Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bob Dylan: "I Believe in You" (2007 concert performance)

I Believe In You
by Bob Dylan
They ask me how I feel
And if my love is real
And how I know I’ll make it through.
And they, they look at me and frown,
They’d like to drive me from this town,
They don’t want me around
’Cause I believe in you.
They show me to the door,
They say don’t come back no more
’Cause I don’t be like they’d like me to,
And I walk out on my own
A thousand miles from home
But I don’t feel alone
’Cause I believe in you.
I believe in you even through the tears and the laughter,
I believe in you even though we be apart.
I believe in you even on the morning after.
Oh, when the dawn is nearing
Oh, when the night is disappearing
Oh, this feeling is still here in my heart.
Don’t let me drift too far,
Keep me where you are
Where I will always be renewed.
And that which you’ve given me today
Is worth more than I could pay
And no matter what they say
I believe in you.
I believe in you when winter turn to summer,
I believe in you when white turn to black,
I believe in you even though I be outnumbered.
Oh, though the earth may shake me
Oh, though my friends forsake me
Oh, even that couldn’t make me go back.
Don’t let me change my heart,
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue.
And I, I don’t mind the pain
Don’t mind the driving rain
I know I will sustain
’Cause I believe in you.
Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music

Why Robby George is the coolest professor at Princeton

What Robby George recently published on the Mirror of Justice blog:
Thanks, Michael.  I'm delighted to know that you and your wife are huge fans of Leonard Cohen.  I am too.  As it happens, Cornel West last week mentioned Cohen during the seminar he and I are teaching together. It seems that the students were familiar with only one of Cohen's songs: "Hallelujah."  So I'm bringing my guitar to the seminar today to introduce them to three more of Cohen's pieces:  (1) "You Know Who I Am"; (2) "Nancy"; and (3) "Famous Blue Raincoat."  Some other favorites of mine are "Joan of Arc," "The Night Comes On," and all the songs on that very first album of Cohen's (the one that includes "Master Song," "The Sisters of Mercy," "The Dealer," and "Suzanne").

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Lenten Prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas

"Almighty and everlasting God, you see that I am coming to the sacrament of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I come to it as a sick man to the life-giving healer, as one impure to the fount of mercy, as one blind to the light of eternal brightness, as one who is poor and destitute to the Master of heaven and earth. I turn therefore to the abundance of your immense generosity, begging that you will deign to heal my infirmity, cleanse my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, clothe my nakedness." (Quoted from here)

Definitive Evidence of the Tea Party Spitting Incident

You've read of the controversy. But it is only here that you will find the definitive evidence that the mainstream evidence refused to air:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lady Bears Are in the Final Four!

St. Thomas Aquinas on the suffering of Christ

As we enter Holy Week, it is important to remember the sufferings that Christ endured for our sins. Here is St. Thomas Aquinas' account:
Human sufferings may be considered under two aspects. First of all, specifically, and in this way it was not necessary for Christ to endure them all, since many are mutually exclusive, as burning and drowning; for we are dealing now with sufferings inflicted from without, since it was not beseeming for Him to endure those arising from within, such as bodily ailments, as already stated (14, 4). But, speaking generically, He did endure every human suffering. This admits of a threefold acceptance. First of all, on the part of men: for He endured something from Gentiles and from Jews; from men and from women, as is clear from the women servants who accused Peter. He suffered from the rulers, from their servants and from the mob, according to Psalm 2:1-2: "Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against His Christ." He suffered from friends and acquaintances, as is manifest from Judas betraying and Peter denying Him.

Secondly, the same is evident on the part of the sufferings which a man can endure. For Christ suffered from friends abandoning Him; in His reputation, from the blasphemies hurled at Him; in His honor and glory, from the mockeries and the insults heaped upon Him; in things, for He was despoiled of His garments; in His soul, from sadness, weariness, and fear; in His body, from wounds and scourgings.

Thirdly, it may be considered with regard to His bodily members. In His head He suffered from the crown of piercing thorns; in His hands and feet, from the fastening of the nails; on His face from the blows and spittle; and from the lashes over His entire body. Moreover, He suffered in all His bodily senses: in touch, by being scourged and nailed; in taste, by being given vinegar and gall to drink; in smell, by being fastened to the gibbet in a place reeking with the stench of corpses, "which is called Calvary"; in hearing, by being tormented with the cries of blasphemers and scorners; in sight, by beholding the tears of His Mother and of the disciple whom He loved.

Larry Norman: The Great American Novel

One of my all time favorite songs, even though it leans a bit to the Left in places.  It's resistance to tyranny and injustice is what it makes it so attractive.

I know, of course, that Larry Norman was a complicated cat. See, for example, this documentary. Nevertheless, I still love his music, even though it seems as though his character was deeply flawed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bob Dylan on Palm Sunday: "In the Garden."

Today in Mass, the Gospel reading was from Luke 22. It included Jesus' Agony in the Garden. Every time I hear or read that Palm Sunday gospel I am reminded of Bob Dylan's accurate, and lyrically compelling, song about Christ's final hours, "In the Garden."

In the second chapter of Return to Rome, I tell the story of my attendance at a 1979 Dylan concert in San Francisco. In that concert, Dylan only sings Gospel songs that he had composed for his two albums, Slow Train Coming (1979) and the forthcoming Saved (1980). Below is a video from a 1986 concert with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in which he sings "In the Garden," from the album Saved.

 The lyrics are published below the video.

In the Garden
by Bob Dylan

When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
Did they know He was the Son of God, did they know that He was Lord?
Did they hear when He told Peter, "Peter, put up your sword"?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?

When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn't be seen by men
Saying, "Master, tell me why a man must be born again."
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?

When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He said, "Pick up your bed and walk, why must you criticize?
Same thing My Father do, I can do likewise."
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?

Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
The multitude wanted to make Him king, put a crown upon His head
Why did He slip away to a quiet place instead?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth."
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth."
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

Copyright ©1980 Special Rider Music

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baylor Celebrates Earth Hour

I did not even know there was such a thing as "Earth Hour" until I read this press release by my employer:
If you see Pat Neff Hall at Baylor University go dark at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday (March 27) don't be alarmed; there is no power failure.
Baylor is joining in a worldwide effort to raise awareness of energy conservation by participating in Earth Hour 2010.
At 8:30 p.m. local time in all time zones, people around the world will come together by doing something quite simple - turning off their lights for one hour.
The effort symbolizes that by working together, people can make a positive impact in protecting their future and that of future generations.
Baylor's focus will be on one campus building to express the university's commitment to sustainability and conservation.
Given all the controversy over the Climategate emails, I am skeptical about these sorts of "events," since they seem to be more cheerleading and self-congratulatory than the sort of critical posture a university should encourage about such controversial issues. Having said that, however, I fully embrace a philosophy of nature that encourages that we treat God's creation with respect. If that's all that Earth Hour is about, it's harmless (though you should read with the light on).

Baylor 77 Tennessee 62

The Baylor Lady Bears will be joining the Baylor Bears in the Elite Eight of their respective basketball tournaments.

Sic 'em Bears!

ETS and EPS, November 17-19, 2010

I am happy to report that I am slated to deliver two papers at the 62nd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in Atlanta, Georgia (17-19 November 2010).  One is an invited paper for the Bioethics Study Group: "Recent Challenges to Fetal Personhood: A Critical Analysis." Here is the abstract:
Christians oppose embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, and embryo and fetal experimentation because they believe that the human being is a full-fledged member of thehuman community from the moment of conception. This view has been challenged for several decades, with some of us offering a variety of responses. However, during the past decade three philosophers have offered new and innovative arguments in order to establish the view that the unborn human being, during at least most of its gestation, is not a moral person.  In this paper I will critique the arguments of three of these philosophers: Dean Stretton, Jeff McMahon, and David Boonin. 
My other paper was accepted to be presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS), a group whose complete docket is part of the ETS meeting.  My paper is entitled: "Doting Thomists: Evangelicals, Thomas Aquinas, and Justification." Here is the abstract:
Over the past several decades a growing number of Evangelical philosophers and theologians have described their views, on a variety of issues and arguments, as Thomistic.  That is, they claim to be, on certain questions, followers of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Although these thinkers often claim to be Thomistic almost exclusively on questions in  philosophical theology, metaphysics, philosophical anthropology,  and apologetics, a few of them have gone so far as to claim that Thomas’  views on justification are either (1) consistent with, or not obviously opposed to, a Reformed perspective,  or (2) inconsistent with the doctrine of justification expounded by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent and the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Among the thinkers who embrace this understanding  of Thomas are Norman L. Geisler, R. C. Sproul, and John Gerstner.  In this paper, I argue that their reading of Thomas is mistaken and that in fact Thomas’ soteriology was integral to the Council of Trent’s expounding of the doctrine of justification and that the Catechism’s presentation of justification is thoroughly Thomistic.  I also argue that because Thomas was not writing in response to, or in the aftermath of, the Protestant Reformation, his work on justification is not driven by the issues over which Protestants and Catholics wrangle today. For this reason, these thinkers’ misreading of Thomas and his subsequent influence on the Catholic Church’s articulation of its soteriology is a hopeful sign that Evangelical Protestant friends of Thomas may also come to see that many who are in communion with Thomas’ Church are friends as well. 
The theme of this year's conference is "Justification by Faith," and its plenary speakers are the Rev. John Piper, Bishop N. T. Wright, and Professor Frank Thielman. So, my paper should fit right in.

I had attended, and delivered a paper at, every annual ETS meeting from 1988 until 2007 with the exception of 2000 (when I was in law school). So, I am really looking forward to seeing many of my dear friends.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baylor 72 St. Mary's 49

On to the Elite Eight on Sunday!

Sic 'em Bears!

Baylor v. St. Mary's in the Sweet 16

Baylor couldn't play Notre Dame in the second round since the Fighting Irish lost to Old Dominion, which Baylor subsequently defeated. But we'll settle for another Catholic school, St. Mary's of California.

Sic 'em Bears!

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen on "What's My Line?"

Thinking out loud about health care reform

According to the canons of liberalism (as I understand them), it is wrong for citizen X to pass a law that limits a fundamental liberty of citizen Y if the latter is not required by reason to accept the law passed by X. This is usually applied to issues like abortion (see, e.g., my American Journal of Jurisprudence critique of J. J. Thomson's argument in this regard): Yes, the prolife position is not irrational, but it is not so reasonable that a rational person may not disagree with it for good reason; so, since abortion prohibition would touch on a fundamental liberty–the right of privacy and personal conscience–and reason provides no definitive direction as to what faction in the abortion controversy is correct, then abortion prohibition is illiberal and thus not justified.
Given liberal sensibilities, if it is wrong to prohibit abortion because reason does not require that one accept the prolife position, why is it okay to force citizens to buy health insurance–thus touching on the same fundamental liberty upheld in Roe v. Wade, the right of privacy and personal conscience–when it is not unreasonable to reject such a policy? Given liberalism as applied to abortion, it seems to follow that the health care reform law is illiberal and thus not justified. Discuss.

Protestantism and the Eastern Church

Dave Brown at Orthocath has authored an illuminating post on the Eastern Church and what its beliefs and practices say about the cogency of Protestant critiques regarding the Western Church. Writes Dave:
Earlier I wrote about what I call the “Eastern blind spot in Protestant Apologetics.” Many Protestant Evangelicals tend to have a “blind spot” when it comes to Church history, especially with regards to the Eastern Church. For many Evangelicals, Church history jumps from the book of Acts to Martin Luther in 1517 AD.
This “blind spot” often becomes real apparent when Evangelicals discuss historical theology and only mention Catholic writers from the West.  For example, traditional Evangelical Protestant apologetics countering the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist most likely will focus on medieval Catholic writers and the Catholic council that defined Transubstantiation. 
Byzantine, Syrian, and Coptic Christian writers from the Early Church on the Real Presence are routinely ignored. The average Evangelical believes that the idea of Real Presence dates from the thirteenth century and was one of those “Catholic inventions.” This same list of “inventions,” popularized by Protestant theologian Loraine Boettner, puts the idea of seven sacraments as late as 1439. The fact that the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was a universal belief of the Ancient Church is lost on most Evangelicals, often because many of them don’t even know about the Eastern Christian Churches. Many Evangelicals confuse Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, let alone Coptic, Syrian or Armenian Orthodoxy....
Much of Protestant apologetics against liturgical and sacramental theology has traditionally focused on a historical approach against “Catholic inventions,” which is manifestly flawed. More recent Protestant responses to Eastern Orthodoxy often assumes that by the year 1054 AD (the year traditionally given for the East-West Schism) the Eastern Church had had plenty of time to fall into apostasy. The Coptic Church demonstrates that a liturgical and sacramental theology permeated the Christian Church 600 years before the East-West Schism. At the very least, we can say that at the time of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), a Protestant theological approach is light years away. Did it exist before then? Were there Christians in the Early Church who looked like the Evangelicals of today? If so, they left no mark in either the Ancient Churches nor in the writings of the Church Fathers in East or West.
Read the whole thing here

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Follow up on the Smith review of Return to Rome

I'll tell you what was going through my mind when I read Professor Smith's review: deep hurt. When he said there was no "love" in my book, he was attacking my family, which plays an integral part in my development as a person and what I learned about true charity. That's why I included all the quotes from my book in my response to Professor Smith. I was not writing a brief for the "common man." I was trying to show that Professor Smith did not count as "love" that which was not accompanied by the social movements, liturgical practices, and thinkers he finds interesting. That is as bizarre as it is insulting. 

"How to Be An Anti-Intelligent Design Advocate" has been published

My article, "How to Be An Anti-Intelligent Design Advocate," has just been published in the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law & Public Policy 4.1 (2010).  You can download it from my website here.

The entire issue--which is devoted to the ID controversy--may be found here.

March 25: The Feast of the Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation.  The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (25 March), also called in old calendars: FESTUM INCARNATIONIS, INITIUM REDEMPTIONIS CONCEPTIO CHRISTI, ANNUNTIATIO CHRISTI, ANNUNTIATIO DOMINICA. In the Orient, where the part which Mary took in the Redemption is celebrated by a special feast, 26 December, theAnnunciation is a feast of Christ; in the Latin Church, it is a feast of Mary. It probably originated shortly before or after the council of Ephesus (c. 431). At the time of theSynod of Laodicea (372) it was not known; St. ProclusBishop of Constantinople (d. 446), however, seems to mention it in one of his homilies. He says, that the feast of the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, when He vested Himself with the nature of man (quo hominum genus indutus), was celebrated during the entire fifth century. This homily, however, may not be genuine, or the words may be understood of the feast of Christmas.
Continue reading>>>

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to diminish, with palpable meanness, a heart-felt narrative: Jamie Smith's "review" of Return to Rome

If you want to read how someone from Calvin College can diminish, belittle, and caricature another Christian's heart-felt narrative of his own spiritual journey, read James K. A. Smith's review of Return to Rome. The meanness is palpable. I do not recognize the person Professor Smith describes as me. He is not reviewing the book I wrote. He is, apparently, reviewing the book he wishes I wrote so that it would fit his own philosophical project.  In other words, as my New York relatives would say,  "Oy vey, does that guy have issues or what?"

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum

From Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, often referred to as the "social justice encyclical":
14. The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself. "The child belongs to the father," and is, as it were, the continuation of the father's personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that "the child belongs to the father" it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, "before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents."(4) The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home. 
15. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obama Executive Order Means that Obamcare Does Fund Abortion

William Saunders' Washington Examiner column:
After months of insisting that health care reform does not and will not include federal funding for abortion, President Obama is now considering issuing an executive order, after passage of the health care reform bill, that will state that the legislation does not include funding for abortion. [FJB: President Obama did issue the executive order on Sunday, see here]
However, if the bill excludes federal funding for abortion, why is an executive order necessary?
The answer, of course, is that President Obama and the Democratic leadership know that the Senate health care reform bill includes subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortions, could possibly lead to abortion coverage mandates for insurance companies, and does not prevent other funds in the legislation from directly paying for abortions.
The question then becomes, can an executive order correct all of the abortion-related problems in the bill?
The answer is a resounding no. While a carefully worded executive order might be able to take care of some of the mandate concerns, it cannot correct all of the abortion-related problems with the bill. A statute cannot be undone by an executive order or regulation. For example, an Executive Order cannot prevent insurance plans that pay for abortions and participate in the newly-created exchanges from receiving federal subsidies, because this allowance is explicitly written in the bill.
The fact that statutes cannot be overridden by executive orders or regulations has been repeatedly affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In 2006, the Supreme Court struck down an executive order issued by President Bush to invoke military commission jurisdiction over Hamdan because Congress had impliedly prohibited this action. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557, 579-80 (2006).
Further, Executive Orders can be undone or modified as quickly as they are created. In spite of the fact that the American people overwhelmingly do not want to see their tax dollars go toward abortion, we continue to see restrictions on federal funding for abortions reduced to executive orders, appropriations riders, and regulations. The majority of Americans want to see a prohibition on federal funding for abortion included in permanent, statutory law.
Congress failed to deliver a statutory prohibition on abortion funding in health care reform, and an executive order cannot do the job. 
William Saunders is senior vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life Action.

Dean Russell Moore: "Don't Be Afraid."

My friend, Russell D. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offer these words on the House of Representatives' passage of Obamacare:
Don't Be Afraid 
 “Now these three abide: anger, outrage, and fear—and the greatest of these is fear.”
That’s not in the Bible. 
But sometimes I wonder if I think it is. 
The United States House of Representatives just passed a health care reform bill that I and lots of other Christians opposed. Such legislation should concern us. There are some bad consequences for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, principally unborn children. But should it also concern us that so many of us are talking today about how afraid we are?
Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?
It’s not that I think Christians should be disengaged from issues of justice (God forbid!). It’s just that I wonder if we wouldn’t represent Christ and his kingdom better if we did it with a certain tranquility of Spirit, a tranquility that signals we’re not afraid of the rise and fall of temporal kingdoms and their policies.
The words “do not fear” and “don’t be afraid” are among the most common phrases on the lips of our Lord—in both Old and New Testaments—and on the lips of his angelic messengers. I wonder why?
Isn’t it because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18)? Isn’t it because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15)? Isn’t it because the Spirit prompts us not to “fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6)?
In fact, the Holy Spirit through King David, in a context far more frightening than that of our own, calls us to “fret not yourself because of evildoers” who will soon pass but “trust in the Lord and do good” (Ps. 37:1-3).
Here’s why this matters.
Most of us don’t preach “hellfire and brimstone” sermons anymore, on hell and God’s judgment. But hellfire is exactly what Jesus said we should fear. “And do not fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” our Lord tells his disciples. “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
Jesus not only teaches this; he lives it. Jesus doesn’t fear the crowds attempting to stone him. He doesn’t cower before Pilate. He isn’t afraid of the Sanhedrin. He’s confident and tranquil, even when he’s being arrested. But when he faces drinking from the cup of judgment of his Father, he sweats drops of blood.
If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result? If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?
So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear. Work for justice. Oppose evil. But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.
“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
Fear God and, beyond that, don’t be afraid.
For the record, someone else once said "Don't be afraid." 

Bill McGurn on the now politically extinct Prolife Democrats

In today's Wall Street Journal, William McGurn writes:
And then there were none.
When Bart Stupak announced Sunday he was now a "yes" on the health-care bill, six Democrats stood with him. Even that handful would have been enough to defeat the bill. Instead, they accepted the fig leaf of an executive order—and threw away all the hard-won gains they had made.
Amid the recriminations it's easy to overlook what Mr. Stupak had cobbled together. His amendment restricting federal funding for abortions, passed in November, marked the only bipartisan vote in this whole health-care mess. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, pro-life Democrats had seized the legislative initiative in the teeth of their leadership's opposition—and brought the party of abortion to heel.
Now Mr. Stupak has thrown it away. By caving at the last hour, he discredited all who stood with him. (What does it say about Ohio's Marcy Kaptur and Pennsylvania's Chris Carney that they had already agreed to vote yes even before the fig leaf of the executive order had come through?) In addition to undermining an encouraging partnership with pro-lifers across the congressional aisle, Mr. Stupak signaled that, in the end, you can't count on pro-life Democrats.
You can read the whole thing here.  

Monday, March 22, 2010

What soft despotism looks like; and a word from C. S. Lewis

Go here for the 20 ways Obamacare will inhibit your freedoms, i.e., soft despotism.  Before reading that, read this, from C. S. Lewis (HT: my brother, Patrick Beckwith):

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bart Stupak

Fr. Jay Scott Newman: The Gospel of Life and Health Care Reform

From his blog, Fr. Jay Scott Newman offers a powerful analysis of the health care bill that is on the verge of passage.  Here are some excerpts:
On 25 March 1995, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope John Paul II promulgated the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, on the value and inviolability of human life. Today, four days before the fifteenth anniversary of that glorious defense of the Gospel of Life, the Congress of the United States, led to this moment by the President of the United States, is poised to enshrine in American law a savage assault on human life and the freedom of conscience of those pledged to help heal the sick. Make no mistake: This is a dark hour in the history of our Republic, and the tyranny of abortion is about to be enshrined under the guise of health care reform as a public entitlement which will be paid for by public funds collected from every tax payer and from which, in due course, no doctor, nurse, hospital, or clinic will be permitted to withdraw on a conscientious objection. This is a dark hour in the history of our Republic, and we have been led to this hour by self-described Catholics.
It must be said that the general effort to change the ways in which we Americans pay for our health care is a prudential matter about which reasonable people are free to disagree in good conscience. Passionate arguments have been advanced in this debate by partisans of every viewpoint, and in most of these arguments no absolute moral truths have been at stake. But there is one absolute moral truth at stake now, and it is this: Abortion is a crime against God and man which no human law can legitimize. And as John Paul the Great taught us in Evangelium Vitae, not only is there no obligation to obey such laws; there is, instead, a grave and clear obligation to oppose such laws by conscientious objection and civil disobedience. 

In these last days of this national debate, some voices have been raised by those who identity themselves as Catholic to say that the bill which will be voted on today does not provide funds for abortion, but that is simply false. Our Bishop Robert wrote to every priest of the diocese on Friday to say that “It is evident the current health care legislation before the House of Representatives violates the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church in several areas. As pastors of souls we have an obligation to form our people to understand the end can never justify the means. The lives of the innocent unborn cannot be sacrificed so that health insurance can be extended to some who do not have it.” Then in a companion letter addressed to all the faithful of the Diocese of Charleston, Bishop Guglielmone asks all of us to oppose this legislation “because it will allow for federal funding of abortion and will not provide conscience protection for health care professionals and health care institutions.” The bishop then adds that “Unfortunately, some organizations and individuals have decided that it is better to pass something to help a few. We can never allow evil to be done for own personal gain or for the benefit of some. Abortion should not be a part of health care reform, nor financed with tax dollars.”

Sadly, despite the clear and constant teaching on this point by our bishop and the entire United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, there have been declarations in support of the present legislation by organizations calling themselves Catholic. The Catholic Health Association supported the bill, as did a left wing lobbying group of nuns called Network. And perhaps most disappointing for us locally, so did the Bon Secours Health System which owns and operates St. Francis Hospital here in Greenville.

The approach advocated by these groups, namely, to accept an evil that good may come of it, is the devil’s bargain, and it will inevitably ensnare everyone who accepts that bargain in material cooperation with evil. This means that even those who do not endorse abortion will be bound up with the actual performance of abortions in some way, and now the entire nation will be bound by law to pay for abortions. But my friends, abortion is not health care; it is murder most foul. And for us to look away from this abomination would entail our own cooperation with evil.... 

In November 2008 I wrote to you that the election of Barack Obama ended “a political process that started two years ago and revealed deep and bitter divisions within the United States and also within the Catholic Church in the United States. This division is sometimes called a ‘Culture War,’ by which is meant a heated clash between two radically different and incompatible conceptions of how we should order our common together, the public life that constitutes civil society. And the chief battleground in this culture war for the past 30 years has been abortion, which one side regards as a murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and the other side regards as a fundamental human right that must be protected in laws enforced by the authority of the state. Between these two visions of the use of lethal violence against the unborn there can be no negotiation or conciliation, and now our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president.” 
At the time I wrote that column, my words were regarded by many as extreme, but here we are, a year and half later, poised at the brink of tyranny. Now even those who oppose abortion may say, Tyranny? Isn’t that a bit over the top, Father? No; not at all. When moral relativism is made a legal absolute even by a legal and democratic process, then basic human rights will be violated by the state in the name of tolerance. We have seen this in recent years in Massachusetts where the Catholic Church was forced out of coordinating the adoption of children because we will not place them with homosexual couples and in Washington, DC where Catholic Charities can no longer offer health insurance to spouses of its employees because we would otherwise be forced to do the same for domestic partners living in what we know to be a state of sin. These are examples of what Joseph Ratzinger called the dictatorship of relativism in the homily he preached just before the conclave that elected him to be Benedict XVI, and now this dictatorship has come to the Republic founded on the self-evident truth that the Creator has endowed every man with the natural right to life as the ground of living in liberty and pursuing happiness. Make no mistake: This is a dark hour in the history of our Republic, and we have been led to this hour by Catholics. Or, to put the matter more sharply, by those who call themselves Catholics. 
So, what are we to do?
Read the whole thing here.

Reminder - tomorrow's talk at UNLV: Natural Rights and the New Atheism

Tomorrow, March 22, at 12 noon, I will be speaking at my alma mater, UNLV (BA '83).  My talk is entitled, "Natural Rights the New Atheism." It is largely based on chapter 5 of my latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010).

The talk will be held in Student Union Room 207. You can find more info here.

U.S. Bishops’ final plea to Congressmen: Do not pass pro-abortion health care bill -- Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Read it here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Intelligent Design and Me, Part II: Confessions of a Doting Thomist

The second part of my two part series on the Biologos blog, Science and the Sacred, has been published today. Here is how it begins:
It was probably around mid-2005 that I started to understand why I could never defend the Behe/Dembski arguments. This is when I began to play down these arguments and put a greater stress on anti-naturalism in the way I defined ID. Hence, in a September 2005 online debate with Douglas Laycock, I define ID in this way:
Intelligent design (or ID) is not one theory. It is a short-hand name for a cluster of arguments that offer a variety of cases that attempt to show that intelligent agency rather than unguided matter better accounts for apparently natural phenomena or the universe as a whole. Some of these arguments challenge aspects of neo-Darwinism. Others make a case for a universe designed at its outset, and thus do not challenge any theory of biological evolution.

But even ID advocates who criticize neo-Darwinism are technically not offering an alternative to evolution, if one means by evolution any account of biological change over time that claims that this change results from a species' power to accommodate itself to varying environments by adapting, surviving, and passing on these changes to its descendants. This is not inconsistent with a universe that has earmarks and evidence of intelligent design that rational minds may detect.
What was going on in my mind? I had begun to better appreciate why some Christian philosophers (mostly Catholic ones), all influenced by St. Thomas Aquinas, never jumped on the ID bandwagon. Although I considered (and still consider) myself a Thomist, it’s clear to me now that while working on my MJS dissertation, I had not properly thought through the implications of ID for a Christian philosophy of nature. For this reason, I am now convinced that my initial and growing unease with the Behe/Dembski arguments arose precisely because my Thomist philosophy could not accommodate them, even though it was not apparent to me until mid-2005. During that time I was beginning to think more critically of the Behe/Dembski arguments as I brought Thomist philosophy to bear on them.
Read the whole thing here.

Fr. C. John McCloskey on John Henry Cardinal Newman

Read it in the latest Catholic World Report here.  And while you're at it, take a look at Fr. McCloskey's outstanding book Good News, Bad News, Just click the ad on your right.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Intelligent Design and Me, Part I: In the Beginning

That is the title of the first of two blog posts I have written for the BioLogos Blog, "Science and the Sacred." Here's how it begins:

Like many Christian academics, I never thought well of creationism or creation science. However, I always had an interest in philosophy of science and how the issues raised in that sub-discipline may help Christians to think more clearly about the relationship between science, theology, and philosophy of religion. In fact, my 1988 Fordham Ph.D. dissertation (in philosophy) dealt with issues over which these areas overlap: David Hume’s Argument Against Miracles and Contemporary Attempts to Rehabilitate It and a Response.
After earning my doctorate, I began to gravitate to issues in moral and legal philosophy, specifically dealing with bioethical questions and the role of religion in the public square. This was soon reflected in both the courses I taught and the articles and books I published. For this reason, I took a sabbatical year from teaching at Trinity International University (2000-01) to pursue an MJS (Master of Juridical Studies) degree at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. The fact that the degree program required a dissertation of some size made Washington University’s offer of admission extremely attractive to me, for it allowed me to write at the intersection of a number of my philosophical interests in law, religion, science, and politics.

Continue reading here.  Part II ("Confessions of a Doting Thomist") will be published tomorrow, March 20.

Off topic: speaking truth to power

That's my kind of community organizing.

March 22 talk at UNLV: Natural Rights and the New Atheism

On March 22, 2010 at 12 noon, I will be speaking at my alma mater, UNLV (BA '83).  My talk is entitled, "Natural Rights the New Atheism." It is largely based on chapter 5 of my latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010)

This is sort of a homecoming for me as well.  Not only did I grow up in Las Vegas and graduated from UNLV, I also held held a full-time faculty appointment in UNLV's department of philosophy (Lecturer) from 1989 to 1996.

If you are interested in attending the lecture, you can find more info here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Matt Heckel's insights on "Grey Marriage."

One of my favorite Protestant writers, Matt Heckel, offers these insights on his blog, Christocentric:
My Pastor, Dan Perrin, cited some telling statistics in his sermon last Sunday. Here's the first: On May 5, Maine became the fifth state to legalize gay marriage declaring: "Two people have the right to decide for themselves how marriage should be constituted."

This statement reveals our heart problem. We think that we have the right to define marriage. We think that we can create this institution in our own image. We no longer believe that human nature is created and thus defined by God, even if we still pay lip service to that idea. If we believed that human nature was created by God, we could still accept the idea that there are some things that are bad for humans and there are other things that are good for humans. Because we no longer accept the idea of the fall, we think that the way that seems right to a person must be the right way. Thus we have a "right" to the right way and anyone that stands in our way is against freedom. Gay marriage becomes a civil rights issue as abortion became a women's rights issue.

We have little realization that this way of thinking was handed down to us from existential philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre said "becoming precedes being." In other words, we are undefined at birth. Our being is not given by God but will be determined by ourselves. We are only a part of nature and not in anyway predetermined by nature, much less God. Don't let social conventions stand in the way of passion! If you've found your soulmate leave your wife or go ahead and shack up with your girlfriend to see if you're compatible. No two self-centered sinners will ever be "compatible." We've made eros the idol and were paying the consequences.

Allan Carlson, author of Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage (click on "Grey Marriage"), was recently interviewed on Mars Hill Audio and traced the history behind this. A little over 100 years ago there was still a social difference between children born in wedlock and children born out of wedlock. Then came the contraceptive revolution, which started among married people but was soon handed down to minors, and sex became a right. Then came no fault divorce. If you wanted a divorce you used to have to prove that your partner had violated the marriage vow. But that stood in the way of our freedom, so the solution of "no fault divorce" took away the binding character of marriage. Then came the idea of cohabitation before marriage or cohabitation as an alternative to marriage. Today you don't even need a marriage partner if you want a child.

The second set of statistics was released by the US Center of Statics on May 18, 2009:
Of all births in 2007, 40% were out of wedlock.
Among women 20-24, 60% were out of wedlock compared to only 18% twenty years ago.
Marriage has become a hollow institution. Marriage no longer bestows legitimacy on children, it has lost its sole right over sex and procreation, its binding character is gone, and it is finally reduced to an option. From here it is only a short step to gay marriage. Isn't it true that grey marriage leads to gay marriage? Isn't this why it seems that the gay marriage movement has all the momentum? It almost feels like it's too late to say anything now. What's the church to do?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My sister Elizabeth Beckwith on "trashy reality shows."

This is her latest on her blog at Psychology Today:
After reading about E's new reality series, Pretty Wild, about a Playmate mother and her playmate/jewel thief daughters I was filled with my usual mix of emotions that surface every time I learn of a new reality show filled with shallow lowlifes: anger/ depression/fear (fear of the future, fear of the present, fear of getting sucked into said show during an innocent trip to the gym). When I find myself getting too worked up over the popularity of trashy reality television, and shudder at its potential influence on my children or the culture at large, I remind myself that some of these shows are valuable learning tools of "what not to be." Don't get me wrong, I don't want my kids* to watch this stuff, but if they do, why not use it to my advantage? I dedicate several pages in my book, Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation, to this very topic. I remind my readers that if you walk in and your child is watching a disgusting reality show (Jersey Shore comes to mind) instead of sprinting to shut it off, shouting, "This isn't appropriate!" A better choice might be to walk in, look at the television for a beat, and then proclaim something along the lines of, "What the hell is people showering together? They might as well be scrubbing themselves with a loofa full of Gonorrhea!" Then, instead of shutting off the TV, you leave it on and just walk out of the room, allowing the shame and guilt to wash over them like a tidal wave. At the end of the day, your kids might watch that trashy show again, but they'll never be on that trashy show, and that's all you really care about.
*I use the term "my kids" very loosely, since my children are only 4 and 2 and this is not currently an issue -- if my tiny kids were regularly watching Jersey Shore, our problems would be much larger than the scope of this blog post!

March 19 and 20 on the BioLogos Blog

Be sure to check out the BioLogos Blog,  Science and the Sacred, on Friday and Saturday (March 19 and 20) for my two-part series on my views on Intelligent Design and Christian theism. It will include some autobiography as well as some philosophy.  

As a consequence of this series, as well as my soon-to-be-published piece in the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy ("How to Be an Anti-Intelligent Design Advocate"), several high-profile commentators on this debate (and you know who you are) will be shown to have been not only uncharitable but less than careful with the truth about my views.  

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here is St. Patrick's biography as it appears on Catholic Online:
St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints.

Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461.

Along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, the secular world shares our love of these saints. This is also a day when everyone's Irish.

There are many legends and stories of St. Patrick, but this is his story.

Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." "I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family.

He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Chris Castaldo interview in Books and Culture

Evangelical Pastor and ex-Catholic, Chris Castaldo, was recently interviewed by Stan Guthrie in Christianity Today's Books & Culture. Chris is a friend, who graciously moderated the public dialogue I had with Timothy George at Wheaton College last September.

In Chris' BC interview, I am mentioned in several places including the interviewer's introduction.

For this reason, I would like to respond to a few points made in the interview. One series of questions and answers reads:

It seems that many evangelicals are heading "back to Rome," headlined by Frank Beckwith. How significant is this trend?
Frank Beckwith has become a friend. When we cooperated in Wheaton College's Penner Forum on September 3, folks lined up to say hello and give us the privilege of signing our respective books for them. It was hilarious. Frank and I were standing directly beside one another when Catholics on his line testified to how God had led them "home to the Church," while just six inches away people explained to me how God had "saved them from their Catholic background." Based on the size of Frank's line, I'd say that the movement is significant, although I don't think it's nearly as large as the migration that's going in the opposite direction.
Why do you think this is happening, and what lessons do you think we evangelicals should be taking from it?
I see four reasons why Protestants swim the Tiber, that is, move toward the Catholic Church: a deeper expression of reverence, perceived unanimity in regard to authority, a traditionally rooted liturgy, and a more robust moral theology. There are of course entire books written on how evangelicals should learn from Catholics in each of these areas. I would agree that there are some important lessons for us to learn.

I do not dispute that these reasons are often integral to one's conversion to Catholicism. But I'm not sure that anyone who becomes Catholic consciously lists his or her reasons for becoming Catholic, as if he or she were weighing the pros and cons before purchasing a new home or an expensive sports car or choosing a college for one's children.  There are, to be sure, reasons for conversion. And, as I share in Return to Rome, reasons were indeed instrumental in moving me to a moment of decision. But these reason are, as it was in my case, often embedded in something far more grand and compelling than a collection of arguments with a variety of strengths on assorted theological questions. For me, once I had become convinced that Catholicism, and the Catholic doctrines that Protestants often reject (e.g., apostolic succession, infusion of grace, Eucharistic realism, and so forth), were legitimate understandings widely and uncontroversially held in the Christian world until the time of the Reformation, Catholicism became to me, for the first time since I was a youngster, a "live option," as William James would have put it. But not only that, it was an option that I could not ignore, for it was both forced and momentous (to employ James' terms yet again). That is, I had to make a decision--Protestantism or Catholicism--and I could not not choose. And whichever I chose, the decision would change the trajectory of my life. Thus, it was momentous.  I had to either walk into, or away from, the Confessional. There was not, and could not be, a third option. Thus, it was never a matter of me rationally choosing smells, bells, priests, and popes over worship-teams and altarless altar calls because the former brought me inner comfort, ecclessial stability, and/or clear moral direction. For the whole idea that theology is mine to choose--like a pair of slacks that I can have tailored for my own specifications--was precisely the problem. As long as "Church" was something that was under me rather than me under it, I was doomed to a life of ecclesiastical promiscuity despite my best efforts to practice safe sects.