Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Church History In Plain Language, Bruce Shelley

 I believe I read this book in the early to mid 1980's. It was before I marked up my books, and it was pre-Internet, blogs and such ... I was too lazy to take notes. 

I was in my questioning everything phase at that time. Being raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church ... no dancing, no drinking, no movies, no smoking, etc, I started to look at Christianity as "the religion of don'ts". Possibly, "You shall know them by what they DON'T do!" would have been a good creed for that particular sect. They were certainly not "creedal" ... we didn't even learn the Lord's Prayer. That was something the supposedly  Satanic Catholics learned! If the Catholics did it, we DIDN'T! 

I loved my parents and I loved a lot of people in that church ... this was fortunately not the age of "cancelling", although my first "love" relationship was cancelled by a Catholic dad. We were not THAT serious, but he wasn't taking any chances! 

 Thinking of this time made me think of a favorite Professor, Richard DeGrood who I took a philosophy class from. He worked fairly hard for me to change my major to philosophy. I sometimes wonder what might have been, rather than me being focused on climbing the corporate ladder and suppressing/denying my anxiety and depression. 

I found this review, that at least gives some pointers and a very top level summary of the book.

It is a very popular book, probably mostly because it is "relatively short" (495 pages) for a book of this scope, and written in a style that is easy to follow and as entertaining as this sort of book can be. 

On page 100, he talks of a subject near and dear to my heart ... "What does it MEAN!", a concern shared by Origen (one of the church fathers) ..."He held that there are three levels of meaning in the Bible: the literal sense, the moral application to the soul; and the allegorical or spiritual sense, which refers to the mysteries of the Christian faith". 

I suspect that there are a LOT more than "three levels" ... for one, there is the fact that it was written at the first level from either inspiration, eye witness, or second/third/?? hand. For those of us living today, it was translated, (maybe multiple times), it is "contextualized" both in terms of the culture at the time it was written/translated as well as in the context of how we think today. While we believe in "God with us" through the Holy Spirit, believers need a lot of grace to connect with Christ through the Bible and church. All of the authors, copyists, translators, etc, also needed a lot of help from the Holy Spirit. 

We don't tend to think about our thinking (epistemology). Often there are many levels between what is "seen" or "inspired" and what is written, translated, interpreted, etc. As humans, we deeply want to put our hand into the side of the risen savior like Thomas, but in John 20:29 "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." We are commanded to believe without anything close to direct sight or touch ... in fact, other than the Holy Spirit (which must be our guide), we are asked to believe through writings that are thousands of years old and have been translated a number of times. 

We clearly NEED the Holy Spirit, and it would be nice if our pastors/teachers in the here and now, understood that it ISN'T "as plain as the nose on your face". We protestants don't take Matthew 16:18 literally. "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." We choose to take what was said in verse 16 "Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”" ... Peter's confession, as the real foundation of the church. (while Catholics take the literal text) 

As a lapsed Baptist and a student of history, I hungered for as much historical connection to the truth of the Christian doctrine as I could find ... which I assumed meant Catholicism, because that is what it was sold as, AND because it had withstood the test of time. Without the Catholic Church (and no doubt God's protection of it), we would not be discussing this today.  It is a bit amazing that I never joined the Catholic Church, or actually read this book with a bit more rigor. On page 380, it covers the doctrine of papal infallibility ... which became a dogma in 1870 because the church was no longer superior to the state -- the church was in dire need of authority. Infallibility met that need. On December 8, 1854, Pious IX declared the dogma of the immaculate conception ... that MARY was conceived without sin. 

Once you are "infallible", you can declare a lot of things. As a Christian, I dearly hope that the Pope will never declare gay "marriage" as a proper sacrament. It would not change my belief, but looking at Vatican II, I have to assume a lot of Catholics would follow that teaching. 

As a person who really thinks that the 18 year old Scotch is better than the stuff that just dribbled out of the still, tradition matters to me. "New and improved" sounds more like marketing than theology. Tradition matters, but it isn't all that matters. 

While we are at it, how about praying to Mary? The earliest reference is the "Sub tuum praesidium" 259 AD, so not exactly "new". In the catholic. (universal) church, the saints are with us at least as we take Holy Communion ... so Mary and the other saints are more "alive" than we are. We often ask other Christians to pray for us, and since Mary is certainly alive in Heaven, and revered among all women, it doesn't seem "wrong" to ask her to pray for us. The danger is that while it isn't likely that we will be tempted to worship any Tom, Dick, or Harry that we ask to pray for us, the same is not true of Mary. Be not drunk as to wine, nor of Mary. 

On page 456, Shelly declares relative to the 18th amendment; "This was probably the last successful evangelical crusade for a moral America". Given Christ's first miracle at Cana, I'm not sure that the 18th had murch to do with actual morality, but "whatever". 

On 460, he gets into a discussion about how some claimed that more "born again" Christians would improve the morality of America. Arthur Schlesinger jr had declared of Jimmy Carter that he thought Carter ought not have brought up his "born again" religion in the campaign, stating "If you feel that, then bully for you, but it is totally irrelevant". Looking around today, it seems pretty obvious that being short on Christians is a bad thing for a culture. 

I would argue that Dobbs is a good example of a cultural victory involving Christians of both Catholic and Evangelical types, with the credit, as always, being God's. 

It isn't at all clear that Christ much improved the general public morality of the Jews, nor the Roman Empire until maybe Constantine (got rid of burning Christians for light and gladiators) if ever. Christ declared that his kingdom was NOT of this world. The Middle Ages, when the Church largely WAS the State, are not seen as particularly moral by Biblical standards. 

The end of the book drifts off into the "social gospel" and the idea that unity is more important than theology, or truth for that matter. On page 468 we see; "Through all these years, the most persistent critics of conciliar ecumenism were the conservative Evangelicals. Holding staunchly to the authority of the Bible, Evangelicals know that Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, but they question the federation form of Christian unity". 

UNLESS there is at least significant agreement on the authority of the Bible for more than just a couple quotes taken out of context, any idea of "Christian unity" is foolishness. If everyone would just agree with ME, we could be unified! It reminds me of Biden claiming he came to "heal" when what he really meant was HEEL! If you deplorable ultra MAGA, racist, fascist, uneducated scum would just HEEL, the divisions would end. Heil Biden!

The imagined "unity" in the middle ages was achieved through the power of the state and the church being combined. Thousands were slaughtered, burned, tortured, etc so that "unity" could be achieved. The price of that sort of "unity" seems too high to me if it is achieved via either the church, the state, or a partnership.

I dearly desire much more unity among Christians. Certainly we have doctrinal differences, but it seems that at least those of us who attempt to accept the Bible as the word of God, believe in Christ born of the Virgin Mary, crucified for our sins, and saving us through that sacrifice, could be unified in at least as much love as we are commanded to have for even our enemies! 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Tearing Us Apart, How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing

 Here is a review of the Book From National Review

As the review says, this book is an invaluable reference for anyone who is pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family, pro-equality and ACTUAL choice (as in, not being pressured by "baby dads", employers, etc), pro-doctor, pro-Constitution, pro-democracy, and pro-culture. 

The chapters of who is harmed by abortion are" 

  • The Unborn Child
  • Women and the Family
  • Equality and Choice
  • Medicine
  • Rule of Law
  • Politics and the Democratic Process
  • Media and Popular Culture
Effectively countering the drumbeat of "choice" and "Constitutional right" is a tall order,  but they do it well. 

It's a book that can be used as a reference to explain why abortion is a main root of the division in our nation. A nation that condones the death of its most vulnerable is not a nation "under God", and as Reagan so correctly said, "If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, we will be a nation gone under". 

We were founded as a nation endowed by our Creator with unalienable Rights, which means the rights come from the Creator(God) and not from Government. Unalienable rights are endowed, self-evident and not to be taken by Government, but secured by Government.

The document that secured those unalienable rights was the Constitution, and Roe declared that new "rights" could be created from"penumbras and emanations" conjured by the SCOTUS, whose oath was to defend the written Constitution. 

As Justice Kennedy stated in Casey: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." 

For a longer explanation of why we are where we are beyond "we forgot God", "The Rise and Triumph Of The Modern Self" does a good job. 

If you believe that life is sacred, buy it! 

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Matter With Things, Our Brains, Our Delusions, and the Unmaking of the World

Get it on Amazon, my wife graciously purchased the two volume hardcover for my Christmas present! This post refers to the first 778 page volume 1. 

I am often humbled by the multifaceted nature of our modern tragedy, especially the lack of understanding (or even the belief in) Human Nature. Our founding fathers were very aware of the fragile timber of man, and the horrible difficulty of governing a nation made up of such imperfect creatures. Go scan this list to scratch the surface of the kind of knowledge they based their decisions on. 

Looking for and quoting statistics would be counter to the message of this book. We all actually KNOW in our "hearts" (right brain) that the number and "quality" of the books that we read today is FAR lower than it was even in "1960". This is the age of distraction and blind allegiance to some dogma. 

A key objective of these writings is to help us understand ... 

Introduction, page 3

 "that the brain's left hemisphere is designed to help us ap-prehend  - and thus manipulate - the world; the right hemisphere is to com-prehend it - see it all for what it is." 

The word "designed" here is intentional. McGilchrist scrupulously denies God (in this book, not the second), however he recognizes what current physicists, and increasingly biologists, are not seeing any way out of "design/direction/purpose/etc". The models and numbers simply don't "add up" to us being here "looking" at what our split left biased post "enlightenment" brains perceive to be "reality". 

Our current world is highly left brain biased, which is highly dangerous. The left brain is literal, takes things apart, is concerned with "what works" rather than implications of that "working", and sees the world in absolutes ... black and white.  As I repeat too often, the left brain (science) is the tool used for building a nuclear weapon. It has precisely NOTHING to say about if it is "good" to do so, let alone if it is "good" to use it. For the left brain, "good" is a synonym for "works, computes, agrees with a hypothesis, fits a model, etc".  Woe to any who question the logic of the left brain. 

It is ironic that as I am writing this, ChatGPT is a very hot topic. An AI program/system that looks for patterns in big data and attempts to answer questions "like a human". To some extent it can write software, poems, music, etc. It already has some people wondering "what is thought"? Or even "what is creativity"? 

In a left-brained culture, this looks GREAT!

Certainly some right brained artists like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Paul Dukas (the Sorcerers Apprentice), or even James Cameron (Terminator) have issued a few warnings, but what do they know? The left brain KNOWS it is right because only a philistine or neanderthal fails to "believe the science"!  The left brain is amoral ... if you can do it, and you want to, go ahead! If you disagree, you are clearly not "intelligent" ... you are standing in the way of what works, and what is desired! 

As I've heard, if you think things like art, literature, religion, poetry, etc are somehow "important", perhaps you ought not use electricity, modern medicine, or any of other fruits of left brain technology. Aren't you being a hypocrite if you do? 

On page 40 McGilcrest states; "Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge." 

As Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Or as Socrates says; "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing".

Or Daoism "discard knowledge, forget distinctions, reach no-knowledge".

There are thousands of quotes like this ... many in the book. At one level, the book is looking at the "wetware" of the brain via the hemisphere model exposed by brain damage, scans, surgeries, etc and seeing what effect those physical damages or studies have on the subjects perception of "reality". 

McGilchrist keeps reminding us that we are an integral part of what we are perceiving. There is no "view from nowhere" in physics, philosophy, psychology, etc. Wherever we look, there we are. 

We live by "models/analogy/stories/myth/etc". "Moral Believing Animals" is a good (and much simpler) book to understand the limitations of our thinking, and hopefully encourage more compassion for our fellow man. Our left brains are not interested in compassion, so neither is our current left brained culture. It is interested in POWER! Individual freedom! Escape from old ideas! 

p627, "A myth was never intended to be an accurate account of an historical event; it was something that in one sense happened once, but that always happens all the time".  

To look at this scientifically, Brian Williams "Fabric of the Cosmos" gives a model of "is, was, and always will be" in physics terms. 

As a Christian thinker, Computer Scientist, wannabe philosopher -- understanding why both our religions and our cultures have come to such left brained dogmatic views which constantly deride "myth" as "fantasy" using language and math which are also abstractions. The abstraction is never reality. The map is not the territory.

On page 235, a little example is instructive. A researcher questions a Russian peasant: 

Q: All bears are white where there is always snow; in Novaya Zemlya there is always snow; what color are the bears there?

Peasant Ans: I have seen only black bears and I do not talk of what I have not seen. 

Q: But what do my words imply? 

Peasant Ans: If a person has not been there, he cannot say anything on the basis of words. If a man was 60 or so and had seen a white bear there and told me about it, he could be believed.

The peasant is correct. They understand the difference between analytic and synthetic propositions. Pure logic cannot tell us anything about facts, only experience can. 

page 712; "Even those who revolt against tradition are doing so as part of a now venerable, tradition -- that of the 17th. to 18th century Western Enlightenment. You cannot NOT belong to a tradition!  

As he says earlier on that page, " ... the Enlightenment had a prejudice against prejudice. Prejudices cannot be done away with; they are only replaced by other prejudices ...". 

"Prejudice" has a bad name today ... "world view", "assumptions", "generalizations" may all be better terms. We have preconceived notions of everything ... some of them are correct most of the time, some of them are false all of the time, and everywhere in between. Very close to none of them are correct all of the time, because they are models of whatever reality is as seen by our brains that we don't understand. 

Page 751; "In our culture, all mores have been abandoned; and what should remain implicit and in the realm of embodied skill is foregrounded as a "problem" to be consciously solved - with the result that we grossly simplify and omit what is beyond calculation. I remind you of Whitehead's insight: civilization advances by extending the important operations that we can perform without thinking about them." 

Can we know what a woman is without having to consciously solve a problem? 


Thursday, February 9, 2023

Beautiful Balloon EMP Warfare?


Just because you aren't paranoid doesn't mean that someone is not out to get you!

The beautiful Chinese Balloon was declared "harmless" by illustrious our illustrious leader. Since he is a buddy of the Chinese, I'm sure he, Hunter, and his whole circle of the Biden Crime Family would live in the lap of luxury in the PRC were something untoward would happen to us. 

After all, there could be a natural EMP disaster caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) ... it happened in the 1800's and if it happened today, it would be an unprecedented disaster

So even if you are confident that I'm a tinfoil hat loonie on the PRC danger, the natural version would be even more deadly. 

Now I know the Biden Crime Family and our entire Davos Elite oligarchy are entirely trustworthy, and would never allow such a thing as a PRC EMP attack to happen, and then cover it up as a natural event!  We know that Covid came from a bad little bat that went to market, and not some nasty lab funded to enhance the lethality and transmissibility of a virus. They simply would not lie to their loyal subjects!  

So, thankfully, we have nothing to be concerned about! We can focus on the important stuff like Transgender, racist Black Police killing a Black man, the horror of 7 years olds being prevented from expressing their "true selves", and of course the never ending evil of the deplorable fascist ultraMAGA people lurking among us! 

The good guys are in charge! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Tik Tok Warfare


I'm pretty sure anyone that reads this blog is aware that social media is a danger, especially for our youth, and especially for our democracy. 

What we may not get is just how dangerous ... and how specifically managed by China to take us down. 

“Beijing’s digital fentanyl” is how the Federal Communications Commission’s Brendan Carr describes the app. “The problems present themselves as soon as you sign up; it starts feeding you content directly from a Beijing-originated algorithm.” Mr. Carr is one of many Americans calling for a total ban on TikTok. One reason, he says, was a recent study showing that accounts set up for thirteen-year-old girls were offering self-harm and eating-disorder content in as little as three minutes."

I spend a tiny amount of time on our mass (Democrat propaganda) media.  I touch on it through "Google News" to be marginally aware of "Vox Populi". Topics consist of: 

  • A daily dose of  Trump Derangement Syndrome"  ... lawsuits, how terrible his business and campaign are going, somebody either accused him , or are going to accuse him of of something. All of this is a very serious threat to our nation, the world, the universe, etc 
  • Something about Biden is "better than expected" or "misunderstood". Whatever is being said that doesn't sound good is "misinformation", unfair attacks, or just misdirecting us away from "the important stuff"! Like TRUMP! 
  • More money, tanks, missiles, aircraft, etc for Ukraine! It's a big deal now, not so much when Russia took Crimea when Obama was in office. Putin is evil, but there is no danger he might escalate just because the west is pouring everything they can muster to his opponent in Ukraine. 
  • Hollywood, sports, British Royalty, etc "stars" activities, views, etc 
  • Racism, white privilege, attacks on "gays, trans, non-binary, whatevers" by horrible "far right, ultra MAGA, White Supremacist Fascists ... 

"The balloon" was a major topic for a couple days, but turned out to be "well. what about Trump!" ... supposedly there were balloons while he was in office, but nobody told him.

Five black police officers beating a black man to death has been big lately. Clear proof of systematic racism if you are slow on the uptake.  

Back to our subject ... 

"Over the last year at least seven Republican governors have taken steps to ban TikTok from government devices amid spyware concerns. In December, Congress voted for the same rule at a federal level. The Biden administration has been criticized for a drawn-out review of whether the Chinese-owned app should be restricted. Wisconsin representative Mike Gallagher (interviewed on p.26), chair of the House select committee on China, says that “allowing the app to continue to operate in the US would be like allowing the USSR to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post and major broadcast networks during the Cold War.”

It is mostly Republicans that seem concerned, so no doubt it is kind of like the balloon ... nothing to be concerned about, and Tik Tok was around under Trump, so ... never mind. 

The irony is that in China, TikTok provides users with a more optimistic outlook and encourages users to become moral citizens in the eyes of the CCP. Douyin, which is what TikTok is called in China, is a hit even with parents. Despite efforts of its parent company ByteDance to present Douyin and TikTok as the same product, they are actually two separate entities. In China, if you are under fourteen, your Douyin use is capped at forty minutes a day. It also feeds you different content, with education at the forefront. Art, science, architecture and pro-CCP content are also pushed. In a recent 60 Minutes report, Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, compares the Chinese version to “spinach” and its exported, Western version to “opium.”

"How ironic" that a nation would use available technologies to strengthen itself and weaken it's opponents. 

Do people watch 60 Minutes anymore? No idea, but it doesn't strike me as a far right fascist ultra MAGA outlet?  Since there are 138 million active Tik Tok users in US (2/3rds under 30), it seems that more people being aware of this might "trump" all of the points above.