Feb 15 2012

American Catholicism’s pact with the Devil?

In this article at ToRenewAmerica, I wrote about the failure of the “Seamless Garment” perspective of Cardinal Bernadin to provide a proper moral compass for Catholics and other Christians by equating the moral necessity to resist abortion with the promotion of essentially socialist perspectives on society and government, making resistance to abortion the hostage of socialist policies.  Bernadin’s positions on this have provided cover for way too many Catholics to support leftist, pro-abortion politicians, in the name of vague sounding concern for the poor, politicians whose policies and enacted laws have had a distinctly non-vague, and very negative impact on life in these United States.

And now the comeuppance of these very confused Christians and Catholics has arrived, in the form of a President Obama whom they helped to elect, a president whose plan all along was to find a way to force all Americans to pay for abortifacient birth control, even if it is against their religious beliefs.

Now, Professor Paul Rahe has written on American Catholicism’s Pact With The Devil.

….the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.

I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

I do not mean to say that I would prefer that the bishops, nuns, and priests sit down and shut up. Barack Obama has once again done the friends of liberty a favor by forcing the friends of the administrative entitlements state to contemplate what they have wrought. Whether those brought up on the heresy that public provision is akin to charity will prove capable of thinking through what they have done remains unclear. But there is now a chance that this will take place, and there was a time – long ago, to be sure, but for an institution with the longevity possessed by the Catholic Church long ago was just yesterday – when the Church played an honorable role in hemming in the authority of magistrates and in promoting not only its own liberty as an institution but that of others similarly intent on managing their own affairs as individuals and as members of subpolitical communities.

In my lifetime, to my increasing regret, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state. In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernardin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many. 


There is more at the link, all worth reading, and pretty forthright in its condemnation of the Catholic church leadership’s “deal with the devil,” that is, its deal with the powers of the state.  Basically, it failed to render unto God what is God’s, and gave way too much away to Caesar, and was aided in this by liberal Christians of all stripes.

Feb 03 2012

Hey, What About MY Choice? Part 3

In the beginning post of this series, I told the story of how California doctors and medical providers just couldn’t get it through their heads that even though I was a 35 yr old soon-to-be-mom, I did NOT want amniocentesis, because of the risk of miscarriage and the fact that it could not reveal any information I would actually be able to use.  But the medical types were really determined.  In the second post of this series, I told of how a doctor threatened to withhold care from me, and a necessary examination, if I didn’t submit to his attempt to coerce me into “genetic counseling,”  at a minimum, with the obvious agenda of getting me to agree to amniocentesis.

How DARE the doctors make me defend my refusal to have a test that could have resulted in my child’s death!  Imagine the news if “just” one percent of school buses on a given day crashed.  Out of ten thousand school buses, that means that one hundred buses crashed.  Now, imagine the public’s reaction if every child on those hundred buses died.  It’s incomprehensible to imagine such a thing.  When a SINGLE bus crashes and ANY children are killed, the tragedy makes national news.  Yet the medical establishment displays a remarkably cavalier attitude toward the fact that given the prevalence of amniocentesis, undoubtedly many healthy, “wanted” children die every year or are born prematurely.

I have since come to understand another disturbing fact surrounding the aggressive push for prenatal testing: many parents demand these tests.  We live in an age where, as Mark Steyn has stated, parents often put off childbearing until later in life and then have “one designer baby.”  And only one.  As fertility invariably decreases with age, some turn to fertility drugs and/or in vitro fertilization, which can result in multiple fetuses.  No worries, though.  Through a process known as “selective reduction,” the mother can have the “extra” babies killed, leaving her with only one child.  And boy, that kid better be perfect.  If the child fails to meet the consumers’ (aka parents’) expectations, the doctor might well find himself slapped with a “wrongful birth” lawsuit.  The heart-breaking fact is that around 90% of children identified with Down syndrome are aborted.  (It’s worth noting, however, that amniocentesis is not completely accurate, which means that a number of “healthy” children are mistakenly thought to have a genetic defect and are then aborted.)  Given the fact that prenatal life is valued so little, I suppose it’s no wonder I was sometimes treated as a socially irresponsible freak for refusing genetic testing.

My next several visits to the obstetrician were uneventful, except that he kept looking at my chart and saying, “Oh, yeah.  You refused amnio.”  Was my choice really that unusual?  Perhaps so.   During that time, I ran into several women, mostly strangers, pregnant women who would say, “I had to have amniocentesis.”  One even said to me (both of us standing there, pregnant, in Burlington Coat Factory’s baby section), “I’m scheduled for amniocentesis tomorrow.  I really don’t want to do it, but I have to.”  How many women are made to feel that they have no choice?

About nine weeks shy of my due date, I began having painful contractions.  It didn’t appear to be labor, but with my doctor’s recommendation, I decided to take a break from my job as a special education teacher at a local junior high.  A short time later, I went into full-blown preterm labor.  My baby wasn’t handling my contractions very well, so the doctor said they were probably going to have to deliver her early.  Thankfully, labor was stopped by a combination of three different medications.  I was confined mostly to bed for the remainder of my pregnancy and continued taking medication.  Given this precarious situation, I couldn’t help but wonder if an earlier decision to have amniocentesis might have resulted in an extremely premature baby – or even a stillbirth.  I’ll never know, but I shudder when I consider the possibilities.

Finally, the day I had been longing for arrived, and I gave birth to a beautiful full-term baby girl.  Shortly before being discharged, a clerical worker from the hospital came to my room and asked me to sign a form.  By signing, I would be acknowledging that I had received certain types of care in the hospital, as well as during my pregnancy.  I noticed three number codes and asked that each be explained.  When she reached the third code, she said that its numbers stood for amniocentesis.   “I didn’t have amniocentesis,” I sighed.  She looked surprised and then asked, “Are you sure?”

Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.

Nov 26 2011

From Conception to Birth

Category: abortion,family,justice,liberty,marriage,philosophy,religionamuzikman @ 10:16 pm

It is a rather amazing fact that the more science learns the harder it is to deny a Creator. We are now able to look inside the womb in ways that have never before been known.  What is being revealed is but a confirmation of those words penned a very long time ago, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalms 139:14).  What the author, King David, clearly understood is being underscored for us now through science.  And if the case is so clearly made then it demands of us to reassess what we believe to be true about life and ending life though abortion.  This is, as Alan Keyes so often states, an absolute moral imperative.  But before the issue can become an imperative for our society it must become one for us as individuals.  I hope you will consider this while watching and listening to this video.

Feb 08 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 2

The previous post in this series is here, and will help provide background for what follows.

There are many instances of people and groups who take risks for the gospel, do the unpopular thing, and God does bless them. But obvious worldly blessing is not a given. God has His own agenda and ways of doing things, and we cannot assume that our worldly success is due to God’s blessing, nor our difficulties evidence of our failure to seek God’s will and do it. Some missionaries are murdered, and martyrdom in Christ’s service did not end with the fall of the Roman Empire. Lesser difficulties also occur with some regularity, even in the modern world.

Yet how many boards and leaders of churches and para-church organizations proceed with the assumption that apparent worldly or financial success equals God’s blessing, with such a rigid conflation of the two that any policy which carries some attendant risk of worldly disapproval is assumed to be the wrong one? Consider the logic: if we are doing good, God will bless us in worldly ways. Therefore, we should not consider doing something that risks getting worldly disapproval, since if the world disapproves, by our benighted definition, God is not blessing us.

So how can we decide if we are making our decisions according to God’s plan, from a fully Christian worldview, or if we are simply doing what seems best to us, within our human expertise (and afflicted with human pride and desire for power), as we try to strengthen our organization or institution in a worldly sense? There is no way to know for sure, of course….

But one thing seems indicative.

If we find we are mostly making decisions from the point of view of what the world will think of us (not from the point of view of God’s will, God’s commands, God’s moral precepts, and Christ within and among us), even if we have great institutional and public success, even if we are doing some good, we are not doing what God desires of us. Christ’s way is one of sacrifice and risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, most particularly the risk of being misunderstood and vilified by those who do not know Him. This is true whether we are explaining His way to the world, or standing for the principles He taught.

I’ll be developing this idea further in subsequent posts.

The next post in this series is here.

Feb 07 2011

“Properity gospel” for Christian institutions?

Much is made of the centrality of sacrifice in the Christian life, and justifiably so. Christ’s own life on earth was one of individual sacrifice and service, and not only on the cross, though that is the preeminent example. Simply being incarnated was a sacrifice (Philippians 2:5-9), and his very manner of living was sacrificial, in that he never married and had a family but instead lived for others, took risks of many kinds at various times for the sake of doing his Father’s will and speaking the truth, and so on.

As individuals, we are all called to sacrifice in one way or another for the sake of Christ and the gospel, though it’s a mistake to assume that everyone should live sacrificially in the same ways. One may choose to live simply and have greater financial freedom to give more (though all should give some), another may choose to give greatly of time and service (though all should do this some), and another may choose a lifestyle of great self-denial of one kind or another (though all of us must deny ourselves in some ways), all for the sake of doing God’s will. Few are called to sacrifice all. What seems fairly clear is that a person who has sacrificed nothing, not time, not finances, not manner of living, is likely to be a person who is not listening to God’s whispers, and probably a person who has not closely read the scriptures.

Yet some churches and para-church organizations seem to operate as if it is God’s will for them never to suffer or risk suffering, and never to choose a path that is hard and uncertain, or one that is likely to earn some degree of disapproval from the world, especially the secular world. Some para-church organizations operate as if their leadership believes in a sort of “prosperity gospel” for their organization (even when they deny that as a proper perspective for individuals), assuming that their role is to manage their organization with the same professional risk management as they would apply for any secular organization. And this risk management is fine, up to a point.

The “prosperity gospel” approach to a church or para-church organization is that somehow it can just get bigger and bigger, more and more popular, and it will all be because of God’s blessing. This may work for a time. And God may indeed be blessing certain efforts of the institution, while at the same time some of the institution’s apparent success may be coming from “playing it safe,” maintaining “good public relations,” even innovative business practices and good luck with market demographics or placement. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for people in an organization, including its leadership, to really know what measure of an organization’s apparent success is due to God’s blessing of its efforts, and what proportion is due to good business practices, smooth marketing, or just plain good luck. The temptation, of course, is to ascribe all success to God’s blessing, especially in public pronouncements.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. The assumption that God will increase the institutional strength and vigor of any organization that is doing His will is itself evidence of “prosperity gospel” thinking, not scripturally sound thinking about the nature of sacrifice for Christians, and Christian organizations. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament and church history reveals many instances of people and groups (institutions) who appear to be following God’s commands, but who suffer in various ways, sometimes almost in a “no good deed goes unpunished” sort of way… which is of course, the intention of Satan. The point is that apparent prosperity in the world is not proof of God’s blessing. Indeed, it is a sort of heresy to assume so.

I will develop this line of thinking further in future posts.

The next post in this series is here.

Jan 23 2011

The Next Great Awakening Part 15: Reasoned response to skeptics

Category: apologetics,Bible,God,philosophy,Scripture,theologyharmonicminer @ 1:52 pm

The previous post in this series is here.

Here is a website that addresses many of the claims of skeptics about Christ and Christianity.  It does so in the context of responding to various claims made by a prominent scholar/skeptic, Bart Ehrman.  The speakers and writers on this site are also prominent scholars who do not respond with polemics or personal attacks, but with calm reasoning and observation.  It has many short, well-produced videos with concise responses to various issues and problems.  Click the links along the top of the page linked above to reveal other videos and links.

Highly recommended.

h/t:  Koinonia

In general, I think too many upwardly mobile Christian universities put too little emphasis on apologetics, and I hope more of them will seek the contributors to the site linked above as guest speakers.

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, it appears that the link above to the “Ehrman Project” is broken.  I’ll try to learn if the information in it has been posted elsewhere.

The next post in this series is here.

Sep 29 2010

The Next Great Awakening Part 15: Doubting doubt

Category: philosophy,science,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:00 am

The previous post in this series is here.

Doubts linger over godless multiverse

STEPHEN HAWKING’S new book The Grand Design sparked a furore over whether physics can be used to disprove the existence of God. But few have noted that the idea at the core of the book, M-theory, is the subject of an ongoing scientific debate – specifically over the very aspect of the theory that might scrap the need for a divine creator.

That the laws of nature in our universe are finely tuned for life seems miraculous, leading some to invoke divine involvement. But if there is a multiverse out there – a multitude of universes, each with its own laws of physics – then the conditions we observe may not be unique.

Hawking suggests that M-theory, the leading interpretation of string theory, calls for a multiverse. Others are divided over the strength of this link. “My own opinion is that we don’t understand the theory well enough to be able to say whether there is one single universe or a multitude of universes,” says M-theorist Michael Duff of Imperial College London.


For now, it is hard enough to test string theory, let alone M-theory. Two weeks ago, Duff and his colleagues made some progress by using string theory to make predictions about the behaviour of entangled quantum bits (Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.100507). This demonstrates that aspects of string theory can be tested in the laboratory, but won’t reveal if it is “the right theory to describe all the elementary particles, the big bang – the ‘grand design’ as Stephen describes it”, says Duff.

“It’s dangerous to pin your beliefs on any theory of physics,” Duff adds, “because it might turn out to be wrong. But if Stephen wants to stick his neck out, I wish him good luck.”

But wait!  I thought all right thinking scientists knew that God was a myth, the universe was a grand accident, or has always been here, and humans are accidental bags of water, carbon, nitrogen, calcium and trace elements, containers who process data.  Though why anyone should think the universe is a place where semi-intelligent meat machines should even find it vaguely possible to comprehend its deepest mysteries is beyond me.  Why should the universe be understandable?  And if it is, why should WE be able to understand it with brains evolved to run from carnivores on the savannah, hunt small game and gather fruit and nuts?

The notion that the universe is in principle understandable by primates sharing 95% to 98% of genes with chimps is itself reasonably laughable….  unless, of course, we were designed to be able to understand an intelligently designed universe.

In any case, string theory is not at this time falsifiable, as the article above points out….  which means that, by the rules of those scientists who deride “intelligent design theorists,” it isn’t even science, yet.  It’s just interesting mathematical speculation mixed with philosophy.  M-theory is even farther from fitting the definition of science that is most commonly used, namely testable, falsifiable theories backed with data.

If and when string theory or M-theory become scientifically supported theories, neither will disprove the existence of the Creator, of course.  How could they?  And it is encouraging, at least, that some scientists are becoming skeptical of the ability of science to answer all questions, or to remove any consideration of teleology in the universe.

And as others have pointed out, theories of multiple universes can’t answer final (or fundamental questions) at all.  All they can do is shove them back to an “earlier” “time,” and make it clear that the Creator is even more magnificently powerful than anyone understood.

Aug 16 2010

The smartest person in the room who knows nothing?

Category: philosophy,religion,science,Scripture,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:37 am

There are those folks who like to pretend their superiority by claiming to function only on reason, not having any need for faith.  They delude themselves, of course.  No one functions only on what they know, or can prove in a scientific or rationalist way.  Most people make most of their decisions on faith, whether they allow themselves to admit it or not.  In that, I include enormous, life determining decisions, like what to study, whether to study, whom to marry, what life path to choose, what values to live by, and so on.  Even science cannot be shown BY science (or any rational process) to be the valid path to truth.  At the link there is a discussion about that, and other things.

My point here is a little different, though.

Some people seem to delight in not being sure about anything, because that way they think they aren’t responsible for anything.  It’s rather as if they think ignorance of the law is a defense (including natural law and revealed law).

Neither natural laws nor God are impressed by feigned ignorance, however, even when you have maintained the pretense for so long that you’ve forgotten it’s just a script, so that you can safely play your role as a person who isn’t sure of anything much.  Shoot, I’ll bet some people could pass a polygraph examination, convincing the operator they’re “agnostics,” sort of the ultimate triumph of method acting.

I’m afraid you’ll have to decide.  You can’t sit on the fence forever.   You won’t live that long.

Dec 04 2009

The American Trinity

Category: freedom,government,liberty,philosophyharmonicminer @ 10:00 am

A point that needs some stress is that the French obsession with “equality” led to the murder of many thousands in the Terror that followed the French Revolution.   It was simply a violent expression of class warfare, pure and simple.   In fact, the French experience and perspective of that time was a major inspiration for the totalitarian movements of the 20th century.

In the interest of time, Dennis Prager can only brush on this point, but it is perhaps the most critical of his presentation, because it is the least understood by people who point to European “democracy” and assert it is “as good” as the American republican approach.  In fact, about all they have in common is that votes happen, and do change things in the government, and there is some form of rule of law.  But the assumptions from which the governments proceed are largely different, a point that is lost on those who want to emulate the European model.

Here is a trinity of trinities:

Liberty, equality, fraternity  -  France

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness  -  USA

Peace, order and good government  -  Canada, other Commonwealth nations

Note well:  the restriction the French phrase places on liberty is the emphasis on equality, which can only be enforced by government.  The restriction placed on liberty in the USA phrase is only that which interferes with another’s right to live, or unjustly fetters another’s right to pursue his own happiness.  The Commonwealth model doesn’t even discuss liberty.  All three items in it involve government power to bring about ends.

The main point here:  the French and Commonwealth versions are mostly about what it is the responsibility of government to DO.  The USA version is mostly about what the government should NOT do.

There is a simple reason, which Prager mentions:  in the American model, rights are understood as given by God, and merely recognized by government, which is what makes them “unalienable.”  In the other models, rights are granted by government, as long as they don’t get in the way of other ends that are equally or more important, like “equality” or “order” or “good government.”

And that’s the critical element in American exceptionalism.

h/t:  CFC

Nov 18 2009

The Next Great Awakening Part 12: Nothing is complete without God

Category: philosophy,religion,scienceharmonicminer @ 9:47 am

The previous post in this series is here.

Perry Marshall has put up a brief introduction to the mathematical thought of Kurt Gödel.  After a brief explanation of it, he draws connections to the idea of the mathematical necessity for a Creator in Gödel’s Incompleteness: The #1 Mathematical Breakthrough of the 20th Century

If you visit the world’s largest atheist website, Infidels, on the home page you will find the following statement:

“Naturalism is the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.”

If you know Gödel’s theorem, you know all systems rely on something outside the system. So according to Gödel’s Incompleteness theorem, the folks at Infidels cannot be correct. Because the universe is a system, it has to have an outside cause.

Therefore Atheism violates the laws of mathematics.

The Incompleteness of the universe isn’t proof that God exists. But… it IS proof that in order to construct a consistent model of the universe, belief in God is not just 100% logical… it’s necessary.

Euclid’s 5 postulates aren’t formally provable and God is not formally provable either. But… just as you cannot build a coherent system of geometry without Euclid’s 5 postulates, neither can you build a coherent description of the universe without a First Cause and a Source of order.

Thus faith and science are not enemies, but allies. They are two sides of the same coin. It had been true for hundreds of years, but in 1931 this skinny young Austrian mathematician named Kurt Gödel proved it.

No time in the history of mankind has faith in God been more reasonable, more logical, or more thoroughly supported by rational thought, science and mathematics.

Everyone understands the Incompleteness Theorem in a personal way, and knows that it applies to the most important issues of life.

Only the most trivial, least important aspects of life involve things that can be proved in the way the objectivists wanted to do it. You can’t “prove” that you love your child, that there is any point to existence, that you are loved by the person whom you hope loves you, that you don’t plan to do some great evil tomorrow (or, for that matter, that you didn’t yesterday, the “negative” being notoriously difficult to prove), etc.

Yet we all live as if our lives matter, as if at least some other people’s lives matter, as if love is real, as if we are certain that their is some underlying rationality to the universe that is not containable within it, etc.    Scientists live and work in that latter assumption whenever they assume that the “laws” of physics are the same everywhere and everywhen, which is an unprovable notion, but foundational for the ability to DO science.  And the very idea that the universe may be understandable requires an assumption about its nature and, probably, its origin, that cannot be “proved.”

In other words, in the business of being a human being and living a normal life, very little of high and immediate importance can be proved.  Yet we all, with very little exception, live as if some of our foundational assumptions are true.  Love exists.  Rationality exists.  People matter.  It matters how we live.

These things are, while not “provable,” nevertheless as true as Euclid’s postulates, demonstrable by the simple observation that without them, nothing makes any sense at all.

The First Postulate, of course, is that God IS.  And it is surely true that, without God, nothing makes any sense, any sense at all.   Not love, not rationality, not human life, not the universe, not anything.

The Second Postulate:  everything that exists makes the most sense when understood in its relationship to our Creator.

Some will argue that only the First Postulate deserves the label “postulate,” but I think the Second Postulate protects us from Deism.

God is involved with us, and with everything that is, right now.

The Third Postulate is that God has revealed Himself to us, in Christ, in human lives and traditions, in words and history, and in nature.

I think these postulates are all one needs to seek God, who is surely seeking us, and does not require us to “prove” that He is there before being in relationship with Him.

What’s really interesting is that Gödel appears to have tried to “prove” the existence of God….  perhaps a sign of lack of faith in the implications of his own work, though his faith in God seems to have been strong.

The next post in this series is here.

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