We have all heard what has come to be a liberal dictum, that the State must remain neutral as regards religion or irreligion …
[T]here are two … fundamental reasons for rejecting the dictum. One is that it is not possible. The other is that it is not conceivable, even if it were possible. It is a contradiction in terms.
(Anthony Esolen, The Illusion of Neutrality) There are variations on this truth published regularly, in book, magazine and now blog.
None of them sinks in. Hoi polloi continue to to take the bait, hook, line and sinker — except, it sometimes seems, the sundry friends of one or another theocracy, decked out in their cool hats.
But let me come at it from a different angle. Prospect has a great short interview with a true conservative, Roger Scruton. Scruton comments early in the interview that “what conservatism—my kind of conservatism, at least—shares with liberalism: an attempt to found things ultimately on a vision of what the human person is.”
I know of no “neutral” answer on what the human person is (at least none that’s politically meaningful). That’s why conservative and liberal policies diverge, at least in substantial part. Read the rest of the Scruton interview for some others, such as “conservatives are open to the thought that most [political] problems are not soluble.”
I was in Northern Ireland in late June or early July, 1968, touring with an Evangelical Men’s Glee Club toward the end of 6 weeks on the continent and in the British Isles.
Our Protestant hosts in Belfast included virulent anti-Catholics. I’d never seen anything quite like it. I just didn’t know how Catholics could stand it. As it turned out, they “stood it” only for about 4 more months before “the troubles” began.
There was no greater troubler on the Protestant side than the Rev. Ian Paisley, a graduate of America’s frankly fundamentalist Bob Jones University. I learned Sunday of Paisley’s death at age 88.
Maybe there’s hope for Ted Cruz.
I enjoyed reading David Harsanyi’s defense of Cruz, in which he points out, legitimately, that if you are a Christian in the Middle East, you are better off living under Israeli government than just about anywhere else. The Lebanese would probably object to that, but it’s more or less true. Still, that’s kind of a “best ballerina in Galveston” claim to make for Israel.
Christians are called to be Biblical, but they are not called to be Biblicists. This is because being a Biblicist is unbiblical. But what do I mean by these terms? To put it simply, Biblicism is an approach to scripture which emphasizes the Bible’s complete clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning and, above all, its direct applicability of the Bible to every department of human life.
The key here is the word ‘direct.’ Ranald Macaulay once explained Biblical authority like this. He was speaking in a cathedral which didn’t have any electric lights but was lit up by shafts of light coming through the windows. The shafts of light came down in spotlights, directly lighting up certain areas but indirectly lighting up the entire building. He then suggested that Biblical authority is like that. I think that’s a good analogy. The Bible does not address every area of life, just as the shafts of light did not spotlight every inch of the inside of the cathedral. In order to do that the Bible would have to be not only true, but exhaustive. Instead the Bible spotlights certain areas and through them the light of God’s truth difuses to every other area of life. While there is no department of life that the Bible does not address, it only directly addresses some areas. To be a Biblical thinker means that in every area of life, one will seek to see how the Bible applies either directly or indirectly.
The Biblicist, on the other hand, acts as if every department of life is lit up directly by scripture.
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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)