Tuesday, 1/21/14

    1. Polytheism in the Bible?
    2. MLK Day Thoughts
    3. Diplomacy ≠ Treachery
    4. Privyet!
    5. Veganomics


The idea that there are other “gods” who exist as real supernatural beings, albeit infinitely inferior to the only Creator and Redeemer, pervades the Bible.

Thus Gerald McDermott opens a brief blog piece, The Bible’s Many Gods. McDermott is a Professor of Religion, so I’m not going to try in my limited time to “refute” him. Indeed, since his blog is short, I don’t think it requires a spoiler alert to say that his “gods” are “fallen angels masquerading as the true God.”

But a few points:

  1. Professor Jeannie Constantinou’s ambitious Orthodox podcast series, Search the Scriptures, suggests that Abraham was not a monotheist but a henotheist, as were many others of God’s chosen people as He unveiled His revelation gradually to mankind. This point probably harmonizes with McDermott’s.
  2. Well-formed Orthodox Christians, with the Nicene Fathers, don’t see cosmology in terms of natural and supernatural, but confess “one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.” The difference is real. Some of the invisible creatures of God envy us, to whom they are not unequivocally superior, just different (God became one of us, after all). Neither are the invisible creatures and God in any useful sense members of the same “supernatural” category. I hypothesize that “supernatural” has done a great deal of spiritual harm, in contrast to “invisible,” and should be abandoned.


On MLK Day, I did a little anamnesis, reflecting that anyone who challenges the status quo will not only be opposed by those who profit from the status quo, but will be vilified as a revolutionary with unsavory acquaintances. I wish I’d understood that a bit better when I was 19, and was still at least a little worried about the conservative’s observation that some of MLK’s allies were Communists. We saw a replay of that with Mandela recently.

“Anamnesis” is a Greek word that tends to get translated as “remembrance.” But “amnesis” is forgetting, as in “amnesia.” Add the prefix, and anamnesis is “not forgetting” in the sense of not being disabled in memory.

There is a newish Anamnesis Journal, which is benignly described as A Journal for the Study of Tradition, Place, and “Things Divine,” but which often betrays the conviction that some of our modern forgettings are pathological, like amnesia rather than like “forgive and forget.” If its ideas catch on beyond a limited circle, they will be defamed by the plutocrats of the status quo, the 1% that now controls 46% of the wealth and is convinced that it does so because of its surpassing worthiness and the blessings of modern economic theory.

The defamation of Anamnesis Journal may be that it is socialist, but I suspect the idea instead will be that they’re theocratic Papists.

If you doubt me, imagine the reaction if Jeremy Beers’ insights (culled from broad reading mostly, as he acknowledges) are taken to heart by many Christians, rather than most Christians lining up with the “Whig Thomists” like Michael Novak and the late Richard John Neuhaus (who are the most reputable of the current racket’s defenders; its conscious creators were much, much less savory). Beers on the Whig Thomists:

This appraisal, however, itself reflects certain liberal assumptions which are themselves highly questionable—assumptions regarding the nature of the human person and, as a result, the type of economic order that best suits human beings. Over the course of his celebration of John Paul II’s alleged liberalism, Neuhaus duly name-checked and even granted a partial validity to the arguments of Christianity’s most famous critics of liberalism, including David L. Schindler, Alasdair MacIntyre, Oliver O’Donovan, George Parkin Grant, and Stanley Hauerwas. But he declined to engage their argument, which, as he acknowledged, hinges precisely on the contentions that liberalism is not synonymous with nor a stable, neutral ground of authentic human freedom; that is not historically inevitable; and that it is not our only “real-world alternative” to tyrannical collectivism.
In what follows, I want to reflect on lines of critique launched against the sort of economic liberalism championed by the Whig Thomists. Arguments made by William Leach, William Cavanaugh, and Alasdair MacIntyre are presented here, in brief and incomplete form, as representative of those which might be and have been made by scholars working along the same lines.
From Leach, we learn that the institutions, practices, and ideas constitutive of industrial consumerism were not inevitable but were, for various reasons, manufactured at a particular point in time by particular men and women, and that their advancement depended upon the toppling of the traditional Christian stance toward desire. From Cavanaugh, we see how the understanding of freedom central to Christian anthropology (and, indeed, other anthropologies) is profoundly at odds with the view embedded in liberal free-market theory. And from MacIntyre, we learn how the modern state and the economic order that sustains and is sustained by it is inimical to the formation of the kinds of local communities that are necessary as a school of virtue.

(Emphasis added) Again, this is a long piece – indeed ” interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, [and] academic.” But it’s not inaccessible. Do savor it. It’s liberating. Beers summary of Leach’s point is infuriating as well. We’ve been had!


It’s true that sanctions are a coercive tool short of using force, but they are nonetheless coercive and inflict real harm on the population of the targeted country. On several occasions in the recent past, imposing sanctions has just been a stepping stone to military action. Sanctions can be more of a prelude to military action rather than an alternative to it, and that is especially true when the demands connected to sanctions are so maximalist that the other government cannot agree to them short of capitulation. By setting conditions that the other party cannot or will not realistically accept, advocates for new sanctions on Iran are making conflict more likely whether they know it or not. Perhaps some of the supporters of the so-called “Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act” believe that they are backing a measure that makes war less likely, but if they do believe this they are quite wrong.

As far as Kirk, Rubio, et al. are concerned, any diplomatic agreement that can realistically be had is treachery, and the only deal they would approve of is one that Iran would never accept. Many of the bill’s supporters clearly loathe diplomacy with Iran unless it results in Iran’s total capitulation on this issue, which is to say that they loathe diplomacy with Iran as such.

(Daniel Larison)


The thing most Russians don’t realize is that, in English, “How are you?” isn’t a question at all, but a form of “hi,” like the Russian “privyet!” The Americans weren’t responsible for its transformation; that honor goes to the British. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase’s precursor, “How do you do?” as a common phrase “often used as a mere greeting or salutation.” The anodyne exchange dates at least as far back as 1604, to Shakespeare’s Othello, where Desdemona asks her husband, “How is’t with you, my lord?” and Othello replies “Well, my good lady.” Even though he is half-mad with jealousy and only five scenes away from murdering her.

Whereas it’s easy to read a particularly American optimism into the easy embrace of the auto-fine, Russians seem almost congenitally unable to fake fineness.

(Alina Simone, The ‘How Are You?’ Culture Clash)


Anyone up for starting a broad-based, high-quality vegan restaurant in Greater Lafayette (or adding a big array of plant-based entrées to an existing menu)? I’m a little old and cautious. Anyone young and restless?

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.