Mélange 7/9/17

  1. Aim well
  2. Dear Justice Kennedy:
  3. Pick one: pleasant or realistic
  4. Antifa follies
  5. “Same God?” redux
  6. What hath Reagan wrought?


The … doctrine of penal substitution was completely absent from the Church for over 1,000 years, and was only introduced by Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century …

The major problem with this teaching can be seen in the fact that had Christ died for our sins against God the Father, thus causing a division of God, with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity laid waste, with God pitted against God … It also suggests that there is a higher force than God, thus making, God Himself ruled by a “higher force”. In other words, God has no choice but to punish. By this notion, justice forces God to respond to our sin with His wrath, with love becoming secondary.

A close examination of the prophets and the Psalms of David, reveal that the word “justice” is linked to the concept of “mercy.” Justice is not penal in nature, but refers to a show of kindness and deliverance to those who are suffering oppression. It means that God’s justice destroys our oppressors, which in this case is sin, death, and even the power of Satan’s oppression.

(Abbot Tryphon) Trigger alert if you want to read the original brief meditation: Abbot Tryphon calls penal substitution a heresy, and the second paragraph in my block quote is why he calls it that. It strikes at the heart of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

I won’t disagree with him on “heresy,” but of more immediate concern is that it almost certainly is why, in my teen years and until Orthodoxy, I came to see God as angry. If you aim inaccurately, as does this doctrine, you get further and further from hitting the mark.


Dear Justice Kennedy:

You’ve served a long time. You “grew in office” to earn the fawning accolades of people like Ruth Marcus and Carl Reiner, largely if tacitly by making it clear that you’re not one of that kind of Catholic — you know, the kind whose view of reality and faith profession are congruent.

It makes some people just sick to think of you retiring. Après vous, le déluge. “Oh please don’t go, we love you so ….”

But you are not God. Stop listening to the sycophants. You don’t hold the cosmos together by your sustaining will.

Go for it.! Get out there, retired, and in your remaining years, just define the hell out of your own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life! Enjoy the heart of liberty!


I think you could read this speech as saying alt-Right things, but that interpretation is forced. This is standard American presidential talk, including references to the West. Speeches like this were given by Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Whatever one thinks of the Trump Administration, this speech is not fascist, alt-Right, or a “by any means” cry for ethnic nationalism.

(John Mark N. Reynolds, concluding a detailed review of Donald Trump’s Warsaw speech) Reynolds in January gave a very harsh assessment of “Bannonism,” and has not abandoned that. His view of the Trump Warsaw speech is consistent with David French’s view that it, at least rhetorically, marks a turn away from the “universalism” of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who Reynolds notably does not included in the list of prior Presidents who had given “speeches like this.”

Surely those who say that all humans long for freedom are right in some sense. “Universalist” Dubya and Obama have that part right, I think. But that’s not the only thing they long for. Like the folks of whom the press laments that they’re “voting against their interests,” they have interests of which the universalists do not know.

And in that latter sense, it’s plausible to say that liberal democracy is an invention of The West, viewed as a fusion of Rome, Greece and Judeo-Christian religion.

It’s easier and more pleasant to imagine a world where there’s peace because everyone embraces liberal democracy and its view of human rights than how to maintain peace when peoples and nations embace different values than that. But I think the latter is the world we now, and always, live in.



I heard the best case I can recall for saying that Islam and Christianity (unequivocally) worship different Gods in the July 6 Hank unplugged podcast.

Basically, the argument goes, Mohammed borrowed a cast of characters from the Jewish and Christian scriptures and rewrote their roles radically.* For instance, Ishmael, not Isaac, was God’s chosen; Christ is going to come wreak havoc on the terrible people who made of God of him; etc. So total and shameless is the misappropriation that you really can’t believe them when they say “Oh, yes, we believe in Jesus.”

I still think the argument is equivocal. I don’t see how one can say unequivocally that Islam and Christianity do or do not worship the same God, what with there being only one God in existence, after all..

But of this I’m confident: the religions are not virtually the same thing, with only trivial differences between them. Listen to the podcast for the details too rarely told.

[* In a way, this misappropriating is akin to what Saint Iranaeus says of heretics: “Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.” See Item 1.]


A bracing bit of reality:

Reagan effected two transformations. He translated conservative sentiment to practical politics – primarily by unfolding the rhetoric of conservatism as a veil over what in fact was the pursuit of many of the same old liberal status goals first essayed in the age of the French revolution. So truly was this form of “ iterary” or rhetorical conservatism a veil lightly worn that few seemed to notice when Reagan change the face beneath: without a pause for breath, the expensive optimism and destructive Jacobinism of Thomas Paine, and for that matter Mary Wollenstonecraft, was issuing from the mouths of the leaders of the “conservative” revolution. How could the age of chivalry be dead if it was always Morning in America? Decades later we could ask, How did the fidelity to “little platoons” comport with a regime of far flung bases and routine US adventures abroad? Indeed, we may productively debate whether Reagan’s policies were meaningfully conservative; some of them are clearly were and some of them were only compatible with liberalism through prudence or the ambiguity that necessarily a company such much-used, little-understood terms as conservative and liberal. But there can be no question that rhetorically he change the substance of conservatism – and we can hardly take that as a mere semantic curiosity given the primary literary character of the conservative tradition. So long without power, if we do not at least have words, we have only tears. And true conservatives weep today for the invasions wrought in their name.

(James Matthew Wilson, The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition, pp. 134-35)

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There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.