Monday, 8/24/15

  1. Between Scylla and Charybdis
  2. The Party’s over
  3. Point/Counterpoint
  4. Spurious Correlations
  5. Christian duty toward gays
  6. No true Christian would hit this hidden tripwire


I wrote rather a long time ago by blog standards about Cynicism, Envy and God, which included my conviction that there are truths that while not logically provable, are nevertheless doxologically true. So far as I know, that coinage is original with me, but the sentiment is not.

First Things R.R. Reno writes, for instance, about An Error Worse Than Error:

For a long time as a young teacher, I believed the danger of prostituting their minds by believing falsehoods was the preeminent, or even singular, intellectual danger my students faced. So I challenged them and tried to teach them always to be self-critical, questioning, skeptical. What are your assumptions? How can you defend your position? Where’s your evidence? Why do you believe that?

I thought I was helping my students by training them to think critically. And no doubt I was. However, reading John Henry Newman has helped me see another danger, perhaps a graver one: to be so afraid of being wrong that we fail to believe as true that which is true. He worried about the modern tendency to make a god of critical reason, as if avoiding error, rather than finding truth, were the great goal of life.

Formerly a low Protestant, then Orthodox, I’ve never felt compelled to immerse myself in Newman, who I mostly know for his defense of development of doctrine, which the Orthodox essentially reject. But on this occasion, I think he’s at least on the right street, perhaps even the right address. In any event, Reno goes on at moderate length (again by blog standards) to discuss much more than Newman. I commend the article.

The analogy may be a stretch, but these also remind me of something that hit me powerfully decades ago from William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience:

Purity . . . is not the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt‑mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.

I don’t remotely trust James as a religious guide, nor do I think “usefulness” a good measure of spiritual health. But in my former delusion, this was bracing stuff. It comforted my tender conscience about the times my zeal carried me, arguably, over the line.


Not that long ago, there were chest-thumping boasts about a “permanent Republican majority.” Today, not so much.


Banksy’s Dismaland/Banksy’s a misanthrope.


If you want some chuckles, I recommend a visit to Spurious Correlations.


  • [T]hanks to the US Supreme Court, there is no longer any political or legal institution in my country that upholds the principle that every child has a right to a mother and father and they have usurped power from the marital institution, which used to be our society’s least restrictive means of ensuring a child’s well-being.
  • I should have said that while all options should be on the table for social workers placing children in need, some adoption agencies have closed their doors because they want to place children with married heterosexual couples so that those orphans can have a mother AND a father, and that went against state guidelines. So there are now hundreds of orphans who will not be served by excellent agencies because of same-sex marriage laws. The guiding principle here: adoption is about finding the right parents for a child in need, not providing children to adults who want them.
  • Leaders in your own government think that you are hateful for your views.  Of course Sam Dastyari doesn’t represent everyone, but you win political points if you can stand up to bigots these days and he took the chance to do so on national TV.  I want to encourage you to prove him wrong.  Be the most loving, merciful, forgiving and sacrificial person that your gay family and friends will ever meet.  And, if you are a Christian, then it is actually your duty to do so. You will be called a bigot if you defend marriage but when you do, all your gay friends should laugh at the claim.

(Katy addressing Australians, after her recent visit, at


[Evangelicalism] implicitly assumes too much and explicitly states too little. Roman Catholics have their Catechism, confessional Lutherans have their Book of Concord and Presbyterians have the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Evangelicals often have at best very minimal doctrinal statements and a range of other, often confessionally unstated, cultural concerns which guide policy.  These brief statements of faith and ‘shadow confessions’ are wholly inadequate to handle the coming cultural storm or indeed to guide day-to-day catechesis within the churches themselves.  They  also mean that the ‘gospel’ can tend to operate as a useful means for justifying any distinctive stand which evangelicals care to take.

(Carl Trueman, The Problem of Evangelicalism’s Unstated Confessions) This observation was prompted by Union University pulling out of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities because two Mennonite member schools were going to allow faculty and staff to be in same-sex marriages, which Union deemed a “gospel issue.”

The problem seems to me to be an instantiation of the No True Scotsman fallacy: “No true Christian college would transgress our shadow confession, which we’re incapable, by the way, of bringing into the light.” If there’s any tendency for the world, or at least a remnant, to self-correct, we’re in for a major shake-up of the untenable bonhomie that binds Evangelicals of wildly disparate doctrinal views. Either they’re going to get more rigorous about doctrine or they’re going to hemorrhage members to Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

I’m rooting for the latter (and for the latter of the latter).

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.