January 2005 Archives

This is part II in a series on meta-ethics begun here. See that post for more details.

I was going to treat emotivism next (and possibly some of the other non-cognitivist views if I get a chance to write more than what I covered in the class handout I wrote on meta-ethics that is serving as the basis of this series), but I just finished an email to someone who had made a claim that I see frequently from Christian apologists that just seems to me to be a mistake. In this case, it was about subjectivist views about religion. At least that's what I think is the most likely interpretation of it. The point I want to make applies to that and to subjectivism about ethics, so it's relevant to what I've been talking about. Before I move on to non-cognitivist ethics in my next post, it would be good to point out why I think this objection doesn't succeed against the subjectivist view I covered in my last post. It fails to grasp what the view is really saying and thus is refuting a straw man.

Straight Pride

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Backcountry Conservative draws attention to Straight Pride Week, sponsored by a student group at the University of Central Oklahoma. I noticed that Jeff doesn't comment on it one way or the other, but the trackbacks are trying to make this out to be an issue of fairness. That seems to me to miss too many of the social dynamics. I left a comment, but I want to record here also what disturbs me about this.

The nature of Grace

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As Jeremy has already noted, Rebecca and I have been continuing the conversation on atonement.

Currently, Rebecca is stating that the same action cannot be both Justice and Grace to the same person. This is because Justice is getting exactly what you deserve, and Grace is getting better than what you deserve. For the sake of the conversation on that thread, I am accepting those definitions of Justice and Grace (mostly because I think our disagreement will end up not being over these terms).

This is what I get for missing a week of Language Log. Bill Poser says what I've been thinking about the incident of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party but never got around to posting. What was the problem supposed to be?

When a couple come to a party as Bonnie and Clyde, does anyone think that they approve of bank robbery? When someone dresses as a pirate, is that taken to show approval of piracy? Of course not. Wearing a costume does not indicate approval.

Now I didn't gather from the criticisms that they thought Harry was endorsing Nazism. I couldn't figure out what else the complaint was supposed to be, though. Is it that he reminded people of it and therefore offended them? History books should be banned, then. But that was the way the people I heard talking about it sounded, as if bringing that uniform with its insignia out into the open was insensitive. Why else would he need sensitivity training afterward? I just couldn't think of any accusation against him that would both apply to him and show why what he did was wrong.

Wink and Rebecca on Atonement

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For those who followed Wink's series on the penal union view of the atonement, the discussion is actually still going on. I hadn't realized it until I read Rebecca's reference to it in a post from yesterday, but the discussion between her and Wink in the comments on this post from three weeks ago are still continuing, so those interested should stop by and have a look and perhaps a contribution.

Ron Sider (not to be confused with metaphysician Ted Sider, for any philosophers reading this; Ron is Ted's father, but Ted is an atheist, and his dad is a religiously conservative but politically liberal evangelical Christian) has authored "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience" in Christianity Today (Hat tip: Fringe). He argues that Christians who identify themselves in certain ways so as to be classified by pollster George Barna as evangelicals tend to have behavior that's indistinguishable from the rest of Americans (and if distinguishable then morally worse) in some key areas: divorce, racism, materialism (in the sense of overvaluing material possessions) and attitudes toward the poor, sexual morality, and other key behaviors that often lead to the charge of hypocrisy, or even worse that evangelicalism causes bad behavior. See this comment thread for someone who trollishly was making exactly that claim (though without actually giving any argument for it, which Sider does).

Michele at A Small Victory has a fascinating discussion of her attitude toward her teenage daughter's process of learning about sex. The mature perspective she offers provides a stark contrast to the stuff that's usually called mature but isn't. Given that Michele is an atheist, the perspective she presents is even more unusual. [There are some graphic points in the discussion, so those who don't want to see various acts described or eho want to avoid certain words shouldn't follow the link.]

Evangelical Blog Awards

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The Evangelical Blog Awards are here, hosted by Evangelical Underground. I have reservations about the very idea of it, but I got nominated in the apologetics category, so I guess I need to promote it now. A few categories are rather low in the nominations at this point, so go ahead and suggest some if you can help fill it out.

Catholic TULIP

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This was interesting. I was browsing Ales Rarus, and he made the claim that Catholics must deny the five points of Calvinism. I think that's false for all five points, so I was intrigued when a commenter on this post linked to this Catholic defense of the Reformed TULIP doctrines.

I knew Reformed thinkers had always found support in Augustine, Aquinas, and other thinkers whom Catholics tend to respect greatly (I'd mention the Jansenists such as Antoine Arnauld and Nicolas Malebranche, but they were unfortunately officially declared heretics posthumously, though I believe Augustine was temporarily a heretic himself). Also, commentaries by Catholic scholars Joseph Fitzmyer and Luke Timothy Johnson sound more like Luther than like the Roman Catholics of Luther's day. Still, I'd never seen a Catholic defend TULIP explicitly before in the terms Calvinists use.

At the hearings for Condoleeza Rice's nomination for Secretary of State, Senator Barbara Boxer said the following:

Dr. Rice, I was glad you mentioned Martin Luther King -- it was very appropriate, given everything.

Maybe this slipped most people's radar because of her offensive comments later on, particularly her flat-out assertions that Rice had made repeated claims to the American people that she knew were far from the truth. This was one of the few clips they kept playing on the cable news channels as a sign of the congenial part of Boxer's advising and not consenting. Not one person saw it as condescending or patronizing. Should they have? I think it depends on what 'everything' refers to, but the most obvious answers seem patronizing to me.

Happy TIME

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Taking his cue from a TIME Magazine issue focusing on happiness, Mark Roberts tackles the issue from a Christian perspective in a series he apparently finished almost a week ago. I got through half of it and then decided to wait until he was done, and I just figured out that he's moved on to a new series. I've just read the rest of it, and I can declare that it's all worth reading. It would be too much to try to summarize, so I won't try.

Dating the Edomite Nation

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Archeologists have confirmed the presence of an Edomite nation at the time the biblical accounts say there was an Edomite nation. A number of scholars have tended to doubt that there were any nations in that part of the world in the eleventh to tenth centuries, when David and Solomon reigned in Israel. According to that view, David and Solomon were chieftans of a small group of Hebrews, and Edom didn't exist as more than a small tribe until the Assyrian period in the eighth to seventh centuries. That whole view is threatened by this find.

There's been a real reversal in scholarship on issues like this. About 50 years ago the general attitude was to doubt anything in the Bible that didn't have specific evidence (besides the record in the text) confirming it. Over the last 20-30 years, the general trend in biblical scholarship is to focus more on the final text and less on whether the historical elements are genuine, but interestingly, while they're doing that, we keep finding more and more that confirms the general picture that the evidence available 50 years ago didn't support (but didn't disconfirm either). This is just one among many such finds that are showing with ordinary standards of historical research that the general picture of the historical shape of things presented in the Bible is accurate, and a number of historical views that were once considered fundamentalist reactionism are now fairly mainstream among biblical scholars. Since that thesis was considered irrational 50 years ago (even though there was no evidence against it), this is a major redirection in the tendency of scholarly opinion.

This is part II in a series on meta-ethics begun here. See that post for more details.

Subjectivism is a thesis about the nature of moral claims and moral views. It's the view that moral statements and attitudes are not about some subject matter independent of our perspective. These statements have to do with our own moral framework, and what makes them legitimate to say and to believe will be entirely based on the individual person. People generally want to be subjectivists because they think it's the tolerant view. I think it will become clear that that's both right and wrong, and it's actually at odds with many views held by those who want to be tolerant.

The view is sometimes called moral relativism. This is a topic that I've seen discussed in many Christian apologetics textbooks, usually on a very simplistic level. I think those discussions are helpful to those who will never encounter a philosopher, but they make Christians look stupid when they pull those one-liners out in the presence of someone who has spent any time reading more careful subjectivists. That's one reason I thought it would be good to turn this into a series of posts, since I have a number of readers interested in exactly that sort of book.

Evolution Stickers

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I was toying whether to say something about the evolution stickers fiasco. I didn't get around to completing my decision on whether I would. Sam has now beaten me to it, and I think she says everything I wanted to say (and a little more).

I know it's bad blogging practice not to link to the background to what I've just mentioned. I'm too burned out dealing with someone who turns out to be a semi-troll and a lot more people than I expected who have completely misinterpreted my words and actions with regard to the World post.

Therefore, I'm not going to comment further on the evolution stuff or seek out the links to the background on that or link to the posts I've just referenced on my own blog (which won't take too much work to locate if you really care and don't already know). Sam links to the background on the evolution stuff, anyway, so when you read her post, which was the point of all this, you can get the background from there.

I'm beginning the semester with some meta-ethical issues in my 300-level ethical theory courses this semester. For those unfamiliar with the term, meta-ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with questions about ethics as opposed to questions within ethics. Ethics itself asks which things are right and wrong, which things are admirable and praiseworthy, what kind of character we should seek to have, etc. Meta-ethics asks what sort of things moral statements are, what the terms involved even mean, whether they are objectively true, what makes them true or false, what the relation between morality and other objects of philosophical study is (e.g. God/religion, rationality, cultural views, social contracts among human beings).

Update: Apparently, even though some seem to have understood what I meant from the outset, others did not. I'm not going to remove any words, but I'll clarify in brackets, in a few places at length.

I'm de-linking World Magazine's blog, and I'm encouraging anyone who feels strongly enough about this to do the same. There's a fairly reputable view that the English language has no semantically gender-neutral but grammatically masculine terms. I think that's true of the dialects of most people I interact with on a daily basis, though I don't think it's true of every native English speaker. They think the view is false altogether [and have a history of very harsh comments to the effect that those pursuing translations according to this view are pursuing an anti-Christian agenda].

I have no problem with that view [though their language has been way over the top in the past]. I disagree with the views expressed on that site from time to time. That won't stop a link. Most of the sites I link to express views I disagree with. One of the reasons I wanted to link to them is because I really like Gene Veith, who posts there regularly, and Marvin Olasky was the source of what George Bush calls compassionate conservatism, which I think is generally the right sort of view to take and why I like him so much. It really came from George Will, but Bush got it from Olasky. [I should also say that they're one of the best news sources in the Christian blogosphere, largely because of the amount of content.]

Christian Carnival LIII

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I'm almost a week behind on this, but the 53rd Christian Carnival is at Sidesspot. (Well, the carnival itself was late, so that's not quite as bad.)

I'm pretty sure it's the biggest one ever, with a whopping 53 posts. It includes my Scalia's Rhetorical Skill and Sam's The Book of Acts: Or how to start a riot.

Christian Carnival LIV Plug

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Digitus, Finger & Co. will be hosting the 54th Christian Carnival, and submissions are now open. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Philosophers' Carnival VIII

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8th Philosophers' Carnival is at enwe's meta-blog. [Update: It's been moved here now.] I didn't submit any of my posts, not thinking I had anything philosophically worthy, but someone apparently disagreed, because my is in it. That's one of the nice things about the Philosophers' Carnival. People seem much more inclined to submit other people's stuff to it than with other carnivals. Here are some of the highlights for me.

Exit Poll Study

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Mystery Pollster reports on the Edison/Mitofsky study on the highly unreliable exit polls of the 2004 elections. The main problem was in selecting which districts to poll but in the polls at each district not representing the votes at that district. A number of potential eplanations present themselves, but the data show that the exit pollsters in the following categories were more likely to have results that didn't reflect the votes at the precinct they were doing their intervies at:

* An interviewer age 35 or lower
* An interviewer with a graduate degree
* A larger number of voters, where a smaller proportion were selected
* An interviewer with less experience
* An interviewer who had been hired a week or less prior to the election
* An interviewer who said they had been trained "somewhat or not very well."
* In cities and suburbs
* In swing states
* Where Bush ran stronger
* Interviewers had to stand far from the exits
* Interviewers could not approach every voter
* Polling place officials were not cooperative
* Voters were not cooperative
* Poll-watchers or lawyers interfered with interviewing
* Weather affected interviewing

In a later post, Mystery Pollster responds to claims that the report disconfirms the reluctant Bush-voter hypothesis, and his reasoning sounds correct to me.

One of my employers, Le Moyne College, expelled a graduate student in education for writing an opinion paper for his class. He had argued that corporal punishment could be a morally legitimate part of the education process. It's against New York law for schools to use corporal punishment, so his paper was in effect arguing that legislators change the law. Apparently the individual or committee making this decision can't tell the difference between seeking to get a law changed and breaking a law that's currently in effect. Should the DOT fire an employee for suggesting that the speed limit should be raised to 70?

I'm going to do something I rarely do. A close examination of some of the comment threads on this blog, particularly the longest ones, should show that this is rare. I have very high standards for exactitude in spelling, grammar, and style when it comes to writing and often speaking, but I refrain from making a big deal about it with others online except when it leads to unclarity.

Those who have known me the longest can testify to this. I've reigned it in quite a bit since high school, but it's a fight. In my younger days I would deliberately point out things that, if taken literally, would mean something extremely unusual. It was a sort of joke, and for some reason most people don't understand just how funny it is to think about what our words would mean if we meant them literally. In fact, they somehow found it annoying that people might enjoy thinking about such things. That's something I'll never understand.

Anyway, in the interest of good discussion I don't bother to spend time talking about mistakes in commenters' or other bloggers' writing (unless it really affects the meaning or unless it's in response to someone who is being a pedant themselves). I do find a number of things to be at least a tad annoying, though, and in many cases they're innocent things, so holding my tongue, or as it were my fingers, is desirable but hard. Since I allow myself in my milestone posts to do things I don't normally do, I've decided to use this, my 950th post, to express some of my blogging pet peeves.

This is not directed at any individual, and I don't have a hit list of those who read my blog who have done these things. Perhaps this will give you a reason to change your behavior if you do any of these, but I'm not doing this to complain about any particular person or act. Some of the items in the list are incredibly annoying and thoroughly immoral, and don't think I intend to classify the minor in the list as morally similar merely because they're in the same list. This is just my outlet to express things that I wish people didn't do.

10 Christian Blogs

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Adrian Warnock has put together a new aggregator. He's looked through some of the evangelical blogs with the most links in the Ecosystem and selected ten that provide an orthodox Christian perspective on a diversity of issues to have a sort of central location for people to see all these blogs at once. As far as I can tell, every blog in the list has an RSS feed that limits the excerpt to a short teaser, so people will have to click on the links to get to the blog to read any whole post. Each person in the list has agreed to receive occasional emails from anyone who thinks a post is worthy of being highlighted on a blog in this aggegator, and most in the list try to highlight things they find of interest anyway, so this should be a nice fast way to check up on what's going on in the Christian blogosphere.

The blogs in the list are, in alphabetical order: Adrian Warnock's Evangelical UK Blog, Evangelical Outpost, In the Agora, Jollyblogger, La Shawn Barber's Corner, Le Sabot Post Moderne, Parableman, Patriot Paradox, Smart Christian, and Wittenberg Gate. The site itself is called 10 Christian Blogs, though some of us prefer to call it the Decablog.

For more information, see Adrian's first post presenting the idea, his official announcement of the site with the blogroll code for the ten blogs, the announcement as the Decablog with some further thought on how this can encourage other bloggers, and his explanation of why these particular blogs are in the list. You might as well just go to his main page and scroll down (or up for chronological order, of course), because something like half his posts have been on this.

Razorskiss has a new carnival, the Apologetics Carnival. I missed the first one because I was apparently behind in reading the sites that I read that linked to it. Judging by the topic, I would have had virtually nothing to say anyway, since it was all meta-apologetics, and all the posts I glanced at were such wide-open, big picture, paint-with-a-broad-brush, forest-over-the-trees sort of thing that I'd be just out of my realm even trying to say something about it.

The second one is coming up quickly, and it's still meta-apologetics rather than doing apologetics, but the way it's not well-defined leaves an opening for some of what I do well partly because it's so undefined, if I can pull it off. The topic is Digital Salt, whatever that means. The goal is to see what people come up with when there's no further explication. See Razorskiss for more. There doesn't seem to be any submissions information, though, so perhaps those in charge could come up with some soon, since the deadline is less than 40 hours away.

James Ossuary

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Mark Goodacre or NT Gateway (which I highly recommend as a great New Testament studies blog) has some insights into what now seems to have been the James Ossuary hoax. For anyone unfamiliar with the story here, someone had found what was apparently an ossuary containing the remains of someone who had a good chance, given the information recorded on the box, of being James, the half-brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle of James, and the most prominent elder in the congregation at Jerusalem during the time much of the New Testament was being written. It turned out that the part of the inscription that most supported such an identification had too many suspicious elements, and most scholars now think it a fraud.

Goodacre's thoughts on this were interesting. Two of his points had occurred to me before. The ossuary didn't really add to our knowledge in any substantial way. I wasn't even sure why people were making a big deal about it. Also, there wasn't an incredibly strong argument that it was even James's ossuary to begin with. As I recall, Ben Witherington, the scholar who had defended its authenticity the most after the suspicious elements were made clear, thought that there were probably at least three men in that general area who could have fit the characteristics described by the inscription. That's not exactly a conclusive connection, even if the inscription was authentic. So why was this making all the headlines as if it established something important?

John 1:1 and Genesis 1

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I've seen lots of people connect the begining of John's gospel with the beginning of Genesis. It's pretty obvious, since they both begin "in the beginning". What hadn't occurred to me is that this might somewhat undermine modern scholars' attempts to fit John's use of 'logos' into some Greek mold, because there's something in Genesis 1 that we should expect it to remind us of, and this was probably most immediate in John's mind in using that term. God speaks. For more, see this excellent discussion by Jollyblogger that also connects it with the wisdom of God in Proverbs 8, which I have seen connected with Colossians 2 but not John 1.

James Dobson has stepped in it again. Captain's Quarters has the best analysis I've seen. Apparently he's accusing the SpongeBob cartoon of being pro-gay, when he doesn't even have the facts right. SpongeBob was in a video that promotes multiculturalism in the most uncontroversial sense, i.e. that we should welcome people who are different from us and get along with them. Christians normally refer to this as reaching out in love. Because the song "We Are Family" was used in it, and because some not uncontroversial group happens to have a webisite by that name that talks about welcoming gay people as if being gay is normal, Dobson has concluded that this particular video, which is unconnected to that website, is also advocating a gay rights position. So you shouldn't let your kids watch SpongeBob.

OT and NT Resource Bibliographies

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As they do at the beginning of every year, Denver Journal has updated their Annotated Old Testament Bibliography and Annotated New Testament Bibliography. It's a pretty helpful resource for OT and NT studies, particularly with commentaries, which take up the bulk of each list. Denver Journal in general is a nice source for book reviews on biblical studies, theology, apologetics, and other subjects normally covered in seminary, and a few of the faculty who write these reviews are top-notch biblical scholars.

By the way, I'm in the process of updating my own commentary recommendations. I've added a number of forthcoming commentaries that I expect to be good, and I'm putting in links to their Amazon entries a little bit at a time. I've added a bunch of commentaries since I first posted the list in February. Once I'm done adding the links, I'll probably move it forward as a new entry, and then I'll gradually work on the next major overhaul, which will include real discussion of all the works in the list based on my own use of them and any reviews I've read. That won't done any time soon, though.

One of the more common statements I see in the anti-Bush propaganda around campus is that he wants to poison our drinking water by increasing the levels of arsenic in the system. Now all he was really interested in was figuring out what level of arsenic is dangerous and setting the federal standards there. Even if he were mistaken on the facts, it doesn't amount to a desire to poison people. Still, more reasonable environmentalists who don't think he's trying to poison people will insist that he doesn't care if people are poisoned.

From what I'd read about this issue before, I knew that Clinton had increased the standard so that a lower amount of arsenic was being counted as dangerous than had previously been the case. I thought the issue was simply over whether that was a safe level and that some industries were polluting at levels in between the Clinton standard and the previous standard, and environmentalists wanted to stop that. It turns out that safe levels are only part of the issue, and pollution from industry isn't even involved. Stuart Buck flags a Washington Post writer's explanation of that as a key difference between red-staters and blue-staters.

The primary issue is whether the natural levels of arsenic in drinking water in many rural locations, not at all water polluted by industry, are safe and whether new water purification facilities need to be built at great expense in impoverished rural areas due to the preferences of rich environmentalists in big cities who feel uncomfortable about reducing even unreasonable environmental regulations, since that's backward by definition in their dictionaries. So it's not even that liberal policy on this issue is irrelevant and unnecessary. It's that it may well be harmful. It's because of things like this that I never believe anything I read from the major environmentalist organizations. The issues are always far more complicated than they admit, at best.

Theodicy and Irrationality

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Stuart Buck says it's irrational to bring out the problem of evil after the tsunami as if this somehow changes anything. I think he's absolutely right.

If people were already prepared to maintain religious faith in the face of a 100% death rate (and all the lesser evils that already exist in the world), it is irrational to act as if the problem of evil has suddenly arisen simply because a minute percentage of the world's population faced death in one incident.

Not to minimize how bad it is for those involved, this is really only .000025% of the world's current population who have died all at once. Compare that to the history of the world, and it's not a huge change. People die in much worse ways than this. They just don't often do it in such large numbers at once. This isn't really any more of a problem for theodicists than any other natural deaths that are more spread out.

This is my sixth post for Joe Carter's collaborative project Jesus the Logician (which would better be described as Jesus' Reasoning).

"What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him." (Matthew 21:28-32, ESV)

Carnival of the Vanities CXXI

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It's taken me almost a week to get through the 121st Carnival of the Vanities at Multiple Mentality. I think I counted something like 52 posts in it. I guess it's a good thing I forgot to send in a post for the Christian Carnival last week. I couldn't decide which of two posts to submit or if I should write a third. I decided not to write a third because I was putting so much into my new Clarence Thomas series. By the time I got through my second Clarence Thomas post that night (posted the next morning), I'd simply forgotten about the Christian Carnival. Oh, well. I think this makes the third I'm not in out of the 52 Christian Carnivals so far. Anyway, it meant I didn't have to do my usual roundup of highlights from that. I don't link to carnivals I'm not in, since my purpose of linking to a carnival is to return the favor from getting a link out of it myself. The links to reciprocate lose significance if I do it with carnivals that don't link to me.

My Armstrong Williams Fallout is part of this week's festivities, and I've selected three other entries to highlight.

Conservative Victimology

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One day after my Christian Victimology post, we have another example of victimology, this time about the oppression of conservatives. A conservative student thinks that he's being oppressed for his views because he did poorly on a paper he wrote that didn't even answer the question he had selected (yes, he chose it from a number of other possible questions that he could have answered instead if he didn't like this one). Outside the Beltway and Poliblog, both conservative political science professors, explain what's so awful about the paper. Given that he was from the Middle-East and may not have known English all that well, I would have given him a little grace, though most of the problems are with the content and not the language. I would probably have returned it without a grade , with an explanation of how it doesn't answer the question and a requirement that the student write a completely new paper answering the question (or one of the other ones in the original list).

Now it's true that the professor ought to be fired for how he responded to the student, telling him he needed counseling and so on (which may be related to some racist assumption that people from the Middle-East ought to hate America or something but may simply be an overreaction to a bad paper), and it might be worth knowing if the other assignments would have allowed students to take alternative views, but there are no grounds for complaining that the professor failed the student for being conservative.

Chafee on Venezuela

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During Condoleeza Rice's confirmation hearing today, Senator Lincoln Chafee (R, RI) asked her about her attitude toward Venezuela. She said something to the effect that their government is moving in a disturbing direction and is making things difficult for good relations between the U.S. and Venezuela. That sounds accurate to me. Then he acted as if she had just slandered the people of Venezuela, and she made it clear that this was about policy and not the people. I think she even used the word 'affection' to describe here attitude toward the people of Venezuela. His response was to point out that they just had an election, in which the people confirmed the current government by re-electing them. Thus he concluded that her comments that their government's direction is disturbing is a slander against the people of Venezuela. This just seems wrong to me.

This is my fifth post for Joe Carter's collaborative project Jesus the Logician (which would better be described as Jesus's Reasoning).

In Mark 11:27-33 (also related in Matthew 21:23-27 and Luke 20:1-8), Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees, and he seems to ignore their question entirely. What's buried behind his silence is an argument against their authority even to ask the question.

Christian Carnival LIII Plug

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Sidesspot will be hosting the 53rd Christian Carnival, and submissions are now open. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

If you are looking for posting ideas, the host offers some suggestions. "You might want to consider that the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is January 22. Another topic might be to consider how Christians of different denominations can put into practice Christ's admonition that we love one another -- what does this mean in real life, what impact could it have on nonbelievers if we did this? How Christians can help foster a sense of community in their neighborhoods is another topic." Posts of a Christian nature on any other subject are also welcome, as always.

Then do the following:

Christian Victimology

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Here's another one I wanted to make an extended comment on, but it's been almost two weeks now, and I haven't had the opportunity, so I wanted to say something. Christian victiomologists are at it again. As I've explained before in more detail, victimology is focusing on victimhood when it's only barely present (if at all), not to seek solutions to any genuine problems but merely to contribute toward one's own sense of alienation and a group solidarity based on resentment toward the group that has, whether rightly or wrongly, been perceived to be victimizing one's own group. In my more detailed post (linked above), I gave a few examples of the phenomenon, some having to do with race or ethnicity, some having to do with religion or lack thereof. Christians, particularly the more extreme elements of the religious right, are no strangers to victimology, and that's what's going on in this case.

This is my fourth post for Joe Carter's collaborative project Jesus the Logician (which would better be described as Jesus's Reasoning).

In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus caps off his diatribe against the rich scribes who dress majestically, love popularity, and receive much honor from human beings but who are merely showy without real piety and in fact devour widows' houses. As he looks up while saying this, he sees rich people depositing their gifts to the temple, while a poor widow put in just two coins. He says, "this poor widow has put in more than the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4, NIV)

Here's my third posting for Joe Carter's collaborative project called Jesus the Logician (I don't agree with the name).

In Matthew 10:40-42, Jesus uses what's called a hypothetical syllogism. The logical form of the argument is:

1. If A then B.
2. B then C.
3. Therefore, if A then C.

Jesus' Reasoning in Mark 7:1-23

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Here is another entry in Joe Carter's collaborative project of what's being called Jesus the Logician (though I oppose that name).

Mark 7:1-23 has a lot in it that I could talk about, and I hope to get around to it at some point in my Mark Tidbits series, which I have not abandoned. I have a partially-written fourth post in that series that I keep moving forward because I haven't had the time to finish it when I haven't had something else higher on my priority list at the time.

Jesus' Reasoning in John 9:1-3

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I've been putting off contributing to Joe Carter's collaborative project of what's being misnamed Jesus the Logician, but here we go finally. Here's an instance of Jesus' reasoning strategy with his disciples that I think fits what Joe is looking for. John 9:1-3 contains a good example of a false dilemma. Jesus' disciples give him this dilemma, and he responds with the common philosophical practice of going through the horns of the dilemma by denying either of the options presented to him and saying they simply haven't listed all the options. A more exhaustive dilemma would have contained at least a third option, and that third option isn't as problematic as the two they mention.

Jesus the Logician?

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Joe Carter has begun what he's calling the 'Jesus the Logician' Project. The goal is to show how Jesus used sound reasoning, and different bloggers are contributing through discussing particular examples of Jesus' reasoning. Doug Groothius' paper "Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist" is a good example of the sort of thing Joe is up to here.

I think the name is off. A logician is not someone who uses good reasoning but someone who studies the nature of reasoning itself. The content of the logician's study is good reasoning. As Joe acknowledges, Jesus didn't do that kind of extremely abstract study (at least in any public records we have). Jesus used logic, but he didn't talk about logic itself. Then what's going on here is that Jesus isn't being shown to have been a logician but simply that he used good reasoning. Even though the name is a misnomer, I'm still going to contribute. My first post (of at least one) will follow shortly.

This is the third part of what will be at least a seven-part series on Justice Clarence Thomas. The first post is here, introducing the series and explaining the 98-page paper from which I'm taking the content of posts 2-6 (at least) of this series. In "Just Another Brother on the SCT?: What Justice Clarence Thomas Teaches Us About the Influence of Racial Identity", Angela Onwuachi-Willig argues that Justice Thomas' conservatism is a distinctively black conservatism with a rich history in black conservative tradition. I've already looked at that history. This post focuses on the current period of black conservatism.

One big difference between contemporary black conservatives and the earlier people in the tradition is that today they get far more media attention (with media who try to be as inclusive as possible) and far more support from whites in general, including being elected to public office and appointed to high cabinet positions. Some are far more popular than most other conservatives in public life. However, because many black people see the liberal government programs designed to adjust for "imbalances in power, wealth, and privilege" (as Onwuachi-Willig puts it), many blacks see conservative resistance to government intervention in the social and economic sphere as anti-black, and thus black conservatives are tarred as traitors for aligning with the enemy. The usual way this is put is that black conservatives are tools or puppets of white conservatives.

Onwuachi-Willig argues that this anti-black-conservative narrative is hard to maintain in the face of what these black conservatives have actually written. Their views turn out not to be like those of most conservatives in some significant ways, both in their final views and in the reasons for supporting views that they do hold in common with most conservatives.

Mark raises an important philosophical question over at OrangePhilosophy. If you had to choose, would you rather eat poo-flavored-chocolate or chocolate-flavored-poo? The discussion is moving right along. Feel free to join in, but be prepared to defend your answer.

If you can stomach the disgustingness of it long enough to read through the comments until you reach mine, you'll see how this ties up with genuine moral and aesthetic issues that turn out to be quite controversial, with some relevance to sexual ethics.

Instalanche?

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I'm having a definitional problem. Does it count as an Instalanche if Instapundit opens up comments and then someone links to me? I've only had five people click on it between 9:15 and 10:30, and since it's an older post I imagine it won't be a huge influx, but you never know. I imagine real Instalanches lead to a much greater traffic increase.

It's already more traffic than I'm getting for that post from the Carnival of the Vanities, but that had a whopping 78 posts in it, and I'm not sure most people looking through it wanted to click on very many posts.

This afternoon CSPAN aired (and is actually currently airing again) a debate, or really more a discussion, between Justices Scalia and Breyer on the role of foreign law in judicial decisions on U.S. constitutional law. I very much enjoyed seeing these two interacting, joking with each other, complimenting each other, and engaging in high-level legal issues in fairly understandable language. It was nice to see each conceding points to the other while holding firm on other commitments, and most of what they were doing was clarifying what their positions were without really trying to be critical of other views. Scalia particularly went out of his way to give expositions of other views, in part to try to show that his conclusions would follow even under judicial philosophies he doesn't hold.

Thankful for Sam

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I try to do something a little different in landmark posts. Sam likes to do Thankful Thursdays on her blog, listing some things she's thankful for and encouraging others to do the same in her comments. I've decided to use my 925th post to list some things about her that I'm really glad for. There are many other reasons why I consider her an incredible blessing, but I wanted to list ten that come to mind at the moment.

Judicial Ethics

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Since I've been taking issue with the dominant view on journalistic ethics lately, why don't I try for judicial ethics? There seems to be this common view that it's wrong for a judge to talk about something they might later have to write an opinion on. Justice Scalia, for instance, recused himself from Newdow's case against the federal government about the pledge of allegiance because he'd talked about his views on the subject in public. Scalia and Breyer had a debate this afternoon, and Breyer seemed very hesitant to say anything positive about Scalia's opinions even though it was clear from the context that he wanted to say that Scalia's opinions are almost all excellent. The only reason I can think of why he would view this as improper is that he hasn't himself written on those issues, and judges aren't supposed to reveal opinions on any issues that they might face in court unless they've written an opinion on it before. This is a restriction that I've never understood.

Biological Parents

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David Velleman continues to surprise me with his posts at Left2Right. Now he's defending the following view. Other things being equal, children should have two parents, one male and one female, both of whom are their biological parents. Now other things often aren't equal, which is why adoption is not really second best for some children and for some parents. One reason is because "knowing one's biological relatives provides a kind of self-knowledge that is not readily available otherwise". There's more, but that's a good part of it for him. For some children, adoption is better than all other options, and for some parents adoption is the only option. However, David thinks an ideal world would have all children raised by their biological parents.

This has been going around a while, but I haven't seen the most reasonable explanation clearly stated at the various sites talking about it, so I'm going to provide it. After the tsunami, Tom DeLay got up in front of the House of Representatives and read Jesus' parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the floods came, the house on the rock stood, and the house on the sand came down. Eugene Volokh thought this sounded too much like blaming the victims, presumably because he thinks DeLay was pointing out the consequences of building near the shore.

Then he updated with a letter from someone giving an alternate interpretation of DeLay's point. DeLay wasn't blaming the victims but encouraging people to live according to Jesus' teachings, because that's what building on the rock symbolizes. Volokh responds that it still looks like blaming the victim, because the people who died, largely, were not followers of Jesus, and thus DeLay is saying that they died as a result of not following Jesus' teachings. I think Volokh is still missing the point.

Kevin Drum Defends Rumsfeld

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Conservative pundits have been criticizing Bush, and particularly Rumsfeld, for not having enough troops in Iraq. So who comes to the rescue? Kevin Drum, of all people! I think I agree with everything he says. Normally I try not to link to very much that I merely agree with and have nothing to add, but the role reversals here are too interesting not to note.

This is the sort of thing that originally led me to link to Kevin Drum when I was looking for a more politically diverse blogroll. This was before he was anywhere near the top ten, while he was still blogging at CalPundit. I looked through his front page and found about four or five nicely balanced posts with real analysis, points he acknowledged that favored views he didn't endorse, and even views not common among liberals. As the election approached, I thought he was a little more strident, perhaps a little less fair, and filled with nutcases in his comments (which is not a label I assign merely because of views but more based on behavior). The nutcases are still around, but the comments on this one have a much higher percentage of real discussion than most of what I've seen among those with blogs in the top ten who allow comments, perhaps about 40%, at least near the beginning of the thread.

Hat tip: A Physicist's Perspective (via Instapundit, who shares his own thoughts and links to further discussion)

This is the second part of what will be at least a seven-part series on Justice Clarence Thomas. The first post is here, introducing the series and explaining the 98-page paper from which I'm taking the content of posts 2-6 (at least) of this series. In "Just Another Brother on the SCT?: What Justice Clarence Thomas Teaches Us About the Influence of Racial Identity", Angela Onwuachi-Willig argues that Justice Thomas' conservatism is a distinctively black conservatism with a rich history in black conservative tradition. This tradition will be the focus on this post. The first of three sections of her paper details the long history of black conservatism in the United States, going back to the 18th century. Booker T. Washington, of course, was one of the major figures in this great tradition, but he was well over 100 years into it (late 19th/early 20th century). The liberal orthodoxy sees black conservatives as sellouts who seek to accomodate to whites to gain benefits that others aren't willing to seek if it requires giving up too much of blackness. The black conservative tradition, however, has always been the exact opposite. From the very beginning, it was an attempt to accomodate whites to the concerns of black people. Booker T. Washington states this in terms of showing blacks' worthiness by the standards of white people so that white people will accomodate black people. He even uses the word 'accomodate'.

Negative Emotions

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I wanted to link to this days ago, but I never got around to it. Jollyblogger has an excellent post dealing with how Christians should view negative emotions such as anger, sadness, hate, or offense. Some say they're all bad. Others say we should just recognize them as natural responses that aren't themselves sinful. I think what David is saying is that it's not so simple.

I wish I had the time to expand on this myself. It's something I've had thoughts about for years without ever really working them out systematically, never mind getting them written out. I did have a short discussion on this recently with Bonnie of Off the Top, in the comments on this post, where I had linked to her Christian Carnival submission with some cryptic comments about my disagreements with C.S. Lewis on this issue, and she had wondered what I was getting at. It barely scratches the surface of the long post I had expected to write, but this Clarence Thomas series is going to take priority for a few days, and I didn't want to let too much time pass since Jollyblogger's post, so I'm just doing the quick link here with this short explanation.

Justice Thomas' Blackness

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Stuart Buck links to an article by Angela Onwuachi-Willig, published by the Iowa Law Review, that makes some interesting claims. The title is "Just Another Brother on the SCT?: What Justice Clarence Thomas Teaches Us About the Influence of Racial Identity".

According to this paper, Justice Thomas' brand of conservatism is unlike that of many other people who take similar positions. Contrary to the claims of many on the left that he's a sellout and a puppet, a good deal of his conservatism derives from his being black. The author considers herself a liberal black womanist, so there's obviously little political baggage driving this paper. She just thinks he's an interesting public figure with an interesting intellectual resume. Oh, and she thinks the liberal jeering that paints him as a puppet of Justice Scalia is a result of the same racism that led to the same connection between Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan that similarly ignored the actual facts.

It's a 98-page paper that I don't expect very many, if any, of my readers to bother reading, so I'll give some highlights in subsequent posts:

Part 2: The Black Conservative Tradition
Part 3: Contemporary Black Conservatism
Part 4: Particular Issues in Black Conservatism
Part 5: Justice Thomas' History and Background
Part 6: Justice Thomas on the Particular Issues
Part 7: Justice Thomas' Judicial Philosophy

Language question

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A question for all you language gurus out there: when discussing a corporation or university or other institution, do you conjugate as a singular or as a plural? Basically, which is correct, "Microsoft is releasing product X", or "Microsoft are releasing product X"?

Being a Successful Blogger

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Joe Carter has been working on an excellent series on becoming a more successful blogger, misnamed "How to Start a Blog". If he'd called it "How to Be Successful at Blogging", he'd have been more accurate. He uses that sort of language far more than anything about starting a blog, which sort of lost its steam after a couple posts. He's finally created a post linking to all the posts in the series, and it will be updated as more entries appear. It also has links to his previous posts on blogging, many of which are quite excellent. I follow a lot of his advice in the earlier stuff, and it's been pretty helpful. I don't know if anyone has assembled as much information on this stuff as Joe has. It may be enough for a short book.

I said before that Armstrong Williams made a mistake. I was sort of issuing a challenge to anyone who might argue that he really did something worse than make a mistake. As I've looked at other sites, including liberals, moderates, black anti-black racists, black conservatives, etc., I've found a fairly univocal response. See The Moderate Voice for an excellent roundup following a fairly standard version of what's being said by most people. Everyone seems to be ignoring the facts, taking Williams to have done something he didn't do, taking the Bush Administration to have done something they didn't do, and exaggerating or even outright inventing nonsense to make him out to have the bad motives black conservatives are often accused of having. As I've looked more into this and continued to read what people across the map are saying, I've become less convinced that what Williams did was was even that wrong to begin with. I said it was a mistake because he did. I insisted that it was less of a problem than people were saying, but I did think it was a mistake. Then I looked at the facts. Now I'm not sure sure there was anywhere near as much of a real problem as I had first thought.

Christian Carnival LII Plug

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IntolerantElle will be hosting the 52nd Christian Carnival, and submissions are now open. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Christian Carnival LI

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The 51st Christian Carnival at Weapon of Mass Distraction is a New Years edition, as the first Christian Carnival of 2005. This blog is represented twice, with my Life Amidst Suffering: How Should We Now Live? and Wink's Critiquing Penal Substitution. Sam's Where Was God? also makes a cameo.

This is the first case like this that I've seen (not counting fictional cases such as in The Sixth Day). A woman lost her cat and decided to replace it with its clone. She found someone who would do it and now has her cat's clone. Hat tip: McConchie

What do I think of this? I hope she realizes that the clone will have a natural life span as long as her dead cat's natural life span would have been had it not died. Other than that issue, I'm not sure why this in itself should raise any serious ethical worries. When I first found this, I wanted to use it as an excuse to type up a thorough discussion of the moral issues raised in cloning, but I've got two reasons not to do it at the moment. First, I've got a long list of things to blog about and don't feel like doing a long post right now (this not feeling like doing it is independent of the next issue, which is just another reason not to feel like it). Second, I've got an injured finger at the moment and don't feel like typing the whole thing out in index finger mode. So I'm just going to issue a challenge: what is wrong with what this woman did, besides the one concern I raised? My claim is that there's nothing wrong with it, and I'm challenging anyone to give me an argument that I'm wrong. I can think of reasons not to do it, but I'm not sure they're moral reasons.

Logic Puzzle 4

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Jeremy's 4D "gappy person" solution to logic puzzle 3 is very attractive to me except that it runs into problems with my next logic puzzle:

(1) It is by Jesus that all things cohere.
(2) Jesus died for a measurable period of time.
(3) How could that measuarble period of time even exist if Jesus (being dead) was not there to hold the universe together?

This is typically answered by saying that Jesus died in one sense, but not in another. But Jeremy's "gappy person" solution doesn't allow for that.

As it is, I'm not a big fan of the "died in one sense but not another" solution. It seems a big cop-out. The "he died in His humanity, but not in His divinity" solution is again rather Nestorian. Plus, it is not natures that die, but persons. The "he died physically but not spiritually" solution has problems too. Aren't the wrath of God and the forsakenness of the cross usually considered spiritual death (separation from God)? Then didn't Jesus die both physically and spiritually?

I think I know the right way to preserve the "gappy person" solution, but I want to see if Jeremy comes up with the same one.

Apparently a debate is now going on about whether all the purported missing links between humans and apes (e.g. Lucy, Java Man, the Neanderthals, the recent New Zealand Hobbit people) are of other species at all. [Hat tip: A Physicist's Perspective] I've read that what we have of Neanderthals is consistent with arthritic homo sapiens, but I didn't know if that was a reliable source. I also know that many have questioned whether Australopithecus can play the role it does in standard models of human evolution. Well, now some people who are not in any sense creationists are claiming that not one of these transitional forms is what it's supposed to be. The genetic variation is well within the realm of considering them all part of the same species, just at various stages of development along what is roughly a continuum, but stages within the development of one species.

If this is right, it turns out to be completely consistent with even the most conservative of creationists, who insist that they do believe in the empirically observable aspects of evolutionary theory, i.e. microevolution. I'm not about to defend any view on most of the issues people argue about related to this, but I found it interesting that some people who have not in any way given up the standard evolutionary picture have now reverted to seeing all the purported transitional forms as well within the range of variation to count as homo sapiens. I don't know what bearing this will have on evolutionary theory. Presumably it favors Gould over Dawkins. What I'm worried about is if it's going to have a bearing on the role genetic variation plays in arguments about race. If it does, I'll have to rework some of the arguments I've been working on.

Logic Puzzle 3

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So, on to a new topic...

I've got a question that's been troubling me for some time. I have no opinion or answer for this one yet and I'd love to hear what you guys have come up with.

Basically, every conception of the Trinity that I've see falls apart on the cross. Consider the following:

(1) The Father and Son are distinct yet inseparably related.
(2) The Son was forsaken by the Father on the Cross
(3) Since "forsake" denotes separation, then the Father and Son have been (at least temporarily) separated.

The first statement is a fairly uncontroversial way of restating parts of the Creeds regarding the Trinity. The second is part of Jesus' last words. Neither seems denyable. Yet (3) contradicts (1).

I don't think it is a good move to say that Jesus' words were untrue in any way. And I can't come up with a definition of "forsake" that doesn't demand separation. I certainly don't want to say that the creeds are wrong.

Approaches like "God forsook the humanity of Christ, but not the divinity of Christ" sound awfully Nestorian to me. And approaches like "the unity of God is that they ultimately be united, even if they are temproarily apart" sounds downright heretical.

What have you guys got?

Done with Atonement (for now)

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Well, I think I'm done with posting about Penal Substitution/Union for the time being. This is not because I've run out of things to say (c'mon, I'm writing a thesis about it...I have tons to say), but because I'm starting to sound tedious and repetative even to myself. (You have no idea how many posts and comments I've refrained from posting because I sounded like a blowhard even to myself.) And if I sound that way to me, then I can't imagine how annoying I must sound to you. I'll continue to respond to comments in the already existing threads, but don't expect any new threads on this subject for a while. Now if you actually want to hear more from me on this subject, I'll be happy to oblige; just leave comments in this thread to that effect, and I'll post more. But I suspect that people are getting weary of hearing me on this topic and I don't want to be obnoxious. So I'll quit while I can (I'd say "while I'm ahead", but I think I'm actually behind at this point).

Armstrong Williams is a black conservative. In some people's minds, that's enough to indict him of receiving funds to promote conservative causes, because we all know that no black person is intelligent enough to think for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions rather than towing the party line that the majority of black people hold on political issues. Well, little do we know, but the Bush Administration really has been paying him to be a conservative. At least that's what you'd think from the headlines I've been seeing, even on the so-called conservative Fox News. Virtually every headline I've seen distorts what went on. Here are the facts, as far as I've been able to discern. I'm not 100% sure on all of this, but the general sense is pretty clear.

Stuart Buck wonders why so many liberals are so resistant to a radical change in social security, despite their acknowledgement that it needs to be fixed. After all, the social security tax has a refressive structure, the opposite of the progressive income tax. If you privatized social security, it would go into the progressive structure of taxation, and rich people would actually put in more and poor people less, while poor people would receive more and rich people less. As it is, it's the opposite of that. Poor people pay the highest percentage of their overall income, and rich people the lowest, yet higher income people get more out of it. Stuart points out that this is genuinely stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Maybe there are other problems with the privatization plans, but this seems to be a real problem that I've never seen anyone on the right or left talking about, and it's exactly the sort of thing people on the left are so principled against.

It amazes me that journalists have such a hard time picking people who carefully read their Bible and have thought about it well enough not to be stupid about how they go on TV and talk about the problem of evil. I'm not saying they should find the best Christian philosophers and theologians, but they should at least find someone who isn't a total extremist or a heretic. [See A Physicist's Perspective for an excellent example of what I'm talking about, and he's got links to a number of other people doing the same thing.] Two nights in a row now, I've seen Joe Scarborough deal with this issue, and each time he's picked a strange selection. Sam complained about this after the first night, when his main responder was extremist Pat Robertson who had said 9-11 was entirely due to the people who commit sins he's not tempted to commit (homosexuality and abortion). I wasn't impressed with the others he had on. The only one who said mostly good things was quite rude. Night 2 was a little better, but there was another rude person saying decent things in an inflammatory way. Then there was Max Lucado, who is technically a heretic (his church believes baptism is necessary for salvation, which even Roman Catholics don't believe). Anyone who's read his books should expect only very rough sketches of anything of substance, but given that what he said was pretty good.

Philosophers' Carnival VII

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The seventh Philosophers' Carnival is at Mixing Memory. My OrangePhilosophy post Act vs. Rule is there. My co-blogger at Prosblogion David Hunter shows up as well with God the Utilitarian?

Siris has a nice post on arguments from analogy and what Hume had to say about them.

Studi Galileiani has a fascinating post about why the principle of Occam's Razor (which may have originally come from a quotation by Occam of his opponents!) isn't incredibly helpful when it comes to scientific theorizing. Most of the big scientific advances haven't really relied on it, and in many cases it would have prevented them! One thing that seemed strange to me was his account of Galileo's conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, which, though it acknowledges that some of the oft-repeated common account is apocryphal, still differs from what Donald Crankshaw and Joe Carter have said really went on. So I looked around the site more, and apparently the author has argued against both the standard account and the account Donald and Joe are arguing. Galileo was no martyr for science and reasoning as opposed to a backward and theocratic church, but at the same time the blame wasn't on Galileo for pushing a theory without evidence, as Joe's account suggests. Apparently it's a very complicated story. I don't have the time to pursue the details, but I wanted to mention that since I've linked to Joe and Donald's posts before.

Don Herzog at Left2Right has a very nice post on equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws. I don't always agree with his posts, but this one shows some real balance between libertarian principles and classic liberalism's insistence on limiting libertarian principles for various reasons. I highly recommend to people of all political persuasions to think through some of the arguments he gives regarding the political theory behind these issues.

The consensus around here seems to be that we are not punished in Christ. So I'd like to post my reasons for thinking that we actually are punished in Christ.

First of all, I'd like to point out that the particular punishment for sin is death, and the particular death that Christ suffered was crucifixion. So when Paul talks of us being crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20), or that our flesh or our self has been crucified (Gal 5:24, 6:14; Rom 6:6), or that we have died with Christ (Rom 6:8; Col 2:20), he is saying that we have been punished in Christ since death/crucifixion = punishment. (I should here point out that if we have died, then our death can only have served one purpose--the payment of sins/satisfaction of wrath. We have no ability to ransom, nor to act as a sacrifice for another.)

Scrappleface on Gonzales

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Best Scrappleface yet (quoting only the best two lines in the piece, taking my cue from Volokh):

"Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's Attorney General nominee, told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that he would state only his name, rank, date of birth and Air Force serial number, which is all that is required under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. . . .

Mr. Gonzales' refusal to answer Senators' questions did not affect the committee's inquiry, which consists primarily of speeches to a gathering of journalists."


Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) have just issued a challenge to the Ohio electoral votes. They interrupted a time-honored tradition of the gathering of both houses of Congress to count the electoral votes, forcing a two-hour debate in each house before returning to complete the count. The grounds were election problems in Ohio in terms of determining which electors Ohio sent to vote in the federal count. That's a legitimate issue that can be raised in Ohio, though I think it's fairly clear that there's no evidence that Kerry could have won with a more accurate counting. Even if he could have and there were real reason to worry about this, it's unconstitutional to raise that objection at this stage. The House and Senate have a duty to count the electoral votes, i.e. those votes sent to the House and Senate by the electors selected by each state. Each state has the responsibility to make sure that its electors are legally selected. Once these electors are selected, the House and Senate have the duty of counting their votes, not the votes of individuals in states that used state-ordained means to select which electors will be voting. The only objections that are therefore constitutional here have to do with whether the electors chosen by the states were counted up properly, not whether the state's election laws were followed properly in selecting those electors. The latter issue 's a state concern. In light of its complete unconstitutionality, this is a waste of time in the middle of important Senate hearings on cabinet appointments. The senator and representative who issued this challenge should be ashamed of themselves.

Thanksgiving Pictures

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Yes, know Thanksgiving was a long time ago, but somehow we never got to developing them until just before Christmas, and then they forgot to include the disc in the package, so I had to leave it with them again to get the electronic pictures. I picked it up last week during my heavy grading and didn't get around to posting any pictures during that time and then forgot about it afterward. So here they are. There were a bunch of other pictures of adults, but I'm guessing people in some of them probably wouldn't like themselves portrayed that way on the internet. Oh, and this is post #900 for those who aren't counting (which I hope is anyone reading this). We're now in the home stretch to #1000.




Well, we can start off with the firstborn. To the left, Ethan is doing one of his favorite things: playing with his VeggieTales videos. Don't ask what he's doing with them. He likes to hold them up against each other and compare them. Perhaps he thinks he's using them as symbols for something else. I don't know. We can't figure it out, and he doesn't talk about his inner life. Next is some weird reindeer hat his aunties made him wear at the mall. This one appears because Sam insisted. To the right is Ethan wearing his grandpa's glasses. He loves to wear glasses and to put glasses on stuffed animals, particularly his duck. Of course, the aforementioned trip to the mall was the last time we saw that duck, so we had to get him a new one. After a month without it, he was willing to accept the closest thing I could find to it, even though he knew it wasn't the same duck.

What Substitution do I Deny?

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Jeremy notes that whenever we see the penal element, we immediately think "substitution". He makes a great observation there. What we should also note, is that due to the predominance of Penal Substitution in our teaching, whenever we see substitution, we assume that it is penal.

This has come up a couple of times in the comments and I'd like to address it more publically here. Maybe I didn't make myself clear in my original posts, so let me clarify now: I deny Penal Substitution, but I don't deny Substitution in all forms. I only deny that any biblical substitution is Penal.

I'm teaching a 300-level ethical theory course next semester (actually two of them at different schools), really for the first time. I've taught 100-level ethics, focusing on applied ethics, focusing on theory with lots of applied interspersed, and an exact 50-50 mix. I've taught 300-level applied ethics courses before, both with a shorter time spent on each of many applied issues across the spectrum and as a more focused study of two or three issues (the latter of which I've also done at the 400-level). I've also done 300-level courses with theory and applied, with all the possibilities of what I've done in 100-level courses. What I've never done is a whole course just on ethical theory, so I had to hunt around for a textbook. I've chosen Stephen Darwall's Philosophical Ethics as my text. I looked through it somewhat carefully when figuring out which book I wanted to use, but I've begun reading it more carefully now and I've hit on something very interesting in the first chapter. Darwall argues that everyone has ethical views, even those who deny the legitimacy of ethics. I've always thought that. What was interesting in Darwall's presentation is how far he goes in counting views and attitudes as ethical, and I think the result is a much stronger argument against ethical nihilism than the ones I'd seen before.

Sorry for the delay

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Please forgive my silence on the atonement threads. I'm busy trying to get readjusted to non-vacation routine again. This routine, of course, contains considerably lees free time to blog. Plus, I helped a friend move tonight. (My only recommendation about what he should have done differently: He shouldn't have moved in the middle of winter. It was cold and the bulky jackets didn't make maneuvering large items any easier.)

I've got lots to say in response to the very good points being brougt up by people. I must confess that I do not have answers to all of them. Thank you to all who have engaged with me on this. You are challenging me on this issue beyond what others have done in the past. I really appreciate that.

I hope to post something tomorrow, but no promises.

The Two-Sauce Theory

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There's a new controversial theory out now about where the synoptic gospels came from. It was once commonly accepted that Matthew was the first gospel written, but that view is largely out of favor, despite some vocal proponents. Most people believe Mark to be the earliest, and most people think Matthew and Luke used Mark and a hypothetical collection of sayings of Jesus now popularly called Q. Well, a new theory has appeared on the scene to rival these contenders: the Two-Sauce Theory!

Hat tip: NT Gateway

Jollyblogger has at long last finished his series on the five points of Calvinism with point five: Perseverance of the Saints. He explains that it has two components:

1. Someone who is genuinely saved cannot lose that salvation.
2. Only those who persevere in faith until the end will be saved.

Some Arminians deny the first point because they think the second requires denying it. The result is legalism. Some dispensationalists, such as Zane Hodges (and to a lesser degree Charles Ryrie) deny the second because they believe the first requires doing so. The result is antinomianism. Both deny plain statements in the Bible, which Jollyblogger lists. I've argued for exactly the same thing here.

Update: He's now got a post up linking to all the entries in the series.

This started as an email to Wink, and he encouraged me to post it. I don't really have the patience at the moment to edit it too carefully, so if something seems out of place or not fully explained, remember how it started. I'm not convinced by Wink that there's no substitutionary element to the atonement, but I'm convinced that his view is orthodox, evangelical, and not obviously in conflict with scripture. I still haven't commented on his last post, but I have things to say and will start with them shortly. I did want to say some positive things about what he's doing and make some suggestions to him about further places I'd like to look on this issue besides what I've had access to, and that's what the email was about. Here it is, slightly modified to be for public consumption (and no longer directed to him in the second person).

I really think Wink has hit on something no one's clarified before with separating the penal element and the substitution element. Most of the defenses of substitution seem to be responding to people who reject the penal element entirely, so there's very little I can find that even deals with the substitution element at length. They'll maybe have a paragraph on it and then spend lots of time arguing that Paul's terminology really is forensic, which Wink agrees with, so it doesn't refute anything he's saying. Then at the end they'll say it must be substitution with no further argument.

Penal Union

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[Note: Contrary to the Creative Commons license listed on this site, I, Wink, the author of this particular post am reserving all rights for this particular post. I don't mean to be a killjoy, but this topic is the basis for my as-yet-incomplete thesis. I'm tackling a controversial subject. As a result, I need to polish my ideas more fully before I can let it out into the wild under a CC license. Please respect my copyright on this post. Thanks.]

[Thanks for being patient everyone. This is the post many of you have been waiting for as it is the follow-up to my Critique of Penal Substitution. Enjoy!]

Christian Carnival LI Plug

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The first Christian Carnival of 2005 and the 51st Christian Carnival overall will be hosted at Weapon of Mass Distraction, and submissions are now open. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday). The host would like you to consider writing about one of the following themes:

What will the new year bring? A resurgence of Christian values in Western culture? A continuing slide into humanism and the occult? More battles over the separation of church and state? A continuing exodus of men from the Christian church? Armageddon?

Please send your post, on these topics or whatever you're led to write about (provided that it's Christian-related), to:

Christian Carnival L

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The 50th Christian Carnival, the last of 2004, is up at MediaSoul. My The Divine Watch-Setter appears right after Sam's Merry Christmas. The reason she lists me as "Jeremy Pierce himself" is because she originally had Sam's entry listed as "Jeremy Pierce's wife", not knowing her name. It had nothing to do with thinking of me as someone famous or incredibly important.

Those of you like me who never cared much for the tradition of New Years resolutions should read some of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions at A Physicist's Perspective. Now those are resolutions.

Semicolon shares some thoughts from Tolkien's worldview behind Middle-Earth out of the Silmarillion. I've never been able to get through the Silmarillion (actually, I only tried once, in high school), but the part at the beginning about Tolkien's cosmology is just absolutely wonderful. It deals with lots of issues that reflect his view of God and the world, but the one here is one of the more important ones.

Rebecca Writes reflects on the theological background to the phrase "in the fullness of time" (from Galatians 4:4-5) that people often associate with Christmas. She ties it to other statements from Paul about the significance of the total change in reality that comes with the advent of the Messiah, which is in fact an end to things as they were and the beginning of the end of things as they still are.

Off the Top presents some highlights from C.S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms. I actually disagree to some degree with a couple of the Lewis quotes Bonnie gives, but I think the first three highlights she lists are incredibly insightful and worth spending some time considering.

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