{} Parablemania


Don't worry. We don't normally dress like that. It's just a fun picture from an 80s party and my only recent one. Besides, even with all that makeup, Sam looks hot.

The kids' pictures are from over 6 months ago. I need new pictures, but the cable connecting the digital camera to the computer died, and I haven't figured out how to replace it.

Books I'm reading:
Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Keirsey
The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America by John McWhorter Worship by the Book, ed.D.A. Carson
Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time by Theodore Sider
Thinking About Race by Naomi Zack
Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf.
The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text by F.F. Bruce

Books I've read recently: The Hobbit: or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
Aspergers in Love: Couple Relationships and Family Affairs by Maxine Aston
The Truth by Terry Pratchett
The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
Love in Hard Places by D.A. Carson
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Numbers ((New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Timothy Ashley
Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary by Gordon J. Wenham
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
Leviticus (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Gordon J. Wenham

CDs on my current favorite list:
Neal Morse, Testimony
Kansas, Somewhere to Elsewhere Yes, Close to the Edge
Iona, Heaven's Bright Sun
Transatlantic, SMPTe< /a>
Kerry Livgren,
Collector's Sedition eagerly anticipating early 2004: Proto-KAW, Before Became After

Games I've been playing:
Settlers of Catan and expansions
Lord of the Rings boardgame
Lord of the Rings Trivia
Carcassonne and expansions
RISK: The Lord of the Rings
The Middle-Earth: Collectible Card Game may return to my list of active games soon, now that I have someone who might be able to play with me soon.

ISTJ - "Trustee". Decisiveness in practical affairs. Guardian of time- honored institutions. Dependable. 11.6% of total population.
Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."
You are Augustine!
You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them. Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are you?
A creation of Henderson

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

What part of the Body are you?
Congratulations! You are the heel. You often feel trampled on but reassure yourself that the church wouldn't be getting anywhere without you.

You are Cooter. You are good with your hands and
don't say much. When you do it's usually an
attempt at humor. If you had a clean shirt,
you'd probably use it for a rag.

What Dukes of Hazzard Character are you?
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What Famous Leader Are You?

Musings: philosophy, theology, politics, Christian apologetics

Monday, December 29, 2003

MBTI and Philosophers

I got David Keirsey's Please Understand Me II for Christmas, so I've been thinking a lot about personality type. Most philosophers I know tend to be ENTP or INTP, with some INTJ or ENTJ. Almost all of the philosophers whose type I know or can guess easily fall into those four types. I, on the other hand, am ISTJ, so I'm been wondering how personality type affects the interests and work of philosophers. For instance, I'm pretty sure William Alston is also ISTJ, and his work is pretty distinctive. Rather than coming up with a whole philosophical perspective, he tends to survey and evaluate the work already out there, developing things in smaller ways than the systematic work of a David Lewis. I tend to be better at drawing distinctions and working out the possible views than I am at developing a position of my own. I'm certainly much better at criticizing arguments than I am at offering any new ones.

Philosophers reading this who know (or are pretty sure of) the personality type of influential philosophers or philosophers I know, then I'd be interested in knowing what it is. If you have any insights into how this affects philosophers' interests of work, I'd also appreciate your thoughts.

For more info. on Myers-Briggs types, see David Keirsey's site, Personality Pathways, or this nice summary.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Sex and presumption against breaking a relationship

This is my rejoinder to Will's reply to my earlier response to him. He says my argument is only slightly fallacious. I'm not sure what that means. I'll have to think about that. If I'm guilty of the fallacy he says I'm guilty of, then it's just plain fallacious, unless he meant something else.

Will considers my argument a false binary, meaning that I present two options, while he thinks he has an in-between option. "Either you believe in permanent commitments that should break only come hell or high water, or you believe in no commitments at all." Now I don't think these are the only two options, and I wasn't assuming Will to be saying this either, so let me try again to make my argument clear.

Will quite clearly endorsed the view that sex creates attachments between unmarried people. He thought it was funny that Morse, whom he was criticizing, made a point of discussing the hormones that create this emotional bond but yet didn't acknowledge that this was also true for unmarried people. I thought it was funny that he would acknowledge that bond and then think it's ok to go breaking it as lightly as people do. I described it in terms of a presumption against that sort of thing, so let me explain what I meant.

I think there's a strong presumption of continuing in any relationship, and there's something sad when it gets broken. Sexual relationships are particularly devastating to break, because they involve the deepest kind of connection people can have. When the prophet Malachi rails against the religious leaders of his day for allowing no-fault divorce, saying that God hates divorce, he's getting at exactly this. People would marry someone for economic reasons and then later find someone more attractive and younger, and they would break their relationship off, after having children and building relational connections, deepened of course due to the sexual activity. Now that's a far more serious violence than the young couple with no children who have a sexual relationship for a year and then move on to other poeple, but I think it's a kind of violence nonetheless. Therefore, I think there's a strong presumption against doing so.

Now I never said that someone who initiates this kind of violence never had any commitment. It took some degree of violence to break whatever commitment and intimacy had been there. If the commitment had been stronger, then that violence would have been avoided, and the relationship would have been healed rather than broken. There may be times when this is necessary, but I think we should not think of it as the kind of easy option we all seem to think it is nowadays. When there was a much stronger opprobrium against this kind of behavior, people learned how to love each other. Nowadays, people don't seem to move beyond the infatuation stage into love, or divorce would be far less common. I just don't see how infatuation is enough of a commitment to justify the deepest emotional connection between two people. That seems to me to require genuine love, something that involves seeking the best interests of the other person, and I just don't see how you can do that if you engage in the deepest emotional connection between two people and then break it on a whim, as many people do all the time.

"Old high school friends pass on to different schools and different lives. Siblings grow estranged, spouses die, and lovers are carried on to different worlds. Growing apart is usually unpleasant, but it's as natural as human behavior gets."

I think now it's clear why I think this is just a mistake. I've lost contact with old high school friends, and that's sad. Is it ok? That depends on how close I was. I wasn't very close with my high school friends, and I was much closer with college friends. That justifies replacement in terms of whom I keep in touch with. I don't keep as much in touch with my college friends as I should, given the connection we had. That suggests to me that deeper connections deserve deeper continued contact, even over a distance. The deepest connection possible would then require continued deep contact, barring other considerations. When someone dies, there's nothing you can do about that. I lost my closest brother. The fact that that's so sad is what drives me to maintain the connections I do maintain. The deepest ones are the ones that I would like to keep deep. This is why what Will sees as natural is something I can only see as a result of the fall. Things shouldn't be this way, and it's worth doing what we can to resist this when it's within our power.

Finally, Will suggests I have some metaphysical view about what connects people who have had sex. I'm not sure why he thinks this. I never said anything about some non-physical cord connecting people that, when it breaks, consists of violence. I just think it's somewhat violent to sever a relationship with any emotional or spiritual closeness. When it's a stronger closeness, it's more violent. I spent an afternoon talking with someone one time, enjoying the company and sharing some personal things. We never had much further contact after that, and that seems to me to have involved some kind of emotional severance that's at least unfortunate. It's a matter of degree. I had a very short, non-sexual, but certainly romantic relationship with someone before I met the woman who is now my wife. When that ended, I insisted on continuing the friendship with some proper bounds on what was appropriate and the level of time commitment, and I'm very glad I did that. We gradually grew apart over the next year, and she moved across the country, but were still good friends for that whole year afterward. I would have regretted any more sudden ending to the relationship. It's not about some unseen reality created by sex. It's about how close a connection can become and how emotionally and spiritually disruptive it is to someone's very being to tear that connection.

Update: Apparently the link to my earlier posting was incorrect. I've fixed it.

Why take it out on the kid?

This isn't new, but I just found out about it. In August, a Catholic pre-school denied admission to a 4-year-old girl because her legal parents are lesbians. Their claim is that they can't teach their view that homosexuality is wrong and admit the existence of lesbian parents. I don't see how this follows. Can I teach stealing is wrong despite the obvious examples of stealing that exist? Can I teach murder as wrong despite the fact that it takes place? How does it endorse the actions of someone who you think is doing something wrong if you acknowledge their existence? Even worse, this would be a way to care for someone whose parents you think are improperly raising a child.

I'm not sure which more hurts the public opinion of those who think homosexual acts and/or relationships are wrong -- Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (who seem to think sins they don't commit are worse than the ones they do, simply because they don't commit them) or these people (who just make the view itself seem ridiculous for ignoring obvious facts, e.g. that lesbian couples adopt children).

Why should it be a problem for the daughter of a lesbian couple to be admitted to a Catholic school? It's one thing to resist teaching homosexuality as natural or homosexual sex or relationships as morally ok. An independent religiously-run school has the right to teach their views on that. It's also their right to admit whoever they want to admit. I think it's just morally wrong for them to pick their students on the basis of who the parents are. Is that her fault?

Monday, December 22, 2003

More bad reporting from The New York Times

Here's what they said on the front page: "President Bush had been noncommittal about a constitutional amendment .... But last week Mr. Bush for the first time voiced his support, saying, 'I will support a constitutional amendment which would honor marriage between a man and a woman, codify that.'"

Here's what he really said: "If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment... [italics mine]" and then said that states have the right to codify their own marriage laws. This is not a straightforward opposition to gay marriage, certainly not a clear support of such an amendment to the Constitution.

I can think of two reasons why they might have done this. (1) They're lazy and don't want to figuring out the details of a more sophisticated position than they're can intelligently handle. This just reveals stupidity, irresponsibility, and lack of effort. (2) They're politically committed to portraying him as less nuanced and complex than he is, since they want him to look evil and lose the election. Since they assume their general readership supports gay marriage, that would be the expected effect. They therefore underestimate the large majority of the country that opposes gay marriage and make him look even more like what many conservatives look like than his position actually warrants. They simultaneously reveal their own agenda in hiding the important details of his view.

So one way they're stupid and irresponsibly lazy but not necessarily evil. The other way they're working hard but irresponsibly devious and conniving, with a touch of stupidity in underestimating how people will see it. Which do you think?

The Ethical Philosophy Selector

Check out the latest web test to determine something about yourself that you should but probably don't already know. It asks you questions about your ethical views and then tells you how much you match up with some of the most influential ethical theorists. I'm wondering how different it would be if the questions were practical rather than theoretical. They even give somewhat informative descriptions for the uninitiated (some of which are more informative than others).

My list:
Aquinas 100%
Augustine 95%
Spinoza 68%
Aristotle 63%
Ockham 56%
Nel Noddings 51%
John Stuart Mill 49%
Kant 49%
Plato 46%
Cynics 39%
Ayn Rand 36%
Jean-Paul Sartre 36%
Jeremy Bentham 36%
Stoics 36%
Prescriptivism 34%
David Hume 28%
Nietzsche 23%
Epicureans 22%
Thomas Hobbes 4%

In the list of descriptions for the various philosophers, they also had Simone de Beauvoir and Utilitarianism in general (as opposed to Mill or Bentham's specific versions). I guess I had a 0% match to them, which doesn't surprise me.

I would have expected the Stoics to be higher. Everything else below the Cynics deserves to be very low. Mill should have been far lower. It doesn't surprise me that I half match Noddings' feminist ethic of care. I really do agree with about half of what she says. I'm wondering why Ayn Rand was higher than Epicureanism. I think Epicurus' version of ethical egoism is far better than hers. Of course, his hedonism may be affecting it, since she didn't say anything quite so strong, but then his qualifications of it reveal that he didn't either.

They didn't frame the questions right if they really wanted to see if someone matches Aquinas. The only divine option they had for the source of morality is God's will, never thinking to mention God's necessary nature. The closest they had to that was some impersonal holistic forces (which might explain the high Spinoza thing, but the Stoics and Plato should have gotten as much of a boost from that). Theologically speaking, Augustine should have been higher than Aquinas, but maybe the virtue influence on my thinking puts Aquinas higher.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

A response to some arguments against presexual marriage

Will Baude has some interesting arguments against presexual marriage. Go ahead and read that again to make sure you got it right. For those having trouble figuring out this concept, he means that he doesn't think you should marry someone without first having sex with them, especially if you have a strong disfavorable attitude toward divorce.

His first argument is quite poor. "It would be bad to be stuck married to somebody whose views about the purpose and details of sex were drastically different from one's own." Ok. I agree. My wife and I had whatever such conversations as are necessary before getting married, and we didn't need to have sex to do so. I think this argument vastly underestimates the value of communication and understanding of the other person when it comes to sex.

The second argument is that sex is an important form of understanding someone. I agree. Then he somehow thinks it follows that "when something resembling eternal commitment is at stake, it's hardly wise to leave this chapter unperused". I don't see how you need to know every detail of someone before making a commitment for life. (I see no reason to think marriage is permanent. As marriage vows indicate, it ends at the death of whichever spouse dies first.)

There are some things you can't know until after you've been married for years. I'm not sure why you need to know how someone will be in bed beforehand. People who think you do just have no notion of growing to know someone, learning to appreciate things you might not initially understand, and growing to learn how to be better at everything you do. Why should it be different with sex? I don't see why any couple can't learn to be very good at serving each other sexually.

He challenges the notion that permanent monogamy can be natural by giving the simple evidence that not everyone holds that view. Apparently he has little sense of the varieties of what people might mean by 'natural' in this context. The usual sense is that there's a purpose for sex, not one necessarily observable by watching what happens, especially if it's a religious idea having to do with God's purpose for creating sexual unity between a man and a woman. This argument also ignores the Christian view of the fall, which masks numerous truths about the world that conflict with sinful desires. If such a state is real, then what people consider natural would be a very bad guide to what is natural. So the argument has little force against its intended audience.

I have only one positive thing to say in favor of the view he's challenging. He says "When I was taught about sex in school they warned us that once sex enters a relationship for the first time, everything changes. That isn't always true, but to the degree that it is, I think people should get married knowing what they're getting into rather than taking a random draw."

This seems to me to be a reason for the opposite of what he's saying. Consider also a statement he makes in his earlier post: "And sex can also build attachments between unmarried people (one does not forget one's first lover). Morse herself says that 'Science can now tell us how the hormones released during sex help to create emotional bonds between the partners.'"

It seems really funny for me to see someone acknowledge all this and then think that it should be perfectly fine to have sex with someone and then think that there's no presumption of continuing in the bond you've started. I have a hard time thinking of a breaking of the deep spiritual connection that goes on in sexual union, whether in marriage or outside it, as anything other than violence. The psychological evidence seems to support this. When I teach this material in an ethics class, my students seem to understand very clearly the view that sexual relations involve a union in spiritual ways that we can't put into words. They don't necessarily see it as harmful to have multiple sexual partners, but they do understand the argument that it's just plain not the best sex to be dividing oneself in promiscuity. When you combine this with the moral ideal of seeking what's best, there's a strong presumption against so dividing yourself sexually.

The view I see in the Bible is that once you've had sex with someone you really are spiritually married to them, whether you've legally acknowledged it or not. This view seems much more plausible at this point. Then breaking that bond by marrying someone else is tantamount to divorce, which is a violence that I think deserves strong moral condemnation. (The idea here is that people were too liberal when they thought you should get married when you conceive a child, i.e. when you're caught. The fact that you've had sex is enough reason for at least a presumption that you will get married, since you've already committed yourself on the most intimate level physically and are just breaking your own commitment by not doing so in a legal way. I should say that there may well be reasons that outweigh that presumption.)

Not everyone will follow all the steps in this argument, and so I agree with Baude's point at the end. "I think that we ought to be broadly tolerant of the fact that people we otherwise respect a great deal have vastly different views than us about sex.... I don't think that all views about sexual relationships are equally valid." It's nice that he recognizes this. Most people I know with views similar to mine are highly tolerant of those with more liberal views about sex, but many of those they tolerate frequently accuse more conservative people of intolerance, often with such venomous language that I have a hard time seeing as tolerant. It's refreshing to see someone not so two-faced about it.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Finally some real discussion of Bush's foreign policy?

For the first time, someone writes an article discussion the real issues at stake in the foreign policy of the Bush Administration. The conspiracy theory approach and the evil Bush villain but Saddam hero stuff rightly gets dismissed with no argument. The pre-emptive issue gets dodged, without reference to the many decent ways to defend pre-emptive war in a post-9/11 world from within a just war theory, which is unfortunate. The focus is on the problems within the Bush Administration in terms of competing views and Bush's unwillingness to be decisive or to address the issues his advisors are arguing about other than trying to satisfy all of them at once. This is what Democrats should be focusing on, but instead they keep spouting off this endless nonsense about the immorality of deposing one of the worst dictators of our day.


Comparative violence: Iraq and the U.S.

Bad reporting by the major media has gotten worse. A New York Times article, to fabricate numbers making the murder rate in Baghdad look high, includes in its rate all the deaths from automobile accidents, terrorists killed by coalition forces, and other non-murders. The actual murder rate in Baghdad is lower than that of Washington, D.C. I don't want to minimize the suffering caused by the terrorists in Iraq, but this shows how overblown media reports are, when we have a higher rate in our nation's capital but all the media will focus on is how bad things are in Iraq (without mentioning any of the good most of the time). Both should be covered. It's a question of focus.


I don't really love the NRA, and I don't think I'd ever own a gun. I think the Constitution's insistence on the right to own weapons is outdated. I see no such moral right. Yet this shows that the NRA's arguments about gun control not solving problems of violence are right on target (no pun intended). Iraq allows civilians to own machine guns, which have long been illegal here. If the Baghdad murder rate is lower than D.C.'s, even given all the terrorism there right now, that shows that gun control isn't the solution to our problems.

Unfortunately, most NRA people are libertarians who won't do anything to "interfere with others' liberties" and therefore deal with the moral issues within inner city communities or in the U.S. populace at large (where the violence of divorce and abortion looms just as large as the violence of murder in the inner cities). I'm wondering if there will be good effects of finally having a national leadership with a moral compass, if people would only recognize that reality without the endless rhetoric to the contrary from the myopic pluralism-without-distinction people who rail against every moral decision made by the Bush Administration simply because they need to if they want a chance to get their party into the White House. It's clear to me that they don't believe most of what they're saying (e.g. that it's bad that Saddam Hussein isn't in power anymore, that the war against Iraq wasn't just a worrisome gray area but was thoroughly immoral, that the partial-birth infanticide ban is a violation of some absolute right to abortion not even guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, that basing an evaluation of the threat of Iraq on the same information the Democratic senators on the intelligence committee thought was enough information to go on was lying to the American people, etc.).

What Ken Wilber calls the blue infrastructure of traditional values (see my Dec 5 posting) has been so undermined by those who think freedom comes from doing whatever you want that there's no way for the kind of pluralism many of our leaders insist on to guide today's youth into serious reflection on their lives and values. That very pluralism prevents criticism of the value systems that promote violence. They're more interested in understanding the violent than they are in pointing out that something has gone wrong and trying to figure out how to deal with that (and keep in mind that I'm just as much pointing this criticism at the live-and-let-live attitude toward the more "respectable" violence such as abortion, divorce, date rape, and smoking, though some advances have been made recently in some states on the last).

Monday, December 15, 2003

Ancestors in the Middle Ages and biblical genealogies

Last Wednesday, I posted a link to a fascinating discussion of how many ancestors the average American of European descent would have had in the Middle Ages. The answer was all of them who have living descendants today. Those who missed it should read it. It's fun.

What I've been thinking about it what this means for the common claim that Matthew and Luke's genealogies of Jesus are contradictory. I guess the assumption of that claim is that there's only one genealogical path between and two people who have the ancestor/descendant relation. Given the common Hebrew practice of including certain ancestors in a list and not others, sometimes for theological purposes (e.g. 14 generations as a multiple of 7, the desire to show legitimate kingship, or emphasis on Gentiles and sinners in the ancestry), these two facts alone could explain why there could be two genealogies that are so different. The common responses by evangelicals to this issue deal with some specific issues (e.g. Levirate marriage with a biological father and a legal father), but I've always thought that they missed this obvious general point.

It's always struck me as strange that Matthew, who spends so much time explaining old covenant fulfillment in Jesus as Messiah, would make up a genealogy, or anything for that matter. Similar, it would be a little odd that Luke, who made such a great effort to investigate matters (Luke 1:1-4), would have made it up. If the traditional authorship is right, Luke would have had access to Jesus' brother Judas and could have checked on some of it, and Matthew would have known Mary even. I'm aware that many modern scholars reject the only reliable witness we have to who put these gospels together, so they dodge this point, but that's just poor historical method.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Two race-related but otherwise unrelated items:

1. A mixed-race woman is claiming that Strom Thurmond is her father. As far as I can tell, she's probably right. A former Thurmond aide (who happens to be black) was just on Fox News saying that he definitely had a relationship of some sort with her and that she did believe she was his daughter. He wouldn't confirm that Thurmond was her father, however.

As far as I can tell, the San Francisco Chronicle broke this.

Her lawyer said she's got strong evidence for this and is willing to submit to DNA testing. Then he said that when people saw her and heard her speak, they would know she's his daughter. She's very articulate and intelligent.

What? The only sense I can make of this is that he thinks the only way a black woman could be articulate and intelligent is if she's not fully black but her father was a white senator. This lawyer was also black, however, so I'm not sure at all what this was supposed to mean. It's as baffling as pro-choice Howard Dean's statement (see below) that of course he never performed any abortions because he's a medical doctor. Are the lowered standards of affirmative action for this black lawyer making him think that black people can't normally be expected to be articulate and intelligent?

One additional thought. A quick web search revealed that there were suggestions of this at least as early as this summer, when he died. Everything commenting on this that I could find accused him of hypocrisy, thinking it odd that a white racist could have a daughter with a black woman but still advocate racist policies. I think these people understand little of what the States Rights Party he ran under was really shooting for. Their goal was to resist being forced by the federal government to make changes that reminded them of Reconstruction, which grates on the southern consciousness even today (which is the only reason Zell Miller and John Breaux are still Democrats). He recently said that some of his speech to this end was wrong. He probably played to the audience a little more than he later would have preferred. Does this reveal innate animosity to black people? I don't think so, especially if he really cared for this woman. I think he probably wanted states to be able to pursue progress on their own but was pragmatically willing to play to whatever racism there was in the audience, something I find intolerable but not necessarily inconsistent with loving his daughter, and it doesn't mean he was a KKK-style racist. It's more like the store-owner who doesn't mind black people but won't hire any out of fear that racists won't shop there. It's still bad but not the same thing most white people think when they hear cries of racism.

I'm not sure he was ever a racist in the KKK sense, though I do think some policies he advocated had negative racial consequences. I never thought Trent Lott was a racist in that sense either, though it was clear that he didn't understand how black people would take his comment about Thurmond's run for presidency, and an argument can therefore be made that he didn't have black people's interests in mind when he made the comment. (That doesn't say anything about whether he ever does. He may well.) Whatever you think of Thurmond or Lott, it's clear that Thurmond at one point said some things the he later believed were wrong. He clearly advocated policies that made race relations in this country worse. Of course, I think most Democratic policies regarding race nowadays do exactly that, thinking they're doing the opposite, and I don't think Hillary Clinton is a racist in any strong sense (keep in mind that I think everyone has some residual racism that most of us think we should overcome and don't want to admit). So it doesn't follow that Thurmond was, either.

There's certainly a tension here, but I don't think it's any more than all the Kennedy politicians saying they're for the little people, when their abusive and destructive behavior has demonstrated that they care very little about the average Joe. It's not the same tension (one is acting in a way that harms those one cares about for a supposedly greater principle, and the other is acting in a way that really harms those one says one cares about but looks as if it helps them and therefore gets those very people's votes). Is it worse to care about someone and do something that harms them but later repent of it, or is it worse not to care, to pretend to care, and to do something that looks as if it helps them but doesn't? Jesus certainly thought the latter was worse, and I'm inclined to defer to his judgment.

2. According to several prominent black voices, Michael Jackson is a victim of a larger white racist conspiracy that doesn't want a black man to be successful. There have been accusations of police brutality in the arrest. (For those who care, Katherine Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, and Dick Gregory are three such people whose statements along these lines I have evidence for. I saw some mention of the Reveler Al Sharpton saying something like this, but I lost it before I saved a link to it.)


Hello? McFly? First, Michael Jackson's success can't be averted. It's part of history. The arrest was televised. Second, everyone saw it, and there wasn't any brutality beyond what's normal for an arrest of someone who isn't violently resisting it. A black woman was just on Geraldo Rivera pointing out that cops intimidate. That's their job when they're arresting someone. There wasn't any brutality here. Third, a lot of people don't even think about the fact that Michael Jackson is black. He certainly has tried to make people forget it with his plastic surgey, so I'm not sure why he's hiring the Nation of Islam now to provide bodyguards for him. Most people just think of him as an incredibly successful singer, and it's his celebrity status if anything that first affects how people think of him, just as it was for O.J. Simpson, who got off because he was a football star. (If the black women on the jury were of the sort to let race affect their judgment, they would most likely have seen him as a race traitor for marrying a white woman and not one of their own.)

This sort of thing is just divisive. Even the ultra-liberal Geraldo (who just indicated on the air that he believes there's such a thing as DWB -- driving while black) is urging people not to go the "race card" direction with this case, because it will cause division as those who played the race card in the O.J. case did. It's amazing to me that people could get such delight from saying things that just seem so implausible just to feel good about making white people feel bad for the terrible things white people do, when in this case (as in many) they're not even doing it. This has no good result except a sort of perverse, passive-agressive, anti-triumphal triumphalism. Victimology strikes again, and race relations are worse for it.

Shameless plug

Those interested in Christian apologetics and theology can can check out my sites on those topics:


There's probably enough there to offend almost anyone.

Howard Dean on abortion

Dean seems to have admitted that abortion is not a medical procedure and is something medical doctors qua medical doctors don't perform. "I did not perform abortions. I'm a medical doctor."

I've thought that for years, but what can Dean mean by this? He's made it clear that he clearly supports Planned Parenthood, and as far as I can tell he joins my senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer in resisting any attempt to think abortions are not an absolute right (which just seems unbelievable to me, given that the best pro-choice arguments such as Judith Jarvis Thomson's would never allow such a right). What does he think abortions are, then, and who are the people who do perform them?


Halliburton probe for Bush profiteering?

Don't give Halliburton that much credit.

"Halliburton didn't profit from that differential, officials said. 'This isn't money that went to the company,' said Larry DiRita, the Pentagon's top spokesman. Rather, he said, the money the Pentagon believes was overcharged went to a private Kuwaiti company that is a subcontractor on the contract."

I wonder if this time the facts will stop Democrats from perpetuating the profiteering charges. There's certainly something to be investigated here, but that's not it. Since the probe into Vice-President Cheney proved fruitless once the non-partisan committee cleared him of even an appearance of a conflict of interest, they've been looking for anything at all to lean toward the war profiteering charges that have been around since before the military action in Iraq even began. I haven't seen any evidence for it yet.

See the full Washington Post piece.

How many buried stories can we handle at once?

For the third time in a couple days, a story has come to my attention that would have increased the president's public image but got buried by the major news outlets, this time on environmental issues that made the front pages when people were calling Bush to do something about it. Well, he has, and there's hardly a mention in a prominent place. It seems the front pages are restricted to Bush-bashing.


Friday, December 12, 2003

Teenage sexual activity and emotional health

"Teenagers of both genders who are sexually active are substantially less likely to be happy and more likely to be depressed than are teenĀ­agers who are not sexually active. Teenagers of both genders who are sexually active are substantially more likely to attempt suicide than are teenagers who are not sexually active."


Amazingly, it gets even worse for the standard liberal view. Apparently, there's a strong negative effect on women who have multiple sexual partners, and women are even best off if they're sexually active only within marriage.


That's really interesting. If there are problems with these studies, it would be worth knowing what they are, because this has serious implications even on the standard liberal view that sex is ok unless it's non-consensual or leads to harm.

This view is the main reason for removing taboos against homosexuality. I've been wondering how this general view is supposed to fit with the common idea that incest is unnatural and wrong (even if it's between two consenting adults), which even many people who favor gay rights legislation still believe. Many of my students have nicely demonstrated this inconsistency. I don't see how someone can admit some notion of unnaturalness (and therefore wrongness) for incest without seeing if it might also apply to homosexual sex. Some just say incest is fine, but most people don't want to say that. When Senator Rick Santorum pointed out this problem, people labeled him a gay-hater, but he was making a simple logical point.

These recent studies lead me to wonder whether there's now clear evidence (even aside from issues related to STDs, pregnancy, and abortion) that teenage sex and any old non-marital sex leads to harm. Even without the possible revisions to the liberal view (having to do with unnaturalness and incest), it seems the standard liberal view has reasons to oppose teenage sexual activity because of the significant chance of harm.

Many conservatives have basically given up on meeting liberals on their own terms in the so-called culture war over these issues, figuring that the current assumptions of the liberal mindset give no possibility of defending anything close to the conservative attitudes about sex, but that just seems to me to be wrong. See my class handout on sexual morality for some discussion and evaluation of different attempts at this line of reasoning, particularly the stuff about Vincent Punzo's existential integrity argument. These studies confirm the general direction of my earlier thoughts. None of this requires any religious or scriptural assumption.

Economy best in 20 years!

Well, the reports are in. Every revised estimate seems to be better than the previous one, but this one takes the cake. The latest Conference Board forecast is that 2003 is the best economic year in 20 years. That's a long time. Given that the recession started before Bush took office and then got worse with 9-11 (which, in the minds of the militant Islamic terrorists, was directed at the Western, materialistic mindset in general, not against anything particular to the Bush Administration), I never saw any reason to blame the economy on Bush. After this, I'm really wondering what they can say.

Now if we could just get that to affect the Syracuse area, which seems to be in a buffer zone, I'll be even happier about this. When the rest of the country was booming, we were in a recession. When everything dropped, Syracuse dropped so much less that it remained at a level higher than the rest of the country. As long as it goes up by the time I finish my degree and my parents need to sell this house, I'll be happy.

Dan Rather rolling over in his grave

I remember watching an investigative report a couple years ago by Dan Rather. In it, he demonstrated quite clearly that one of the 3-4 missle defense projects at the time had a flawed design and didn't have much chance of hitting the target missles. He didn't quite draw the conclusion that such projects must therefore be hopeless and an evil waste of money fabricated by Republicans to draw money away from the bloated and wasteful social programs he thinks are guaranteed by absolute rights, but that's what he wanted his audience to conclude. My brother, who works on one of the other projects in development, immediately pointed out that the other projects in the works aren't even based on the same principle, and Rather must have gone and picked the one that was the dimmest prospect. For similar criticisms to Rather's, see this rant from a couple years ago and what Arianna Huffington had to say early last year.

Well, they just had a successful test. As usual, I can't find any references to it anywhere except this one, including the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the supposedly conservative-slanted Fox News.

Oh, and I'm aware that Dan Rather isn't in his grave yet, but his news outlet pretty much is.

Update 19 Dec: My brother, who works in the field, says the program on the Rather special turned around right after that and is the leading program now in terms of success rates. Hmm.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Recent feminist reasons for traditional gender roles?

Having taught this semester on feminist ethical theory for the first time, I've been thinking about the various kinds and motivations for feminisms. My recent venture into Ken Wilber's world of color-terms for waves of value change over time has given me some categories for thinking about these (see my Dec 5 posting on Wilber for more on the color terms).

Pre-Gilligan feminisms were generally motivated by orange concerns. Orange involves such Enlightenment ideas as equality, progress, and achievement. This led to treating men and women as if there's no real difference, expecting women to do everything men do and encouraging women to break out of traditional roles. Ifeminism is a good example of the only really consistent feminism based on pure orange principles. It insists on equality for women but not to the point of being unfair to men (and thus, interestingly, opposes affirmative action for women). If you're going to stick with pure orange motivations, the ifeminists (who also call themselves libertarian feminists) are the way to go. I've found many worthwhile commentaries and insightful perceptions coming from this crowd.

Finally, green allows real sensitivity to women's values, lives, ways of developing knowledge, ways of arriving at moral choices, etc. Green is the multicultural, pluralistic value of seeking and accepting the other. This allowed people like Carol Gilligan to say that women don't need to be forced into male molds but should be allowed to be women.

What interests me most about the green motivation is that it allows back in some traditional (i.e. blue) views about gender roles but from a green motivation, which according to Wilber is two colors more mature than blue. Unfortunately, it also allows some really dangerous attitudes when combined with red (egocentric and power-motivated values). When the red values lead to a reaction against those who wrongly or ignorantly mistreat women, anger results and fuels a reaction against such people. The green values led to the original perception, but the red fuels the reaction, and men or some group in power is seen as the enemy. This actually leads to abandoning the general green outlook, since now we have a group that isn't welcomed into the pluralistic, multicultural, just-try-to-understand-people community of love. So we don't want let the red hate full us away from the originally good insight from green, even if the initial anger of the red element is justified.

How do we see the different motivations, then? The orange equality principle (at least as the only consideration) seems to me to ignore something fundamental -- men and women, though equal in value, are not the same. We tend to think in somewhat different ways, including how we approach moral questions and how we come to understand the world. This isn't as radical a difference as some might suggest, and it's worth thinking about what men and women can learn from trying to understand these differences better, but my point is that the differences are there and sometimes will justify differences in behavior.

I'm not going to detail what I think these are. I just want to make the point that Gilligan has opened the door for this. It's interesting that green has now supported a largely blue tendency, though it won't support many of the ways it's been carried out. Orange on its own won't recognize women as women. Green is necessary, but that welcomes blue back in if red doesn't intercede and prevent it. This seems to me to be the sort of thing that will move us toward Wilber's yellow (integrating the various color-values into a system that allows more balance and recognizes the good in each wave).

The way this needs to be done is to recognize that women are valuable for who they are and what they do contribute to society. The orange insistence that being a wife and mother is no contribution to society undermines the best sort of feminism we can have, as green values reveal. Raising children, the next generation of humanity, is about as momentous a taks as you could have. When I people wonder why my wife would want to be a stay-home mom, I lament the influence of pure orange feminism. So this blue traditionalist value leads to the right result but just didn't have a reason behind it other than tradition (even if that tradition came from God, which should be a good enough reason if it really is from God). Now feminism has reached a point where it has given a reason for this sort of thing in terms even an atheist can appreciate.

The moral of the story? The orange opposition to gender roles simply on principle actually ignores the more mature green values that blue traditionalists don't necessarily have but was inherent in the basic idea that blue values would have supported. A Christian who believes the biblical views about male and female as wholly different expressions of the divine image and as a living representation of the difference of roles but equality of essence within the Trinity should only feel confirmed by this. Many reasons traditionally given for this sort of view wouldn't necessarily be the right ones (e.g. that women aren't as smart and therefore shouldn't be in the college-educated workforce), but who ever said our reasons were God's?

If this line of thought intrigues you, I suggest you investigate the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I don't agree with these people on some important things. I think their stance on gender-inclusive translation is too extreme, I wish they had more philosophical nuance and understanding of the basic issues with their treatment of homosexuality (on which see my thoughts), and I don't agree with all the specifics of which gender differences in society are biblically-endorsed. However, I think they're moving people in the right direction on this issue (i.e. from pure orange to a more balanced blue-orange-green) in a time when almost no one, even among blue-traditionalist evangelical Christians, is willing to move beyond the pure orange brands of feminism. Some of their stuff on the biblical issues is far more responsible than any of the mainstream egalitarian stuff I've seen.

Illegitimate President?

I knew some studies had been done about who would have won if the recount had gone through, and I knew the answer is that Bush would probably have won anyway, but I didn't know how comprehensive the research supporting this was and how systematic the arguments against the illegitimacy myth really are.


This sort of thing strikes me as having at least a family resemblance to the victimology nonsense that's been bothering me (see my Brights post from Dec 9), even if it's not quite the same thing.

New York Times breaking the silence barrier

The New York Times have finally decided to say something about the significant anti-terrorist, pro-democracy rallies in Iraq that are all over the blogs:

"In contrast, a heavily policed march in central Baghdad on Wednesday, organized peacefully by the country's major political parties, drew thousands of Iraqis to protest attacks by guerrilla fighters, which have injured and killed Iraqi civilians as well as occupiers."

Check it out. That's really all they say, and it's buried in a story about all the negative things they could scrape together. Look for paragraph 9 of 13. They did mention it, though, and no other major media outlet in the U.S. has bothered to mention it, including Fox News. So much for the right-wing conspiracy theories about Fox.

Compare Healing Iraq for real coverage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Rumsfeld: foot in mouth?

This has been bugging me for at least a few days, so I have to express my thoughts on it. The Foot in Mouth awards gave first prize to Donald Rumsfeld for saying that there are some things we know we know, and there are some things we know we don't know. That is, we know about our knowledge in the one case, and we know that we're ignorant in the second. The statement made perfect sense, actually, and it can have important implications. Where's the problem?

Hell and Vagueness

Brian Weatherson has probably the best philosophy blog out there. He recently posted some thoughts about Ted Sider's paper "Hell and Vagueness" in Faith and Philosophy (2003). Ted basically argues that the distinction in goodness between the worst people in heaven and the best people in hell can't be very large, since everyone's goodness is on a continuum. God must have arbitrarily drawn a line. In response to those who complain about this as works-based salvation, he then retools the argument in terms of how much faith people have rather than how good their deeds are. I think this all misses the point, and I told him so when I read his first draft.

These issues have come up in the flurry of responses to Brian's more Catholic-friendly (but probably seriously heretical) recommendations to the theist, but Reformed views have been somewhat underrepresented and perhaps even misrepresented, even among those discussing specifically Protestant views, so I've included my thoughts. I'm arguing that we aren't in a position to say the Reformed view of God's treatment of elect and unelect is unjust, as people have been asserting. I think Brian's blog entry and all the responses are worth reading, but if you want to skip to my thoughts, go down to Dec 10. That's the first one of mine.


Open Theism

I remember Christianity Today doing an article on open theism (the view that God doesn't know the future because of future human free choices) a few years ago, and I was disappointed at how imbalanced the discussion was, though they say they were just giving tools for people to make their own decision. Most of the points that I thought needed to be said were included in the letters they published in the next issue. Rather than say much of anything on my own, I've assembled the best letters CT published in response to that article. It struck me how insightful some of these letters were. The main reasons for the traditional view and the most serious criticisms of the reasons given for open theistic arguments are all here.


Who were my ancestors in the Middle Ages?

Pretty much everyone (with some important qualifications)! Check it out:


Thanks to Brian Weatherson for the link.

Reagan and AIDS

It's amazing how many times I've heard that Reagan just dropped the ball on AIDS. I was always told that he didn't do anything until the last year of his second term, and that was just to get Bush elected (never mind the fact that his 1988 declaration of being HIV-positive as a handicapped status was an unpopular decision that could easily have hurt Bush). Now the the CBS, I mean Showtime, series on the Reagans has come out, people have shown how wrong this oft-repeated mantra really is. Keep in mind that this has always been taught to me as fact.

Apparently Reagan had a large amount specifically budgeted for AIDS research since 1984 (and the disease wasn't on anyone's radar until about 1982). His three children, two of whom are politically liberal, have all recently defended him on this issue. Patty and Ron have both criticized his policies publically. I'm trying to imagine what's going on in someone's mind when they concoct this sort of thing.


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Brights: the new euphemism for educated atheists

Christian philosopher Michael Rea has posted a very interesting exchange with Daniel Dennett on the issue of naturalism. Dennett is known, among other things, for his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, a discussion of the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory.

Dennett recently published an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Apparently the point of the piece is to come out of the closet as an atheist (or, to use his preferred and highly pretentious, dialectically loaded, term, a bright) and to ask for more respect for atheists. Yes, atheists are now playing the victimology card.

John McWhorter spends his first chapter of Losing the Race, argues that the black community in the United States (and pretty much nowhere else) seems to emphasize victimhood merely for the sake of saying it to feel better. There's no attempt to make things any better. A number of other groups in American society have done this sort of thing, with political correctness as the most obvious result. Christians have certainly joined the bandwagon, as evidenced by David Limbaugh's new book. (Incidentally, I think what Limbaugh is pointing out is true. Christians are often belittled by the intellectual elite. However, I think it's ridiculous to emphasize this as persecution in the face of what Christians in Saudi Arabia or China have to deal with or what most seriously Bible-following Christians throughout history have had to deal with.) Another example is the "reverse racism" idea, which in some ways does get to a real issue about whether fairness is the standard and how it should be achieved. This issue is actually far more complicated than both the right and the left tend to make it seem. See my thoughts on this past summer's Supreme Court ruling and John McWhorter's argument that affirmative action's real problem is its racism against underrepresented minorities, not against whites and Asians. Still, white people actually complaining about (and even bringing lawsuits over) the unfairness they've experienced for being white is as bad as any other kind of victimology.

Well, now atheists are claiming victimhood. They just want a little respect. I think Rea makes it clear that Dennett isn't really looking for mutual respect. Most of what he says about Dennett is about right, as far as I can tell. Basically, Rea is blowing the whistle on a real presumption for atheism among professional philosophers, something Christians in philosophy have been able to see for a long time. It's actually gotten better in recent years, but Dennett exemplifies the attitude I've seen in many I know who want to portray evangelicals as "ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked" (to quote Rea). It's interesting that someone who clearly does have this agenda (whose view on this issue happens to be considered orthodoxy among philosophers) would claim victimhood.

Saturday, December 06, 2003


(See the Worldview Values post below for Ken Wilber's color explanations and analysis. This post has been revised a bit for the sake of clarity.)

Here's some strong evidence that those with a green center of gravity tend to have some purple and red mixed in but are in such strong opposition even to healthy blue-orange themes that they end up appearing like Nazis. Wilber says he would have preferred Al Gore to George Bush, though he was worried about the exclusively green campaign Gore ran. Even so, he thinks Bush is a good president given our current situation. A blue infrastructure is necessary for moving to higher-color memes, but it's pretty much been destroyed and undermined by the often exclusively green attitudes of the Clinton Administration and the half of the country that voted for Gore. So Wilber thinks Bush is actually doing even green-centric people a service by rebuilding that blue infrastructure. Anyway, here's the article that shows the effects of the purple-red-tinged-green (but anti-blue-orange) of the eco-imperialists:


I like the term 'eco-imperialism'. It shows the inconsistency of maintaining these green attitudes without realizing that blue and orange were necessary to get to the point of seeing that green is even good (and therefore should be retained).

Friday, December 05, 2003

Ken Wilber part 2: Worldview-Values

The second bit that I picked up from Ken Wilber (see Part 1 below for the first) is an insightful analysis of what might be called worldview-values. He calls them waves or memes, and he assigns colors to them for shorthand. Here is his description of the succession of colors on the first level:

"beige: instinctual; purple: magical-animistic, tribal; red: egocentric, power, feudalistic; blue: mythic-membership, conformist, fundamentalist, ethnocentric, traditional; orange: excellence, achievement, progress, modern; green: postmodern, multicultural, sensitive, pluralistic."

Then he describes two colors on the second level: "yellow: systemic, flexible, flowing; turquoise: cosmic unity, integrative, nested hierarchies of interrelationships, one-in-many holism."

Once blue was conservative, and orange was liberal. In the Enlightenment, John Locke and others led the way in moving toward ideas of equality for everyone, etc. The conservatives of the time resisted. Orange has basically won the day in enough ways that neo-conservatives are a mix of blue and orange. A few holdovers (e.g. perhaps Pat Buchanan and other paleo-conservatives) are closer to a pure blue. On the popular level, many who vote Republican really are pure blue, usually indicated by their total opposition to anything Democrates might say simply because it's coming from a Democrat. (Sometimes this is even red. Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads might sometimes be in this category.)

Liberals are now orange-green. Academic postmodernism is what Wilber calls pathological green or flatlander green. It seeks inclusiveness in a way that blue won't tolerate in its pure form (and even orange has trouble with this when it comes to people who don't embrace orange values). Yet it goes too far. It sees no distinctions between better and worse values, which Wilber says is like shooting your parents before you existed. Green comes about only because people see inclusiveness and acceptance as better values than the colors that preceded it. Then once it's accepted, pathological green excludes all values that aren't green.

Wilber's main criticism of liberals (in addition to what I said in the post below) is that they flatten all distinctions, ignore the essential value of blue for society in moving reds to higher levels (e.g. the nihilism of younger GenXers leading to such tragedies as Columbine, the gang culture in inner cities). More extreme greens don't even see the value of orange in moving blues to higher levels (e.g. those intolerant to the extreme of killing people for being gay, Al Qaeda brand red-blue terrorism). Any anti-Bush rhetoric you'll find nowadays is typical of the sort of thing he says is flatland green.

His main criticism of conservatives is that they need to be able to move more toward orange-green. Neo-conservatives have absorbed many orange values already, embracing equal opportunity, seeing the value of accepting immigrants into the United States, etc., which paleo-conservatives feel threatened by. What they don't as often do (as evidenced by the argument against affirmative action based on calling it reverse discrimination) is see other values systems as worth understanding, even alternative blue or orange ones. It's one thing to decry terrorism or the Soviet brand of communism as bad. It's quite another to deny that anything behind such regimes reflects good values. For what it's worth, the current administration does have some of these green elements, and Wilber acknowledges it. Bush clearly wanted to reach out to Latinos during the election. He picked a cabinet that better reflects the ethnic diversity of the United States than any previous president had, including the very green Bill Clinton. Finally, he has insisted, at the protest of many blues, that Islam is a peaceful religion. These are all green traits, and people who know him believe he genuinely has these values.

There seems to me to be something just plain right about this way of looking at things, and these criticisms of liberal and conservative tendencies seem right. I think conservatives under Bush's leadership are doing far better at doing what he says needs to be done than liberals are. This is exactly the kind of evaluation that I think needs to be done. That the country is so divided right now (and vitriolically attacking each other) shows that most of the thinking is being done at the first level, acting out these values without actually reflecting on them and without reflecting on the importance of the other values. I don't know if I would endorse what Wilber goes on to say from here, but this sort of work is incredibly helpful in thinking about the current scene. Unfortunately, it's ridiculously torturous to try to read Wilber, so I'm hoping someone who cares enough about this stuff is willing to popularize it.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Ken Wilber part 1: An Interestingly Balanced Approach to Political Attitudes

I've been reading some Ken Wilber online, because a colleague of mine is really into him, and I wanted to see what he's all about. The guy's really odd in some ways (stuff that looks new agey but is really more like neo-Platonism), but he has some really provoking thoughts on political theory. It's hard to get much out of his stuff without spending a lot of time and doing a lot of backtracking to find the background to understand his terms, but I found some interesting thoughts on what's generally wrong with conservatism and liberalism, and as far as I can tell he's right.

Liberals tend to think the causes of social problems are external to those who experience those problems. For instance, they tend to blame problems in black communities on oppressive policies and attitudes of white people. Conservatives tend to do the reverse, blaming the problems within a group on their own internal state. The example here is the way some people blame problems in black communities on the lack of a desire to succeed.

What Wilber wants to say is that both kinds of problems do exist, and each side tends to ignore one in emphasizing the other. I think he's dead right. Where he seems to me to go wrong at times is in his analysis of particular people and particular views. He's probably a good big picture person, and he's probably just not as good at noticing the details, which of course I'm much better at than I am seeing the forest.

A good example of someone who seems to me to be getting at both kinds of causes is John McWhorter, to go back to the example of problems within black communities. McWhorter sees three bad tendencies within the black community (his own community, for those who will seek to accuse him of not knowing because he's never experienced it). These are victimology (the emphasis on being made a victim merely for the enjoyment of putting the "oppressor" down and not for offering a positive solution to a problem), anti-intellectualism (not being opposed to intellectuals but just not seeing the value of anything unless it's a "black" issue), and separatism (seeking to separate black culture from the rest of society). These tendencies are ingrained in black youth from a very early age, and the world is then interpreted through this grid, which affects every reaction. That's the external aspect.

So there's this internal problem, which he doesn't blame most people for having since it's not under their control, and it's caused by these external factors. His analysis ends up angering the die-hard conservatives who want to see problems as caused from within an individual person's own choices or motivation, but he also ends up offending the liberal notion that black problems must be caused by white racism. McWhorter seems to have a far more balanced view than is typical, and it was interesting to see someone provide a theoretical framework for what he's doing.

There was one other aspect Wilber was doing that fascinated me, but I'll go to bed now and record my thoughts on it later.

Marriage Supper of the Lamb?

Here's something I've been wondering about this week. In Revelation 19, an angel announces the marriage of the Lamb with his bride, the gathering of believers. Then he rides out on the white horse, and the angel standing in the sun announces the great supper of God, calling the birds to come eat the flesh of all those who defy God and continue in rebellion, gathering to make a final stand against the army of the Lord. Then they are soundly defeated, and the birds gorge themselves with the flesh of the unrighteous. I don't see anything in this chapter talking about the marriage supper of the Lamb. I see the marriage, and I see the great supper of God. When people talk about the marriage supper of the Lamb, are they talking about this feast of the birds on those who persist in rebellion against God?

TULIP: Do the five points stand or fall together?

Here's a musing. Take the Calvinist acronym TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints). I've heard some people of the Reformed persuastion claiming that these five points stand or fall together, and that just seems false to me, so I did some pointless speculation to think through some possible combinations short of the five points.

You can believe in total depravity without believing in any atonement, grace, or salvation. This position might be called universal damnationism. It's a perfectly consistent view, but it doesn't involve any election, atonement, grace, or perseverance. This is T without any of the others. (I suppose you might technically say that there aren't any conditions on election, since there's no election, there are limits to the atonement -- limiting it to no one, all the grace God shows is irresistible, but he shows it to no one, and all the saints, which is none of them, persevere -- but this is a pyrrhic victory).

I think the universalist position can be consistent also, and that involves TUIP. My arguments against this view are from scripture, not consistency. (Of course most people who say they are TUIP, I believe, really do hold to L but don't realize it, since I think the potential atonement view is consistent with limited atonement, and limited atonement just says that only some will actually be saved, but this is a controversial view that I won't insist on to make this point. See this and this other thing for more on why I think that.)

I think it's possible to hold to P without holding to U, L, or I (and it's debatable whether this view holds T in the same way Calvinists do). This is a moderate Arminianism common among the SBC. On this view, God's work is necessary for people to repent, but they can resist God, and so God's sovereignty in salvation is incomplete. There's no real election, the atonement is potentially available to all in the most extreme sense, and God's grace can be resisted. However, God will sustain those who do end up repenting, so in a way the all-important Arminian freedom to choose salvation is no longer available to those saved in order to stop believing. That's a strange consequence, but it's a consistent view. So this view has either TP or just P without the rest of them (depending on whether you think this T is worth the name, which I think it could be if God give the disposition to be able to believe as something necessary for salvation, and those who don't have it still can't repent). (Of course, I should also say that I think this view DOES hold to limited atonement, since I think everyone does in one sense except universalists. Then it would be TLP or LP.)

Now I think there are even stranger possibilities. There's sort of a reverse of the previous possibility. The Calvinist is right about our condition before repentance. We're totally depraved, needing a complete work of God to repent, something God doesn't base on anything we've done to try to deserve it, and God has chosen to limit the atonement to those who will repent and persevere. We can't resist this grace. So we have TULI. However, on this view, God gives us Arminian free will to fall away once we're saved, so there's a denial of P. We can resist the continuance of grace, anyway. Maybe you'll say this is denying I. If so, then it's TUL without the others. The election in this case isn't election to permanent salvation but election to potential salvation, something that can be lost. You might even think that's not worthy of U. If so, then it's still TL. I don't think you could drop either of those. I think this is a consistent view, though I don't know if anyone believes it.

There's another really strange view that some people think Calvinists hold. People choose to follow God, and others don't. Of course, little did we know but God has chosen those who will be saved and those who won't, and it's totally independent of what anyone has done or will do. It's independent of trusting in Christ, of good works, of even knowing about God. It's just arbitrary. This election is unconsiditional, therefore, in an extreme way. The atonement is also limited. Since believing is independent of God's work, this view denies T. The grace that saves is independent of any resisting, so I'm not sure if you would say the view accepts I. P has the same problem, and I would imagine you would resolve it the same way as I. You might think of the view as ULIP if you think of the irrestibility as an inability to prevent salvation, and perseverance has the same sense. If you think of irresistibility as resisting actual belief and perseverance in a similar way, then it would be UL.

Here's another view. God saves people if they're left-handed (or pick any arbitrary criterion). This denies unconditional election. Otherwise, all the Calvinist theses are maintained, so we have TLIP.

So here are the possibilities I've listed:

TP or P or TLP or LP

These are all consistent positions as far as I can tell, and the issue is which set of letters best describes each view, not whether the view is consistent. Therefore, I claim that there are at least seven possible consistent combinations of views involving these letters. I would guess that there are more combinations also, but I don't want to try all of them.