Creation, Holy Scripture, Philosophy of Nature, Theology, Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Wolfgang Smith & The Pitfall of Astrophysical Cosmology

Wolfgang Smith on the Big Bang vs. Christian Faith“We propose now to look at the big bang scenario from a theological perspective. Leaving aside the question as to whether this cosmology is factually correct, we shall treat it as a kind of myth or icon, a symbol to be read. What, then, does the big bang signify? What above all strikes one is the idea of a temporal origin: the notion that the universe ‘did not always exist.’ This is not to say that ‘long ago’ the world did not exist, for time as we know it refers to cosmic events and cannot therefore antedate the universe itself: ‘Beyond all doubt,’ says St. Augustine, ‘the world was not made in time, but with time.’ What big bang theory affirms, rather, is that the universe has a finite age; the question, now, is whether this implies an act of creation ex nihilo. I would argue that, from a strictly logical point of view, it does not. But this is actually beside the point: we are now ‘reading the icon,’ a task which is not simply a matter of logical analysis. In its iconic import, I say, the big bang picture does overwhelmingly suggest what Christianity has always taught: namely, that the universe was brought into being some finite time ago through a creative act. As Pope Pius XII declared in 1951, in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Science:

‘In fact, it seems that present-day science, with one sweeping step back across millions of centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to that primordial Fiat lux uttered at the moment when, along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation…Hence, creation took place in time; therefore, there exists a creator, therefore, God exists!’

It would seem from this animated papal expression of assent that the impact of big bang cosmology upon Christianity is bound to be salutary; but such proves not to be the case. I contend that the new cosmology has in fact exerted a baneful influence upon Christian thought, and has contributed significantly to the deviations and vagaries afflicting contemporary theology; how can this be? The answer is simple: icons can be dangerous, lethal actually, due to the fact that the icon itself can be mistaken for the truth, ‘the finger for the moon’ as the Chinese say. And this is what has actually happened in the case of the big bang: we are dealing, after all, with a scientific paradigm declared by the leading authorities to be factually true. Now, the problem is that in its factual as distinguished from its symbolic significance, the big bang scenario is flatly opposed to the traditional Christian cosmogony based upon Genesis. Take for instance the biblical fact that the Earth and its flora were created before the Sun, Moon and stars: surely this rules out all contemporary theories of stellar evolution, even as it rules out all contemporary theories of stellar evolution, even as it rules out all Darwinist claims. Theologians, as we know, have for the most part responded to this challenge by ‘demythologizing’ the first three chapters of Genesis; but in so doing, I contend once again, they have taken a wrong turn. Placing their trust in a man-made theory, which moreover stands demonstrably on shaky ground, they have contradicted the inspired teaching of the Fathers and the Church. Let it be said once again that the first three chapters of Genesis, taken in their literal historical sense, cannot be denied without grave injury to the Christian faith. The point has already been made implicitly in the preceding chapter: in bringing to light the content of biblical cosmogony, we have at the same time demonstrated its central importance to Christian doctrine. Whatever contemporary theologians may say in their pursuit of ‘scientific correctness,’ the fact remains that the teachings of Christianity presupposes the biblical cosmogony, even as the Redemption presupposes the Fall. It is utterly chimerical, thus, to imagine the doctrine of Christ actually makes sense in a big bang universe; and one might add that the biblical cosmogony has in fact been mandated by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1909. In a definitive response to eight questions relating to ‘The Historical Character of the Earlier Chapters of Genesis’ the Commission explicitly denies the validity of ‘exegetical systems’ which exclude the literal historical sense of the first three chapters.

Getting back to big bang cosmology, I would like to point out that this doctrine is evidently all the more compelling to a Christian public on account of its obvious symbolic signification: what could be more wonderful, after all, than a scientific cosmology bearing witness to the primordial Fiat lux! In conjunction with certain other scientific developments, the new cosmology has thus fostered a major movement of reconciliation between the scientific and the religious communities. Book titles such as ‘God and the New Physics’ (by physicist Paul Davies) or ‘God and the Astronomers’ (by the astronomer Robert Jastrow) have come to abound, and it is hardly possible, these days, to keep up with the profusion of seminars and symposia on ‘science and religion’ being held all over the world. And everywhere one encounters the same message of ‘peace and harmony’ from both of the former contestants. There is however a price to be paid on the part of religion: wherever a conflict does arise – as between Genesis and the big bang – it is always Christianity which is obliged, by the presiding experts, to conform its teaching to the latest scientific theory. It appears that a certain fusion of science and religion is now in progress on a world-wide scale, which threatens to transform Christianity into some kind of ‘theistic evolutionism’ more or less akin to the quasi-theology of Teilhard de Chardin.

In a word, the new cosmology is not quite as innocuous as one might think. So far from being compatible with the truth of Christianity, it proves to be one of the most seductive and potentially lethal doctrines ever to threaten the integrity of the Christian faith: a dogma amply capable, it seems, of ‘deceiving even the elect.’ The devil, they say, gives us nine truths, only to catch us in the end with a lie: could big bang cosmology be a case in point? Could this be the underlying reason why an atheistic science has now promulgated – to everyone’s amazement! – a doctrine which, on the face of it, glorifies God as the creator of the universe? It has at times been suggested that there is indeed a connection between a scientific enterprise and the demonic realm; this has been seriously affirmed, for example, by the late Orthodox Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, and again by the Catholic historian Solange Hertz. It is not easy, of course, to document such a connection; but the surmise of demonic influence is neither irrational nor indeed improbable. When it comes to a major onslaught against the Catholic faith, it behooves us to recall the sobering admonition of St. Paul, which may well bear also upon the point here at issue: ‘Put on the armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. We wrestle not against the flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ The demonic connection then, of which we speak, may prove in the end to be more than a pious fantasy.”

– Wolfgang Smith, Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Culture, Politics

Political Revolution is Covert Psychological Warfare

Wilhelm ReichHow is it that the victories in the culture war are so one-side? It seems that for every one or two battles that don’t go in the win column for the political revolutionaries, there are a dozen others that take more territory in their favor. Christians routinely speak of losing the culture and that we now live in a post-Christian era in Western Civilization. How has this happened, especially since Christianity has always had a voice in American society?

It cannot be for a lack of institutions, organizations, conferences, books, articles, etc. There are Christian universities, seminaries, and apologetics programs turning out people to “take back the culture” by the thousands every year. And yet, the revolutionaries and atheistic iconoclasts keep marching forward as though these institutions didn’t even exist. To be sure, the progressive manufacturing centers we call universities are producing activists too, but Christians seem incapable of even slowing down these secular missionaries.

So why has the culture war been lost so badly? Why has Christianity been so thoroughly defeated in the culture of Western Civilization?

There are a lot of ways to answer this question, and all of them are most likely to prove controversial. But there is one reason in particular why Christianity has been defeated. The reason Christianity has been conquered in the West is due to its adherents completely misunderstanding the tactics of the enemy.

Christians have been fighting against the tide of the secular left, militant atheists, and sexual revolutionaries as though it was merely a philosophical dispute which then influences public policy some time in the near future. This miscalculation views the culture war through the lenses of election cycles rather than generational development.

This is has been a serious blunder; so serious in fact that Christianity has been thoroughly routed in every institution, including the Church.

The true nature of the radical social project we are encountering is covert psychological warfare. The radicals have infiltrated the institutions that shape the culture and have succeeded in psychologically conditioning the masses through systemic indoctrination to think in categories that undermine truth, beauty, and goodness.

This revolutionary tactic frames the manner in which issues are discussed by predetermining the language that will be permitted into the debate. Christians think they are ‘defeating the enemy’ when in reality they have already surrendered their arms because they have succumbed to the linguistically allowable categories of discussion. As long as the psychological framework justifying this covert operation goes unchallenged Christians will continue debating around the husks.

Political revolution is covert psychological warfare.

To be sure, there are numerous contradictory philosophical persuasions informing this covert operation, but it is incorrect to refute the philosophy without addressing the psychology of revolutionary moral anarchy. Moreover, it is a tactical error to begin with an attempted refutation of the philosophy undergirding this mindset because it will have no affect on the psychological conditioning that has taken place over generations of institutionalized brainwashing. A person does not reason their way into relativism, for relativism is an affront to reason. Adopting the relativistic framework requires an abandonment of reason, which can only take place through psychological manipulation. Using the tools of reason against views that require the abdication of reason is like giving medicine to a dead man.

The subtlety of such an operation is why covert psychological warfare is so successful. Unless people are aware of what is going on, they will not be able to guard themselves against it. Christians have been blindsided in the culture because, for the most part, they think we are in a battle of wits rather than a spiritual war. For evidence of this just take a hard look at mainstream apologetics in American society. What is the first move made against our atheistic opponents? It is most often to surrender the power of the gospel in order to appear “objective.” How many times has it been said that we, as Christians commissioned by the King of kings, should put aside our biases and weigh the evidence neutrally? How often has it been said that we can just set aside the Bible, or the divine deposit of faith, in order to use the tools of pure reason against our spiritual rivals? To ask these questions is to answer them, because these are the methodological mantras of the analytic sages of mainstream apologetics. Forget about conversion, we are being implicitly told that all that must be accomplished in defending the faith is to demonstrate that God most likely exists according to a probability calculus, or that God is the “best explanation” for why things are the way they are, or that Jesus was at the very least a historical figure etc.

Mainstream apologetics has stripped the defense of the faith of its commission to baptize the nations by emptying the gospel of its divine power. These methods are not only an all out philosophical surrender, but they are useless against the psychology of revolution motivating rebellion against the Creator of Heaven and earth.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
History, Our Lady of Fatima, The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Final Countdown

Immaculate Heart of MaryThe 13th of next month will mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. Among the requests she made to the three shepherd children there was that the Holy Father, in union with all the Catholic bishops of the world, consecrate the nation of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She explained that if her request were honored, Russia would be converted and a period of peace would be given to the world, but that if her requests were not honored, there would be terrible wars and persecutions of the Church, and that the Holy Father would have much to suffer.

Many Catholics believe that the consecration Our Lady requested was completed by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984, despite the fact that he didn’t mention Russia as the object of his consecration nor did he include all the world’s bishops as Our Lady specifically requested. While his consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart undoubtedly brought many blessings, it can hardly be said to have fulfilled Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia.

The most obvious indication of this is that the period of peace which Our Lady promised would follow the consecration of Russia has remained tragically elusive. In fact, there has not been a single year of peace in the world since the 1984 consecration.

There are some Catholics who take issue with this argument, claiming that the consecration has been properly done, but that we can’t expect the period of peace to come about all at once. In answer to this, I would first say, why not? After Our Lady appeared at Guadalupe in 1531, the pagans in what is today Mexico began converting to the true Faith by the millions. They didn’t require a waiting period of several decades, so why should the case be any different with the Russian people who are not even pagan but rather schismatic?

Secondly, I would point out that it’s been nearly 35 years since the 1984 consecration of the world. That’s 35 years without any peace. And not only has there been no peace, the geopolitical and moral situations of the world have been getting steadily worse, as anyone who reads or watches the daily news can see.

Consider for a moment the current state of affairs in the following places: Iraq; Syria; Yemen; Afghanistan; Pakistan; Egypt; Libya; Nigeria; Mexico; Ukraine.

All of these places just mentioned are presently trapped in cycles of violence, bloodshed, and war.

Is this really the peace promised by Our Lady?

Is this even moving slightly in the direction of that peace?

To ask the question is to answer it.

Now, as the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s final apparition approaches, the world is facing the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the strong U.S. reaction to it. It seems likely that eventually the tensions between North Korea and the United States will boil over into an actual war. In that event, does anyone really believe that China will side with the U.S. against North Korea? And in the event of war between China and the United States, does anyone really think that Russia will side with the U.S. against China?

It would seem that our world is on the cusp of another major war. To say that such a prospect is unpleasant would be a severe understatement. Regardless of who won, such a conflict would cost countless lives and cause untold suffering.

Thankfully, Our Mother has shown us the way to avoid this nightmare. She’s already given us the key to peace. While as laymen we don’t have the authority to fulfill her request for the Consecration of Russia, we can pray for those who do, that they might be strengthened to carry out the task with which God has charged them. As Our Lady requested, we must especially “pray very much for the Holy Father.”

The situation in the world is dark, but we must not lose hope. As Pope Emeritus Benedict reminded us back in June, “God will win in the end.” And we already know how He will ultimately win, because His Mother revealed the details a hundred years ago to three, humble, shepherd children in Portugal. “In the end,” she said, “My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

Standard
Culture, History, Traditionalism

Revolution Begets Revolution

Martin Luther 95 ThesesThis year will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s revolt and will be celebrated by many who would consider themselves traditional, conservative, and biblical.

This, however, is a contradiction. Conserving tradition and furthering revolution are fundamentally at odds. Preserving that which has been handed down cannot at the same time be rebelled against in the name of its preservation; therefore rendering Luther’s claim to revive the Church by overthrowing it incomprehensible to the demands of reason.

Moreover, to be biblical means to possess and follow the Sacred Page in its entirety as the Apostolic Church has received it, interpreted it, protected it, and cherished it. Claiming to be biblical while manufacturing a truncated version of the written word of God in order to suppress revealed doctrines that are unbecoming of a heretical schematic, is to advance the machinations of heterodoxy.

Furthermore, the exemplification of revolutionary incoherence is found in the statement most Protestants cherish. The dramatized “Here I stand…” moment exposes the unoriginal futility of individually fabricated ideas. Every heretic in the history of the Church has echoed this spirited mantra in rebellion against divinely instituted authority. A difference between them and Luther is that he murmured the loudest when the same treatment was given in return.

Martin Luther didn’t understand, but soon found out, that revolution begets revolution. Protestant denominationalism, to this day, is a rebuke against the errors of private judgment.

The last 500 years of Western Civilization are an undeniable testimony to the all-consuming nature of defiance against truth. The contemporary culture of revolutionary political dialectics is not inexplicable. It is the natural unfolding of institutionalized principles of rebellion.

The liberally heterodox systems of theology, philosophy, and politics since Luther’s sedition have had a focused mission: seize power away from the Church in order to divide and dismantle Christendom. And all of this for the purposes of reshaping nature and reality according to autonomous individualism guided by the precepts of subjective private judgment.

There are consequences to such projects.

The barbarism of the French Revolution, the body count of Manifest Destiny, the death toll of world war, the cultural destruction in pursuit of making the world ‘safe for democracy,’ and the legal ratification of sexual revolution all testify to what men might strive for when building a world without God and the guiding wisdom of Holy Mother Church.

We are deadlocked in a culture war that has been raging for a long time. The roots of this war, however, weren’t planted in the 60’s. The leftist sexual revolution, the bureaucratic welfare state, and the technocratic military-industrial complex all share the same heritage with the Western cultural revolt initiated by the principle of “I will not serve.”

Historically speaking Martin Luther initiated a series of intricately interconnected events. The spiritual leader, however, has always been the serpent that deceives men into believing in their individual autonomy and their power to rebel themselves into a new order.

One of the most ironic things that will take place during the celebration of Luther’s revolt against the Church is that many will be calling for the reestablishment of Christendom. The irony of this exposes the deceptive nature of the revolutionary mind; they always want to have in their possession what they just overthrew.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

Standard
Culture, History

Horatius at the Bridge

Horatius at the BridgeMy introduction to readers at the Socratic Catholic included the fact that I teach history at both the high school and college levels. I recently gave the following excerpt from one of my lectures on ancient Rome as a speech for my local Toastmasters International club.

The story is that of Publius Horatius Cocles, a low-ranking army officer who single-handedly saved Rome from destruction by her enemies in 509 B.C. I’ve simplified some minor details, but the story itself is true, and I think it contains a valuable lesson for us as Catholics today.

Oftentimes our situation in the world looks hopeless. More often than not, our ecclesiastical leadership seems to be in full retreat from the enemy, and it can sometimes be tempting to join them in their flight. After all, if the bishops and cardinals aren’t standing up for the truth, why should we feel the need to do so? And even if we chose to, what difference could we possibly make?

The answer to that question is that we can make all the difference in the world. As you’ll learn in the following video, sometimes all it takes to change the course of history is for a few, humble warriors to stand their ground and fight, especially when all hope seems lost.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

Standard
Apologetics, G.K. Chesterton, Philosophy, Theology

Chesterton Weighs Sola Scriptura and it is Found Wanting

G.K. Chesterton Portrait“The usual protest of the Protestant, that the Church of Rome is afraid of the Bible, did not, as I shall explain in a moment, have any great terrors for me at any time. This was by no merit of my own, but by the accident of my age and situation. For I grew up in a world in which the Protestants, who had just proved that Rome did not believe the Bible, were excitedly discovering that they did not believe the Bible themselves. Some of them even tried to combine the two condemnations and say that they were steps of progress. The next step in progress consisted in a man kicking his father for having locked up a book of such beauty and value, a book which the son then proceeded to tear into a thousand pieces. I early discovered that progress is worse than Protestantism so far as stupidity is concerned. But most of the free-thinkers who were friends of mine happened to think sufficiently freely to see that the Higher Criticism was much more of an attack on the Protestant Bible-worship than on Roman authority. Anyhow, my family and friends were more concerned with the opening of the book of Darwin than the book of Daniel; and most of them regarded the Hebrew Scriptures as if they were Hittite sculptures. But even then, it would seem odd to worship the sculptures as gods and then smash them as idols and still go on blaming somebody else for not having worshipped them enough. But here again it is hard for me to know how far my own experience is representative, or whether it would not be well to say more of these purely Protestant prejudices and doubts than I, from my own experience, am able to say.

To this I owe the fact that I find it very difficult to take some of the Protestant propositions even seriously. What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests and some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, “this is all hocus-pocus”; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, “Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh.” But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll off the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of the particular creed? To say to the priests, “Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,” is sensible.  To say, “Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,” is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man on the street.”

– G.K. Chesterton, The Catholic Church and Conversion –


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Culture, Ethics, Philosophy

Mises, Eugenics, & the Culture of Death

Mises, Eugenics, & The Culture of DeathOn page 668 of Human Action, Ludwig von Mises says,

“Those fighting birth control want to eliminate a device indispensable for the preservation of peaceful human cooperation and the social division of labor. Where the average standard of living is impaired by the excessive increase in population figures, irreconcilable conflicts of interests arise. Each individual is again a rival of all other individuals in the struggle for survival. The annihilation of rivals is the only means of increasing one’s own wellbeing. The philosophers and theologians who assert that birth control is contrary to the laws of God and Nature refuse to see things as they really are. Nature straitens the material means required for the improvement of human wellbeing and survival. As natural conditions are, man has only the choice between the pitiless war of each against each or social cooperation. But social cooperation is impossible if people give rein to the natural impulses of proliferation. In restricting procreation man adjusts himself to the natural conditions of his existence. The rationalization of the sexual passions is an indispensable condition of civilization and societal bonds. Its abandonment would in the long run not increase but decrease the numbers of those surviving, and would render life for everyone as poor and miserable as it was many thousands of years ago for our ancestors.”

A couple of quick thoughts in response to this passage:

  1. I wonder how many Catholics who are fully committed to championing the thought of Mises, and Rothbard for that matter, have analytically read what he has argued on behalf of concerning the moral order? The above paragraph basically calls for the first pillar of social eugenics as a necessary cultural condition for human survival and flourishing. Mises sounds more like Margaret Sanger than someone “thinking economically.”
  2. Have the numerous Catholics who are champions of Misesian Austrian economics ever thought of criticizing this passage or the principles that give rise to its promulgation?
  3. How can any Catholic embody an unshakable loyalty to an economist that has such strong anti-Catholic biases such as this? This is only one single passage; there are many others throughout the corpus of Mises’s writings where he attacks basic tenets of Catholic social doctrine.
  4. Finally, Mises entirely misses the point of those “philosophers and theologians” arguing against birth control. Regulating the procreative act in an unnatural way does not promote social cooperation and harmony; it is the first pillar of a culture of death and societal discord. It denies the teleological function of sex as procreative, pitting woman against their own natural biological functioning while simultaneously constructing a divisive wall between husband and wife within the union of sacramental marriage.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Philosophy, Theology

Atheism is Too Simple

Atheism is Too Simple– Atheism is Too Simple – 

“If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling ‘whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’ But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who Atheism Will Always Failwas supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it id not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Apologetics, Culture, Philosophy, Theology

The Linguistic Blackhole of Postmodern Meaninglessness

Beautiful Cathedrals in France“The Meaning Gap

Here it is worth exploring one apologetics issue in a bit more detail, to show just how wide can be the gap between the meaning we have for a word and the meaning that a skeptic has for it, even for seemingly very ordinary words: What does it mean to have faith in God?

We can define faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” but for most skeptics, this definition merely illustrates the problem. If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for,” is that not an outright admission of Christianity as wish-fulfillment? (“Gotcha!” says the atheist). Furthermore, “the conviction of things not seen” suggests blind faith, because in our culture today – deeply materialistic and naturalistic as it is – ‘unseen’ is for all practical purposes a synonym for ‘unreal.’ In this view, if something is unseen it cannot be measured, and if it cannot be measured, it doesn’t really exist; thus, “the conviction of things unseen” could apply to the existence of fairies and leprechauns just as much as to the existence of God. (“Proof positive that faith is irrational!” says the skeptic.) And so the very definition of faith from Scripture itself seems, to the skeptic, to be a frank admission that faith is unreal: that we are making it all up. It’s an empty term, not even worth discussing. (“You poor self-deluded thing,” says the atheist.)

Nor is ‘God’ a more straightforward term. Even if the atheist can get past difficulties with the idea of ‘faith,’ his concept of ‘God’ may well be a ‘cosmic sky-daddy’: the idea of an old man in the sky, meeting out rewards and punishments. This is (rightly) unbelievable; given this idea of ‘God,’ it is entirely reasonable to assume that ‘faith in God’ is a cultural construct, a story used to threaten or bribe people into submission, or something that uneducated people believed in before there was Science. Or, for someone who is ‘spiritual but not religious,’ the word ‘God’ might be an abstract term for universal goodness. For that person, talking about what God has done in history or how he offers mercy is a non sequitur, along the lines of suggesting that the number three has a wonderful plan for your life.

So we can see that language about ‘faith in God’ is, in many cases, as meaningless to the skeptic as talking about ‘confidence in snarks and boojums.’ At best, the skeptic attempts to be polite about it, the way one might be polite about an adult who seriously claims a belief in leprechauns in the garden, or alleges to have met Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet. There’s absolutely no question of genuinely investigating claims of tiny footprints or asking to be invited to dinner with the Dane. The discussion between the atheist and the apologist becomes nothing more than rhetorical maneuvering to trap one or the other into admission of irrationality.

Consider this: if I play a game of Monopoly with a friend, and I land on ‘Go to Jail,’ I don’t have to actually go to jail. If we are playing a war-themed video game and I get shot, nobody has to take me to the emergency room. The games use words that point to real-life experiences, but without the substance of them; the players try to win, and may indeed get very emotional in the process, but fundamentally they know it’s a game. If ‘God’ and ‘faith’ and all the other concepts that we want to talk about with skeptics are just words to them, such that our argument is just an intellectual game – well, then we will get exactly nowhere, and we will waste a lot of time talking past each other.

The dangers of using religious language without attention to meaning for the listener are not limited to interactions with skeptics; a disjunction of meaning can (and often does) occur in preaching and catechesis within the Church as well. For instance, a young person raised in the Church may have a fuzzy idea of sin as meaning ‘hurting other people,’ rather than as something objectively wrong in itself that harms one’s relationship with God and injures one’s soul. This young person is thus no hypocrite in agreeing with his parents that sin is wrong, while sleeping with his girlfriend. After all, they’re consenting adults, so nobody is getting hurt…and if nobody is getting hurt, there’s no sin! Against this backdrop, arguments about the immorality of his behavior are likely to be met with incomprehension, or result in a conviction that the Church’s teachings are arbitrary and can safely be ignored. The disagreement about meaning can hide beneath the surface, distorting the conversations without the participants realizing it.

Pastors, ministry leaders, and teachers may simply assume that terms such as ‘faith,’ ‘salvation,’ ‘sin,’ ‘prayer,’ and ‘resurrection’ have shared, real meaning for all those who have professed faith in Christ, when in fact this may not be the case. A persistent failure to attend to meaning within the Church is a real danger to believers on a number of counts. It can lead to pervasive sense of hypocrisy, if Christians begin to wonder whether anyone really means the words used in worship services or in the creeds; to destructive doubts, if Christians conclude that these words do not have real meaning; or to movement away from orthodoxy and toward various heresies, as a persistent absence of meaning for words like ‘resurrection’ can lead to a distancing from or even rejection of the historical particularity of Christianity.

What can we do about it?”

– Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard
Culture, Philosophy, Politics

Virtue Signaling Inc.

Virtue Signaling Inc.The downward spiral of movement conservatism into an abyss of political and cultural irrelevance is accelerating at a staggering rate. The election of President Trump exposed the hopeless futility of contemporary conservatism, and as events continue to unfold during Trump’s tenure, the dialectic of “tradition-lite” has morphed into an industry of perpetual virtue signaling.

The first example of this pathetic development is Rod Dreher’s response to Pat Buchanan’s article, If We Erase Our History Who Are We? Dreher denounces the founder of the magazine he writes for (The American Conservative) with a vocabulary appropriated from the enemies of truth, beauty, and goodness. Dreher describes Buchanan’s article as, “disgusting, racist, indefensible,” and continues by saying (original emphasis), “It is abhorrent, and must be rejected in the strongest of terms by conservatives.” Never missing an opportunity to virtue signal his outstanding level of courage, Dreher says, “If this is where the Right is going, it can go right off that racist cliff without me.”

There is a significant problem with this puerile reaction (at least one that goes beyond the desire to make sure progressives see Dreher as “one of the good ones”), which is in the same article he implicitly identifies exactly what Buchanan is attempting to do with his argument. Dreher says,

“It is fine to disbelieve in egalitarianism as an ideology and as a basis for policy. Most conservatives do, and most conservatives rightly reject the idea that all cultures are equally good. And it is reasonable to argue against the puritan iconoclasts who would destroy monuments and historical memory in the name of a mindless, ideological dogmatism.”

This is kind of analysis identified by Dreher is precisely what Buchanan’s argument accomplishes! Anybody who is remotely familiar with the writing career of Pat Buchanan would know that he has made this argument multiple times. And to summarize, the argument is basically this: how far back should history fall into the memory hole given the unconstrained idealizations of the progressives in antifa? Why stop at Confederate statues? As President Trump stated in his press conference, Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, so are they the next victims of the cleansing of American history?

So here again we see Dreher giving with one hand what he takes with the other in order to prop himself up as the likeable “crunchy-con.” You cannot be a critic of the progressive ideology if you continually enslave yourself to progressives’ delicate sensibilities.

The virtue signally does not end with Rod Dreher. This trend now has a home in the “intellectual” circles of movement conservatism. Not only are conservatives piling on the South with progressives looking to reshape reality in the image of their faceless Utopia, but they are now openly defending the pathetic sophistry of philosophers who defend the gratuitous evil of abortion.

Sherif Girgis goes out of his way to defend the presentation of Professor Elizabeth Harmon’s argument for the continued killing of preborn children. Girgis says of Harmon’s view, “Professor Elizabeth Harman of Princeton University defends a striking and original view of when the unborn have moral status—when it might be wrong to harm them.”

This is false. Professor Harmon’s view is neither “striking” nor is it “original.” The argument is a sophistical re-articulation of attributing moral status upon the preborn baby when consciousness is acquired through natural development. However, Harmon’s argument is much worse than this because she bases the moral status of the preborn on our knowledge of whether or not the mother will make a choice to abort the baby. If the mother is going to choose to abort the baby then this baby never had moral status to begin with, and if she chooses to continue the pregnancy the baby now has moral status. This is circular reasoning in defense of evil. It does not deserve to be taken seriously, and it most certainly does not need to be treated with respect.

Another thing to take note of is the demeanor in which Professor Harmon makes the argument. Her expression of nonchalant indifference regarding the life of preborn human persons borders on sociopathic.

To be sure, Girgis goes on to offer criticism of the argument, but the most significant error he is guilty of making is virtue signaling his ability to take garbage philosophy seriously.

Conservatism Inc. has transformed itself into an enterprise of endless virtue signaling. All the evidence you need for this is found in conservatives allying with the left in the denunciation of the South as collectively racist and the conservative defense of sophistry in the name of feigned intellectual hospitality.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

Standard