Jeremy Pierce: March 2004 Archives

Christian Carnival XI

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The 11th edition of the Christian Carnival is up at King of Fools. More things caught my interest than usual this time around, even though the number of entries was smaller than normal.

Not surprisingly, it has one of mine, All Creation Groans. Sam's Have a Little Faith in Yourself about Ezzo's cult of moms is also there. Messy Christian demonstrates a rare understanding of how a Christian who has gay friends should deal with the tensions that arise from such relationships and probably thereby offends many Christians who should know better than to be offended but rather should feel convicted, as Patriot Paradox was, rather than offended. King of Fools himself gives a fun story with a really bad punchline.

Posts on Homosexuality

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I'm cleaning up my favorite posts listing. Collecting entries of related topics into one post for each topic seems to be a good way to decrease the number of entries in my favorite posts list, so here's a list of posts on homosexuality and gay marriage that I would otherwise want in the listing but have too little room for all of them.

Marriage already undermined argues that those who are treating gay marriage as the end of the world haven't realized how far the notion of marriage most secular people have is already far enough removed from the Christian notion of marriage that this is a small step.

A new moral dilemma for Christians looks at what a lesbian who becomes a Christian and renounces homosexuality but has a child with her lesbian partner should do thereupon.

A Deeper Notion of Marriage looks at what secular marriage lacks that Christian marriage insists on.

Interpretation and homosexuality passages looks at some hermeneutical issues about the consistency of upholding biblical passages against homosexual relationships and sexual acts while not believing the world is flat (and other similar issues). Interpretation and homosexuality passages II continues the discussion.

Legal Fictions and Redefining Terms argues that it's wrong to see the gay marriage issue as being about redefining terms, but it's also wrong to see it as being about discrimination and unequal treatment.

Equal Rights and Gay Marriage continues the second argument from the previous post in more depth. I revise my view to saying that there's no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but there is discrimination on the basis of sex. That turns out not to be illegal in the United States, but it is in some states with Equal Rights Amendment-type laws, such as California. I further argue that such laws have very bad consequences and thus should be removed rather than used as arguments for same-sex marriage.

Fidler on Homosexuality looks at some issues that I think evangelicals steer away from to avoid looking like their condoning sin. The result, however, is bad in three ways. First, they make philosophical errors about what is wrong and what is not with regard to homosexuality, starting from some plain biblical statements that I agree with and ending up with a much more extreme position than the biblical passages entail. Second, they sometimes use rhetoric that shows a failure to understand people who are gay and most importantly sounds mean-spirited and hateful when it's not intended to be. Simply adjusting their language would make a big difference. Third, their actual attitude toward gay people may really be homophobic despite their denial of that charge.

Other posts come up, but these are the ones I had in my favorite posts listing that I am now removing from that list.

Problem With Site

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Something's wrong with the site, and no comments can be left. I can't update my template either, which is how I discovered the problem. So don't bother to try commenting until I resolve this.

Update: It seems to be fixed. We'll see. The note from the server technical support crew didn't sound too convincing about how long-term their solution to the problem will be.

Soul Creation

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Evangelical Outpost has sparked an interesting discussion on whether the human organism is fully existent at conception or at a later time, including whether the soul is present at conception. Since it tied in nicely with some of what I've been working on possibly for my dissertation, I had to throw in some of my own thoughts on problems with the soul having existed since conception. I'm hoping someone has some nice responses to those problems, though, since it might help getting my stalled project back off the ground.

Racism Double Trilogy

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I've finally finished the double trilogy on racism that I've been working on for over six weeks, so it's fitting to sum it all up and collect all the links together in one post. (Also, I get to replace all the links in my favorite posts menu with this one, which makes the list a good deal smaller.) For the sake of a simpler discussion, I'm focusing on race relations between blacks and whites in the United States. I'm aware of many other issues and relations, but I'm focusing on that particular part of a larger framework here, mostly because the authors I've been drawing on do that.

I started with three posts presenting some of the standard liberal picture on racism today (or at least what I agree with of that picture). Much of this was framed in ways Patricia Williams discusses things in her Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race, though some of the terms were my own. After the first in the first trilogy, I interjected an explanatory post about the overall goals of the series. These trilogy itself consisted of two on the biggest remaining problems of racism in our society, normative whiteness, white voyeurism, and racial narratives. The fourth post discusses Williams' views on what the ideal world (racially speaking, anyway) would look like and why.

The second trilogy takes its major content from John McWhorter's Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America but builds on the material in the first trilogy (hence my calling it a double trilogy). One racial narrative that works in the reverse of the racial narratives Williams discusses, negatively evaluating white people (with bad consequences for everyone involved) is the victimology narrative. This in turn leads to black separatism, which in some ways parallels normative whiteness but in a strangely ironic fashion, with some normativity for a racial narrative picture of whiteness and in a different sense for a construction of blackness. A particular kind of anti-intellectualism (seeing intellectualism as white) that damages the black community in many ways follows quickly from the first two problems. [This last post also ventures into the issues of test score gaps between black and white students for a bit.]

The ironic thing about all this is that Patricia Williams and other liberal thinkers on race give the theoretical framework to make McWhorter's pointed in a much more sophisticated way than he does (though I think his description is just as accurate). In the end there's not a lot to be said in any of this about where to go from here. Both authors say little, though McWhorter does say one thing we should stop doing, which I'll cover in my next post on race -- affirmative action. In a way some of this comes right out of the material in the anti-intellectualism post, but it's its own topic with a number of arguments not related directly to the structure of this series, so I'm not counting it as within the ranks of the double trilogy. More on that when I get around to it.

Update: It turns out my first trilogy wasn't a trilogy after all. There was a fourth post (though it was actually second) on White Voyeurism, and I'd forgotten to include it here. I've inserted it above without changing much else, so it will look a little odd as a four-part trilogy. Well, Douglas Adams had even more parts in his trilogy.

Also, I've fixed all the broken links in this post from the move to the new location. Not all my dead links have caught up, but this one was a priority, and I think they should all work now. Let me know if they don't.

Professor Mike Adams has been banned from discussing his political views with colleagues who might be offended by them. Then he notes the clear hypocrisy here. The very same colleagues who are offended by his views, who want him no longer discussing them, offend him regularly with their own. He lists some good examples, which I won't repeat here (so that you might actually go look at what he says rather than relying on me to give you all the goods -- trust me; it's good; many of them would offend the average American, though not necessarily all for good reasons).

This raises some questions I've been wondering about for a while but haven't come up with anything good to say yet. What is it about other people's making us uncomfortable that makes us assign moral blame? I want to allow for some cases where there really is blame and others where there isn't, with some that aren't clear. I'm not sure how to divide these up, however. (I should say that much of what follows is even more off-the-cuff musing than is common in blogs. I really haven't thought much of this through in a systematic manner.)


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I'm finally getting around to John McWhorter's third feature of African American culture that he thinks is self-destructive (from Losing the Race). See my victimology and separatism posts for the other two and the links there for how it fits into my overall argument about racism in society today.

Anti-intellectualism, as McWhorter uses the term, is not undervaluing education. It's more subtle than that. It's a matter of seeing learning and school as "white" and therefore not for black people except as a means to achieve things (see my separatism post for some of the background here). McWhorter describes it as a tendency to see achievement for its own sake and learning for its own sake as wholly other. Learning is a place to visit but not a place to live. The origins of this problem go back to slavery, which enforced a lack of learning, which in turn led to education really being only for whites. Somehow this dissociation from learning turned the attitude of black America against the very thing that racist policies and attitudes had wrongly denied to black people, and this current gut reaction to it as wholly other prevents success in these areas, a glass ceiling initiated entirely from within.

Some of McWhorter's discussion relies on a whole background discussion about test scores, intelligence, genetic heritability, and environmental influence. This will require a bit of a diversion, but McWhorter's argument relies on this information.

I've been holding off on saying anything on Richard Clarke, simply because there was a whole lot of delight in his criticisms of the Bush Administration from the left half of the blogosphere and a whole lot of criticism from the right half of the blogosphere, with hardly any acknowledgement from the major media of any of the latter. I wasn't willing to say anything until people who knew better could comment, preferring to let the investigation proceed before making any judgments on it. The blogs were saying things, and it seemed like two stories, with never the twain meeting.

Well, a major media outlet (Time Magazine) has finally published someone's recognition of the claims the righty bloggers have been making. Richard Clarke's own past recorded statements disprove enough of his claims now that he's just simply not a reliable source for anything at this point. So much for the left half of this story.

Thanks to One Hand Clapping for the link.

Christian Carnival Plug

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From Nick Queen of Patriot Paradox on Christian Carnival XI:

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival and will be hosted at King of Fools.

If you are reading this and are not a part of the Christian Carnival mailing list please visit the following link and join up:

Also if you wish to host the Carnival in coming weeks email me at

For those unsure of what I mean by Carnival I will try to explain. First, a Carnival is a gathering of posts from various blogs that showcases their best post from the previous week. Each blog is allowed to enter one post, and I will take all of the posts and put them in one big post on my front page. Then each person who enters will link to that post, thus not only showing off their post, but also allowing their readers to get the best from around the blogosphere. Also, I ask that you please post on your site so that your readers who also blog will consider sending in their best post of this week.

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. Then do the following:


Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the Post

Cut off date is Tuesday by 8 PM EST.

All questions are welcome. Get your entry in asap!

I want my rubber ducky!
Volo anaticulum cumminosam meam!
"I want my rubber ducky!"
Okay, so you're a little childish. You know how to
have a good time.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Bush Comeback

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Since the high point of December (with the capture of Saddam Hussein), Bush's popularity had been going down, especially with the focus on the Democratic primaries and little campaigning of his own. At the election projection site, Bush has been behind in the electoral totals based on state polls for at least the last month. He's back in the lead again, despite every single news network talking about how everything of late has been bad for him. Any thoughts on why?

What Dreams Reveal

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A Harvard study shows that what we dream about seems to be affected by what thoughts we try to suppress during our waking hours. If this is right, it disproves much folk wisdom about dreams revealing what we subconsciously want to think about (but won't admit it). Freud wouldn't be very happy with this. Dreams are about what we don't want to think about, so it may indicate greater moral resistance to those things.

Calvinists have long had 5 points (spelling TULIP) to explain the basic doctrines of Reformed thinking (many of the terms of which are quite misleading):

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

Discoshaman has posted the five points of Arminianism, DAISY:

Diminished depravity
Abrogated election
Impersonal atonement
Sedentary grace
Yieldable justification

Of course this only works for 5-point Arminians (i.e. those who deny all five points of Calvinism, which most Arminians I know wouldn't do, and many more combinations of some of the points but not others are at least consistent than most people have thought).

There's a new argument against Bush. It's not completely new, but it's taken a new form with Richard Clarke's testimony. See here for one example among many. Apparently the Bush Administration is responsible for basing an attack against Iraq on intelligence that was faulty. The problem so far has been that they didn't have high enough standards in weighing the intelligence to determine that such an attack was necessary. (I still think it turns out that the connections between some of Saddam's men in higher positions and some higher-up al Qaeda figures plus the existence of WMD in even the small quantities attested to by David Kay should be enough to warrant careful consideration of dealing with someone who had made the threats Saddam had made.)

Well, now we have a new problem (at least in relation to the one they've been focusing on). Now they're saying that Bush should have paid more attention to the intelligence reports suggesting al Qaeda was going to do something. In the light of those objections, defenders of the Bush Administration have pointed out that the Clinton Administration had the same intelligence and didn't do anything, even giving up a couple opportunities to get Usama bin Laden. In front of the 9-11 commission now, the Clinton Administration officials have been defending their lack of action by saying they didn't think the intelligence was strong enough to be worth the potential negative consequences. The 9-11 commission isn't buying it. They think the threat was serious enough that they should have done something. The Clinton and Bush Administrations both bear the brunt of this criticism if it's a good one.

Now the liberals pushing such an argument can't have their cake and eat it too. Once they accept this argument, they can't criticize the military action in Iraq very easily. If lowered standards for accepting questionable intelligence were necessary given what they knew about the threat before 9-11, then how is it that the Bush Adminstration can be blamed for using lowered standards with respect to intelligence once it became clear how much more of a threat al Qaeda turned out to be after 9-11? In supporting this investigation of the Bush Administration before 9-11, liberals against the Iraq conflict are going to end up with two consequences they won't like:

1. Any criticism of Bush on this issue equally applies to Clinton.
2. This will undermine the main arguments against Bush on Iraq.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has come out of the closet. He now admits to self-destructive tendencies within black America. I saw parts of a recent special he did in which he goes into a little more detail on this. One of the observations he made was that many younger black people today are dependent on affirmative action, and it's bad for their own potential to do well on their own. He thinks this is unfortunate, yet he doesn't bring himself to condemn affirmative action as bad, even if its harmful effects are obvious to him.

He expresses a far too typical attitude among black liberals (to avoid the label of not being black? -- he explicitly mentions Clarence Thomas in the process, who often does get it put that way about him). Here's the bad argument he gives:

1. X is bad.
2. I benefited from X.
3. Therefore, I can't speak out against X without being hypocritical.

Now insert slavery in for the X. Is a slaveowner who realizes the badness of slavery a hypocrite for changing his mind and speaking out against it? Gates's argument is of the same form. I've heard the same argument from other people, and I just can't understand why they think the conclusion follows. It seems to me that the denial of the conclusion straightforwardly follows from the first premise, and thus the second premise is irrelevant.

I think the hypocrisy goes the other direction. He's come to a conclusion that something is harming his people, and he won't bother to do anything about it. Why? The answer seems to be that he's gained because of it. Isn't hypocrisy when there's a discrepancy between what you do and what you say?

Thanks to La Shawn Barber for the link.


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Mark Steen of HyleNinja has started a new philosophy blog run by the philosophy graduate students at Syracuse University, so now I'm part of a new blog. It's already up and running with a bunch of posts, though right now it's just the two of us and his wife Irem who have posted anything. OrangePhilosophy is an appropriate name.

Bill Poser at Language Log argues that the words 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance are indeed unconstitutional, as the 9th Circuit court ruled in 2002. It's now going before the Supreme Court, so it will be making the rounds once again. His main point is that it "violates the freedom of religion of those who do not believe in God or who do not consider the United States to be a nation under God." Now I don't see any reason why we need to have those words there. Their origin in the pledge is a little suspect. I don't see how it's persecution of Christians to remove them. Removing them doesn't harm Christians' liberty in any way, and not everyone who wants them removed hates Christians. Still, I'm not sure how having some words in a statement violates anyone's freedom.

Sexist Abortionist

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This is one of the most sexist pieces I've ever read. If this is what this guy thinks he needs to do to defend his line of work (killing fetal human beings), then women should take heed. Apparently women who welcome pregnancy are giving in to the lie that women are mere reproductive machines, uteruses with a supporting personality and organism. Now our congregation has some pretty efficient baby factories, but there's no sense in which any of them are or believe themselves to be mere baby factories. First, I'm not talking just about the women here. I'm talking about the families as a whole. Second, this has to be seen in the context of a whole life of being devoted to doing one's part in influencing the future of society for good, as families who love their children, raise them well, and produce many of them in this way have done. I most definitely hope and pray that the author of this article never has any children.

Greed and Pride

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Josh Claybourn connects greed and pride in an interesting way. He says they're two sides of the same coin. "Pride is taking pleasure in being ahead, greed is discontent over being behind."

One thing to consider, then, is how this relates to Paul's little aside in one of his vice lists, saying that greed is idolatry. Why is greed idolatry? The greedy person has money or possessions at a higher priority than God. Money or possessions will therefore be an idol, and you can't serve both God and mammon.

If pride and greed are connected, then is pride also a form of idolatry? Of course. It's putting yourself as a priority higher on your list than where you've put God. That's as idolatrous as anything. Josh describes greed as one of the root causes of all unhappiness, and his quote from C.S. Lewis shows how the same can be true of pride. I think it's worth thinking about how the reason these are both causes of unhappiness is that they're different instances of making something a god when it isn't and when the true God not only deserves our complete obedience but also desires for us to experience the wonders of his grace when we do give him our trust and allegiance.

Same Difference

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I've often wondered where this expression came from. My affinity for things that make sense found this phrase revolting from the first time I heard it. I can think of some ways to try to make sense of them, but all of them end up seeming implausible, confused, or both.

It could mean what it literally says. Some difference is being calculated. The first might be 13-10 and the second 4-1. They're the same difference, since they're both 3. Is there some difference in common every time this phrase gets used? I doubt it. The difference people are referring to is the difference between the two things being compared, not some difference within each of the two things being compared.

So that leaves us trying to make sense of how the difference between A and B, which is not much of a difference, is then the same difference. The same as what? As itself? That's trivial. There is a difference between A and B, or there wouldn't need to be someone saying that they're somehow the same. Yet what's this difference the same as? If it's saying that they're the same and also not the same, then that might make some sense of this, but they would have to be the same in one sense and not the same in another sense for this to have any meaning at all and avoid contradiction. I don't think most utterers of 'same difference' are thinking on this level of things being the same in one sense and different in another.

Christian Carnival X


The Big 10 is here. WalloWorld has posted the tenth Christian Carnival with a nice C.S. Lewis theme. Here are a couple items from it:

I've already read Mark Roberts' posts on I Maccabees and Mel Gibson, so I know those are worth reading.

Joe at Evangelical Outpost has some thoughts on bad arguments made by social conservatives and where to go once you see that. But how does he attract such nuts commenting on his blog?

As usual, I've got one, my post on whether God's sovereignty requires saying there's only one possible future.

I stumbled upon something refuting the ridiculous myth that we use only 10% of our brains, with even some discussion on how such a stupid idea ever got started. Of course it never seemed so stupid to me when I kept hearing people parrot it around with no basis for their claim other than that some other misinformed person who never checked on it had first told it to them.

Mark at Hyleninja suggests that, with a few tendentious premises (one extremely tendentious, given the thousands of years of work on the problem of evil, another less so given theism but still weird), we can get the conclusion that this world isn't the actual world, just one world among many that God considered, and thus we're just God's thoughts. I think this view makes a lot of sense, at least on some readings without these premises. In fact Berkeley had similar enough views, and Malebranche wasn't far from this sort of thing. My friend Wink (who sometimes comments here) at least at one point wanted to say that we are in fact God's thoughts, but not in the way Mark's post offers. Wink's view is that God's creative powers are something like storytelling, and God is telling a story through creation. We're the characters in the story, and he's writing our lives out (though in the story we have freedom, which was one of the motivations for this metaphor -- which I think he took to be not a metaphor at all but more proximate to reality than the way we often think). In a way, if this view is right, then we are God's thoughts, but it's not as if there are realities that God did create while not creating us, as Mark's proposal goes. According to Wink's view, God did create us by thinking about us, and the only thing that makes us real is that God is still thinking us. It gives new meaning to the doctrine of continuous creation.

Christian Carnival plug

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The tenth edition of the Christian Carnival is still accepting submissions, but you need to hurry. (The email wasn't sent to me until this afternoon, and I'm just getting around to posting it less than four hours from the deadline.)

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted
at WalloWorld.

For those unsure of what I mean by Carnival I will try to explain.
First, a Carnival is a gathering of posts from various blogs that
showcases their best post from the previous week. Each blog is allowed
to enter one post, and I will take all of the posts and put them in one
big post on my front page. Then each person who enters will link to that
post, thus not only showing off their post, but also allowing their
readers to get the best from around the blogosphere. Also, I ask that
you please post on your site so that your readers who also blog will
consider sending in their best post of this week.

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. Then do the following:


Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the Post

Cut off date is Tuesday by 10 PM EST.

All questions are welcome. Get your entry in asap!

I've been wanting to write something with deeper significance for my 200th post. I've been working on this for a couple days and haven't wanted to post anything else because that would then have been the 200th post. I've been meditating on the consequences of the fall in the world, and I'm not talking about sinful and immoral actions or thoughts. I'm just thinking about negative effects in creation that Christianity attributes to the effects of the fall. A number of events in the near past have brought me to these thoughts, and I'll mention some of them as I go. When most people raise questions about God and evil, the issues I'm considering right now are among the foremost in their minds. (After all, evil actions are done by evil people, who then take the blame. The sort of badness I'm thinking of for this post is often even classified under the category of acts of God.)

The Passion of the Christ, well on its way toward becoming the highest-grossing film in history, has evidence on its side to suggest that it will actually decrease anti-Semitism (or at least the ways people have been suggesting it might lead to an increase in it).

I don't think the people who put together the website I just linked intended anyone to connect the first two items, but look at the second one in the light of the first one. Might it not be that the real reason so many Jewish leaders were opposed to the film was because Christians would seek to use it to evangelize Jews? According to my new conspiracy theory, it's not anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism that they were worried about. They were worried about those who oppose a Judaism that rejects Jesus in favor of a Judaism that accepts him as Messiah, thus exemplifying the behavior of the very people they think Mel Gibson portrayed unfairly. [By 'oppose' I don't mean politically or in terms of how we get along but in terms of religious truth.] The ironies of the first-century interaction between Christians, who saw themselves as the true heirs to Judaism, and the Jewish leaders, who saw the Christian Jews and their Gentile converts as illegitimate Jews in some sense (for not following the Torah, as they saw it), continue into the first century of this millenium (though the issues are different now).

It continues to amaze me that Jewish people whom I respect very much, including a professor who has greatly influenced my ethical thought and my teaching, will insist that someone who is ethnically Jewish but an atheist or who converts to Islam or Buddhism is still a Jew, yet conversion to Christianity is incompatible with being Jewish. This double standard has the force of law in Israel (at least in terms of citizenship), but it's assumed by most Jewish people in the United States. Christianity has its very basis in Hebrew Torah, prophets, and other writings. It sees itself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures. Yet a Jew who sees Jesus as Messiah is seen as an illegitimate Jew by contemporary Judaism, even if this Jew continues to worship at a synagogue of other Jews who see Jesus as Messiah, maintaining clear Jewish worship traditions and cultural observances. This is the real reason so many Jewish people were opposed to this film, I think. They hate Jesus and everything he stands for.

Thanks to Josh Claybourn for the links.

Limited Atonement

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My computer looks as if it might be down for the count, at least for a while, so I'm not going to be doing a lot of blogging for a bit. So I'll do another classic pre-Parablemania Parableman. Because a friend of mine emailed me a few days ago about the Reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement, we'll go with that.

John Owen argues for the view Reformed thinkers call limited atonement, basically the view that Christ's death was only for the sake of those who would be saved. Since those who never become saved never take advantage of the atonement, in what sense is it for them? Their sin is never atoned for. His argument is slightly for a more detailed, though it�s very short and worth looking at.

I think Owen gives a good argument for limited atonement (or what more recent theologians have preferred to call particular atonement, which I think is just as obscure a term). But what about I Timothy 2:5, which says that Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all? What about John 3:16, which says that God's love is for the world that anyone who believe in him will have eternal life? Reformed thought has an easy answer to the second part. Those who do end up believing, i.e. those chosen by God to believe, will have eternal life. But what about God's love for the whole world? What about God's desire that no one die in Ezekiel 18:23 and Ezekiel 33:10? This essay is intended to sort out such issues.

I believe it was Ryle who, in defending his outright silly view that mental properties are merely properties of our physical bodies, i.e. our behavior, insisted that their must be some sort of motion that we do, even if undetectable, to correspond to our innermost thoughts. It's true that some people do this, but most people don't move their lips when thinking. This was rightly seen as special pleading.

NASA scientists have now shown that Ryle was right on one thing. When we're about to talk, some sort of behavior in our throat preceds our mouth's uttering of words. These motions can now be analyzed and given content. Computers can now tell what you're saying subvocally even if you don't move your lips or face.

Now this doesn't really rescue Ryle. His version of behaviorism is demonstrably false, which is shown by a number of cases:

1. The in-principle possible perfect actor spends an entire life acting out the behavior that accompanies certain mental states without ever having them.

2. The in-principle possible muscle relaxant that doctors believe to be a perfect pain-killer. They never see the effects of the pain caused by the operation, because every measurable muscle in the body is temporarily frozen somehow, preserving life and feeling. Then the drug's amnesiac properties kick in, and the person forgets all the pain caused by the operation, so no one ever finds out through behavior that there was any pain. Yet there was.

So Ryle was wrong that pain or other mental states can be viewed as simply behavior or dispositions to behave in certain ways. However, the irony is that that the most ridiculed element of his defense of such a ridiculous view has now at least partially been vindictated.

Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping has an editorial furthering the position I've been arguing here that same-sex marriage is the effect of, and not a cause of, the fall of traditional marriage in Western society. This is all in the context of psychobiological arguments for traditional marriage and how the sexual revolution led to our becoming distanced from such reasons for traditional marriage. I agree with him both that this is lamentable and that the discussion is already over and has been for many years. Let's move on to deal with the consequences (which will involve Christians making a case for a Christian concept of marriage -- I'm not giving in on that -- it's just that we have little hope of convincing Western society of any of it short of a miraculous revival on a spiritual and not just intellectual level).

Philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson is a convert to conservatism. This piece gives his reasons. Basically, he thinks young people should be searching idealists filled with exploration and hope, which tends to make them more liberal. The maturity of life that comes from working, owning a house, marrying, having kids, and other responsibilities tends to make one more conservative through the realization that people who have been around for a while and traditions that have been around even longer are often there for a reason. The idealism of youth that often brings a skepticism about everything in society gets replaced with a general trust in authority and tradition, and this is a justified trust. This shouldn't be an unreflective trust, and it should leave room for revision and continued progress, but the presumption of institutions that have succeeded outweighs the quick idealism that wants to change things simply because we can and because one principle, ignoring any other concern, would favor the total restructuring of society.

Now I don't see why idealism, searching, exploration, and hope should require political liberalism (I certainly had my own period of exemplifying all those traits without being politically liberal), but I agree that they are healthy traits for someone who is younger and that they show immaturity if they never get balanced with other, more conservative, traits. There are some gross overgeneralizations here, but they're gross generalizations that have their basis in real tendencies. Keith's explanation of how he got to where he is now and why he thinks it's a justified move is fascinating reading and gives a perfect rebuttal to this awful argument by Benj Hellie (whose metaphysical work I greatly respect, but his political views are at best unreflective about the nature of conservatism, the effect of conservative policies, and the issues Burgess-Jackson brings up that favor conservatism over liberalism among those whose experiences have taught them anything at all about responsibility and respect for longstanding, working policies and institutions).

USS Clueless looks at whether the California initiative making gay marriage illegal is constitutional by California's own constitution. Here's the relevant section:

California Constitution, Article 1, Declaration of Rights, Sec. 7.

(b) A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens. Privileges or immunities granted by the Legislature may be altered or revoked.

My bold claim: all the rhetoric about rights possessed by straight people that gay people lack is completely bogus. However, this statement might give California a reason to overturn the voter initiative banning gay marriage (at least among citizens) on other, really surprising, grounds -- that it's gender discrimination! However, the relevant kind of discrimination is only illegal in states with equal rights for men and women, which California has. However, by the end I'll give enough reasons to think those states should remove such language from their constitutions.

Keep in mind also that I've said in other posts that I think much of the rhetoric on this issue is overheated, even hateful (and that's the case on both sides). I don't see why Christians prioritize this issue above others with more serious consequences. I don't understand why it's the end of the world if something Christians believe is wrong becomes legal, since that happens all the time. I don't get why this small step is supposed to be such a huge modification in the concept of marriage when the huge gulf between the Christian concept of marriage and the one understood by most Americans makes this seem quite small. So take all I say in light of that. My views on this aren't as simple as you might have thought.

Please bear with me on this, since a real analysis of the arguments is going to require Chisholming away at the various options for framing the issue before we get to the punchline. These options all do get mentioned by someone or other, so it's worth looking at all of them.

Christian Carnival IX

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What the Pork?

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Battle Imp

Who's your battle imp?
Backstabbing: 9
Dodgin': 10
Guts: 2
Magic Mojo: 10
Smackdown: 4

Will your battle imp beat Parableman's?
Enter your name and fight.

Also check out the imp at Spare Change and the imp at What in Tarnation?!?!? A die roll gets added to each of your stats to decide the battle, so try again if your imp fails!

Here's another oldie, this one only from about a year ago, 13 March 2003.

Some people say yes, but can there be if theological determinism is true? The idea is that if God stands behind every action in some way, good or evil, then there cannot be potentiality in God. It�s somehow inappropriate to say that something different could have happened, I could have done something different, etc. I am the one who did it, and I am responsible for doing it, but could it have been different if God stands behind it in some fundamental sense? Many Reformed thinkers will say no. There is no potentiality in God.

I disagree with the conclusion, though I think the general picture behind it is correct. To get a sense of why I think the fundamental picture behind it is correct, read through chapter 10 of Isaiah�s prophecy and Peter�s speeched in Acts 2 and Acts 4. Evil actions are described � first the king of Assyria and his attack on God�s people, then Judas� betrayal of Jesus and the Jewish leaders� follow-through that led to his being put to death. These are evil actions. There�s no question about that in the minds of Isaiah (who gave the prophecy from God but presumably through his own mind and ways of expressing things, including through his own divinely inspired theological reflection), Peter (who gave the speech in the Acts narrative), and Luke (who gave us the Acts narrative). These people are blamed by the biblical writers for their evil actions. However, it�s also true that God stands behind these events. The actions of Judas and the Jewish leaders, while evil, were necessary for God�s plan of salvation. They are, in effect, part of that plan. Similarly, the actions of the Assyrian king are evil but are part of God�s process of judging Israel. Isaiah goes so far as to call him a tool in God�s hands, and yet somehow he�s responsible for what he did! There is a mystery here. I�m not trying to sort it out, but its background is important for this issue.

Now about the conclusion many Reformed thinkers draw � does this mean that only one thing is possible? After all, God has his one plan, which includes evil things in it, so we can�t insist that the evil things are not part of God�s plan and say that they allow for the various possibilities. If it�s possible that God can in some way stand behind evil actions without himself being morally responsible for the evil people do, then we don�t need to insist on human free action as something outside God�s control. Then there really only needs to be one possible outcome, and it seems as if there aren�t real possibilities. I once thought this was a good argument, but I�m now convinced that it�s not. The biblical data from above points us one way. What you�ll find is another set of passages in tension with the ones above, pushing us in a different direction. First let�s consider those, and then we�ll move on to discuss the philosophical implications.

In a previous post, I considered whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. My answer was sort of a yes and a no. Literally speaking, I think the answer is yes. It's just that Christians and Muslims believe very different things about the one God that exists. As a Christian, I think Mulims believe radically false things about God, and I think Christians believe generally true things about God. There would be no meaning to calling myself a Christian if I didn't think something like that. In that sense, what some people really mean when they say Christians and Muslims worship different gods is true. Their sentence is false, but what they were trying to convey is true. The different things the two believe about God are very different.

I had another instance of happening upon a gem of a discussion this morning, when I was following a reference in a footnote on an entirely different topic. After looking up a reference in N.T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, I decided that it might be worth looking through his introduction, since I've had the book for a while but barely looked at it. In the introduction, he explains his use of 'god' rather than 'God' consistently throughout the book (which I won't bother to go into here), and in the process he gets into the very issue of my aforementioned post, focusing mostly on the differences between first-century Christianity and first-century post-Christian Judaism (though mentioning Islam in the process). I thought enough of the issues were parallel that it was worth summing up Wright's thoughts and looking at their significance for the discussion about Islam from my previous post.

Permissive Parents


New to the Blogdom of God Alliance is What in Tarnation?!?!? (Note the symmetrical, palindromic punctuation.) He's got a post about his observations from parent-teacher conferences (he's a third grade teacher) about parents who won't get their kids to do homework but say they can't. Further probing shows that the parents refuse to discipline their kids or give any consequences. The reason? They don't want to take away something the kid really likes. Wait, wasn't that the point?

He's also got a lesson on grace from his geometry class, and he uses Mad Libs to reinforce the parts of speech!

Christian Carnival plug

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Christian Carnival IX submissions wanted. Here's the info:

For those unsure of what I mean by Carnival I will try to explain. First, a Carnival is a gathering of posts from various blogs that showcases their best post from the previous week. Each blog is allowed to enter one post, and I will take all of the posts and put them in one big post on my front page. Then each person who enters will link to that post, thus not only showing off their post, but also allowing their readers to get the best from around the blogosphere. Also, I ask that you please post on your site so that your readers who also blog will consider sending in their best post of this week.

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. Then do the following:

email me at

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the Post

Cut off date is Tuesday by 10 PM EST.


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Here's another discussion from my old website. I originally wrote it on 15 April 2002 and it was last modified on 28 February 2003. I wrote it in the context of an off-topic debate on whether Christians can lose their salvation on an email list (composed mostly of Christians) created to discuss music, of all things. I haven't changed anything except to put links in for the scripture references. The price of the book at the bottom, predictably, has changed. It's now $17.49.

I guess I wanted to suggest some thoughts for sorting out this issue. I think there are things to be said for both sides, and both sides to have some tendency to ignore the passages that cause problems for their position or to explain them away with implausible interpretations. However, I don't see these passages as contradictory to begin with.

There are tensions within scripture on this issue. That's because the truth of God's salvation isn't so easy to put into a human system. When we try, we often end up going beyond what scripture requires us to say, and that often leads us to deny things in other parts of scripture. It also means that it takes quite some time to explain fully what all these different sorts of passages are getting at and how they fit together, so bear with me.


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One Hand Clapping has some nice thoughts about tipping. He starts with an extremely small sample and observes that a significant sample of those in that subset who are not tipping are Christians and concludes (via a clear logical fallacy) that Christians tend not to tip (or not to tip well). Just to be clear on this, let's look at the structure of the argument.

1. Those who tend not to tip are often Christians.
2. Therefore, Christians tend not to tip.

I see no way to conclude 2 from 1. You'd need to look at most Christians to see if most Christians tip. You don't start with the group of people who don't tip and then notice that many of them are Christians. There may well be a much larger group of Christians who tip and tip well.

Aside from that obvious mistake (which many people in the comments also made about Christians and other groups), there's plenty of good stuff in this post, mostly on the ethical reflections. I wish he wrote more on everyday ethical issues, because he has some great wisdom on these matters, and he often writes about issues most people wouldn't think to include in an ethics book.

Josh Claybourn explains the fallacy behind protectionism. If he's right, this is on the order of the gambler's fallacy.

In my Old Testament and New Testament courses in college, I was led to believe that the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is largely thought to be from later Christians reading their own disputes back into the time of Jesus by writing the gospels in a way reflecting current concerns in their own communities. I know that some people have thought this (e.g. as diverse scholars as E.P. Sanders and Jacob Neusner, usually on opposite sides when it comes to the history of rabbinic thought), and I never myself thought there was evidence for this, but it surprised me to encounter a discussion of this this morning that shows the scholarly consensus on the matter to be moving in exactly the opposite direction. Here are some of the reasons they're moving back toward a traditional view on this.

Misleading Truth

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John Kerry (or someone in his team) seems to be very good at the kind of deception I'm best at -- saying something that's technically true but extremely misleading. When Athanasius was being hunted down for heresy (before his view won out), someone rowing down a river in the opposite direction of his boat asked him where Athanasius was, and he responded by saying they weren't far from him and then continued on while they pursued in the direction he'd just come from. It's not technically lying, but it's deceitful. If lying is wrong, it's because deceiving is wrong, and Athanasius didn't avoid that charge. Sticking with the letter of the law to avoid the spirit of the law is worse than simply denying the law, because it has the marks of righteousness without any underlying truth to the impression.

John Kerry has made all sorts of claims about what he'd do if elected president. He's proposed policies and so on without adding up all the numbers and saying how much more he'd tax people and how much more the budget would be. Others have calculated what it would come to (see this post for some of this). I don't have the exact figures on this, but it's pretty clear that Kerry's proposed budget is higher than what the proposed changes in his tax cut would allow in terms of additional spending beyond what we've got now (which many people have been saying is out of control as it is).

So the Bush campaign puts a commercial together saying that John Kerry will raise taxes by a certain amount, mentioning a real figure. Kerry responds by saying that he never uttered such an amount. This is true. He didn't. But don't his policies require that sort of thing? I don't think it's dishonest for the Bush campaign to point this out, though perhaps they should have been more clear about how they got the figure. I do think it's dishonest for him to respond to the charge by saying he said no such figure, as if his already-stated policies don't require such a figure, without giving an argument how he will avoid the steps in their reasoning to arrive at the figure. Merely saying that you didn't utter exactly the words attributed to you doesn't dismiss the charge that what you've said leads to what those words said. That's what he needs to do to refute the charge. The worst part of this is that he self-righteously frames his response as if the other ad is the dishonest one. That's probably my biggest problem with Kerry. He always sounds self-righteous and better than everyone else. It's true that he's supposed to do that as a presidential candidate, at least in comparison with his opponents, but he makes it seem like it's his normal mode of living.

One of the email discussion groups I'm in went into an off-topic diversion about politics, and someone raised the following arguments against Christians participating in politics (after giving some purely secular arguments against siding with a political party):

I also prescribe to Jesus words to not be any part of this world. He didn't
participate in politics when he was on earth even though many of his
followers wanted him to. His kingdom was not of this world, so why should
mine be? It doesn't matter what country you live in or what party you
belong to, we are supposed to be Christians. We should follow Christ and
not politicians that claim to be Christians.

I think this is an unfortunate attitude. I would say not just that it's not wrong to vote, but that I as a Christian have a responsibility to vote. There's enough to suggest that Jesus' command not to be of the world doesn't mean not voting, because how you vote might just be one way of being in the world but not of it.

I have a few posts I want to do that will take a good deal more work than I'm willing to do right now, so I'm resorting to the old "repost something written a while ago" trick. I have lots of stuff from my old website that I'd eventually like to get transferred over here, so I might be doing this again the next time I feel the urge not to come up with anything new. I originally wrote the basis of this post for a listserv discussion whose context I don't remember, and I sent the message on 23 April 2001. I revised it on 20 January, 2003 and posted it to my website. I haven't changed any of the substance this time around, though I have reformatted it a bit and added links to the scriptures referenced. [I'm struck by how different my writing sounds after three years, not just in terms of readability (which I think has improved a lot) but even vocabulary. Remember this phenomenon for when I talk about Pauline authorship of the later letters attributed to him, often declared to be in a style incompatible with being his work.]

Some people claim that the gospel of John is a much later retelling of the story of Jesus� life that is only loosely connected to the actual life of Jesus of Nazareth. The arguments for this view often beg the question, but I�m less concerned in this writing with refuting the reasons for thinking this (negative reasons against the arguments) and more with positive reasons to resist this view. This gospel seems to assume the other gospels at many points, and that explains much of the differences, which fits quite well with the view that John was written to expand and explain much of what just appears in the other gospels. This often involves leaving out details that the reader would already be familiar with, and it usually also involves fuller accounts of the meaning and explanation behind some basic themes about Jesus� identity and mission. This fits nicely with the traditional authorship of the apostle John, writing significantly later than the other gospels to expand on them regarding things they don�t cover or explain fully or things whose theological punch they don�t develop. This is so obvious to someone open to the traditional view that one must wonder how anyone can ignore this point without ignoring much of the gospel of John.


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I've finally come back to my series of posts on race after too many days of not wanting to start a lengthy post. Since it's been two weeks since my last post in this series, I should start with some explanation of where we are now. [See this post for links to all the items of the series.]

The first set of posts examined the most deep-seated problems of racism remaining among mainstream white people in the United States, most of it unconscious and unintended, with some time spent on what ultimate goals we want to strive for. Now I'm looking at a very different kind of obstacle -- from within the black community. John McWhorter identifies three such obstacles in his Losing the Race, and this post focuses on the second one, separatism.

McWhorter isn't complaining about the tendency to congregate with those who have similarities to you along lines of culture, community, family, etc. He thinks that can often be a good thing. He sees some negative separatist tendencies within African-American culture in the U.S., with strong enough cultural support that the tendencies perpetuate themselves and with bad enough effects that they need to be stopped.

John Kerry today, while thinking he was off the record, uttered the following words:

"Don't worry man. We're going to keep pounding. We're just beginning to fight here. These guys, er, these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen."

According to Hugh Hewitt, the context made it clear that he was talking about President Bush, his closest advisors and cabinet members, and perhaps even everyone who supports him.

Now consider the following statement, also from John Kerry, with Hugh Hewitt's comments:

"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," Kerry told a crowd of potential contributors today. CNN has been unable to locate a record of Kerry meeting with even one foreign leader since the campaign began. Oops.

Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Update on Ethan

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Ethan had a language evaluation yesterday, so the fluctuations in diagnosis continue, with little bits of clarity shinging through the thick layers of darkness that the evaluative community has shed on Ethan's status. See Adventures in Misdiagnosis for the story up to this point.

On language matters, this woman said he probably has some neurological reason for some of what he does and doesn't do. He clearly has some of the most obvious traits of autistic communication deficiencies, but he doesn't have all of them all the time. Based on what she saw today, which isn't the way he is all the time, he fits into the autistic category, but she doesn't know where he is on the spectrum. She thinks he has some of the basic skills there, but he finds it very hard to communicate. The problem is mainly in expressive language. Other elements of his language are much higher-functioning.

Christian Carnival VIII

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The eighth edition of the Christian Carnival is up, at a new location (and thus with a very different style) this week. I'm a little disappointed that a number of old regulars are missing, but there are some new people this time, including La Shawn Barber and Uncle Sam's Cabin, both for the first time ever. Also, I'd already seen most of the interesting stuff this time around. My post on Christian criticisms of The Passion of the Christ and Sam's one on why black people aren't likely to get excited about such a "white" (i.e. mainstream) film are nicely placed right next to each other in the lineup.

(The dead outvalue some of the living, anyway). Swamphopper at The Rough Woodsman has an interesting comparison between the outrage at selling body parts of already dead people and the business-as-usual attitude toward destroying live human beings for very large sums of money. The amount of money in these organ sales pales in comparison to the huge profit of the abortion industry that masquerades as health care. It's true that stealing and selling these body parts dishonors the dead who donated their bodies for particular uses. It's also true that we need to consider where our priorities lie and why we consider this to be more worthy of serious outrage than other things that have become accepted as normal and inevitable.

Michelle at Mikao's World is doing a survey of Christian bloggers. Here's her explanatory post, and here's the link to the first part of the survey. She'll email you the link to the second part once you've completed the first part. I guess she doesn't want anyone seeing what's in the second part until they've already answered the first part.

I'm not sure I even knew about this character. Apparently he was Linus' little brother, added later in the strip. I even changed two of my answers and still came up with him, so I guess this is accurate.

You are Rerun!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

My score is 21. That puts me right in the 16-30 range, which says: "You are a soft-core libertarian. With effort, you may harden and become pure."

If you take a look at the questions, you'll realize how hard it is to score too much higher (Cobb suggests above 50) without being either completely uncaring or pretty much a moral wimp (believing lots of things are wrong but not being willing to stand up for what you believe is right). The 51-90 range is a medium-core libertarian, too. The high score is 160!

Beyond Red and Blue

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I found this election map a while back and promptly lost the link to it, and now I've finally found it again. It's deliberately responding to the impression given by the red-blue maps that abound that there are Republican states and Democrat states. The idea here is that certain regions of the country (not necessarily along state lines, often splitting states) tend to vote in certain ways. This group has identified 10 regions with slightly different voting tendencies from each other, with some excellent analysis of how each region has voted in past elections and even some advice to both parties about what strategies might help in 2004.

I do think the red-blue maps reveal something about a divided country, the same thing revealed by the book-purchasing map showing that people who buy political books only read one side. This explains why so many liberals don't understand why anyone would like George Bush and why so many conservatives don't understand why anyone wouldn't like him. Many of them probably don't even know anyone who has the opposite reaction they have.

Still, this balanced look at what's really going on shows that the red and blue states and regions aren't monolithic and that there's a lot more complexity to the ways in which these tendencies will manifest themselves (e.g. out west and in NH the support for Republicans is largely libertarian, whereas social conservatives dominate in parts, but only certain parts, of the south). I found it fascinating to read about the voting trends of part elections in the way they did it. They collected data according to counties, drawing lines where the tendencies reflect changes in voter tendencies.

This also from Yale Diva. John Kerry:

"I didn't really want to get involved in the war," he later would tell the Boston Globe. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling, and that's what I thought I was going to do."

So what was the problem again with joining the National Guard in time of war?

Biological Confusion

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Yale Diva has a post about new policies at Brown, Wesleyan, and other schools regarding transgendered students. I understand their desire to try to be more understanding when people are confused about their sexuality. However, it's just dumb to change all the forms at the health center so that they no longer ask whether a patient is male or female but instead have to write out a short answer response to the following essay question: "describe your gender identity history".

Last I checked, gender identity had little to do with medical issues. That's biology, and even the most friendly people to lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues realize that someone is biologically male or female no matter how transgendered ze is. The mistake they've made here is against the very thing courses on this subject emphasize -- gender and sex are not the same thing. One is a socially shaped identity, and the other is a biological fact (genetically determined in all cases, including XO and XXX females and XXY males who might have female or partially female phenotype; even people of XY genotype with a defective Y are genetically male). Medical personnel need to know the biological sex of someone. Only in unusual circumstances is hir gender important.

Iraqi Constitution

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The Command Post has the entire text of the Iraqi Constitution. I haven't perused it, but I looked through it quickly, and it looks much better than it could have been.

Oh, I forgot to mention that it's all signed now and everything. The Shi'ite objections have apparently been satisfied.

The Pandescenderer

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I'll let Andrew Sullivan explain. I don't think this explanation captures even half of the condescension, though.

The Christian Carnival VIII will be hosted at a new location this week, Trommetter Times. Here are the instructions for this week. Here are the instructions for this week (for posts written during last week):

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. Then do the following:

email the Carnival at this address:

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the Post

Cut off date is Tuesday, Marth 9th at 10PM EST.


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But not that Clinton. I've heard a few people suggest him. First, he'd never do it. That would be a demotion. Second, Kerry would never let himself be overshadowed by someone of such mammoth proportions. Third, they're too much alike in terms of not having views and going with whatever's popular at the time. Kerry needs someone who looks principled. Fourth, I don't know if he wants to look like he's bringing back the Clinton years. As popular as he was, Clinton was also the most unpopular president up to his time, something Bush has now beaten him on (on both counts). So we know it would never happen.

Yet it's made me wonder if it could. Is it unconstitutional for a former president who served two full terms to run for vice-president? There's something in there about the vice-president having to be able to fill all the requirements for being president, so it couldn't be someone who (even if a natural-born citizen) was born in another country (though U.S. military bases and U.S. ambassadorial grounds count as U.S. soil even if they're within other countries). It couldn't be someone under 35 (at least I think that's the required age). Someone can be Speaker of the House or Secretary of State and be next in line for the presidency due to some deaths, resignations, or impeachment-convictions but then be unqualified to serve as president, but that's not true for a vice-president.

But those are the examples the line in the Constitution refers to. There's a later amendment that I believe says that someone may not run for president after serving at least 6 years as president. Clinton has done that, so he can't run for president. Does that mean he couldn't serve as president? Does it rule out his running for vice-president? Even if it rules out his running, could he be appointed vice-president? Could he then serve as president if the president died, resigned, or got impeached and convicted, or would he be passed over for the next in line (the Speaker of the House if qualified) as Henry Kissinger would have been (for the Secretary of the Treasury in his case)?


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I'm afraid I've found myself once again with a bunch of stuff I feel like linking to but without the time to say much about them, so it's time for another roundup.

A politically-motivated policy (and I would argue one of ill will, since 'pro-choice' is at least as much of a euphemism as 'pro-life') has led a copy editor on the Los Angeles Times to replace 'pro-life' with 'anti-abortion' when the opera being described was, quite literally, pro-life and not about abortion at all.

La Shawn Barber has some nice balance to the Memogate charges. Her conclusion? They're all deceitful snoops on both sides, and this is just about one person who got caught. This was a dishonest crime that found out the culprits anyway, and why isn't that being investigated?

The new Spare Change (formerly Clarity Amidst Chaos) has a comparison of John Kerry before and after in a nice chart. Some of these are legitimate changes of mind on the issues, but I have a hard time believing this many serious differences could be from that. As I think I've said before, I think he's in the upper class of the Democratic party, voting according to the current political wind to retain the lower elements of the party and not caring as much about the issues. (See this post for more on the class structure of the parties.)

I never knew that John Kerry had once realized the negative consequences of affirmative action for the very underrepresented minorities it's supposed to be helping. I wonder how many liberal politicians know this but won't admit to believing it due to their desire to maintain control over black voters (also in the above-linked political party class structure post). For those who want arguments for my view on affirmative action, you'll have to wait until I come to it after I finish my posts on separatism and anti-intellectualism, which I will get around to soon but have been putting off.

On the topic of the Democratic enslavement of the black vote, Baldilocks has two posts, one on her frustrations of being assumed to be a Democrat by voting officials simply because she's black and another on the issue that may cost the Democrats their loyal slaves. (This is probably one reason John Kerry, who condescendingly wants to be considered the second black president, as if there has already been one, won't say anything on the issue.)

Instapundit has a large amount of information (unusual for him) on the people complaining about Bush's commercials. Lots of interesting stuff.

Biblical scholar Ben Witherington and John Dominic Crossan (who is something else but says he's a biblical scholar -- I think he's more of speculative fiction writer about historical matters -- he seems to think Jesus was just a political revolutionary whose death was later reinterpreted to have spiritual significance and whose followers concocted most of the teachings we have from him to fit this theory instead of continuing the revolution he started and would have wanted them to continue) have a discussion about The Passion of the Christ. I give Crossan credit for giving the most serious real criticism of the film I've seen yet (though he said it for all the wrong reasons) about how people would misunderstand the cross without the context of the rest of the gospels, though I don't think that's a problem in itself. One focal point of Witherington's response to Crossan is Crossan's repetition of concerns I've pointed out before raised by Andrew Sullivan that in fact reveal a prejudice against an orthodox Christian theology of the cross. They also consider whether Mel Gibson did enough to remove the anti-Semitism objections. At the end Witherington lists some unhistoricalities that bothered him. I should say that Crossan's final comment about how Mulsims respond is just stupid. Muslims won't use this movie to blame Jews for the death of a prophet that the Qu'ran says didn't die (because prophets can't die, according to Islam).

Adrian Warnock has challenged my claim in this post that, despite the fall, humanity still has anything at all good before being redeemed. I think it's quite obvious from the biblical picture that the image of God gets twisted in the fall but not removed, but one person in the comments section of his blog seems highly resistant to this idea. Adrian also has a whole bunch of posts from the last few days responding to objections against "the church" (although I somehow get the feeling they aren't using that term as the biblical writers used 'ekklesia' for the gathering of believers).

Disney is backing the first Narnia movie. So much for that one.


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I've been looking into what I might use for an ethics class I'm teaching this summer, and I've just discovered that the Patricia Williams book I've been using is now out-of-print. So I'm hunting around for something else to put up against John McWhorter (maybe his second book on race this time around, though). Does anyone know of a good, cheap presentation of the standard issues about racial narratives? I don't want it to be long, it should be readable to someone who hasn't had an ethics class previously (though an ancient philosophy class and an early modern philosophy class are prerequisites). It needs to be a book, not an article. Unfortunately, I may have to resort to using just Naomi Zack's philosophy of race textbook, which isn't very readable (for style reasons) or detailed and is a little pricey for just two weeks of a summer class. Any alternative suggestions will be considered.

I've seen relatively little criticism of Mel Gibson's new film from Christian quarters. By far most Christians are excited about the film, even using it as an opportunity to initiate conversations about spiritual things with friends who don't believe. The ones who don't want to see it are just intimidated by the violence they keep hearing about. I have seen a few worries raised about this film, sometimes being put quite strongly. Two pieces that have been brought to my attention come from sources I very much respect. One is on the website of the Presbyterian Church in America. I'm not a Presbyterian (I disagree quite strongly with their views on sacraments and baptism), but I very much respect the PCA. They tend to be one of the strongest advocates for Reformed views, which I tend to share with them, in our time. The other is from the website of Alpha & Omega Ministries, the organization James White works with. I appreciate his work for the same reasons. I have chosen to interact with these arguments mainly because I very much appreciate that Christians are thinking critically about this film but also because I'm fundamentally in agreement on the basics of the Christian faith with these people. I don't think all their conclusions are warranted, as I will explain, but I do think these arguments deserve to be aired, and in some cases I think they should affect how someone views the film. I also feel obliged to link to a very positive review by a Christian who emphasizes things not covered in most of what I've read. I happen to be acquainted with the reviewer through our both being on a music discussion list, but I don't really know him. I highly recommend his thoughts.

The arguments I'm considering seem to involve some mix of the following conclusions: Christians shouldn't see it, no one should see it, it was wrong for Gibson to make it at all, and it was wrong for Gibson to make it the way he did. Different arguments seem aimed at different conclusions (and from different people who have given these arguments).

The piece from Alpha & Omega included the following arguments. Some of Gibson's Catholic theology has been missed by Protestants who have assumed these elements of the film were just artistic license. According to the argument, this is not just about minor disagreements but about doctrines Protestants should find horrific, a focus on suffering for its own sake rather than seeing ourselves as the ones for whom and because of whose sin he suffered, a focus on the passion with such small concern for the resurrection that it might as well not have been there, and that there are only a few hints of the gospel message itself in the film with no clear sense of why Jesus died, why he had to die, and what our response should be. The conclusion of this piece is that it's going to be of no value to someone who doesn't already know the background but that someone who has the grid to impose on it will be benefited greatly.

The piece on the PCA website is more strongly against the film. The primary reason is that it violates the second commandment (of the ten commandments given to Moses, not the second of Jesus' two greatest commandments). It makes a graven image to be worshiped. This is a much more serious charge (one the first author dismisses without argument), and if it's true it deserves a more serious response. I'm not exactly sure what the author concludes in the end, but I'm quite sure that I don't think the conclusion is justified.

Let's look at each argument in turn.

For the first time ever I've seen an argument against gay marriage based on the consequences it might lead to, and I've actually understood the argument and how same-sex marriage might lead to those consequences. Not every step in this slippery-slope argument is guaranteed to happen, but it makes sense that it might. A lot of people have been saying that allowing same-sex marriage will guarantee allowing polygamy and polyandry. Many libertarian-minded people have no trouble with this, despite the psychological trouble in multiple-wife families of rebel Mormons. If that happens, all sorts of troublesome scenarios arrive. People could abuse the multiple-spouse allowance in all sorts of ways that most people wouldn't ever think of, e.g. to get fifteen people into this country, including already-married people, to get twenty spouses covered by your health insurance? What if all the members of a gang or mafia group marry each other and therefore claim immunity from testifying? What do you do with tax laws or parental custody and adoption laws? This all assumes same-sex marriage will lead to polgamy and polyandry, but these are real problems if it does. Of course, these may be good enough reasons not to allow polygamy and polyandry, thus blocking the slide down the slippery slope.

Matt Kinnaman's latest column argues that the ability to belong to an institution is not a right, and therefore it's not on the same level as what we call civil rights. Slaves were denied rights other people were given by the Constitution. I've argued that Christians have no need to pursue this issue the way they have been, but I think Matt's right on this. I see no constitutional right that should guarantee same-sex marriage (and I think the same is true of abortion, while I'm at it). I don't agree with every sentence in this piece, but I think his general point is correct. We've come to think of lots of things as rights when they really aren't (and now people are even saying that health care is a right).

I'm glad to see Matt's getting his thoughts out there. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in 2002 against an incumbent who really doesn't deserve to keep getting re-elected, but it's hard for Republicans to win even in Western MA. Matt was my history teacher in seventh and eighth grade, my youth group leader in high school, and camp director at the camp I went to the summer after I graduated from high school. My brother worked for him as a counselor for a number of years. He was also a philosophy major and the son of a philosophy professor. I look forward to reading more of his columns (he's only got three up at this point).

How manly are you?

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Joe at Evangelical Outpost had a post a while back with two tests for autism and autistic spectrum traits. One involves mind-reading by looking at someone's eyes, with the rest of the face occluded. [It's a little funny to call it a mind-reading test, given that these pictures are of people faking certain faces to look like they have certain emotions that they don't really have.] They tried to remove some of the subjective factors by trying to find common enough agreement on which emotions the eyes showed, but I doubt it's as objective as they'd like. Either way, it does test some differences between people with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) and the average person (with differences between males and females.

The other is a personality test somehow labeled "the autism quotient test" that picks out ISTJ traits as autistic traits and then saying that the test reveals who has autistic traits. [Note: Asperger's is a high-functioning autistic spectrum condition with higher-functioning, though not necessarily completely normal, cognitive and language abilities, sometimes even better than normal, but with delays in social and communicative delays with obsessional, repetitive, and routine behaviors.]

On the mind-reading through eye-reading test, there were 36 questions. The average score among AS/HFA people was 21.9. The average male score was 26. The average female score was 26.4. My score was 24, right between the normal male score and the AS/HFA average, just slightly closer to the average male score. (I should say that I got all 20 questions right on the whole face emotion recognition test, but I couldn't find the statistics on how people in general do on that one.)

The AQ test had an average score of 16.4. 80% of AS/HFA people scored at least 32, though the average AS/HFA score was 34.4 on one study and 35.8 on another. I scored 28. I wonder how the male/female differences turn out among the normal score group. The only data I have are for a group of Oxford University students who scored a little better on the mind-reading test than the average person did. The male average among them was 19.5, the female average 16.6. Both averages are higher than the 16.4 overall average, so this select population doesn't set a baseline standard. Again, my score was between the average male score and the AS/HFA average, though this time a good deal closer to the AS/HFA side.

Now there's important new research suggesting that the autistic spectrum is just one side of the male-female spectrum in terms of a number of traits, with males tending to be better at systematizing intelligence and females tending to be better at empathizing intelligence. Autism is a disorder that's even more extreme in the male tendency toward systematizing with difficulty on the empathizing end. There's also a disorder that's the reverse (but it's extremely rare) called Williams syndrome. Given that, I seem to me more male than most men. In other words, I'm quite the studly dude. So take the tests at the link above and see how manly you are!

We've been trying to figure out some developmental problems our son has. We've gotten some very different stories from professionals, and some of it has been basic incompetence, as far as I can tell. (I've always been distrustful of the general medical community, and my experiences tend to support that distrust more often than not, even though the doctors we regularly see our excellent and trustworthy on most things.) We've been trying to discover just what the problems are and how we might go about addressing them and helping him to learn in the areas where he's been delayed.

First, our pediatrician told my wife (I wasn't present for this one) that everything she was telling him was consistent with normal development, but he referred us to a neurologist who (supposedly) would know more about developmental disorders. He later told us that he has no idea what to say about this sort of thing, so at least he acknowledged his inability to diagnose it.

It turns out I knew more than the specialist in this area. The neurologist was fairly incompetent, asking us some general questions and drawing unwarranted conclusions without probing into many areas that would have given a different story. He told us that Ethan is most definitely autistic, with no question at all in his mind. Then he told us that this was all based on what we told him, and nothing Ethan did while we were there contradicted it. What he didn't say is that what we told him was based on what he asked us, which I didn't think covered the spectrum nearly enough, and what Ethan did was based on the limited kind of interaction the neurologist tried to encourage (basically nothing). All the books and internet sources we've looked at suggest many areas that need to be explored to get a fuller sense of Ethan's capabilities and even interests that this guy didn't even bother to ask us about. What really got me is when I asked him if it could be Asperger's Syndrome and not autism, and he basically said that there's never any difference in language ability with Asperger's, which isn't true. Asperger's is defined as being like autism in many ways (though usually not as severe) except with no language issues in principle. There are still effects on language development (particularly with pronoun reversal, repetition rather than compositionality, etc.), but autism has language trouble in principle. It wasn't clear to me whether Ethan had troubles simply because of language inabilities or if it stemmed from other things. My first guess is the latter, which doesn't at all rule out Asperger's.

Christian Carnival VII

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The seventh edition of the Christian Carnival is up. I glanced through the summaries, and some of them look pretty good, as usual. A couple look quite intriguing, in fact. It includes my post about science and love.

I've been a faithful reader of Andrew Sullivan since I started looking at blogs. I've very much enjoyed his analysis, and I even agree with much he's said lately about gay marriage (though certainly not all of it). When others have abandoned him, I've stuck with him. I'm not sure if I will continue to do so.

I'm not going to link to his post that offended me, but you can find it if you look. He linked to a site making fun of evangelical Christians who take seriously the authority of scripture on homosexuality with the slogan "God hates shrimp."

Amidst some decent (but ultimately minor) criticisms of The Passion of the Christ, he's been saying some things bordering on the offensive by belittling orthodox Christian views on the atonement, as if Christ's suffering and dying for our sins is a backward, dangerous, and hateful view and that Christians should switch to other ways of talking about Jesus. He's compared the orthodox view of the purpose of Christ's suffering to sado-masochism. (He makes all sorts of unsubstantiated claims that Mel Gibson invented the depths of violence in this film, where anyone who paid attention to the Diane Sawyer interview could tell how carefully he had researched this film in order to fill in the gaps that a modern reader wouldn't know about what would have been done to him, which a first-century reader would consider obvious background information. He didn't get all the details right, but he wasn't just making this all up.) He's taken a few Mel Gibson quotes out of context and has referred to older quotes that Gibson has later clarified or indicated he's changed his mind on, all to make the man look like he hates lots of people. He's joined the bandwagon of those who ignore Gibson's claim that the Holocaust was an atrocity by saying Gibson won't say there was ever such a thing as the Holocaust. In other words, Andrew Sullivan has left all reason behind when it comes to these issues.

If you have a Christian-related post from last week to enter into the Christian Carnival, please do so by Tuesday night.

Here's the message from the host for this week:

For those unsure of what I mean by Carnival I will try to explain.
First, a Carnival is a gathering of posts from various blogs that
showcases their best post from the previous week. Each blog is allowed
to enter one post, and I will take all of the posts and put them in one
big post on my front page. Then each person who enters will link to that
post, thus not only showing off their post, but also allowing their
readers to get the best from around the blogosphere. Also, I ask that
you please post on your site so that your readers who also blog will
consider sending in their best post of this week.

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. Then do the following:

email me at

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the Post

Cut off date is Tuesday by 10 PM EST.

All questions are welcome. Get your entry in asap!



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