Fact: We inhabit a world filled with danger. Many of those dangers are remote or small enough that we can easily take precautions against them ourselves. Locking a car door or exercising care when crossing a busy intersection are obvious examples. But other dangers lie beyond our ability to personally control: criminal acts, cancer, or invasion by an enemy force. That is why societies maintain police, hospitals, and a standing military. We rely on doctors and pharmacists to protect us from diseases that we ourselves cannot even understand much less control.
If there were no threats to our life, security, and happiness such professions would have no reason to exist. But life, as we well understand the older we get, is beset by many dangers, both hidden and visible. Some dangers we can reasonably control, either personally or as a community, but what about those dangers over which we have no plausible control? To whom shall we turn for protection when a particular danger is so grave or overwhelming that no human power is adequate to deal with it? Continue reading
The unprecedented ascendancy of a Donald Trump in the American political equation raises some very interesting questions about the unfolding culture divide, namely that abyss between the ordinary people and a new ruling class comprised of intellectuals, tech wizards, and politicians which has widened into an insurmountable gulf. One of the more telling fault lines demarcating that growing schism involves the belief, or lack thereof, in a Divine Creator. In fact, religious skepticism has become a widely accepted creed among political elites and academics, many of whom who have adopted philosophical materialism, the belief that the only reality is material reality. That materialist philosophy is primarily buttressed by Darwinian macro-evolution, a corrosive philosophy that has been taught as a scientific certainty in virtually every public school and university in our country for decades. Continue reading
Historians recently discovered that Georgetown University had sold off a number of slaves back in 1838 in order to raise capital needed to insure the school’s survival. This revelation has apparently plunged its present day administrators into paroxysms of guilt-laden remorse and penitential self-flagellation. And while I agree that it is necessary to honestly own up to the events of history, including its more unsavory aspects, too many academic culture warriors of today seem more than willing to dismiss offhand the social context in which those past events occurred.
Today’s historical revisionists seem to expect that what people did in the past ought always to be judged by current-day social and cultural standards. The hypocrisy in this approach lies in the fact that we pretend to remove the speck in our ancestor’s eye while ignoring the beam in our own. Continue reading
My final thoughts in this series on Mormonism are excerpted from a recent letter to a young Mormon Evangelist whom I have not heard back from since posting it. Since Mormons base their apologetic on a well rehearsed and scripted narrative, any direct challenge to, or deviation from, that script is certain to evoke not robust rebuttal but generally a retreat from the debate. For the good Mormon faith is necessarily divorced from reason, or shall I say that the two things are hermetically “compartmentalized” out of fear that latter might somehow contaminate the former.
Mormonism is one of the faster growing religious bodies in the United States today as a result of active and constant proselytizing. Nonetheless, the sect continues to arouse suspicion, not the least because of its insistence that it is the only true and valid expression of Christianity. To answer this rather exalted claim one must investigate whether the primary supplemental scripture underpinning Mormon beliefs, i.e. the Book of Mormon, is a credible document. Continue reading
Mark Twain famously joked about the Mormons, “Their beliefs are singular ─ but their wives are plural.” Since Twain’s day though, mainstream Mormons have officially renounced polygamy (as a necessary condition of statehood back in 1896). But one can still strongly make the case that the beliefs of the Latter Day Saints remain quite singular, one might even say fantastic. I will get into more specific details presently, but first it may help to explore the idea of fantasy as faith, an American phenomenon which is in no way intended to cast dispersion on denizens of the Beehive State. In fact most tenets of the Mormon religion are surprisingly rational when set against many newer cultish practices, both secular and religious, that have proliferated since the advent of the 20th century. Continue reading
What do people generally mean when they use the word evolution? Today that debate rages with heated intensity among academics, especially since the advent of a modified theory of evolution in the natural world called Intelligent Design, or simply ID. On the face of it ID seems to be a rather innocuous, common sense sort of approach to physical science, the development of life, and even the cosmos. After all, everything around us seems to exhibit certain intelligent patterns that are difficult to explain by theories of randomness, just as a visitor from outer space to our planet might observe automobiles, computers, and skyscrapers and realize that they are very different in structure and form from ordinary rocks, hills, and trees. Even assuming that humanity had gone extinct, our interplanetary alien would rightly assume that some intelligent agent played a part in developing these artifacts just as anthropologists infer that the presence of cave paintings and sharpened tools are sure indicators of ancient cultures. And our alien would be correct in his assumptions because we already know that intelligent human life is the only reason that cars, computers, and skyscrapers happened to come into existence. Continue reading
Can you remember the famous refrain from the old television program called Dragnet? When questioning some witness to a crime Sergeant Joe Friday invariably intoned his signature deadpan line, “just the facts, sir, just the facts,” ─ implying that facts speak for themselves. Or do they? Television programs need to wrap up everything in a neat, tidy bundle at the end of a 30 or 60 minute segment and so factual evidence is often presented as unimpeachable. But if that were the case in real life there would really be no need for courts, judges, or juries would there?
The reality is that simple facts rarely tell the whole story. In order to ascertain the truth facts need to be weighed in some larger context. We need to know all the circumstances. There are hidden truths underlying even the most banal Continue reading
The great 19th century thinker and apologist John Henry Newman observed that the Church exhibits three characteristics: first she is pastoral thereby sanctifying her members, next she is pedagogical (a fancy word for her teaching mission), and finally she is political because the Church is made up of humans. It was this third characteristic that caused Newman the greatest concern and, in fact, any cursory glimpse of Church history quickly reveals her many political struggles from the beginning, when Paul took Peter to task over his attitude towards the gentiles as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.
. The problem is that the lines are not clearly demarcated and sometimes political considerations become entangled with the Church’s pastoral and pedagogical mission Continue reading