Van Til and Obama Care

Van Til’s take on the splitness of all issues once God is taken out of the equation, fits Obama Care quite nicely.

After WWII, in order to entice people into taking, and sticking with a job, “benefits” began to be offered. The plum benefit was medical insurance. Prior to this, there certainly was Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and other private medical insurance, but many people did not have it, and medical costs were “out of pocket,” and very affordable. We have one lady chaplain here at the hospital whose father was a doctor, and she remembers in the early 60s when he would do a house call for $12 a call. Now, unbelievable.

Jobs began offering medical insurance as a benefit. This meant (unavoidably) that going to the doctor was now, “free.” After all, it cost employers very, very little to give such a benefit to employees and their families. But, it changed the mindset. Now, I run to the doctor for most anything, and much more often.

It also changed the economics. Doctors were no longer pricing their services to individuals whose capacity to pay or not was very important. Supply and demand began to be tinkered with. Now, doctors were dealing with big, rich corporations, whose capacity to pay was far more certain than individuals were in the past. They could now afford to charge more for services, and this was inevitable since demand was rising, and ability to pay was seemingly unlimited.

At first, this was merely a hole in the dam. But holes have a way of getting bigger. The split between services and payment for services began to increase. In fact, they began to splinter apart a previously nicely unified great oak tree. The connection between services offered and payment for those services began to be distorted. Schizophrenia began to set in.

Medical services were increasingly viewed as being “free,” and to doctors, medical payment was also being changed into “a free lunch.” But, the “free lunch” was getting more and more expensive, because demand had artifically increased dramatically, and was also far less efficiently applied. And, since it was now “free” and therefore a “right” and a “benefit,” it also increases the sense of resentment when “my rights” are trampled on. So, increasingly lawyers got to jump on the band wagon, or the gravy train, and cash in their chips. This also added a whole lot to the expense of “free” healthcare.

One can also see increasing distortion in the previously very personal doctor patient relationship. More and more, the gigantic insurance conglomerates become the controlling agent in the background.

Finally, the split is dramatic and huge. On the one hand, medical care is “free,” on the other, costs have become almost apocalyptic. It still works reasonably well if you have medical insurance, but now, it is routinely paid for by employers and private parties can almost not afford it. So large numbers of people are now left without coverage. So of course at this point, it is ripe for the state to step in to “solve” the problem. But by now, what was “almost” apocalyptic has become indeed apocalyptic, and we are viewing something that could literally be civilization ending (if America becomes Greece, civilization as we know it will not survive). The universal sense of entitlement and right is nearly complete, and at the same time, costs are approaching what looks like infinity. Obama Care, which has already doubled in price from what was originally promised, might be able to perform the miracle of nearly infinite cost.

So, it is now totally free and at the same time threatening infinite expense. It is also going to be a lot less personal. If you don’t like the care you will be offered, you can write your Senator. And remember, you cannot sue the Federal government. (so much for the carefully groomed sense of right and resentment of the last 50 or 60 years). But the lawyers will not go hungry. They will have more work than ever.

Here is one last issue that needs to be looked at. Is it not possible that medical expenses have risen so much because so much greater technical training and equipment are involved? Indeed, working in a modern hospital, I see everyday the technical wonders at work. Owning and operating this equipment cannot be cheap. Could this increase costs, even dramatically?

But, in every other area of life, increased technical power causes costs to drop, not to increase. If this were so, a modern I-Phone or typical desk top computer should cost millions of dollars. As a friend pointed out one day, the apps we have on our typical smart phone, at original cost, would approximate nine hundred thousand dollars. Instead, with advance, they are free.

Should medicine not be cheaper today than in 1955?

The Beast loves it. It is a recipe for almost endless meat and morsels for Hell.

Van Til was right…

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Sex Selection Abortion

Democrats have, in the last week, put legislation to bed that would have made illegal “sex selection abortion.” I wrote this before that happened. But, the extreme discomfort, and the insoluable ethical dilemma that has now been exposed, is not going to go away. Below, is a little exercise examining the logic around sex selection abortion.
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Something exceedingly odd is happening in America. New moral taboos are growing up for all of the strangest reasons. but one takes ones’ taboos where one can get them.

I recently read both of Mary Eberstadt’s volumes and I found them wonderful (The Loser Letters, Adam and Eve After the Pill). She comes up with some data and some 2+2 detective work that is fascinating. In a closing chapter in the later volume, she details just how it was that by the 90s, pedophilia was on the verge of becoming very in. Following on the heels of radical chic in the late 60s was the coming pedophilia chic in the 90s. It was just on the verge of becoming fashionable, when (saved by the bell) America and Europe were struck by the pedophilia priest scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. Herein is an interesting ambivalence. Liberals love to hate the Church, and it is perhaps true that in America, hating the Church via the Roman Catholic Church is the best of all ways forward. So liberals were stuck. In order to hate and execrate the Church, it also became necessary for pedophilia to become an unthinkable taboo. Today, it is a taboo, and perhaps one of only two or three sexual taboos that liberals will countenance (A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To Complete Libertinism). To be fair, it may also be that the pedophilia priest scandal re-awakened people to taboos they still deeply held, and were in danger of being washed away in the swift currents of the fashionable

Now, something else is happening. It is apparently unthinkable to ever abort because the fetus is female and one is especially desirous of a boy. This cannot be done, cannot be thought. We cannot be Chinese in our abortion intentions. Not only is there clamoring for laws to be passed forbidding this practice, but one must notice that the special crime is in the intention. Sex selection abortion is a thought crime, whatever else it may be.

Now, until the day before yesterday, abortion was permissible for any reason, and one must not even ask the why question. Fetuses had no legal rights, no legal protection. What was sacrosanct was the power the woman had to choose. But now, apparently there ought to be limits to choice. The fetus suddenly has significance and should have legal rights in case it is a little girl and is now unwanted for that reason.

This is very, very odd indeed. It turns out that in one case, a fetus ought to have rights. Female fetuses should have rights to protection if they are unwanted. Hmmmmm….the only fetuses who deserve legal rights are unwanted little girls. This seems to turn Roe vs., Wade on its head. It used to be the rationale for abortion was unwantedness. Now in a somersault, unwantedness is the sole and only reason for a fetus to deserve protection.

Let’s carry on a bit. What if we push a little bit? Is it really the case that criminal unwantedness should only function if the fetus is female? Will the detractors of sex selection abortion be comfortable with saying that it is just fine and dandy if we kill a fetus because it is a boy, and a little girl is what is really wanted? There may be some tough as nails die hard radical feminists out there who would consistently carry through, but I doubt they would have the guts to ever even say so in print and in public. It would make one feel a little uncomfortable, and liberalism is so much about not feeling uncomfortable, at almost any price, I doubt a very large contingency could be found to push such a proposition very far. For some reason (I have no idea why) consistency still counts for something,

So, it probably turns out that it is now unthinkable to abort in case the fetus is a little girl, or a little boy. Hmmmm…That seems to about cover the bases. There may be many genders, but there are still only two sexes. I suppose there is the very rare case of truly sexually mixed fetus (sexual dimorphism), but then liberals take seriously BLGT, and that includes bi-sexuals, and the transgendered, and the whole fight is for their full rights. Does the non-sex-selection lobby want to single out only bi-sexuals and the potentially transgendered, as being worthy to be snuffed out if that’s not the sex one wants?

But here is the dilemma. For liberals, abortion is still a legal, and a necessary good, and it would be unthinkable to not have legal access, for any other reason whatever. But now the cat is out of the bag. One has admitted that girlness, boyness, and bi-sexuality are significant and worthy of legal protection. But isn’t every fetus either a girl or a boy or bi-sexual?

Hmmmm.. I guess we had never noticed sexual identity before. But, now we have. Oh my! Can we now unnotice it? That might be tricky. Ought it now be legal to snuff out the little critter because, he, she, he/she are going to stand in the way of my graduate degree this year (or think of any of another thousand reasons)? Yesterday, the fetus was only as significant as an insect (who I can chose to swat for any reason). But now, because of feminism, it has been noticed that the little critter is also a boy, girl, boy/girl.

Well, if a new taboo begins to grow up because of the wooly-mindedness of liberalism, then so be it. It is a common sentiment in the Psalms that “God will make them fall into their own pits.”

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Glory

Here are a few thoughts relative to our age.

In every era, every doctrine, and all of theology are recapitulated, but every era is especially spoken to by some portion of Scripture as well. We have now “outworn” Luther’s doctrine of justification. I do not mean that justification by faith is not true. I rather mean that it does not touch the “felt need” of the age. Another door in to the Kingdom is now necessary.

I have toyed with a historical application of the so-called ordo salutis of Paul in Romans 8:29-30. I am not sure I can exactly fit this, but I have an end point that I am trying to get to.

The collapsing Roman Empire was spoken to especially by Augustinian predestination. Predestination freed men (and women!) from the paralysing power of fate, of the stars, of the inevitable. Predestination paradoxically, created free men and women, free citizens.

Then, the tribes were “called” and spoken to all together. They were all called by one Father, and one Chief, and were called to one blood sacrifice at one table. Calling created bonds of love between the tribes (something that was impossible
before).

Luther discovered justification, and the paralysing power of guilt was overcome, and all of Europe’s powers were thus released to create a great civilization.

We could briefly cheat and add one that Paul maybe implies, but does not state. The era of the Puritans (which lasted through the age of Spurgeon anyway) was the age of “Sanctification.” It has always seemed to me that sanctification was the great Puritan emphasis beyond the Reformation and Justification. And as a subset, as a kind of Puritanism, the Methodist emphasis on “ye must be born
again” also fits. The feeling of degeneracy (the degeneracy that so marked the Restoration era and effected all, rich and poor alike) was so powerful that to be “regenerated” by being “born again” spoke to en entire era, all the way through the Victorian era.

Now, we are in the era of the democrat. As Allan Bloom said, in democracies, all men at least slightly despise themselves. “Self esteem” is only a problem for democratic man. aristocrats could not even conceive of the problem, and peasants are rooted and know quite exactly well who they are and where they fit. Only democratic man spends most of his life trying “to find himself” and then on top
of that, if he ever does find himself, it is a huge task to much like what he finds. Being equal means I am saddled with constant envy, which all moralists have always known is the most painful of sins. As C.S. Lewis shrewdly observed, “Only two sins have no corresponding pleasure associated with them–cowardice and envy.” Hence, democracy is the most irritated and repressedly non-pleasant of all regimes (outside of open tyranny), and the only outlet is to live in a constant state of offense. It is psychically miserable, and everyone is rubbed raw, and there are no teeth in the gears (they have all been irritated and offended away) so the wheels cannot engage each other, but just interface and turn round and round (democracy is very lonely). Viva la difference is turned into an offense instead of being the foundation of what is interesting and pleasurable and what creates relationship
and love.

The answer for self despising democratic man (and woman) is the last stage in the ordo, glory.

What does it mean for democratic man to be given glory and to live in glory? Or, as an example of this working itself out, we are now “Israels” (which means, princes who have authority with God, and are even given permission to command God–A New Testament application, for instance, “If you command this mountain to be cast into the sea…”). Whatever Jacob’s virtues, it does seem to me that
Jacob always had a “self-esteem” problem. Daddy always liked big brother best, and he must engage in trickery with Mommy to get what is coming to him. However righteous he is, he is not happy (and I do not think his deceiving actions are unrighteous). His status is
one of a “heel grabber,” a usurper, one who lives by deceit. It may not be unrighteous, but it is not much fun, and it is awfully hard to like yourself when you have had to deceive your poppa. His new name is glorious, and he becomes one who can effortlessly command rather than grab a heel. Even Uncle Laban and big brother are going to have new attitudes and have some respect. He is now beginning to shine.

Small, equality obsessed, envious, irritable English and American, and Canadian and Australian democrats, who do not like themselves, and compensate by living in a constant state of very unpleasant offense, need glory as much as Luther needed justification.

Is it the next step?

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More On Inspiration

It actually does seem to me that some of our earlier defenders of Inspiration were a bit “wooden headed” in their own literalism (not just Lindsell, but Allis and Young, and even Warfield) and did partake a bit in the quest for “photographic accuracy.” They had themselves not quite gotten over the Kantian barrenness and desert.

But, there were some remarkable people in the decades of the 20s, 30s, and 40s of the 20th Century who leaped the chasm quite deftly.

The early Wittgenstein in THE TRACTATUS was just an update and application of Russell and Whitehead’s PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA, and its quest for an “ideal language.” But both Wittgenstein and Whitehead later made the escape and realized that such ventures could never succeed, and both tried to escape a “picture theory of language.” How successfully is another question. (It strikes me that all of Wittgenstein’s “puzzling” and finding everyday language “odd,” is really a quest to recover transcendence, which everyday language gives witness to everywhere.) C.S. Lewis and company (headed I suppose by Owen Barfield) really did escape and realized that language was both literal and symbolic at the same time. One cannot make that leap really, unless one re-escapes to orthodoxy. So of course the other person who escaped most supremely was Cornelius Van Til.

On a purely Kantian basis, symbolism is surely an impossibility; at least symbolism that matters. Pray tell what could be symbolized? The noumenal is completely unknowable, so all that anything in the phenomenal realm could symbolize would be other phenomena, and what fun would that be? Hence, the attempt to escape THIS dilemma (which is no small thing to anyone who cares about a high culture–like all the great Germans did) must be the great project of all the great neo-Kantians of the 19th and 20th centuries (PHILOSOPHY OF THE SYMBOLIC FORMS–Ernst Cassirier, for example–but how successful could they be without Christian revelation?) Polanyi of course was doing the same thing in showing how unreal the descriptions of people from Beacon to Russell were in describing the real human endeavor of doing science. No one can function in the barren wilderness of the Enlightenment.

But in truth, it is only Christians with a full blown doctrine of inspiration who can make this escape.

Two more short things. One, it seems to me to be true that earlier commentators and theologians (even popular figures like Matthew Henry) are far more interesting than the great 19th century figures like Joseph Addison Alexander on Isaiah, precisely because the earlier ones are entirely unencumbered by the Kantian literal barrenness and function very naturally with symbolism. And this is what makes a figure like Vos so important, and James Jordan so interesting (and important). We are close to getting over it.

And secondly, in two or three thousand years, it will be entirely obvious that “proto-Wittgenstein and Whitehead” and “Deutero-Wittgenstein and Whitehead” are entirely different figures separated by at least several centuries. Look at the differences in style!  And the vast differences in mental outlook make clear they are from entirely different places and cultures and eras, if not different planets. Such a vast change in mental outlook would require a great many years, even centuries. Some things do get more and more clear with the passage of time.

Rich

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More On Science and Faith

The redoubtable Rosenstock-Huessy says somewhere in his corpus (people like ERH are really hard to footnote–they have said too much in too many places, and they are very hard to find) that real science never happens apart from despair, or rather, the overcoming of despair. This never happens, at least initially, apart from God.

Nothing becomes history until it is forgotten and then re-remembered. This is the pattern all over again of death and resurrection. Let me give two simple examples off of the top of my head.

It is hard for us to fathom how popular GK Chesterton was as a commentator in Britain for many years in the early 20th century. One might be tempted to compare what he did to talk radio today. On the level of popular influence, I suppose one could compare him to Rush Limbaugh today. But then he was forgotten. His hundred books were relegated to dust filled corners of public libraries and no one remembered (except as a dim distant nostalgia) who he was or what he said or did. His death commenced his death. And then in the last twenty years, it is as though he was resurrected from the dead. Now he is everywhere, and as one of the most quotable and clever of commentators, his quips can be seen and referenced either as sayings in themselves, or as allusions to the essay and book length meditations or stories that he concocted.

The other example is Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas in his lifetime and for a few years beyond was remarkable. But then, he either became a museum piece or was not remembered at all, except as one of those petrified “scholastics.” Then in the early 20th century, he was awakened from his long slumber (partly through Chesterton) and there has now been a century long renaissance and renewal. Aquinas has joined the living, the very living, and every renewal of memory makes him more interesting and deeper than before.

Both of these gentlemen have now “made history,” but their memory had to die first.

The most notable place this is true is with what the Bible itself has wrought in the world. The Christian revelation, and its instantiation in the world through the church, has so completely transformed human understanding and existence that after that transformation it is regarded as simply “natural” and the way things have always been. It is unthinkable that they could be otherwise.

This is similar to what has been said about great leadership. The nemesis of all great leadership is that it succeeds so “successfully” that the previous terrible reality and circumstance that has been overcome is forgotten, and the great leader is never thanked (until much later when he makes “history”).

To return to ERH and science. He says (somewhere) that the pagans never rise to science. They create interesting toys, they create very clever and very workable simple technologies, but never science. Science required the faith of Abraham to come into existence. Science only happens after the fires of despair have been overcome in a deeper faith. The early scientists were all Abrahams who leaped over impossible chasms.

Remember, Abraham was placed in an impossible situation by God. He married a barren woman. Then, beyond that, God was sure to wait long enough that she passed through menopause. Menopause came later at that time than now. Now it comes between 40 and 50. Then, people’s life spans were still declining from pre-flood lengths (Methuselah, 969 years) to the now average 70-80.  Abraham live to be 175, and Sarah lived a mere 127 years. She probably had to reach or exceed 70 or 75 to pass menopause. At any rate, she lived a long time beyond menopause before her pregnancy. And the final barrier was in the Apostle Paul’s words’ that Abraham was “as good as dead” a euphemism for being impotent. So, we have a triple impossibility for having a son. Sarah is barren, past menopause, and her husband is impotent in his approaching old age. And yet, he is to believe God for a son. And God did it in His own time. The child was appropriately named “Isaac,” a double entendre meaning both laughter of delight for having a child in old age when impossible, and the laughter at how ridiculous this entire situation is!

Now we have forgotten what barriers had to be gotten through to achieve real science. Paganism always gave up before the great breakthroughs were made, because they took seriously what appeared to be true. What appeared to be true was that indeed, the universe IS irrational. It certainly appears so. Laws can only be established to point, to a degree, and beyond that is surrender to the obvious impossibilities of imposing or seeing any order upon the primordial chaos that underlay everything. It is not easy to make a breakthrough to a new perspective that sees a deeper order in all that appears irrational. It is no easier to keep believing this is a possibility than it is to believe God can give you a son when you are 100. It took extraordinary faith and belief to persevere to such places. The early scientists were in fact Abrahams.

Now, we have made so many breakthroughs for so many centuries that we assume this to be the possibility and the reality. We have forgotten. It now must be re-remembered and can now enter the blood stream of humanity as “history.”

Leslie Newbigin has said somewhere (also “somewhere” in his vast corpus) that one of the primary tasks of the church in the 21st century and beyond, will be to be the defender and keeper of “reason.” Modernity was always a Christian heresy. The polytheism of the ancient world meant that the gods were always at war with one another against a background of ultimate chaos. There were many stories just as there were many gods. It was an irrational cosmos that was of necessity at war with itself. The Christian revelation (following the Hebrew) taught for the first time that this was a single UNIVERSE, and not a multiverse, created by, and presided over by the One Triune God, who was the implication of all perfections, complete harmony, and final love. Modernity learned that this was a harmonious universe with one final story and not a multiverse, but wanted to abstract it from the Bible, the story of the Bible, and the God of the Bible. But by the 19th century it began to become apparent that one harmonious story in one universe, was only a myth after it was abstracted from the Book. Nietzsche was the great pioneer, and he fathomed that reason is violent and at war. In Nietzsche’s world, once again slavery and war are ultimate and we must surrender harmony and reason to naked power.

Modernity always was a Christian heresy, and post modernism is academic tribalism.

We are now in a position to remember again. We are ready for “taken for granted” assumptions to remember where they came from. We are ready for “history” and for this renewed memory to once again, now self-consciously, to remake the world–again.

Rich

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Uniformity of Nature and Inerrancy

 

The Uniformity of Nature and Biblical Authority

 

“So oddly, Biblical miracles (as opposed to pagan magic) and science are twin brothers with the same patrimony, and they came from the same household. Originally they were not enemies or rivals of one another, but actually implied each other.”

 

I.

 

I recently listened to three lectures by the great philosopher of science, Michael Polanyi (“Science, Faith and Society”). A point stuck out at me that was NOT a point he had set out to make, but that struck me as most interesting and compelling.

 

Polanyi, a chemist himself, while making the point about the necessary hallmark of “tradition” and remaining within the tradition, in science itself (showing that science itself is as dependent upon a “tradition,” just as much as say, Talmudic studies), was discussing what experimental evidence ought to be accepted and what ought not be accepted. It is simply not the case that all experimental evidence is found to be “acceptable.” A good deal of it is too far outside of the parameters of “the tradition” and is therefore simply ignored, or “put on hold” or re-interpreted, or regarded as being the result of faulty experimental technique and therefore, simply mistaken. Occasionally and very significantly, data that is apparently contradictory leads to a new, larger way of interpreting data that brings a reconciliation from larger parameters. But, it is impossible to accept all experimental data at face value. If all the data were accepted, science would end. (1)

 

Some of the data (and he gives fascinating examples) demonstrate startling things, and if simply believed and taken into the corpus, would lead us to no longer believe in the uniformity of nature, or that it is possible to give a rational account of how the universe functions. Face acceptance would lead us back to a pagan belief that “magic” and irrationality are supreme. It would lead us to believe that in fact as Ovid believed and wrote about in his METAMORPHOSIS: anything can turn into anything else.

 

But these conclusions are banished from the outset, because the uniformity of nature and the idea that the universe is rationally penetrable are axioms that are a-priorily believed and whatever violates those axioms is automatically thrown out. Nature’s uniformity and universal rationality are not provable dogmas, but are assumptions that all of science depends upon.

 

Where did these axioms come from?

 

Polanyi is himself Hungarian, and to understand where these axioms came from, one can turn to one of the other great Hungarian minds of the 20th century, Stanley Jaki. (The three great Hungarian thinkers of the 20th century were Polanyi, Jaki, and Aurthur Koestler. All three knew and influenced each other, and all three dealt extensively with the philosophy and history of science.) Jaki is the great historian of science in our time. Jaki demonstrates that science is the step child of Christian Church and the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

 

In something I had written elsewhere, I offer a very short synopsis of what I have learned from the great Jaki (and also notably, from Cornelius Van Til, the great Reformed thinker). Here it is:

 

“Greek metaphysics by themselves, could not support the modern scientific enterprise. The Greeks did not believe in the pervasive rationality of the universe. Ultimately form could not encapsulate matter, and there was always an excrescence of the irrational.

 

“Modernity would never have happened had it not been for Christianity and the church in the western world. The old ancient world was ruled by various forms of pantheism (the idea that the cosmos itself is in some sense divine) and the many gods that emerged out of the forms and chaos of the cosmos. It was a world of polytheism, and a world in which anything could in some mysterious sense become a concentration point for the demonic powers that the world was filled with. So rocks, trees, animals, men, could rise up and become divine powers themselves. Then, Christianity declared that the world and the cosmos were the creation of the One Triune God who was exhaustively in control of all that there was, even in spite of the Fall into sin and the consequent rebellion that now characterized all things. Christ, through whom all things were created, came to redeem all things from the rebellion that now marked us, and his church was the center point of his presence and of his work in the world in the new era inaugurated by his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven where He sat down at the right hand of the Father. One of the names of Christ is the Logos, which has many shades of meaning, which include both word or speech, and logic (logos is the root of our English word logic). If the world was created through the one who was both the reality of language and logic, it meant that the cosmos itself was reasonable , and could be spoken of. It was not ineffable. In other words, the world could be studied and understood. This great theological reality was what swept away the old pagan cosmos that was irrational, unpredictable, and controlled by demonic and magical powers. The one true God was Himself a God of both reason and speech, and His creation mirrored that. Hence, while the existence of God is what makes miracles possible, it is also the foundation of what came to be termed the uniformity of nature which means that the world is a place of constant causality and stable and rational construction. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity and of creation were in fact, the foundation of modern science. So oddly, Biblical miracles (as opposed to pagan magic) and science are twin brothers with the same patrimony, and they came from the same household. Originally they were not enemies or rivals of one another, but actually implied each other.”

 

Now, just as the world is the “book” of the scientist, so the Bible is the “world” of the Christian. The uniformity of nature, and the rationality of cosmos are axioms (ultimately derived from the Bible) that cannot be ultimately empirically established, or contradicted. Rather, they are assumptions that make science possible in the first place.

 

Likewise, inerrancy and infallibility are axioms that are also derived from the Bible (I can only refer the reader to B. B. Warfield’s INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE for the biblical data demonstrating this) and it is also the case that inerrancy can neither be empirically demonstrated or contradicted. It is an axiom, a doctrine, that makes the very doing of theology possible in the first place. (2)

 

Scientific progress is almost always a result of dealing with “evidence” that appears to undo science, evidence that if taken at face value, would in fact undo the rationality of the universe, or the uniformity of nature. Science, in other words, progresses, as a result of finding a coherent and consistent explanation of a “problem.”

 

Likewise, theology is only possible if revelation is a coherent and consistent whole. I.e. the inerrancy and infallibility of the whole of the Bible is the basis of knowing what we know about God and His dealing with His world. Problems, or elements or facts that appear to contradict the coherence and consistency of the Bible are, if taken in the proper spirit, the very foundation of progress and the forward movement of theology and of our knowledge of God and His action in His world. But oddly, theologians over the last two hundred years, often in the name of science, have surrendered the integrity of the Bible because of “problems.” In fact, especially with “higher textual critics,” the default position is almost always to claim a contradiction. Multiple editors, conflation of texts and anachronistic “reading back into” earlier texts by later editors are almost automatically assumed at the first hint of any apparent difficulty. This is the practice, even when the results are obviously silly and very easy and less contorted explanations are immediately obvious. There is almost a compulsive addiction to declaring contradiction.

 

This is the end of theology, just as a similar loss of courage in the face of strange and difficult data for the scientist would be the end of science. The scientists would immediately release us back to a world of myth, superstition and magic. The theologians have certainly done so.

 

“Fun” is a strange reality and perhaps difficult to define. But, whatever it is, it is wonderful. The “fun” of science is when a “contradiction” is given larger and better coherent explanation. It is the outcome when that which contradicts Newtonian mechanics, and the contradictory results of Michelson-Morley experiments lead to the Theory of Relativity. The sense of crystalline beauty, aesthetic pleasure felt in the coherence of Relativity has been expressed by many as the theory gave a new and deeper coherence to what appeared previously to be a tatters. At the very least, Einstein’s insight was immense fun.

 

Theologians have often been kill-joys. They need to learn something new about “fun,” and have the courage to experience it.

 

II.

 

 

My interest here is less apologetical, in the sense of trying to make the Bible and its doctrines somehow palatable to modern rationality, and is more along the lines of giving a check on our unbounded, and stifling egotism, which also destroys all creativity.

 

The scientist is able to be truly “creative” in large measure because he is disciplined by the cosmos that is really “out there.” He might have all kinds of opinions that he would like to be true, that he would even like to impose on the world and the cosmos. If he were a magician, he could do exactly that. He could say the magic words, and the cosmos would obey him and do his bidding. But reality is intransigent, and will not just bend to our wishes. It is also true that reality, since it is the creation of the Real and Living God, is far more interesting than anything we could make up. So, reality opposes my petty little wishes with real experimental data that opposes my petty little wishes. It is frustrating at first, but if I allow myself to be disciplined, what is discovered in the end is far more interesting than my small and petty imagination could have possibly invented. So, Newtonian mechanics appear to be violated again and again with Michelson-Morley so I become increasingly sure that I am not dealing with flawed data, and the final outcome in a great new coherence is The General Theory of Relativity. Relativity is far more interesting than what my petty, magic desiring imagination could have conceived of in the first place. I have been disciplined by reality.

 

So it is with the Bible as my infallable guide. I am naturally as a fallen creature, overwhelmingly egotistical, and I want to be a magician who “invents” all realities. But, in fact what my fallen and petty imagination constantly “invents” is boring, oppressive, stupid, and “uncreative.” I believe I will create a utopia. Instead, I create a “dystopia” like Orwell saw (1984) or like Huxley foresaw (Brave New World). The real Kingdom of God disciplines me. But apart from a text that I am subject to, I just constantly cave in on myself, and I am back to my own oppressive boredom.

 

So, as examples, both big and small.

 

Big: After the NT was completed, what we were left with were a mass of strange and seemingly contradictory texts about who God is. The real adventurers are the ones who submit themselves to the text and find the really big coherence (Athanasius, Augustine). Nicene Orthodoxy by the 4th or 5th century has hammered out the doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation. Really big, really interesting–like Relativity. The small and petty making myself the boundaries are Arianism and Tri-Theism or Modalism, all of which leave us with all of the unresolved dilemmas of the paganism that has gone before,

 

Here is a small example. Deuteronomy 21:18-21, the law of the rebellious son. The modern progressive or liberal looks at it and says: “See what a barbaric book the Bible is? And how wonderful that we now have the freedom and liberty to say that this ancient book , which in our own way, we of course revere– is WRONG and MISTAKEN. It is filled with culture bound patriarcal privilege, along with some interesting mythologies and some helpful things. But, the Old Testament is in favor of killing your own children. How evil. How terrible. How wonderful that we have arrived and are now superior to so much that went before us. How wonderful that we have risen above our forbearers and and have arrived!”

 

But what if there is a deeper coherence that is far more interesting than declaring our own superior progressive insight?

 

This passage is in fact, to my knowledge (I owe this to Dennis Prager, by the way) the first and only place in the ancient world that contradicts the doctrine of pater familias, the doctrine that the father “owns” his family and can carry out discipline all the way up to putting his family members to death with no legal consequence. In this law, the rebellious son is taken outside the family to the elders. Clan and family power is limited. This is to be done by the father AND THE MOTHER, and this is absolutely unique as well. She is as empowered as the father to take him to state courts. And finally, there is not a single known instance of a son being so put to death in all of Jewish history (Except oddly and interestingly, in the case of Jesus. The charge against him was that he was “a glutton and a wine bibber” and he WAS put to death as a rebellious son, Matthew 11:19. A most fascinating fulfillment.)
It is radically different from ancient law all the way up through Roman law, which  upheld pater familias.

 

And here is the other irony, which I see happening again and again. The liberal, who assumes his / her moral superiority in assuming the superior moral insight of their own autonomous moral conscience (which “heroically” defies the Bible) is itself wholly dependent on what the Bible created in the first place. We live in a world where parents and fathers do not kill their own offspring. This did not pop into place the moment we declared our own Cartesian independence, but was created by the Old Testament Law in the first place.

 

Hence, so often what strikes us as odd, strange, incoherent, in the text of the Bible, is really, when more deeply understood, the very foundation of wonderful, new insight.

 

 

(1) “The process of explaining away deviations is in fact quite indispensable to the daily routine of research. In my laboratory I find the laws of nature formally contradicted at every hour, but I explain this away by the assumption of experimental error. I know that this may cause me one day to explain away a fundamentally new phenomenon and to miss a great discovery. Such things have often happened in the history of science, Yet I shall continue to explain away my odd results, for if every anomaly observed in my laboratory were taken at its face value, research would instantly degenerate into a wild-goose chase after imaginary fundamental novelties.” (lecture III of Science Faith and Society)

 

(2) What one observes in both science and theology is a non-vicious circle of demonstration. In science, uniformity of nature and the rationality of the cosmos, and in theology, inerrancy and infallibility are not empirically demonstrable. However, “subordinate” demonstration is possible. With every fresh triumph of science in giving a new rational explanation to what appears to be contradictory, greater confidence is gained in believing the a-priori axioms. The same is true with the Bible. The more one finds the Bible giving coherent explanation to what previously had appeared an irrational world, or as deeper coherence is demonstrated in what previously appeared odd and contradictory, the more ones confidence in the truth of the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility is strengthened. Some reconciliations are so wonderful and remarkable that they constitute veritable “ah haaa” moments. They are the very foundation of “fun.”

“Fun” is given up when one surrenders and loses ones courage. One is then thrown back to myth, superstition and magic.

 

Rich

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A New Phariseeism?

How odd the world is. Pharisees gave the pretence of caring about the justice and righteousness given witness to in the Torah. But instead, God’s righteousness was subverted by giving priority to the “traditions of the elders,” and the Word of God was buried under a mass of habits, traditions, and precepts inherited from past fathers. In doing so, they actually “became like the nations around them,” because such traditions were the whole fabric of all of the ancient world outside of Israel. The Word of God is startling, suprising, and its reception, application, and result, could never be foreseen or predicted.

Revelation created something unheard of and impossible outside of Revelation. It created a future. There could be no future for ancient pagans, because all of life was a repetition of the traditions of the elders. Such repetition simply meant nothing new could ever happen. But, the Prophets, in particular, gave new promises of new life, of redemption, of renewal of all things in ways never dreamt of, never thought of before. God promised over and over, to “do a new thing.”

Jesus was the future. He was the startling New Man who would renew all things. He therefore opposed the Pharisees adherence to “the traditions of the elders” which buried the Torah under a mass of dead human precepts. He did so over and over, and in every instance of opposing “the traditions of the elders,” he does so by quoting the Hebrew revelation, what we now term The Old Testament.

As the Gospel has taken hold through history, we see a gradual overcoming of the habits of the ancient world. The Reformation was a re-affirmation of the text of Scripture (Old and New Testament) over against a whole lot of new “traditions of the elders” that had come to cling to the church over the centuries. The very heart of Martin Chemnitz’s EXAMINATION OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT (published a generation after Luther) was the greatest of all defenses of Reformation Doctrine by showing that the very structure of Roman Catholic and Trentine theology, was that its structure was a virtual repetition of Rabbinical Theology. The Rabbis had a secret oral tradition that supposedly came down from Sinai, and Trent claimed an oral tradition that came down from the time of the Apostles. In both cases, the secret oral tradition (known only to the highest clergy in both cases) took practical precident over the written text. But, Jesus who was the future, always forced the priority of the written text to all secret oral traditions. The Reformation forced the same issue. And, it must be said that Rome has been extensively forced back to the written text as it has tried to do war with the children of the French Revolution. The traditions of the elders were substantially what gave fuel to the Revolution in the first place.

Phariseeism has been disappearing. So is the world now, in an untramaled way, becoming righteous?

I am skeptical.There may be forward movement, but in hardly an untramaled way.There is a great new set-back. The devil is clever. If you can’t beat them, join them…

If the traditions of the elders have been the way of blocking the new future that will be created by the New Man in concert with His Word, then let us (says the Evil One) do the opposite.

What we care about now, what we will make the new public opinion (say the Principalities and the Powers) is youth and the future. All things (including the Word of God) can now be subordinated to Youth and a Utopian Future. But this utopian future created by the Planners of the Omnipotent State, is a world of perfect stagnation. It is remarkably like the static cyclical world of the traditions of the elders.

It is the novelists who have seen this. The “dystopias,” the brilliant satirazations of the coming leftist utopias, those great novels of Orwell (1984), Huxley (BRAVE NEW WORLD) and most insightfully, CS Lewis (THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH)

The new Phariseeism is established by lifting up youth and the future. And, the engine that propels it is the very concept of Righteousness and Justice that is derived from the Bible, from Christianity. In this way, a new hypocrisy is ensconsed. The text of the Word of God is effectively subordinated to The Up To Date Opinion, the New York Times Editorial Page.

If you are interested in being young, thinking young, and having progressive, up-to-date opinions on all subjects, and if you are particularly interested in establishing “social justice,” beware. You might be in the neighborhood of the new Pharisees. You might be party to creating a stagnant, unchanging world of perfect oppression. And it is all in the name of superior righteousness.

Rich

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