is a modern classic on discerning culture from a Christian perspective.]

Kenneth Myers, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989. xvi + 213 pp., including index.

This book does not fit easily into any set category, and therein lies much of its significance and strength. It concerns at once, theological, aesthetic, historical, and sociological issues relevant to a Christian critique of modernity. Myers, formerly editor of This World and presently editor of Genesis, breaks new ground by developing a Christian perspective on American popular culture. The genius of the book is its analysis of popular culture, not primarily according to its content (what is presented), but according to its style or form (how it is presented).

Any non-comatose Christian can discern that the lyrics of popular rock music or the "plots" of situation comedies don't exude Christian principles. Myers' concern is that popular culture shapes not only our cognition but, more subtly and insidiously, our sensibilities. As Robert Coles notes in his Harvard Diary: "The constraints of culture are often invisible; they coerce us, but we don't think of them in connection with our ideas, our values, our inclinations, our likes and dislikes."

Myers takes his task seriously. He says, "I believe that the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for Christians of earlier centuries." The sobriety lies in our predilection for idolatry: "Idols and myths can take the form of moods and sensibilities as well as stone and creed, and there are many disturbing signs that many contemporary Christians have made the limited and limiting sensibility of popular culture their own." Adopting neither an ascetic nor libertine perspective toward modern popular culture, Myers analyzes what is distinctive about popular culture, assesses its displacement of high culture, argues for a deeper awareness of its pervasive effects, and advocates greater appreciation for traditional high culture.

Before the cultural assaults of the 1960s, Myers argues, popular culture honored and imitated high culture. Thus Walt Disney's "Fantasia" was set to classical--not pop or folk--music. Since the 1960s, popular culture has dominated our sensibilities, usually covertly. The essence of popular culture is instant gratification, intellectual impatience, ahistorical immediacy, and the incessant pursuit of novelty. The gimmick prevails over the artistic as enduring aesthetic norms are set aside in favor of immediate sensations and pleasurable stimulation.

High culture, on the contrary, has traditionally been marked by abiding aesthetic norms. The art of high culture, whether in literature, music, or elsewhere, demands careful attention and the cultivation of certain sensibilities for its enjoyment. Whereas one is immediately gripped by the booming bass and pulsating beat of rock and roll music, the appreciation of an organ piece by Bach is more of an acquired taste, and one that is ultimately--though not immediately--more rewarding and even ennobling. He writes, "Great art reveals something about human nature because it is forced to conform to created reality." In this way, high culture is better suited to communicate the profundities of both biblical and general revelation. Because it can delve no deeper than instantaneous titillation, popular culture is ill equipped to bear the message of transcendence or holiness.

Nevertheless, Myers' finds that modern Christians thoughtlessly adopt popular culture as a bearer of the gospel without considering whether the medium is worthy of the message. Television, which Myers' rightly regards as popular culture's dominating medium, is unblinkingly esteemed as a ready means to Christian ends. Yet the very nature of the medium itself, whatever its content might be, "encourages the aversion to abstraction, analysis, and reflection" because of its dependency on fleeting visual images over written words. Here Myers makes good use of the penetrating criticisms of television--and image-oriented culture in general--made by Jacques Ellul and Neil Postman.

But Myers is not arguing for cultural snobbery or aesthetic moralism. Although he argues for the virtues of high culture, he distinguishes moral goodness from aesthetic goodness and realizes that the moral landscape is populated by both uncultured saints and cultured pagans. Still, Myers maintains that the disciplined attending to reality required by high culture may spill over into the moral virtues. The proclivities of popular culture, while sometimes harmless, have no such potential. However, Myers doesn't praise high culture in toto. He cites the decline and even nihilism of much of contemporary high culture as one reason for the ascendancy of popular culture. As modernism made high culture increasingly esoteric, enigmatic, and irritating to the uninitiated, it became less accessible and appealing, thus giving opportunity for the domination of popular culture.

Because of its interdisciplinary range, thorough documentation, engaging style, and sophisticated analysis, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes is a needed antidote to worldliness, especially in its less detectable and socially acceptable forms. It would make a fine text for sociology, aesthetics, and evangelism courses at the college and graduate levels.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Flight of the Red Balloon"--Film Review

"Flight of the Red Balloon" has been hailed by critics as a beautiful, even sublime, film. Although I seldom attend films, I saw it today flanked by some congregants from my church. Yet it puzzled more than it dazzled.

Set in Paris (with English subtitles), we find a beautiful, single (or perhaps her husband has been away for a long time; I couldn't tell), distraught mother, Suzanne, hiring a young Taiwanese nanny, Song, to look after her five-year-old son, Simon. She passionately reads lines for a Chinese puppet theater. At several points a red balloon mysteriously appears near the characters, especially the boy. There is no discernible plot: no tension, no release, no mystery, and ...I'm afraid to say, no meaning.

The serenity of the balloon and of Song offset the disorder of the mother and the other characters. I got the sense of looking in on some people's mostly pedestrian lives. Near the end, a blind piano tuner appears and tunes a piano in the family's flat while other things are going on. Why, what for? I have no idea. Looking hard for meaning, I found none--except, perhaps, in the contrast between the simplicity and eerie serenity of the balloon and the lives of most of the characters. Does the balloon symbolize anything? Could it be a sign or signal of transcendence? If so, we are not told. We are left without any cognitive sense of meaning in or for life.

Any meaning or aesthetic qualities is left to the cinematography, since there is barely any dialogue. The mother (Juliet Binoche) plays her part well (at least what there is of it), but she does not appear all that often in the film.

Why have so many critics been entranced by this film? Perhaps because their expectations for meaning in life are so low, given their secularism (f they are such). Scenes of Paris, a mysterious red balloon, a precious child, and a gorgeous actress may be enough to alleviate their angst for two hours. But that is little comfort, indeed. Then again, I am not a film critic, so maybe I just missed far too much, as this writer (writing for Christianity Today) claims.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Technological Lament

I heard on the radio that an auto-maker is producing a hybrid SUV. Think about that.

Let's bring back station wagons. They held big families when I was kid, were not loaded with multi-media equipment, and would get decent gas mileage (at least better than a tank).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Silence and Truth

In observing the present state of affairs and of life in general, from a Christian point of view one would have to say: It is a disease. And if I were a physician and someone asked me, “What do you think should be done?” I would answer, “Create silence, bring about silence.” God’s Word cannot be heard, and if in order to be heard in the hullabaloo it must be shouted deafeningly with noisy means, then it is not God’s Word; create silence!

And we humans, we clever fellows, seem to have become sleepless in order to invent every new means to increase noise, to spread noise and insignificance with the greatest possible ease and on the greatest possible scale. Yes, everything has been turned upside down. The means of communication have been perfected, but what is publicized with such hot haste is rubbish. Oh, create silence!--Soren Kierkegaard, “Silence and Solitude,” in Provocations, 372.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Adam, Eve, and Teaching in the Church

Have you ever wondered why The Apostle Paul refers to the sin of Adam and Eve in 1 Timothy 2? If so, please read the clear and compelling essay on this important subject by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis from her blog.

Bring Home the Bacon on Bacon

Francis Bacon wrote of "the book of "God's Words" [Bible] and the "the book of God's Works [Nature]." Does anyone know where this is taken from? The reference I have lacks a footnote! Again, I need it for my apologetics book.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Homology: The Problem

See this four minute video on "Darwinism's Homology Problem."

Homology, Darwinism, and Logic

[This is a section from one of my chapters on Darwinism and Intelligent Design.]

One argument from homology to Darwinism is philosophical and does not rely on any empirical factors. The objection is made that a conscious designer would never use similar structures in different organisms to accomplish different tasks. Therefore, the random process of natural selection is the better explanation.

The empirical evidence for homology is very questionable (see Jon Wells, Icons of Evolution and M. Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis), but the logic behind the philosophical argument is flawed as well. Why, pray tell, should a designer employ entirely different structures for different purposes—say for a wing and for a hand (which have some structural bone similarities)—when similar structures accomplish various goals quite well? How can the Darwinists read the mind of the nonexistent (or at least nondesigning) God? There seems to be no moral or logical principle at hand to invoke against such a designer. Moreover, many human designers employ similar structures for divergent purposes. If this is the case for human designers, why not so for a nonhuman designer of the structures of living things themselves?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Help in Finding Chesterton Quote

There is a quote in Chesterton's Orthodoxy where he writes that the Christian can abide quite a bit of development or evolution in the natural world, but that the materialist can abide absolutely no design. I have read Orthodoxy and recently listened to it all on CD, but I cannot find this quote! Can anyone tell me what chapter it is in and where in the chapter. There are many editions, of which I have two.

Thank you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Progress: The Digital Douglas

To save time and money, I have downloaded myself in my entirely to The Internet. So, if anyone, anywhere, anytime needs me for anything, simply click:

Doug Groothuis review of "The Case for Civility" by Os Guinness

The Denver Post finally published my review of The Case for Civility. They edited out some comments about relativism, sadly.

Parts of this significant section were cut out:

Unlike tolerance, civility, on the contrary, requires knowledge and courage. Guinness argues that civility is a higher virtue than mere tolerance, which easily devolves into apathy and indifference. Civility is not the fruit of relativism, which despairs of objective moral knowledge.

Nevertheless, I hope my short review will encourage many to read this important book.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Francis A. Schaeffer and Senator Obama

Years ago, Francis A. Schaeffer argued that "modern men" (as he put it then) had fallen into a "divided field of knowledge." Having given up on reason to deliver meaning, they instead put meaning into an "upper story" immune from argument, proof, or disproof:

Upper story: meaning, universals, faith, values, religion
Lower story: reason, evidence, history, facts, science

(For the development of this thesis, see Escape from Reason [1968] and The God Who is There [1968]. Nancy Pearcey has further applied these ideas wonderfully in Total Truth [2004].)

Many considering the presidential election are held captive by a similar dichotomy:

Upper story: "hope," Obama as savior figure
Lower story: Obama's actual policies, track record, (in)experience

There is no good reason, no evidence from his life, beliefs, associations (think: Jeremiah Wright, NARAL endorsement) or voting record, that Obama can deliver hope (based on a coherent policy or presidential resume) at home or abroad. All he presents is an "upper story" mysticism sans logic, reason, or evidence.

America, wake up! Romantic and irrational idealism is not the stuff of American politics in a post-9/11 world. Don't take a leap of political faith. Think through all the issues rationally. Pursue political knowledge.


An argument:

1. Nothing has any objective value.
2. Therefore (a) (1) has no objective value
3. Therfore, (b) (1) should not be believed
4. Therefore, (c) (1) should not be acted on, acted out.
5. Therefore (d), nihilism is irrelevant. If it is true, it cannot be known to be true; neither can it be lived out consistenly.

Neuro-theology: A Category Mistake

[A fragment from my upcoming book.]

In recent year, a host of brain researchers have been exploring and conjecturing on the biological basis for religious beliefs. The basic thesis of many of these opinions is that beliefs in God or the sacred can be explained on the basis of certain functions in the brain. That is, neuroscience gives the answer to why we have religious beliefs—it has nothing to do with any objectively real state of affairs that we perceive or discern in some sense.

Most of these views presuppose materialism. The reasons is this: Since we know that there is no God and no sacred realms (since all is material), we need to explain (and explain away) why so many have religious experiences. Of course, if this assumption is wrong, then there is no need to engage in such reductionism. I can be argued on the basis of natural theology that there is good reason to believe in a creator, designer God who is the source of the moral law. (See my book, In Defense of Natural Theology, for starters.) If so, the materialist assumption is unfounded. But it is no threat to religious belief if certain brain states correlate with certain religious beliefs or experiences. We are material as well as spiritual beings. The mind interacts with the body, as Scripture teaches and our experience confirms. The threat appears when this correlation is taken to be a reduction of the spiritual to the material. But philosophically it is impossible to translate first-person experiences (whether of carrots of or God) into third person, physical accounts, no matter how sophisticated these accounts are. These qualia (subjective experiences) are a different category of being than quantitative reports of what is going on in the brain (objective reports of states of affairs).

But there is another problem for this reductive view: it serves as a boomerang on itself. If all mental states and experiences reduce to physical states in the brain (and are so explained away as unreal), the belief that “There is no God” is also reducible to physical states in the brain (and can be explained away as unreal). Therefore, it’s all in the mind here, too, then. But if so, then all thought and reasoning is discredited by materialism (an idea we address elsewhere). It speaks volumes to note that while millions of grant money goes to explaining the neurological basis of religion, nothing goes to explain the neurological basis of atheism.

Therefore, despite all the advances in the knowledge of the neurological workings of the brain and its relation to religious beliefs and experiences, these in no way refute the truth of these beliefs. That project is the work of philosophy. Here, as in so many other areas, science is an unaccredited usurper of intellectual authority.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Insane and Evil at the Goodson Rec Center

Coming out of the men's dressing room, I sat down and was looking through The New Yorker. Then I gazed at some art work on the walls. Sadly, a huge TV was on. Before I knew it, the area was full of the sounds and sights of a rape-murder scene. It was in a public area. I was shocked by the visceral evil of the scene even as I fled the area as soon as I could, disgusted, shaken--wanting to rid my consciousness of what I just heard.

This culture has lost its sensitivity, its sense of saying "No" and leaving some things alone. There is no more childhood, as Neil Postman said. Everything is out in the open. There is no reticence, no restraint. This TV scene was from a major network and played on a public screen.

Being removed from TV culture, this kind of thing stuns me. And to think of the millions who see it every day and thing nothing of it... As Isaiah said long ago, This people has forgotten how to blush.


A philosopher's work is never done.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brian McLaren...Again

Brian McLaren is interviewed in USA Today. One should notice that he does not challenge the idea that he has given up "absolute truth." Are these absolute truths, Mr. McLaren?

1. There are no absolute truths.
2. Torturing the innocent merely for pleasure is always wrong.
3. There is one Mediator between God and humans: Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
4. One should always love God and one's neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).
5. There is One God (Deuteronomy 6:4).

McLaren also dodges the question as to whether he is "liberal." If we use the classic theological terms for the rejection of biblical authority as true and knowable, he is most definitely a liberal. Without the basis of biblical authority (which is not modernist, but premodern and, in fact, perennial), anything can happen morally and theologically, which is exactly what we find with McLaren.

1. People can be redeemed through nonChristian religions.
2. He refuses to deem homosexual conduct as unbiblical and unhealthy.
3. He downplays the significance of personal salvation.

One of the symptoms of a diseased movement is that incompetents get promoted as experts and visionaries. These are hard words, but true, nonetheless. I reviewed McLaren's A New Kind of Christian some years ago in The Christian Research Journal. See also Jeremy Green's review of A Generous Orthodoxy in Denver Journal.

For book length critiques of "the emerging church," see D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church and R. Scott Smith, Truth and a New Kind of Christian.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Time Has Come Today

Some of you know that I have been working on an apologetics textbook, What Matters Most, for years. I started it in 2003. Thus far, it is huge (perhaps 500 pages of typed text, double-spaced; maybe 20 chapters), but it still needs revising and new writing. Thus, I have received the word from my agent/editor that since the school term has almost ended, we need to focus on finishing this monster. This means that The Constructive Curmudgeon needs to go into virtual hibernation for several months. What does this look like?

1. No wrangling with critics.
2. No new essay posts to speak of.
3. Posts limited to links and brief thoughts.

At least, this is my goal, since I need to turn from the more ephemeral (but fast) to the more permanent (but slow). It is in a word a matter of discipline.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Blog Psychology (updated)

After nearly three years of blogging, I offer an idiosyncratic, unscientific, but possibly realistic account of the different types of personalities engaged in posting on the blogsophere. People may fit more than one category or move back and forth between them. I name no names.

1. Emotivists: Those who cheer or jeer or thank you, but do little else.

2. One trick ponies: Those who post the same chops repeatedly, hoping that repetition makes for argument (or something).

3. Thinkers: Those who engage posts thoughtfully with a desire for knowledge.

4. Stinkers: Those who take on false names, offer gratuitous insults--my favorite, "You have a mail order degree"--and, when banned, do the same thing on another blog that I like.

5. Butterflies: Those who flit about, landing briefly, writing little beyond impressions.

6. Diverters: "those who intentionally steer the blog postings into areas never intended by the original blogpost." (Thanks to Doug White, who warn me to got be diverted by such.)

7. Lurkers: Those who read, but do not post. They sometimes email me instead.

"These are a few of my favorite things..."

Since curmudgeons are sometimes accused of being only negative and grouchy, here is a list of a few of my favorite things (in no particular order).

1. The sound and sight of my wife's laughter.
2. Students who know how to write footnotes properly.
3. Warm days with no wind, which are perfect for biking 20-30 miles.
4. John Coltrane's saxophone playing.
5. Italian food.
6. Ethiopian food.
7. Sermons that sizzle with intelligence and biblical content.
8. Weekly communion at my Anglican church.
9. Gift cards.
10. Answered prayer.
11. Seeing my students grow in knowledge and wisdom.
12. Speaking Christian ideas into places where they are not normally found, such as editorials in newspapers, lectures on college campuses, and so on.
13. Old LPs in perfect shape for a few dollars.
14. Large, blank book marks.
15. Big book royalty checks (these days are long over).
16. Students who say Thank You.
17. Finishing a good book.
18. Intelligent comments on my blog.
19. (Most of) The Westminister Confession of Faith.
20 Good questions.

Fantastic Deal on Excellent ID DVDs

Access Research Network is offering a 50% discount on the three best DVD's giving the scientific case for Intelligent Design. I have seen all of these several times and endorse them highly. The empirical case is made effectively through the video format and the production values are very high. These are the DVDs.

1. Unlocking The Mystery of Life
2. The Privileged Planet
3. The Case for a Creator

These films give "the beef" for ID that the film "Expelled" only briefly touches on.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Is Christianity True or Relevant?"

The answer is: both.

Wellspring Anglican Church is sponsoring a summer lecture series with professors from Denver Seminary, who will address matters of apologetics and ethics. Please visit the web site for details. Meetings are free and open to the public. I am giving two lectures: (1) Christianity and the life of the mind and (2) Christianity and science. These are oriented toward thinking Christians and nonChristians.

Rare Opportunity to Interact on Gender Matters Theologically

Author Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, at Men and Women: Leaders Together, has been posting some very thoughtful theological essays on matters of gender equality. (This is rare, by the way.) This comes out of many years of writing, speaking, and thinking over these things. She takes the time to respond carefully to whatever questions are raised on the blog. Please consider visiting and posting something civil and thoughtful.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Technological Laments

Lament is part of a healthy life of a world in travail (Romans 8:18-26), because the world is fallen and because we need to recognize this sad fact. Without lament, we lose loss. We fail to emotionally and intellectually record the passing of objective goods that ought to be there, but which now are not there. In this biblical spirit (an entire biblical book is called Lamentations), I note two losses:

1. Bookstores are dying. Christianity Today recently featured this in an article on the decline of the traditional Christian bookstore as a place for books, fellowship, and counseling. Corporate chains sell the bestseller cheaper and more people acquire books on line. So, we loss the physical personal place once again--a place to browse and serendipitously encounter people and ideas. Corporate chains are also taking over bookstores once owned by colleges and seminaries, because the latter are less profitable because of on-line buying. There will be fewer titles and more "merchandise" unrelated to the mission of the schools.

2. Email and class web pages seem, to me at least, to cut into the time I spend with students in my office hours. This hit me just recently. I'm sure that ten to fifteen years ago far more students stopped into to talk about class issues and other things because they did not have email. Now students rarely leave phone messages or come by my office. There may be many other reasons for this desertion (use your imagination), but the Internet is surely one cause. Once again, the physical and personal place is abandoned for more impersonal contexts.

For these things, I lament. I hope you do as well. If you don't, you should lament your loss of lament and lament your loss of loss. Selah.

On lament, see:

1. Michael Caird, A Sacred Sorrow.
2. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son.
3. C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.

Evangelical Manifesto

The Evangelical Manifesto is now out. Os Guinness is the principal author. He is always worth reading.

Positivism: Not So Logical

[Someone emailed me who was concerned about someone was shaken in his faith by Logical Positivism. This surprised me, but I composed the following email for him. A day in the life of a Christian philosopher. He mentioned that he read something about Positivism on the Wikipedia.]

Wikis are not consistently reliable, because of multiple authors and anonymous authorship.

Logical positivism (LP) is widely viewed as a failed philosophy, although it took some time to die. It is self-contradictory, so it is necessarily false--not small defect. See J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, pages 197-20o, on the limits of science for a refutation (although he may not use the term itself). You probably had this for a text in PR 501. See also the chapter on this in Carl Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1.

LP claims:

Statements are only meaningful if and only if:

1. They are tautologies or necessary truths (as in mathematics or A=A) or:
2. They can be verified by empirical observation.

Since they claim that the statement, "God exists," fails to fulfill (1) or (2), it is meaningless (which is even worse than false). Actually, if the ontological argument works, "God exists" is a necessary truth, and so fulfills (1). And there is strong indirect empirical evidence (Big Bang, fine-tuning of the universe) for (2). But hold that for now.

LP itself fails to fulfill (1) or (2). It is not a necessary truth (1); it is not an item of empirical observation (2). So, by its own criteria, it must be meaningless!

We can also attack it by a particularist method. There are meaningful items of our knowledge, things we are very sure about, that don't fit (1) or (2).

A. Bach was a better composer than Eminem. (Yes, we can empirically hear this, but the judgment is not a simple issue of empirical observation.)
B. I existed ten minutes ago.
C. It is wrong to discriminate on the basis of race.

If things like A, B, C, are known to be true (even though they don't fulfill LP's requirements), then LP is false.

I hope this helps.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Education in the Church

Pastor Rob Paris, of Wellspring Anglican Church, preached a superb message on a Christian view of education in the Church on April 27, 2008. You can get here, but must find that date and sermon. It was a gem theologically, biblically, and exhortationally. Please listen.

An Evangelical Manifesto

This Wednesday a document called An Evangelical Manifesto will be released to the public. It appears that the contents will reflect much of Os Guinness new book, The Case for Civility, which is reviewed favoribly elsewhere on this blog. (A longer review of it by me should come out May 18 in The Denver Post). Eighty evangelicals leaders have reportedly signed it.

The Other Side of Abortion

Prison Fellowship has promoting a new campaign called Abortion Changes You. This is a compassionate outreach to the survivors of abortions who must live with the consequences. Materials explore the side of abortion you often do not hear about--the human cost to those who have made the wrong choice. Mark Earley wrote an editorial explaining the ministry.

Academic Freedom Needs Legal Support When It Comes to Darwinism

The Florida Senate has passed a bill to protect the teaching of scientific critiques of Darwinism. It is now headed for the House. Other states have similar bills pending. More power to them, I say, in light of the kinds of things exposed in the movie, "Expelled."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Indian Prime Minister Denounces Sex Selection Abortions

Read this article from The New York Times for a denunciation of India's growing practice of aborting female fetuses because they are female. The Prime Minister has condemned this in strong terms, as he should.

Of course, elective abortions are performed in the US all the time for just about any reason. Sex selection abortions are not as pronounced here as in India, but they do occur, as do abortions of Downs children and of many others with "defects" that the living in power deem intolerable.

Truly, we do not welcome the least, the last, and the lost into our culture with open arms. We kill them in order to alleviate suffering, theirs and ours. How humane: killing the innocent in the name of compassion.

Would Obama or Hillary speak out against sex selection abortions in India--or in the US? No, they would paper over the social pathology with the language of "choice" and "freedom" and "we trust the women to make the right choice."

A Surreal Moment from Cyberspace Education

On a campus somewhere in the physical world...

Hello, Dr. Screen!

Hello. Have we met before?

I'm one of your students.

Really? Well, I have had so many, it is hard to remember all of them.

I took your Philosophy 101 class class term.

Oh, the on-line class?


I think I remember your photo on your ID from the class roster. But wasn't your hair blue then?

Yes, I change it quite a bit.

Didn't you post something about Socrates?

Ah, well, actually, no. I did post something about Kant, though.

I see...ah...

I really liked your recorded lectures. The technology was terrific.

Thank you.

I told a philosophy professor friend of mine that I took your class and he was very impressed. He says you are an expert on Pascal.

I have written quite a bit about him, yes.

Well, I'm really happy that I took a class from someone so distinguished. It will look really cool on my application to graduate schools.

Best wishes on that.

I have a question before you go.


Will you write me a recommendation for graduate work in philosophy?



If you cannot see how absurd this situation is, I'm not sure what to say. How can there be a student-teacher relationship in the classic sense within this kind of situation. There is no mentor/mentee dynamic. Dr. Screen has never met the student and vice versa. Of course, he is in no position to write a recommendation. The student cannot really claim to be the students of Dr. Screen, only the partaker of his data and the receiver of his grade.

Three Books to Shake Your World

1. Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man. The amazing story of an underground Chinese Christian who lives and risks and suffers for Christ. Read it, then repent of being a typical American Christian (if you are).

2. Soren Kierkegaard. Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. Existential/theological shock therapy. The Audit of Eternity will never be forgotten.

3. Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality. This short book gives the foundations of spiritual life, all but forgotten by pop/schlock, pseudo-mystical, syncretistic "evangelicals"(emergent or otherwise) who want to be post-modern, post-foundational, post-reformational," and (therefore) post-reality. This is the devotional theology that sustained Schaeffer's remarkable life and ministry.

Screwtape Writes Again: Education, for Hell's Sake

My Dear Wormwood:

Let me continue my theme of making the little creatures ignorant of the manifold errors of their supposed Creator. The One Above, inasmuch as we can discern what he says at this point, desires knowledge of himself and the world. Yes, he calls for faith, but a knowing, understanding faith. We need to confuse all of this in the mind of the Christian. To do so, we must target their philosophy of learning. I say this to instruct you on dealing with your charge, that loathsome seminary student. (By the way, make him sound sanctimonious every time he tells anyone is he "a seminary student.")

Ah yes, we have come a long way and have done much good work, Wormwood. The result—hordes of people are well-informed ignoramuses!

1. Pound them with data from all sides through technology.

2. Remove the context in which the data may become knowledge and be truly transformative in their lives. (One of our meanest foes, D. James Kennedy (now out of our reach), hosted a radio program called “Truths That Transform.” That is exactly what we cannot abide: truths that lodge in the souls of these vermin.)

How may we accomplish this method? Let me count the ways!

1. We love efficiency and so do they. It is the unacknowledged, taken-for-granted value since The Industrial Age (which, I may add, also gave us much material for that precious metaphor “man as a machine,” and so on). So, make education efficient. That means getting degrees quickly and easily, increasing class size, detaching learning from environments littered with real people in all their messiness, etc. Learning usually suffers! What a great irony.

2. They love everything Internet. In fact, it has become lust, our old friend. So, put “education” on-line and don't let them realize what they lose in the process. Sure they gain some things and we experience some losses. These learners will pick up a few facts, get a grade, and be on their way to degrees, but will never have to be in a room with those flesh-bearers and will never get to know their teachers; nor will their teachers now them. (As I remember hearing, the Son of the One Above required his followers to spend a ridiculous amount of time with him and really meddled in their daily lives in the name of "love." We don’t want anything like that to happen now. Think of the damage it did to our cause then. These “little Christs” actually learned to cast us out of people, which is their rightful location. I am told this really hurt. It hurt more with the Boss Below found out. Well, let’s move on. They don't do much of that anymore--at least in America.)

The Internet dematerializes everything, so to speak. Matter is over-rated, as you know. We are the spiritual ones. We have no bodies at all, and it affords us so many advantages: all that bulky stuff with its secretions and malfunctions—we know nothing of it. So, the more we can dematerialize their earthly life—put them out of touch with each other as creatures in space and time—the better. (Some of them think of the afterlife as entirely immaterial, with no resurrection in sight. And these people own--and sometimes even read--Bibles. There is this insufferable and prolific Anglican bishop who has been writing against this for some years. We have a new campaign aimed at his disinformation.) Encourage that Gnostic impulse that came in after the Rebellion. Whenever I am sad, I think of the Gnostics--past, present, and future. It is one of "my favorite things," as their miserable song puts it.

3. You know full well, Wormwood, that we cannot be too careful about what they read. That enemy propagandist, C. S. Lewis, was lost to The Cause Below when he started reading material from the other side. What plans we had for him. In fact, he wrote, “A young atheist cannot be too careful about what he reads.” We tried everything on him, but lost. And now many earthlings read his ludicrous arguments for Christianity—or at least they say they have to appear pious. We must not let that kind of thing happen again. Real logical argument always ends up serving the other side. Yes, Lewis had a larger than normal intellect (to put it mildly), but event the more modest creatures become far more hazardous and odious to us when they read certain books seriously. How I yelped with delight upon reading those recent reports from The National Endowment for the Arts. Most Americans don’t read a single book in a year! And consider the kinds of books they do read when they do. Think: Oprah.

How to do it? It is deliciously simple: Distract them with other things. The television leaves no room for reading. Put a TV in every room. Make them huge and magical. Keep them on all the time. Have people spend more on TV and accessories than on books and thoughtful magazines. And no church libraries, for hell’s sake! We are nearly victorious in that campaign, I’m proud to say. In fact, I know of a church that began small, but prized the intellect (even apologetics). I was worried. I bid off a lot of my claws over it. They were proud of their little church library. Then, the church grew like a weed--and was just about as pretty in so doing. Hundreds flocked in and the library was first neglected, then sacked. Oh, what a bunch of well-informed ignoramuses we have there now—along with music so loud that it makes thinking impossible.

There is so much more, but get to work on your man now. The place where he is has a huge library, after all, and some very knowledgeable teachers. It is dangerous to us. Inform him, by all means; make him proud, proud that he is “well-informed.” He is busy getting facts, but keep him empty of knowledge. Remember, I am watching you, as is our Father Below.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Friday, May 02, 2008

Pascal and the iPod

Robert Velarde has written a thoughtful and clever post called "Pascal and the iPod."
Combining my favorite philosopher with one of my favorite students makes for a worthwhile essay.

Nina: Bark From Beyond

One must seize the day to be contemporary. So, my next book will be called Nina: Bark from Beyond. Books about dogs are hot; books by psychics are hot.

It was inevitable; it will be invaluable: a book about a dog's after death experience that gives transcendental wisdom to all! Nina: The Bark from Beyond.

Nina (named after my Grandmother) was my beautiful and smart Husky/German Shepherd dog, who lived (on earth) from 1964-1976. We grew up together. I still miss her. She was sleek, fast, and had a "million dollar bark," as my father used to say, given how she looked out for my mother and me.

But now she has barked from the beyond into my own inner consciousness. She is free from the leash, unfettered by materiality, unbound by human "masters." She is a master herself and ready to reveal all--from the other side.

Yes, I have started to receive messages from the beloved and departed Nina. In the stillness of my soul, she speaks. I know that bark, the bark of cosmic wisdom. It is hard to put into words, but without putting it into words, I cannot write a bestseller, so the bark becomes book, and the book may become a bonanza.

Nina has a message for the world, a message of hope--for dogs, cats, rats, men, and women, even Democrats. It is a bark to spark, a bark to harken to, a bark to hasten to, a bark on the mark.

Nina: Bark From Beyond, published by CosmicCanineCon Press, will soon be in a bookstores near you.

(This is, of course, a satire. For the biblical view of all occult activity, see Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Revelation 22:15; etc.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ex-Terrorists Speak in Boulder

Two ex-terrorists spoke recently at The University of Colorado at Boulder. It is remarkable they were not shouted down or otherwise harrassed. Of course, the story says that extensive security was provided.

Two Logic Bombs Against Obama

Concerning Obama's relationship to the Jeremiah Wright.

1. Either (a) he knew of his irrational, conspiratorial, and divisive views or (b) he didn't.
2. If (a), Obama is culpable for supporting egregious error.
3. If (b), Obama is an ignoramus about the basic teachings of his own church, and not a serious church goer (even though he avows that he is and is appealing to many religious people for this reason).
4. If either (a) or (b), Obama suffers from several moral impoverishment and does not possess the leadership character to be the most powerful person in the world.
(5. (a) is far more likely than (b).)
(I was inspired by Sarah Scott for this argument.)


1. Obama says he doesn't know the status of the unborn.
2. Obama, therefore, supports abortion on demand as do all good Democrats today. It is an item of (bad) faith for them.
3. If one does not know the status of the unborn, one should be conservative and protect that unborn living, human being, which, if left alone, will develop into someone just like us. (One cannot dispute that the fetus is a living human, even if one has--unjustifiable--qualms about personhood.) Because the stakes are so high, the benefit of doubt should be given to the human life; the burden of proof should be on the life-taker.
4. Obama, on the contrary, thinks that his ignorance justifies the ongoing killing of well over a million innocent humans a year without any legal restriction.
5. This reveals Obama to be morally incompetent at the deepest possible level. If he cannot see the truth at this level, why expect him to recognize it elsewhere--just because he has a good speaking voice? His supposed concern for "the poor and oppressed" is given the lie. Who is more oppressed than the aborted unborn today?