Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ignore that Black Lady: Why is the media ignoring Bevin's running mate?

Am I the only one who noticed the fact that in the election coverage of the Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday night that no one wanted to talk about the fact that Republican nominee Matt Bevin's running mate was a Black woman?

As far as I could tell, the only one who even mentioned Jenean Hampton was Al Cross.

Just imagine the fanfare we would be subject to if it was a Black woman running on a Democratic ticket.

When Bevin convened to give his victory speech, he gave the podium first to Hampton, where she revealed herself to be far more than a token member of the ticket. She was smart and articulate.

Bevin gave a high-energy speech that made it very clear that he is not going to apologize for his conservative positions on social issues. Now that's a change.

I was a Heiner supporter, but Bevin's nomination may turn out to have been the best strategic outcome for Republicans, since (because of the bad blood created during the primary) had Heiner won, Comer would probably not have given his full support (what Heiner would have done if Comer won I don't know).

But Bevin is going to get the full support of both in the general election. My prediction is that (assuming there are no major gaffes), if Bevin sticks to his conservative guns--and that includes social issues--he's going to attract the large number of Kentucky conservatives to the polls and win.

And let's hope he highlights Jack Conway's sorry performance when he bailed on Kentucky voters, contradicting his campaign platform and shirking his Constitutional responsibilities to boot, and decided not to defend Kentucky Marriage Amendment.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A response to the Pew Center survey on religious belief, from 84 years ago

I have been trying to figure out what to say about the recent Pew Center study that purports to have found a decline in Christian belief in the United States. And then, reading in my commonplace today, I came across a quote that says it all:
The world is trying to experiment with attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming th time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the world from suicide.
--T. S. Eliot, Thoughts After Lambeth, 1931.

Why even the children of evangelicals don't understand traditional marriage.

There is an excellent article in the new issue of First Things magazine by a Christian college professor, Abigail Rine, who relates her experience in her "gender theory" class. Exactly why anyone at an Christian college would think it necessary to have a "gender theory" class at all is not mentioned. Maybe alchemy is also taught there too. Or astrology. In any case, her account is interesting:
A few weeks ago, I assigned the article “What is Marriage?” to the students in my gender theory class, which I teach at an evangelical university. This article presents an in-depth defense of the conjugal view of marriage, and I included it on the reading list as part of my efforts to expose students to a range of viewpoints—religious and secular, progressive and conservative. The goal is to create robust civil dialogue, and, ideally, to pave the way for thoughtful Christian contributions to cultural understandings of sex and gender. The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.
I'm not sure whether to feel good or not about the fact that Christians have made "contributions" to this alleged academic discipline, but she goes on:

When I first began teaching this course, my students were certainly curious about questions of gender, sexuality, feminism—the various “hot button” issues of our cultural moment—but they were nonetheless devout, and demonstrated, more or less, a Christian orientation to these topics. It wasn’t hard to find readings that challenged students’ shared values and assumptions, considering the secular bent of contemporary gender studies. 
In just five years, however, this has changed. Students now arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant. Like, for example, “What is Marriage?” 
My students hated it, as I suspected they would. They also seemed unable to fully understand the argument. As I tried to explain the reasoning behind the conjugal view of marriage and its attitude toward sex, I received dubious stares in response. I realized, as I listened to the discussion, that the idea of “redefining” marriage was nonsensical to them, because they had never encountered the philosophy behind the conjugal view of marriage. To them, the Christian argument against same-sex marriage is an appeal to the authority of a few disparate Bible verses, and therefore compelling only to those with a literalist hermeneutic. What the article names as a “revisionist” idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem “new” to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.
This is what happens when the teaching in our Sunday Schools and our Christian education institutions at the elementary and secondary level goes little beyond informing us that sex outside marriage is bad and chastity is bliss (rather than a sacrifice or a hard discipline, which is what it really is for anyone who not delusional).

The problem, in other words, is us:
As I consider my own upbringing and the various “sex talks” I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist. While the ideal of raising a family is ever-present in evangelical culture, discussions about sex itself focused almost exclusively on purity, as well as the intense spiritual bond that sexual intimacy brings to a married couple. Pregnancy was mentioned only in passing and often in negative terms, paraded alongside sexually transmitted diseases as a possible punishment for those who succumb to temptation. But for those who wait, ah! Pleasures abound! 
There was little attempt to cultivate an attitude toward sexuality that celebrates its full telos: the bonding of the couple and the incarnation of new life. And there was certainly no discussion of a married couple learning to be responsive to their fertility, even as a guiding principle. To the contrary, the narrative implied that once the “waiting” was over, self-discipline would no longer be necessary. Marriage would be a lifelong pleasure romp. Sex was routinely praised as God’s gift to married couples—a “gift” largely due to its orgasmic, unitive properties, rather than its intrinsic capacity to create life.
Same-sex marriage is the result not only of bad teaching in our Christian schools and churches, but of the de-coupling of sex from procreation which happened with the acquiescence of Protestants (and many lay Catholics, although not the Church itself) since the 1930s.

The consequences of not knowing why we believe what we believe is to find ourselves eventually not believing it anymore.

Of course, the other problem is that many Christians continue to send their children to public schools where the silly teachings of "gender theory" are now taught as dogma. When we let our children be trained by the enemy, we shouldn't be surprised when we find that their loyalties have shifted away from us.

Read the rest of Rine's article here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Should Catholics leave the Church when the going gets rough?

My friend Rod Dreher at the American Conservative has a post today which discusses the San Jose, California diocese’s new "traveling LGBT Mass". The exact nature of it is not fully described, but there is enough to tell that it is probably another work of those who see there mission as the world's missionaries to the Church rather than the Church's missionaries to the world.

Rod asks this question for his readers: 
I would like to ask the orthodox Catholics (not liberal Catholics, not Catholic dissenters, not ex-Catholics) in the room what you would do if you lived in that diocese. What advice would you give that reader on how to hold on now that she has been disillusioned? If you were to evangelize non-Catholics in that diocese, how would you go about it?
Here was my answer to at least the first question:

Why would I renounce my Church for its shortcomings any more than I would renounce my country for its shortcomings–or my family for its sins?

The Church is one of those things that Chesterton called “primary loyalties,” which include our civil community and our family. They are things we not only should defend, but have no choice but to defend–even, and perhaps especially, from their internal enemies.

Yes, the Church is in trouble. It is always in trouble. But that doesn’t mean it needs us less, but that it needs us more. Our country is in trouble. So do we pack up and leave it for a less troubled country? Do we renounce our family because its imperfections and join another, less imperfect one?

Why would we do anything else with the Church?

Would it be easier to go to some other church where you don’t have to fight for what’s right? Sure it would. But that’s the thing about standing up for what’s right: It’s hard. It takes effort. It takes time. It is not pleasurable.

I marvel at the shallowness of commitment among modern people. As soon as the going gets rough, instead of staying and fighting, we start looking for a means of escape. Because, after all, it’s all about me and my needs, isn’t it?

If we believe the Catholic Church is THE Church, then there is no option but to stay and try to reform it. There is simply other place to go. And if we don’t believe that the Catholic Church is THE Church, then we’re part of the very problem in the Church that you bemoan, since the Catholic position is that it is the one, true Church.

If the Church can’t count on those of us who continue to hold to its teachings and tradition, then who can it count on? If the Gates of Hell ever were to prevail against it, those of us who left her in her time of need would need to ask ourselves who was to blame–and it wouldn’t be those who are corrupting it, but those who chose an easier course than to fight the corruption.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A response to David Quine on why the Greeks and Romans got God wrong (and it's not what he thinks)

I have been in a debate in the comments section of another post with Christian curriculum developer David Quine about whether the Christian worldview is in fundamental conflict with the classical (or "Graeco-Roman") worldview. This is part of a larger disagreement over whether classical education is appropriate for Christian educators. 

David argues that the "Graeco-Roman worldview" is in opposition to the Christian worldview and because classical education reads and studies Greek and Roman authors as a part of its program, classical education is not a legitimate part of Christian education. 

As I do occasionally here at Vital Remnants, I am bringing this debate on a previous post back out to the main blog.

He also claims that this is the Reformation position, which it most definitely is not, since the Reformers were unanimous in their use of Greek and Roman authors in their works and in the systems of education they themselves took and often taught to their students (and in Luther's case, recommended) . But I am dealing with this in another set of posts.

In his most recent comments in an earlier post, the reason Quine gives for believing that the classical and Christian worldviews are in conflict is that the Greeks and Romans held to certain erroneous beliefs about 1) God, 2) origins, and 3) truth.

It seems to me there are several problems with this argument. We can see these by just considering the Greek's erroneous view of God, although it is the same problem with the issue of their beliefs about origins (I will talk about truth in another post).

Were the flawed classical beliefs about God due to a bad worldview?
First, his assumption is that the worldview of a culture is flawed if the beliefs of that culture about God are flawed (David may not think this is sufficient, but he seems to think it is necessary). But how do we know this? How could you ever know that it was specifically the Greek's worldview that was the origin of their flawed theology? The only way you could say this is if you believed that it was possible for people to whom God did not reveal themselves to have a correct view of God.

I would be surprised (in fact, shocked) if David believed this, since what it would require is the belief that you could come to a knowledge of God through reason. And I know David does not believe that.

If, in order to have a correct view of God, you have to have it revealed to you, then how could the Greeks have had a correct view of God, since it was not revealed to them? In other words, the obvious reason they had a flawed view of God was that they had no divine revelation. And if that's the case, how can Quine attribute their incorrect theology to their worldview?

We can no more blame the classical world's flawed theology on a bad worldview than we can praise the Hebrew's correct theology on a good one. If you believe that the only factor in the correctness of a culture's view of God is its worldview, then we would have to conclude not only that the Greek worldview was bad, but that the Sumerian worldview was good (since Abraham was from Ur of the Chaldees).

The Greeks could have had a perfect worldview and never attained a correct view of God because the only way you can have a correct view of God is for God to tell it to you. But, in accordance with His inscrutable will, God didn't do that.

David says that the Christian view of truth is based on divine revelation, and the Greek's view of truth was based on human reason. To say that reason is somehow in conflict with the Christian worldview is, needless to say, completely inaccurate, but I'll get to that in a later post. But the relevant question here is, without divine revelation, what else did the Greeks and Romans have but reason?

In his post on truth he says that sometimes the Greeks sought knowledge from a god through oracles such as that at Delphi, but more often through their own reason.

That means that either the Greeks sought their truth through divine revelation from the only gods they knew, which on Quine's view would constitute a good worldview practice (even though the gods they were seeking it from happened to be the wrong ones), or they sought it through human reason, which, having no real divine revelation, was the only thing they could do (In the absence of divine revelation, what were they supposed to use?).

Therefore, either the Greeks used a good worldview practice or they did the only thing they could do. I'm trying to determine why I should think badly of the Greeks for this. And, since I am only using Quine's assumptions here, I'm wondering how he can either.

Why the Greeks believed what they believed about God
The Greeks were all over the map on their beliefs about God, a phenomenon that would be hard to account for if there were some underlying worldview dictating their religious beliefs. The Greeks were searching and using the only tools they had at their disposal: reason and imagination. That is why there seem to have been two general categories of such beliefs among them, one based on imagination, and the other on reason.

Chesterton talks about the first of these in his book The Everlasting Man. He points out that classical pagan polytheism was the result of the practice of trying to make sense of the world solely on the basis of the human imagination:
Certainly the pagan does not disbelieve like an atheist, any more than he believes like a Christian. He feels the presence of powers about which he guesses and invents. St. Paul said that the Greeks had one altar to an unknown god. But in truth all their gods were unknown gods. And the real break in history did come when St. Paul declared to them whom they had worshipped. The substance of all such paganism may be summarized thus. It is an attempt to reach the divine reality through the imagination alone.
... Mythology, then, sought god through the imagination; or sought truth by means of beauty.
The second kind of classical religious thought was that of the philosophers. Here, rather than imagination being used as the sole avenue to knowledge of God, it was reason. As Chesterton points out, one of the problems with the Greeks was that the thought traditions based on imagination were disconnected with the thought traditions based on reason. There was a conflict between their priests and their philosophers and it was only the larger, deeper thought system of Christianity that could bridge the divide.
It is vital to view of all history that reason is something separate from religion even in the most rational of these civilisations. It is only as an afterthought, when such cults are decadent or on the defensive, that a few Neo-Platonists or a few Brahmins are found trying to rationalise them, and even then only by trying to allegorise them. But in reality the rivers of mythology and philosophy run parallel and do not mingle till they meet in the sea of Christendom. Simple secularists still talk as if the Church had introduced a sort of schism between reason and religion. The truth is that the Church was actually the first thing that ever tried to combine reason and religion. There had never before been any such union of the priests and the philosophers.
For now I'll just point out that the religious mistakes made by the Greeks and the Romans were not the result of something bad they possessed (a mistaken worldview), but of something good they didn't possess (divine revelation).

I'll address some other issues that I think Quine gets wrong, including the issue of the relation of revelation and reason.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Changing Nature to Suit Our Preferences (in which I self-identify as a human being)

Man's chief problem is pride. And one of the ways this manifests itself is in the human desire to gain control over nature itself. This has been the chief impulse in both science and art for a century or more.

In art, what philosopher Karsten Harries calls the "aesthetics of subjectivity" makes the artist himself the chief and sometimes only factor in the creation of art, a tendency that leads him away from representing the world as it is (the traditional role of art) toward portraying it as he would like it to be. The artist, impatient with having to settle for being a subcreator (Tolkien's term), tries to take on the role of the Creator Himself. But since he cannot actually create a new world, he is stuck with distorting the one we actually have. He can't make a human being so, he reconstructs real ones, resulting in faces with a mouth on the top, the eyes at the bottom, and the nose to the side--in word, deformity and ugliness.

Science approaches the world very differently, but the same nihilistic impulse is on display: The humble objective of gaining knowledge of a world that has a permanent and unchangeable order takes a back seat to various attempts at trying to subdue it to his own preferences. The Aristotelian objective of determining the causes of things is replaced with the instrumental aim of bending it to our will. Since the one thing that sets man apart from the rest of nature is that we can defy nature, we end up trying to change what we set out to understand. We start by distorting the environment and end up distorting human nature.

Part of the problem is that we take our ability to defy nature as license to redefine it. So now we no longer take our cues of what natural things are for from nature. A heart is for pumping blood; lungs are for putting oxygen in it; kidneys are for filtering it. But reproductive organs are ... not for reproduction. That an increasing number of people have come to think that the functions of reproductive organs can be seamlessly interchanged with those of digestive organs is a measure of just how alienated from nature we have become.

The most fundamental theme of modern thought is the denial of nature. Nature is irrelevant to the natural function of sex. We can now "self-identify" as male or female regardless of whether or not we are.

I just happened to be thinking about all this when I ran across this comment in a somewhat related and excellent post at the Federalist on ways in which nature matters even though we try to pretend it doesn't:
Even more so than the misogynistic Christian church or the anti-gay GOP, the chief enemy of egalitarianism is nature. Historic Christianity only makes it hard for women to be pastors, but nature makes it hard for women to be soldiers, firefighters, lumberjacks, and anything else that requires masculine levels of upper body strength. Republicans may pass laws letting bakers deny service for gay weddings, but nature imposes laws denying two pairs of ovaries the power to procreate. But the greatest way that nature breeds inequality is by filling us with the desire to love the children that have resulted from our breeding.
Read more here.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Does science explain anything?

What we now call 'science' was once called 'natural philosophy.' But although in one sense these two terms mean the same thing, there is a sense in which they are still very different. Modern science came out of natural philosophy, but has changed into something else.

In the old natural philosophy, the purpose of inquiry into nature was to better know what creation is. It taught nomenclature (the names of things), taxonomy (how the thing fits in with other things), morphology (how things are internally structured), and scientific method (how to investigate natural things). It was focused on the wonder and mystery of creation itself. It was focused on apprehending the natures of natural things and thereby appreciating them. It was a philosophy of wonder.

Much of modern science, however, has a different agenda. Francis Bacon (and, in a different way, RenĂ© Descartes) began to change the very purpose of investigation into nature. For the first time, the belief arose that nature was not there primarily to be known, but to be used or controlled. Bacon said he wanted to put nature on the rack to give up its secrets—not primarily so that we could understand or behold it, but so that we could use it for our own betterment or advantage.

"Knowledge," Bacon said, "is power."

Bacon and Descartes seem to have meant well: They wanted to use science to improve the human condition. But once science came to be seen as an instrument to control nature for an extrinsic purpose—which it has done rather convincingly—the other purposes, such as that of understanding and wonder, tend to get shunted to the side.

Its success in accomplishing its new purpose has also caused science to develop a rather big head. Many modern scientists have become so enamored of the power of science that they now think that scientific inquiry can answer all of our questions. This belief—that science is the chief or even the only way to determine truth—is called "scientism": the religion of science.

Whereas in the old natural science there was no competition between belief in God and the study of nature, the scientism that began to gather strength in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries eventually resulted in the view that science and theology were competing modes of belief and that as science gained explanatory power, it would eventually push out religion.

It is said that Pierre-Simon Laplace, the famous French scientist, once gained an interview with Napoleon in order to present him with a copy of one of his books. "They tell me," said the Emperor, "that you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator."

"Sire," Laplace famously responded, "I have no need of that hypothesis."

The "God of the gaps"
In fact, one of the arguments offered by non-believing scientists against religious belief is called the "God of the gaps" argument. If you look at the history of science, they say, what you see is that, at first, there were many questions which science could not answer. These questions were simply dismissed as unanswerable and attributed to God.

In other words, if there was some question science couldn't answer, we would simply say, "God did it," and that was considered the final word.

But, say these scientists, as science has grown in power and subtlety, there are fewer and fewer questions science is unable to answer. There are fewer and fewer mysteries about which we have to resort to the "God did it" solution. Furthermore, if we follow this trajectory into the future, we can see that, as science continues to grow in its explanatory effectiveness, it will one day be able to answer all the questions about nature that we have formerly had to invoke God in order to explain.
In short, soon science will have explained everything and God will be made irrelevant.

We will have "no need for that hypothesis."

But is this true? Are these scientists right to say that the fund of unanswered questions about nature is being slowly diminished by science, and that it will one day have answered all of these questions?

The answer is "No."

Why the "God of the gaps" argument does not work
There is an assumption underlying the "God of the gaps" argument that is ridiculous on the face of it. In fact, it is a great example of the static analysis fallacy—the fallacy of assuming that what you are examining is somehow fixed and not in the process of changing.

The assumption of the "God of the gaps" argument against religious belief is that there is a fixed number of questions about the natural world, some of which have been answered and some of which have not, so that every question that is answered reduces the number of unanswered questions by one.
Now this is obviously absurd, since science does not operate in a world in which there is a fixed and unchangeable number of questions. In fact, as science proceeds in its path of discovery, it not only discovers answers to unanswered questions, it discovers new questions which it never would have thought to ask. New discoveries not only answer old questions, they produce new questions.

This problem becomes even more pronounced after a scientific paradigm shift. When Einstein's theory of relativity displaced Newtonian mechanics, it offered an improved system of explanation. But it also redefined mass, energy, time, and space, creating a whole new set of problems needing a solution. Quantum mechanics too introduced a whole new set of questions which no one would ever have thought to ask until Neils Bohr, Wolfgang Pauley, and Werner Heisenberg thought to ask them.
Some would argue that the number of unanswered scientific questions is not diminishing at all—that, in fact, because of the rate of the appearance of new questions compared to the number of questions having already obtained answers, the number of unanswered questions is actually increasing all the time. Natural mysteries for which science has no answer, far from being eliminated, are actually multiplying.

Think of it this way: If you take a flashlight and point it straight down, close to the ground, you will see a small circle of light. And if you raise the flashlight higher from the ground you will see a much larger circle of light. Our scientific flashlight today illuminates much more than the small circle of knowledge we had in the past. But notice this: The small circle of light borders only a small portion of darkness, but the larger circle of light reveals a much larger circumference of darkness. So, too, does the circumference of our ignorance increase as the area of our scientific knowledge becomes greater.

The more we know, the more we realize how much we do not know. Science is a light in the darkness of physical reality, but as its light increases, so does its estimate of the amount of darkness that is in need of light.

Many scientists postulate that they are in the process of closing in on some ultimate terminus in which our understanding of nature—and our ability to control it—are perfect: a sort of scientific utopia. But the idea of arriving at some position of full knowledge of nature becomes increasingly implausible as we see such a terminus move further away from us the closer we think we're getting.

This problem—of never being able to make headway toward a comprehensive explanation of nature—has been underscored by the investigations of quantum physics. According to many of its chief architects and many of its most devoted adherents, quantum mechanics has not only failed to make the nature of reality clearer, but has fundamentally undermined confidence in science as a mode of explanation at all.

Can science explain anything?
One of the themes of modern science has been that a knowledge of the parts of things reveals more clearly the nature of the things themselves. This is why much of modern scientific investigation involves analyzing the most elemental parts of something. This is just what quantum mechanics has done. The problem is that when they finally found the tools to investigate the behavior of the subatomic world, scientists did not find what they thought they would find. What they found, far from making nature more understandable, has made it even more paradoxical.

Light, which logically cannot be both a wave and a particle, is both (a photon). Certain particles disappear and then reappear somewhere else instantaneously (a quantum leap). Subatomic particles do not exist anywhere until we observe them (said Neils Bohr). Measurement defines what is being measured (said Heisenburg). "The more successes the quantum theory enjoys," said Einstein, "the more stupid it looks." But even Einstein could not stop it. Though he rejected it until the day he died, he could not refute it.

As with relativity, quantum physics redefined basic scientific concepts—'particle,' 'wave,' 'position,' 'momentum,' 'trajectory'—all had to be given new meanings. As it turned out, many of the old questions that had been "answered" were not the right questions to ask in the first place.
Not only did quantum physics show that many of the assumptions of classical Newtonian physics were incomplete (and in some cases simply wrong), but it brought the whole purpose of science as an explanatory construct into question. Events at the quantum level, it found, are governed by the rules of probability. At the level of the smallest and most elemental things—where we finally get to the bottom of things—it turns out that nature does not follow the scientific script.

So confounding have been the findings of quantum physics that its original and chief exponent, Niels Bohr, finally gave up on science as an explanatory discipline altogether. He talked of a new "epistemological situation" brought about by particle physics in which we can no longer apply the concepts of causality at all. And with causality goes logic itself. "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory," said Bohr, "has not understood it."

Traditional Christian theism does not believe in a "God of the gaps" whose relevance can be eliminated by the progress of science. God is not there to answer our "how" questions in the first place. Many of these can be explained by studying the world He created, complete with the inherent mechanisms implanted in it that make it go. God is there to answer our "why" questions—the questions science can't even begin to answer.

Science, in Bohr's view, is no longer in the explanation business. "It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out [what] nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature." All it can do is describe and predict. It can only say "how," it can never say "why."

Modern science began with mysteries it could not explain; it has brought itself full circle. When science launched off on its own and shed the label 'natural philosophy,' it set off on a journey to explain everything. But here we are at the beginning of the twenty-first century and we are still being told by Bohr's scientific descendants that not only can science not explain the why of everything, it can't explain anything, a position that radically undermines the rationalistic pretensions of many modern scientists.

Maybe the goal of science should not be to resolve mysteries. The classical view of nature—as something to wonder at instead of to take apart—has virtues that we would do well to remember.
Under the classical view, the role of science is not to solve every question presented by nature, but rather to bring us face to face with things themselves—things which are essentially mysterious. Science tells us how the mystery operates; philosophy, why it is here at all; and theology, Who it is Who is behind it all.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Was the Protestant Reformation Opposed to Graeco-Roman Thought? A Second Response to David Quine, Part II: Philipp Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon
This is the second in a continuing series of posts on whether classical education is somehow opposed to the Christian worldview. This is a claim made by David Quine, a Christian curriculum developer who has made this charge in several speeches and in comments on this blog.

Quine not only claims that the study of the classics is inconsistent with Christianity in general, but more specifically with the thinking of the Protestant Reformation. Says Quine:
It is exactly this amalgamation of Greco-Roman thought to true Christianity which [Francis] Schaeffer described in his writings as a departure from true Christianity and which the Reformation Church leaders considered contrary to orthodox teaching of the Church ( that is, heresy) and many of whom were willing to give up their earthly lives for this issue. 
There are a number of problems with this statement, the chief of which is that it is clearly not true. In actuality, the Protestant reformers, to a man, were not only the beneficiaries of a classical education, but proponents of it. They not only knew the great authors of Latin and Greece, but esteemed many of them highly. They not only learned from them, but taught them. They not only taught them, but openly advocated that others teach them.

Let's talk first about Philipp Melanchthon. Melanchthon was the first systematic theologian of the Reformation and was, in some respects, its intellectual leader.

When Melanchthon was ten years old, he learned to read the Greek and Latin poets, then the histories and dramas. "This habit," he said, "gradually led me to the ancient classics. From them I acquired a vocabulary and style."

He studied the structure of the orations of Cicero (the Roman orator) and Demosthenes (the Greek). At the University of Tubingen, he then took up Virgil, Galen, and others. When he was seventeen years old, he began to teach there, with classes on the Romans Vergil, Terence, Livy, and Cicero. He even conducted translations of Terence, portions of the Roman biographer Plutarch, and the Greek philosopher Aristotle's Posterior Analytics.

When he became the Professor of Greek at the University of Wittenburg (the academic home at the time of Martin Luther), he gave lectures on the Epistle of Titus, wrote two treatises on Plutarch, the Greek philosopher Athenagoras, Greek philosopher Plato's Symposium, wrote a Greek dictionary, a Greek hymn, and three books on rhetoric—classical subjects all. He published a handbook on dialectics, edited the Greek playwright Aristophanes' Clouds, and wrote a Greek grammar.

He encouraged his pupils to translate works by the Roman philosopher Seneca, and the Roman playwrights Plautus  and Terence, a practice of which, said classicist Theodore Arthur Buenger, "Luther approved."

Here is Dr. Buenger's account of Melanchthon's educational programme:
In 1528 appeared the Saxon Visitation Articles ... which give an outline of the school system as Melanchthon wished it to be. In the first place, teachers should be careful to teach only Latin, not German, Greek, or Hebrew. The primary School was to consist of three classes, which, however, were not to he absolved in one year. In the first the pupil was to study the alphabet, the Lord's prayer, the Creed, Donatus, and Cato's Disticha; in the second class, he was to be occupied with Aesop (in Latin), extracts from the writings of the contemporaneous authors Mosellanus and Erasmus, and with Terence and Plautus. Besides, there was to be drill in grammar. The third division was to take up Vergil, Ovid, and the Letters or the De Officiis of Cicero, and to continue the study of grammar, dialectics, and rhetoric. In all classes the boys were obliged to talk Latin with the teacher and with one another. This elementary school was followed by the Gymnasium, in which the study of Latin was continued, Greek and Hebrew were begun, and Greek was continued through Isocrates, Xenophon, Plutarch, Hesiod, Theognis, etc. ... "We still have the correspondence between him [Melanchthon] and fifty-six cities asking counsel and assistance in founding and conducting Latin schools and gymnasia" [said James W. Richard] ... Nearly all the Latin schools of the sixteenth century in Germany were founded according to Melanchthon's directions. His textbooks were used in all of them. 
According to Richard, this curriculum was instituted at the University of Marburg, then at Jena, then at Tubingen, Leipzig, Heidelburger, Frankfurt, Rostock, and Greisfswald. Said Buenger, "The outcome was a union of classical antiquity and of all the sciences and philosophy with religious knowledge."

If Quine is concerned with "synchretism" (the mixing of Graeco-Roman thought and Christianity) in Dante, this should really concern him.

In fact, the idea that the Protestant Reformation was somehow opposed to classical education--the study of Latin, the liberal arts, and the study of the Greek and Roman classics—is not only untrue, but precisely the opposite of the truth. Here is Buenger on the actual historical situation:
We may thus say that the leaders of Protestantism were all of them well trained in the Classics, that they had in fact a knowledge of the ancient literatures which is rare nowadays even among professional classicists. They appreciated the classical authors and made them a part of their lives. That this heritage of antiquity might not be lost to their descendants they incorporated them in their Schools. Protestantism adopted humanism as its educational standard.  
You would have to falsify the historical record in order to maintain the position that there is some kind of opposition between the Reformation and classical education.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Family Foundation press release on the death of Justice Heyburn

Today's Family Foundation press release:

For Immediate Release

April 30, 2015

LEXINGTON, KY— The Family Foundation offered its condolences today to the family of Justice John G. Heyburn, the judge who struck down Kentucky's Marriage Amendment. "We strongly disagreed with Judge Heyburn's decision," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group who had helped pass the law, "but people of good will can disagree."

Cothran had debated Judge Heyburn last November at the Women Lawyers Association of Louisville, a debate that was considered historic because it involved someone who had been instrumental in passing the state constitutional amendment and the sitting judge who made the ruling.

"I had been told before the debate that Judge Heyburn had inoperable cancer," said Cothran. "I tried to be deferential to him because he was a federal judge, but, unconsciously, I think, also because I knew he was ill. Still it was a spirited but cordial debate. We talked before and after in very friendly terms. He seemed like a good man."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Adventures in Tolerance: Feelin' the luv from the LGBT Hate Lobby

Just in case you thought that the champions of Tolerance and Diversity were in favor of, oh, I don't know, tolerance and diversity, here is one of the comments on PBS' website about the segment yesterday that I was in:
Wow. This Cothran guy is the consummate bigot! Must be great to be the Klan, without all the robes n physical murder. Murder of freedom to be one's self is so much more fun for these ghouls. Thugs like Cothran n his ilk in the Bubba Belt really need to have their brand of deviance, which is far less legitimate than gay marriage, set straight. I doubt this thug ridden Supreme Kangaroo Court is up to the task, but there's always hope. And I am a straight guy, not that it should matter.
Read the rest here.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Is the research in support of same-sex marriage junk science?

On the big screen behind the balls of fire is the face of the big man telling you in a scary voice that scientific research supports the idea that children do just as well in same-sex marriages as in families with a biological mother and father. But Todo has pulled the curtain back and it turns out that all the pyrotechnics hide an uncomfortable truth: It's not true.

Like so many other claims that are "research-based," the claims of same-sex marriage advocates that science shows that children raised by "married" gay parents are just as well-served as children in families headed by the child's natural parents turn out to be based on questionable evidence.

Here is Gene Schaerr in the Daily Signal, commenting on the evidence offered by the politically compromised American Psychological Association and the American College of Pediatricians:
... [D]ozens of studies cited to support the so-called “scientific consensus” that the American Psychological Association claims, only eight meet scientific standards for population inference. The rest tell us nothing. 
Of these eight, the four older ones found no disadvantages for children raised by same-sex couples compared to other family structures. But as the recent American College of Pediatricians amicus brief shows, all four studies suffer an incurable flaw:  about half (40-60 percent) of the children they report as being raised with same-sex parents are actually children with opposite-sex parents, either because of coding errors, or problems with the census data on which the studies relied.
In the end, this “dirty data” problem either invalidates their findings, or makes relying on them extremely problematic.
This leaves only four studies that are methodologically sound. And as the American College of Pediatricians brief shows, all four—the four most recent—find that children do not fare as well when raised by same-sex couples as when raised by married, biological parents.
To the contrary, such children often experience significantly higher levels of events or conditions such as being arrested, using marijuana, being depressed, having a learning disability or other psychological or developmental problem—and are less likely to graduate from high school.  As adults, they are more likely to be unemployed, receive public assistance and to have an extramarital affair.
The fake evidence hides an ideology (a belief system impervious to evidence). Read more here.