Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sources for Caesar and Jesus compared

"Sources for Caesar and Jesus Compared" by Darrell Bock.

If at first you don't succeed, cheat and cheat again!

i) Liberals win by cheating. Cheating is an effective way of winning when you can't win by honest means. If at first you don't succeed, cheat and cheat again. Just keep cheating until you win. 

They circumvent our Constitutional system of gov't by getting some judges to abuse their power. 

The fact that you can win by cheating isn't novel or surprising. Crooks have used that formula since time immemorial. 

ii) To some extent, this definitely advances their cause. They got something out of it. 

iii) However, it's also a sign of weakness. Even though some states were trending in their direction, liberals knew that wouldn't become a national policy if left to voters, if left to the discretion of the states. They knew you'd basically end up with a red state/blue state stalemate on SSM. The end-result would be a divided policy. 

That's why they needed to do an end-run around the democratic process. That was the only way to impose a nation-wide policy.

So that's a backdoor admission that their position lacks the popular support they need. Even though they had some popular momentum, they were bound to hit a ceiling. 

They have everything going for them except the votes. In a democratic republic, that only takes you so far. 

iv) When, moreover, they resort to coercion rather than persuasion, that provokes resistance. They gain something in the process, but they lose something in the process. People don't like to be pushed around. 

Blanket forgiveness

At Dylann Roof's arraignment hearing, representatives of the murder victims said they forgave him. That was widely commended in various outlets, including some Reformed sites.  That, however, raises the question of whether unconditional forgiveness is theologically warranted. 

Thus far I've held off publicly commented on the issue. I thought it best to put some space between the event and commentary. However, since Obama eulogized (and politicized) the funeral of Clementa Pinckney–presumably with the consent of his relatives–it's no longer a private affair.  

I'm not laying down a general rule. Ideally, it would often be preferable to wait a while before commenting on some controversy. Unfortunately, the other side doesn't give us that luxury. Right after the event, the wrong side rushes in to superimpose its interpretive narrative on the event. If you wait for a cooling off period before you push back, it's too late. By then the narrative is etched in stone. By then, moreover, the public is bored with that controversy. Attention has shifted to the next outrage de jour. 

It's admirable that some of the family members are willing to forgive the murderous assailant. That's personally virtuous. 

But whether that makes it a theological model for Christians generally is a different question. Good intentions don't ipso facto make something right or true. 

I'm going to evaluate what some commenters said, both at TCG, and Triablogue. Critiquing a commenter, who offers his own opinion of the issue, isn't the same as critizing the families. 

As a rule, I wouldn't directly correct the bereaved unless I think they have misconceptions which will harm the grieving process. 

Kennedy's Marriage Decision Can Easily Be Overcome

But the American people don't want to do it. Keep in mind that the corruption of the American people is a bigger problem than the corruption of the Supreme Court. In five out of the last six presidential elections, voters have chosen presidents who would deliberately select liberal justices for the Court. (In the 2000 election, the will of the voters was inconsistent with the electoral college result, so the voters didn't get what they wanted, thankfully.) Those justices support the sort of judicial activism that gave us yesterday's ruling on same-sex marriage. Likewise, the American people are the ones who encouraged the Court to think they could get away with what they did by giving same-sex marriage so much support in the polls and in other contexts. They also encouraged the Court to think it could get away with doing what it did by reacting so apathetically, and sometimes even approvingly, to previous abuses by the Court. And so on.

ACLU: We don’t believe in religious liberty when it conflicts with our antidiscrimination agenda

Friday, June 26, 2015

A tremendous defeat for “We the People” and our posterity

Time to fight back

In what should rank as the worst decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the lifetime of every living American (rivaled only by Roe v. Wade) and at least one of the two or three worst decisions since the Court's inception (compare the Dred Scott case), five lawless judges (all four Democrat-appointed judges: Obama's Sotomayor and Kagan; Clinton's Ginsburg and Breyer; and one traitor appointed by Reagan: Kennedy) today, June 26, 2015, defeated four Constitution-abiding judges (four of the five Republican-appointed judges: Bush Jr.'s Roberts and Alito; Bush Sr's Thomas; and Reagan's Scalia) to foist "gay marriage" on all 50 states. Five unelected lawyers have acted as legislators and imposed their arbitrary and extreme leftwing ideology on the American people.
Unless this decision can be reversed soon through the next two presidential elections and the retirement/replacement of renegade SCOTUS judges (Ginsburg is first up, followed by Breyer), this will turn out to be the greatest American tragedy for the civil liberties of persons of faith, for the cause of sexual purity in the United States, and for the lives of persons struggling with same-sex attraction. Prepare for a reign of persecution and abuse of people of faith as hateful, ignorant, and discriminatory "bigots" and the moral equivalent of racists in every area of life in which people of faith intersect with the secular realm, individually and in their religious institutions, with a profound negative impact as well within most mainline denominations.
As individuals, people of faith will be aggressively indoctrinated, fined, denied advancement, fired, intimidated, and subjected to ceaseless verbal abuse in public and private schools, at institutions of higher learning, at places of employment, and throughout the main communication organs of the media and entertainment industry. Their institutions will be set on a collision course with the state: denied government funding, contracts, and loans; denied accreditation and tax-exempt status; and subjected to government harassment.
Contrary to what deceived and deceiving proponents of "gay marriage" have argued, homosexual relationships will not be tamed by marriage but rather will destroy it as meaningless. The institution of marriage will not so much conform homosexual activity to the Christian understanding of marriage (lifelong, monogamous, procreative, balancing the sexes) as be transformed over time to accommodate to virtually any type of adult-consensual union. It will eradicate the very basis in creation and nature for defining marriage as complementary of body and monogamous: a male-female foundation. Taking account of sexual differentiation at any level, even opposition to cross-dressing and "transgenderism" and sex-distinguished bathroom facilities, must now be treated as malicious.
This ought to be a day of national mourning and a day of rededicating ourselves to live sexually holy lives and to do what we can as a city on a hill and a light for the world to restore liberty and morality to the nation and its institutions.
I am not saying that Christians should be driven by fear of what the state can do to us. No, Christians must always exhibit the boldness of speech that characterizes free people of the commonwealth of heaven. Christians can respond in faith rather than fear in this moment of American Crisis.
Jesus has assured us, "Look, I am with you all the days till the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20), just as God assured his people Israel: "He will go before you. He, Yahweh, will be with you. He will not abandon you or leave you. Do not be afraid and do not be terrified" (Deuteronomy 31:8). We know how the End turns out. God wins. God's name will one day be revered as holy by all, willingly or not. God's kingdom will come. God's will shall be done on earth as it is even now being done in heaven.
So let us clothe ourselves with the whole armor of God (truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer) for this struggle that is not merely against "flesh and blood" but against "spiritual forces of evil" (Ephesians 6:10-20). And as Jesus reminded us, if you are going to have fear, don’t be so much afraid of human beings, who can (at most) kill only the body. Fear God “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Let us take to heart the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8: No “pressures of life or tight straits or persecution” or “any other created thing will be able to separate us”—those of us who are under the controlling influence of the Spirit of Christ (8:1, 13-14)—“from the love of God that in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:35, 38-39). “Rather, in all these matters we are super-conquerors through the One who loved us” (8:37). For God “cooperates” with the Spirit who prays within us, working “for the good in all things for those who love God,” the good consisting of “being conformed to the image of his Son” (8:28-29, 35-39).
Who among us does not want to look more like Jesus and to resemble his beauty, the beauty of a life given over wholly to God? Among my favorite verses are these: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? The One who did not spare his own Son but handed him over (to death) for us all, how will he not also, together with him (Jesus), graciously bestow to us all things?” (Rom 8:31-32). If God offered even his very Son for us, in order to redeem us, he will not spare us any truly good thing now. He will continue to lavish his grace on us. He loves us more deeply than we can fathom for endless ages.
Yet this is not a call to moral sloth. On the contrary, “Let us not be bad in doing what is good for in due time we will reap (our harvest of eternal life), if we do not slack off” (Galatians 6:9). As the ancient image conveys, this is a time for "girding up our loins."

Red Queen Rising

Watching lions at a kill

There's the oft-quoted line about how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Among other things, that makes power a test of character. Many people can't be trusted with power. Give them power, and they can't resist the temptation to abuse their authority.
The SCOTUS ruling on sodomite marriage raises several kinds of issues:

i) Under our Constitutional system of gov't, judges lack the authority to make social policy. That subverts representative democracy. That subverts the consent of the governed. To the extent that it's even the job of the state to make social policy, that's supposed to be a bottom-up exercise, not a top-down exercise. Citizens expressing their will through their elected representatives. It's far from perfect, but the alternative is a totalitarian regime. 

This decision represents an abuse of authority. A usurpation of authority. A judicial coup d'etat. Even if you think homosexuals ought to be free to marry, the decision is illegitimate. 

ii) Justice Kennedy rationalizes this action on the grounds that “While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right.”

But, of course, to say the court can and should bypass the democratic process inasmuch as homosexual marriage is a "fundamental right" is a viciously circular argument when the court first presumes to define homosexual marriage as a "fundamental right," then appeals to its own definition to authorize its subsequent action. Unless the court has the authority to define homosexual marriage as a fundamental right in the first place, it can't turn around and cite its stimulative definition to authorize itself to find a fundamental right of homosexual marriage in the Constitution. The reasoning is farcical. It's like a man who claims to be the sheriff because he deputized himself. 

iii) It's simply a naked power grab that subverts popular sovereignty. It's the duty of the executive and legislative branches, which are sworn to uphold the Constitution, to disregard this ruling. 

iv) Unless you think marriage is an arbitrary social construct, judges can't define marriage out of thin air. Marriage must have a basis in human design. A basis in the natural order. To the extent that judges define marriage, that must mirror human nature. 

If, on the other hand, you think marriage is an arbitrary social construct, then there's no limit to what can be legally or judicially defined as marriage. So the SCOTUS ruling either proves too much or too little.

So Kennedy's argument generates a dilemma: if marriage is grounded in nature, then homosexual marriage is wrong.

If, however, marriage is just a social construct, then anything goes.

v) Another issue is the proper scope of gov't. As Justice Brandeis noted, back in the 19C, there's "the right to be let alone."

All other things being equal, it's not the duty of gov't to impose itself on the public. It should only do so if there's a sufficient countervailing reason. We have far too many laws as it is. A thicket of laws that makes everyone a criminal. No one is safe. 

The more laws you have, the more that empowers the state. The more that threatens the populace. 

vi) Having fabricated a Constitutional right to homosexual marriage which has no trace in the text of the Constitution, this will come into conflict with actual, explicit Constitutional rights, like freedom of speech, religion, and association. 

vii) Judicial fiat is an expression of secular desperation. The secular elite thinks this life is all there is. That reduces conflict resolution to whoever has the most power. Getting power by any means. Using power by any means. 

If there is no afterlife, if there is no retribution for perpetrators who elude justice in this life, if there is no hope of restoration for lost opportunities in this life, then it becomes a mad scrabble to cut in line, to get the most you can cram into this life at the expense of others who get in your way. Run them over. You can't afford to have anyone slow you down, for from the time you were born you are running out of time. 

The clock is ticking, so you better be ruthless. Win at any cost, because you can't afford to lose. You won't get a second chance. You can't make up for lost time.

It's just like watching lions at a kill. The biggest, strongest lions get first dibs. Male lions in the prime of life. Smaller, weaker, immature, or aging lions fight over scraps. Whatever is left over after the dominant lions take the best of everything for themselves. 

That's the guiding philosophy behind abortion, infantile, and euthanasia. Don't be a burden! If you get in my way, I will kill you! 

They don't care about the future consequences of their actions, for in the long run we're all dead. They don't care about destroying the future, because they have no future beyond their own lifespan. Let the future be damned! Let the younger generation be damned! 

For the average secularist, it's now or never. That's why the high-minded arguments of the dissenting justices fall on deaf ears. Even though they win the argument on the merits, they lose the debate, since the trump card is secularism and physicalism. If there is no heaven and hell, all that matters is the here and now. This generation. As Richard Dawkins aptly said, "We are the lucky ones. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds." 

This is why atheism isn't merely mistaken, but dangerously mistaken. Atheism reduces to the law of the jungle. 

viii) Secularists claim that religious reasons have no place in law and public policy. But that commits the genetic fallacy. The only relevant question is not whether a reason is religious, but whether it is true. 

Let's Correct The Supreme Court's Mistake On Marriage

Let's get to work on undoing the Supreme Court's mistake. Despite today's Supreme Court ruling, let's remember what hasn't changed. We, including the government, still have good reason to distinguish between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and, therefore, not place them together under the classification of marriage:

- Opposite-sex relationships still promote the unity of the genders in a way that same-sex relationships don't. Since the genders are so different, and their living together in harmony is so important, we have good reason to acknowledge a distinction between a relationship that's so effective in uniting the genders and a relationship that isn't.

- Opposite-sex relationships still have a potential that same-sex relationships don't have to produce biological offspring. Even if an opposite-sex couple is undecided about whether to have children, has decided not to have any, or is infertile, the potential for having children remains. We occasionally hear of a woman in her sixties or seventies having a child, though that's rare. Given how important biological offspring are to a society (e.g., the problems we're seeing in parts of the world with low birth rates), the potential for offspring is important even if a couple doesn't currently expect to have any children. And drawing the line at gender differences (distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex couples) would be a more efficient way to handle this issue than doing something like running fertility tests on every couple or trying to figure out an age limit for marriage.

- Opposite-sex relationships provide a significantly different environment in which to raise children. I deny that the differences between men and women are only anatomical, but, even if they were, that distinction alone would give us sufficient reason to distinguish between opposite-sex and same-sex parenting. It's more effective to teach children how to live with their own anatomy and how to live with somebody of the other gender in the setting of opposite-sex parenting. And if you believe that gender differences go beyond anatomy, as you should, this distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex parenting becomes even more significant.

- We have good religious grounds for distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. See our material in the archives here on the evidence for Christianity, for example. That evidence gives individuals, families, churches, etc. good reason to think that same-sex marriage is unethical. Even at a governmental level, religious considerations should be taken into account. Our system of government is founded on the religious notion that we're endowed by our Creator with rights. We print "In God We Trust" on our currency, open sessions of government with prayer, etc. To turn around and suggest that we can't have any religious motives for doing what we do at a state level would be irrational and inconsistent. Even where people don't explicitly articulate a religious motive, they often have one. Even political liberals often oppose racism, support helping the poor, oppose the death penalty, etc. on a religious basis. Voters frequently vote with religious motives, and the idea that legislators don't do the same is implausible. Religious motivation has been part of our political system from the start. The more secular modern definitions of separation of church and state are just that: modern definitions that are competing with other definitions, including ones that are older and more reasonable. If you want an argument that Christians should oppose homosexuality and same-sex marriage on religious grounds, see Robert Gagnon's material, for example.

Subverting democracy

A system of rubber checks and thumbs on the balance

The Anti-Constitutional Consequences of King v. Burwell
By George Will — June 25, 2015

The most durable damage from Thursday’s decision is not the perpetuation of the ACA, which can be undone by what created it — legislative action. The paramount injury is the court’s embrace of a duty to ratify and even facilitate lawless discretion exercised by administrative agencies and the executive branch generally.
While purporting to not apply Chevron, Roberts expands it to empower all of the executive branch to ignore or rewrite congressional language that is not at all ambiguous but is inconvenient for the smooth operation of something Congress created. Exercising judicial discretion in the name of deference, Roberts enlarges executive discretion. He does so by validating what the IRS did when it ignored the ACA’s text in order to disburse billions of dollars of subsidies through federal exchanges not established by the states.
Thursday’s decision demonstrates how easily, indeed inevitably, judicial deference becomes judicial dereliction, with anticonstitutional consequences. We are, says William R. Maurer of the Institute for Justice, becoming “a country in which all the branches of government work in tandem to achieve policy outcomes, instead of checking one another to protect individual rights. Besides violating the separation of powers, this approach raises serious issues about whether litigants before the courts are receiving the process that is due to them under the Constitution.”
The Roberts Doctrine facilitates what has been for a century progressivism’s central objective, the overthrow of the Constitution’s architecture. The separation of powers impedes progressivism by preventing government from wielding uninhibited power. Such power would result if its branches behaved as partners in harness rather than as wary, balancing rivals maintaining constitutional equipoise.
Roberts says “we must respect the role of the legislature” but “a fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.” However, he goes beyond “understanding” the plan; he adopts a legislator’s role in order to rescue the legislature’s plan from the consequences of the legislature’s dubious decisions. By blurring, to the point of erasure, constitutional boundaries, he damages all institutions, not least his court.

Abetting deception

I ran across I comment on the Obamacare ruling with I will use as a foil:

A lot of the criticism I'm seeing of this decision would cut against many apologetical arguments for the consistency of scripture, undermining the principle of "scripture interprets scripture" and such. It's as if it's impossible for something to look like it means something on the surface but really mean something else, where you can tell it by looking elsewhere in the document to see what the overall intent was. That point can be observed even in original public meaning, as long as the principle of charity is in operation to guide how we interpret the public meaning. We don't have to turn to intent derived from looking at external documents to get such a thing.
It's a separate question, of course, whether their arguments for interpreting things this way are correct, but much of the rancor I'm seeing from conservatives against the Roberts opinion would seem to me to undercut some of the better apologetical arguments defending scripture from the charge of contradiction (ones that are eminently reasonable when you take a whole book into account but seem unlikely if you only look at one verse, say).

For several reasons I disagree with his comparison:

i) Inerrantist Bible scholars pursue harmonistic strategies under the presupposition that the Bible can't contain substantive contradictions. But that's disanalogous to an uninspired piece of legislation.

ii) Some Bible scholars who aren't committed to inerrancy, or who bracket inerrancy for methodological reasons, still pursue harmonistic strategies because they think a good historian doesn't automatically assume that apparent contradictions in his source material are actual contradictions. He should first explore whether there are reasonable harmonizations. 

However, even on that weaker principle, the alleged parallel breaks down. Obamacare is a huge, complex bill (2700 pages). A consensus document. Lots of compromises. Lots of horsetrading to get the necessary votes for passage. Probably no Democrat who voted for the bill even read it in toto. Under those circumstances, it is to be expected that the bill will contain actual contradictions. 

iii) In addition, bills like this contain many loose ends because they don't detail policies; rather, they authorize an agency of the executive branch to use these laws as general guidelines to formulate specific regulations. It's up to the secretary of HHS and her team to tie up all the loose ends. Under those circumstances, there's no reason to think the bill will be free of inconsistencies. 

iv) Even more to the point, on at least four occasions, Jonathan Gruber, who basically ghostwrote the disputed provisions, publicly admitted that the wording of the provisions was intentionally deceptive. The wording deliberately concealed the true intentions of the lawmakers. Had the lawmakers can been candid about their real aims, they would have been unable to secure enough votes for passage. The proposed bill would be too unpopular with the electorate. 

But a deliberately devious formulation scarcely merits charitable reading. It's not an epistemic virtue to play the fool for a deceiver. It's not an epistemic virtue to let someone pull the wool over your eyes. It would be gullible to give a known deceiver the benefit of the doubt.

Roberts calls it "inartful drafting." To the contrary, it was very artful drafting. It was willful dissimulation. 

v) In addition, the court has no duty to do the dirty work for Congress. The court has no obligation to honor the mendacity of the lawmakers who were acting in bad faith by rewriting the law to make it say what it doesn't say because lawmakers duplicitously wrote something different than what they really meant the provisions to achieve. 

All things being equal, I think the court ought to take legislative intent into consideration. But not if the text of the law is an exercise in studied prevarication. It is not the duty of the court to collude with lawmakers in committing legislative fraud.  

Several hours later, the same person I quoted made some observations similar to mine–although I take a harder line. He went on to say:

The ambiguity argument was a different one. The claim there was that the text could be read either way but that they can choose to interpret it in the way that leads to the best consequences if it's genuinely ambiguous. They chose not to go that way.
What they instead said is that, in context in terms of what the rest of the law says, the best interpretation of this one particular line is that it doesn't mean what the surface meaning would lead you to expect if taken by itself.
That's an error in interpreting the rest of the act, i.e. the particular reasoning in the opinion, not an argument against the type of reasoning being done here, which is what many conservatives are unwisely giving without thinking of how terrible it would be to apply that kind of criticism across the board.
The other problem I have is that it's not clear the act is even consistent. Roberts did take them to task for how badly it's written, how the closed-door sessions, multiple authors, and limited ability for members to read it before voting makes it a bad law even apart from what it requires. I'm not sure he appreciates how bad, thought, because there's a plausible argument that it's not ambiguous between the two readings but is just plain inconsistent because it outright asserts both conflicting readings.
In such conditions, judges have been known to make a call to remove a contradiction, usually relying on some kind of revealed intent, but I don't think that works here, because you have Gruber and the other architects saying one thing and the others who were totally unaware of what he act did who added other stuff that conflicted with it, and there just isn't one original intent. That's much more plausible to me than the one-meaning Roberts view, the ambiguity view that they rejected, or the one-meaning but other-interpretation view of the dissent. 

A heart of flesh

The human heart is amazingly complex. Even this otherwise exquisitely designed model of the heart doesn't fully capture what's known about the heart. It's certainly still worth watching though. (Along similar lines, some might be interested in Dr. Howard Glicksman's continuing series on the human body over at EN&V. I presume his series will be turned into a book someday.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare!

Some readers might find the title of my post confusing. Didn't the Supreme Court uphold Obamacare rather than strike it down?

Only if you operate with a wooden, binary view of lexical semantics according to which words have objective meanings. But twice now, Chump Justice John Roberts has taught us that legal language has no objective meaning. 

Roberts and his allies on the bench have taught us that "tax" and "penalty" are synonyms. Who knew? "Established by the state" really means "not established by the state," or "established by the Federal government."

Therefore, I apply to the majority opinion the same semantic relativism which the majority opinion applies to statutory law. 

Since, according to the hermeneutical principles of Chump Justice John Roberts, antonyms are synonyms, since the meaning of one word can be arbitrarily reassigned to another word, if I were a chief executive (i.e. president, governor, mayor), I'd commend the Supreme Court for striking down Obamacare, and proceed to dismantle it.

Voluntary slavery

21 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever (Exod 21:1-6).

i) One stock objection which unbelievers raise is the fact that the OT regulates slavery rather than abolishing slavery. 

Of course, unbelievers have no basis to condemn slavery in the first place–as I've often discussed.

ii) You might think "voluntary slavery" is an oxymoron. Who would anyone choose to be a slave if they could avoid it? If the existence of a slave is so wretched, nobody would choose that over freedom. That's the unquestioned assumption of the moral objection.

Yet the Mosaic law makes provision for a temporary debt slave to become a permanent slave. 

Now, it might be objected that there's a coercive element. It's a choice between going free, but leaving his family behind, or staying with his family.

However, he knew, going in, that this was just a six-year stint. He could wait it out. Moreover, most indentured servants were married before becoming contract employees. In that case (most cases), they'd take their wife with them–no strings attached. If their wife followed them into slavery, their wife would follow them out of slavery.  

iii) So why would an indentured servant extend his bondage? Why would he choose to become a slave for life?

Because, even though it was a very unenviable situation to be in, the alternatives could be worse. Life in the ANE was very precarious for many people. Famine. Grinding poverty. It's a tradeoff between freedom and security.

A Hebrew slave enjoyed free room and board, plus spending money. Even a wife! Financial security and stability. 

It's like volunteering for the military. Some people reenlist. They exchange freedom for security. For the benefits that come with military service. 

It's better to be rich, but if you can't be rich, it's a choice between being free but poor, or enslaved, but having all your necessities provided for.  

That's not a great deal, but life was tough back then. It was hard to scrape by. 

Sure, God could create a different kind of world, but you and I would not exist in a different kind of world. That would be a world with a whole different history.

BTW, "love" in this passage doesn't mean "affection." Rather, it's ANE legal jargon for declaring one's allegiance. 

My advice to young pastors

Give a pastor a commentary and you feed him for a day; teach a pastor linguistics and you feed him for a lifetime.

Villains on both sides

From Democrat ex-Sen. Jim Webb:
But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slaveholders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South.


It's absurd how quickly the Chas church shooting devolves into a debate over the Confederate flag, and finally a debate over the pros and cons of secession. In 2015, we're revisiting those hoary debates from the 1850s. 

But since some pundits insist on bringing this up: I don't so much object to Southern states seceding from the Union. What I object to is their taking the slaves with them. Freedom is a two-way street: if Confederates are entitled to be free, so are slaves. If Confederates are entitled to be free of the Union, the slaves are entitled to be free of the Confederacy. You're welcome to go, but leave the slaves behind.

That's the central contradiction in the Confederate argument. That's why Confederate apologists could never win the argument. They couldn't get over that hurdle.

If enough people in a given state or region no longer wish to be part of a political coalition, should we kill to keep them in? That's fanatical nationalism.

Should Hong Kong or Singapore be reabsorbed into Mainland China? 

Now, I'm not suggesting that was a practical alternative. Practically the whole point of secession was to keep the slaves. Maintain slave labor as the backbone of the Southern economy. 

Moreover, it would be unfair to the slaves to dispossess them. For many, the South was their home. They felt at home there. They had as much right to live there as anyone else. Even after the war, many remained in the South. That's a weakness with most partition plans. It forces many residents to relocate, because they are embedded in ethnically mixed communities. 

I'm just arguing a point of principle.

Black lives matter

It's sadly ironic that Clementa Pinckney and many who mourn him don't value black lives as much as many white evangelicals:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Refighting the last war

Russell Moore recently wrote a widely cited post on "The Cross and the Confederate flag." 
I realize it's tiresome to keep commenting on this issue. It's tiresome to read about. I find it tiresome to write about. Since, however, important public policy issues get framed in these emblematic terms, I'll say a bit more.
i) Although Moore is well-intentioned, he often dives into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim. He lacks the requisite wisdom to be a Christian social commentator. 
ii) His article included the following, oft-quoted statement:
"The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire." 
I guess that's supposed to be catchy and memorable. Since, however, wooden crosses are made of flammable material while some flags are made of fire retardant material, I don't think his intended point is well served by that illustration.
iii) Getting to the meat of the issue, we have a succession of self-flagellating white evangelicals who keep fighting the last war. Refighting antebellum slavery. Refighting Jim Crow.
Already, the generation that lived under Jim Crow is a dying generation. We shouldn't make the younger generation hostage to the moral failings of a dying generation. Like every generation, the younger generation has its own ethical challenges to confront.
It reminds me of some Jews who are oblivious to the real threats facing modern-day Jews by Muslims and their apologists or enablers in secular academia because they keep looking back at the history of European anti-Semitism. They don't see the danger ahead. They don't realize that evangelicals are generally their best friends. 
iv) I think a lot of the appeal of refighting the last war is that you don't have to solve real problems or assume a real risk. 
Frankly, some of these evangelicals remind me of Tony Campolo's recent announcement about the "full inclusion" of the LGBT community in the church. Campolo's position must have been one of the world's worst kept secrets. His announcement was so anti-climatic because it was so predictable.
What is more, the timing was so timid. He waited until the wind was at his back. Rather than leading the charge, he hung back until it was safe to come out into the open.
Honestly, I'm not impressed by all the back-patting. I had a grandfather (b. 1883, Missouri) who was a Southern evangelist. He used to preach to mixed gatherings of black and white. When he arrived, they'd be roped off into segregated areas. The first thing he'd do was to take the ropes down.
That was a very daring, very dangerous thing to do back then. Indeed, the KKK got wind of his provocative practice and began to monitor his meetings. His response was to preach directly at and against Klasmen in the audience.
That was an incredibly ballsy thing to do back in the heyday of the KKK. An invitation to get yourself lynched. 
It doesn't take bravery for Mohler, Moore et al. to denounce the past. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. But it's not exactly courage under fire. It's made possible by the valor of those who went before. 

Royal jester

Evolutionary racism

The clown prince

Moral guidance from the One True Church®

A double-minded man, unstable in all his ways

A double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (Jas 1:8).

Prof. Bradley (Associate Professor of Religious Studies at The King's College) seems to be of two minds. Last month he defended the Constitutional right of citizens to fly offensive flags. This month he applauds politicians and religious leaders who demand that an offensive flag be removed.

Just two months ago he said people raised in "privilege" should observe a 6-month moratorium when commenting on the Baltimore shooting. This month he applauds people raised in privilege who comment on the Charleston shooting.

If you agree with him, you have a right–even a duty–to speak out, but if you disagree with him, keep your mouth shut. 


Anthony Bradley
Yesterday at 1:54pm 

Charleston's Roman Catholic mayor wants the flag to come down (he explains in the video), Mitt Romney (Mormon) says the flag should come down, Russell Moore (Southern Baptist) says the Confederate Flag should come down. . . .Can't believe we're debating this. Smh.

Anthony Bradley
June 19 at 4:40pm 

Russell Moore is the first Calvinist from the South that I've read, in my life, who is leader, who has made a Christian case against the Confederate flag. Two questions: (1) Why is that? (2) What needs to happen for him to be in the PCA (ha!)?

Anthony Bradley
May 6 ·

America, this is Colorado. In the 1920s the KKK ran the entire state. I'm actually OK with this picture and these teens being free to take this particular photo. I don't see the controversy. The Black Panthers should also be free to fly whatever flag they want as well. Do not be surprised that this is Colorado though and not Mississippi. Do not be surprised at all.

Anthony Bradley
April 28 

I'd recommend evangelicals, esp. those raised in privilege, not offer "perspective" on #‎Baltimore for at least 6 months. #‎SlowToSpeak

Chasing the toy rabbit

Sadly, but not surprisingly, I see massive moral confusion on the Confederate flag issue, including evangelical "leaders."

i) To begin with, politicians cynically exploit issues like the Confederate flat as a diversionary tactic to deflect attention away from real problems and real solutions–not to mention insoluble problems. It covers up real issues which politicians either won't solve or can't solve. 

It's striking how easily many voters allow themselves to be manipulated by decoys. A politician puts his fingers between his teeth and whistles. Having gotten their attention, he points them in a particular direction, and off they go, in lockstep, chasing the toy rabbit around the track. 

Suppose the Confederate flag is "taken down." Then people who supported that initiative will go home with a sense of accomplishment. But what did they really accomplish? Nothing. It changes absolutely nothing of consequence. 

ii) There's the fundamental distinction between what a person should do and what they should be permitted to do. A distinction between morality and legality. Between what you ought to do and what gov't ought to allow you to do. That's the difference between a free society and a police state. Between the Bill of Rights and a totalitarian regime. We need to resist the heckler's veto. 

iii) One of the complications is that some cemeteries, memorials, and historic sites are technically gov't property. Maintained by Federal, state, or municipal authorities. 

Unlike the cross, I don't think the Confederate flag, in itself, is with fighting for. And there are many contexts in which the Confederate flag isn't worth fighting for. However, the Constitutional right of private citizens to display the flag is worth fighting for. 

In addition, there are historic sites where the Confederate flag fits in (e.g. Magnolia cemetery in Chas, SC). 

iv) Although the Confederate flag is morally different from gay wedding cakes, it raises the same civil liberty issues. Freedom of dissent. 

v) Cemeteries are morally indiscriminating about who gets buried there. In the average cemetery, you will find the graves of very good people, very bad people, and morally middling people all mixed together. 

Should we pave over cemeteries which contain Confederate graves? If so, why stop there? 

What about monuments and historical sites honoring or commemorating Founding Fathers like Washington and Jefferson. They were slaveholders. Should we demolish Mount Vernon, Monticello, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the University of Virginia? 

Ted Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He's as morally odious as any Confederate. Harry Blackmun is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He's as morally odious as any Confederate. 

vi) Not only do Klansmen fly the Confederate flag, they also indulge in cross-burning. Should the cross be classified as symbolic hate-speech? Remember, speech includes nonverbal communication. Crusaders who sacked Constantinople marched under the cross. 

Should we ban the cross from Arlington National Cemetery because some people find that symbol offensive?

What about the Star of David? If Muslims find that offensive, should we remove it from Jewish graves at Arlington National Cemetery? 

vii) A symbol is intended to send a message. But the viewer controls how he will respond to the message. A viewer can disregard the message. A viewer can ridicule the message. A symbol has no inherent power. It is only powerful to the degree that we empower it, to the degree that we allow it to wield power over us. 

It's like what Paul said about meat sacrificed to idols. There's a circular dynamic in which something that's essentially unimportant acquires importance if we act as thought it's important. 

"Confronting the past"

I'm going to comment on this post:

In 1995, on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination publicly repented of its roots in the defense of slavery. 

i) To begin with, there's a difference between condemning the past and "repenting" of the past. The notion that the living should repent for the actions of the dead is nonsense. Pious playacting. We can distance ourselves from the views and actions of our forebears. We can disassociate our views from their views. But vicarious repentance is meaningless and spiritually pretentious. 

ii) Although there's some value in making clear where the SBC currently stands on racial equality, this belated exercise easily becomes overwrought and self-important. Denouncing the morality of Antebellum slavery and Jim Crow is a dollar short and a day late. The timing is off. The time when that would have made a difference is past. That's a lost opportunity. 

There was a time when that would have been useful. But it's too late in the day for that to make a significant difference. Beyond a certain point it becomes a pointless exercise in moral grandstanding.

For instance, I can denounce the Fourth Crusade. But what difference does that make? It's too late to prevent the Fourth Crusade. It's too late to prosecute the assailants. 

We the living cannot repent on behalf of those who are dead, but we can repent for the legacy that we would otherwise perpetuate and extend by silence.

That sounds nice, but does it mean anything? If we're dealing with an ongoing policy, then we perpetuate it if we refuse to rescind the policy. But that terminated decades ago. I'm afraid Mohler is getting swept up in the momentum of his own rhetoric. 

So far as I can tell, no one ever confronted the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with the brutal reality of what they were doing, believing, and teaching in this regard. 

That's because they are all…dead. Short of holding a séance, it's hard to confront them. 

We cannot change the past, but we must learn from it. 

Which assumes the lesson hasn't been learned. Which casually defames the younger generation.

There is no way to confront the dead with their heresies, but there is no way to avoid the reckoning that we must make, and the repentance that must be our own.

What is there that we must personally repent of in this situation? Must I repent for the Fourth Crusade? 

But the ideology that was represented in Dylann Roof’s reported words as he killed and in the photographs and evidence found on his Internet postings is not limited to a small fringe.

i) If Mohler means historically, then it's true that racist ideology and theology wasn't confined to fringe groups. But if he means in modern-day evangelicalism or American society, then racist theology/ideology is confined to the lunatic fringe.

ii) At least the kind of theology/ideology that Mohler is referring to. In another sense, the "white privilege" meme that's so popular among today's power elite reflects a powerful racist ideology. A classic scapegoating ideology.  

iii) Because Mohler is so fixated on a now nonexistent past, he overlooks real problems. Take the unemployment rate amount Millennials (Roof's age bracket): 

When young people feel hopeless about the future, when they feel that they've been sidelined, that can make them recruits for scapegoating ideologies like kinism and neo-Nazism.  

The main “color line,” as Frederick Douglass called it in 1881, has always been black and white in America.

That's ironically ethnocentric. In fact, it's inadvertently racist. Even in the 19C, the color line included white/Chinese relations and white/Indian relations.

This obsession with the past marginalizes the voice of other ethnic groups. 

Boyce and Broadus were chaplains in the Confederate army.

Mohler fails to explain what's wrong with that. Yes, some prominent theologians like Boyce, Broadus, Dabney, and Girardeau were Confederate chaplains. What, exactly, is wrong with that?

You could say they were wrong to identify with the Confederal cause. But given the Civil War, was it wrong for them to serve as military chaplains? 

I imagine the Civil War basically emptied the Southern seminaries. Since these theologians had no students, it made sense for them to evangelize and disciple the troops. 

Knowing that you could be dead tomorrow makes the Gospel more urgent, more relevant. Moreover, the Confederate chaplains were assuming the same risks as the troops. I assume that garnered the respect of the troops. So there was a window of opportunity to evangelize the lost. 

Although the Confederate cause was morally compromised, that created a situation in which good could be done. Like Christian POWs who minister to other captives. Even though the situation is evil, you can bring good out of evil in that situation. For instance:

Roof and Suboxone

More Compatibilism in Scripture

Most of us remember the stories of David in the Bible. We also have some recollection of Solomon. But after that, the names of the kings of Israel become somewhat of a mishmash of randomized consonants and vowels.

Even knowing the name of Solomon, however, many Christians do not realize that in 1 Kings 11, Solomon has turned away from the LORD. Because of that, we often miss an important story that shows once again that Libertarian Free Will cannot adequately explain what we read in Scripture while compatibilism does. Let us read the following:
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:9-13, ESV).
And to further declare that this will happen, we read later on in the same chapter that the prophet Ahijah speaks to Jeroboam, a servant (see verse 26) of Solomon:
Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes...’” (1 Kings 11:30-31, ESV).
So we have two passages indicating that this will happen. Sure enough, in the next chapter, we read:
And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only. (1 Kings 12:20, ESV).
Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, ended up being king of only Judah (and the remnants of Benjamin) while the ten other tribes formed their own nation under Solomon's servant, Jeroboam. But how did these events come about? We can see the primary cause is because Rehoboam did not listen to the people:
And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents (1 Kings 12:16, ESV).
But even before that, we read about the ultimate cause:
"So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (1 Kings 12:15, ESV).
Did you catch that? Rehoboam's refusal to listen to the people "was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word." And if that wasn't confirmation enough, when Rehoboam decided to go to war against Jeroboam, God said to the prophet Shemaiah:
“Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me’” (1 Kings 12:23-24, ESV).
Now consider these turn of events and trace the causality back. The kingdom was divided because Rehoboam didn't listen to the people, but God also clearly states multiple times that it is He who brought about those turn of events. God specifically says that Rehoboam didn't listen because God intended to fulfill His word. And not only that, but God's word was declared to Solomon about Solomon's actions, not to Rehoboam nor because of anything Rehoboam had done.

Now, if Libertarian Free Will is true, none of that makes sense. God did not tell Solomon, "Because you have sinned, I foresee that a consequence is that your son will choose of his own Libertarian Free Will not to listen to the people, and thus you will lose your kingdom." No, God said: "I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant." God declares that He will act. This is not something that just unfolds as a consequence of Solomon's sin. God engineers it.

But notice that Rehoboam didn't act contrary to his own will either. We read: "But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him" (1 Kings 12:8, ESV). Rehoboam abandoned the counsel. He chose to do what the young men had said instead of the old counselors who knew better. There is no mention of coercion here, nor is there any indication that Rehoboam ever said, "God, it isn't fair that you made me do this." Rehoboam clearly did as he wished. He was not compelled against his will.

Thus we see that the Bible clearly teaches both that Rehoboam acted as he willed and that his actions were precisely what God determined would happen to fulfill His word. That only makes sense in compatibilism, for this clearly just is man's freedom and God's determining working compatibly. And in fact, this gives a concrete illustration of the statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith: "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (3:1).

White guilt antinatalism

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Guns save lives

The cross and the flag

Let's compare the Confederate flag to the cross. By the "cross," I don't mean the theology of the cross or the death of Christ. I mean an object or image in the shape of a cross that's used as a symbol of Christianity.

Now both the flag and the cross are potentially offensive. There are Muslims, Jews, and atheists who find the cross offputting. 

That's because the cross can symbolize different things to different people. To some Jews, it represents a history of anti-Semitism. 

Likewise, the Confederate flag represents different things to different people. For some, it's the Southern equivalent of the swastika. And depending on your viewpoint, that's either good or bad. If you're a skinhead or kinist, that's good–which makes you bad. 

For some, it's the Southern equivalent of the Gadsden flag: "Don't tread on me." A libertarian symbol with no racial overtones. Rather, a statement about limited government.

There is, however, a basic difference. The cross is worth defending in a way the Confederate flag is not. The cross has an intrinsic symbolic value which the Confederate flag does not and cannot. 

Predictably, there's currently a movement to "take the flag down." So we have a racist massacre in Charleston, and the response is: Let's march to remove the flag! 

That illustrates the utter superficiality and illogicality of many people. As if engaging in grand empty gestures, tweaking the symbolism, resorting to feel-good non sequiturs, is a solution to the perceived problem. Let's remove the flag, then go back to life as usual. But that change changes nothing. If there's something that needs to be changed, something that can be changed, that changes makes no difference. It just trivialize the issue, and gives people a false sense of accomplishment. But that's all some people want. 

I'd add that according to David French, the Confederate flag doesn't fly over the state capitol. That's ignorant or mendacious news coverage: 

I agree with French that it makes sense to fly it at historic cemeteries and civil war memorials. 

That said, this isn't a great cause to fight for one way or the other. The Confederate flag is the symbol of a deservedly lost cause. It's not worth defending in itself. It's just that we should avoid effacing history. 

On the other hand, it's not as if the Confederate flag is a talisman that casts a spell on the viewer. It has no hypnotic powers of suggestion. It doesn't turn white Southern peaceniks into raving raging killers. We need to maintain a sense of perspective in both directions. 

Were the Confederates traitors?

One allegation I run across is that the charge that the Confederates were traitors. That depends on whether you think a state has a right to secede. That, in turn, depends on your political philosophy. Are you a social contract theorist? If so, which version?

Do you take the position that an earlier generation has the moral authority to make binding choices on all future generations? That's pretty paternalistic. Surely that's rather extreme. Surely that invites many counterexamples. That's a Hobbesian view of the social contract, in contrast to a Lockean view–which grants the right of citizens to revolt. 

The allegation is rather ironic considering the origins of the American republic:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them…

For that matter, is nationalism an end in itself? What's the value of a "union" if, say, a sizable majority in one region doesn't wish to belong? That's an extrinsic union which must be imposed from above. Why compel people to belong who don't wish to belong? Is that worth killing for?

Suppose a sizable majority of Alaskan or Hawaian residents voted to secede. Should we use military force to keep them part of the US? If so, why so? What's the value of coercive membership? Isn't that like empires with vassal states? Doesn't that reflect an imperialist outlook? 

I suspect the allegation has less to do with an argument from principle than the specific case at hand. I think secession and states rights are valid principles. But the South squandered its moral capital by invoking those principles to legitimate an illegitimate position. That discredited the principles by association. Brought them into disrepute. The high-minded rhetoric was belied by the sordid cause. 

I think the principles are still valid. But a justifiable principle doesn't ipso facto justify any particular exercise of that principle.  The dilemma for the Confederate argument is its selective appeal to popular sovereignty. If that applies to Confederates, that applies to slaves. Either both "unions" are dissoluble, or neither are. 

Confederate apologists could never square that circle. Either freedom for all or freedom for none.

The Civil War through their own eyes

i) The Civil War was American's great morality play. At least at the time. We have comparable issues today–like abortion. This is often the paradigm that's used to frame race relations in America. 

Whenever we have an incident like the recent Chas church shooting, the Civil War gets dragged back into the discussion. This usually begins with critics who blame it on the Civil War. This, in turn, elicits respondents who defend the Civil War.

Now, I don't think the Civil War has any real bearing on these incidents. Since, however, the Civil War is so often made the frame of reference, it's worth discussing. So long as race relations are constantly cast in reference to the Civil War, it's useful to have a correct understanding of the war. 

I'm not a Civil War historian. My knowledge of the subject is uneven. In this post I'm just giving my impressions.

ii) A central issue is who defines the Civil War. What motivated the participants? Typically, defenders say it was about states rights while opponents say it was about slavery. More extreme defenders say it was a conflict between (Southern) Christian civilization and (Northern) secularism. 

So the question is, who speaks for the Civil War? I think a basic problem with how we remember the Civil War is that textbooks, movies, the "news" media, social activists et al. have allowed the Civil War to be defined by 19C cultural elites.

On the one hand, there's how Northern abolitionists (e.g. Garrison, Douglass, Weld), theologians (e.g. Channing, Bushnell, Chas Hodge), and generals/statesmen (e.g. Lincoln, Grant, Sherman) defined the cause.

On the other hand, there's how Southern generals (e.g. Lee), theologians (e.g. Dabney, Thornwell), and statesmen (e.g. John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis) defined the cause.

Now, I think that's valid up to a point. To some extent, this indicates what motivated them. And they were the movers and shakers. 

Mind you, even in that respect we need to distinguish between what they said in public and what they said in private. What they said in speeches, memoirs, &c., were designed to shape public perception of the cause. Give their respective cause an idealistic patina. 

Cynical motivations will be edited out of the public case. But what they confided to friends and family in private (e.g. letters, diaries) may often be a more revealing and accurate reflection of their true reasons. 

It can be misleading when we permit the Civil War to be defined by statements made for public consumption. That's apt to be propagandistic. We allow ourselves to be manipulated by political rhetoric of we accept that at face value.

Although public statements may sometimes reflect how the players viewed themselves, viewed their own actions, they aren't impartial judges when it comes to the purity of their motives. The potential for self-deception is strong. 

A basic problem with letting the culture elites define the war is that it will give the war a very ideological interpretation. A bloody conflict between competing ideas

Although the Civil War had an ideological component, it's a mistake to think that all or most participants were ideologically motivated. That greatly oversimplifies human behavior. 

iii) In addition, defining the Civil War by the cultural elites will leave other significant voices muted or underrepresented.

Although a few notable blacks figure in the discussion (e.g. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth), that's exceptional. And I think that's because most slaves or former slaves were illiterate. They didn't write about the war. Moreover, they didn't have the social standing to publish anything. Many Civil War historians write about slaves. They presume to speak on behalf of them. But it would be more illuminating if we let the slaves speak for themselves instead of speaking for them. Make greater use of oral histories. 

Likewise, I think the view of the foot-soldier is underrepresented. From what I've read, the Confederate army was originally a volunteer army. But it quickly became necessary to conscript soldiers. At midpoint in the war, Congress did the same thing in reference to the Union army.

In the nature of the case, many draftees don't fight for ideological reasons. In many cases, they fight against their will. 

Despite conscription, desertion was fairly high on both sides. So it's not as if foot-soldiers were fired up by the glory of the cause. 

If you want to know what they thought of the war, read letters to home. I think that viewpoint is neglected in textbook depictions of the war. Even among volunteers, I suspect most soldiers fought for hearth and home, kith and kin, rather than ideology.  

iv) Although I can't say for sure, since I didn't live at that time and place, but I don't think Southerners identified primary as Southerners. Although "the South" is convenient and indispensable umbrella term, if we cast the conflict in such generic terms, it oversimplifies the motivation. 

From what I can tell, Lee didn't fight to save the South–he fought to save Virginia. He was first and foremost a Virginian. 

Likewise, I don't think it's coincidental that Dabney's notorious apologetic is entitled A Defence of Virginia, [and Through Her, of the South]. Both men were deeply attached, not to "the South," but to the Old Dominion. Dabney was critical of how South Carolina dragged the rest of the South into the war. 

It's my impression that Texans self-identified primarily as Texans rather than Southerners; Virginians self-identified primarily as Virginians rather than Southerners; Southern Carolinians self-identified primarily as Carolinians rather than Southerners.

I question the picture of a monolithic sense of Southern solidarity. That's reinforced by the fact that only the Deep South seceded; the border states remained in the Union. 

For instance, Missouri was a border state. Now, Mark Twain is the quintessential Southern author. And he joined a volunteer Confederate unit. However, his state own state didn't secede. 

To take another example B. B. Warfield's father was a Union officer. His maternal grandfather, Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, was anti-slavery, and supported the Union. 

Machen and Warfield once got into a row over the admission of the first black student to Princeton. Both men were scions of Southern aristocracy, but had very different views of the war. 

You had other subdivisions within Southern society. Take South Carolina. Was white identity primarily Carolinian, or was it Upcountry or Lowcountry?

Imagine growing up on Johns Island in the 19C. That would be a world unto itself. 

What about your religious affiliation, viz. Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian?

What about your ethnic identity? Scots. Huguenots. English settlers who migrated from sugar plantations on Barbados.

In addition, these affiliations overlap. Huguenot was an ethnic and religious affiliation alike. Anglicanism was a mark of social class as well as religious affiliation. It catered to the landed gentry. 

v) There were notable individuals who are hard to pigeonhole. In the North, Charles Hodge didn't support the Union because he opposed slavery, but because he supported Federalism. His position owed more to political theory than theology. His position on slavery is ambivalent. 

Thomas Smyth took a mediating position. I suspect the difference between Smyth and Thornwell is largely due to the fact that Thornwell's father was a plantation overseer, whereas Smyth was an expat from Northern Ireland. As such, Smyth could assume a more detached viewpoint.
Likewise, you have John Lafayette Girardeau, missionary to the slaves. 
In addition, there were Jewish Confederates:
All told, I think we need to resist reductionistic interpretations of the Civil War. The motivations were more diverse than popular, influential representations suggest.