Patrick: Son of Ireland (review)

One of Lawhead’s better pieces. The story flows well and on most historical points Lawhead did his research well. He utterly misunderstands Pelagius, imputing to him motives Pelagius never had and having Pelagius attacked for things the Romans never accused him of.

Patrick by Stephen R. Lawhead

I was really pleased with Lawhead’s treatment of the Druids.  He avoided both extremes.  They weren’t all oak-worshiping cannibals, but nor were they innocent star-eyed hippie flower children.  They were…well…interesting.

This is for mature readers.  There are some raw elements.  There is a sexual element but it is very light.

And the main character has the personality of a dead fish. Aside from that, though, it is a good book.

The Occult Philosophy in Elizabethan England

Dame Frances Yates’ work is a study of Christian cabalism as it was understood in Elizabethan England.  She argues that “occult” philosophy was the dominant philosophy and sees Cabala as “supposed esoteric tradition passed down from Moses through the ages.  It includes the ‘Sephiroth,” “intermediaries or emanations of the divine” (Yates 2).”

Cabalism didn’t arise in a vacuum but was mediated through several countries, religious groups, and wandering philosophers (Bruno et al). These men gave us the idea of the Magus.   A magus is “a lofty figure, endowed with powers of operating on the world” (21).

The Renaissance magicians thought of themselves as “white magicians.”  Angels and not demons. Angelic influences pour down through the Sephiroth (77).  

Lull’s Theory

“Everything in the natural world is composed of the four elements…to [which correspond] the elemental qualities–cold, moist, dry, hot” (12).  

Lull doesn’t believe in astrology in the sense of horoscope.  Rather, he holds that the planets correspond to Neo-Platonic powers (very similar to CS Lewis in That Hideous Strength).  These forces weren’t evil per se.   They are good (as all of God’s creation is).  Rather, they can be used for evil purposes and in that sense can become a terror to the wielder (29).

While respectable academics might scoff at any “occultism,” few doubt the Neo-Platonism of the time as seen in Spenser and others. The Neo-Platonic poets posited a mystical, Arthurian side of the British Empire (93).  And Yates’ genius is able to make sense of otherwise difficult moments in the Spenserian tradition.  By positing a hermetic undertone, Yates opens up mysteries in why Spenser opted for 12 Books when there are not 12 Aristotelian virtues. Yates suggests that for Spenser the “12” is a combination of both 12 Aristotelian virtues and the sign of the Zodiac (119).

Yates advances the conclusion that Spenser’s poem is not only a Neo-Platonic manifesto (which is true and rarely disputed) but one that is based on the Christian cabala of Giorgi and Agrippa (123).
As always, Yates gives us top-notch scholarship.   There are only a few minor qualms.  Parts of the book repeat itself and other parts don’t appear immediately relevant.

Macarthur and Defeaters

These are observations about claims Mac and Co. make.   They are not intended as a point-by-point analysis of Strange Fire.  That will come in due time, Lord willing.  My goal here is to protect John MacArthur’s admitted hero Martyn Lloyd-Jones from John Macarthur.
Edit: I had originally written this several years ago, before the current controversy about Grudem’s Trinitarianism.

In chapters 3 and 4 JM relies on Edwards’ analysis of revival, and I think it is a good–if incomplete–analysis of any “spiritual” movement.

  1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?
  2. Does it oppose worldliness?
  3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?
  4. Does it elevate the truth?
  5. Does it produce love for God and others?

It is a good list.  However, I would say with the apostle Paul, “I would that you all prophesy.”  But back to the points above.  The logical danger with rhetorical questions is that if the opposition can bite the bullet and the position is logically unchanged, your entire argument, such that it is, evaporates.

Case study:  Wayne Grudem.

 

 

No one can accuse Wayne Grudem of not exalting Christ.  I don’t know him personally, though we did exchange friendly emails some months ago, but I highly doubt he is worldly.  Does he point people to the Scriptures?  Seriously?  As an inerrantist, I am certain Grudem can affirm 3 and 4.  5 is a given.

How would a Word-Faither do?  That’s a fair question, but if you lump Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms in the same camp with Copeland and Hinn, you are sinning against your brothers and violating the 9th commandment.  Only a party spirit can remain untouched by such a rebuke.

The Missing Case of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

 

A search engine on Strange Fire lists only seven appearances of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
p.44 lists MLJ saying that the Spirit exalts Christ.  Presumably this is a slam against much of charismatic worship.  Fair enough.  (I do wonder if the Spirit wants us to worship like Dutch-American amillennialists).
p.261 has MLJ saying the office of prophet has ceased.  Okay, he said that.  He also said other things, and in any case I don’t think that exegesis stands up to Grudem’s scholarship.
p.117-118 say basically the same thing.
p.312 lists MLJ’s Christian Unity.
p.319 is the index.
p.281 is an endnote for Great Doctrines of the Bible.
And that’s it for MLJ.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, here is what Macarthur has to say about Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

He influenced countless preachers (myself included), and he stood steadfastly against the superficial, entertainment-oriented approach to preaching that seemed to dominate the evangelical world then as it does now. Lloyd-Jones still desperately needs to be heard today.

Again, you might ask, “What’s the big deal?  Anybody should say that about MLJ.”Macarthur elsewhere says,

There is a stream of sound teaching, sound doctrine, sound theology that runs all the way back to the apostles.  It runs through Athanasius and Augustine…and runs through the pathway of Charles Spurgeon, and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and it keeps running.

 

Real quick side note: I wish quasi-Reformed people would stop referencing Augustine.  Let’s be honest. You don’t know what he teaches.  He isn’t an easy writer and his work isn’t systematic.  You have to spend about half a decade working through different treatises to get an idea of what he is saying.  And to make matters worse, he believed that miracles happen today.   Read City of God, Book 22, chapter 8.  This is embarrassing.
Well, here is the problem.  Macarthur does not allow (de facto) the distinction between continuationism (myself) and charismaticism (insert favorite bad guy).  He notes

Number seven, by asserting the gift of healing has continued to be present, the continuationist position affirms the same basic premise that undergirds the fraudulent ministry of charismatic faith healers.  If you say the gift of healing is still around, and you say it whimsically, there’s no evidence it’s around, either experimentally or biblically, but if you say it’s still around, then you have just validated healers.

Who would want to do that?  Are they not the lowest of the low?  Are they not the worst of the worst?  They don’t go to hospitals.  They prey on the most desperate, the most severely ill, the most hopeless, the most destitute, very often the poorest, telling them lies and getting rich.  Who would want to do anything to aid and abet them?

Said another way:
Premise 1: If continuationists assert “the miraculous,” then they validate faith healers.
Premise 2: They assert the miraculous.
(3)Conclusion: They validate faith healers (Modus Ponens)
Prem. (4): Faith healers are the lowest of the low (agreed)
Prem. (5): If anyone validates them, they, too are the lowest of the low [4, 1]
(6) If person A asserts the miraculous, then he, too, validates faith healers [2, 5]
Of course, I challenge premises 1 and 3.  Someone could still say, “Yeah, so.  You are the lowest of the low because you believe in the miraculous.”  Fair enough.  I will now lower the boom.
Lloyd-Jones states,

Those people who say that [baptism with the Holy Spirit] happens to everybody at regeneration seem to me not only to be denying the New Testament but to be definitely quenching the Spirit” (Joy Unspeakable, p. 141).

 

“If the apostles were incapable of being true witnesses without unusual power, who are we to claim that we can be witnesses without such power?” (The Sovereign Spirit, p. 46.)

 

I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say that all these gifts ended with the apostles or the Apostolic Era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then (Joy Unspeakable, p. 246.)

 

Was it only meant to be true of the early church? … The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! There is no such statement anywhere (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31-32.)
“To hold such a view,” he says, “is simply to quench the Spirit” (The Sovereign Spirit, p. 46)

Premise (7) Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserts the miraculous.
Now the Strange Fire Brigade faces a painful difficulty:  reject (1)–(6) or accept Premise (8)
(8) Martyn Lloyd-Jones validates faith-healers.  [6, 7 MP]
Conclusion
 
Someone could still respond, “Well, MLJ is not God. He isn’t right on everything.”  No he isn’t.  He is an amillennialist, for one.  But let’s go back to Macarthur’s claim: “anyone holding these views gives credence to faith healers and is the lowest of the low.”  He must apply that to MLJ.  The logic is impeccable (up to a point, anyway).
In analytic philosophy we call this a “defeater.”  It shows his position is either counter to the evidence or it cannot be held simultaneously with the evidence. Either his view of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is wrong and it has to be abandoned (as the evidence makes abundantly clear), or he must give the defeater to his claim that continuationists validate faith healers.
He will do neither.
His position collapses

Cessationist Posts

An Orthodox friend asked me about my position on cessationism.  I told him I had some posts on the other blog, so I will start transferring them here.

Whenever I doubt the truth of presuppositional apologetics, I read discussions where TRs doubt that God’s power gifts continue today.  Now, I have no problem with someone coming up with a logical argument that the Spirit’s power isn’t active today.  Fair enough.  I just think a lot of the conversations are funny.
A note on prophesy:  this is one of the most debated terms in the Bible. The problem is that the NT really doesn’t give a neat usage of the term.  Older Puritan writers often equated it with Preaching, in which case the gift obviously continues today.   Most people, cessationist or otherwise, see that usage won’t stand up to five minutes of Scrutiny.  Even worse, some say it is the Spirit applying the truths (timeless, of course; not messy historical contingencies) to day-to-day situations.  In that case, everyone of God’s children should prophesy.  But that seems inadequate and ignores almost all of the NT texts.
A quick rejoinder:  But prophesy doesn’t always mean telling the future.  Sure.  But that did happen.
But God’s word meant the death penalty if your prophesy didn’t come true.   Okay, I’ll grant that for the moment (though I think you can find examples in the OT where godly men were less than 100% accurate and they didn’t die).  But even with that terrifying injunction, you really don’t see NT believers afraid to prophesy.  That’s just the plain truth of the matter.  In fact–and it’s funny that the most rabid anti-theonomists become theonomists on this point–Paul urges all to prophesy.   I doubt the conversation went like this:
Paul:  Pursue all gifts, especially that you may prophesy, but be careful because if you are less than 100% accurate I am going to kill you.
Anyway, to the conversation.
Cessationist:  Show me one example of a Reformed Christian believing continuation of gifts continue.
Continuationist:  (insert example of Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill prophesying/speaking the truth)
Cessationist:  Yeah, well that doesn’t count.
Translation:  you have your facts and I have my theory.  Too bad for your facts.
Why continue the conversation?

Grammatology (A Review)

First, what Derrida is not saying.  He is not saying “Everything is relative.”  He is not saying, “There are no absolutes.” That’s what the American university professor believes, but that’s not Derrida.  So in one swoop 99% of Conservative Culture Warrior criticisms of “postmodernity” are false.

French Postmodernism is not as difficult as it may appear.   Derrida does a good job in defining his terms, and as long as we keep those definitions present, much of what he says is not only coherent, but quite insightful:

The Holy Grail (or Pandora’s Box) of philosophy is “being-as-pure-presence.”  What does that mean?  It’s hard to say.  One helpful definition,

[It is a] transcendental signified” … which transcends all signifiers, and is a meaning which transcends all signs.

In other words, a Gods-eye-point of view.  As finite creatures, we can never have that.  But presumably that is what we want.  Or so Derrida says.  Outside a few gnostic hyper-Calvinists at Puritanboard, I don’t know anyone who wants that “being-as-presence.”

So for all the danger of Derrida, we are on relatively solid ground.  Indeed, much of it sounds like a robust Christian hermeneutics.  Mediation goes all the way down. “il n’y a pas de hors-texte.”  There is no aspect of our experience that escapes the play of signifiers. Instead of a metaphysics of presence we have an ontology of quasi-trace. Reference never gets to a “pure” outside that isn’t already touched by mediation and signifiers.

Indeed, throw in some Trinitarianism where each Person infinitely defers to the Others, and we have done a complete end-run around Western metaphysics.

But that’s not what Derrida means and that’s where he runs into problems.  He knows we can’t have pure presence, so any pure presence is always already supplemented with (x).  And this fact of supplementation is an act of violence, for it posits nature as lacking.

Again, if we are looking at it from post-fall Christian theology, that’s true.  There is no pure, good nature (in the sense of Harambe and children playing with each other).  But I don’t think that is what he means.

The real villain is writing.  Writing dislocates the subject that it constructs.  Writing displaces speech and introduces “an economy of signs” (142). Writing means that the “representing” is the actual thing itself.

Criticisms

*Derrida says thought is “the blank part of a text…[meaning] nothing” (92).  Presumably it functions as an empty set.   But this is just not how thought and language work.  Language, albeit not-yet-verbal, is what makes thought possible.  Now if what he means by this is thought can never be a “transcendental signified,” fine.  But I don’t think he means that.

**Let’s pretend Derrida’s analysis is correct for a moment.  So what?  I’ve never met a single human being who has ever thought that supplement = violence, or can even conceptualize that. Postmodernism will fail, not because it is wrong, but because no one cares whether it is right or wrong.

 

 

4th Political Theory (Review)

This review has in mind St Cheetos the Prophet.

The phrase that best sums up Dugin’s approach is “Negating the Logic of History.”  Dugin begins by listing the three most common (and modern) ideologies:

    1. Liberalism: the individual is the normative subject
    2. Fascism: race or nation is normative subject
    3. Communism: Class

      The second and third options failed, leaving liberalism in charge.
    4. 4th political theory: Dasein is the acting subject.

Liberalism is the broad, architectonic worldview that hinges on several assumptions (the challenging of which will entail a drone strike). Classical Liberals defined freedom as “freedom from.”  There should be no ties on an individual’s will.   It is these individuals, acting alone but taken as a whole, who form the circle of liberal action.Lacking a telos by definition, liberalism is hard-pressed to explain what we have freedom for.

Against this Dugin posits Heidegger’s Dasein as the acting subject of the 4th Political Theory. Dasein is a way to overcome the subject-object duality.  It is inzwichen, the “between.”

One valuable insight of Dugin’s is his pinpointing the bigotry of Western liberals.  All societies must accept liberalism in its current manifestation.  What if you don’t want to?  Well, if you don’t have natural resources you are probably okay.  Otherwise, look out.

Liberal ideology is necessarily evolutionary.  The concept of progress takes one from barbarism to technologism and the more refined way of life of the markets. This is what Dugin calls “The Monotonic Process:” he idea of constant growth, accumulation, steady progress by only one specific indicator (60).  In other words, in a system only one value (x) grows.  Only one thing (or a small group of things) accumulates.  Applied to either machines or biological life, this is death.  

Modern political options have all seen progress and time in a linear fashion.  Even more so, because of time there must naturally be progress.   By contrast, Dugin suggests that

T1: Time is a social phenomenon with its structures arising from social paradigms (68).

By this he wants to safeguard the idea that there can be “interruptions” and reversals in the flow of time.  History does not simply teach the march of capitalism upon earth (borrowing and adapting Hegel’s phrase).

Nevertheless, and perhaps unaware, Dugin remains close to the linear view.  He does note that time is “historical” (70) and from that draws a very important, Heideggerian conclusion:  it cannot be objective.

Why not? The acting subject, the historical observer (whom we will call “Dasein,” but this is true also of the individual in liberalism) is finite.  He doesn’t have a god’s-eye view on history. Of course, that’s not to say it can’t be real or reliable per the observer, but we don’t have the Enlightenment’s dream of a god’s-eye application of reason to reality.

Dugin then analyses how Leftist and Conservatism evolved in the 20th century.

Finally, he ends with a dense and staggering discussion on the nature of time.  Kant denied that by mere perception we have access to the thing-in-itself.  Therefore, if the being of the present is put in doubt, then all three moments (past, present, future) become ontologically unproveable. From the perspective of pure reason, the future is the phenomenon, and hence, it is (157).

Kant puts time nearer to the subject and space nearer to the object. Therefore, time is subject-ive.  It is the transcendental subject that installs time in the perception of the object.

Persophilism

Once you get past the propaganda of the snuff film 300, and once you look beyond pseudo-conservative appeals to “save the West,” you can really appreciate some aspects of Eastern civilization.

Don’t get me wrong.  I reread Plato on a regular basis, but recently a number of thoughts have coalesced around Iranian civilization.  I highly recommend this post (and blog in general).

Even though Obama will go down in history as the worst president of all time (and second worse ruler of all time, after Trudeau), he did make relatively smart decisions on Iran.

People usually associate me with Russophilism, and that’s true.  But just as much Persophilism.