Atheists & secularists, like anyone else, will sometimes speak of what gives their life meaning and purpose. It might be fighting against religious dogma, or helping people think rationally, or spending time with their family, or "making the world a little better place", or... whatever. Note that these are self-imposed "purposes" or "meaning", often involving leaving some sort of intellectual or philosophical legacy. But, is this really consistent with their worldview? Have you ever heard of Lawrence M. Krauss or Glenn D. Starkman? Even if you don't run in scientific circles, you may be familiar with Krauss, who is a well-known ...
"Those who are unwilling or incapable of discerning or judging between good and evil are in this manner revealing either their disobedience or their immaturity." -- Pastor E.L. Bynum In our last "episode", we began to address the issue of what it means to "judge" others. Specifically, we took a practical, nonsectarian look at why people cry, "Don't judge me!" and why we should, in fact, make fair judgments about others' behaviors & beliefs, always with the welfare of them and others around them in mind. Now, what about Christians, in particular? Aren't we supposed to be extra loving and kind and ...
If you are at all familiar with Christian apologetics, whether engaging challenges from non-theists or from Christians with different views, you know that the topic of pain, suffering, and death is a major issue. (In fact, Darwin's struggle with this was the impetus for developing his theory.) These things are considered "evil", so the question is "Why would a 'good' God make a world full of pain, suffering, & death for His creatures to endure?", or "How could God include pain, suffering, & death (for millions of years) in His 'very good' creation?" The Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) solution is that none ...
Welcome to the 3rd and penultimate installment of this series, in which I explain how self-deluded I have been about my own hatred and bigotry regarding, well, just about everyone but straight, white, white-collar males between 18 & 65 years of age (or thereabouts). Where was I? Oh... [caption id="attachment_1341" align="alignleft" width="225"] Pro-choice Activists[/caption] 7) I hate women. And it's not just because I'm single. (Or, should that be the other way around?) ;-> In particular, I think most of today's "feminist" positions and causes reveal a certain level of narcissism and another excuse to play the blame game for ones woes, real ...
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!" That was my response (posted on Facebook), give or take an "R" or two, to the 2012 Election results. Actually, that was my second FB post. My first was, "Crap on a stick! I'm so depressed." But, that's not quite right. I'm very disappointed, obviously. And a bit morose. But, really, I'm angry. So, here goes the rant... Are you freakin' kidding me?!! Do we really have to listen for 4 more years to this pompous, Marxist ...
Sometimes, I can't help myself. I mean, people make spurious claims and ridiculous accusations against God, Christians, "the Church", etc., all the time. Usually, I let it go. Can't be constantly getting into long, drawn-out internet debates ALL the time, after all. But, sometimes, I just have to say something. And, so it went the other day, when a FB friend of a FB friend, amidst generally mocking comments, claimed that Christians were responsible for "lots of mass murders." Of course, I had my suspicions about what she was referring to. There are some nasty stains on Christianity's record. But, I also ...
"I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." -- Mitt Romney, in an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe (7/26/2005) In "The Pro-Life Position: Just One Question", I argued that if the unborn is indeed a member of the human family, no matter how small or odd it looks, then "no justification for killing it is adequate." But, then I left a footnote saying that there are rare exceptions to that rule. So, I figured I may as well address those now.... When the ...
Part 1: Firm Foundation "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam." -- Popeye, the sailorman Given the subjects that I usually read and write about on this blog, critical thinking really comes in handy. Not that I'm some great logician or anything. Far from it! But, over the last few years, I've been exposed to the discipline of informal logic by some pretty darn good thinkers. (At least, I think they are.) I've noticed that I am now more apt to notice logical errors & fallacies when reading or listening to someone's arguments for his/her position on a ...
[caption id="attachment_1464" align="alignleft" width="300"] Original Star Trek bridge crew[/caption] I remember when, many years ago, I first found out that the cast of the original Star Trek series did not always get along and a huge part of the problem was William Shatner's ego. Star Trek was one of my all-time favorite TV shows (and the movies and the books), and Shatner was a favorite actor when I was growing up -- right up there with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, and later Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I., fame. So, I was understandably disappointed to find out my "heroes" ...
"[S]cience and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach." -- Dr. Martin Andreas Nowak, mathematical biologist Once upon a time (actually, it was about a year ago) in a land far, far away (OK, it was here in NE Florida), I had a brief but interesting discussion. I had been taking a few skills & personality assessment tests, which involved identifying what I thought my strengths & weaknesses were, figuring out my personality traits, etc. While discussing the results with a couple family members, the religiously-agnostic one noted, "Huh! You consider yourself ...
Who (or what) do non-theists thank — for whatever they are “thankful” for — on Thanksgiving?
That’s the question I was pondering, however briefly, this Thanksgiving. I mean, I think most non-theists here in America participate in the holiday, and you’ll often hear them mention things that they are thankful for. But, if one is giving thanks, there needs to be an object to whom or to which that feeling of gratitude is directed and expressed. Right? And it only makes sense if that object is a person; giving thanks to impersonal things is absurd.
But, someone who believes there is no such thing as a supernatural being known as God (or a god) — i.e., in particular, a “supreme being” with some control over their lives and the world around them — has no one, no Person, to thank. Seems to me, the most they can say with any accuracy is that they are expressing to anyone who will listen that they enjoy or appreciate some people and/or things in their lives that got there by happenstance. Or, as one Facebook acquaintance put it, “Today is a day to be THANKFUL for the things that dumb luck has dropped in our laps.”
So, it was with great interest that I saw the following audio-podcast posted on Thursday night. In his first “Cold-Case Christianity” podcast in over a year, J. Warner Wallace addresses this exact topic. (Well, that’s part of it, anyway.) He mentions that some atheists who have written about this or developed ‘secular’ benedictions for use on Thanksgiving will direct thanks to people such as the Pilgrims or farmers or the military, etc., for what they have done that benefits that person and/or family, society, the nation, the world. Note that some of these people are dead and others alive, some they know/knew personally and others not. However, Wallace points out that even that is inconsistent within a materialist/physicalist worldview. (I’ll leave the explanation to him, ‘cuz I want you to listen to the podcast.)
Wallace takes a brief look at Scripture, too, observing the consistent offering of thanksgiving to God and explaining the link between sin and ingratitude. He also references an article from the previous day, in which he explores the history of “Thanksgiving” in America and the clearly Christian origins and reasons for this day of celebration. Here’s the link to “Enjoy The Distinctly Christian Holiday We Call Thanksgiving”. And with that I wish you all a…
“A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” — Alexander Hamilton
There have been a lot of articles and Facebook posts lately about the U.S. Electoral College and whether or not it should be altered or eliminated altogether. I might weigh in on that some other time, but not this week. Instead, what I want to bring to your attention is something called “ranked choice voting” (RCV) (aka “alternative vote” or “instant-runoff vote”). I haven’t analyzed it in detail, but I really do like what I have read & heard.
I think I originally heard about RCV awhile ago but never looked into it and soon forgot. What put it on my radar recently was this article: “Maine became the first state in the country Tuesday to pass ranked choice voting”. (There are at least 10 American cities that already use this method, as do some European countries.) As per The Boston Globe‘s Nik DeCosta-Klipa, here’s how it works:
“In a ranked choice vote system, rather than simply voting for one candidate, voters rank their candidates by preference — first, second, third, and so on.
Then, if no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote after the first choices are counted, the candidate with the least first-choice rankings is eliminated, and the voters who preferred the last place finisher have their vote reallocated according to their next choice. The votes are then recounted and the process is repeated until one candidate breaks the 50 percent threshold.”
I am very intrigued by this method, especially given all of the frustration we had this past election season, arguing and struggling over who (if anyone) we could in good conscience vote for. Disadvantages of the current system became all too apparent. The advantages of ranked choice voting? In short, it…
1) “… increases the diversity of views available for voters to consider by allowing candidates from outside the two major parties to compete.” (Of course, many places allow for more than two parties to compete, but this system makes it easier for them to stay in the running.)
2) “… resolves the conundrum of strategic voting, in which residents worry that their ballot may have a ‘spoiler effect’ if they cast it for a third-party candidate.”
3) “… results in more civil campaigns,… disincentiv[izing] negative attacks that could alienate voters and forces candidates to broaden their appeal.”
Those are some great benefits over the current, ‘first past the post’ method that dominates the landscape, as it were. Unfortunately, the problem of gerrymandering still exists. Also, there is still the question of whether or not to retain the Electoral College for use in the national general election. In the meantime, though, I would be in favor of using RCV in more local and state elections and maybe the national primaries (for each party).
One variation on RCV that I thought of — which probably exists somewhere and has an official name — would be to use a form of weighted voting. First, though, officials would probably need to limit the number of candidates on the ballot to, maybe, five. Voters would still rank the candidates in order of their individual preference. But, rather than tallying up to see if anyone reached a majority and then shifting votes when necessary, the votes would be weighted — 1st choice gets 5 points, 2nd choice gets 4, 3rd choice gets 3, 4th choice gets 2, 5th choice gets 1. The points would then be added up for each candidate, and the one with the most points wins. I just haven’t figured out what to do in case of a tie. (Separate runoff vote?)
If you’re interested, the primary source of info about ranked choice voting in the U.S. appears to be the folks at FairVote. Also, a guy named C.G.P. Grey has a series of short vids that help explain RVC and a couple other voting systems and related concepts, which are also worth considering. (For example, the MMP and STV methods sound good for things like legislatures, city councils, and other bodies where a voting district is looking for proportional representation.) You can check them all out at his blog or look for them on YouTube. Here’s the one specifically on RVC:
A few years back, Marvel Comics published a series of one-shots written by Paul Jenkins that centered around Captain America’s involvement in different wars. The final issue, titled “Ghosts of My Country”, features vignettes spanning from the American Revolution to the events of 9/11/2001. Throughout, various characters (e.g., John Adams, Francis Scott Key) seem strangely inspired to compose or recite verse about, well, “a ghost of my country…”. It’s an intriguing concept piece. I recently read it in the Captain America: Theater of War hardcover and, in honor of Veterans’ Day (weekend), decided to assemble the scattered lines together for your consideration….
Ghosts of My Country
“I hear a ghost of my country
Made real on this day in July.
I am wrested from tyranny’s clutches
By the sound of its birthing cry.
We are bound by a fair declaration
Of which I am a proud engineer.
I hear a ghost of my country;
‘Tis the promise of all I hold dear.
I hear a ghost of my country
Through the rain and the treacherous air,
Through the thunderous noise of the cannons,
Through the sound of the bugle’s blare.
I see a battery of angels
That no rocket’s red glare will obscure.
The ghosts of my country are calling
that my country will ever endure.
I see a ghost of my country,
In whose men it is clearly defined!
With the glory of God to protect us,
We’ll stand and we’ll hold to the line!
Though we face the greatest of perils,
We will neither surrender nor flee!
I see a ghost of my country, boys!
And that country will always be free!
I hear a ghost of my country,
A specter of what we will be.
It is born of our nightmarish actions;
It is guided by hellish decree.
It calls with a voice full of anger;
It thrives on a message of hate.
I hear a ghost of my country now;
It’s a voice that I helped create.
I dream of a ghost of my country;
I dream of familiar skies.
Though our voices are silent,
We still dream of home
And a thousand unspoken goodbyes.
I see a ghost of my country…
…I see a ghost of my country…
…I see a ghost of my country…
…I see a ghost of my country…
…I see a ghost of my country…
…I see a ghost of my country…
I have tested resolve to its limit,
I have slipped from the confines of Earth.
For all of my days I have sworn to uphold
The ideals of the place of my birth.
I am a ghost of my country;
Of my country I will always be.
I am born in the heart of a nation,
My sweet land of liberty.
I dwell in the souls of the fallen;
I breathe life to their just memory.
I am a ghost of my country,
And my country’s a ghost of me.
Quite a mix of emotions, eh? It’s even better with pictures!
Shortly before the issue originally came out, Jenkins — who is a British ex-pat, btw — was interviewed about the series. Here’s what he said about “Ghosts of My Country”:
“That one to me is by far the most special. It’s my love letter to Captain America. Without giving away too much, it’s about what Captain America must really be. When we see him and see his shield and his flag-based uniform, he is the sum total of all of the most important and meaningful and meaningless and mundane and intense moments throughout the history of the U.S. He is the personification of America. It’s called “Ghosts of My Country” and we journey across time to see Cap as the ghost of his country. He exists throughout all of the most important moments of American military history. He was there. And he was there because the sum total of everything that was happening made him come alive. It’s kind of a strange concept I suppose, but he is alive because of everything these soldiers did…. Every American soldier brings Captain America alive.”
If anyone had told me a couple years ago that I would be typing the words “President-elect Donald Trump”, I would have said they were crazy. But,…
I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about the 2016 election results. “Giddy” is definitely too strong a word, though I am overall quite pleased. Regarding the Trump/Pence win in particular, the two words that probably describe my emotional state best are “relief” and “hope”. I am extremely relieved that we will not be subjected to another 4-8 years of lies, corruption, and Leftist policies that would have come with a Clinton/Kaine win. Moreover, I now have hope that much of the damage done under the Obama administration can be reversed, or at least ameliorated. I have hope that America really can recover from the insanity of recent years and truly become “great again”.
Republicans and conservatives didn’t win everything we wanted or expected, of course. For example, my own state’s Congressman, John Mica (R), lost his re-election bid. But, we retained a solid majority in the House, as well as our 51 votes in the Senate. At least as important is the fact that “Republicans largely retained their grip over state legislative chambers and governorships,” as reported by Josh Siegel in “The Daily Signal”. Republicans lost a couple statehouses but held onto 66 out of 98. “The GOP also increased its majority of governorships from 31 to 33.”
My general attitude and expectation regarding America under the Trump administration is one of — to use a phrase I’m becoming very familiar with these days — cautious optimism. Assuming Trump was serious about his feelings about this nation and his intentions for making it great again, this could mark the beginning of a much-needed turnaround for the better. Despite his faults, I think Trump may actually be the leader needed at this point in time. (Ouch, that hurts to say.) But, there is a lot to be done, and the President can’t do it alone. Trump has an opportunity to do a great deal of good, and I hope that he chooses wisely re his agenda and in those he appoints to help him run the Executive branch.
I, for one, will endeavor to be more faithful in praying for the leaders of this country. I pray that the Republican-led Congress will have more courage than they have shown thus far and that the balance of powers between the three branches of government will be restored. I also pray that “We the People” will hold them all accountable to do the work they say they will do, that needs to be done, and with integrity.
Meanwhile, let’s keep a sharp eye out for what shenanigans Obama and his cohorts will (try to) do over the next 2 1/2 months. Some stuff is a lot harder to reverse than others….
“I sought there [in America] an image of democracy itself, its tendencies, its character, its prejudices, its passions; I wanted to know democracy, if only to know at least what we must hope or fear from it.” — Alexis de Tocqueville
I was thinking recently that I should read the classic Democracy in America (1835/1840) by Alexis de Tocqueville. For those who may not be aware, Tocqueville was a French diplomat/historian who fought for abolition and free trade. While in his mid-20s (1831), Tocqueville was assigned a mission to examine the American penal system, touring prisons and penitentiaries. But, sensing a great opportunity, he expanded his travels throughout the nation, recording his thoughts and observations about the land and its people. The aforementioned book (in two volumes) is the public account of those travels, providing an insightful analysis of 19th-century American society– specifically, during the Jacksonian Era.
I haven’t read the book, yet — just a little bit about the book and a few excerpts. From what I can gather, Tocqueville was generally quite optimistic and impressed with America and its improvements in government and society — especially in terms of democracy and equality — over that found in Europe. But, he also recognized certain shortcomings, as well as areas of potentially dangerous development that must be guarded against. The following are two Democracy in America citations that I found notable, particularly in light of what we are seeing in contemporary America.
This first is from Part IV, “Chapter VI: What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear”….
“I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest -– his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not -– he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a net-work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described, might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom; and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.
Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large that holds the end of his chain.
By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.” (pp. 770-771)
Any of that sound familiar? The governmental regulation, restriction, and intervention? The struggle between desires for dependence and independence?
This next citation, which comments along the same lines, is attributed to Vol. 1, Chap. 1, Part 5, — or, should that be Part 1, Chap. 5? — of the 1st edition of Democracy in America, though I have yet to find this edition in PDF or text form online.
“What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?
There are some nations in Europe whose inhabitants think of themselves in a sense as colonists, indifferent to the fate of the place they live in. The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved. They are so divorced from their own interests that even when their own security and that of their children is finally compromised, they do not seek to avert the danger themselves but cross their arms and wait for the nation as a whole to come to their aid. Yet as utterly as they sacrifice their own free will, they are no fonder of obedience than anyone else. They submit, it is true, to the whims of a clerk, but no sooner is force removed than they are glad to defy the law as a defeated enemy. Thus one finds them ever wavering between servitude and license.
When a nation has reached this point, it must either change its laws and mores or perish, for the well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.”
Ouch! Tocqueville knew what he was talking about. Even back then, he warned us (as did some of our Founding Fathers before him) about the dangers of Big Government and of a populace lulled into complacency and dependency upon it. We see now a large segment of the American population, including those who are not even here legally, that demands the Government take care of them, and there are plenty of “leaders” willing to perpetuate the system to their own benefit and increasing power. Such is the way of creeping tyranny….
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 (ESV))
Have you ever heard someone claim that such-n-such a Bible translation is biased towards a particular Christian denomination or theological system/tradition? Of course, there are a few Bibles that are specifically for a particular group and intentionally market themselves that way (e.g., “Catholic” bibles or the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation (NWT)). But, most accusations of denominational bias are largely false, unless… one is referring to a study Bible, in which case many of the notes and articles will reflect the denominational leanings of the editors/publishers. But, the text itself?
I have seen the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) accused of being Southern Baptist, because it was commissioned by Holman Bible Publishers, a division(?) of LifeWay Christian Resources, which is overseen by the Southern Baptist Convention. The New English Translation (NET) is said to reflect dispensational theology, since most of the editors and translators are Dallas Theological Seminary faculty. But, perhaps the one I hear most is the claim that the English Standard Version (ESV) is blatantly Calvinist.
A few weeks ago, someone in the “Bible Versions Discussion/Dialogue” group that I belong to on Facebook posted an article that bashed the ESV and made this exact claim of bias. In response, one of the very knowledgeable members/admins, B. Kirksey, posted the following, which I thought was very helpful (and concise). He gave me permission to share it here….
“I have studied the ESV closely for several years and ran down every rabbit hole aiming to ‘prove’ the Calvinist bias. All the leads ended up being the same type of translation used in other non-Calvinist translations (some Catholic!). And they all had good scholarly support.
My conclusion so far is that there is no Calvinist bias in the *text* of the ESV. There may be some in the notes of the ESV Study Bible, but not the text. I am as far from Calvinist as you can get and it is my preferred translation. The day I find a truly Calvinist bias (not conservative–Calvinist), is the day I stop using it.
One thing I learned is that some people confuse the terms ‘Calvinist’ and ‘conservative’. Most Calvinists are conservative, but most conservatives are not Calvinist. Someone will tell me there’s a Calvinist verse. I look it up and it’s not. It may be a *conservative* verse, but it is not an explicitly *Calvinist* verse. Calvinists may not disagree with it, but it is also used in clearly non-Calvinist translations.
The whole ‘proper roles of men and women’ is a *conservative* issue. Calvinists are conservative, so it is an issue to them. But it is not a *Calvinist* issue, since it is important to many non-Calvinists.
I know (not just think but *know*) that the popularity of the ESV as well as the image of some people who support the ESV have turned some people against it. I had someone tell me, ‘I don’t care if you can prove beyond doubt it is the most accurate and beautiful translation in the world. I don’t like some of the people who promote it, so it is guilty by association. I will never accept it as a decent translation.’ At least they are honest.
I had another person tell me they will never use it *because* it is popular.
I see this a lot online. People decide what’s wrong with it, then look for the evidence to fit their agenda. Then they don’t bother verifying the evidence.
The ESV is not a perfect translation. It is almost certainly not the *best* translation. But I have not found evidence that it is ‘biased’ and ‘dishonest’ any more than any other translation. It has all of the faults any translation or translation process has. It is not exempt. However, there was not some special case of deliberate deception and doctrinal agenda in the planning and execution.”
Very well said. Thanks, B.
“[A]ll federal court judges, but most particularly Supreme Court justices, exert substantial influence on the development and application of the law over a long period, often for decades after the president who appointed them has left office…. The stakes are high indeed.” — John G. Malcolm, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
If you read my previous post about (reluctantly) voting for Trump, you may have noticed that I didn’t mention the Supreme Court nominations that the next president will probably have to make. It’s not that they aren’t important — they absolutely are! But, I tried to talk only about the issues themselves, many of which will, of course, be addressed in federal court cases and, in some cases, before SCOTUS.
As we all know, with Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death — which some believe to have been under suspicious circumstances — back in February, the Supreme Court is still awaiting a replacement for that 9th position. It looks like that won’t happen until the next POTUS is sworn in. But, given the advanced ages of half of the currently sitting justices, it is likely that three or four more will need to be replaced over the next 4-8 years.
I shudder to think of the Left-leaning, activist justices that a President Hillary Clinton would appoint. Republicans in Congress would not be able to reject all her nominations, and it’s highly doubtful that she would nominate an actual originalist/conservative. At best, we would get a few centrists in the mold of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s current moderate and unpredictable swing-vote. As “fair” as this might sound, it would probably be a disaster. However, a President Donald Trump would appoint more Right-leaning justices. In fact, Trump has already provided 21 names of people that he and his team have preliminarily vetted for nomination.
In an article published a few weeks ago, The Heritage Foundation’s John G. Malcolm gave a brief analysis of Trump’s picks. First, though, here’s the list in two parts. (The first group was announced here and the second here.):
Sen. Mike Lee
Malcolm says that they all “appear to be eminently qualified”. Many held distinguished clerkships, including nine for Supreme Court justices. Many teach or have taught law at prestigious law schools. Several served as state or federal prosecutors and at least one as a federal public defender. One (M. Lee), of course, is currently a U.S. Senator, while another (Canady) is a former, four-term U.S. Representative.
With nine on the list being sitting state supreme court justices from eight different states across the country, Malcolm notes that Trump’s potential nominees represent a much better “cross-section of America” than the current Supreme Court line-up. Beyond geographical diversity, what is the advantage of this?
“Individuals with experience on state courts are less likely to have a jaundiced view of the competency of state court judges…. They are also more likely to pay greater heed to issues involving federalism, which also tends to get short shrift by federal legislators and judges.”
Even more important, Malcolm believes that everyone on the list appears to hold the position that…
“… a judge should interpret the text and structure of a statute or the Constitution, based on the original public meaning of that text at the time it was adopted, and should not, under the guise of statutory or constitutional interpretation, impose on the rest of society his or her own policy predilections based on that judge’s perceptions of contemporary mores.”
Some have been worried about who Trump would appoint to the Supreme Court, especially since he told Mark Halperin last August that he thought his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a very liberal and strongly pro-choice federal judge, would make a “phenomenal” justice. Thankfully, she seems to be off the (official) list. Not only would that smell of nepotism, it would be terrible news for the pro-life movement. I, for one, am very encouraged by this list of originalist, constitutionalist candidates — not just for pro-life cases but for the many defining issues that will be addressed in the near future, and for the integrity of the Court and the federal judicial system.
“[W]e do not have the choice to vote for [some] ideal candidate but only for the real ones that are on the ticket. In an ideal world this would not happen, but we do not live in an ideal world…. [W]e can only choose the best one available, not the best one conceivable. And as an evangelical Christian living in this real fallen world, it looks to me that Trump, as imperfect as he may be, comes closer to what we need in America now than Hillary Rodham Clinton.” — Norm Geisler, Christian author, theologian, & apologist
I didn’t enjoy writing this post, and I may even lose a few Facebook friends over it. But, I needed to say my piece….
Donald Trump is a greatly flawed man, as am I. As a rich and famous man, Trump’s flaws are bound to come to public attention, especially since he is running for the highest public office in the land. (Of course, he has been in the public eye for decades, so most of his behavior is hardly surprising.) Many claims that have been made about him have been exaggerated and sometimes turned out to be fearmongering fabricated by those “on the other side” (e.g., racism) or much ado about nothing (e.g., avoiding taxes via legal loophole). Unfortunately, some of those claims do have an element of truth.
The Access Hollywood “hot mic” comments were indeed vulgar and inexcusable. I’m not going to defend them. But, frankly, I’m not entirely surprised that a “blue-collar billionaire” with an enormous ego would spout off like that on occasion. And, yes, sometimes guys do talk that way in the locker room and elsewhere, despite what HuffPo says. Much of it is macho posturing, while some of it reflects actual views and possibly conduct.
Of course, the real issue is not the obscene language itself but the degrading attitude toward women that it evinced. The even more concerning question of whether or not Trump ever really followed through on his boasting is still up in the air (as of this writing), as allegations are being made and, in some cases, discredited. Certainly, the timing of the tape’s release and subsequent claims of being groped are very suspicious and personally and/or politically motivated. However, that doesn’t mean the claims are totally false. We shall see as the investigations progress. In the meantime, I will not presume him guilty of sexual assault. In fact, I am willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt and hope that he has cleaned up his act a bit in the intervening years. (You better believe Melania wouldn’t knowingly let him get away with that crap, anymore!)
Finally, I won’t make questionable comparisons to King David or King Cyrus or St. Paul or anyone else. But, I know that God has a history of using broken and imperfect people — aren’t we all? — to be a blessing to others and carry out His purposes.
With that said, I would like to plead for some perspective. When we consider the upcoming election, we need to put aside the media-hyped distractions and look at the big picture. The person elected as our next President will have some incredibly important and often complex issues to deal with, both foreign and domestic. I believe we are at a crossroads as a nation, and the next president’s understanding of those issues and his/her approach to handling them will likely determine America’s future. Illegal immigration and refugees, abortion, LGBT rights, jobs & the economy, military strength and defense policy, Constitutional rights, healthcare, international trade, etc. All of these are in the balance. Knowing what we do about Hillary Clinton, we must do what we can to make sure she (and her “progressive” colleagues) do not take over this country. We may be unsure of what Trump will do, but we have a darn good idea what Clinton will do.
Back to the candidates…
If Trump drops out, great. But, I seriously doubt his ego would let him do that, and he is on record saying that there is no way he’s quitting the race. If the RNC somehow forces Trump off the ticket, fine — though, a) the legality of such a move is questionable, and b) the angry outcry from hard-core Trumpers and others decrying a denial of “the will of the people” may torpedo any replacement’s chances at winning, too. Besides, Reince Priebus has said that the GOP — under his leadership, at least — has no intention of booting Trump. (It would be extra tricky, given that voting has already begun.)
On a related note, Mike Pence would be the most likely person to move into the top position on the Republican ticket, if Trump were to “leave”. I have liked him from way back, so I hope he would accept it if called upon. There were rumors that Pence was distancing himself from Trump, due to the recent release of the “hot mic” recording. But, Pence is now on record as saying that he is not abandoning Trump.
So, assuming Donald Trump remains at the top of the GOP ticket this November, what are the alternatives?
1) Don’t vote: This one just doesn’t make sense to me. Even with less-than-desirable choices, don’t you want to be heard? Don’t you feel a responsibility to do what you can to at least get some good done, even if you only agree with the “better” candidate on some of the big issues?
In a recent article, Dr. Jeff Myers identified four myths that many Christians (and probably others, I’d wager) believe, which has resulted in Christians having less & less influence. They are:
Myth #1: God doesn’t care about politics
Myth #2: It’s not my problem
Myth #3: Choosing between the lesser of two evils is evil
Myth #4: Politics doesn’t matter
Myers briefly explains why none of those excuses holds water. Here’s a relevant quote that I came across:
“[C]ivic engagement is still not optional for Christians. We must do the good we can and stand against the evil that we can. And that means voting. There are so many important things on the ballot: representatives and senators, decisions about legalized drugs and legalized suicide, and yes, who will be president. We must show up to vote.” — John Stonestreet, author, radio host, Speaker and Fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Note: I also wrote about non-voting and 3rd-party voting in another post four years ago.
2) Vote 3rd party: I understand the appeal, here; I really do. Of course, I could never vote for Jill Stein (Green Party) nor for Bernie Sanders (Democratic Socialist “independent”), if he chose to jump back in at the last hour. I’m not crazy about Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) or Mike Maturen (American Solidarity Party), either. I could see myself voting for Evan McMullin (Independent) or Tom Hoefling (America’s Party) under other circumstances, as they both seem fairly consistent in their conservatism. And I really like Darrell Castle’s (Constitution Party) positions (see pic).
Unfortunately, in my estimation, none of them is truly viable. (Heck, some of them can’t even get on the ballot in most states.) Not that “3rd party” candidates never win, but it’s very rare in national races. We can complain that the current, two-party system doesn’t seem “fair”, and we can discuss how it might be improved. But, right now we have to accept and work with the system as it is. (See the Geisler quote above.) I contend that it is too late in the game to try to build a groundswell of support for a 3rd-party candidate. We need to face the harsh reality of what and who we are stuck with and make the best of a terrible situation.
Voting for someone else might make you feel better, but it won’t actually accomplish any good. Worse, it might help someone truly evil attain the most powerful position in the world. Speaking of which…
3) Vote Hillary: I honestly don’t understand how a conservative, Christian or otherwise, could even consider voting for HRC in this election. (There might be a scenario where I would vote for Hillary, but her opponent would probably have to be an avowed communist or fascist or convicted serial killer, and contemplating such circumstances scares the *&%$#! out of me.) I mean, do I really need to go over her well-documented history (with and without her husband) of blatant lies and extreme corruption? The DoJ and FBI know she’s guilty of crimes and she still skates.
Beyond that, Clinton is strongly pro-choice — loves Planned Parenthood, is in favor of partial-birth abortion, wants to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, etc. She wants to eliminate citizens’ right to be armed and will sue gun manufacturers for violence done with guns. She wants to save Obamacare, and, if that doesn’t work, will likely push for a government-controlled single-payer system. She will push all sorts of nonsense from the LGBTQ agenda, and that’s just one area where religious rights will be threatened. She is for higher taxes and increased regulations, along with bigger government and more dependency on it. She will increase entitlement programs, including for illegal aliens, and other government spending, which means even more debt. Under Clinton, the race-wars, class-wars, “war” against cops, etc., will just get worse. She will likely support actions against Israel and in favor of Muslim nations and other groups. She will support “progressive”/globalist projects, while giving away America’s sovereignty in the process (as Obama is doing). She will continue the vendettas against Republicans and conservatives via executive actions and agencies. I could go on, but you know all this….
“If I were voting for Trump in a vacuum, this would be different. But Clinton isn’t a vacuum. She’s more like a vulture lying in wait to end the republic as we know it. Accuse me of hyperbole or alarmism if you must, but I genuinely fear Clinton could do irreversible damage to the country. And millions agree with me.” — David Limbaugh, political commentator & author
OK, now, let’s look at Trump’s platform/agenda. I admit up front that he has only recently seemingly come around to the pro-life side, and I am hoping that it is a principled change. At this point, at least, he seems to be genuine, though he does (unfortunately) allow for exceptions for incest and rape. He also believes there should be exceptions to the 2nd Amendment, but he is generally supportive. He wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a consumer-focused, competitive system. He is “mixed” on the LGBTQ agenda, which is disappointing but clearly better than what Clinton has in store. He is for reducing and simplifying taxes across the board, as well as eliminating every wasteful and unnecessary regulation. He wants to end government corruption and rein in profligate spending. He is a big supporter of the law enforcement community. He has no patience for politically-correct nonsense. He has no problem calling out our enemies by name (e.g., Islamic terrorists) and wants to rebuild the American military for a strong defense, while taking necessary precautions against terrorists entering the country. Trump appears to be pro-Israel, though not aggressively so. He likes Netanyahu and has a lot of support from conservative Israelis. He will definitely not be ceding authority over America(ns) to the UN or anyone else, and I’m pretty sure he will put a stop to any anti-Republican/conservative vendettas by federal agencies under his watch. (He is in favor of abolishing the IRS, which has been one of the biggest offenders.)
But, you know all that, too. The main point is that with Trump, our nation has a chance at retaining its independence, its freedoms and liberties. Innocent lives will be saved. The economy will be rejuvenated. Many stupid and/or unsafe policies will be rolled back. Forget not voting, forget ineffective 3rd-party votes. I will vote Trump in order to avoid another Clinton administration — worse than the last one and potentially worse than Obama’s — and sure disaster.
You can accuse me of being blind, stupid, ignorant, delusional, compromising this or that, “sacrifice [my] principles and values”, etc. That is your right, but I think you’re wrong. It is also my right to vote for an (highly) imperfect candidate, because I think the alternatives are all much worse. And, I’m not willing to throw in the towel and accept that the U.S. has gone past the point of no return. It may have, but I’m not ready to give up without a fight and just throw away my vote.
I’m not a Trump-ophile — never was — and my eyes are wide open on this. I disagree with some of his proposed policies (e.g., on trade) and cringe over many things he says, or at least how he says them. That’s just the beginning of his shortcomings. Trump is definitely not the second coming of Reagan or anyone else. He is not a true conservative and not the savior of the Republican Party, nor will he be able to save the nation on his own. He’ll probably disappoint a lot of people on the Right — especially those who think he’s awesome. But, I truly believe that he is capable of at least slowing the decline that we are currently experiencing in so many areas (i.e., economic, military, security, etc.). (That’s why we need to keep a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, preferably conservatives with backbone, to help him do it. Also to keep Trump in check on other stuff.) Hopefully, someone like Pence or Cruz can then succeed Trump and put us on a more sane, consistently conservative-minded course.
Is Trump the “lesser of two evils”? Yes, I believe so. But, I don’t approach it that way. Rather, I look at the viable options and choose the one that I believe is likely to do the most amount of good for the country and the least amount of bad. This election cycle, knowing (and suspecting) what I do about the candidates running, that person is Donald Trump. Or, as a friend of mine said on Facebook,
“In this presidential election, I’m not voting for a person. I’m voting, however, for pre-born children, for the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution, for our military, our police force, our national security, and our future as a country. Which candidate most fits this?” (h/t Dr. Rick Walston)
I don’t want to vote Donald Trump into the Oval Office. But, all things considered, once we get past the frustration and moral outrage, I think it is the most responsible thing to do at this time — for the good of the nation as a whole, for the American people, and for our allies.
God have mercy on us all….
P.S. Other than the ones I already linked to, here are 6 more articles I recommend on this topic:
1) “Why Donald Trump is the Best Choice for President”, by Gary DeMar
2) “Words vs. deeds”, by Thomas Sowell
3) “Why I Am Voting for Trump”, by Bruce Bialosky
4) “Why Vote Trump”, by Terry Paulson
5) “IF YOU’RE A ‘CHRISTIAN’ WHO HATES TRUMP: Don’t Read THIS … You Might CHANGE Your Mind”
6) “The consequences of a Hillary Clinton victory”
“Is a scientific analysis in terms of light waves more ultimate than a human being’s perception of a red apple?… No, neither one is more ultimate. Reality has many levels, and human beings have many legitimate perspectives.” — Dr. Vern Poythress
As you may recall, I blogged on an excerpt from Vern Poythress’ book, Redeeming Science, a few weeks ago, in which he discussed education. I’m still working my way through the book, though I took several days off from it. This week, I’d like to share from the 15th chapter, “Debates About What Is Real”. Poythress explores some ideas that were new to me, though he has apparently discussed them elsewhere. It will probably make more sense if you are familiar with the studies of epistemology and/or ontology. (Those are sub-disciplines of philosophy, in case you were wondering.) I’m only a little familiar with them and am still trying to wrap my brain — well, actually my mind — around this stuff. But, I think I got the gist….
“The comprehensive coherence entailed by the unity of the plan of God also involves coherence among different points of view or different emphases that people may use in understanding God’s world. I have discussed this principle of coherence among viewpoints at some length in Symphonic Theology, and John Frame’s works exhibit extensive instances. For example, the four Gospels each present the person and work of Christ with different emphases. But, rightly understood, they harmonize. Christ is both the great king in the line of David (Matthew) and the revealer of the Father (John).
Consider another example of harmony. With a Christian worldview, we find harmony between different aspects of ethics. A normative perspective focuses on the norms or laws or standards for right and wrong. A personal perspective focuses on the attitudes and motives that drive behavior. A situational perspective focuses on what helps in practice in a situation, in promoting the glory of God. Because God issues the norms, governs the people, and governs the situation, all three in principle exist in harmony. But non-Christian thought, not having God as an ultimate source for all, tends to polarize and treat one pole or another as ultimate. Deontological ethics starts with norms, existential ethics with persons, and utilitarian ethics with situations.
The three perspectives on ethics show kinship with the five schools and their views of science. Realism, in its concern for real laws out there, focuses on norms (the laws) and on the situation to which the norms apply. Idealism focuses on thoughts, which connect it to the personal perspective. Empiricism focuses on sense experience, which connects it to the personal perspective. Pragmatism focuses on practice in the world, which connects it to the situational perspective. It pulls man back down to earth by observing that God created man to fill the earth and subdue it, both practical tasks; and neither task guarantees that man will ever penetrate to some ultimate ontological skeleton, if it even exists. Finally, postmodern relativism may be seen as a form of idealism that champions the diversity rather than the unity among human persons.
Within a Christian worldview, all five of these ‘isms’ belong together as perspectives on the one plan of God. No one of them makes sense without the others. Human beings need to be there to do science, and to think the thoughts about scientific theory. Science without persons is a mere vapor. And human beings exist in their diversity as well as unity, as postmodernism would like to remind us. In addition science requires something that the persons will investigate: an external world both with lawful regularity (realism) and with particular data that we may organize for practical purposes (empiricism and pragmatism). One does not choose between these perspectives, but chooses all of them at once as fruitful options. At the same time, one chooses none of them in their non-Christian forms, in which they are set against one another, or in which they remain unclear as to whether man is to proceed as if he had an autonomous mind or as a creature in submission to God.”
After examining the increasingly popular idea of “critical realism” and its attractiveness, Poythress continues…
“Consider finally the atmosphere that realism may produce. Some realist writing can emanate an atmosphere of normalcy and sanity. If so, it is both a strength and a weakness. Most people, most of the time, intend to operate in the sphere of what is normal and sane. We know that an external world exists and that we have knowledge of it. Realist discussion can reassure us by showing up the fallacies and deficiencies of alternative, ‘strange’ approaches.
Yes, other approaches have their failings. But I wonder whether some realists, before turning their backs on the failings, have sufficiently appreciated why others might adopt such strange, deficient approaches. I sympathize deeply with those others, because I suspect that underneath they are discontent with the ‘normal.’ Something is radically wrong, and they feel desperation. One follows normalcy if normalcy holds promise of giving what one wants. But if the world is desperately sick, and if normalcy appears to be unaware of it — if perchance normalcy itself displays symptoms of the sickness — one casts about for alternatives. One becomes radicalized. And the more desperately sick the world is, the more desperate the alternatives. The realists are like contented bourgeois managers of factories, while the radicals are like the visionaries who plot for a bloody communist revolution. I sympathize, because I think the radicals are right to be desperate (chapter 3); but I regret that the desperation may break out in ways that make the sickness worse (the bloodshed in revolution). That is the nature of sin. Christ came to bring the true remedy for sin, through his death and resurrection.
So we have ended up affirming all five of the different schools, provided that one does not take them up unchanged but treats them as perspectives on science, or even perspectives on all of life. For example, one redefines and reshapes postmodern relativism by dropping the relativism that despairs of finding truth but continuing to affirm a God-ordained diversity in ways of expounding truth, whether that diversity is seen in the four Gospels, or in Schrodinger’s and Heisenberg’s two approaches to quantum mechanics, or in the contrast between starting with human capabilities (idealism) and starting with pointer readings on instruments (a form of empiricism)….
The acknowledgement of multiple perspectives enables us to make some sense of the diversity of ‘levels’ with which we may analyze the perception of a red apple. We may affirm the value both of ordinary human experience and of special modes of analysis that science introduces. We affirm our ordinary visual experience, and we also study scientifically the cellular and neurological processes involved in human vision. We study the physics of light, or we look at light from the standpoint of special relativity, or quantum theory, or perhaps even further theories still to be developed. These viewpoints are like different perspectives on the world. But they are not isolated from one another. Through our ordinary world we learn of science, and we expand that ordinary world as we develop a capacity to occupy more of the specialized standpoints that science offers. And those specialized standpoints, rightly understood, also lead to affirming the reality of what we experience in the ordinary world.”
Whew! Got all that? I’ve read it through a few times, now, so I think I understand and pretty much agree. Still, I think I strained a few brain cells gettin’ there. What about you?