In Which Stephen Fry Steps In It

If you would be so kind, I would like to ask you to view this brief bit of blasphemous cheek. It'll just take a few minutes. Now then, all set? Let's break this down into two basic parts. The first part is that Stephen Fry is given a thought experiment, and we should take a moment to see how he thinks in thought experiments. He doesn't believe in God, but he is nevertheless asked a "what if." What if you were wrong, the questioner asks, and the whole thing turns out to be true, with you finding yourself in a conversation with God at the Pearly Gates. Fry takes that occasion to launch into his diatribe. Bone cancer in children? What's with that? But I want to note something really strange about this set up. When God and Fry take their places as these disputants, Fry undertakes to argue morality with Him. And in order to argue this way, he has to assume -- and most certainly does assume -- that there is a moral standard that overarches the two of them, and which is equally … [Read more...]

The Nature of Natural Law

Yesterday I came home from the Auburn Avenue conference for pastors, which is always a grand time. One thing that happened there was this. During his talk, Jim Jordan spent some time castigating the idea of natural law, and during the Q&A I was asked about it, because I have been making friendly noises about natural law in my blog posts for a while. Am I sidling away from Van Til, what about all my friends, what gives, etc.? I answered briefly there, but have been mulling over the whole topic some more, and wanted to add a few things. My interest in natural law comes down to one thing -- which is that I want us to confess the universal authority of Jesus Christ over everyone and all things. Now I grant that there is a form of natural law thinking that does not want to do this at all. But there is a rejection of natural law thinking that doesn't want to do it either, and I am wanting to avoid both of those problems. Here is how it works. When natural law theory goes bad, we … [Read more...]

If It Were a Pancake

Steve McSwain, "Author, Speaker, Thought Leader, Spiritual Teacher," has written a piece over at HuffPo that requires some sort of response. From the rigor of argument displayed in his piece, one guess could be that he is most likely a mentor of spiritual formation at a place somewhere in LA with a name something like Kimberly's Nail Salon, with his office just off the room full of tanning beds. According to McSwain, Christian need to cool it with the following six dogmas that are just embarrassing the heck out of us urbane Christians. "Christians must stop saying the following things." Okay, get your legal pads and pens out! Take good notes -- it is up to us to stop humiliating the sophisticati. This is no small task, for they humiliate easy. "1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God." We should stop saying this because the Bible is just riddled with errors. There is a name for people like this in the Bible, but unfortunately for McSwain, that name is "unbeliever." He … [Read more...]

Debate As a Christian Duty

For many Christians, it seems a reasonable question to ask whether it is profitable for us to engage in public debates at all. Whoever changed his mind because of some public argument? Why wrangle about words? Logomachies just make my head hurt. In contrast to this, I want to argue that such a quietist position is not only inconsistent with the teaching of Scriptures, but runs directly contrary to it. We are called to speak with unbelievers in the public square, and we are to do so in a way that includes answering their objections. We are called to prevail in such discussions (in a particular way). When we do this right, what is happening is public debate, the kind that can be very helpful. But before making the case for this, it should be said at the outset that those who want to avoid "unseemly spectacles for Jesus" do have a point. There are some debates that are no good at all, and the Bible tells us expressly to avoid them. But when the Scriptures tell us not to lose our battles … [Read more...]

Nothing Worse Than an Analytic Fairy

Yesterday I was having a good discussion on apologetics with my friend Will Little, and the discussion dislodged in me a few thoughts on the subject that I thought would be good to note here. We were talking about presuppositionalism. I think it is crucial for us to distinguish between presuppositionalism as a foundation for the apologist, and presuppositionalism as a subject that the apologist will broach with the unbeliever. There are times when it will be both, but those times are rarer than apologists who are trained Van Til ninjas might think. If the point is to win men, and not arguments, then we have to understand where the actual hang-up is with that unbeliever. The fact that we understand the foundational issues does not mean that he does, and what good does it do to bounce arguments off his forehead, which then just lie on the floor unheard? At the same time, when someone observes that rigorous analytic philosophy leaves a pomo-hipster with marriage problems unmoved, the … [Read more...]

Bowing Out

Apologetics in the Void" are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community, whose names I have changed. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name "visionaries." Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don't feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind. Visionaries, As I indicated earlier, I am unsubscribing from this list in just a few minutes. If I may be allowed just a few comments as I go, I would appreciate it. Four things. First, I want to thank everyone from this list who came to the meeting last night. I was glad to meet a number of you, and appreciated the opportunity to answer all the questions that we were able to get to. Thank you. Second, I appreciate those who have asked me to stay on the list. While I still think I need to go, I am not becoming … [Read more...]

Avoiding the Shrill

Apologetics in the Void" are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community, whose names I have changed. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name "visionaries." Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don't feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind. Visionaries, The agenda of the town hall meeting tonight will be determined by those who attend and ask the questions. The questions will be asked aloud, not written, and the people who ask the questions will have reasonable opportunity for follow-up. The jury on whether this has happened or not will be those who attend, and not those who have no need to attend because of their telepathic gifts. At the same time, we intend to give the floor to a wide range of questioners, and this means that we will regularly … [Read more...]

Climate Control

Apologetics in the Void" are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community, whose names I have changed. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name "visionaries." Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don't feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind. Visionaries, I am grateful to Susannah, Joanne, and Angie for condemning acts of public malice. I really do appreciate it, and accept Susannah's sincere regret at face value. But Duane is in a different category -- he is against all that stuff too, especially since we probably did it to ourselves. At the same time, please take note. Rodger had a cogent point on the issue of climate. When the Wrong Group becomes the Evil Group, when the Presbyterians become a cult, when the conservatives become the Nazis, why … [Read more...]

Not In Our Town

Apologetics in the Void" are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community, whose names I have changed. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name "visionaries." Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don't feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind. Visionaries, Susannah asks a perfectly reasonable question. "In an earlier post, Doug wrote: 'I have had a number of people (from outside our church community) stop me on the street to say something like this, "You know, I don't agree with all your stuff -- but what is being done to you all is despicable.' He goes on to add that there is a plan to rid Moscow of conservative Presbyterians. At the risk of getting a "funny" answer, I want to ask, what is being done to conservative Presbyterians? Of course, I've … [Read more...]

Frivolous Questions

Dear visionaries, Nick has presented me with a whole host of "articles for repudiation." But before answering Nick's questions, allow me to invite you all (again) to the town hall meeting we are having at the Kenworthy. We would love to see you there. We will genuinely attempt to answer all the serious questions seriously. For more on frivolous questions, see below. And as a preface to answering these questions, allow me to commend Nick for this great new development in Socratic dialog. One party contributes the monosyllables while the other front loads all the questions. "Simple yes or no, Mr. Wilson. Do you repudiate your knavish behavior?" Yes means that I acknowledge my knavish behavior in the past and no means that I intend to continue it. Easy peasy, and philosophy looks around for new ways to obscure the truth. But in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I will try to keep my answers as brief as possible. After all, yikes is a monosyllable. My answers are in bold for ease of … [Read more...]

Uppity Calvinist Women

Visionaries, In his great book Orthodoxy, Chesterton once said, "This began to be alarming. It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with." The aptness of this observation is seen in the following missive from Angie: "Credenda Agenda, which I think of as your baby, carries an article in the current issue under the heading Femina, which positively encourages godly women to expect a divine reward if they rat out their dissenting husbands to the pastor and elders of the church." But here is the real issue: "You Christians teach that wives should submit to their husbands, right?" "Right." "What if a husband is beating his wife? Then what should she do?" At this point, this becomes a choose your own adventure novel. Suppose the (horrible) answer were: "Nothing. She should be submissive, and just take it." At this point the Tolerance Police would set to caterwauling about how such … [Read more...]

Pro Fanum

Visionaries, In his recent post, Darryl targets my assumption of the infallibility of the God's Word, and offers his alternative. But this simply highlights yet another example of an "inescapable concept." The best way to summarize this concept is with the phrase, "not whether, but which." It is not whether we will have a god over our society, but rather which god we will have. It is not whether this god speaks his law to us, but which law will be spoken to us. It is not whether we will have blasphemy codes, but rather which blasphemy codes we will have. The fact that we call our blasphemy codes by another name these days (hate speech) does not alter what is in fact occurring. All law falls under the category of imposed morality. So which morality should it be? Kant's? Sharia? Christian? Bentham's? Why are we shocked when a Christian answers this question as a Christian? I don't expect Kantians to call for the imposition of Sharia. There is even less reason for dismay about the … [Read more...]

Avoiding Checkmate

Visionaries, Darryl wrote to ask about my responsibility in helping to give Moscow a black eye in the PR department. What was my intent in all of this? First, Darryl is exactly right in anticipating how I would respond. We did not print and distribute the anonymous flyers, we did not ask for a front page news story that erroneously proclaimed slavery as the topic of our conference, we did not ask for the AP to pick up the story, using that error as the hook for the story, we did not ask for certain progressives to start boycotting businesses owned by multi-racial families who happen to attend our multi-racial church (to show their opposition of racism!), and we did not ask for the subsequent torrent of shrill, humorless, and ugly denunciations. Now, according to the normal drill, whenever the progressive meat grinder goes into action, the selected victim is supposed to apologize and promise to be a good boy thereafter. But we, taking our cue from Tom Petty, are not backing down. And … [Read more...]

A Chilling Effect

Visionaries, Angie says, "It sure is chilly out there." Actually, it really is chilly. There are people "out there" who use "racism" as the all-purpose category to describe anything they don't like or disagree with. Then they have trouble making distinctions between worldviews that are utterly and entirely different. In this view, there are two basic worldviews: "stuff I hear on NPR and stuff I never heard on NPR." With this very provincial and naive grid firmly in place, they then proceed to conflate radical Islam, European neo-fascism, resurgent Christianity, and NASCAR stock racing. "I never heard about any of this stuff. It must be all the same." A facile transition from a discussion of David Irving (a gentleman I had never heard of) to the local contrived hysteria over slavery -- as though a professional Holocaust denier is the in the same category as a Christian minister believing 1 Timothy 6:1-5 -- is nothing more than a thinly disguised smear, whether intended or not. … [Read more...]