On nationalism and pledging allegiance

[There is] an impulse that can be dated back to the beginnings of the modern era and the rise of the state. Before the latter’s ascent, memberships in various social settings were overlapping and varied, ranging from families, neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, regions, guilds, Church (parish and Catholic), nation, even empire.

The state undermined competing allegiances by demanding primary allegiance to itself alone, and only secondarily and ‘voluntarily’ to these preexisting institutions. Such memberships became less and less ‘constitutive.’ Rather, such associations and memberships came to be viewed as secondary to our primary allegiance to a State that reserves the right to control, oversee, and define any other institution….

The only liberty that could be recognized was the liberty of individuals to ‘pursue his or her own ends.’ The ancient rights, privileges, immunities and liberties of institutions—the Church, universities, guilds, localities—were redescribed as forms of oppression. The increased power, even intrusiveness, of the state, was justified not as a form of oppression, but rather in the name of liberation of the individual….

During the bloody twentieth century, the Church stood against the totalitarian ambitions of Fascism and Communism. A third ideology is clearly flexing its muscles today—threatening to make those victories of the last century merely Pyrrhic. The totalitarian impulse today is embedded in the very logic of liberalism, which seeks to expand its dominion into every aspect of life and against every competitor to its demand for the exclusive allegiance of individuals. We need to keep firmly in mind the picture that adorns the Leviathan, and resist our absorption as individuals into the body of the state by retaining deep, abiding, and even primary allegiance to family, locality, and Church.

Patrick J. Deneen, “President Obama’s Campaign For Leviathin” (First Things blog, October 3, 2012).

The Religion of the Market

[For] all of the religions of the world, however they differ from one another, the religion of The Market has become the most formidable rival, the more so because it is rarely recognized as a religion. The traditional religions and the religion of the global market … hold radically different views of nature. In Christianity and Judaism, for example, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein.” The Creator appoints human beings as stewards and gardeners but, as it were, retains title to the earth…. In The Market religion, however, human beings, more particularly those with money, own anything they buy and—within certain limits—can dispose of anything they choose.

Harvey Cox, “The Market as God,” Atlantic Monthly, March 1999, 18-23.

Epistemological Humility or Potluck?

The Emergents confuse incomprehensibility with agnosticism, while they make mystery into an excuse for doubting divinely revealed propositions, and they pervert paradox by denying the very ground on which it is created: an a priori commitment to absolute, logically consistent Truth. Their doubting is not any kind of “epistemological humility”—it’s intellectual (and spiritual) suicide. Finally, Emergents repudiate logic while simultaneously angling the conclusions of their own humanistic reason against the Scriptures. It’s an epistemological potluck on the village green, complete with half-baked chicken, stale heresy-crackers and the moldy rolls of relativism. I’ve also heard the salad isn’t too fresh.

“Recovering Orthodox Epistemology — An Open Letter to Conservative Evangelicals”, THEOparadox blog (December 4, 2009), retrieved from http://theoparadox.blogspot.com/2009/12/recovering-orthodox-epistemology-open.html

The life cycle of a theory

In the life cycle of a theory, it starts off simple and then gets fancier and fancier, as brainy thinkers mount objections and the theory’s proponents develop a more subtle, complex, and well-defended theory to stave them off. Then it dies. Actually, before it dies, it lives in a special preserve for theories too complicated to survive in the wild, called a university.

Eric Kaplan, Does Santa Exist? A Philosophical Investigation (New York: Penguin Group, 2014), 39.

Reading Multiple Perspectives

Read and listen to one thinker and you become a clone; Read two and you become confused; Read ten and you get your own voice; Read a hundred and you start to become wise.

Timothy Keller

Knowledge as treasure on earth

“What happened was, I got the idea in my head—and I could not get it out—that college was just one more dopey, inane place in the world dedicated to piling up treasure on earth and everything. I mean treasure is treasure, for heaven’s sake. What’s the difference whether the treasure is money, or property, or even culture, or even just plain knowledge? It all seemed like exactly the same thing to me, if you take off the wrapping—and it still does! Sometimes I think that knowledge—when it’s knowledge for knowledge’s sake, anyway—is the worst of all. The least excusable, certainly…. I don’t think it would have all got me so down if just once in a while—just once in a while—there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn’t, it’s just a disgusting waste of time! But there never is! You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge.”

J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1961), 146-7. Franny is speaking the quote in the story “Zooey”.

I can permit myself to understand another person

I have found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to understand another person. The way in which I have worded this statement may seem strange to you. Is it necessary to permit oneself to understand another? I think that it is. Our first reaction to most of the statements which we hear from other people is an immediate evaluation, or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling or attitude or belief, our tendency is, almost immediately, to feel “That’s right”; or “That’s stupid”; “That’s abnormal”; “That’s unreasonable”; “That’s incorrect”; “That’s not nice.” Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of his statement is to him. I believe this is because understanding is risky. If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding. And we all fear change. So as I say, it is not an easy thing to permit oneself to understand an individual, to enter thoroughly and completely and empathically into his frame of reference. It is also a rare thing.

Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995), 17-18.

Testicle or head covering?

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering (1 Corinthians 11:13-15, NRSV, emphasis mine).

What if ‘covering’ (περιβολαίου) ought to be translated as ‘testicle’? Check out these fascinating articles:

American Exceptionalism

The deepest theological danger inherent in American exceptionalism, then, is that of the messiah nation that does not simply seek to follow God’s will, but acts as a kind of substitute God on the stage of history. When the concept of chosenness becomes unmediated by the church and unmoored from the biblical narrative, the danger is that the nation will not only be substitute church but substitute God. When the shrine is emptied of the biblical God and replaced with a generic principle of transcendence, there exists the danger that we will not come to worship God, but will worship our freedom to worship God. The empty shrine is surreptitiously filled. Our freedom itself becomes an idol, the one thing we will kill and die for.

William T. Cavanaugh, “Messianic nation: A Christian theological critique of American exceptionalism”, University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Vol. 3, issue 2, article 6 (Fall 2005), 268. Read PDF article.

Consistency is not a postmodern virtue

… consistency is not a postmodern virtue. And nowhere is this more aptly displayed than in the barrage of criticisms leveled against the church. The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love. They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing. They don’t like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then hate it when it has poor leadership. They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirty-somethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they’ll complain that the church is ‘inbred.’ They want the church to know that its reputation with outsiders is terrible, but then are critical when the church is too concerned with appearances. They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can’t find a single church that can satisfy them. They are critical of the lack of community in the church, but then want services that allow for individualized worship experiences. They want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think. They want a church where the people really know each other and care for each other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country club, only interested in catering to its own members. They want to be connected to history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style every week. They call for not judging “the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people,” and then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most unflattering terms.

They’d like to have their cake and eat it too.

Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 87-88.