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Showing posts from 2018

What Was Missing in the Senate Judicial Committee’s Kavanaugh Hearings?

The Senate Judicial Committee's hearings on the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court were painful enough to watch.  Yet they captured social pressure points throughout society.  The elephant in the room was the Roe v. Wade decision that unborn children lack personhood and may be put to death at any time up to birth.  That dividing issue in the USA led to all the tricks and theatrics in the hearings.  Yet the presenting issue had to be something else since the ‘Ginsburg Rule’ says that candidates will not reveal how they would vote on particular issues.
What better way, then, to bring the candidate down in the #MeToo era than to make a claim of sexual abuse?  As a real Catholic, unlike lip-serving Catholics in high governmental positions who regularly advocate for abortion and homosexuality, Kavanaugh surely personally opposes abortion.  While we do not know how, as a judge, he would vote on the matter (for his role is to interpret laws, not make them), he would…

The Ethics of Tribal Victimhood versus Biblical Vulnerability

The Modernist, Western era has pursued, with considerable advantages at times, an approach to ethics through ‘rights.’  The USA added an addendum to the Constitution of ten amendments, called the ‘Bill of Rights.’  The United Nations’ charter was written in the language of certain ‘rights’.  This ‘rights’ approach is not entirely wrong in ethics, but it cannot adequately ground or ensure the morality that societies need.  Among its inadequacies is a tendency to see society in terms of groups, groups whose rights need to be identified and protected.  This has, in turn, led to a notion of victimhood, that is, that some groups as such are victim-groups.
Alongside this trajectory in Western society has been a progression from modernist to postmodernist to tribalist perspectives and practices (as I have been arguing for the past three years).[1]  Tribalism’s understanding of ‘rights’ is strongly coloured by an assumption of victimhood.  On this perspective, if society is broken up into vari…

False Testimony, Sexual Violence, and Speaking Out: Some Biblical Texts

The Judiciary Committee’s hearings around the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh raise questions about what the Bible says about false testimony, sexual violence, and the responsibility of victims to speak out immediately.  The following quotations (from the English Standard Version) are offered for reflection.
False Testimony
Exodus 20:16  "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [The 9th Commandment; so also Deuteronomy 5.20.  Cf. Jesus’ affirmation of this Commandment: Matthew 19.18; Mark 10.19; Luke 18.20.]
Exodus 23:1 "You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
Deuteronomy 19:16-21 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing,  17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days.  18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely,  19…

Tribal Victimhood and the 'New Justice': A Reflection on the Kavanaugh Hearings

Since the 1980s, Judicial Committee hearings for Supreme Court justices have provided a window into cultural changes in the United States.  The postmodern turn in Western culture involved moving from a modernist understanding of truth as objective to understanding truth as local and constructed.  In modernity’s period, justice presumed the accused to be innocent until proven guilty.  A good judge interpreted the law correctly: there was a belief in the facts of the case and in right readings of the written laws. 
Postmodernity removed the notion of right interpretation based on the meaning of the original authors.  Words could be bent to new purposes.  Laws were freed from the tyranny (!) of the original authors.  This created an overreach of the judicial system into the legislative system of governance, what people now called ‘legislating from the bench.’  What is ‘true’ became what is ‘true for us.’  Meaning would no longer be established by interpreting texts according to their int…

From Naturalism to Anti-Naturalism: Understanding the Enemy in Today's Culture Wars

Bill Muehlenberg yesterday reminded us of J. Gresham Machen's fight in the culture wars of his day, the early 20th century ('Notable Christians: J. Gresham Machen,' Culture Watch (August 28, 2018; online at:  Machen's battle was not simply with the culture but with the culture in the Church--in the Presbyterian Church of his day.  In his brief life (1881-1937), Machen started a seminary (Westminster Theological Seminary), a new, Presbyterian denomination (Orthodox Presbyterian Church), and a mission board.

Machen's work reminds me of how large the Evangelical tent has been--his Orthodox Presbyterian world is quite distant from my own engagement with the Evangelical movement.  Yet his assessment of the problem of his day with mainline denominations was spot on.  Evangelicals, for all their differences and in all their varieties, coalesce around their agreement that Scripture wins every arg…

'Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give'

The early 2nd-century Christian document, the Didache, includes advice about charity.  The last word offered on the teaching is, 'Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give' (ch. 1).  In this blog, I would like to redirect readers to an article by David Virtue on Global Christian News. See In 'Christmas Charity: Weighing Up Who You Will Give To' (30 October, 2017), Virtue points readers to two information services to do exactly what the Didache recommends: 
In England, see In the USA, see  

Virtue gives information on the following major aid agencies: Food for the Poor, Food for the Hungry, World Vision International, Samaritan's Purse, Tear Fund, Open Doors, Barnabas Fund, and Aid to the Churches in Need.  Of these, only the last two organizations get a 'thumbs up.&#…

Interpreting Romans 8 in Light of Paul's Use of the Old Testament

Romans 8 seems to include a reflection on several Old Testament passages.  While only one is directly quoted, Psalm 44.22 in Romans 8.36, two others have been missed by commentators.  All three Old Testament texts have to do with suffering and pose a problem that needs resolution.  This essay seeks to demonstrate that Paul does, indeed, allude to Exodus 2.23-25 and Psalm 89 in Romans 8, and it intends to show how observing these allusions will help to interpret his arguments.  Standard interpretations of Romans 8 do not benefit from understanding the role of these Old Testament texts for Paul.[1]
I intend to prove—to the extent that we can do so when speaking of allusions in texts—that these Old Testament texts focus our reading of Romans 8 on the corporate people of God, not individual salvation, explain the problem of God’s steadfast love in the face of suffering, and shed light on some of Paul’s Christology in this chapter.  Attention to these texts also helps to explai…