Racial Profiling, Black Crime, and Criminal Justice

“Though prosecutors and judges may well make discriminatory judgments, such decisions do not account for more than a small fraction of the overrepresentation of blacks in prison.”  — James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein, Crime and Human Nature

Please Stop Helping Us - books13_1Once again (as I did here, here, and here), I would like to cite from Jason L. Riley’s very educational book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. The combination of personal insights and statistical facts make what he has to say particularly worth taking note of. In this section, Riley begins by discussing how he was racially “profiled” in his youth:

“While attending the University at Buffalo, where I lived off campus, I was stopped regularly while driving through the main drag of a tony suburb on my way to morning classes…. Like so many other young black men, I was also followed in department stores, saw people cross the street as I approached, and watched women clutch their purses in elevators when they didn’t simply decide to ride a different one. It was a part of growing up…. Was I profiled based on negative stereotypes about young black men? Almost certainly. But then everyone profiles based on limited knowledge, including me.

In high school I worked as a stock boy in a supermarket. The people caught stealing were almost always black. As a result black shoppers got more scrutiny from everyone, including black workers. During college I worked the overnight shift at a gas station with a minimart. Again, the people I caught stealing were almost always black. So when people who looked like me entered the store my antenna went up. Similarly, when I see groups of young black men walking down the street at night I cross to the other side. When I see them on subways I switch cars. I am not judging them as individuals. Why take the risk? If I guess wrong my wife is a widow and my children are fatherless. So I make snap judgments with incomplete information.

My attitude and behavior are hardly unique, even among other blacks. Like white cabdrivers, black cabdrivers have been known to avoid picking up black males at night, something I also experienced firsthand upon moving to New York City after college. Black restaurant owners ask groups of young black diners to prepay for their meals, seat them away from the exit, or take other steps to make sure that the bill is settled. And the lady who is nervous about sharing an elevator with a black man might be black herself. Describing her numerous conversations about racial perceptions with other black women, former Spelman College president Johnetta Cole wrote, ‘One of the most painful admissions I hear is: I am afraid of my own people.’

o-LOS-ANGELES-POLICE-CAR-facebook-661x349Some individuals who avoid encounters with black youths may indeed be acting out of racism, but given that law-abiding blacks exhibit the exact same behavior it’s likely that most people are acting on probability…. My encounters with law enforcement growing up were certainly frustrating: I was getting hassled for the past behavior of other blacks. But that doesn’t necessarily make those encounters arbitrary or unreasonable. After all, perceptions of black criminality are based on the reality of high black crime rates. I say that as though it’s a given, and it is a given in the real world. But in the alternate universe of academia and the liberal mainstream media, there is still a raging debate over whether people’s fears of young black men have anything at all to do with the actual behavior of young black men.

Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, has written an entire book, The New Jim Crow, that blames high black incarceration rates on racial discrimination. She posits that prisons are teeming with young black men due primarily to a war on drugs that was launched by the Reagan administration in the 1980s for the express purpose of resegregating society…. ‘What this book is intended to do is to stimulate a much-needed conversation about the role of the criminal justice system in creating and perpetrating racial hierarchy in the United States.’ Liberals love to have ‘conversations’ about these matters, and Alexander got her wish. The book was a best seller….

But the conversation that Alexander wants to have glosses over the fact that black men commit a hugely disproportionate number of crimes in the United States. The New Jim Crow is chock-full of data on the racial makeup of prisons, but you will search in vain for anything approaching a sustained discussion of black crime rates. To Alexander and those who share her view, the two are largely unrelated. Black incarceration rates, she wrote, result from ‘a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control.’ The author seems reluctant even to acknowledge that black people behind bars have done anything wrong…. ‘Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages.’ Really?

When I say that someone is being treated like a criminal, I mean that person is being treated like he broke the law or otherwise did something wrong. (When I want to say someone is being treated as less than human, I say that person is being treated like an animal, not a criminal.) Her chattel slavery and Jim Crow analogies are similarly tortured and yet another effort to explain away stark racial differences in criminality. But unlike prisons, those institutions punished people for being black, not for misbehaving. (A slave who never broke the law remained a slave.) Yet Alexander insists that we blame police and prosecutors and drug laws and societal failures — anything except individual behavior — and even urges the reader to reject the notion of black free will. ‘The temptation is to insist that black men “choose” to be criminals,’ she wrote. ‘The myth of choice here is seductive, but it should be resisted.’ What Alexander and others who buy into her arguments are really asking us to resist are not myths but realities — namely, which groups are more likely to commit crimes and how such trends drive the negative racial stereotypes that are so prevalent among blacks and nonblacks alike.”

Question: If, God forbid, a black man were to commit a violent crime against Ms. Alexander or a loved one, would she be content to rail against poverty, unemployment, and an imperfect criminal justice system? Or, would she demand that the police find & arrest the SOB who chose to violate her rights, work with the prosecuting attorney to build a case against him, and expect the courts to sentence him to the fullest extent of the law?

SDT-racial-relations-08-2013-03-11“The black inmate population reflects black criminality, not a racist criminal justice system, which currently [i.e., at the time Riley wrote this, of course] is being run by one black man (Attorney General Holder) who reports to another (the president). Black crime rates are vastly higher than white crime rates. And it’s hard to see how wishing away this reality, inventing conspiracy theories to explain it, or calling those who point it out ‘racist’ will help improve the situation.

Perceptions of black criminality aren’t likely to change until black behavior changes. Rather than address that challenge, however, too many liberal policy makers change the subject. Instead of talking about black behavior, they want to talk about racism or poverty or unemployment or gun control. The poverty argument is especially weak. In the 1950s, when segregation was legal, overt racism was rampant, and black poverty was much higher than today, black crime rates were lower and blacks comprised a smaller percentage of the prison population. And then there is the experience of other groups who endured rampant poverty, racial discrimination, and high unemployment without becoming overrepresented in the criminal justice system….

Those who want to blame crime on a lack of jobs cannot explain why crime rates fell in many cities during the Great Depression, when unemployment was high, and spiked during the 1960s, when economic growth was strong and jobs were plentiful. Indeed, the labor-force participation rate of young black men actually fell in the 1980s and 1990s, two of the longest periods of sustained economic growth in U.S. history. Shouldn’t ghetto attitudes toward work at least be part of this discussion?”

I’ll stop there, but Riley goes on to discuss gun control and other related issues, citing many statistics that counter the claims of many Black “leaders”, academics, and other liberals.

Contrary to what some might assume, I don’t bring this stuff up because I’m a racist who likes to see Blacks fail. Rather, I see a segment of American society that has effectively shot themselves in the foot, and liberal/progressive policies have provided the metaphorical gun to do it, while continuing to blame others for their problems. The more people who recognize and acknowledge this, and the sooner they do, the sooner steps can be taken at all levels of government and in local communities to halt the harmful attitudes & practices and to institute policies that really will help Blacks in America to get past the victim-mentality, take advantage of opportunities, and truly succeed.

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My White House ‘Dream Team’, cont’d

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  — Prov. 11:14 (ESV)

A couple weeks ago, I presented my picks — suggestions and preferences, not predictions — for President, Vice President, and Executive Cabinet. Unfortunately, Cruz and Kasich have now suspended their campaigns and Trump is virtually certain to be the Republican candidate for the general election. So, at least my first two picks are out; but, maybe some of my Cabinet picks will be considered. Who knows? In any case, I have a few more suggestions for other senior positions in the Executive Branch. These first seven are Cabinet-level Officers (i.e., within the Executive Office of the President), even though their offices/agencies aren’t officially parts of the Cabinet, and they don’t have “Secretary” in their titles.

White House Chief of Staff:  Dinesh D’Souza

Dinesh D'Souza

Dinesh D’Souza

o  The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking employee of the White House and oversees the Executive Office of the President (EOP). But s/he is no mere office manager. Duties vary from one administration to the other but generally require a mix of both managerial and advisory expertise. As such, one should have a sharp mind, a broad knowledge of “the players”, and possibly policy expertise, as well. D’Souza is brilliant, unapologetically conservative, and a former policy adviser to President Reagan. He is a seasoned author, political commentator, and has been a Fellow at both American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution. He even served a stint as President of The King’s College in New York. All things considered, I think D’Souza would be a great choice for Chief of Staff in a conservative administration. [UPDATE: After publication, it occurred to me that Hugh Hewitt -- law professor, political commentator, & radio show host -- would be a very good alternative.]

Director of the Office of Management and Budget:  Rep. Tom Price or Sen. Mike Enzi

o  I considered Rep. Paul Ryan, who has proven his facility with budgets and once turned down this very job offer from George W. Bush when Rob Portman resigned in June 2007. But, he’s probably quite happy as Speaker of the House. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is currently Chair of the House Budget Committee, and he scores as well or better than does his predecessor, Ryan, according to conservative thinktanks. Price’s counterpart is Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chair of the Senate Budget committee. Enzi has long been ranked one of the most conservative members of the Senate.

Administrator of the EPA:  Christopher C. Horner or Dr. Roy Spencer

o  Assuming the EPA isn’t disbanded (which I would not object to), a less obtrusive version should be led by someone who is not sold out to the liberal activist brand of environmentalism. Horner is an attorney and a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who writes (and testifies before Congress and in federal court) against the purported scientific evidence for man-made global warming. Spencer is a meteorologist with a distinguished career as a research scientist. One of his two positions at NASA was as Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at Marshall Space Flight Center. He is also very outspoken — in books and congressional testimony — in his skepticism about claims re the dangers of man-made global warming. Either one works for me.

U.S. Trade Representative:  Linnet F. Deily or Amb. Rita Hayes

o  “The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. The head of the USTR… serves as the President’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues.” I actually considered Donald Trump for this but rejected him for both personal and policy reasons. So,… not really knowing about any SMEs in trade, I looked at a few former Deputy Trade Reps. Deily’s background is in international banking, holding various executive positions since 1988. She served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva and U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization from 2001 to 2005, including leading the U.S. team in Geneva in the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Hayes has served in many capacities since the 1980s dealing with international trade and economics. This included various important negotiations while U.S. Chief Textile Negotiator in the USTR from 1996-97. She was then Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and Ambassador to the WTO from Nov. 1997 to Aug. 2001, and she served as Acting U.S. Trade Representative during the transition between Bush and Obama administrations. Both Deily and Hayes appear eminently qualified to serve as U.S. Trade Representative.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations:  Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

o  I mentioned in the previous post that I had a position in mind for Rice, and this is it. Seems like a natural fit. Obviously, her service as National Security Advisor and especially as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush provided her much experience on the world stage, representing the United States and her President in the international community. She is very bright, articulate, and diplomatic. (Note: This is all true, regardless of what one might think of the policies/positions of Rice or Bush.) I just think she would be a great ambassador of the U.S. to the United Nations — assuming, of course, that the U.S. doesn’t pull out of the UN completely, as some have recommended.

Chairman of Council of Economic Advisers:  Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, Arthur B. Laffer, or Stephen Moore

o  Sowell is America’s premiere economist and free market advocate. He is incredibly bright, insightful, and has been associated with a number of respected institutions. He is my first choice. But, he is already in his mid-80s, so I’m not sure he would welcome the added stress and responsibility of advising the POTUS. Though a bit more libertarian than Sowell, Williams is similarly esteemed; but, he also just turned 80. Laffer is another well-known American economist, who was a member of Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board. His “Laffer Curve” theory is somewhat controversial, plus he is in his mid-70s. Moore (b.1960) is an economic writer/policy analyst and free-market/supply-side proponent. He founded and served as president of the Club for Growth but more recently was named Chief Economist, then Distinguished Visiting Fellow, for the Heritage Foundation. His relatively young age definitely works in his favor, here. Now, if we could get them *all* on the Council….

Administrator of the SBA:  Herman Cain

o  Most people remember Cain from his 2012 Presidential bid (before suspending his campaign half-way through the primaries) and subsequent radio show. But, we shouldn’t forget his business history. In the 1970s, he worked as a computer systems analyst for Coca-Cola, then as a director of business analysis for Pillsbury. As such, he was assigned to analyze and manage 400 Burger King stores in the Philadelphia area. Pillsbury higher-ups then made him president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, which made an amazing turnaround under his leadership. (Cain was part of a group that then bought Godfather’s Pizza.) He served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. After leaving Godfather’s Pizza, he served as CEO of the National Restaurant Association. He has also served on the board of directors of several companies. All this to say, Cain has intimate knowledge of business and entrepreneurship, which would seem to make him a prime candidate to run the government’s Small Business Administration.

The next few are considered important advisory/administrative positions, too, though not Cabinet-level:

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (aka National Security Advisor):  Frank Gaffney

CSP-About_Us-Franko  Back in March, Cruz appointed Gaffney as part of his campaign’s national-security advisory team, though I thought of Gaffney long before that. Many years ago, Gaffney worked for President Reagan as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, then as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. (However, he was shortly forced out under the new Sec. of Defense.) Nowadays, Gaffney is founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, a pro-Israel advocacy group and national security think tank. He also writes and podcasts on various matters of national security. Some (mostly on the political Left) have accused him of various extremist positions and “conspiracy theories”. Regardless, Gaffney is obviously incredibly knowledgeable on security matters, and Sen. Cruz agrees that he would be a valuable asset.

Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy:  Rudy Giuliani

o  In 1981, President Reagan named Rudy Giuliani as Associate Attorney General, which gave him supervision over federal agencies that included the DEA. But, he really made a name for himself in the 1980s as the tough-on-crime U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, taking down mafiosos, drug dealers, and corrupt financiers. Then, as NYC Mayor, he and Police Commissioner William Bratton instituted policies and programs that greatly reduced violent crime in the city. Giuliani also gained international fame as he led the city in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11/2001 attacks. Since then, he has been involved in endeavors ranging from security consulting to investment banking, as well as offering political commentary on radio and television. Yes, he has come under fire for some of his claims and decisions. (True of most politicians.) But, I think Giuliani has the law-enforcement background (as DoJ attorney and NYC mayor) and toughness to tackle such a role. However, he may have to re-think his approach to certain non-violent crimes (e.g., marijuana possession). He would also be a great candidate for Sec. of Homeland Security, come to think of it.

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality:  Christopher C. Horner or Dr. Roy Spencer

o  See above rationale for Administrator of the EPA.

Surgeon General:  Dr. Ben Carson or Sen. Rand Paul

o  Carson seems like an obvious choice, given his background as a world-renowned and respected pediatric neurosurgeon. However, his positions on stem cell research and vaccination mandates give me pause. Paul, of course, is also a physician/surgeon. Long before getting into national politics, he was a board-certified and practicing ophthalmologist. He maintains his license and established a humanitarian foundation years ago to provide eye surgery and exams for the poor, many of which he does himself (when Congress is not in session). Either of these gentlemen could be a terrific Surgeon General.

Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Dir. of the Office of S and T Policy:  Dr. Vern Poythress or Dr. Cornelius G. Hunter

Dr. Vern Poythress

Dr. Vern Poythress

o  Poythress is a Christian theologian and New Testament scholar with several advanced degrees, including a PhD in mathematics. His particular interests include philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of science, and he often writes & lectures on the areas of math and science in relation to theology. Examples of his published books include Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God; Science and Hermeneutics; and Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (which I currently have on my stack to read). Alternatively, Hunter was once Senior Vice President of Seagull Technology, Inc.; then he went back to school to earn a PhD in Biophysics and Computational Biology. He is now an Adjunct Professor and continues to research and write about matters of evolution and Christian theology. His books include Darwin’s God; Darwin’s Proof; and Science’s Blind Spot. Poythress and Hunter are obviously smart guys and deep thinkers, and either one could be an inspired (ahem!) choice for this position.

There ya go. Again, some of these candidates are more politically moderate/centrist than I prefer, but they would be required to follow their President’s directives. There are many more important positions for any administration to fill, of course. For example, what about the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dir. of CIA, Dir. of NSA, Dir. of IRS, Dir. of DEA, FCC Commissioner (Anjit Pai?), etc.? There are also many more conservative notables who would be great assets in a conservative administration. For example: Sen. Mike Lee, Rick Santorum, Sheriff David Clarke, Gov. Mike Pence, outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, Rep. Darrell Issa, etc. On the other hand, they might better serve the conservative cause (and maybe their respective careers) staying right where they are. In any case, I think I’m done with my recommendations. I only hope that Donald Trump — assuming he wins the general election in November — will seriously consider some of the candidates suggested in this post and its predecessor.

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My New ESV

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  — II Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

Not quite sure how to categorize this post. It is part review of a specific Bible translation, but mostly review of a particular format. (Well, two of them, in fact.) Of course, this is a very subjective “review”, based on my personal needs and preferences. But, hopefully it will be somewhat instructive and helpful to you, as well.

As some of you may recall, I ended one of my January posts by saying that I had ordered my first English Standard Version (ESV) Bible. (I ordered a couple more versions, too, which I might write about at some point.) When it comes to “essentially literal” translations, I still like the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 update) for accuracy’s sake, but it isn’t perfect and can be a little clunky here and there. I liked what I had been hearing/reading about the ESV, so I finally decided to pick one up for myself.

Gen 1 in ESV Reader's Bible

Excerpt from ESV Reader’s Bible

Rather than get a big ol’ study Bible or something like that, I opted for something a bit more simple. The format of the ESV Reader’s Bible is supposed to encourage one to read bigger chunks of the Bible at a time, because there are less “distractions”. I liked that idea. The single-column paragraph format for the text was intriguing, and it is supposed to encourage the feeling of it being “like reading a novel”. (Note: This is for pleasure reading, not study.) It has chapter numbers but no verse numbers, and it also lacks any section headings, cross-references, or footnotes of any kind. (Note: Most ESV’s come with these things, and the study notes are supposed to be quite good.) No images or sidebars, either. There are four standard maps in the back in gray & tan. For what it’s worth, the book titles and chapter numbers are in red, which was different and a welcome bit of color. I got the cloth hardcover edition, which is fairly dull looking, but it’s sturdy and relatively cheap — under $20 on sale at CBD.com. It came with a couple nice ribbons, too.

Front Cover of ESV Reader's Bible - cloth hc

Front Cover of ESV Reader’s Bible – cloth hc

First, the translation: Simply put, I like it. I like it a lot. It maintains that “formal” feel of the “essentially literal” translations, but it manages to be more accurate in a few places and to smooth out some of the more awkward wordings of other “formal” translations (e.g., NASB) in other places, so that the text flows a little better. That said, I wouldn’t call it “standard English”, and there is still room for improvement. But, generally speaking, the exegetical and (for what it is trying to accomplish) stylistic decisions are quite good. If you are a fan of either the NRSV (for style, not necessarily the gender-inclusiveness or other questionable choices) or NASB, you’ll probably like the ESV. If you are a KJV or NKJV devotee, you might like it, too, since the ESV claims to be in the tradition of the KJV. However, if you strongly prefer the Textus Receptus or Majority Text over the eclectic source-text, then some verses and word-choices might be sticking points.

Here are three examples where the ESV has improved on the NASB:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

NASB — 5 Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street.

ESV — 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—

John 1:43

NASB — 43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.”

ESV — 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

II Corinthians 11:3

NASB — 3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

ESV — 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Now, the format of the Reader’s Bible: I have long preferred the paragraph-style over single-verse, but I am growing quite fond of single-column, too. Since it was supposed to be like reading a regular book, I had pictured a typical hardcover novel, maybe 9.25″ x 6.5″. I should have double-checked the dimensions in the description, because it is actually 8″ x 5.5″. (Slightly more in the slipcase.) Not a major issue. The paper is thinner than I would have liked, so it can sometimes be hard to separate and tends to crinkle. The 9-pt. text is lined up well, thereby minimizing ghosting. Still, if the dimensions were what I had expected, Crossway could have gone with slightly thicker paper and kept the total thickness at or less than the current 1.5″.

Despite the benefit of “less distractions”, I found that I really missed the usual verse numbers (especially when comparing with another translation), footnotes, and even occasional section headings. I had to force myself to not keep going to another Bible to compare or see if there was a note of some sort, particularly on strange or strangely-worded verses. Would have liked a couple more maps, too.

Excerpt from ESV Heritage Bible

Excerpt from ESV Heritage Bible

I read through Genesis, jumped over to Job, then back to Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, before getting another ESV that better suits my needs. This time, I got the “Single Column Heritage Bible” in TruTone (i.e., imitation leather), brown/burgundy with band design. I got it for about the same price, but at the moment it is on sale at CBD for $7.99! It seems to be pretty well made, though I’m no expert on that stuff, and I love the look of it (including gold gilt pages). Ironically, the dimensions are slightly smaller than the Reader’s Bible, but I don’t mind. I’m not sure, but I think the paper is about the same thickness, or maybe just a tad thicker. However, there are slightly fewer overall pages in the Heritage (1809) than in the Reader’s (1856). I think this is because the textblock in the Heritage is actually wider than in the Reader’s. (The outer margin is still about 3/8″, so it doesn’t look cramped.) The inner margin on both editions is about 1/2″, and they both have sewn spines and lay nicely flat (except maybe for the first & last couple books), so there is no trouble with trying to read in a cramped “gutter”.

Front Cover of ESV Heritage Bible - TruTone

Front Cover of ESV Heritage Bible – TruTone

The Heritage Bible has the same size font, and everything is still lined up well. It’s a great relief to finally have verse numbers in my ESV, let me tell ya! The footnotes are minimal but mostly good enough for “pleasure reading”. It comes with only one ribbon, but it has eight maps — not brightly colored, but they have shades of green, blue, and brown.

Overall, I like the ESV translation and, now that I got a format that is less plain-Jane (yet still not too busy with “distracting” extras), I am enjoying reading it more. (Not that Deuteronomy is all that thrilling. Looking forward to Joshua and Judges, though.) The ESV Heritage Bible may not be a thinline/slimline, but it is compact enough to keep in one’s car and/or comfortably carry to church or Bible study. (Unless, of course, you like to lug around a full Study Bible, and I totally understand that.) I recommend it!

P.S.  Anyone in the market for a slightly used ESV Reader’s Bible…?

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My White House ‘Dream Team’

“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a Cabinet meeting.”  — Pres. Ronald Reagan

I have been giving this some thought, off and on, for many months, but with the recent announcement from the Cruz campaign of his potential running-mate, I decided I may as well go on record with my choices for a “White House Dream Team” — i.e., President and his (or her) Cabinet.

President:  Sen. Ted Cruz
Vice President:  Carly Fiorina

cruz-fiorinaI guess that first one isn’t really much of a surprise for those who have read my earlier posts about the candidates or for my Facebook friends who have seen my posts there. Early on, I favored Gov. Scott Walker and also considered a couple others. But, shortly after the Republican field began to shrink, I honed in on Cruz as the strongest, most conservative candidate with a good chance of winning. Nobody’s perfect, but I think most of the accusations against him are either greatly exaggerated or pure bunk. I honestly think Cruz would make a great POTUS; he’s the one that has the best chance — within the limitations of Executive Branch authority — of restoring security, prosperity, and liberty to the United States.

It took me a little longer to decide on a good V.P. choice, but Fiorina was always in the running, and I finally picked her a few weeks ago. (Honest. I did.) You may remember that she was in my Top 5 early on. Admittedly, there were a couple issues from her past that bothered me, but nothing insurmountable. (For example, believe what you will about her executive record, but she clearly operates with more integrity — simply, a stronger ethical foundation — than does Donald Trump.) I think Fiorina makes a great partner for Cruz, both because of what they have in common — from a mutual love & respect for the Constitution to their shared ability to communicate conservative principles & solutions — and what additional experiences and attributes Fiorina brings to the ticket and will bring to the White House. Also, like Cruz, Fiorina is *not* an arrogant, thin-skinned narcissist, whose idea of “acting Presidential” includes whining, name-calling, and insulting how his/her opponents eat.

Part of the President’s authority is to appoint what Article II calls the “principal Officer in each of the executive Departments” and “Heads of Departments”. These have become known collectively and officially as the “Cabinet of the United States”. George Washington only had four, but the current group (which now includes the Vice President) numbers sixteen. Now, some have argued, and I tend to agree, that the Executive Branch is bloated and needs a bit of restructuring. (Read Andrew Linn’s great ideas about this in his article, “It’s Painful, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It: Restructuring the Executive Branch”.) This includes the reduction or elimination of a few of the current Executive Departments. For example, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs should be folded into the Dept. of Defense. The Dept. of Education and Dept. of Energy can simply be disbanded, since education should be the responsibility of the states and municipalities, and any worthwhile DoE offices & laboratories can be moved under the Dept. of the Interior. Others have recommended eliminating the Depts. of Commerce, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development, though I am less certain about those.

That said, while I’m sure there are *many* worthy candidates that I am unaware of, here are my Cabinet suggestions:

Bolton_470123292

John Bolton

Sec. of State:  Amb. John Bolton

o  Bolton is or has been, among other things, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney, and is involved with several politically conservative think-tanks and policy institutes, including currently being a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He may be blunt and sometimes controversial, but he knows and understands the enemy, and he’s no pushover. I greatly respect him and always listen to what he has to say.

Sec. of Treasury:  Comm. Michael Williams

o  Though he more recently served as Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Williams served for many years as Texas Railroad Commissioner (which regulates oil, gas, coal, etc.), Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the Dept. of the Treasury, and as Special Assistant to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh at the Justice Dept. He is a solid conservative with a great record and previous experience at multiple departments, state and federal.

Sec. of Defense:  Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal (Ret.) or Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) or Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.) or Lt. Col. Oliver North (Ret.)

o  Obviously, I can’t decide. But, a retired, senior military officer seems like a natural for this position and makes a lot more sense than having a physicist or lawyer in charge. These four gentlemen have all served their country with distinction, and they all seem to have a much better handle on the threats to national security and how to engage & defeat them than anyone in the DoD or White House now does.

Attorney General:  Rep. Trey Gowdy

o  The A.G. is, of course, head of the Dept. of Justice. Thanks largely to his dogged work as Chairman of the House Benghazi Committee, but also his consistently conservative stances on legislation, Gowdy’s relatively short time in Congress has earned him a lot of respect from those on the Right and enmity from the Left. Before that, he had a pretty impressive record as an attorney, both private practice and federal. He is a strict constructionist, and he has no patience for hypocrites or for those who twist the law or the facts to further an activist agenda. He is a person of strong conviction and moral integrity. We desperately need a man (or woman) like that as the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the United States government.

Sec. of the Interior:  Gov. Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich(?)

o  The Dept. of the Interior is “responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land [i.e., except for that land managed by the Agriculture department's U.S. Forest Service] and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native American, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States.” Perry had to deal with a lot of that stuff when he was Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Lt. Governor, and then Governor. Gingrich is mostly known for his long stint in the U.S. House of Representatives, including 4 years as Speaker. But, he has also been very interested and involved in conservationism, even co-writing a book titled, A Contract with the Earth.

Rep. Steve King

Rep. Steve King

Sec. of Agriculture:  Rep. Steve King

o  As a Congressman from Iowa’s 4th District, King is very familiar with the issues of agriculture, conservation, and energy. (I guess he might be an alternative for Sec. of the Interior, too.) As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, he helped write the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (aka the Farm Bill). He seems to have a handle on this stuff and would be a pretty good fit. However, the department could be eliminated — or, at least, greatly reduced — since many of its pieces fit as well or better under the Dept. of Interior or Dept. of Commerce. Speaking of…

Sec. of Commerce:  Newt Gingrich

o  I didn’t have a candidate for this position, until I started writing this up, and I realized he was right in front of me (so to speak). Assuming he isn’t begging for the Interior job, I’d like to see Gingrich in this one. The Dept. of Commerce is tasked with “promot[ing] job creation and improved living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development.” This seems right up Newt’s alley, and I think he’d be phenomenal at it. Check out his books — e.g., To Renew America, Winning the Future, Real Change, Breakout — to see what I mean.

Sec. of Labor:  Gov. Scott Walker or Gov. Chris Christie

o  We all know the battles Walker has had with labor unions since he’s been governor, as has Christie. Both of these guys are not afraid to take on the entrenched union lobbies, the bullies and the unethical practices. At the same time, they aren’t afraid to work with unions to come to fair and reasonable solutions. That’s the kind of person who needs to head the Labor Department.

Sec. of Health and Human Services:  Dr. Ben Carson or Dr. Rand Paul or Dr. John Goodman

o  The mission of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to “enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans… by providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services.” That’s a pretty tall order. As always, the department needs someone in charge who has a good understanding of the various health and related issues, as well as conservative solutions for addressing them. You are probably familiar with Carson and Paul, so you can understand why I though of them. Goodman is a libertarian economist, the founder and former CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), and is currently President/CEO of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research. He has written against Obamacare, including a book titled, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, and has been called the “father of Health Savings Accounts.” Bobby Jindal is another excellent choice, but I have another position in mind for him (see below).

Robert Rector

Robert Rector

Sec. of Housing and Urban Development:  Robert Rector

o  If you aren’t familiar with Rector, he is a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Most of his interest and expertise is on poverty issues, though he also researches and writes on immigration and abstinence. He has written extensively about wealth & poverty and was one of the key architects of the landmark welfare reform legislation signed by President Clinton — i.e., the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). He also served a stint as a commissioner of the Millennial Housing Commission. I have read a few of his articles, and this guy is incredibly smart and has the facts & statistics to back up his observations and proposed solutions. Rector would be a great asset for a Cruz administration on these issues.

Sec. of Transportation:  Rep. Tom Graves

o  Why Graves? He has been championing the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) for years, so I figure he is passionate about the subject and knows his stuff. Among other things, the bill is “a plan to reform the bankrupt, messy, and unfair federal highway program into an efficient, locally controlled system that improves the quality of life for every driver and commuter in America while reducing gas taxes and increasing spending on highways at home. The bill transfers almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period.” So, if TEA gets passed, Graves would be working himself out of a job; but, I’m sure he’d be fine with that.

Sec. of Energy:  n/a (the DoE s/b folded into the Interior Dept.)

Sec. of Education:  Gov. Bobby Jindal or Condoleezza Rice

o  Assuming this department isn’t eliminated altogether, I think Jindal would be a great choice to lead it. Prior to serving two terms as governor of Louisiana, and three years in the House of Representatives, Jindal was Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation under President George W. Bush. Before that, he was appointed president of the University of Louisiana System at the age of 28. Before that, he was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at the age of 24. Rice, on the other hand, was a professor of political science at Stanford University, as well as serving as Provost, prior to her time in the Bush administration. Afterward, she returned to teaching at Stanford and is now a director of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Global Center for Business and the Economy. I have another position in mind for her, but I can definitely see her doing some good in this one.

Sec. of Veterans Affairs:  n/a (the VA Dept. s/b folded into the DoD)

allen-west-guardian-of-the-republicSec. of Homeland Security:  Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.) or Condoleezza Rice

o  This may be an obvious statement, but this department needs a strong leader who understands security issues (from illegal immigration to terrorism), including properly identifying and neutralizing threats. Since leaving Congress, where he served on the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Col. West has been a TV commentator and is currently CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). I thought of West because he is the former military officer that I am most familiar with, and he has been very vocal against the security & military policies of the Obama administration. Any of the other three mentioned for Sec. of Defense would probably be a good choice, too, though. Alternatively, Rice has served as both National Security Advisor and Sec. of State, so she is definitely familiar with the issues and how much of “the system” works. She’d be great, but as I said, I also have another position in mind for her. (More on that later.)

So? Whaddayathink of my choices? Some are more conservative than others, of course. But, it’s probably good to have a mix along the generally “conservative” spectrum. In the end, though, it is the President who sets the tone and agenda for the departments, and I am confident that Ted Cruz is the right man for that job.

In a future post, I will propose some names for a few other important posts in the Executive Branch. Stay tuned…

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Why Black Students Aren’t Prepared, part 2

“I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people.”  — Dr. Ben Carson

Continuing excerpts from Jason L. Riley’s enlightening and insightful book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed

saggy-pants-_t23b“Education is not the only area where an oppositional black mindset has been detrimental to social and economic progress. Black cultural attitudes toward work, authority, dress, sex, and violence have also proven counterproductive, inhibiting the development of the kind of human capital that has lead to socioeconomic advancement for other groups. But it’s hard to see how blacks will improve their lot without changing their attitudes toward school. A culture that takes pride in ignorance and mocks learnedness has a dim future. And those who attempt to make excuses for black social pathology rather than condemning these behaviors in no uncertain terms are part of the problem. ‘The middle-class values by which we [middle-class blacks] were raised — the work ethic, the importance of education, the value of property ownership, of respectability, of “getting ahead”, of stable family life, of initiative, of self-reliance, et cetera — are, in themselves, raceless and even assimilationist,’ wrote race scholar Shelby Steele. ‘But the particular pattern of racial identification that emerged in the sixties and that still prevails today urges middle-class blacks (and all blacks) in the opposite direction. This pattern asks us to see ourselves as an embattled minority.’

Black culture today not only condones delinquency and thuggery but celebrates it to the point where black youths have adopted jail fashion in the form of baggy, low-slung pants and oversize T-shirts. Hip-hop music immortalizes drug dealers and murderers. On a 2013 album Jay-Z, one of the country’s richest and most popular rappers, referenced one Wayne Perry in a song. Perry was a hit man in the 1980s for one of Washington, D.C.’s most notorious drug lords. He pleaded guilty in 1994 to five murders, and received five consecutive life sentences. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2010, President Barack Obama expressed his affinity for rappers like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, whose lyrics often elevate misogyny, drug dealing, and gun violence. At the time of the president’s interview, Lil Wayne was imprisoned on gun and drug charges.”

A couple years ago, I was taken to task for writing, “I hope that the Black Community will recognize and takes steps to counter the harmful contributions made by certain aspects of “urban culture”, as represented by the hip-hop/rap music glorifying all manner of violent, criminal, and immoral behavior.” But, I wasn’t saying anything different than Riley and Steele.

“Rappers have long expressed pride in spreading degeneracy among black youths…. Meanwhile, liberal sages are preoccupied with ‘contextualizing’ this cultural rot. Cornel West describes rap as ‘primarily the musical expression of the paradoxical cry of desperation and celebration of the black underclass and poor working class, a cry that openly acknowledges and confronts the wave of personal coldheartedness, criminal cruelty and existential hopelessness in the black ghettos.’…

Black intellectuals, it seems, are much more interested in attacking those who are critical of these black cultural expressions. When black officials in Louisiana and Georgia moved to pass indecency laws aimed at the proliferation of youths who refused to cover their backsides in public, [sociologist and TV commentator Michael Eric] Dyson criticized not the kids or the culture but the proposals…. And Benjamin Chavis, the former head of the NAACP, vowed to challenge the ordinances in court….”

You may remember from the previous post that I linked much of this to liberal/progressive policies. It’s sometimes easy to lose the connection, so here’s a bit more on that from Riley….

2014-Black-Poverty-Chart“There is a much stronger case to be made that efforts to help blacks have had more pernicious and lasting effects on black attitudes and habits than either slavery or segregation. Social welfare programs that were initiated or greatly expanded during the 1960s resulted in the government effectively displacing black fathers as breadwinners, and made work less attractive. Even before Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty began in earnest, New York and other states had already been expanding their social welfare programs. And despite the best intentions, the results were not encouraging. [Riley then goes on to discuss increases in broken families and plummeting student performances primarily within the Black Community.]

Ideally, welfare dependency should be a passing phase, and for most people it is. But for too many black families it has become the norm, and even those who escape it often return…. By retarding or otherwise interfering with black self-development, government programs have tended to do more harm than good. And black elites who choose to focus on the behavior of whites are encouraging these youngsters to do the same, and thus perpetuating the problem.

A sad irony of the black cultural obsession with avoiding white behavior is that the habits and attitudes associated with ghetto life today can be traced not to Mother Africa but to Europeans who immigrated to the American South…. These immigrants brought their Old World habits and patterns to America and passed them along to the people who lived around them, which included most black people in America…. In the opening essay of his 2005 book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell neatly summarized some of these findings:

The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneurship, reckless searches for excitement, lively music and dance, and a style of religious oratory marked by strident rhetoric, unbridled emotions, and flamboyant imagery. This oratorical style carried over into the political oratory of the region in both the Jim Crow era and the civil rights era, and has continued on into our own times among black politicians, preachers, and activists.

Most whites have of course abandoned this behavior, and have risen socioeconomically as a result. How ironic that so many blacks cling to these practices in an effort to avoid ‘acting white’. And how tragic that so many liberals choose to put an intellectual gloss on black cultural traits that deserve disdain. The civil rights movement, properly understood, was about equal opportunity. But a group must be culturally equipped to seize it. Blacks today on balance remain ill equipped, and the problem isn’t white people.”

Ironic and tragic, indeed.

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Why Black Students Aren’t Prepared

“We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”  — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few weeks ago, I cited from Jason Riley’s book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, in which he explained why African-Americans typically support anything President Obama and his administration do, regardless of the damage it does — even when Blacks are more negatively impacted than anyone else. But, it isn’t the Obama administration that is the only problem. Liberal/progressive policies in general, and particularly those which are supposed to *help* minorities, no matter how well-intentioned, make it harder for Blacks to succeed in America.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t all fall on government’s shoulders. Certain elements of “black culture” are to blame, as well, though those are often enabled and encouraged by “progressive” attitudes. Take the matter of education, for instance. Citing anthropological studies of black students, Riley noted,

“The behaviors and attitudes to be avoided included, for example, enrolling in honors and advanced-placement classes, striving for high grades, talking properly, hanging around too many white students, and participating in extracurricular activities that were populated by whites.”

This is only exacerbated by academically disengaged parents and by a school system that sets lower standards for black kids and often passes students who don’t perform at grade level.

Nancy Pelosi marching with Congressional Black Caucus

Nancy Pelosi marching with Congressional Black Caucus

“Today’s civil rights leaders encourage blacks to see themselves as victims. The overriding message from the NAACP, the National Urban League, and most black politicians is that white racism explains black pathology. Ogbu’s research shows that this message is not lost on black youth. ‘Black students chose well-educated and successful professional Blacks in Shaker Heights and elsewhere in the nation as role models,’ he noted. ‘However, the role models were admired because of their leadership in the “collective struggle” against White oppression or in the civil rights movement rather than because of their academic and professional success or other attributes that made them successful in the corporate economy or wider societal institutions.’

There was a time when black leaders understood the primacy of black self-development. They fought hard for equal opportunity, but knew that blacks have to be culturally prepared to take advantage of those opportunities when they arrive. [See quote at top of post.] Today we have people trying to help blacks by making excuses for them…. Multiculturalists like Geneva Gay, a professor of education at the University of Washington – Seattle, tell us that black kids are underperforming in public schools because of how they’re being taught….

Gay said that if the U.S. school system would do a better job of accommodating the ‘cultural orientations, values and performance styles of ethnically different students’ instead of ‘imposing cultural hegemony,’ then black kids would ‘feel less compelled to sabotage or camouflage their academic achievement to avoid compromising their cultural and ethnic integrity.’ In other words, black kids are being asked to sit still in class, pay attention, follow rules, and complete homework assignments — all of which is a huge imposition on them, if not a racist expectation.

One major problem with this theory is that it can’t explain the performance of other nonwhite students, including black immigrants, who readily adjust to the pedagogic methods of U.S. schools and go on to outperform black Americans. Even black immigrants for whom English is a second language have managed to excel in U.S. schools….”

This only scratches the surface the subject, of course. And, obviously, there are engaged parents and there are Black students who perform well in school, despite hardships and negative influences, and go on to do well professionally. But, it is my understanding that they are, if you’ll pardon the phrase, in the minority.

I don’t know about you, but I find this all fascinating.

To be continued…

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The Future Is Here

Over the past couple of weeks, several posts have come across my Facebook feed that consisted of short videos about cool, new, advanced tech. Many of them were from Futurism.com, which I highly recommend you check out. For now, though, I have included a few of my favorites for your amazement and enjoyment….


Robots and Remote-Control

I thought this first “Spidercar” was pretty cool, though I’m not sure if it has much practical application, yet, given that it can’t carry much payload.

“VertiGo: The Wall-Racing Robot”

This little beauty is a great step in safer drone tech, so that it can hover and fly around among humans.

“Fleye – Your Personal Flying Robot”


3D Printing

Here, we have a couple advances in 3D-printing technology applied to medicine…

“This BioInk Can Be Used To 3D Print Cartilage”

… and personal transportation.

“Strati The first 3D printed car.”


Holography

Finally, we see the strides that Microsoft is making with hologram projection and some pretty nifty applications!

“ARS gets hands-on with Microsoft HoloLens”

“Microsoft HoloLens: Galaxy Explorer Ep. 6 – Coming to Life”

“Holoportation: virtual 3D teleportation in real-time”

 

Now, that’s some really cool stuff!

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Posted in Science by sirrahc. No Comments

On the Resurrection Hypothesis, part 5 of 5: Conclusion

If you have been following this series, you know that we have covered a lot of ground, including various lines of evidence that generally  — and, in some cases, quite strongly — support the case for Jesus Christ having been physically raised from the dead on the third day after his death and burial. We have endeavored to demonstrate why this is not merely wishful thinking on behalf of the faithful but a reasonable conclusion from objective analysis used in other disciplines, as well. So, I will wrap it up with this…

Concluding Assessment

It has been argued that the same criteria that the Jesus Seminar used (though somewhat questionably and inconsistently) to evaluate the sayings of Jesus can also be used to evaluate the miracles of Jesus. We might, then, apply the same criteria to the evidence for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. For example:

jesus-is-alive1) *Multiple attestation.* Several different “resurrection appearance traditions” are recorded in the Gospels and Paul’s epistles. Of course, throughout the NT we see attestation to the fact that the first disciples believed Jesus’ had been resurrected.

2) *Dissimilarity.* The origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection cannot be explained by prior influences from Judaism or as a ‘retrojection’ of Christian theology.

3) *Embarrassment.* This is exemplified by the discovery of the empty tomb by women. The gospel message would have been better served (from a human perspective, that is) if this role had been played by men.

4) *Context & expectation.* Again, nothing in Jewish teaching expected the Messiah to die, let alone rise from the grave.

5) *Effect.* Adequate cause must be found for established facts like the earliest Jewish polemics about the disciples’ alleged theft of Jesus’ body, the disciples’ transformation after the crucifixion, and the conversions of James and Paul. These can all be sufficiently explained by the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the disciples’ coming to believe in Jesus’ physical resurrection.

6) *Principles of embellishment.* This criterion is the reason why the Markan account of the empty tomb cannot be regarded as legendary, especially when contrasted with the theologically and apologetically embellished account in the Gospel of Peter.

7) *Coherence.* Our three lines of evidence for the fact of Jesus’ resurrection are established independently, yet they hold together, forming a powerful argument for the resurrection’s historicity. In addition, the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the nature of the resurrection body is consistent with Jesus’ physical postmortem appearances and the empty tomb.

But, when considering *all* the evidence, is the resurrection of Jesus the best explanation? Just because all the naturalistic explanations fall short, we can’t let the resurrection hypothesis simply win by default. We need to go back to McCullagh’s criteria for testing a historical explanation and see how well the resurrection hypothesis measures up. Remember, it must…

1) …together with other true statements, imply further statements describing present, observable data. The “present, observable data” consists primarily (though not solely) of the historical NT texts on which the historian bases his reconstruction of the relevant events. Of course, there is also the Christian faith, whose origin must be explained. These are explained by the resurrection hypothesis.

2) …have greater explanatory scope than its rivals. The resurrection hypothesis explains all three categories of evidence (i.e., empty tomb, postmortem appearances, origin of disciples’ belief), whereas rival theories (e.g., hallucinations, women went to wrong tomb, man crucified wasn’t Jesus of Nazareth) only explain one, maybe two.

ascension3) …have greater explanatory power than its rivals. Apparent deaths, conspiracies, etc., just aren’t nearly as convincing as the resurrection hypothesis is in explaining all of the evidence. None of the rivals give adequate reasons for things like the physicality of the resurrection appearances, the disciples’ transformation, or the conversions of Paul and James.

4) …be more plausible than its rivals. When one sets aside any philosophical prejudices against the supernatural, the hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection is at least as plausible as any other.

5) …be less ad hoc than its rivals. We have explained why the resurrection hypothesis is no more ad hoc (and, in some cases, less so) than its rivals.

6) …be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than its rivals. What accepted belief disconfirms the resurrection, except possibly “Dead men do not rise”? But, then we’re back to an a priori rejection of the miraculous. A purely natural revivification would be disconfirmed, but not resurrection by the power of God. On the other hand, rival hypotheses are disconfirmed by accepted beliefs, such as the unstable nature of conspiracies, the inevitably fatal result of crucifixion, the psychological characteristics of hallucinations, etc.

7) …so exceed its rivals in fulfilling conditions (2) thru (6) that there is little chance of a rival hypothesis, after further investigation, doing a better job. Over the last three centuries, critics and skeptics have tried to disprove the resurrection of Jesus, or at least give better explanations for the evidence. But, even with the knowledge and resources of contemporary scholarship, they have failed.

The simple fact is that the resurrection is the best explanation of the facts, and there doesn’t seem to be anything better on the horizon.

Case closed.

On that note, I’d like to end with the following passage from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (ISV):

“2:6 So then, just as you have received the Messiah Jesus the Lord, continue to live dependent on him. 2:7 For you have been rooted in him and are being built up and strengthened in the faith, just as you were taught, while you continue to be thankful. 2:8 See to it that no one enslaves you through philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to the Messiah, 2:9 because all the essence of deity inhabits him in bodily form. 2:10 And you have been filled by him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 2:11 In union with him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without human hands by stripping off the corrupt nature by the circumcision performed by the Messiah. 2:12 When you were buried with the Messiah in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 2:13 Even when you were dead because of your offenses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with him when he forgave us all of our offenses, 2:14 having erased the charges that were brought against us, along with their obligations that were hostile to us. He took those charges away when he nailed them to the cross. 2:15 And when he had disarmed the rulers and the authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in the cross.”

Amen!

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Credit where credit is due: The material for defending the historical burial & resurrection of Jesus was primarily adapted from William Lane Craig’s “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” in the book Jesus Under Fire, eds. J.P. Moreland and Michael J. Wilkins.

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On the Resurrection Hypothesis, part 4 of 5: The Disciples’ Belief

Origin of the Disciples’ Belief in Jesus’ Resurrection

Jesus' distraught disciples

Jesus’ distraught disciples

To say that the death of Jesus on the cross was devastating to the disciples would be gross understatement. Despite Jesus’ warnings, they had no concept of a Messiah that would die, much less rise up again. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ shameful death could only be seen as humiliating and cursed by God. Jesus could be remembered as a beloved and wise teacher, but certainly not Messiah or God. But, the resurrection transformed disaster into victory. Now, Jesus’ death could be recognized as the means by which forgiveness of sins could be obtained — the ultimate blood sacrifice. Jesus’ being raised by God from the dead invested His death with salvific significance, and His disciples could proclaim Him as Messiah after all.

Paul wrote that the resurrection was central to the Gospel message, and without it the Christian faith meant nothing (I Cor. 15:12-19). Even the most skeptical scholars agree that at least the belief that Jesus had risen from the dead was at the core of the earliest Christian faith. The Christian Way could never have begun, let alone spread, without it.

So, what caused this belief? If Jesus had not actually been resurrected, then there must be another, better explanation for it, right? Jesus’ disciples (i.e., while He was alive on earth) were all Jewish, so what about the teachings of Judaism? Three places in the Old Testament (Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37; Daniel 12:2) reflect the Jewish doctrine of resurrection. By Jesus’ time, belief in bodily resurrection was a source of hope for many. In Matthew 22:23-33 we even see Jesus siding with the Pharisees against the Sadducees on this matter. So, the concept was at least present in Jewish religious thought.

But, their understanding differed in two major respects from what belief in Jesus’ resurrection required — specifically, in the When and the Who of resurrection.

1) *Jewish doctrine of resurrection was always in regards to the end of world history, never sooner.* Every OT instance of the dead being revivified resulted in a return to mortal life, but the individual(s) would eventually die again. The resurrection to immortality and glory would not happen until God brought about the end of the world. This is the way Jesus’ disciples believed (Mark 9:9-13; John 11:24), so the idea of an actual resurrection before the world’s end was alien to them. Faced with Jesus’ death, they most likely would have enshrined His tomb and waited in anticipation of resurrection on the final day. It was extremely improbable for them to have come to believe He had already been raised.

2) *Jewish doctrine of resurrection was always about the general resurrection of the people, never a single individual.* Whether the entire human race, or all of Israel, or only the righteous, the people’s resurrection was never believed to depend upon the Messiah being resurrected first. Again, the disciples would have waited for the day when God raised Jesus to glory with all the righteous of Israel.

Thus, the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection cannot be attributed to prior Judaical beliefs.

Could the disciples have been led to their conclusion by certain events following the burial? For example, some have postulated that the disciples had visions of the eschatological Son of Man and interpreted them in terms of the Jewish teaching discussed above. The empty tomb story was then a legend resulting from their belief in Jesus’ resurrection. Despite the fact that this goes against the evidence, how likely is it that such experiences could have caused their belief?

Resurrected Jesus appears in the room

Resurrected Jesus appears in the room

We need to look briefly at the issue of hallucinations again. Hallucinations can only contain that which is already in the mind. Any visions that the disciples had would reflect the Jewish concepts of immortality noted above. They would likely have projected a glorified Jesus in “Abraham’s bosom”, where the righteous dead wait for the final resurrection. But, we have also noted the two significant ways in which Jesus’ resurrection is inconsistent with those concepts.

How then would the disciples’ doctrine of resurrection have developed? An empty tomb by itself could lead to a belief that Jesus was merely translated straight to heaven — a miracle applicable to the recently deceased, as well as the living — like Enoch or Elijah. In contrast to a translation, a resurrection involved a dead person being raised up in the spatio-temporal world to eternal life. Even if discovery of the empty tomb had been followed by hallucinations of Jesus in glory, it is doubtful they would have concluded that He had risen from the grave. More likely, they would have thought that He appeared to them from heaven, where God had translated Him.

Other skeptics have argued that a death-translation model came first, with the death-resurrection scheme developing from it later. The story of the empty tomb then becomes a translation story and postmortem appearances are interpreted as mere visions of the exalted Christ. But, considered more closely, a primitive death-translation scheme leading to the disciples’ belief in and proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection just doesn’t make sense. Plus, there is no evidence to support the primitiveness of a death-translation model without a literal resurrection. To the contrary, specialist in resurrection studies Gerald O’Collins confirms that, if anything, the text indicates the opposite pattern.

The evidence points to the disciples proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection (contrary to Jewish religious thinking) and not a mere translation of Jesus (which would have been compatible with Jewish doctrine). This argues against the disciples experiencing hallucinatory visions of Christ as the cause for their belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection. This belief simply cannot be explained, either through Judaism or the church, unless the resurrection of Jesus is historical fact.

To be concluded in Part 5…

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Credit where credit is due: The material for defending the historical burial and resurrection of Jesus was primarily adapted from William Lane Craig’s “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” in the book Jesus Under Fire, eds. J.P. Moreland and Michael J. Wilkins.

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On the Resurrection Hypothesis, part 3 of 5: Postmortem Appearances

Postmortem Appearances

We have four lines of evidence for the historical reliability of Jesus’ appearances to people after His death.

1) *Paul’s testimony shows that the disciples saw appearances of Jesus.* In I Corinthians 15, Paul lists several people to whom Jesus appeared after his death, beginning with Peter individually and the Twelve Apostles (as part of the traditional formula) and ending with Paul himself (ca. AD 36). Again, the early date of the traditions destroys any chance that the appearances were part of legend. Plus, Paul says that many who saw the appearances were still alive to verify the accounts, and Paul was likely acquainted with several of them (e.g., Peter and James). Many of these were eventually executed because of their belief in Jesus’ resurrection, including Peter, James, and Paul himself. This is historically reliable evidence. So, according to Paul, we know that Jesus appeared after His death on separate occasions to different individuals and groups.

2) *Gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances are historically, essentially reliable.* It may not be possible to historically *prove* any particular appearance, but the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels in general suggests that the appearance traditions within them are substantially, historically credible. This is supported by three basic considerations (which may look a little familiar):

On the Road to Emmaus

On the Road to Emmaus

a) Given the short amount of time and geographical distance from the events to the accounts, there just was not enough time for much accrual of legends. According to Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White, even two generations are not enough time for “the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of oral tradition.”

b) Rising of legends would be impeded by the continued presence of eyewitnesses in the Christian community. By the same token, if the early appearance traditions were false, it is hard to imagine how they could develop and persist in the face of opposition from first-generation believers who knew better.

c) Authoritative control by the apostles would tend to keep fictitious appearance stories from gaining a foothold as long as they were alive. There may have been discrepancies in certain secondary details, and they may have been influenced by the theology of the “Evangelists”, but the basic traditions could not have been legendary.

So, if the central traditions on which the Gospels rely are historically dependable, then the appearance stories within them are essentially accurate accounts of what happened.

3) *Several of the postmortem appearances have particular historical credibility.* Specifically, these would be the appearances to:

a) The women at the tomb. As stated before, if these women weren’t the actual witnesses, why not make it be someone more “qualified”? (In fact, Paul probably omitted them from his formula because of their lack of legal status.)

b) Peter. Though it is not described in the Gospels, both Luke and Paul attest to this appearance. Peter likely told Paul about it when they met. Virtually all NT scholars recognize its historicity.

c) The Twelve. Both Luke and John (one of the Twelve) relate separate traditions about this appearance. Based on their agreement, it probably happened in Jerusalem on the first Sunday after His crucifixion. The early nature of the traditions and Paul’s personal contact with the disciples prevent these appearances from being mere legend.

d) Disciples fishing on the Lake of Tiberias (aka Sea of Galilee). This early appearance to, and commissioning of, a handful of disciples (John 21) is unusual and indicates an early and accurate tradition. Plus, the eyewitness of John himself stands behind it.

e) An assembly of believers in Galilee. This appearance is predicted by both Jesus and the angels in the pre-Markan Passion story. It is most likely that the event occurred and was referred to in Mark’s source material, which would have been very early in the Christian fellowship.

f) 500+ believers. There is no Gospel account of this, but Paul mentions it and likely refers to those still living for their availability to corroborate the story. Given the size and timing, it was probably an outdoor gathering in Galilee sometime before the disciples went back to Jerusalem.

g) James, brother of Jesus. The Gospels show that Jesus’ family was not exactly sympathetic to His ministry while He was alive, yet James later becomes a leader in the church at Jerusalem. This about-face was probably due to conversion following Jesus’ appearance to him, as referred to by Paul. They may well have discussed it when Paul visited Jerusalem in AD 36.

h) Paul. In Acts 9:1-9 we have Paul’s own account of his encounter with the resurrected Jesus, which radically changed his life. Not only is it extremely difficult to doubt that this happened, but most scholars acknowledge the basic historical reliability of the account.

Thus, from these individual incidents we find that Jesus appeared to varying numbers of His disciples, under varying conditions, in the city of Jerusalem and the nearby region of Galilee.

4) *The ‘resurrection visions’ were physical, bodily appearances.* It is widely conceded by NT critics that Jesus’ disciples did indeed experience “appearances” of Him after the tomb was found empty. But, the more liberal and skeptical of them claim that because it was a “spiritual” body, the visions did not involve any physical manifestations. However there are two good lines of evidence that the resurrection appearances actually were physical.

Doubting Thomas puts finger in Jesus side wound

Doubting Thomas puts finger in Jesus side wound

First, Paul implies that they were of a physical nature. Some scholars claim the opposite, though. They state that, since Paul teaches that the future resurrected bodies of Christian believers will be modeled after Jesus’ resurrection body and they will be spiritual (I Cor. 15:42-49), then Jesus’ resurrection body must be spiritual. True enough, but the error lies in the understanding of what Paul means here by “spiritual”. It does not mean intangible or immaterial. Further study of the Greek words used for “spiritual body” (soma pneumatikon) shows that the “spiritual” aspect has more to do with orientation than with substance. In other words, the transformation of the earthly body is from mortal to immortal, which does not necessitate a change from material to immaterial. It will be a powerful, glorified body prepared for living in the New Creation. It would not have made sense to Paul for an immortal soul to try to inhabit a “body” with no substance.

There are other ways to demonstrate that Paul believed this. Whenever Paul describes a vision, whether “subjective” or “objective”, it was purely a mental experience, whereas resurrection appearances that were recounted involved something “real world”. For example, Paul’s own conversion experience involved audible speech and a bright light. Also, if the appearances were only visions, how would one account for the direction and development of Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection body? If Christ’s resurrection body was not physical, how could Paul teach that Christians’ resurrection bodies, modeled after Christ’s, would be physical?

The second reason is that the Gospels attest that the appearances were physical and bodily. As with Paul, every Gospel mention of a resurrection appearance was of a physical, bodily nature. For example, people touched Jesus or watched Him take a piece of food and eat it. There is no trace of nonphysical visions in any of the various and independent resurrection traditions represented.

Then, as mentioned before, there is the overall, historical reliability of the Gospel resurrection narratives, and the physicalness of Jesus’ risen body is apparent in them all. It is inconceivable how a bunch of stories of visions could be so thoroughly twisted into stories of physical appearances in so short a time and in the presence of eyewitnesses to the events, as well as under the watchful eyes of the apostles responsible for preserving the integrity of the Gospel message.

We have seen that some critical scholars purport that these postmortem appearances were subjective visions (i.e., hallucinations). But this view has some big problems. First, it loses credibility in light of points (2) thru (4) above. Second, the ‘subjective vision’ approach is improbable due to the number and variety of circumstances of the appearances noted by Paul alone. Third, while this hypothesis could explain a belief in Jesus’ translation and exaltation, a bodily rising was inconsistent with Jewish conceptions of resurrection. (More on this in the next section.) Finally, it doesn’t account for the full range of evidence, since it provides no clues for the empty tomb.

To be continued in Part 4…

Happy Easter and a Blessed Resurrection Day!

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Credit where credit is due: The material for defending the historical burial & resurrection of Jesus was primarily adapted from William Lane Craig’s “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” in the book Jesus Under Fire, eds. J.P. Moreland and Michael J. Wilkins.

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