My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
Haley Goranson Jacob. Conformed to the Image of His Son: Reconsidering Paul’s Theology of Glory in Romans. IVP Academic, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
Haley Goranson Jacob teaches theology at Whitworth University. This book, Conformed to the Image of His Son, offers a fresh interpretation of Romans 8:29-30.
Romans 8:29-30 states: “For those whom he foreknew he also
predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he
might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he
predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified;
and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (NRSV)
What does Paul mean when he refers to believers being conformed to
the image of God’s Son? Two proposals are prominent. The first view is
that believers will be conformed to the image of God’s Son in terms of
holiness: they will become like Christ in their moral and spiritual
character. The second view is that Paul means that their resurrection
bodies will be glorified, shining bright, like Christ’s glorified
Although Jacob rejects these interpretations, moral holiness and
bodily composition still seem to factor into her scenario. Jacob
accepts Colossians as authentically Pauline, and Colossians 3:7-9
presents moral aspects to becoming conformed to the image of God. Paul
also depicts believers’ resurrected bodies as new and improved, in
possessing immortality, for instance.
Jacob argues, however, that Paul has a different focus in Romans
8:29-30. For Jacobs, when Paul affirms that believers will be
glorified, he means that they will be honored. And when Paul refers to
believers being conformed to the image of God’s Son, he is echoing
themes in the Hebrew Bible. There is Genesis 1:26-27, which depicts
God’s image as the dominion that human beings have over creation. Jesus
is God’s Son in the sense that he is the Messiah, for the Davidic ruler
in the Hebrew Bible was called God’s Son. Jacob argues that, for Paul,
believers are conformed to the image of God’s Son in that they join
Jesus in ruling over a creation that is being renewed.
This has future implications, but it has present implications, as
well. When Paul in Romans 8:26-27 talks about the Spirit interceding
for believers when they pray, Jacob believes that this relates to
believers praying for creation, not so much their own personal issues.
Jacob translates Romans 8:28 differently from how it is customarily
translated. Most translations render it as all things working together
for those who love God (Romans 8:28), but Jacob interprets it in terms
of believers working with God in the renewal of creation, not so much
things clicking in their personal lives.
In making her argument, Jacob appeals to a variety of
considerations. She examines the usage of doxa (glory) in the
Septuagint, highlighting that it often pertains to receiving honor. She
considers Paul’s writings broadly, then she looks at Romans, then she
closely looks at Romans 8. Jacob sees that Psalms 8 and 110 feature
prominently, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, in Paul’s
discussion of the risen Christ. Psalm 8 is about the dominion that
human beings have over God’s creation, and Paul contends that Christ now
has that as the risen Messiah. Paul interprets Psalm 110 as the
Messiah sitting at God’s right hand and ruling. In Jacob’s argument,
Paul holds that believers share in this rulership with the risen Christ,
for believers’ participation with Christ is a salient feature of Paul’s
writings. Jacob also offers a grammatical argument for her
interpretation of Romans 8:28.
Jacob judiciously engages prior scholarship. The book is interesting
in that it highlights the different interpretations that scholars have
offered regarding Romans 8 and other Pauline passages, as well as
changes in scholarly trends. For example, whereas scholarship used to
interpret Paul’s reference to the “Son of God” in light of the sons of
God in Greek mythology, Jacob states, it has come to interpret the
phrase in light of the Messiah of the Hebrew Bible. While the book is
nuanced, Jacob continually stresses her main points, and her
introduction and conclusion lucidly summarize her arguments.
A slight issue that I have with Jacob’s argument is that, when I read
Paul, Paul does not seem to emphasize believers going out and serving
the world. One can certainly derive that lesson from the Bible, for the
Old Testament talks about giving alms, and the Gospels depict Jesus
going into the world and helping people. Paul, however, focuses more on
spreading the Gospel and the spiritual care of his congregations. When
he talks about helping the poor, he usually (perhaps always) means the
poor of the church, not the poor in the world. This is odd, if Jacob’s
interpretation of Paul is correct. Still, one cannot dismiss the
evidence that she does present, such as the significance of Psalm 8 and
110 in Paul’s writings.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
William Edward Dewberry. Revelation and the Antichrist: A Commentary. WestBow Press, 2012. See here to buy the book.
William Edward Dewberry was a data communications technician at AT&T and is currently retired. This book, Revelation and the Antichrist, is a commentary on the Book of Revelation.
Overall, the prose of this book is well-written. It flows smoothly, and there is no stylistic awkwardness that I can recall.
There is a lot of regurgitating of what the biblical text says
accompanied by fairly obvious homiletical commentary. You will not find
much in here about, say, the identity of the Antichrist. But there are
interesting interpretations, here and there. Dewberry states that
Satan is confined to the Abyss right now and has been there since the
ascension of Christ, but he will be released in the end times, causing
such mayhem as the Antichrist. He interprets the Temple as the
persecuted church of God, and the two witnesses as the church’s
proclamation with the word and the Spirit of God. In a rare attempt to
interpret details of Revelation in light of the book’s historical
context, Dewberry states that the white stone promised to the church at
Pergamum is a white stone communicating a verdict of innocence, which
existed in first century courts. God is declaring the suffering church
at Pergamum innocent.
The book is a combination of a variety of perspectives. When Christ
says that he is showing John what will shortly come to pass or affirms
that he will come quickly, Dewberry interprets that to mean that, when
Christ does return, it will be rapidly. No first century expectations
of an imminent end there. Dispensationalists have argued similarly
about the Book of Revelation. Dewberry interprets the letters to the
seven churches as related to the first century, and the rest of the book
as related to the future end time. His interpretation of the
millennium leans towards the amillennial side.
Whether the book is convincing in terms of its interpretations, that
is up to the reader. I can somewhat sympathize Dewberry’s claim that
Satan is currently in the Abyss and will be released at the end time.
Revelation does appear to depict a particularly heightened time of
Satanic deception and torment of people, and tormenting spirits do
emerge from underground in the Book of Revelation. At the same time, to
say that Satan is currently confined to the Abyss is a bit problematic,
as Revelation 12:10 seems to depict him accusing the brethren day and
night, which would take place in heaven. Moreover, there are New
Testament passages that depict Satan as active on earth during the time
of the first century church. Dewberry’s interpretation of the Temple as
the church rather than as a future, literal reconstructed Temple is
plausible. This claim may have been more interesting, however, had
Dewberry explained what II Thessalonians 2:4 means when it says that the
man of sin will sit in the Temple of God claiming to be God; will he
come from the church?
A lot of Dewberry’s interpretive moves are assertions rather than
arguments. In a sense, a lot of interpretation of the Book of
Revelation, in general, can be speculative, but perhaps Dewberry’s book
would have been more interesting had it had more exegetical meat, or
engaged different perspectives.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
Here are some items for this week’s Church Write-Up:
A. At the LCMS church, the pastor preached about Mark 6:45-56. The
disciples were in a boat out in the sea, and the wind was especially
strong, so strong that they could not row against it. Jesus saw this
happening from the shore and walked on the water, intending to pass them
by. Why was Jesus intending to pass them by? The pastor suggested
that Jesus was planning to proceed past them and take care of the storm,
but he saw that they were afraid and let himself be sidetracked in
order to reassure them. The pastor told a story about when he was
heading home from seminary. He was caught in a horrible snowstorm, and
the snow was getting into his car’s radiator, thereby slowing him down.
He decided to stop at a motel and used a pay phone to call his
parents. His father assured him that everything would be all right and
that they would come to pick him up. That made him feel better.
B. The Sunday School class was about I John 2:18-3:3. Because
August is Mission Month, the Sunday School class during that time will
be hearing from charities. I will see whether I attend that. The I
John class will resume in mid-September.
The Sunday School class got into a variety of issues. First, John
tells his audience that it is the last hour. The pastor was explaining
the amillennialist perspective, saying that the end times have existed
since the ascension of Jesus until today. We are in the tribulation,
since the false teachers Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse have
existed since the first century until now; these false teachers come in
the name of Christ but deny essentials of the Gospel. But we are also
in the millennium: Satan has been defeated through Christ’s death and
resurrection, and Christ reigns spiritually. That was the pastor’s
response when I asked him how we could be in the millennium, when
Revelation 20:3 states that the devil will be bound in the abyss during
the thousand years so that he will not deceive the nations. Satan, as
even the pastor acknowledged, seems to be active and deceiving the
nations today. After the class, two people in the church were talking
with each other about how they are not really persuaded by the
amillennial position. They are premillennial and take the prophecies in
the Old and New Testaments literally.
Second, the pastor talked about how I John 2:18-3:3 fit into its
context. John was telling the Christians in his congregation that they
had an anointing and did not need anyone to teach them. Their anointing
either referred to their baptism or their anointing by the Spirit; the
pastor referred to John 20, in which the risen Jesus breathes on his
disciples, who before did not understand him, and they transitioned from
being disciples (students) to becoming apostles, people sent out to
proclaim the Gospel, which forgives and retains sins. (I am aware that I
am mixing other Gospels and Protestant interpretation with John 20,
here.) The Docetists had said that the Christians needed more spiritual
knowledge, but John was telling the Christians that they already had
the knowledge that they needed: Christ come in the flesh, his atoning
death, and his resurrection. John was also reassuring them that they
were loved by God, for they may have been questioning that, after the
church split. Moreover, the pastor contrasted the Christian
perspective, which is oriented around Christ, with the world’s
perspective, which has the world as its starting-point.
C. At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor was continuing his
series through the Book of Revelation. The pastor said that he does not
deny that the Book of Revelation is about how the world will end, but
that he believes that it also relates to how Christians right now can
live a victorious life. The pastor derived three lessons. From the
plagues in Revelation, the pastor concluded that God will go to any
lengths to free people from sin, as God sent plagues to deliver Israel
from Egypt. Yet, notwithstanding the plagues, people did not repent.
People repented when the plagues were accompanied by prophecy, God
speaking into people’s situations through the two witnesses. Another
theme is prayer, which is symbolized by incense. The pastor told a
story of another pastor who had accomplished a lot in his ministry, but
felt as if what he did fell short because he did not devote much time to
The pastor got into related issues in the course of this discussion.
He lamented that people do not take sin seriously, as they joke about
their drunken binges the night before. He talked about how our cheaper
products are made by children under the whip, pointing to a cheap piece
of technology that he was using in making this point. He said that
Christians should be in the forefront of the ecology movement, not
because the earth is warming or cooling, but because this is a beautiful
home that God has given us, and God’s goal is to redeem the earth, so
we should cherish and take care of it. The pastor then said that he is
neither a liberal Democrat nor a conservative Republican. He belongs to
another Kingdom, as he agrees with elements of both sides and values
discussion, as long as people do not get nasty. “But I want a
Republican pastor,” he said, putting words into some people’s mouths.
“Well, they’re out there!”
A Christian apologetic argument is that the Gospels’ resurrection
narratives are historically accurate because they depict women as the
first witnesses to the risen Jesus. According to this argument, the
authors of the narratives would not have made that up because women’s
testimony was distrusted in the ancient world.
Here are two perspectives. Richard Carrier is an atheist, and he
disputes the Christian apologetic argument, presenting indications from
primary sources that women’s testimony was accepted in the ancient
Richard Bauckham does not necessarily address the Christian
apologetic argument, but he does raise considerations that are relevant
to it. There was a strong belief in the ancient world that women were
superstitious, especially about religious matters. At the same time,
Pseudo-Philo somewhat runs against that grain, and, even in some of the
Gospels, the disciples initially think that there is at least something
to the women’s testimony, since they go to check it out.
I am not entirely clear what this article is recommending, but I still find it interesting. This is the third article in The Nation
that I have read that sees a silver lining in, or at least some
rationale behind, President Trump’s foreign policy. I wonder why this
is. The Nation is a very left-wing publication. It has
anti-Trump articles. Even on this one, you can sign up to “join the
resistance!” Yet, it can be somewhat positive about Trump. And it
leaves the impression that Trump is doing something outside-of-the-box
I read this one just now! This article is critical of Trump towards
the end. Yet, it has this gem: “The tempest over the Fed illustrates
what is becoming a repeated syndrome. In his chaos presidency, Trump
clearly relishes disrupting established convention and institutions.
Often—as in his vile slander of immigrants, his racist pandering to
neo-Nazis, his incessant attacks on ‘fake news’—he spreads poison and
division, seeking to delegitimize checks on his misrule. But in some
areas—particularly those central to his populist posturing—he challenges
entrenched institutions and policies that are long overdue for
transformation. In many cases, his targets are those that progressives
have criticized for years.”
This article could have been shorter, but it was still an
informative, enjoyable read. It chronicles President Obama’s
relationship with Israel; the developing relationship between Netanyahu
and candidate, then President-elect, then President Trump; and the
growing alliance among Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab
Emirates against Iran, and how that can impact U.S. policy towards
Israel and the Palestinians. It has a lot of “behind-the-scenes”
stories: people are alleged to have said things, but they deny saying
This article is about current U.S. pretensions for its presence in
Argentina (i.e., combating drugs and terror) and its historical
pretensions for its presence in South America (i.e., the Cold War); how
the U.S. Defense Department assumes the reality of climate-change and
desires access to Argentine water; and why a number of Argentines do not
appreciate the U.S.’s presence and view it as deleterious.
I have long appreciated John C. Goodman’s analysis of health care
issues. I noticed that I had not been receiving his NCPA e-mails for
several months, and I found that he has started the Goodman Center for
Public Policy Research. I cannot say that I agree with Goodman on
everything, but he does have ideas about reducing the cost of health
care in this twenty-first century technological era that, in my opinion,
deserve consideration. This article details some of the usual problems
about Obamacare. Not enough healthy people are paying into the system;
a lot of sick people have signed up for it; Obamacare’s attempts to get
money from the healthy to the sick have been inadequate; and a number
of places are simply not accepting Obamacare insurance. I may sound
like I am seeing this as an abstract policy discussion, but I understand
and appreciate that this issue involves real people, with real-life,
even life-threatening, problems.
Essentially, some of the red states did not accept Medicaid
expansion. Uninsured people come to the emergency room and hospitals
have to treat them. This taxes hospitals’ finances, and rural hospitals
Reading this again, I cannot entirely endorse the tone of this
status. Still, it was interesting to me that Christian
Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony had a heart for the plight of Native
Americans, based on his experience working with them.
She has certainly grown as a pundit! I remember watching her on
“Real Time with Bill Maher” and “ABC This Week,” and she was not very
impressive. On the View, however, she speaks with confidence and knowledge.
I haven’t said anything on this blog before about this. It’s been a few years since I have watched Smallville.
I have still been saddened by all this. Chloe was my favorite
character. She is the sort of character who would expose something like
NXVIM, not join it and become its junior ringleader! I read another
article a while back about why she joined: she had not gone to college
and she wanted wisdom and a mentor, and she thought she found that in
Keith Raniere. I remembering visiting her web site, years before all of
the legal issues erupted, and people were warning her about him. I
watched one of his videos and I could see his charisma: he calmly talked
about how our failures and insecurities can actually make us more
creative. That may sound like pop psychological mumbo-jumbo to some,
but I can understand how one can be a sucker for that kind of spiel.
But to become a ringleader in the activities that Raniere was promoting
behind the scenes? How would a person degenerate to that? Anyway, this
line in the article stood out to me: “Schneider said his own legal
troubles have made him take Mack’s case with ‘a grain of salt.’ He was
recently released from a five-hour jail stint over unpaid spousal
support in his ongoing divorce battle with his estranged wife.”
Mark Cosgrove. The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: The Enduring Mystery of the Soul. Kregel Academic, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
Mark Cosgrove teaches psychology at Taylor University. The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within contains Cosgrove’s reflections as a Christian on issues surrounding the brain.
Here are some of my thoughts about the book:
A. In part, what Cosgrove’s book appears to be is a defense of the
existence of the soul. He does not agree with materialism or
naturalism, the idea that human consciousness and mind are due entirely
to the physical brain. Cosgrove does well to dispute the simplistic
nature of some materialist and naturalist approaches. For example,
Cosgrove doubts that certain aspects of the human mind (i.e.,
creativity, spirituality) can be attributed to one part of the brain,
for different parts of the brain work together. But Cosgrove does not
really provide a rigorous intellectual defense of the soul’s existence.
A lot of the time, he provides rhetorical flourish, as he grandly asks
if the nobility and magnificence of human creativity, intellect, and
spirituality can be attributed merely to the brain. My question in
reading this book was often, “Why not?” Cosgrove shows in the book that
the structure of the brain at least relates to these things, as well as
influences how humans are. Why is a soul necessary, and what role does
it play? Cosgrove did not offer much of an answer to that question.
B. Cosgrove speaks empathetically and knowledgeably about people who
are not neurotypical, such as Temple Grandin, who has autism and thinks
in pictures. At the same time, he stresses that God wants people to be
in interpersonal relationships. On the one hand, that is a necessary
point to make: people with autism need people who care about them so
that they do not fall through the cracks and can make the unique
contribution that they make. On the other hand, the cheery evangelical
“You need to be in relationships” line can make autistic Christians feel
as if they are displeasing to God, since they struggle to form
relationships and to reach out to others.
C. Cosgrove’s discussion of the advancements that are being made in
brain-related research and technology is mind-blowing, going beyond the
sorts of things that one may encounter in science fiction. To quote
Cosgrove on page 142: “We hear of mind-reading and dream-reading
computers, humanoid robots, immersion entertainment, cyborg military
humans, linking monkeys into a shared brain network, and more.”
Cosgrove also mentions potential advancements in treating Parkinson’s
and depression. In some cases, Cosgrove questions whether some of these
developments will deliver. He expresses doubt that humans will be able
to achieve immortality by downloading their consciousness onto a
computer, for can they really download their very selves (not just
things that their brains have done) onto a computer? But, overall,
Cosgrove sees these developments as realistic, and not as occurring in
the far, far future, but rather sooner than fifty years! A lot of this
was mind-blowing, and some of it was disturbing, for unexplainable
reasons. The scenario of the world lacking any problems at all, and the
sky being the limits in terms of what people can accomplish, does not
seem quite right: it is almost as if humans would not need God anymore,
since they can become gods themselves. And how would humans grow and
develop character, if everything is perfect? At the same time, I cannot
identify a specific reason why these new developments would be bad, or
worse than the luxuries that many humans have now. Cosgrove does well
to say that Christians should not simply dismiss these things as bad in a
knee-jerk fashion. Overall, though, his discussion of the ethical and
spiritual questions that Christians should ask in response to these
developments was somewhat thin.
D. The book excels in the information and critiques that it
provides. For instance, some argue that human decisions are not free
but are preceded by and attributable to certain sparks in the brain.
Cosgrove effectively demonstrates that the study that supposedly
demonstrates this does not necessarily support it, for there are other
possible explanations for what occurred in that study.
E. The book has a winsome, thoughtful quality. In terms of being a
rigorous philosophical and scientific defense of the soul, it falls
short. As a reflective, meandering book about the spiritual
implications of research about the brain, it is charming and enjoyable
to read. The book also refers to other books that attempt to tackle the
mind-body problem and issues surrounding the brain, and Cosgrove does
make them sound worth reading, as they likely are.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
This post contains brief reactions to books that I have read.
These reactions are not my usual thorough Book Write-Ups, and it has
been a while since I read some of the books. But I am writing about
them here to make a record of what I got out of them.
A. Heretics, by G.K. Chesterton.
I tried reading Chesterton’s Father Brown mystery series and there was not a whole lot of chemistry, so I switched to reading his book, Heretics.
It has been a while (as in months) since I read this book, and I do not
remember a lot of Chesterton’s arguments against the “heretics.” Among
the people whom he critically engages are Rudyard Kipling (the author
of The Jungle Book!), H.G. Wells, and Bernard Shaw. I was
going through the book, impressed by Chesterton’s wry thoughtfulness
here, wondering if his argument was particularly effective there. Then I
would encounter a section that would come alive to me. I was reminded
of it recently when I was reading Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind,
and Kirk was criticizing utilitarians who professed a love for humanity
but disdained people in their individuality and particularity, thereby
projecting their own preferences and tendencies onto “humanity” and
assuming that it is like them. Chesterton in Heretics has a
similar discussion. He is critical of people who profess to be so
cosmopolitan, yet they cannot stand people, especially regular people,
in their particularities. The irony, for Chesterton, is that one can
encounter an interesting diversity of tastes, preferences, and
characteristics among regular people in their particularity. This
section stood out to me, since I can get misanthropic, and there are
aspects of some people’s lives that are important to them but do not
particularly interest me. Another point that Chesterton makes is that
critics of socialism are educated because at least they know about
socialism in critiquing it. That stood out to me. I have not used the
right-wing as a punching-bag on this blog as much as I used to, but this
passage made me think about the American right. On the one hand, like,
at the Joe-Conservative level, it does sometimes manifest familiarity
with key historical figures, and that is impressive. On the other hand,
it tends to caricature other beliefs and conflate categories, such as
socialism and communism. But there are more well-read and sophisticated
voices within the right, and the left too, of course, can get
knee-jerk. I may give this book a reread in the far future. I can see
myself getting more out of it the second time around.
B. Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton.
I moved on to Orthodoxy after reading Heresy. There was more chemistry between me and Orthodoxy than between me and Heresy. My memories of Orthodoxy
are a bit spotty, however, because I would read pieces of it each day,
then I stopped reading it for months, and then I returned to reading it,
taking up where I had left off. Orthodoxy had Chesterton’s usual wry thoughtfulness. It struck me as a little more personal and relatable than Heretics
was. A section that sticks in my mind is when Chesterton states that
he used to read primarily authors who were skeptical towards
Christianity, and what struck him at that time were the contradictions
in their criticisms of Christianity. For example, on the one hand, they
would say that Christians were push-overs because they turned the other
cheek and encouraged others to do so; on the other hand, Christians were
accused of being dogmatic, intolerant, and narrow-minded. That made me
think of people and things I like or criticize and the question of
whether my expectations of them or what I like or dislike about them are
internally contradictory. Maybe! Another discussion that sticks in my
mind was when Chesterton was responding to the criticism that medieval
Christians were a morose lot. He notes that the opposite was the case:
they were happy. Chesterton concedes here that he is not offering a
thorough defense of Christianity, just thoughts, and that is something
to keep in mind in reading Chesterton. For me, reading Chesterton is
like reading some of C.S. Lewis’s works: I prefer to enjoy his
explorations, rather than nit-picking his every single word.
I am tired, so I will stop here, for now. I was planning to do this
for five books in this post, but I may save the other three for next
week, or another week.
“The big question in all this, of course, is: Why? Why would an
American president seek to demolish a global order in which the United
States was the dominant player and enjoyed the support of so many loyal
and wealthy allies? Why would he want to replace it with one in which it
would be but one of three regional heavyweights?
“Undoubtedly, historians will debate this question for decades. The
obvious answer, offered by so many pundits, is that he doesn’t actually
know what he’s doing, that it’s all thoughtless and impulsive. But
there’s another possible answer: that he intuits in the Sino-Russian
template a model that the United States could emulate to its benefit.
“In the Trumpian mindset, this country had become weak and
overextended because of its uncritical adherence to the governing
precepts of the liberal international order, which called for the U.S.
to assume the task of policing the world while granting its allies
economic and trade advantages in return for their loyalty. Such an
assessment, whether accurate or not, certainly jibes well with the
narrative of victimization that so transfixed his core constituency in
rustbelt areas of Middle America. It also suggests that an inherited
burden could now be discarded, allowing for the emergence of a
less-encumbered, stronger America — much as a stronger Russia has
emerged in this century from the wreckage of the Soviet Union and a
stronger China from the wreckage of Maoism. This reinvigorated country
would still, of course, have to compete with those other two powers, but
from a far stronger position, being able to devote all its resources to
economic growth and self-protection without the obligation of defending
half of the rest of the world.”
Russell Kirk. The Conservative Mind. BN Publishing, 2008. See here to purchase the book.
Russell Kirk was a twentieth century conservative thinker. The Conservative Mind
was originally published in 1953. In this book, Kirk profiles
conservative thought in Britain and America from Edmund Burke in the
eighteenth century to George Santayana, who died in 1953. Some of the
names were unfamiliar to me, but some were familiar. John Adams and
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter, are featured in this book as conservatives. The nemeses of conservatives include the utilitarians, such as John Stuart Mill.
What is a conservative, according to Kirk? Certain aspects of the
conservative mind recur throughout this book. Conservatives believe in
the importance of tradition and continuity with the past. The wisdom of
the past should guide people as they attempt to solve problems, and
people have an intuition based on tradition that should guide them.
Preserving the traditional aristocracy is also healthy. Natural
equality is a myth, and the propertied aristocrats serve a role as the
capable leaders of society. Classes provide people with a sense of
duty, responsibility, and loyalty, a place in society, if you will, as
does religion. Change is not necessarily bad, per se, but it should
organically flow from the past rather than being radical. Kirk
maintains that slavery deserved to be abolished, for example, but he
does not agree with how the abolitionists went about it, as it
dramatically shattered the structures in the American South; as far as
Kirk is concerned, slavery was becoming increasingly criticized and
could have left the scene without a major war. Popular democracy is an
ill because the masses would covetously vote to deprive the propertied
classes of their property in order to enrich themselves, becoming, in
effect, a mob. Some tyrants or elites would fill the void, but they
would lack the character and the traditional sense of obligation held by
the aristocratic propertied class. Traditional diversity would be
compromised, as people would all be pressed into a mold. National
character would be undermined, as people would receive wealth through
electoral plunder rather than by working for it. For Kirk, John Adams
did well to insist on limitations on the government, so as to protect
the propertied classes. In Kirk’s eyes, conservatism leads towards the
happiness of society and has provided people with liberty.
A lot of times, modern American conservatism, of the Buckley and
Reagan variety, and British conservatism of the Thatcher variety are
presented as classical liberalism: people have natural rights to life,
liberty, and property, government was formed to protect those rights,
and government should not do much beyond that. In Kirk’s telling,
however, what many of us understand as conservatism actually flows from
classical Burkean-style conservatism, and yet the two diverge from each
other, in some areas. The conservatism that Kirk profiles believes in
limited government and disdains redistribution of wealth and utopianism,
which are key components of conservatism today. Salient elements of
modern conservatism (i.e., the religious right) value such traditional
structures as family and religion, and such an approach is consistent
with classical conservatism. Kirk appears to be rather ambivalent about
capitalism. On the one hand, industrialization upended traditional
structures and diversity by making people into homogenized worker bees.
On the other hand, Kirk points to capitalism as an example of how
respect for private property created increasing prosperity for a large
number of people, offering a preferable alternative to utopian
government tinkering in addressing economic concerns. Some of the
conservatives whom Kirk profiles distanced themselves from laissez-faire
capitalism, maintaining that local communities should have a say in
what industries do, as the communities are affected by industry. Kirk
is also critical of foreign interventionism, as he maintains that the
West should respect the traditional structures of other societies and
should interfere in them only reluctantly.
This book got somewhat into the particularities of the different
conservative thinkers. John Adams, for instance, had some disdain
towards traditional Christianity and embraced Unitarianism, and the
American experience rejected the traditional concept of a
state-established church. That diverged from classical conservatism,
yet Kirk seems to think that America should stick with the distinct
traditions that it has developed rather than, say, repudiating the First
Amendment by establishing a state-established church. Alexander
Hamilton and John Calhoun both had conservative tendencies, but they
manifested themselves in different ways. Hamilton favored
industrialization and hoped that the capitalist class could act as the
leaders of society, like the traditional propertied aristocracy.
Calhoun, however, favored the aristocracies of the South, which Northern
industrialization sometimes challenged, through protective tariffs, for
example. Although the book covered some of what made the conservative
thinkers distinct, it was rather repetitive in that it continually
hammered home the same themes, about the importance of property and
classes, the ills of democracy, and the healthy social effects of
tradition and religion. This made the book clearer, such that a reader
could not get lost in Kirk’s extravagant writing-style, but the book was
also a bit monochromatic.
The book that I read, published by BN Publishing, did not have a
scholarly introduction. It just dived into Kirk’s text! Some may like
that; others, however, may prefer more background information, about
Kirk’s life and the significance of his thought.
I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest!
A. At the LCMS church, the pastor’s text was Jeremiah 23:1-6, in
which God criticizes the shepherds of Israel for neglecting God’s
flock. These shepherds were the kings and the priests of Israel. The
pastor opened with a story about when he was four years old and his
older brother was supposed to pick him up from his first day of
kindergarten but forgot, because the brother was working; his mother
finally came when the school called her. We, like the brother, and like
the shepherds of Israel, have obligations and duties to which we are
not always faithful.
The pastor observed that this sermon was becoming a typical Lutheran
sermon that begins by hitting people over the head with God’s law and
their failure to observe it. Why go through this process? Most of us
think that we are doing the best that we can! Plus, if we were to
interview the shepherds of Israel—-Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, Zedekiah, the
priests—-they would probably admit that they were not as good as King
David but would say that they are doing their best. But this outlook is
problematic because it focuses on us and our attempts to fix the
problem rather than on God and what God does. If our salvation
depending in the smallest degree on our own efforts—-even one
percent—-then we would continually wonder if we are doing enough, and we
would probably recognize that we could always do more. The reason that
we are reminded of our failure to keep the law is so that we can focus
on God and our need for God’s mercy.
When we are Christians, we are with Christ, so we go into our days,
the days’ activities, and our relationships with Christ. And, when we
find ourselves in the same situation that the pastor was when he was
four—-feeling alone, lost, and confused—-we can be assured that Christ
is with us.
The pastor’s point about the perspective of the shepherds of Israel
was intriguing because what would Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, and
the priests have said? I doubt they would have seen themselves as bad
people. They may have said that they were doing their best with what
they had. On some level, they were trying to safeguard their nation,
whether that be by going to Egypt for help, by consulting idols, or by
attempting to rebel against the Babylonians when God wanted Judah to
surrender peacefully. At the same time, they did exploitative and
oppressive things. Perhaps they saw those things, consciously or
unconsciously, as the perks of leadership: they were God’s anointed
rulers, so they had a right to prosper.
B. The LCMS church’s Sunday school class covered I John 2:13-17. The pastor made three points.
First of all, the pastor was revisiting last week’s discussion on the
fathers and the young men whom John addresses. The pastor said that
the correct approach to Scripture is to ask how a passage relates to
Christ, before asking how it relates to us. He candidly confessed that
he did not do that last week, but rather was going into a sociological
discussion about the identities of the fathers and the young men and how
the church should engage young people; his lecture, in that case, was
becoming about law. But he said that the class was trying to pull him
back to where he should have been: focusing on Christ. The pastor’s
humble confession was interesting to me because it showed that church is
about far, far more than us sharing our knowledge: it is about Christ.
Second, in discussing the fathers and the young men, the pastor
speculated that the fathers may have been people who sat at the feet of
Jesus or Jesus’ disciples. This generation was dying off, and the next
generation, which had no contact with the historical Jesus, was about to
take their place. These were the people of John 20:29 who believed
even though they had not seen the historical Jesus, and Jesus blesses
these people. John was exhorting them to be faithful. The pastor
appealed to the Puritans as an example of what happens when one is not
faithful. The Puritans considered the second generation to be elect,
even though it was not behaving as Puritans should, and the result was
that Boston went from Puritanism into Unitarianism.
Third, the pastor talked about John’s comments about not loving the
world. The world is the system that is sinful and that hates God. God
loves the world, even though it is hostile to God and rejects him. We
usually are not so generous towards those who reject us or are hostile
towards us, but we, too, are to love the people of the world, serving
it. But we are not to be devoted to the world’s system, or the things
that are in the world. It is acceptable to have things, but if those
things own us, and we obsessively focus on those things to the exclusion
of thinking about God, then that is a problem. We become like the rich
fool of Luke 12:16-21, who was so wrapped up in enjoying his prosperity
that he did not give a thought towards God. The world, John says, is
passing away, so our attachment should be to the eternal.
C. The pastor at the “Word of Faith” church was continuing his
series through the Book of Revelation. His perspective struck me as
rather post-millennial: God, amidst setbacks, acts in creating a world
of justice, peace, and love, converting people. God is preparing
Christians to be rulers in this new world. The pastor does not seem to
interpret Revelation in terms of Christ coming back and punishing
people. The pastor said that focusing on God’s agenda in creating a new
world is preferable to the emphasis of much of Christianity: saying the
right words or doing the right things to escape this world and go to
God’s sealing of the 144,000, the pastor said, is about God’s sealing
of Christians: they may go through affliction, but they are ultimately
not harmed, for they belong to God. They can be triumphant amidst their
perils. They also have authority, as seals were marks of the king’s
authority. The pastor also stressed the importance of worship in the
midst of our problems, as Revelation focused on the throne-room of God
in discussing the early Christians’ problems.
The New American is the magazine of the conservative John
Birch Society. It is interesting to see where the JBS lands on the
issues and political personalities of the day, for it often transcends
the typical right-left paradigm. Here, the author does not care for the
Antifa, but the author fears that a Republican-proposed bill against
the Antifa could, if passed, be an undesirable federal suppression of
civil liberties. The article closes by encouraging people to support
their local police. Then there is a reader’s comment that not only
supports the anti-Antifa bill, but also wants to bring back the House
Committee on Un-American Activities!
Robert Reich has posted this sort of post before, but I am linking to
it here because it attempts to respond to anti-immigration
talking-points, while linking to articles. These are things to keep in
mind. At the same time, one cannot casually dismiss the concerns people
have that contribute to anti-illegal immigration sentiments (i.e.,
gangs, depressed wages, etc.).
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think-tank. While it sides with
the right on such issues as taxes and regulations, it sides with the
left in opposing federal abuse of illegal immigrants. This article
proposes a way to enable the federal government to deport the really
serious criminals while avoiding harassment of the otherwise law-abiding
illegal immigrants. Yet, the article does not address the other
concerns that contribute to anti-illegal immigrant sentiments: depressed
wages, illegal immigrants using social services, etc.
Izgad is a libertarian, but here he is critical of libertarians who
side with President Trump. I was thinking some about this a few days
ago. Libertarians overlap with the left and the right on issues. Like
the right, they support less government intervention in the economic
sphere, and, like the left, they support freedom in the social/cultural
sphere. But which do they prioritize, and why?
Looks like I reached my article limit by reading this article!
Essentially, it says that the current electoral system privileges
Republicans. A lot of people move to the urban areas, but there are
more sparsely-populated rural areas, which are abundantly represented.
The urban areas are liberal, whereas the rural areas are conservative.
This article mentions solutions that some have proposed or even enacted
in response to gerrymandering and the Electoral College.
Moore argues that pharmaceutical prices are high because other
countries evade the patents, produce more of the drugs, and have price
controls. The pharmaceutical companies lose money that they can use for
research and development, and they try to make up for that by
increasing the prices. Moore states: “Fortunately, the one person in
Washington who is onto this price-control scam is Donald J. Trump. He
recently pledged to fight to reverse these violations of American
intellectual property in upcoming trade negotiations.”
It used to be that pharmaceutical reps would treat doctors to lunch
while educating them about their pharmaceutical products. The
government has cracked down on that, in an attempt to encourage doctors
to prescribe cheaper generics. But Barsouk believes that there are
downsides to what the government is doing here: greater ignorance about
medication. I can sympathize with the government’s goal, but I wonder
if there is a way to address Barsouk’s concern.
Michelle Chen critiques a family leave proposal by Senator Marco
Rubio, which is supported by Ivanka Trump. According to Chen, it pays
for family leave by taking money from Social Security. The solution,
for Chen, is to have a payroll tax to pay for it. She says that some
states have adopted state-based policies, with success. So many people
in the U.S., however, cannot take a paid sick day. I am not a policy
expert, but a concern that I have is this: there are many people who pay
the payroll tax, then they get a huge tax-refund on account of say, the
Earned Income Tax Credit, or other credits. I can sympathize with
having credits, since they make the lives of low-middle income people
easier, as they already struggle to make ends meet. But can we have a
robust government family leave policy for everyone, if as many people as
possible are not contributing to the federal government?
This article examines local measures in Great Britain to assist and
uplift economically-marginalized areas, with their positives and
Barack Obama says that the left should listen to and engage those with whom they disagree, rather than shouting them down. Amen!
The talk of this week has been the Helsinki summit. There are so
many articles out there. I’ll give you a taste of what I have been
reading and hearing. Pat Buchanan and David Stockman (Reagan’s first OMB director) applaud the summit as bringing peace, much to the consternation of the warstate. Megan G. Oprea,
on the other hand, essentially says that we should watch Trump’s
actions, not his words: he has stood up to Russia in so many practical
ways. In this Federalist podcast,
Ben Domenech makes an interesting observation. Trump has asserted more
than once that, sure, Russia has done bad things, but so has the U.S.
Domenech sees no moral equivalence between the two, but he notes that
Rand Paul, who is from the school of the right that bemoans
interventionist U.S. foreign policy as evil, has been one of Trump’s
most robust defenders when it comes to the Helsinki summit. Rush Limbaugh
castigates the left for bemoaning Trump’s distrust of U.S.
intelligence, when the m.o. of the left for decades has been to denounce
U.S. intelligence! Cal Thomas chronicles Presidents’ caution about U.S. intelligence. Michael Dougherty cautions
Russia about interfering in U.S. elections by referring to the
less-than-desirable results of when the U.S. meddled (or so many think)
in a prominent Russian election. And an article in The People’s World (the heir to the American Communist Daily Worker)
criticizes the summit, both Trump and Putin as oppressors of workers,
and Republicans who oppose a proposal to safeguard American elections.
Ryan Hauge and Ivy Smoak. Be Careful What You Joust For (Pentavia Book 1). 2018. See here to buy the book.
Ryan Hauge and Ivy Smoak are husband and wife and wrote this book together. It is a work of fantasy.
Here is a description of some of the characters:
Isolda: Isolda is the wife of Duke Garrion. She has royal blood
herself, in that her father was the king of the realm, and her brother
Ivan is the current king. Isolda has been living a secret life as the
crime lord Lady Marsilia. In that capacity, she sees the corpse of the
god Arwin, which is a sacred relic. Because that body is in Garrion’s
domain, she suspects that Garrion killed her father and stole the
relic. Isolda is also a bit of a religious skeptic.
Garrion: This book alternates among some of the main characters,
conveying their perspectives in the third-person. We see early on that
Garrion is a devout, sensitive soul. He has his prejudices, especially
against the people known as the Rashidi, but he desires to follow the
way of Arwin and to pursue peace. Did he kill Isolda’s father? Well,
believe it or not, he wanted to. The book spills this early on and
explains why he felt this way, so it was not a big mystery that was left
until the very end. There still is the mystery, however, about who
actually did kill Isolda’s father. This does get resolved at the end.
Marcus: Marcus is the firstborn son of Isolda and Garrion. As such,
he is obligated to participate in a jousting contest. The winner
receives the position of Arwin’s Lance, which apparently has a lot of
power, considering that the person holding it can declare war. Word on
the street is that Marcus is the second coming of Arwin, and that his
victory in the joust will usher in an era of peace among the nations.
Isolda is skeptical about this interpretation of the prophecy, and about
Rixin: Rixin is the son of King Ivan. He will be Marcus’ opponent in
the jousting contest. Rixin is cocky and quite sure of himself, but he
can be a nice person.
Oriana: Oriana is the firstborn daughter of Isolda and Garrion.
Oriana is obsessed with marrying Prince Rixin, but she remembers that
Rixin did not care for her when they were children, and there is word
that Rixin might marry the Rashidi princess Navya. Then Oriana meets
Bastian, and that complicates the picture.
Bastian: Bastian is a thief on the streets, who uses his pet
squirrel, Nut, to distract people while he steals. His father was a
lord and lost everything. Bastian rescues Oriana, and they develop
feelings for each other.
Terric: Terric is the second-born son of Isolda and Garrion. As the
second-born son, he is to be a priest of Arwin. But he does not want to
be a priest, confined to a monastery, even though he enjoys hearing
some of the tales in the Book of Arwin. He wants to see the world and
become a squire. Terric is rather precocious. Terric and Bastian try
to help each other in their goals, with laughable results.
Reavus: Reavus is the brother of Isolda and King Ivan. He has no
children, but he has exercised a great deal of influence on Prince
Rixin. Reavus was a butcher at the Wizard’s War, and Garrion suspects
that Reavus is just itching to get the country into a war with Rashid
and intends to use a victory by Rixin in the jousting contest to bring
that about. Garrion thinks that Reavus hopes to do this so that Reavus
can be glorious in battle, but Reavus also has a personal ax to grind
against the Rashidi.
Sir Aldric: Sir Aldric is Garrion’s long-time friend and right-hand
man. He does what Garrion says and investigates when he is asked to do
so. He is a no-nonsense sort of person.
The book was enjoyable to read. It reminded me somewhat of a 1950’s-1960’s medieval drama, in full color.
The mythological-religious aspect was interesting, but, hopefully,
the next book in the series will explain it more. Arwin was obviously a
Jesus-like character, who took a retreat into the desert, taught peace,
and sacrificed himself for his people. There is no empty tomb in his
case, however, since his corpse is a relic. And it is not explained how
he is the one true God. The book also could have gone deeper into
Garrion’s dislike for the Isolda’s father. Garrion did not care for the
king’s reckless war policies, which took the life of Garrion’s father,
but he also wanted to establish a pure cult of Arwin, in contrast to the
established cult. His religious motive was not explained.
There is also the question of what Isolda did as Lady Marsilia that
made her a crime lord, pursued by the authorities. And why was she a
crime lord? As far as I recall, this was not really explained. It
seemed as if she primarily went undercover to learn how and why her
father was killed.
There are details that are not resolved in this book, and the book ends on a major cliffhanger. That’s why there’s a sequel!
The Afterword of the book is interesting because Ryan Hauge talks
about the role his wife played in developing the characters, as well as
the research that he did to make this book better.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the authors. My review is honest!
R.A. Denny. Captives. (Mud, Rocks, and Trees, Book 3). 2017. See here to buy the book.
Captives is the third volume of R.A. Denny’s fantasy series,
“Mud, Rocks, and Trees.” Emperor Zoltov is the despotic ruler of
Tzoladia. There is a prophecy that three characters believe is relevant
to them: that they will meet each other in Tzoladia, each with a
significant seal, and this will precipitate a revolution against Zoltov.
Let’s catch up with our characters, without giving away too many spoilers!
Amanki: Amanki is now in Tzoladia. Although Amanki was raised in
humble circumstances, he is actually of royal lineage. He has one of
the seals. He meets with the Society of the World, a group of elders
who are worshipers of the controversial high god, Adon, the god of
people who are monotheistic. Some of the elders deliberate about
whether they are interpreting the prophecy correctly, and Amanki
struggles with his role and destiny.
Brina: At the beginning of this book, Brina and her young friend,
Oaken, are about to be sold as slaves. A familiar face, Metlan,
persuades his uncle, the high-ranking Tzoladian general Zaheil, to
Metlan: Metlan was in the preceding book. He is a Samalitan, or a
cat-rider, a warrior who rides a lion in service to Zoltov. In the
previous book, he was a captive of Brina’s group, and he had a wry,
flirtatious personality. He helps Brina for a while only to abandon
Brina and Oaken at the last minute in a fit of self-preservation. We
learn more about Metlan in this third volume, as Metlan is reunited with
Brina and Oaken. Metlan is the son (or so he believes) of King Maltan
of the Samalitans. His mother was Tzoladian, and she married Maltan in
order to cement an alliance between Tzoladians and the Samalitans.
Metlan lost his mother when he was very young, but he remembers the
stories that she told him. Metlan looks somewhat like Amanki, so there
is a question of whether he, too, is of Tzoladian royal lineage.
Tuka: In the preceding book, Tuka gets into a conflict with
Telepinus, a drug-dealer. People who are supposed to guard hibernating
women and children are instead cutting off the hibernating people’s
hands, as part of Telepinus’ drug trade. At the beginning of this book,
Tuka’s brother Moshoi is missing and presumed to be dead, and Tuka is
healing in a sacred pool after a conflict. He is conscripted into the
army of the Tzoladians, where he is given a mission to find a mole who
seeks to undermine Zoltov. Tuka must unite with Amanki and Brina.
This book was helpful in that it concisely summarized events of the
previous books, in places. It was also intriguing in that it got into
politics and geo-politics. In terms of politics, there is intrigue
against Zoltov, as Zoltov is seen to be unstable and tries to hold on to
his legitimacy with anything he can. Zoltov has a dream and decides to
invade Karso, a land that has the ousted Tzoladian ruling class that
lost in the power-struggle with Zoltov. It refuses to pay tribute to
Tzoladia, but some question whether war is necessary, as Tzoladia and
Karso have a good trading relationship. Another interesting aspect of
the book was its description of the characters’ mythological-religious
beliefs that influenced and undergirded the constitutions of their
societies and cultures.
I read a few pages each day but did not entirely know how the book
fit together until I looked over it again just now. That was when the
book came alive to me. There is not much, at least in this book, in
terms of action, but there are competing political and geo-political
interests, a sense of mystery, and characters who wrestle with their own
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. My review is honest!
James B. De Young. Exposing
Universalism: A Comprehensive Guide to the Faulty Appeals Made by
Universalists Paul Young, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Others Past and
Present to Promote a New Kind of Christianity. Resource Publications (Imprint of Wipf and Stock), 2018. See here to purchase the book.
James B. De Young teaches New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary, which is in Portland, Oregon. In Exposing Universalism,
De Young argues against universalism, the idea that all people, and
even the devil and his demons, are saved or will be saved. De Young
defends the concept of Eternal Conscious Torment in hell for those who
reject Jesus Christ.
Here are some of my thoughts about the book:
A. I find a lot of universalists to be annoying. To add some
caveats before I explain why, I can sympathize with them having problems
with the concept of Eternal Conscious Torment for people who do not
accept Christ as their personal Savior. I also acknowledge that some
universalists are more nuanced and knowledgeable than others: Gregory
MacDonald/Robin Parry comes to mind as a nuanced, knowledgeable
universalist. And I should highlight that De Young’s problem with
universalists is not merely (or even) that they are annoying; rather, he
regards their beliefs as dangerous and soul-damning. For De Young, a
lot is at stake in this debate.
That said, I find a lot of the popular universalists (the sorts you
will find on social media) to be annoying. For one, they are so
dogmatic about things that they know little about. I have seen more
than one of them dogmatically declare that Jesus in Matthew 25:46
teaches that the wicked will suffer age-lasting correction, not
everlasting punishment. Oh really? Are they absolutely certain of
this? Are they saying that aionios never, ever means eternal or
everlasting? It seems to be when it is used to describe God! And does
kolasis always mean correction? There are times when it appears to mean
punishment. Then there is the conspiracy-theory tone of some of their
arguments. Some act as if eternal punishment entered the church as a
result of Augustine’s pernicious influence, or the Latin translation of
the Bible, even though there are early church fathers who appear to
believe in everlasting punishment. But I have a little respect for the
popular universalists who at least attempt to present exegetical or
historical arguments, as flawed, as simplistic, and as grossly ignorant
as those may be. Some simply bypass that altogether and say that “God
In any case, De Young engages these sorts of arguments, and he does
so effectively. He acknowledges nuance, as when he admits that there
are times when aionios means a long time rather than eternal. He makes a
contextual case, however, that aionios means eternal when the subject
is eternal punishment. He offers a rather convincing case that, in
Romans and Colossians, people are alienated from God and are subject to
wrath until they believe in Jesus Christ, showing that Christ’s death
did not save them prior to that point; faith is essential for
salvation. De Young refers to New Testament passages that seem to
indicate that punishment is the ultimate outcome of the wicked, meaning
there is no opportunity for them to repent after that (see, for example,
II Peter 3:9), and he contends that passages about the unpardonable sin
and apostasy undermine the possibility that everyone will be saved. He
also refers to early patristic passages that say or imply that there is
no opportunity to repent after death. Will any of this convince
hard-core popular universalists? Probably not. You would make more
progress talking to that wall over there! But, if you want a book that
presents effective arguments against universalism, this is one to read.
B. That said, questions remain in my mind after reading De Young’s book. Here are some of them:
—-De Young appears to believe that there are exceptions to the
requirement of placing one’s faith explicitly in Jesus Christ to be
saved. People who have not heard the Gospel but respond in humble
repentance to the light that they have are saved, as far as De Young are
concerned. Does that contradict, or at least qualify, the Scriptural
requirement that people believe in Christ to be saved? If there are
exceptions to that rule, then can we dogmatically proclaim that there is
absolutely no possibility that God will grant people opportunities to
repent after death? There are times in Scripture when God makes a
threat but relents on account of God’s mercy. This is not to suggest
that we should be cavalier, but perhaps there is a sliver of hope for
loved ones who die without having said the sinner’s prayer.
—-De Young would quote church fathers who appear to deny the
possibility of post-mortem repentance. Yet, in refuting universalist
scholars, he would refer authoritatively to scholars who say that those
same church fathers embraced universalism. How can this be?
—-De Young states that universalism actually depicts God as cruel:
God tortures sinners until they finally repent, as if God is twisting
their arm. That is a valid point, but is Eternal Conscious Torment,
without any hope at all, any better? Also, in the Hebrew Bible, it does
appear that God afflicts Israel in an attempt to encourage her to
—-At times, De Young seems to depict hell as God giving unbelievers
what they want: separation from God. They sent themselves to hell, and
God respects their choice. Yet, De Young occasionally depicts hell as a
place of physical pain, the sort of place no one would want to go. On
the issue of choice, De Young sometimes sounds like a Calvinist, but
sometimes he sounds like one who believes that sinners in this life can
actually choose to repent and only have themselves to blame if they do
not. In addition, while De Young stresses free will, he appears to deny
that people have free will once they are in heaven or hell. The wicked
cannot repent in hell, and the righteous in heaven cannot relapse into
sin. Otherwise, he asks, how can we rest assured that people in heaven
will not rebel and start a fresh cycle of sin?
—-De Young briefly refers to the view of Edersheim that the schools
of Shammai and Hillel in the first century believed in eternal
punishment, that rabbinic Judaism relaxed this view in the second
century, and that it returned to eternal punishment in the third
century. There may be some truth to this conception of Judaism, as
there are Second Temple references to eternal punishment. But there is
more to the story when it comes to Shammai and Hillel. According to
Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:3, Shammai believed that there was an intermediate
group (neither righteous nor wicked) who would cry out to God in Gehenna
and receive deliverance; Hillel stressed God’s mercy. Whether this
negatively impacts De Young’s argument is not readily apparent, however,
since Shammai states that the wicked receive eternal punishment, and he
appears to interpret eternity there as eternity, nothing temporary.
Still, he does regard Gehenna as a temporary experience for a lot of
—-De Young contends that hell appears in the Hebrew Bible, and he
argues against the idea that the Hebrew Bible lacks a rigorous concept
of the afterlife; De Young also briefly engages the idea that the Jews
got the idea of hell from the Zoroastrians. If the Hebrew Bible is
relevant, though, then certain texts deserve some consideration (not
that De Young did not present a robust case with what he did address).
There is Isaiah 28:24-29, which may be implying that God does not thresh
without end but has a productive purpose for threshing. Would a God
with that character torment people in hell without end? There is
Ezekiel 16, which predicts the ultimate restoration of Sodom, a city
that Jude 1:7 discusses in reference to eternal fire. There are also
cases in which eternal punishment is temporary, as is the case with
Judah and Jerusalem, which eventually are restored (see Isaiah 33:14;
Jeremiah 18:15-16; 23:39-40). On that last point, De Young briefly
argues that the temporal destruction in the Hebrew Bible is a type of
the eternal punishment in hell in the New Testament, and he points to
other examples of types in the Bible. This argument deserves
—-A lot of times, De Young seems to suggest that, if universalism is
true, then nobody has anything to worry about. Why would the rich man
in Hades want his brothers to be warned, if hell were a place of merely
temporary punishment (Luke 16:20-31)? Why would God be delaying the
destruction of the world to give people a chance to repent rather than
perish, if everyone will receive an opportunity to repent in the
afterlife or the new heavens and new earth (II Peter 3:9)? But even
temporary torment in hell is not enjoyable.
C. De Young recognizes that there are different kinds of
universalists. He offers an informative history of universalism in
America and the various beliefs that emerged within that. Some
universalists believe that there will be a post-mortem, albeit
temporary, punishment for non-believers, whereas others deny this. Some
universalists believe that the death of Christ was necessary to
reconcile people to God, which implies that people deserve hell, even
if, through God’s mercy, they will not go there. Others deny that
people even deserve hell, as they question the justice of it. While De
Young acknowledges such nuance, there are times when he seems to lump
universalists together, as if they are monolithic. It may even be the
case that universalists are more diverse than De Young thinks. One can
be a universalist and support the institution of the church or be a
political conservative. One can be a universalist and witness to others
about the importance of faith in Christ.
D. There are occasions in which De Young’s arguments are
interesting, yet rather brief and elliptical, as when he asks why there
even is a heaven if universalism is true. There were also times when De
Young offered a thought-provoking insight that I had not considered
before, as when he sought to reconcile annihilationism and Eternal
Conscious Torment by saying that hell will be forgotten by the saints in
heaven, and when he said that people in hell will still be committing
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
Stanley E. Porter and Steven M. Studebaker, ed. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views. IVP Academic, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
This book is part of a series known as the “Spectrum Multiview
Books,” published by IVP Academic. In this book, five scholars present
their views on a particular issue, one after the other, then they
respond to the other scholars. The editors of the book, Stanley E.
Porter and Steven M. Studebaker, offer an introductory chapter and a
concluding chapter that assesses the different perspectives in the
book. The issue in this volume is “evangelical theological method”: How
do evangelicals do theology? What are their emphases and approaches in
making statements about God, Christ, and God’s activity and will?
The introductory chapter is entitled “Method in Systematic Theology:
An Introduction.” It is a strong chapter, in that it lays out lucid
definitions of methods and terms as well as discusses the sources for
theology. Among the methods and terms that it explains are
Propositional Theology, Liberal Theology, Postliberal Theology,
Postconservative Theology, the Canonical-Linguistic Approach, and
Radical Orthodoxy. Among the sources that are mentioned are Scripture,
religious experience, and the ways that churches have historically
interpreted the biblical text. The chapter offers a summary of the
The first approach, presented by Sung Wook Chung, is more or less
propositional: the Bible is a divinely-inspired book that makes
propositional statements about God, and interpreters read the Bible to
discern the truth about God. The second approach, that of John R.
Franke, stresses the importance of mission: the church has a mission to
serve the world in love, in the distinct contexts that the world
presents. The third approach is “Interdisciplinary Theology,” and it is
presented by Telford C. Work. It places the Bible in dialogue with
other fields of study, and it discusses homosexuality as a test-case for
this. The fourth approach is “Contextual Theology,” and it affirms
that the truth of the Gospel can be applied to different cultural
contexts, without the Gospel being compromised. Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo
contributes this chapter. Finally, there is “Trinitarian Dogmatic
Theology,” contributed by Paul Louis Metzger. It primarily draws from
Karl Barth, who stresses the Trinity’s role in divine revelation.
A question lingered in my mind in reading this book, namely, can any
evangelical theological method make a doctrinal statement about God
without acknowledging that Scripture makes authoritative propositions?
The first perspective, as was said, is more or less a propositional
approach: we have the Bible, which is divine revelation, and we read the
Bible to see what it authoritatively declares about God. Other
contributors raised questions or concerns about this approach. Does it
disregard context, particularly the cultural and historical context of
the interpreters that shapes how they approach the text and the
questions they are asking as they seek to apply it to their own
situations? The concluding essay raises the question of whether it
treats the Bible as a univocal text rather than a collection of diverse
writings, thereby assuming an inaccurate model of Scripture. Yet, the
other contributors assume doctrinal propositions about God, and they are
basing those propositions, by and large, on Scripture. Whether they
realize it or not, they cannot discard the propositional approach,
whatever weaknesses they may see in it. They may recognize the
weaknesses, but they do not adequately deal with the weaknesses, and
they act as if the weaknesses are not there. There is also the question
of whether the less-than-propositional contributors really go anywhere
in showing how their method actually draws theological conclusions. The
contributors critique each other over this, and the final chapter
admits that work remains to be done.
That is my overall critique, but the book still has value. It
highlights the tension between needing some foundation or authority for
theology, and the existence of theology within a context, as it is
applied to people’s real-life situations. The revealer and the audience
of the revelation are both significant, in short. The introductory
chapter is an excellent primer on different theological approaches, even
though it left questions in my mind. For instance, the Postliberal
method is anthropocentric in its approach to theology, but does it
believe that theology can draw reliable conclusions about God? Are
Christian doctrines true in what they say, beyond the fact that they
shape communities and attempt to address human questions? In a sense,
the book hammered home predictable points and made predictable responses
to the other perspectives, but it still contained interesting points
and details, as the authors illustrated the issues to which their
approaches are relevant. For example, there is this gem by Work: “God
may disappoint postcolonial missionaries’ multicultural expectations as
much as God frustrated Constantinian missionaries’ civilizing ones”
(page 172). Work’s “response” chapter was more elliptical than the
others, but it was also the most intriguing in that I could not tell
where he was going to go in his critiques.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
A. There was some overlap between the LCMS service and the “Word of
Faith” service, so I will consider them together. Both talked about how
we can become free from a trap.
According to the LCMS pastor, we are trapped in sin, guilt, and
shame. We try to make ourselves feel better by assuring ourselves that
we are not as bad as some people, or that we keep at least some of God’s
commandments. But we are fully aware that we think and act in ways
that are not holy. What is more, our nature, who we are, orients us
towards going our own way and wanting to be God ourselves. Is there a
way out of this? The pastor likened our situation to that of the boys
in Thailand, who could not rescue themselves from that cave but needed
somebody from the outside to come into their situation and do so.
The key to our deliverance is that we are loved and forgiven: God
chooses not to see our sins and our flaws. He told a story about a
couple that he married years ago. Both had gone through horrible
divorces and had checkered pasts. He asked a rhetorical question, not
expecting an answer: Do you feel holy? The groom replied that he did,
because he is loved by his bride. I could identify with this story, not
because I am married, but rather because I can understanding how
feeling loved and valued can redress feelings of guilt, shame, and
inadequacy. My long struggle has been that, in the past, Christians
have said or implied to me that I cannot rest secure in God’s love, if I
fall short in certain areas. It often feels as if God’s love has
The “Word of Faith” pastor referred to a conversation that he had
with a non-believer. The non-believer said that his problem with
Christianity is that it teaches that we should give credit to God for
the good things, while taking blame ourselves for the bad things. The
pastor’s response was twofold. First, he said that all was made by and
for God. Within this context, there is no “us” to take credit, for it
is all about God. Second, we are not entirely to blame for our sins.
The pastor referred to Romans 7, which states that there is a force
within us, pulling us in the direction of sin. In a sense, “the devil
made us do it.” We are inclined towards idolatry: we make our desire
for credit into our idol, or the things that we feel we have to do. But
our idols can lead us to become hateful or jealous towards others, or
to work ourselves to death. The way out is for us to declare and to
affirm allegiance to God. God can transform us in ways that our idols
cannot, as can us giving Christ the credit that we try to take for
ourselves. The pastor made this point within the context of a series
that revolves around the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is
about how, in the midst of turmoil and persecution, God is creating a
world of justice, peace, and love. Worship can be a place of peace in
the midst of this turmoil, as Revelation emphasizes the worship of God
in heaven, along with God’s supremacy and sovereignty.
B. The Sunday school at the LCMS church discussed I John 2:9-14.
The pastor opened the class with a quote by Martin Luther stating that
it is not enough not to hate people, but we actually have to do good to
them. The pastor found this to be an apt quotation because we often
tell ourselves that, as long as we do not hate someone, we are doing all
right, even though we may willfully ignore or overlook that person.
According to Luther, however, love should bubble out of us and overflow
to others. If someone does not want anything to do with us, we can pray
for that person and leave the light on, indicating that we are open to
that person being in our lives. Sometimes, for our own safety, we may
have to shake the dust off our feet. These points long have been a
challenge to me, as I struggle with resentment, and the question of how
often I need to reach out to people to satisfy God’s demand. I always
feel as if I fall dramatically short in the love department.
I John 2:10 affirms that loving one’s brother is walking in the
light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in the one who does so.
The Docetists believed that they had light, that internal meditation
could lead them to transcend their flesh and have a spiritual
experience. But they were forsaking the true Christ, who died for their
sins, was resurrected, and valued the physical world, so they were
walking in darkness. They were a stumblingblock to believers in that
they were encouraging believers to walk on a wrong path. Christians who
walk in the light, by contrast, try not to be a stumblingblock to
Were the Docetists unloving, though? They were teaching others to
pursue what they considered to be light. Ultimately, however, they
pulled away from the body of Christ and did not care that they were
splitting it up with their doctrine; their doctrine also made them feel
superior to others. Many may think that the same can be said about a
number of orthodox Christians. Indeed, there are similarities:
Christians think they have the truth, they try to enlighten others with
that truth, and there may be cases in which their commitment to said
truth pulls them away from people. But, somewhere within them, there
should be a principle of love. They do not desire to pull away from the
body or the people in it, or even people outside of the body, for they
wish what is good for people. They do not feel superior on account of
their truth but recognize their own need for grace.
Then there is the issue of being a stumblingblock. Simply put: Is
highlighting that there are errors in the Bible or one’s problems with a
fundamentalist worldview being a strumblingblock to people? I think
that there have been times in the past when I have done so from a
standpoint of arrogance, not caring about the spiritual impact of what I
was saying. I was so upset by what I considered to be the arrogance of
Christians, and their attempts to exercise power over others on what I
thought was a facile basis. I can acknowledge that I was partially
wrong in my approach, but, on the other hand, I do not believe that the
right approach is to pretend that everything is well in
fundamentalist-land. If I believe that an apologetic talking-point has
problems, then that should be highlighted, even if a Christian may be
basing his or her faith on that talking-point. Now, context and setting
are important. I am not going to go to the LCMS church and tell people
that I think that the Bible has errors. That is not the place for
that. Not only will people dislike me, but church is a place to affirm
the faith. But, on my blog, I may refer to counter-apologetic
arguments, as well as apologetic arguments. That does not mean that I
need to be a stumblingblock in doing so. I need not do so with the
intent to destroy or undermine other people’s faith or spiritual lives.
Perhaps doing so can lead people to a deeper level of faith, as
Christians present answers to questions and show that there is no
question that needs to be feared. Or it can encourage people to value
important aspects of their faith, rather than making an idol of certain
I John 2:12-14 may be a hymn that John drew from another source.
John is making these points to reassure a church that has been ransacked
by division. He starts by assuring the people there that they are
forgiven. Our identity in Christ comes before the question of what we
are supposed to do. John addresses fathers, leaders with influence in
the church. But he also addresses young men. The pastor told a story
about a dentist he had who went to a church for ten years before he was
asked to serve in some capacity. It was after ten years that he was
married and had a family of his own; when he was single, the church did
not know what to do with him, where exactly to put him. The pastor was
saying that, according to John, young men are in a special position to
serve, for they are strong, the word of God abides in them, and they
have overcome the wicked one.
Falk interviews Daniel Falcone. Among other things, Falcone states
the following about Europe’s reaction to President Donald Trump, which
is relevant to this past week’s NATO visit:
“Trump’s crude pushback against European allies has generated
confusion. On the one side, there is a European sense that the time has
come to cut free from the epoch of Cold War dependence on Washington,
and forge security and economic policy more independently in accord with
the social democratic spirit of ‘Europe, First.’ At the same time,
there is a reluctance to risk breaking up a familiar framework that has
brought Europe a long period of relative stability and mostly healthy
economic development to Europe. Such considerations create a mood of
ambivalence and uncertainty, perhaps thinking that Trump is a temporary
aberration from reestablishing a more durable framework versus the idea
that Trumpism has given Europe and the separate states an opportunity to
achieve a political future more in accord with the values and interests
of the region and its member states than its longtime deference to the
shifting moods and priorities of Washington. Also, Europe is now facing
its own rising forms of right-wing populism, chauvinistic nationalism,
and a resulting crisis of confidence in the viability of the European
Union under pressures from the refugee influx and the unevenness of
economic conditions in northern Europe as distinct from Mediterranean
“It seems that many people have forgotten this, but at first and for
years Putin was very pro-American, pro-Western, pro-EU,
pro-modernization, and pro-NATO expansion into former Soviet Republics.
He was positively glowing with approval when the Baltics joined. I have
quotes if people have forgotten.”
Clarissa offers an idea about what influenced Putin to change his mind.
A number of low-skilled immigrants receive some sort of welfare, but
Vespa does not specify how many of them are legal or illegal. Some on
the right argue that the parents may be low-skilled and receiving
welfare, but their children will grow up, become educated, and enter the
middle class, putting money back into the system.
Ever since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning victory in New York,
more and more Democratic politicians are saying that we should abolish
ICE. What exactly do they have in mind? Julianne Hing explores this
question. Progressive activists are rather nebulous. Democratic
politicians are seeking to be pragmatic about it.
The subtitle says: “If the Trump administration wanted to use the
risk adjustment ruling to ‘sabotage’ Obamacare, it would have halted the
program immediately after a February court ruling.” The article argues
that the Trump Administration is not seeking to sabotage Obamacare in
this case, and that Andy Slavitt created the problems that set the stage
for the current series of events. I cannot say that I understood
everything in this article, and I am sure that there is another side to
the story, but this particular perspective deserves a hearing, too.
“But it’s an artificial number when looking at Norway since the
government controls the nation’s oil and also has a big sovereign wealth
fund that was financed by oil revenue. In other words, Norway is
geographically lucky because all that oil boosts Norwegian GDP. It makes
Norwegians relatively prosperous. And it definitely helps partially
offset the economic damage of big government. But it’s nonsensical to
argue that oil-rich Norway somehow provides evidence for overall notion
of democratic socialism. It’s sort of like looking at data for Kuwait
and asserting that the best economic system is a hereditary sheikdom.”
President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and
critics are saying that Kavanaugh supports exempting the President from
prosecution. “How convenient for Trump!”, they proclaim. Andrew C.
McCarthy contends that Kavanaugh was not suggesting that the President
is above the law.
Reason is a libertarian publication, and there has been
libertarian concern about Kavanaugh. Ilya Solyin states that Kavanaugh
said that Congress should pass a law minimizing prosecution against a
sitting President. Congress would need to pass a law, so it is not as
if Kavanaugh would try to exempt Trump from prosecution as a Supreme
Court justice. Solyin likes some of Kavanaugh’s record, while seeing
other aspects as a cause for grave concern.
Ralph Reed is head of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.
He made the following heartening statement: “The next time someone tells
you bipartisanship is dead, remind them that one of the top legislative
priorities of Faith & Freedom Coalition, The First Step Act, passed
the House of Representatives yesterday 360-59, the first major criminal
justice reform bill to move through Congress in a generation. It gives
prison inmates a second chance at a better future be gaining early
release from prison by pursuing educational, vocational, and addiction
treatment programs. We need a prison system that gives offenders a
chance at redemption, not long-term incarceration, which only leads to
more crime and recidivism. Special thanks to Congressman Doug Collins
for sponsoring the bill and to President Trump for strongly supporting