RSS

Monthly Archives: February 2018

What do Jordan Peterson’s and Harvard’s Views of Truth Have to do with One Another?

What does this mean?

 

The key similarity is this:

Both are confident that their understanding of what is both significant and true will, in the long run, be justified. This, interestingly, is related to their persons – to the fact that they understand themselves as striving to be as true as one can be.[i]

The idea is this: In the long term, things will work out well, meaning increased benefits and flourishing for many, and therefore, they will be shown to be true.

What is happening here? In sum, truth’s connection with classical ideas of knowledge – that is justified true belief – has been severed. We now have a new kind of knowledge: conceivable useful trust.

Let’s take a closer look.

First, here is a short account of Harvard’s history with the word truth:

The story of the Harvard arms is writ deep in the past. Veritas, which is Latin for “truth,” was adopted as Harvard’s motto in 1643, but did not see the light of day for almost two centuries. Instead, in 1650, the Harvard Corporation chose In Christi Gloriam, a Latin phrase meaning “For the glory of Christ.”

Veritas eventually was discovered in old college records by Harvard President Josiah Quincy III, and re-emerged in 1836 when it appeared on a banner celebrating the College’s 200th anniversary. The word briefly lived on in the Harvard seal from 1843 to 1847, when it was booted off in favor of Christo et Ecclesiae, or “For Christ in the Church.”

In time, Veritas would become the one word most closely associated with Harvard. But it took an 1880 poem by writer and Professor of Medicine Oliver Wendell Holmes to revive it for good. The poem urged Harvard to “let thine earliest symbol be thy last.” If ubiquity is any measure, Holmes’ poetic wish came true. Veritas was Harvard’s oldest idea for a motto and, after centuries of neglect, is here to stay. (from here: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/05/seal-of-approval/)

All this is very interesting when taking into account recent actions that have occurred at Harvard, which you can listen to Albert Mohler discuss here under his heading “Ideological cleansing on campus: Harvard forces Christian ministry to choose between Christian convictions and continued ministry on campus”.

From the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard College Faith and Action will need to sever ties with parent group Christian Union in order to re-earn recognition from the College at the end of its year-long administrative probation, according to College spokesperson Rachael Dane….

[HCFA’s co-presidents] deny that [it] ever fell out of compliance with the College’s nondiscrimination standards.

The two wrote in a previous statement that they “reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.” Ely and Richmond attributed the Sept. 2017 dismissal of the student to an “irreconcilable theological disagreement.”

Asked to elaborate, Ely and Richmond specifically pointed to HCFA’s stance on extramarital sex. The co-presidents asserted the group believes those in leadership positions must remain celibate, adding HCFA applies this policy “regardless of sexual orientation.”

But the woman who was asked to step down wrote in an email to The Crimson Friday that she and her girlfriend had never engaged in “extramarital sex.” The woman spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

“We’ve been fairly open in our conversations within HCFA about our decision to not have sex until marriage since the beginning of our relationship,” the woman wrote in the email.

From here, one sees that Harvard University – and many of its student population for that matter – do not believe that the Bible’s identifying homosexual activity as sinful is right or true — at least for today or tomorrow. The Right Side of History, you know.[ii]

In order to examine Jordan Peterson’s view of truth, I am going to quote from an email I recently received from a very knowledgeable colleague in my field, library science:

Recently, I discovered the thinking of Jordan Peterson, an academic from Canada, and I haven’t yet reached a final opinion, although he is interesting and all over the web. He did a podcast with Sam Harris, a scientist and it set me thinking.

Peterson is a Christian but of no particular denomination that I am aware of, while Harris is an atheist. Their discussion was interesting because they got stuck on the notion of truth…. From my understanding of their point of disagreement, Peterson believes in the primacy of the moral consequences of any thing or event. Therefore, while something may be objectively (or scientifically) true, if accepting that truth leads to evil consequences, then what we perceive as true cannot be ultimately true.

Therefore, if scientific truth is at odds with moral truth, then the moral truth should prevail. The example was the nuclear bomb. Here is a quote from Peterson: “…I would say that the proposition that the universe is best conceptualized as sub-atomic particles was true enough to generate a hydrogen bomb, but it wasn’t true enough to stop everyone from dying.  And, therefore, from a Darwinian perspective, it was an insufficient pragmatic proposition and was therefore in some fundamental sense, wrong.  And, perhaps it was wrong because of what it left out.  You know, maybe it is wrong, in the Darwinian sense, to reduce the complexity of being to a material substrate and forget about the surrounding context.”

This makes sense for Peterson, who is a Christian and believes in an all-powerful God who is good and loves us.

To Harris, who is a scientist and atheist, such a way of thinking was incomprehensible. A truth/fact is a fact no matter where it leads you, but for Peterson, if it leads to bad moral consequences, that same truth/fact cannot be true.

….This is the link to the podcast, if you are interested but there are lots of discussions about this podcast on the web. https://samharris.org/podcasts/what-is-true/

For now, let us leave aside the question of whether or not Peterson claims to be a Christian.[iii] As for his interesting view of truth, in some ways it does mirror the Christian message, because a part of that message is that God is faithful and true – He will “set the world to rights” in the end.

“It works! It works!” — Jordan Peterson, speaking of the Logos.

That said, all of this is missing something very important, and something that even many secular persons (like Sam Harris and the man who sent this to me) want to hold on to.

Namely this: We can and should say that some things are true (and not just conceivable, useful, and worthy of trusting in). We can make statements that are true, period. Even statements that stand trans-historically and trans-culturally.

That is what things like the Nicene Creed are all about.

The world’s a chaotic sea and the faith is our Ultimate Rock.

Now, I can sense the objections coming: all of this might make some — particularly those in the academic world — think that Christians cannot speak intelligently about change.

On the contrary, I would humbly suggest that Christians are the ones who can most sensibly about the reality of change. If you don’t believe me, listen to this excellent presentation on “The Provisional Nature of Truth” from Pastor James Wetzstein from Valparaiso University, speaking this past week at the first annual Oswald Hoffman lecture at Concordia University in St. Paul:

 

After listening to the talk, I again thought about how there are a lot of things you and I can say that are certain and true (some more readily believed by everyone than others, even trans-culturally and trans-historically) — even if the fullness or completeness of that statement and what it entails, means, etc. is not known.

I checked with Pastor Wetzstein and he indicated to me that he thought that was a good point.

I hope you find that I’ve made another good point in this post. Let me know if you disagree.

FIN

 

Notes:

[i] This is related to my argument here: https://reliablesourcessite.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/sola-commoditas-truth-is-fitness-alone/

[ii] Nevermind.

[iii] He has certainly been willing to let statements implying that he is stand unchallenged. Note the discussion starting around 48:28 in the following YouTube video (Jan. 31, 2018):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRPDGEgaATU. On the other hand, not long before that conversation, in Canada’s National Post, the following exchange took place: “Are you a Christian? Do you believe in God?” Peterson responds: “I think the proper response to that is No, but I’m afraid He might exist.” http://nationalpost.com/feature/christie-blatchford-sits-down-with-warrior-for-common-sense-jordan-peterson

Images:

n-gram: http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/04/17/the_phrase_the_wrong_side_of_history_around_for_more_than_a_century_is_getting.html

 

 

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: ,

Autobiography of a Failed Prophet, a Poem by Keith Horrigan

Poem by Keith Horrigan

When days were bright
and not so grey,
I put my
childish toys away,
and I wandered
from this Eden
unrepentant.

But I was young
and still naive,
when I felt the child
within me leave,
when the venom
of this serpent
struck my heal.

So with my inheritance
in hand,
I made my way
to a foreign land,
and I lived my life
in foolishness
and folly.

When I found myself
broke and alone,
in servitude
for seeds I’ve sown,
I was vanquished
and contrite
at my returning.

To the slaughter
of the fatted calf,
the joyful sound
of my fathers laugh,
and the envy
of the eldest
of the manor.

And I begged my father
to forgive,
said I once was dead
but now I live,
but the eldest
of his seed
would never enter.

So I labored through
my given chores,
strewn out across
these threshing floors,
and the services
I rendered
filled my plater.

And if I built my house
upon this rock,
and I gave it
everything I got,
I am certain
this foundation
would support me.

But I’m faithful as
the foolish man,
who built his house
upon the sand,
and the waters rose
and mighty
was its ruin.

Because truth be told
to my dismay,
in all the bounty
of these days
I found
no satisfaction
in these labors.

So when a brood of vipers
came and knelt,
before a vest of hair
and leather belt,
for the shaking
of this reed
out in the wind.

In fulfillment of
his sacred vow,
he suffered it
to be so now,
and submerged me
in the mighty
river Jordan.

And when from this seed
the chaff was sifted,
up from the water
I was lifted,
and I felt
the whole creation
moving through me.

And a dove appeared
above my head,
when I was salvaged
from the dead,
and the power
of the spirit
breathed within me.

And he promised me
the tree of life,
but left me here
within this strife,
and expected me
to conquer
all these failings.

So for forty nights
and forty days,
I was tempted by
the devils ways,
and the testing
of my faith
produced endurance.

But when tempting me
with silk and lace,
the first time
that I saw her face,
all the value
of this treasure
overwhelmed me.

And the devil wagered
I’d give in,
when he placed
these boils on my skin,
and much greater
than the first
was my undoing.

So to the queen
of Babylon I prayed,
and down her streets
I paved my ways,
to the central
city square
where I found her.

And when I looked into
her deep dark eyes,
I could hear the sound
of angels cry,
and the presence
of the spirit
taken from me.

In a scarlet red
and purple dress,
with precious pearls
upon her breasts,
laid out
in all the filth
of her adulteries.

Her voice like music
to my ears,
came with pain
but soothed my fears,
and the loneliness
and heartache
all receded.

And the cup she held
within her hand,
poured abominations
on the land,
and the kings
of all the earth
bowed down before her.

And more valuable
than desert pearls,
was the softness
of her loose knit curls,
perfected
in the brightness
of the sun light.

And the texture
of her ruby lips,
and the rhythm
of her raven hips,
were in sync
with every movement
of my heartstrings.

And within my heart
I did desire,
to be captured there
within her fire,
and reduced
within my pride
to pain and torment.

So I pulled the fruit off
from her vine,
and intoxicated
I resigned,
to dine on things
unholy
and forbidden.

But her demons
masquerade as light,
reminding all
within her sight,
that the earthly
has no way of
breaking through her.

And I could hide in caves
and among the rocks,
and in fortresses
of hardened block,
and beg
the whole creation
down upon me.

But neither king nor prince
nor slave nor free,
could escape these
demons plaguing me,
and no power
born of woman
could resist her.

And with this leprosy
upon my soul,
I searched for ways
to make me whole,
but the emptiness
within me
never proved it.

And I’ve tried to
recompense this hour,
where moth does eat
and worms devour,
but I cower
and I fade
into her darkness.

And I wondered if
she’s doing well,
if she learned to love
this living hell,
and the fire
and the brimstone
that consumes her.

And seven demons
took control,
and made their way
into my soul,
and the people
of the village
called me legion.

In my Fathers house
are many rooms,
but I’m waiting chained
among her tombs,
for the casting
of these demons
into swine.

And the martyr
that I stood beneath,
with weeping eyes
and gnashing teeth,
confessed to me
he never
really knew me.

Now I walk these
streets alone at night,
and search for ways
to make this right,
but the darkness
and the twilight
all mislead me.

And I wonder if
I’m past reprieve,
if these unclean spirits
ever leave,
if the master
of the house
is even listening.

And I’d like to say
it’s all worked out,
that the price he paid
has soothed this doubt,
but the passion
of this sorrow’s
always wanting.

And now I long to touch
my saviors hand,
as I’m thirsting through
this arid land,
but the ways
of my return
defy expression.

So from Nineveh
I turn my back,
to walk away
with staff and sack,
to a place
where even angels
fear to tread.

I wander back
to her front door,
fall on my face
and beg for more,
and surrender
to the fires
that surround her.

For Delilah
with her beauty rare,
did Samson lose
his locks of hair,
to spend
his blindness grinding
at the millstone.

And for Rehab
and her scarlet cord,
they could not resist
this holy hoard,
and all within
her city
had to perish.

And when Bathsheba
captured David’s eye
Uriah the Hittite
had to die
upon the field
of love
and lust for honor.

And for Salome
the king allowed,
an unchaste dance
and solemn vow,
to leave
this headless prophet
on her platter.

And for warmth of flesh
and earthly love,
I cursed the name
of God above,
and trampled
neath my feet
his holy logos.

And for the worship
of this foreign queen,
and for want of all
these things obscene,
I did drink the wine
of God
in all his fury.

And angels came
from far and wide,
forming lines
on heavens side,
and prepared to fight
these dragons
roaming freely.

And torrents rise
from the great abyss,
to block the sun
with hardened fist,
to place this
blasphemous name
upon my forehead.

And mountains burn
up to their peaks,
and death eludes me
where I seek,
and I thirst
for all these waters
turning bitter.

And hail and fire
mixed with blood,
fills my heart
with rising floods,
and a third
of all things holy
has been plundered.

So I bow before
the throne and lamb,
wearing black
with branch in hand,
to plead
for just one part
of that remaining.

But the roar of thunders
rumbling clash,
with quaking earth
and lightning flash,
is cast
upon my flesh
with all its yearnings.

And the sun turns black
within my hand,
as starlight falls
at her command,
and the blood red moon
shines dim
on my horizon.

And angels play
prophetic harps,
and demons with
their sickles sharp,
descend this
holy harvest
left untended.

And satan laughs
at my defeat,
as fate declares
the day complete,
as I stand within
this final
tribulation.

And upon the earth
all trumpets blow,
as seven angels
empty bowls,
and the walls
of Babylon
fall down before me.

And so I begged the queen
for my release,
before a thousand years
of love and peace,
from the weight
of all the pressure
of these hardships.

But with sharpened teeth
this queen did reap,
my unclean soul
as fuel to keep,
to burn within
the caldron
of her rubble.

And when upon the clouds
the lamb arrived,
beneath his feet
these demons writhed,
as he pulled me
from this grave
to stand convicted.

And Hades followed
close behind,
the paled out
horseman in my mind,
and with ten thousand
times ten thousand
demons crying.

I confessed to him
I still believed,
as he wiped away
this mark I grieve,
as I placed
within his side
my curious finger.

And much to my
hard sought relief,
his chains of mercy
bound this thief,
and restrained him
to the confines
of this chasm.

And with his blood
to wash me fresh,
he set me back
within this flesh,
to walk
within the gift
of his forgiveness.

In arche
is the logos form,
and out of this
all things are born,
to struggle
in the strife
of this world system.

This is the life
and light of all,
within all things
both great and small,
and the power
of this word
is grace and truth.

And in this life
this light within,
enlightens all
who enter in,
but its own
within this world
refuse to see it.

And the darkness
comprehends it not,
but those partaking
of this thought,
will inherit
like a child
this noble treasure.

To wisely spend
so as to earn,
a hundred fold
on its return,
this gift of grace
we gain
so undeserving.

So in gratitude
I make my start,
and praise his name
within my heart,
for the truth
that fills my soul
and mind renewing.

And to be twice born
within his death,
to love once more
with spirit breath,
and to enter
through the gates
of new Jerusalem.

FIN

+++

Keith’s story

(“….I wrote it quickly to you that you might better understand the poem and its meaning.”):

My story is this, when I was young I was wild, I drank and did drugs, dropped out of school, and got in trouble with the law. As I came into my twenties things escalated. I no longer did drugs but drank every day until drinking became not only the norm for me but a necessity. I had a few run ins with the law, DWI, drunk and disorderly, assault, and several treatment centers, but none of these things convinced me to stop. Until I had a beautiful baby girl. But when I looked in the crib I didn’t feel the love. I was shocked at how unfeeling I had become. I thought I was broken. I checked my self into treatment one more time. But I was sure I was beyond reprieve.

While I was in treatment someone asked me if I believed in God and suggested I pray. I told them I did not believe in God and wasn’t about to pray to something that did not exist. They suggested that I might want to give it a try sense nothing else seemed to take away my obsession with alcohol. They said “just act as if you believe” and pray every night before bed for two weeks, and if you don’t get any results than no harm no foul. That night I decided to try to do just that. But when I got on my knees I didn’t feel worthy enough to be that high up off the ground, so I laid my face on the floor and I cried, I said the Lord’s Prayer and I asked God to make me a new man, and if he was real to please give me a sign. I repeated this several times with tears flowing out onto the floor.

When I got up off the floor, I thought, “well I did what they said, what now?” When I laid back down on my bed I noticed a strange light and a feeling of total peace, the light was like white smoke and I thought the place must be on fire, so I got up and looked out my door, and it was there in the hallway too, I looked out my window and it was there too. But I noticed that the patterns in this white smoke didn’t change as they passed through the walls, or moved at all when I fanned them with my hands. I didn’t smell anything burning, and I had a peaceful feeling, and a feeling of wonder. So I laid back down and tried to think about it reasonably. I decided I was either experiencing withdrawal or maybe, this was God showing me a sign. I hadn’t had a drink for well over a week so withdrawal seemed to be a bit questionable, and when I pondered God, I felt my joy increase, and I thought maybe this was the Holy Spirit, and that is what I decided to believe.

This is the best way I can explain what happened because what happened that night is really beyond words. But I saw this light and felt this joy, to a lesser degree, everywhere I went for the next few days until the world came in and took it away, but the feelings did not subside so quickly. They went on for weeks, months, and years.

After treatment I returned to my childhood home and to my mother and father and asked them if I could stay with them until I got back on my feet. And without giving them a chance to respond I told them that something about me had changed, I told them I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t expect them to believe me, but if they gave me the chance I would try to prove it to them, not through words but through actions, and I told them that although I was sorry for hurting them with all my selfishness, I was not going to ask their forgiveness, because I have said I’m sorry too many times before, and failed to prove it out in action. And I told them that if I fail to prove my self in any way, that I will understand if they asked me to leave, without hard feelings and without question.

By the time I had finished I was in tears, my mother was crying and even my father was tearing up, and they said ok, and we hugged. And they told me they didn’t trust that I wouldn’t drink again and that it might take a long time to gain that trust back. And if they thought I was drinking again I would have to leave. And they welcomed me back.

After this I want to see my baby girl, and I cried tears of joy when I held her, because I had never felt more love for another person than I did for that child. And I decided then that I would do whatever I had to do to prove my love to her everyday of her life. And that I would be her protector and provider and the best father I could be.

Her mother was a drug addict and me and her would never be a couple, so I knew I had to seek custody and try to raise her as best I could on my own, while letting her have full access to her mother, never saying a bad word about her mother, and trying to help my baby girl through all the struggles she was bound to face with her mother’s addiction, with forgiveness, with understanding, with faith and with love.

I found a job pretty quick and bought myself a mobile home in a nice park in the suburbs, and I started saving for a house.

I got my daughter every Wednesday and every weekend without fail until I got custody of her when she was five. Two years later I got married and we had another little girl and a little boy and we bought a house with the help of my parents.

We sent them all to private schools, my oldest daughter to Catholic school because that was my upbringing until she went to high school, when she went to a WELS Lutheran school, my two youngest children went to a WELS Lutheran school because that was my wife’s upbringing, for several years, until we decided to look into the Missouri Synod, and we felt at home immediately, and we both joined and sent the youngest to Central Lutheran K-8 here in St. Paul.

My father passed away in 1997 and I helped my mother to live a comfortable life up until two years ago when we were told she had terminal cancer. She never returned home and passed 6 months latter. She asked me to stop by the home she was in before I went to work, after work, and before I went to bed at night. Not so much to see her, but to let her care takers know that someone was always checking on her, because she felt vulnerable and afraid. And this I did religiously, until she passed. And although it was the most difficult thing I had ever done, I was blessed to get to know my mother on a whole other deeper and more meaningful level then I’ve ever known anyone in my entire life.

When she passed I was lost, I went from every moment being driven to take care of my mother’s needs for six months to having an empty spot in every day. I no longer had any direction, my oldest girl was married and moved out of state, my youngest daughter was finishing up high school and going off to collage, and my youngest was going into high school, being a teenage boy, and not needing my attention as much. The place I worked at decided to outsource my position, my wife was working two jobs, and we were near foreclosure.

And after twenty years of God given sobriety, and service to others, I hurt myself at work, they gave me Vicodin for the pain and not long after that, I drank again. And everything spiraled pretty quickly out of control. Ending in a DWI, a police chase, guns drawn outside the front of my house with all my neighbors, and my wife standing in front of our house, watching the whole thing play out. A night in jail and a very understanding judge.

So these are just a few of the highlights that might shed some light on the meaning of this poem. A wild life, the prodigal son, my conversion, the gift of endurance, and my failure in the face of this one temptation, and the whore of Babylon representing my return to alcohol, and the tribulations that followed, and the free gift of Gods grace, always welcoming, always forgiving, always calling, even in my doubts and questionings, and in my straying, and even when all else is lost, the Lamb is never absent, always present, and all I need to ever do, is look for him, and without fail, he is there, he lives, and the gates of Jerusalem are always open, and no temple is erected, because the Lamb and God are the temple. And he shall be our God, and we shall be his children, forevermore…

FIN

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: ,

The Christian Conscience, Pounded into Submission by Sentimentalism?

For Luther, “man can and does fight against his conscience and eventually, may even be able to subdue it so that it goes into a type of dormancy.” — Paul Strawn, in a paper here.

+++

Anyone who has truly known the tender heart of Christ has a heart that is tender. They know that:

  • Both men and women were created in the image of God
  • Slavery, though a perpetual human reality, was never intended by God
  • Children, always vulnerable, are beautiful pictures of what our trust in the Lord should look like
  • God loves His whole creation – all creatures – and the crown of His creation, man, above all.
  • This goes for all races and all classes of human beings. There is no favoritism with God.

I thought about these things as I read Sarah Hinlicky Wilson’s column, “Where Have All the Women Gone?” — particularly when I came across this quotation from one of the women she interviewed for that column:

“For me, the question is what is most important, rights or faith. The paganism that we are sinking into is brutal to women, which they don’t realize yet, but when polygamy starts they will find out.”[i]

I should note that this line, while it stood out to me, doesn’t really do justice to what Wilson’s article is about. Overall, it wants to bring to our attention the fact that “social and personal perceptions” play a role “in the theological convictions we hold” ; that forms of feminism and Christian orthodoxy can go together and have gone together ; and that, for reasons the article explores, it is hard to find “doctrinally orthodox and confessionally Lutheran” women among Lutheran theologians.

All this said though, the essay does – even if inadvertently? – draw one’s attention to the hard edges of life, particularly in that quote above (perhaps a deep interest in what Jordan Peterson has to say might not be far behind?)

And here are the questions that the column causes this particular “male defender[] of orthodoxy” to ask:

  • Have we in the Western world given into the kind of sentimentalism that only the presence of Christianity could have rendered possible?
  • Might this explain why so many are so ready to accept, for example, things like gay marriage and the transgender revolution?

 

Do we have any idea of what true love is? In the midst of His unquestionable gentleness and tenderness, have we forgotten the importance of the kind of no-nonsense love our Savior shows? And have we allowed sentimentality – mixed with a harder-edged quest for equality (!) in this or that sphere – to run the show, thereby allowing our consciences to be hardened?

Hinlicky Wilson says:

“It seems to me now that, when women distrust orthodox Christianity, it’s because something has happened in their lives to render it untrustworthy. The women I’ve known who are most alienated from Christian orthodoxy are the ones whose humanity has been most called into question. The church was somehow either responsible (and there’s no dodging it: sometimes the church really is responsible) or unwittingly identified with the perpetrators. The trust had been so fatally damaged that anything offered as the teaching of the church was automatically suspect, even if irrelevant to women’s questions otherwise.”

Earlier in the same essay, she writes this:

“At first my fellow female students’ generally positive disposition toward feminist theology and negative attitude toward classical orthodoxy perplexed me. But I gradually came to realize that (theological) feminism held no attraction for me because nothing had ever been taken away from me—and that itself was because I was already enjoying so many of (social and political) feminism’s fruits.”

I think I get that. I think I can begin to understand and even appreciate that (Christianity, does, after all, elevate women unlike other world religions and philosophies, and so it is perhaps easy to see why some Christians believe that some forms of feminism are compatible with, or even go hand-in-hand with Christian orthodoxy[ii]).

In short, I hope that it is clear that I want to take what Hinlicky Wilson writes here very seriously. There is no doubt in my mind that she is making an exceedingly important point. At the same time, I confess that I don’t want to elevate her too much as a voice to listen to. She is after all, a vigorous and articulate advocate of ordaining women into the pastoral office.

Lutheran Forum editor Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, pictured with Beesson Divinity school president Timothy George.

 

I’ve heard those arguments, and I think in every case they are either wrong or misleading. I also confess that I don’t think that this is an issue that, ideally, is approached as an “open question” (even as there are those who are certainly eager to spend time on, and vigorously engaging, the issue).

Of course this stance is going to make a lot of women angry (though not the four strong women who scolded me twenty years ago for considering women’s ordination). No doubt about this.

There is much that I agree with Hinlicky Wilson about, for example when she says there is a “vice of valuing the fact of making assertions over the content of the assertions.” And yet, ultimately, I believe in submitting to the Lord’s Apostle when he tells us that:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (italics mine).

I have to ask the following in light of her article: Is that “dramatically inhospitable to women” or not? Are we seeing here in Paul simple fear, worrying that “all faith will be lost ‘if x creeps onto the scene’”? Are statements like these simply “cultural controls” only dressed up as “fidelity?” Is Paul perfectly exemplifying “the culture of orthodoxy [more] than orthodoxy itself”?

“And if my conscience tried to reproach me, saying, ‘You take a good deal of liberty with your interpretation, Sir Martin, but—but—’ etc., I would press until I became red in the face, and say, ‘Keep quiet, you traitor with your “but,” I don’t want the people to notice that I have such a bad conscience!’” More (see this also).

 

And am I failing, even here and now, to realize the “impact of [my] style[] and actions?”

Where can a person go from here? Well, here is where Hinlicky Wilson, evidently in a sincere effort to “restart this conversation with more charity and patience,” goes:

I wasn’t there for the first wave of women entering theology and ministry, so I can’t speak from firsthand experience. But I gather that the resistance many men showed to the female infiltration of church leadership and theology had a hardening and radicalizing effect on the women. Many churchmen, incapable of hearing the critiques from or repenting of real sins against the female half of the body of Christ—probably shocked by the suddenness of it, and thinking that they had been doing right by their women all along—turned off their ears and in the process created the kind of women they feared most. Man’s orthodoxy begets woman’s heresy. And then the men who weren’t hostile to women heard the accusations made against their sex, resented being lumped together with the bad guys, and began to lose their sympathy for feminist concerns, which only reinforced the women’s suspicion.

What a catastrophe! Radical feminists don’t arise in a vacuum. They are made, not born, by a hostile male culture.

So what if, in response to this, I lay out the full range of emotions I have experienced regarding this issue, talking about how I’ve felt “torn” about this when I hear women’s stories? Even as I simply don’t “feel comfortable” dismissing Paul’s words in case they really are more than just his contextually-influenced preferences?

Right – it is not only men who think that kind of sentimentality and wishy-washiness is pathetic. Nobody, women included, really want men to be like that! Heck, no one wants women to be like that!

[Adam] would have, in the face of the serpent’s temptation, have crushed the serpent saying “Shut up! The Lord’s command was different.” — Luther

.

No doubt about it: men can not only be hard and blunt – “the reasons that Paul gives appear to have nothing to do with culture and everything to do with the order of creation and that fact that Eve, and not Adam, fell and fall for the serpent’s lie”[iii] — they can also, no doubt, go bad in a myriad of ways. The answer, however, is not to villainize them and harp on “toxic masculinity” – either in direct or more subtle ways. The answer is to rightly channel that masculinity; to put it at the feet of Jesus.

It is only as we are handled by the Truth that we can handle the truth…

The truth about what is… and what the Lord expects of us regarding one another.

FIN

 

Images:

Hinlicky Wilson pic: https://www.beesondivinity.com/deans-blog/beeson-divinity-school-hosts-annual-reformation-heritage-lectures-with-dr-sarah-hinlicky-wilson

Notes:

[i] Hinlicky Wilson responds this way: “a serious alternative to a brutal future is going to require an honest reckoning with the brutality of the past that the church allowed and sometimes even encouraged.” Given that both polygamy and slavery have been the norm throughout human history I am not entirely sure how to take this. The Apostle Paul clearly allowed the slavery of his day. Was he wrong to do so?

[ii] Here is a bit of Hinlicky Wilson’s own take on the situation from the same article:

“Most male theologians in the American Lutheran world today are to some extent positively influenced by feminism, of the social, political, and even theological type (there are really not many anymore who would argue that men have to be the mediators between women and God). But quite a lot of these men would deny the influence or refuse to acknowledge that feminism itself helped them along to their current views regarding women. It is taken by them to be simply obvious that women are equal in their humanity with men, intellectually capable, not solely responsible for sexual sin, not required to be only stay-at-home wives and mothers—and that all of these things can be found in the Bible and classical Christian teaching without any recourse to such a tainted discipline as “feminism.” But the fact is that no end of male church leaders and Bible readers through church history have come to quite different conclusions. It isn’t honest to dissociate feminism from changed-for-the-better attitudes toward women, or to define feminism always by its negative features or excesses, an all too common strategy. The most frequent version I hear of this is “feminism is trying to turn women into men.” The ignorance of the history of feminist thought is the only truth on display here.” (italics mine)

[iii] Early in his Genesis commentary, Luther also states that man, with a nature that “somewhat excelled the female” would have, in the face of the serpent’s temptation, have crushed the serpent saying “Shut up! The Lord’s command was different.” He goes on: “Satan… directs his attack on Eve as the weaker part…” (151). Here, there is certain a focus on an aggressively active will in Adam, motivated entirely on the basis of God’s word.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

“What is Legalism?” by John Preus

Wrong Werner. False structure: “Law denotes our entire reality as the realm ordered by God, but therefore also as a realm of coercion” (CE, 81). (312, The Necessary Distinction).

+++

Reprinted with permission from John Preus. Original post on Confessional Lutheran Fellowship.

Legalism is not telling people what they should do. Jesus tells us what we should do all the time. Legalism is demanding a law if one is going to do anything he doesn’t want to. Legalists are under the law. They are not free. Everything they do is either what comes naturally or what they are forced to do against their will.

That is why legalists are so often, if not always, enthusiasts. They equate their natural desires with desires that God implanted quite apart from any external command.

That is also why legalists are so often, though not always, bullies. They can only function with absolutes, because they are not free to confess as children — whether in concert or solo — but only dare permit and promote what they think everyone must permit and promote. They think they are defending freedom when they resist what has no command to give it force — even though it might be profitable and edifying. But really, they are just showing that they will only be persuaded by anything if it has a coercive law to drive it. Everything beyond the law must be 100% neutral and neither here nor there. They despise wisdom.

Those who are under grace are free. They acknowledge the law. But their behavior is not governed by contrary impositions of the law, but rather by agreement with God of what is good. It’s not about permission. It’s about having the mind of Christ and seeking to follow his example, not just in deed, but in outlook and expression, in demeanor and understanding. Christian tradition and culture has never purported to arise from divine command, but from obedience to the gospel and from the discipline and exercise of Christian faith that aims to pursue and confess the good and beautiful, etc.

Legalists say either “you must” or “I don’t have to.”

Children simply ask why. They don’t sneer. They inquire of their wiser big sister or of their kind dad whom they trust. They do so with content and curious heart. Where they are not bound, as they must often be, they flourish in creating what they know is pleasing, because they seek, not a longer leash, but broader understanding into the affairs of both home and world at large.

Hands are often tied by circumstance when it comes to such issues as cremation –or, for that matter, lack of ceremony when hearing God’s word, or amount of formal education a minister receives before he is ordained (examples abound!). These are not legal issues. There is no command. That’s precisely why there is so much at stake when the notion of adiaphora becomes a foil for wise and edifying counsel and tradition. Pastors labor to teach Christ’s sheep –both grieving and jubilant– how best to express what they hope for and expect from God, how best to praise, how best to mourn.

Christian burial has been a practice since the beginning that arose from both God’s example and his children’s understanding of what it taught and confessed. So have many such things that our fathers and mothers handed down. To suggest that cremation might also confess the same, or that it arose as a practice by means of similar appreciation of the promise of the resurrection is preposterous. It is as preposterous as saying that drive-thru seminary training arose from the same zeal for the truth as a three-year curriculum (think Jesus and his disciples) or that entertainment worship arose from the same joy of the forgiveness of sins as the Lutheran Common Service and our Lutheran chorales (think Revivalism vs. Reformation). This is legalism masquerading as the defender of freedom. Just because there is no command against something, does not mean the reasons for doing it are just as fine as the reasons for avoiding it. Just because you are not damned for a, b, or c, does not mean that there is not a better way (1 Corinthians 12:31).

This is Pharisaical, which eschews love in the name of the law. This is how the Pharisees regarded the 4th Commandment (Mark 7). But God rejected their Korban! Should it shock us if the same spirit of legalism causes folks to cast off and even despise those things that father and mother passed down to us — that it may go well with us and that we live long on the earth — even as we confess that from it we were taken and from it we will be raised?

FIN

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

The Bondage of Confessional Lutheran Scholarship

Are the Lutheran Confessions “the bottom of a theological well from which… theologians thereafter would draw?”

Read the rest of this entry »

 
18 Comments

Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Uncategorized