Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Internet and Brain Science: Interview with Nicholas Carr

Further Reading

George MacDonald and Beauty

In an article I wrote last year for the Charles Colson Center, I discussed George MacDonald's views on beauty. I pointed out that as Christians with an interest in worldview issues, there is always the danger that we will become so preoccupied with intellectual questions about the true and the good that we neglect the importance of the beautiful. In my article I discuss how George MacDonald's thought is a useful reminder that the good, the true and the beautiful need to remain intimately connected.

MacDonald understood that it is because of Christ that truth and beauty are as integrally connected as goodness and beauty. The interconnectedness between the trinity of goodness, truth, and beauty meant that to separate any of these three was to do violence to the others. In this he anticipated the thought of the 20th century Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote,
“We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance.”
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On Bonhoeffer’s Gratefulness

"Even in the midst of the agonizing circumstances of a Nazi prison, Bonhoeffer never ceased to overflow with gratitude to God. Facing the daily possibility of death, he regarded each day as a precious gift from the Lord, to be received with thankfulness and joy. One English officer imprisoned with him later commented: “Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive.” Thankfulness did not come easy to Bonhoeffer. He had much to be troubled over. His worst torment was the separation from his beloved fiancee, Maria, and the uncertainty of not knowing whether she was safe. During these sufferings, Bonhoeffer’s approach was not merely to refrain from complaining. Nor was it to be joyful in spite of the hardship. Rather, he teaches us that we can be grateful not just in suffering but for the suffering itself. Bonhoeffer believed that difficult circumstances, no less than pleasant ones, come from the hand of God." Saints and Scoundrels, page 264


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Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Email is Addictive

"Now that so many of us are continually logged on to the Web, lots of people no longer sit and read a newspaper or a magazine but instead get their news from the Internet as they furiously try to keep up with their email or other online activities. Many use hand-held devices to surreptitiously check their email during business meetings, corporate retreats, their kid's soccer games, and even church services. There are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who check their BlackBerrys after every golf shot, and some people actually refuse to vacation anywhere they cannot get a high-speed Internet connection to their email and other Web-based sites at all times.

"Part of what makes email so addictive is that it follows the rules of operant conditioning, which means that the behavior is shaped by its consequences. When you check email, you get intermittent positive responses. Sometimes you receive good news: the arrival of an old friend, perhaps a great joke, or a long-awaited response to a request. Occasionally, you receive fantastic news, such as word that your lost winning lottery ticked was found at the dry cleaners. But more often, a neutral, boring, or distressing mail notice or spam gets through. You can never tell in advance whether checking your email will be pleasurable or not, so you keep on checking, checking, and checking, Behavioral psychologists have detailed how the principles of reward and punishment reinforce this behavior, and they have found that using consistent rewards--good news all the time--is less motivational than randomly occurring rewards. Much like gamling addicts, people keep up the behavior because 'next time' may bring the big payoff. The brain's neural circuitry is prewired for this response." (Ibrain, pp. 54-55)
Further Reading


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Empathy part 2

I’m reading a fascinating book right now by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan’s titled iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind. It makes a good follow-up to Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, which I reviewed here.

iBrain looks at some of the many ways that our technology is changing the neurocircuitry in our brain. Using clinical research gathered through rigorous studies and experiments, psychologists and neuroscientists are increasingly able to pinpoint exactly what happens to the brain when we become addicted to our new communication technologies.

One of the most fascinating things for me about the book is what it says about the loss of empathy implicated by the digital revolution. If the authors are to be believed, our increasing addiction to technological tools (and toys) is leading to a race of humans less skilled in intuitive interpersonal skills, including empathy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Empathy Part 1

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of being human.

To empathize with a person is to be able to creatively extend ourselves into that person’s situation even when their situation is vastly different from our own. It is the ability to feel what others are feeling, for their experiences to become our experiences.

Empathy is closely related both to love and to imagination. It is related to love because it enables two people who are vastly different to share experiences, to participate in each others' sorrows, joys and sufferings. It is related to imagination because it involves identifying with experiences or emotions that are not our own but which we can nevertheless imagine feeling.

Psychologist and brain scientists have discovered that we develop empathy through processes that begin when we are babies, as a result of our interactions and relationships with others, principally our parents. When the parental/child relationship is dysfunctional, a result is that the child may not develop empathy, or at least that their ability to emphasize with others is stunted.

Slippery Slopes Do Exist

In the recent Headquarters Piece I wrote for Salvo about gay 'marriage,' I referred to a consultation document that the UK Government issued on the topic of gay 'marriage.' In this post I would like to make a point that I didn't make in the Salvo article, and one which relates to the whole notion of slippery slopes.

Whenever I debate anyone on the topic of gay 'marriage', as soon as my opponent can identify my argument as a 'slippery slope argument', it is assumed that they have scored a point against me, as if it is now universally accepted that slippery slope arguments are logically invalid.

But slippery slopes do exist, and if we are considering the issue of gay 'marriage', slippery slopes have already been realized in those nations that have introduced same-sex 'marriages.' I'll mention about that momentarily, but first I'll share the slippery slope argument. Here's how I developed the slippery slope argument when I was campaigning against same-sex marriage in Britain:
The Government’s consultation paper continually presented the issue of same-sex ‘marriage’ in terms of ‘equal access.’ In their simplistic and philosophically unsophisticated way, the issue becomes a straightforward question of fairness. However, if we accept that the principle of equality means that same-sex couples should be entitled to the same rights as married couples (including the right to call their union a ‘marriage’), then in order to be logically consistent we would also have to say that a definition of marriage which includes both heterosexual and same-sex unions, yet excludes unions with animals or multiple partners, is also failing to provide equal protection under the law to someone or other.
Indeed, if someone is bisexual, then in order for their sexuality to be fully expressed, their ‘marriage’ must include a minimum of at least one person from each sex. Thus, the argument that we should not discriminate based on sexual orientation, if carried to its logical conclusion, necessitates ‘threesomes’ at least.
In reality, any new definition of marriage that Government may wish to impose on the public opens the door to an endless series of redefinitions in years to come. This is because what is true of the word marriage is true of any noun: to define a word as one thing is necessarily to exclude that word as being some other thing. A noun that can mean anything is a noun that means nothing. Unless the term ‘marriage’ is to collapse into complete vacuity, it must necessarily exclude certain types of unions.
OK, that's the slippery slope argument. Now if the champions of same-sex 'marriage' are to be believed, this is a fanciful act of imagination to try to create a scare about gay 'marriage' even though there is no evidence that introducing gay 'marriage' would invite any of these conditions.

Once again, slippery slopes DO exist, and we are now in a position to verify this by considering those nations that have already legalized same-sex ‘marriage.’ Indeed, in allowing for homosexual ‘marriages’, certain nations have inadvertently and inevitably opened the door to additional redefinitions. Consider only a few examples.

After the Netherlands legalized same-sex ‘marriage,’ they began giving legal recognition to threesomes.

After Spain did the same they began changing birth certificates so as to refer to ‘Progenitor A’ and ‘Progenitor B’ rather than ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

In Mexico City, proposals were subsequently introduced to allow for fixed-term marriages.

Canada introduced ‘gay marriage’ and there are now credible and logical attempts to use the measure as a precedent for legalising polygamy.

As more nations jump on the gay 'marriage' bandwagon, we should expect to see many other perversions introduced. Gay 'marriage' is only the beginning.

In short, slippery slopes do exist and that is why both America and Britain ought to oppose same-sex 'marriage.'


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The Consequences of Resurrection

Earlier in the year I wrote three articles in which I alerted readers to the creeping influence of Gnosticism within the evangelical community. These articles can be read at the following links:
The doctrine of resurrection has cultural,
economic, ecological and political consequences.
In the first of the above articles I defined Gnosticism and suggested a number of areas where the tentacles of this ancient heresy reach down to us today. In the second article I focused on the Gnostic tendency to denigrate the created order and to detach spirituality from our experience as embodied beings. The third article took a closer look at the Bible’s teaching on bodily resurrection and how this challenges some of our Gnostic assumptions.

Last week I published a fourth article in the series, looking at the practical ramifications of the doctrine of bodily resurrection. If we reject Gnostic assumptions about the body and assert hope in a future resurrection, what difference does this make to our lives now? In the article I argued from scripture that just as belief in our own personal resurrection should spur us to righteous living in the present (1 Corinthians 15:29-34), so belief in the future renewal of the whole earth (Revelation 21:1) should act as a catalyst for us to work to make the world a better place in the present. The doctrine of new creation therefore has cultural, economic, ecological and political consequences. To read my thoughts on this subject, click on the link below:

Friday, October 26, 2012

On Growing in Wisdom

“The Christian life is both practical and intellectual, and that we separate these two facets at our peril. The Christian life should be practical, since the effectiveness of our witness for Christ depends on the gospel flowing out of our fingertips, being constantly applied to the material of our daily lives. But in order for a Christian to serve Jesus in practical ways, he must also grow in wisdom and understanding.” Saints and Scoundrels, page 85


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gardens, Sacraments and the Olympic Games

In David Brown's Oxford University Press book God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience, Brown writes about what happens when more conventional religions retreat from areas such as sports, and he discusses the Olympic games in this regard and how they were originally infused with spiritual and religious significance. "A vacuum is left, and in its place come alternative spiritualities, but because there is no longer any established tradition of what is appropriate religious discourse in such contexts, there are modelled superficially on the science of the day. Sadly, it is in effect a retreat to magic, if we understand by magic the attempt to control the spiritual influences on one's life by formal rule and regulation. Sacrament, by contrast, because it includes an element of divine initiative, is more open to mystery and unpredictability: God may promise his presence but how that will work out in practice is yet to be seen, and so faith must await in hope what will happen. The varied character of plants also ensures en element of unpredictability in how gardens are, as a matter of fact, experienced by their owners. So a sacramental understanding of gardens could possibly be argued to be nearer to their true character than even the most careful or cautious application of Feng Shui."


Secularism presents itself as being neutral towards religious worldviews. But this is about as convincing as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood pretending to be the grandmother. In reality, secularism offers its own peculiar worldview, a worldview that appropriates religious categories into itself and then transfers them to the state.

Eliminating Shyness

The strangeness inherent in such things as co-ed dorms, co-ed bathrooms, co-ed wrestling and even co-ed sleeping bags, is not that such things exist, but that they can exist without sexual connotations. This can only be achieved to the extent that gender has been emptied of its implicit sexuality.
In a world where manhood and womanhood have been deconstructed, it should hardly come as a surprise. Whether a woman strips down to a bikini on the grounds that there is nothing sexual about it, or puts on a long dress designed to remove all shape, in both cases her latent sexuality is not being properly acknowledged. In both cases, the subject is unconsciously acting out the unisex presuppositions of our post-Enlightenment culture.
In a brothel, women have overcome the natural shyness surrounding erotically important parts of their bodies in order to advertizes sex; on a sunny beach, scores of women can be seen who have overcome this natural shyness with no thought of sex at all.
Indeed, by refusing to explicitly acknowledge the erotic implications of minimalistic attire, we are approaching sexual revolutionist William Reich’s ideal of a sexual utopia in which all shyness has been overcome and sexuality itself has been trivialized and flattened of its innate potency.
By deconstructing our world (materialism), the Enlightenment couldn’t help but deconstruct gender (androgyny), with the result that our sexuality has been neutralized, stripped of any transcendent categories that might otherwise elevate it above that which is merely common.

Read more about this in my article "The Disenchanting of Sex"


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Darwin's Quantum Leap

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

The Quantum Leap
Early in 2009, the International Year of Darwin got underway in Shrewsbury, England, the birthplace of Charles Darwin. As part of the celebration marking both Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species, a sculpture was unveiled in Shrewsbury’s Mardol Quay Gardens. Nearly forty feet high, sixty feet long, and weighing over 200 tons, the structure, named Quantum Leap, resembles a gigantic slinky placed on the ground like an upside down ‘U.’ Darwin coordinator, Jon King, explains, “What we wanted was an iconic structure - something that was big, was bold, but something that could be interpreted in different ways.” In an irony apparently lost on its celebrants, the name ‘Quantum Leap’ makes a fitting metaphor for the thinking of contemporary Darwinists.

Charles Robert Darwin began his career in the summer of 1831 when he boarded the H.M.S. Beagle on a four-year surveying mission. The budding naturalist had studied a bit of medicine and divinity at Cambridge, but geology and nature interested him most. During his five-week stay on the Galapagos Islands Darwin was particularly struck by the varieties of plant and animal life on the different islands.  

A Paradigm is Born
On return, he took up pigeon breeding and discovered that with selective breeding, he could produce a variety of pigeons from a common rock pigeon. Like any curious scientist, Darwin began to speculate.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Heaven and Hell or This-Worldly Judgement

Like so many of Jesus’ parables, the parable of the sheep and the goats is routinely read with the assumption that Jesus must be talking about personal salvation at the end of the eschaton. This salvation, in turn, is understood primarily or exclusively to be a matter of going to heaven when you die. The converse of this is to see Jesus’ pronouncement of damnation primarily or exclusively in terms of certain people going to hell when they die. Indeed, Matthew 25:46 is frequently detached from the rest of the parable (as well as the corpus of kingdom parables to which it belongs) and then used as the most-cited proof text for the doctrine of endless hellfire. To learn why this interpretation is faulty, read my earlier blog post, "The Sheep and the Goats."

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Egypt: I Did Warn About This

Last year when America supported protests in Egypt to topple President Mubarak, many of my friends saw this as a good thing. In all the excitement about democracy coming to Egypt, I felt compelled to offer some warnings. I wrote that,
Despite the criticisms that can be made against him, President Mubarack has provided a stabilizing influence in the region, helping Israel secure its borders and keeping radical Islam in check…. What Obama’s approach overlooks is that the “free elections” in Middle Eastern countries can often be a summons for the advancement of Islamic radicalism and fundamentalist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
I then went on to point out that American interference in Middle Eastern politics has normally backfired, and I predicted that President Obama's support of the Arab Spring in Egypt could prove to be an uncanny repeat of what happened in Iran during the Middle of the last century.

In an attempt for the West to regain control of Iran’s oil, Britain had urged the United States to intervene in Iranian politics during the Truman’s administration. Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, refused, urging that the British were “destructive and determined on a rule or ruin policy in Iran.” It was not until General Dwight Eisenhower was elected President in 1953 that Britain had another chance to regain control of Iran’s petroleum reserves. Churchill put an embargo on Iran’s oil industry while the CIA began spreading anti-Mossadegh propaganda, hoping to convince the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh from the post of prime minister. At first the Shah refused to go along with the American plan to overthrow his democratically elected government (a plan known to the CIA as ‘Operation Ajax’). However, after continued pressure from America the Shah relented. The prime minister was then arrested and kept under house arrest until his death in 1967.

With Iran’s democratic government out of the way, the Shah’s rule became increasingly autocratic. While he made friends of America (granting US companies the majority of the country’s oil contracts, which had been the intended outcome of Operation Ajax), he steadily alienated his own people by crushing all political dissent. This set the stage for Iran’s Revolution in 1978 when the religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini helped to mobilize opposition to the Shah and his pro-American policies. The following year 98% of the country voted to replace the monarchy with an Islamic Republic, unaware that Khomeini was planning to use the new government as a front to rule as a dictator. Since then Iran has suffered under a theocratic Shiite government and remains a focal point for militant Islam and is one of the worst countries for the persecution of Christians. How much better it would have been had America never got involved in undermining Iran’s government.

I haven't had to wait that long before being able to say, of Egypt, "How much better if America had never got involved." (And yes, America did act behind the scenes to topple President Mubarack , as I showed in my article, 'Egypt: The Key Players.')

Since President Mubarack was forced to step down, the one thing that has stepped-up is the Christian killers. Compass Direct News has been regularly reporting on the violence against Egypt's Christian population, which has escalated ever since President Mubarack was forced to step down.

Perhaps it is time for America to stop meddling in the Middle East. At least, that is what I argued in an article I wrote last month for the Examiner. My article was titled 'Why America Should Stop Meddling in the Middle East,' and suggests that in almost every case America's presence in the Middle East works directly contrary to our national security goals.

Further Reading


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Monday, October 15, 2012

Aristotle and Gay 'Marriage'

Having written earlier about Aristophanes and gay 'marriage', I decided it was time to relate the current debate to another ancient Greek writer, namely Aristotle.
Aristotle helpfully distinguished between a thing's essence and it's accidents. The properties of a thing that are absolutely necessary for that thing to be what it is are essential properties while those properties of a thing that are not absolutely necessary for its existence are called accidental properties. For example, the property of greenness is accidental to apples, since an apple could be red or yellow and still be an apple. But "fruitiness" is an essential property of an apple, since, if it were not a fruit, it would not be an apple.
Put another way, according to Aristotle an accident is an attribute not definitely excluded by the essence of a thing. Being tall is thus an accidental property of a tree, since a short tree is still a tree, whereas being ligneous is an essential property, since a tree that was metallic could no longer properly be called a tree, at least not a real one.
Now what does any of this have to do with the debate surrounding so-called gay 'marriage'? To learn, click on the following link which will take you directly to my latest Salvo feature:

Apples, Oranges & Gay Marriage  Or the Name Game & Hidden Assumptions


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Friday, October 12, 2012

The 'Soft Eugenics' of Bill Gates

This article originally appeared on the website of Christian Voice (http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/). The article is published here with permission of Christian Voice.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first eugenics conference, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put on a family planning conference this summer. The conference, which began on 11 July and was co-hosted by the UK Department for International Development, included among its coalition partners such organizations as Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes International, and the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA). 

From Hard Eugenics to Soft Eugenics

Bill and Melinda Gates
The original conference that Bill Gates wished to commemorate was titled The First International Eugenics Congress. It was convened in London from 24-29 July, 1912, and was presided over by Leonard Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin. The conference was dedicated to Charles Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton (1822–1911). Galton invented the term Eugenics to describe his theory that man could be perfected through strategic breeding. His ideas that certain races are genetically superior to other races had a profound impact on later Nazi theorists.

The 1912 conference included an exhibit by the American Breeders’ Association, whose former president, Harry Laughlin, proposed to eradicate the “inferior” members of society through compulsory sterilization. The conference featured a presentation from Bleeker van Wagenen, who gave a report on the progress of sterilization laws in the United States and advocated compulsory sterilization as a means for improving the human gene pool.

Early 20th century Eugenics theory was often accompanied by the notion that economics can be improved by decreasing the surplus population. Such ideas were based on the theories of Thomas Malthus (1766 –1834) who suggested that the poor were draining the world’s recourses. One of Malthus’s solutions for reducing the surplus population was to introduce policies specifically designed to bring death to large numbers of peasants. For example, he encouraged poor people to move near swamps, because he knew that they would catch diseases there and begin dying off.

The conference that the Gates Foundation put on to commemorate The First International Eugenics Congress included no calls for forced sterilization, but Bill and Malinda Gates did pledge hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to contraception in the developing world. Following in the footsteps of early 20th century social engineering theory, they echoed Malthus by suggesting that we have an economic responsibility to ensure that there are fewer people. Wendy Wright has rightly called this the “latest effort to blame children for poverty and women’s troubles.” 

Bill Gates is quick to repudiate his dependence on Malthus. In an interview with PBS, he told Moyers that “The one issue that really grabbed me as urgent were issues related to population” and he shared how originally he “thought that the Malthusian principles applied at least in the developing countries.” Gates went on to say how he came to understand that “essentially Malthus was wrong” and that alternatives to Malthus’s doomsday scenarios included raising wealth, improving health and educating women.

But we should not be too quick to assume that Bill and Melinda Gates have completely abandoned their earlier Malthusian framework. On the contrary, Mr and Mrs Gates have both frequently drawn attention to the economic ramifications of there being too many people. This was made explicit by Melinda Gates in 2011 when she commented that “Government leaders…are now beginning to understand that providing access to contraceptives is a cost-effective way to foster economic growth…”

So what exactly is the relation between contraception and economic growth? 

The Great Escapes of Lisa Miller

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

Lisa Miller was born on September 6th, 1968, the result of an unplanned pregnancy. Whenever her mother was upset with her, she would pull out the oval, peach colored pack of birth control pills (she’d saved it) to show Lisa the one week that was missing. That was the week she was conceived. A bright child, Lisa read voluminously to fill the loneliness.

In the absence of parental support, she devised coping mechanisms. Addiction #1, securing attention and control through food, started at age six, after she had become ill and had been hospitalized and fed intravenously. She added addiction #2, speed in the form of diet pills, at age seven, when her parents divorced. Addictions #3 and #4, cigarettes and pornography, followed during the middle school years. She stole the cigarettes from her father’s store when she visited on weekends, and the pornography came through her mother, who bought magazines and taped pictures of the women to the wall. Lisa taught herself what was going on by reading child development books. In addition, her mother would bring home legal briefs she was typing, many of which involved sex crimes and murder plots, and have Lisa read them. “It was during these years that I became quiet on the outside but wild on the inside,” Lisa would write years later.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Theology of Word Separation

We all know about the social and even theological impact of the printing press. However, few people appreciate that the practice of putting spaces between words was almost as revolutionary.

When homo sapiens first began to move from pictorial symbols to an alphabetic text in the 8th century BC, writing was simply an adjunct of speech. Since we do not pause between each word when speaking, it simply never occurred to our ancestors to put spaces between their written words. They were simply transcribing what they heard. A corollary to this was that silent reading remained a relative anomaly. 
In his Confessions, Saint Augustine was surprised to stumble upon Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, reading silently.
“When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.”
This was clearly something that Augustine was not used to.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Mitt Romney's Religion

Americans have become so used to separating religion from politics that they often fail to sufficiently probe a political candidates’ religious beliefs to see how those beliefs may affect his suitability for public office.

It is true that in our age of purely privatized faith, a candidate’s religious convictions often make no discernible difference to his policy decisions. Yet as I pointed out in the first of four articles on Mitt Romney’s religion, we should not be too quick to bracket off a candidate’s religion from having any relevance. This is especially true in the case of Mitt Romney.

Keep reading...

Outline of Mathison’s Arguments

Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scriptura is the book everyone tells me to read for a good defense of the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

In a blog post from April 2011 I raised some questions about the arguments in the book and I recently re-read the book to try to really nail down just what he was saying.

Because I find the narrative of the book maddeningly unsystematic, I have tried to reproduce his basic line of argumentation in as systematic a form as possible. Here is a basic outline of his argument (and I hope Matthison will kindly correct me if I have not adequately represented his argument.)

  • Solo Scriptura (not to be confused with Sola Scriptura which Mathison defends) means that the individual is the final interpreter of scripture.
    • "Proponents of solo scriptura have deceived themselves into thinking that they honor the unique authority of Scripture. But unfortunately, by divorcing the Spirit-inspired Word of God from the Spirit-indwelt people of God, they have made it into a plaything and the source of endless speculations. If a proponent of solo scriptura is honest, he recognizes that it is not the infallible Scripture to which he ultimately appeals. His appeal is always to his own fallible interpretation of that Scripture.” p. 253
  • By contrast, the reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that scripture is the only ultimate authority (the qualifier ‘ultimate’ distinguishes this from non-Protestant approaches), although scripture is interpreted within the context of the church.

    • "For the first three centuries, we find a general consensus regarding authority….The Scripture was to be interpreted by the Church and in the Church within the context of the regula fidei [the rule of faith]. If it was taken out of its apostolic context, it would inevitably be mishandled.” p. 48
    • "The Church was the interpreter and guardian of the Word of God…”
    • “…the true interpretation of Scripture is found only in the Church.” p. 319
  • The Churches which can legitimately serve this function as the interpreter and guardian of the Word of God are those communions which assent to the creeds of the early church, principally the Nicene Creed and the definition of Chalcedon.
    • According to sola scriptura…the true interpretation of Scripture is found only in the Church…. How then do we identify the Church when there are numerous communions claiming to be the Church? …we can identify the fragments of the true visible Church by their acceptance of the common testimony of the Holy Spirit in the rule of faith, especially as expressed in written form in the ecumenical creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon.” p. 319 and 321

    • This includes non-heretical Protestant churches, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.
      • The reformers were wrong to consider only themselves to be the true church. p. 332
  •  Even though Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are branches of the true church (and therefore logically fall under the rubric of those churches which can function as the interpreter and guardian of the Word of God), one should not join either of them because their teachings do not align with the teachings of Scripture.


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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Soldier Mom: A West Point Cadet Answers a Different Call

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

Paula struggled to maintain her balance in Breakfast Formation. At West Point Military Academy, cadets must be accounted for at all times, and as a sophomore, she was accustomed to this drill. Dressed in full uniform, shirts tucked in, buckles and shoes shined, backs straight, row upon row of cadets were counted every morning before breakfast. But this morning she didn’t feel well. A nearby parking lot had been re-tarred, and the smell was making her sick. “I think I’m going to faint,” she said, leaning against her friend.

“Oh, no you’re not,” he pushed back just enough to help her stand on her own. Paula made herself suck it up and held on just as an upperclassman walked by. “Johnson, are you okay?” he asked, genuinely concerned. “I’m not really sure,” she managed to answer, but the look on her face spoke volumes. He pulled her out of line, and when she doubled over, convulsing in dry heaves, he sent her to sick call.

Walking to the campus clinic, Paula actually felt a little relieved. Maybe I have the flu, she thought. A day of rest would be nice, even if she had to be sick to get it.

But Paula didn’t have the flu. Dr. Yavorek, a female civilian doctor, was on duty that morning, and after Paula described her symptoms, Dr. Yavorek got right to the source of her malady. “Is there any chance you could be pregnant?”

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

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