Saturday, November 26, 2016

Auricular confession

I recently got into an impromptu debate with a couple of Catholics on Facebook. I'll post some highlights of what I said in response to what they said. 

If Christ forgives through priestly absolution, then a priest has the power to compel Christ to forgive anyone the priest absolves.

John 20:19-23 would prove to be problematic for you then. Christ breathed on the Apostles and gave them the authority to forgive and retain sin (if it were merely to announce forgiveness of sin, then it would make no sense to also confer the capacity to retain).

i) Depends on the scope of your claim. That's certainly not a Catholic prooftext, since it's about the apostles in general, and not about Peter in particular. Likewise, it's not about the papacy, or Roman episcopate, or Catholic priesthood, but just about the Eleven.

ii) There's also the question of what Jn 20:23 means or implies. Is that a constitutive act?

In context, it arguably has reference to the Apostolic mission. Evangelism. People who believe the Apostolic kerygma will be forgiven; people who spurn it will remain in their sins. 

That's consistent with the fact that in the Fourth Gospel, people who believe in Jesus, who exercise faith in his message about his person and work, are forgiven–while those who reject his message stand condemned. That's the basis of salvation or damnation. 

To make salvation or damnation contingent on a constitutive act of apostolic absolution (or the absence thereof) posits two different methods of salvation: one through direct faith in the Gospel, the other through auricular confession and absolution. 

That's incongruous. Hence, in context, Jn 20:23 shorthand for how people respond to the Apostolic witness about Jesus.

i) It's not self-evident that Mt 16:18 makes Peter the rock. Although that may seem straightforward considered in isolation, the "on this rock" motif was emphatically used by Jesus, in reference to himself, back in Mt 7:24-25. So Mt 16:16 may allude to that.

ii) But assuming it refers to Peter, the formulation isn't exclusive. It doesn't set Peter in contrast to the other disciples. It doesn't say Jesus will build his church on Peter rather than his colleagues. That imports a nonexistent dichotomy into the text.

It's not as if Peter was the only disciple who believed that Jesus was the Messianic Son of God. So that fails to distinguish Peter from his colleagues. That doesn't single out Peter as the unique basis for the church. 

iii) As a matter of fact, the NT extends the foundation stone imagery to the Apostolate generally (Rev 21:14), and even beyond the Apostolate to apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20).

Did Trump steal the election?

Did Trump steal the election by hackers manipulating votes? 

Not according to two Executive Branch agencies, which, if anything, have a Democrat bias:

Do parallels undermine historicity?

Some scholars believe the account of Moses in Exod 2:1-10 is indebted to the legend of Sargon. I think that's been debunked by scholars like Duane Garrett, Victor Hamilon, James Hoffmeier, and Alan Millard.

Conversely, some scholars believe it's indebted to the myth Horus. I find the alleged parallels to be strained. But even if there were intentional parallels, that doesn't mean the account is unhistorical. 

The same issue crops up in reference to the Exodus-typology in Mt 2-4. Although he's liberal, Dale Allison offers a useful corrective to the glib assumption that parallels automatically undermine historicity:

In your writings, especially in your commentary on the gospel of Matthew, you have demonstrated that the gospels—again, mostly Matthew—make much use of Old Testament narratives to illustrate the story of Jesus. Some mythicist scholars have claimed that such use of OT themes instead lends credence to the view that most of Jesus’ life, as presented in the gospels, was completely fabricated as a sort of midrashim based on the OT. What is your opinion regarding the plausibility of such a thesis?
I understand the reasoning, which is at the heart of Strauss' great book on Jesus, wherein he argues again and again from typology to fiction. I agree with him about some things. But not everything. We should be careful here. People can engage in typological interpretations of themselves. Martin Luther King, Jr., presented himself sometimes as akin to Moses, at other times akin to Lincoln. Alexander the Great thought of himself as being like Achilles. Julius Caesar thought of himself as being like Alexander. Napoleon thought of himself as being like Caesar. General Santa Anna thought of himself as being like Napoleon. Obama went to his first inauguration by train and created parallels between himself and Lincoln. Eusebius, when recounting Constantine's victory over Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian bridge, cast the latter in the role of Pharaoh, the former in the role of Moses, which does not mean they fought no such battle. John Bunyan, writing of his own conversion, drew heavily upon the New Testament accounts of Paul becoming a Christian, which scarcely entails that Bunyan's recollections are free of facts. Paul himself seems to have seen himself in Jeremiah and Deutero-Isaiah. One could go on and on. Sometimes typologies grow out of autobiographical interpretation. This is my view about Jesus and the NT Moses typologies: he probably thought of himself as the prophet like Moses, an idea that the tradition then developed. In any case, you can tell a story in multiple languages, and Scripture is a sort of language. In fact, I doubt that some of the early Christian leaders could have said much of anything without borrowing scriptural language. 
One also should beware of assuming that people can't have large self-conceptions. History is full of human beings who have aspired to greatness, who have sought to lead others, and who have imagined themselves to be at the center of what they believed the gods or God were doing. That the NT gives Jesus roles and titles from the OT doesn't logically entail that all those roles and titles were foreign to his own thought.

Why circumcision?

Why was circumcision a covenant sign? Because the Bible doesn't actually explain the symbolism, readers are left to speculate. 

On the face of it, this seems like an odd sign. Given that Jews normally frowned on public nudity, what's the purpose of an invisible sign? Isn't that paradoxical? 

i) That depends in part on who it's designed to signal. Although it can't function as a public witness, it might be a reminder to Jewish males or Jewish couples. It would be visible to them, if not to the general public. 

Even if that's the case, it doesn't explain what it's meant to remind people of. 

ii) One traditional explanation is that it symbolizes the excision of guilt and pollution (Louis Berkhof). The only thing that explanation has going for it is the possible symbolism of cutting. But to connect that to cutting away guilt and pollution is arbitrary. I'd say that's a makeshift explanation. 

On a related note, O. Palmer Robertson thinks is represents purification, based on the hygienic value of circumcision. However, he offers no evidence that Jews practice circumcision for hygienic reasons. And that seems to be anachronistic. 

iii) As far as that goes, there might still be a play on words, where you have an association between cutting the flesh and the idiom of cutting a covenant. But by itself, that's a pretty thin connection.

iv) On a related note, it might be a play on words, where you have an association between cutting the flesh and those who are "cut off" from the covenant community (Gen 17:14). That potentially makes it signify a curse sanction. To be circumcised cuts you into the covenant while to be uncircumcised cuts you out of the covenant. That explanation has rather more going for it than (ii-iii).

iv) Another explanation trades on the reproductive function of the penis. On this view, circumcision signifies the consecration of Jewish posterity to God. They are set apart for God. In addition, God's promise extends from one generation to the next. Moreover, Jewish posterity will become a source of blessing for Gentiles.

That explanation has a lot going for it. It certainly dovetails with the context of Gen 17:1-8. 

v) The permanence of the mark may signify the perpetuity of the covenant. 

It's possible that God's choice of circumcision was intended to trigger multiple associations. The symbolism is multifaceted. 

vi) Here's another explanation I haven't seen discussed. The effect of circumcision is to reduce the sensitivity of the penis. Removing the foreskin removes many nerves that would otherwise be stimulated by sexual intercourse. Indeed, I've read that premature ejaculation is sometimes treated by circumcision, because reducing the sensitivity of the penis means it takes longer to achieve sexual climax. 

For normal men, sexual intercourse is a regular highpoint of life. Yet circumcision diminishes the physical sensation, which diminishes the physical pleasure. 

So that may indicate God's claim on our total devotion. A sacrifice to God of something that means the most to people (in this case, men). 

(I think circumcision is defunct under the new covenant. It makes sense for Christians to discontinue the custom.)

Why Christmas Apologetics Is Important

"Advice is counsel about what you must do. News is a report about what has already been done. Advice urges you to make something happen. News urges you to recognize something that has already happened and to respond to it. Advice says it is all up to you to act. News says someone else has acted….The biblical Christmas texts are accounts of what actually happened in history. They are not Aesop's Fables, inspiring examples of how to live well….These Gospel narratives are telling you not what you should do but what God has done….If we are saved through our efforts, then stories about Jesus have just one function: to inspire us to imitate him and follow his example. It doesn't matter if the stories are fiction or not. What's important is that they give us examples to live by. But if we are saved by grace, not by what we do but by what he has done, then it is crucial that the great events of the Gospels - the incarnation, the atonement on the cross, and the resurrection from the dead - actually occurred in time and space….Robert Yarbrough, a New Testament scholar, says that the verbs [in 1 John 1:1] correspond to the varieties of witness attestation in ancient jurisprudence. And so when John writes, 'We have seen it and testify to it' - and then speaks of hearing, seeing, and touching - 'he is not making conversation but virtually swearing a deposition.' This is court language. John is saying, 'This is not just a set of nice stories. Many others and I were eyewitnesses. We testify to it. We really saw him. He really lived; he really died; he really rose from the dead.' If Christmas is just a nice legend, in a sense you are on your own. But if Christmas is true - and John says that it absolutely is true - then you can be saved by grace." (Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas [New York, New York: Viking, 2016], 21-2, 132-3)

See here for a collection of our resources on Christmas apologetic issues.

Destination unknown

Some evangelicals convert to Catholicism because they are dismayed by what's sometimes called interpretive pluralism. In my experience, evangelical converts to Catholicism rarely read commentaries by Roman Catholic scholars. The Catholicism of the average convert seems to be the Catholicism of lay Catholic apologists, and not the Catholicism of contemporary Catholic Bible scholars and church historians. Which gives them a monolithic view of Catholicism that's illusory. 

But I'd like to make another point. The difference between the Protestant rule of faith and the Catholic rule of faith is like the difference between committing to a script and committing to a screenwriter. If a script is written, you know in advance what you're committed to. But in committing to a screenwriter, you don't know how the story will end. That's a work in progress.

Because the Bible is a finished product, it contains no surprises. We know what we're getting. We know what to expect. Indeed, that's why intramural debates in evangelicalism are so repetitive and stereotypical. There's not much new to say. We retool our arguments for traditional positions. 

There are uncertainties in biblical exegesis, although that's by no means uniform. To say Scripture is unclear in some places doesn't mean it's unclear in all places. Moreover, to say it's unclear to a modern reader doesn't mean it was unclear to the original audience. Conversely, some passages, like prophecy, can be clearer to a modern reader than the original reader, because we have the benefit of hindsight. 

Although Scripture is not without interpretive ambiguities, we know where those are. To vary the metaphor, the territory has been mapped. Our rule of faith is self-contained.

By contrast, Catholic theology just keeps evolving. There's always another twist and turn in the road ahead. In that respect, nothing is really settled in Catholicism. Even "irreformable dogma" is subject to creative reinterpretation. 

In a sense, the uncertainties in Biblical hermeneutics are synchronic. We have the entire work before us. We know the lay of the land. We know the boundaries. 

By contrast, the uncertainties in Catholic theology are diachronic. It keeps reinventing itself and overwriting past theology. Erasing and redrawing the borders. Adapting to the Zeitgeist. Headed to a destination unknown. 

To vary the metaphor once more, Catholic theology keeps bleeding out in unpredictable directions. Even if you stanch the hemorrhaging at one source, it will bleed from a new source. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Does a good God exist?

A tongue-tied living oracle

One of the stock arguments for the Roman Magisterium goes like this: there are uncertainties in the interpretation of Scripture. If you doubt that, just consult any good commentary. Or look at all those dastardly Protestant denominations. 

The fatal problem with sola Scripture is that if a passage in Paul is unclear, he's unavailable for comment. You can't ask him for clarification because he's dead. Out of reach. Incommunicado. 

Thankfully, the Magisterium rides to the rescue. The pope is a living oracle. 

Now, whatever the hypothetical merits of that argument, just compare it to reality. At the time of writing, there's a raging debate within the highest circles of Catholicism on the force of Amoris laetitia, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by the pope. Bishops, archbishops, and cardinals are ferociously wrangling with each other over the meaning of this pastoral document. 

And, as luck would have it, the pope who issued that document is still alive! So why doesn't someone just up and ask him? That's what he's there for, right? 

Guess what–they did! Four cardinals asked Pope Francis four questions: the dubia

Guess what–the pope is stonewalling. He refuses to clarify the intent of Amoris laetitia.

But doesn't that defeat the rationale for a living teaching office? Isn't that what the papacy is for–unlike those benighted Protestants who are stuck with a book by dead authors. So please remind me again of why the papacy is indispensable. 

Outgrowing God

One atheist trope is that Christian faith is childish. We have a duty to wean ourselves from immature belief a celestial father-figure. 

To that many things could be said, but for now I'd point out that the very atheists who say this often adopt a paternalistic tone of disapproval. They themselves assume the role of father-figures. If you refuse to heed their fatherly advice, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Coyne, Stenger et al. will be disappointed in you. Don't you wish to make them proud of you?

Essentially, then, they become substitute father gods. They play on the very psychology they impute to Christian believers. 

What is the church?

A common allegation of Catholic and Orthodox apologists is that their church is the original church. It goes straight back to Christ, whereas Protestant churches are upstarts. These didn't pop into existence until the 16C.

One problem with that allegation is that it's only as good as your paradigm of the church. Put it this way, do you define the church by the vehicle or the passengers?

How does the NT describe the church? As the community of faith. A fellowship of believers, and families of believers. They are united by the grace they share and their common faith in the message of Scripture. In addition, there's a minimal polity (elders, deacons) and at least two sacraments (baptism, communion). 

Basically, the NT defines the church by the passengers, not the vehicle. If the identity of the church is centered on the passengers rather than the vehicle, then the church can exist continuously even if the vehicle changes, just as passengers can change vehicles, but remain the same passengers. 

The church as passengers goes back to NT times. Indeed, God has always had a community of faith. Protestants can trace the church back as far as you please. In the Reformation, they changed cars. 

Christmas Resources 2016

Each year, I post a collection of resources for the Christmas season. Here are the posts from previous years:


The 2008 post is foundational to the others. You may want to start there.

And here's an archive of our posts with the Christmas label. Keep in mind that you can scroll all the way down and click on Older Posts to see more.

Here are some representative examples of our posts on Christmas issues:

Responding To Raymond Brown On The Infancy Narratives
Reviews Of Books On Christmas Issues
Do Passages Like Matthew 2:1, 2:11, 2:22-3, And Luke 2:39 Prove That The Infancy Narratives Are Inconsistent?
How Much Matthew And Luke Agree Concerning Jesus' Childhood
What Sources Outside The Infancy Narratives Say About The Childhood Of Jesus
The Origins Of The Christmas Holiday And Its December 25 Date
The Genre Of The Infancy Narratives
Typology And The Infancy Narratives
The Authorship Of Matthew
The Authorship Of Luke
The Virgin Birth
Jesus' Davidic Ancestry, The Genealogies
Evidence For The Bethlehem Birthplace
The Historicity Of Luke's Census
The Star Of Bethlehem
The Slaughter Of The Innocents

In 2007, I posted the text of the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke with links to relevant Triablogue posts. For example, you could click on the text of Luke 2:1 to read a post about Luke's census account. After my 2015 post linked above, I posted an update to both indexes, so that both now include material beyond 2007. Steve Hays put up a post about common objections to Halloween and Christmas, including Santa Claus issues. I posted another response to Colin Nicholl on the star of Bethlehem. And here's something I wrote about how the Mary of the infancy narratives differs from the Mary of Roman Catholicism. I also posted some ideas for Christmas sermons. Steve wrote about Zechariah's prophecy in Luke 1:71-4. I posted a collection of Stephen Carlson's material on Christmas issues. I also put up a collection of posts responding to Raymond Brown's work on the infancy narratives. Patrick Chan posted a video about four kinds of Christmas. I linked a response by John Byl to Colin Nicholl's book on the star of Bethlehem. Patrick posted a video about the Help Chris See Christmas effort, involving a right to life case in Texas. I posted a link to my 2015 collection of Christmas resources and commented on the apologetic significance of the last several days of the Christmas season. Peter Pike wrote about some implications Arminianism has for the humanity of Christ. And here's something I wrote about a Time article and media bias on Christmas issues. I posted about Hebrews 2:11 and the incarnation. Steve wrote about Isaiah 7:14. He also addressed the issue of whether Mary was too young to get married when she did. I posted about the death of Acharya S on December 25 of 2015. Steve addressed the reasoning behind the virgin birth. He also wrote about the virgin birth and John 8:41. And here and here are responses he wrote to Bart Ehrman, parts of which address Christmas issues. His response to Ehrman here addresses the genealogies of Jesus, among other issues. And here's another post he wrote on the genealogies. I put together a collection of links to our material on Matthew's authorship of the first gospel. Steve wrote about an inconsistency on the part of some critics of Luke's census account. He also addressed the subject in another post about Bart Ehrman. And here's something he wrote on Andrew Lincoln's motives for questioning the virgin birth. Here's a thread that addresses Jonathan Pennington's comments about how little the infancy narratives agree with each other. I discussed a recent book about the star of Bethlehem here and here. That book has a chapter by Annette Merz, in which she makes a radically skeptical case against the historicity of the infancy narratives. I wrote several posts in response to her, which you can access here, addressing historiography, why Jesus' family reacted so negatively to him, why Nazareth rejected him, whether he was a descendant of David, and other issues. Steve responded to Graham Oppy's comparison between the accounts of Jesus' birth and the unreliable accounts of the births of other figures. Steve also linked an article he wrote for another web site on the virgin birth. He also posted a link to a page about a hipster nativity set.

Debating Hitchens

I recently viewed or read (where transcripts are available) severals debates between Christopher Hitchens and sundry opponents (e.g. Craig, McGrath, Turek, Wilson, Wolpe). Two of the best debate with were with William Dembski and Jay Richards.

In some respects, Hitchens is an excellent debater. He has a strong, warm, resonant baritone voice. He's articulate and eloquent. He can pivot. He projects tremendous moral and intellectual self-assurance. 

However, at least where religious debates are concerned, part of what makes him so smooth is that he repeats himself from one debate to the next. He has a stump speech which he rehashes with stylistic variations. He uses the same illustrations, the same one-liners. Ironically, you can sound more spontaneous when you've memorized a script. You're never at a loss for words. You have ready-made arguments and phrases at your fingertips. This gives him an advantage over opponents who've only done it once or twice. 

However, this also means that for all his intellectual posturing, Hitchens never revises his formulaic objections in response to counterarguments. When he's corrected in one debate, he recycles the same errors in the next debate. Or he recycles the same errors in the very same debate. He lacks the intellectual honesty to accept correction. He refuses to learn. 

For instance, he constantly appeals to a moral knowledge. When it's pointed out to him, time and again, that he can't justify moral norms, that bounces right off him. Is he really so obtuse that he can never absorb the distinction between moral epistemology and moral ontology? Or does he appreciate he difference, but he ignores it because he doesn't have a good answer? 

In terms of delivery, Dembski is not a natural debater. He has a thin voice. He was reading off his computer screen rather than making eye contact with the audience. He's technical and clinical. 

But in terms of substance, he beat Hitchens hands down. Hitchens is completely out of his element when debating evolution with Dembski. And he's no match for Dembski on metaethics. Dembski is brilliant and erudite. Has a lot in reserve. Has lots of facts at his fingertips. Hitchens is a much better orator, but Dembski is a much the better thinker. Very analytical and precise. Although atheists pride themselves on rationality, Hitchens relies on rhetorical ability while Dembski appeals to reason and evidence. 

Jay Richards has a better delivery than Dembski. Strong speaking voice. Although he's dry compared to Hitchens, Richards is very focussed. Great presence of mind. Never loses his train of thought. Can turn on a dime. 

It's also interesting to compare Hitchens in the two debates. In his debate with Dembski, he was suffering from the effects of cancer and cancer therapy, so his performance was more low-key. In addition, he was speaking in church, so he toned things down to avoid antagonizing his audience.

In his debate with Richards, by contrast, he was robust. But although he started out charming, it degenerated as he became cocky and boorish. A rhetorical bully and braggart. When addressing a sympathetic audience, he showed his true colors.

I'm going to comment on some of his statements in the debate with Dembski, then comment on some of his statements in the debate with Richards. I won't comment on most of what he said, in part because I've discussed those issues on multiple occasions. Also, Dembski and Richards did a good job of fielding his objections.   

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How The Gospels Outperform Other Ancient Sources

Michael Licona's book on differences among the gospels just came out. I haven't read much of it yet, but I want to post a couple of excerpts. The first is from Craig Evans, who wrote the foreword. The second is from Licona. They're addressing how the characteristics of the gospels compare to what we find in non-Christian sources. Remember this when you see skeptics citing ancient non-Christian sources, like Josephus, as if they're a more reliable standard that Christian documents should be judged by.


When I mention religion, I mean...

  This gentleman and Mr. Thwackum scarce ever met without a disputation; for their tenets were indeed diametrically opposite to each other. Square held human nature to be the perfection of all virtue, and that vice was a deviation from our nature, in the same manner as deformity of body is. Thwackum, on the contrary, maintained that the human mind, since the fall, was nothing but a sink of iniquity, till purified and redeemed by grace. In one point only they agreed, which was, in all their discourses on morality never to mention the word goodness. The favourite phrase of the former, was the natural beauty of virtue; that of the latter, was the divine power of grace. The former measured all actions by the unalterable rule of right, and the eternal fitness of things; the latter decided all matters by authority; but in doing this, he always used the scriptures and their commentators, as the lawyer doth his Coke upon Lyttleton, where the comment is of equal authority with the text.    

  After this short introduction, the reader will be pleased to remember, that the parson had concluded his speech with a triumphant question, to which he had apprehended no answer; viz., Can any honour exist independent of religion?    

  To this Square answered; that it was impossible to discourse philosophically concerning words, till their meaning was first established: that there were scarce any two words of a more vague and uncertain signification, than the two he had mentioned; for that there were almost as many different opinions concerning honour, as concerning religion. “But,” says he, “if by honour you mean the true natural beauty of virtue, I will maintain it may exist independent of any religion whatever. Nay,” added he, “you yourself will allow it may exist independent all but one: so will a Mahometan, a Jew, and all the maintainers of all the different sects in the world.”    

  Thwackum replied, this was arguing with the usual malice of all the enemies to the true Church. He said, he doubted not but that all the infidels and hereticks in the world would, if they could, confine honour to their own absurd errors and damnable deceptions; “but honour,” says he, “is not therefore manifold, because there are many absurd opinions about it; nor is religion manifold, because there are various sects and heresies in the world. When I mention religion, I mean the Christian religion; and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England. And when I mention honour, I mean that mode of Divine grace which is not only consistent with, but dependent upon, this religion; and is consistent with and dependent upon no other. Now to say that the honour I here mean, and which was, I thought, all the honour I could be supposed to mean, will uphold, much less dictate an untruth, is to assert an absurdity too shocking to be conceived.” Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

More Official Confusion Over “Amoris Laetitia”

I wrote last week about Confusion at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church over the “interpretation” of the recent “Pope Francis” document “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”). That confusion is continuing now after a couple of recent milestones: the naming of some new Cardinals by the pope, and a meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, where, contrary to the papal promotions, the US Bishops named some of the more conservative bishops to leadership positions.

This week featured a spat between the newly named Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, a former bishop of Dallas, and now prefect of the newly established Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia.

Not one word has come from the mouth of Pope Francis after four cardinals publicly asked him to resolve five major “doubts” raised by the most controversial passages of “Amoris Laetitia":

Or better, the pope has given a non-answer, when in the interview with Stefania Falasca for the November 18 edition of "Avvenire" he said at a certain point, using the familiar “tu” form of address with the interviewer, a longstanding friend of his:

“Some - think of certain replies to ‘Amoris Laetitia’ - still fail to understand, it’s either black or white, even though it is in the flux of life that one must discern.”

To make up for this, not a few churchmen of the pope’s circle have come forward to speak for him, falling over themselves to say that the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” is already perfectly clear in itself and cannot give rise to doubts, and therefore those who are raising them are in reality attacking the pope and disobeying his magisterium.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Selective intuition

In addition to Jerry Walls, I recently responded to another commenter on his blog. To quote myself:

Although the Holocaust is a cliché, it's a convenient example of a paradigm-evil. But I could easily use a different example. Take a refugee camp for Cambodians. What if Jerry tells that God would not be good unless he loves the Khmer Rouge?

My point is not that this necessarily disproves the universality of God's love. My point, rather, is that Jerry's facile appeal to "fundamental moral intuitions" is context-dependent and person-variable. What seems to be morally intuitive often turns on the particular example we use to illustrate the claim. Change the audience, change the illustration, you may get a radically different reaction. 

Jerry himself presumes to speak on behalf of others when he appeals to moral intuition. He acts as though everyone naturally shares his intuition, and it's only prior commitment to Calvinism (why not Thomism?) that forces some people to deny what in their hear of hearts they know to be true. But that's trivially easy to counterexample.

"Let Jerry explain to Orthodox Jews that he believes God did not want the Nazis to do what they did because He loves all people and does not want the Nazis to do evil or their victims to suffer evil."

And let Jerry explain to Orthodox Jews why the Arminian God did so much less than Dietrich Bonhoeffer to stop the Nazis. 

"Let Steve Hays then explain to them that God willed that the Nazis should be evil and go to hell, and that they should do to Jews the evil things that they did, and that God also willed those Jews who did not believe in Jesus to go to hell after enduring hell on earth from the Nazis."

i) There are no nice theodicies. The problem of evil isn't, in the first instance, with any particular theodicy of evil, but with the fact of evil. 

ii) It's not willing evil for its own sake, as an end in itself. Rather, willing evil to achieve certain second-order goods. Goods unobtainable apart from evil. In a fallen world, just about everyone exists as a direct or indirect result of evil. Remove the evil and you remove everyone whose existence is the side-effect or end-result of some evil or evils in the past. In a sinless world, other people would take their place. So there are tradeoffs.

iii) Your final objection is not to Calvinism in particular, but Christian exclusivism in general.

iv) There's an asymmetry between my position and Jerry's. Unlike Jerry's glib, selective appeal to "fundamental moral intuitions," I haven't predicated my own position on allegedly universal moral intuitions. Therefore, the fact that Jewish listeners might take umbrage at my theological alternative doesn't turn the tables on my own position. 

v) We walk a tightrope when we present a theodicy. On the one hand, some theologians like Cornelius Berkouwer and David Bentley Hart find the very notion of a theodicy blasphemous. For them, any justification for the existence of evil makes evil justifiable. There's no evil, however horrendous, that can't be excused. It can't be as bad as it seems. They think that sanctifies evil. 

Mind you, the implication of their position renders the occurrence of evil inherently inexcusable. God had no justification for what happened. But the logic of that position is to either deny God's existence or God's goodness. So that's clearly unacceptable from a Christian standpoint. It's a question of locating ourselves on the right side of the knife edge when we formulate a theodicy. 

vi) Keep in mind that, in some measure, the complaint cuts both ways. Maimonides thought Christians were heretics and idolaters (due to their belief in the Trinity, divine Incarnation, and deity of Christ). Those are damnable sins. Just as you have Christian exclusivism, you can have Jewish exclusivism. 

vi) Although it may offend some listeners to say that everything happens for a reason, the alternative is to say that some things, especially the very worst things, happen for no good reason whatsoever. 

Yet that makes the suffering and death of victims meaningless. But if they think about it, how is that any consolation to the survivors? 

People are often conflicted about evil. It may seem pointless, yet they want to know why it happened. Well, it can't be both. Either it has some ultimate purpose or not.

Save us from the pope

I'd like to make a general comment on this:

The attitude of Pope Francis is why many men hold Christianity in contempt. They think Christianity is for pansies and sissies. Statements like those of Francis, or the USCCB, reinforce the stereotype that Christian ethics is effeminate and limp-wristed. You're not allowed to protect your life or livelihood. You're not allowed to defend yourself or your dependents.

It's a very damaging stereotype. For many of the unchurched, who have no direct or detailed knowledge of Christianity, their impression of what Christianity stands for is fostered by the pope or Catholic bishops, because they get the most media buzz. For many of the unchurched, Catholicism symbolizes Christianity. You can see that in the news, as well as movies and TV dramas where Catholic clergy are the default representatives of Christianity.

In addition, take statements like:

“We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee become a threat, take on the status of an enemy. An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith.” 

i) To begin with, that's just defamatory. It imputes the worst possible motives to any and all people who don't share the pope's outlook. The pope is blind to his own malicious animosity towards outsiders. The difference is that he has a different set of villains. For him, the outsiders are his critics. 

ii) In addition, his statement is simpleminded. He makes no effort to draw the most elementary and necessary distinctions. He resorts to euphemisms like "stranger" or "refugee," as if there aren't real enemies who exploit asylum policies. 

Abortion, absolution, and the pope

Pope Francis has sparked another controversy by permitting priests to absolve mothers who had abortions. To be sure, this isn't a change in principle, but a technical modification of a preexisting principle. As Robert George put it, "The change is merely authorizing priests to grant absolution directly rather than referring the case to absolution by the bishop (in view of the automatic self-excommunication for participating in the killing of a child)."

Mind you, I don't think pastors, priests, or bishops have the authority to dispense forgiveness. But putting that aside, the problem with the pope's action is that it's part of a familiar pattern in which he always sides with the faithless rather than the faithful, with the disobedient rather than the obedient. 

He treats devout bishops, priests, and laity as judgmental, legalistic Pharisees. His sympathy is always for people on the left. Always about liberalizing policies. 

That's why his pontificate has been so demoralizing for pious Catholics. Those who are most dutiful, who struggle to be faithful to traditional dogma and practice, wonder what's the point when fidelity is scorned while infidelity is lauded or accommodated. 

Rising from the dead

Nowhere in the Bible or in old Jewish or Christian literature does the language of resurrection refer to a materially new body, physically unconnected to the old. A resurrected body is always the old body or a piece of it come back to life and/or transformed. . . . Resurrection meant bodies in the ground coming back to life. To rise from the dead was to rise from one’s tomb. Dale C. Allison, Jr., “The Resurrection of Jesus and Rational Apologetics,” Philosophia Christi 10 (2008): 315-338.

Surely that's overstated:

i) In reference to the Resurrection of Christ, I agree. That's because there was an extant corpse to resurrect. Indeed, his body had only been on ice for about 48 hours. 

ii) But surely Christians and Jews were aware of the fact that sometimes there were no mortal remains (cf. 2 Kgs 23:15-16; Amos 2:1; Rev 20:13). In that case, there is no body in the ground to return to life. 

In that event, resurrection requires a materially new body. In that regard, it's physically unconnected to the old. However, although it's numerically distinct, it can be a duplicate body. Discontinuous in one respect, but structurally indistinguishable.

The hipster nativity set

“In God’s heart there are no enemies”

On the one hand:

“In God’s heart there are no enemies”

– Pope Francis

On the other hand:

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:25).

And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? (Heb 1:13).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Necrophilic marriage equality

The only taboo in atheism is Christianity. Everything else is a live option.

The attempt is already underway to mainstream pedophilia. So why not necrophilia? For instance: 

Gay marriage and transgenderism are already so olde hatte that SJWs need a new cause. And it doesn't take much imagination to make a case for necrophilic marriage equality that parallels gay marriage equality. This is the next frontier in civil rights. 

Only bigots are judgmental about who you love, right? To paraphrase Nicholas Wolterstorff, necrophilic marriage doesn't violate the love command. 

And just consider the advantages to necrophilic marriage:

• A cadaverous spouse is cheaper than cats and dogs. You don't have to buy pet food, walk your cadaverous spouse several times a day, obey scoop laws, or take it to the veterinarian. 

• There's a natural coalition between necrophilics and antinatalists. If you want sex without kids, necrophilia is the perfect prophylactic. 

• Necrophilic marriage moots the need for affirmative consent policies. Corpses never refuse a romantic overture. 

• With proper embalming, a cadaverous spouse is serviceable for at least six months. That's longer than the average Hollywood marriage. 

• Although a cadaverous spouse may not be the most scintillating conversation partner, it's an excellent listener. Never interrupts. Never contradicts you. 

It will be necessary to extend or reinterpret nondiscrimination laws to achieve necrophilic marriage equality. 

Just as there are transgender nouns and pronouns like "transgender man," "transgender woman," and "xemself," we will now coin necrophilic nouns and pronouns like necro-husband, necro-wife, and necro-self. 

Employees who refuse to use necrophilic nouns and pronouns will be terminated. Students who refuse to use necrophilic nouns and pronouns will be expelled. Using necrophobic slurs (e.g. "carcass," "rotting," putrescent") to refer to someone's cadaverous spouse will be codified as hate speech. 

Unfortunately, there are necrophobes who don't wish to sit next to corpses. So public accommodation laws will need to be expanded to cover restaurants and public transportation (e.g. airplanes, busses). Same applies to public swimming pools, if you wish to go swimming with your necro-spouse. 

Christian florists, photographers, and bakers who refuse to cater necrophilic marriages will be fined. 

The NEA, in conjunction with the Department of Education and the USCCR, will prepared K-12 curriculum to enlighten students in necrophilic equality.  

One potential source of friction will be competition between necrophilic activists and cannibal rights activists, inasmuch as both groups lay claim to the morgue. But this tension can be resolved by cadaverous quotas for each group. 

It will take time to overcome pockets of necrophobia in the Bible belt, but we must never relent in the quest for equal rights. 

How will Jesus return?

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Mt 24:30). 
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him (Rev 1:7).

i) How will Jesus return? Some people think the depiction of Jesus literally coming down from the sky reflects an antiquated mythological cosmography, where heaven is "up". 

ii) In theory, this could be stock imagery without being mythological. We need to distinguish between mythology and dead metaphors.

iii) In addition, there's the question of how Christians should update futuristic descriptions. The Bible uses period imagery when depicting the future. Imagery that reflects the world familiar to the original audience. But if this is really about the distant future, then we need to make some mental adjustments.

iv) In theory, Jesus could return the way he suddenly appears to people after the Resurrection. There he appears out of nowhere. He appears and disappears out of thin air. That doesn't require Jesus to come down from the sky. And this also shows that Jesus reappearing isn't necessarily wedded to an allegedly obsolete cosmography. Jesus needn't pass through space to appear to someone. At least not visibly. 

v) That said, a basic problem with dismissing the depiction of Jesus coming down from the sky is the Ascension account. 

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

That's presented as an eyewitness account, in observational language. That's what you and I would see, had we been there. 

And it describes the return of Christ as a reversal of the Ascension. If we take the Bible seriously, we can't just discount the depiction of Jesus coming down from the sky.

vi) A critic might object that passages like Mt 24:30 and Rev 1:7 presume a flat-earth perspective. If the world is a globe, how could Jesus be seen all at once by everybody on earth? But if the earth was flat, then everyone would enjoy the same vantage-point in relation to the sky. Everyone would see the entire sky, facing the earth. 

Yet even if, for the sake of argument, we grant that this imagery reflects a flat-earth cosmography, that might be an accommodation to how ancient people thought about the universe. 

Mind you, I doubt there was any one way that ancient people viewed the universe. Many people probably operated with naive realism, but some people were more reflective and attentive difficulties with that viewpoint. 

vii) However, it doesn't take much imagination to see how these descriptions are consistent with modern astronomy. If the sign of the Son of Man appeared in the sky for as little as one rotation period, everyone would be in a position to see it over the course of 24 hours.

Suppose the sign was like an approaching comet. Everyone would see it weeks in advance. 

In the age of telecommunications, moreover, everyone can see the same thing, even if that's out of range of where they live–or the skies are overcast where they live. 

viii) This, in turn, suggest a practical function for Jesus coming down from the sky. Suppose Jesus simply appeared on earth. How would anyone know that's the Second Coming of Christ? Outwardly, he looks like an ordinary human being. Moreover, there's a sense in which he only be seen at one place at a time.

Suppose, however, the "sign" of the Son of Man approaches earth from outer space. It isn't just ancient people with an interest in astrology who were impressed by portents and prodigies. Modern people with an interest in astronomy are impressed by portends and prodigies. Take speculation about an impact event that may extinguish life on earth, if a huge astroid strikes the earth. Or take recently speculation about whether we're receiving radio signals from an alien civilization.

Suppose the Shekinah initially appeared in outer space, visible from earth. At a distance, it might seem like a natural phenomenon. Yet astronomers are baffled, because it doesn't fit the profile of a comet, astroid, supernova, &c. As it comes closer, it doesn't resemble any natural astronomical phenomenon. And it's trajectory is naturally inexplicable. Of course, many people might initially interpret this as a flying saucer or fleet of flying saucers.  

ix) Another factor might be additional events or supernatural phenomena, as an unmistakable precursor to the Parousia. The fulfillment of ancient oracles regarding the Antichrist, or things like that. 

Cubicle Christians

This is the last post I plan to do about ethnicity and evangelicalism for a while. 

i) For several reasons, there's a point after which I tune out these discussions. In case you're wondering, I have in mind groups and individuals like Anthony Bradley, Thabiti Anyabwile, Reformed Margins, RAAN, &c. This includes some white representatives like Alan Noble, Ligon Duncan, and Russell Moore who echo the same clichés. 

That's in part because the way the discussion are framed is so predictable, stereotypical, and repetitive. They're all reading from the same script. Same categories, classifications, catchphrases. 

By the same token, there's no difference, at that level, between secular discussions and so-called evangelical discussions. In my experience, the evangelical minorities who talk about this derive their analytical and historical framework from leftwing academics.

The very academic character of the debate makes me wonder if these minority spokesmen aren't out of touch with the ethnic communities on whose behalf they presume to speak. In reality, their people group isn't their particular race or ethnicity, but their professors and colleagues. It's very elitist and topdown. 

ii) Another reason is that these spokesmen insist on assigning everyone a racial cubicle. Having assigned whites a caucasian cubicle, they then complain that whites suffer from an insular perspective. White privilege and all that. First they put you in a racial cubical, then they attack you for living in a racial cubicle. Well, I never asked, or consented, to be put in a racial cubicle in the first place. 

This is one of the paradoxes of identity politics. You first divide people, then spend the rest of your time on the need to build bridges. You create a problem in order to solve the problem.

In fact, in identity politics, you don't want to solve the problem. Rather, the point is to foment and maintain racial animosity to exploit voting blocks. 

iii) Apropos (ii), the discussion is so dictatorial. I must go into the racial cubical I've been assigned to. I must submit to that as the only acceptable starting point.

iv) Now racial and ethnic differences can be both genuine and interesting. Different ethnicities can have different customs, outlooks, and national characteristics. There are minority stand-up comedians who not only parody their own ethnic group, but parody other ethnic groups. 

But my problem is, in part, with the a priori character of identity politics. Instead of just letting people be whatever they are, the spokesmen insist on assigned seating. You must have a stereotypical experience corresponding to the people group we assign you to. 

v) Let's take a comparison. Suppose you have teenage boys who belong to a community of hunters and ranchers. Let's say they're all caucasian. They spend most of their time with horses and cattle, or hunting game. 

Now, when they hang out at the local cafe, what defines their people group? What's the basis of their common self-identity? Is it their ethnicity? Is it the fact that they're all white? 

Surely not. Rather, it's their livelihood and lifestyle as hunters and cowboys. That's their mutual frame of reference. 

Now let's vary the illustration. Suppose they aren't all white. Suppose some are white, black, Tibetan, and Latino. Needless to say, there's nothing uniquely caucasian about hunting and ranching. 

When these ethnically diverse teenage boys hang out at the local cafe, don't they have pretty much the same common bond as the all-white group I used in the initial hypothetical? 

Conversely, suppose we compare this group to an all-white (or all-Asian) group of kids in hi-tech urban environment, where they hang out at the video arcade. Doesn't the ethnically heterogeneous group of hunters and cowboys have far more in common with each other than white hunters and cowboys have in common with the ethnically homogeneous (i.e. white) gamers in the big city? Is the people group they relate to based on ethnicity–or lifestyle and livelihood? 

vi) I think it's safe to say that for most folks, their defining relationships are family members. Mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins. Isn't that more central to their self-identity than race and ethnicity?

(That's the default frame of reference. In a culture of broken homes or mobility, where relatives live far apart, that may weaken the natural bond.) 

Of course, it's usually the case that their relatives belong to the same race. But what makes your relationship with your mother or father a defining relationship isn't that you two belong to the same racial people group, but that these are your parents. It's not membership in a racially generic people group, but the unique familial bond. 

vii) Conversely, friends, unlike family, are chosen. We can choose to associate with members of whatever people group we please. And we don't have to identify with a group at all–we can just related to individuals. Friendship is individualistic. Friendships may cut across people groups. 

Friendship is often based on different kinds of commonalities. You like the same things. You share similar beliefs and values. You have natural rapport. In that respect, two people of the same race may have nothing in common. 

I rebel against the simplistic, reductionistic view of common self-identity centered on race and ethnicity. That's a demonstrably false overgeneralization. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Bubble

Debunking white privilege: the economic reality

A bit of bad language, but a useful corrective:

"Suggestions for White Evangelicals"

I don't normally read RAAN, and here's why. However, in light of all the hubbub over the election, and the way some commentators presume to speak on behalf of minorities in general, I'll make an exception:

In light of the racial and political unrest that has dominated the media in the United States over the past several months, I’d like to take a moment to share a few things I’ve learned in my experience as a white pastor in a mostly black, inner city context.
The conversations surrounding race, social justice, and police are sensitive for everyone, but I am not able to address everyone. Therefore I am directing this article specifically to white Christians for the simple reason that I am one, and it is the population I can most closely understand and relate to. I don’t intend to single out white people…

If he doesn't intend to single out white people, why does he single out white people? The entire post singles out white people.

…but I’d like to offer advice to those brothers and sisters who may find themselves angry, confused, or uncomfortable with the many conversations about race and justice that are becoming more frequent in the Church.

I don't find myself angry, confused, or uncomfortable about these "conversations". 

At this juncture in time, white Christians should seek to understand more than to be understood. If you are not black, then you literally cannot understand the black experience in America, so you must rely on your black brothers and sisters to help you understand. 

i) Notice the point blank contradiction between the first sentence and the second sentence. On the one hand, "white Christians should seek to understand more than to be understood"; on the other hand, "If you are not black, then you literally cannot understand the black experience in America."

It says something about Smith's mindset that he can't even register the back-to-back contradiction. White Christians should seek to understand what they literally can't understand". Yeah, that make sense. 

ii) Does Smith think a Westerner can't literally understand The Tale of Genji? Does Smith think Lady Murasaki can't literally understand The Odyssey or The Epic of Gilgamesh?

For a group that is so loud about abortion, gay marriage, Israel, and the military, it’s amazing how quiet Evangelicals are when it comes to acknowledging racism and social injustice.

That's because we don't buy into the overarching narrative. 

...we must still acknowledge the sins committed by the people group we identify with. 

That's a very revealing standard of comparison. Let's begin with a definition:

A "people group" is an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members. There are two parts to that word: ethno, and linguistic. Language is a primary and dominant identifying factor of a people group. But there are other factors that determine or are associated with ethnicity. 
Usually there is a common self-name and a sense of common identity of individuals identified with the group. A common history, customs, family and clan identities, as well as marriage rules and practices, age-grades and other obligation covenants, and inheritance patterns and rules are some of the common ethnic factors defining or distinguishing a people.

i) According to that definition, black and white Americans arguably belong to the same people group. We speak the same language (English) and we share a common history. Indeed, the history of blacks and whites in America is deeply intertwined. 

ii) Do Italian Americans and Jewish Americans (to pick two examples at random) primarily identify with a generic white people group, or the subset comprising Italians or Jews? Do Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer primarily identify as white or Jewish? Does Martin Scorsese primarily identify as white or Italian?

Likewise, you have people with a strong sense of regional identity. They identify with a particular city or state. Some people self-identify by social class. And so on and so forth. 

iii) Speaking for myself, I identify with close relatives. In terms of self-identity, a primary frame of reference would be my family, and not a generic racial people group. And I daresay that's true for a great many people. In addition, my religious identity is normative, while my racial identity is secondary. 

In the Bible, God held people accountable for corporate sins all the time, and he made sure their great-great grandchildren were aware of these past sins.

That's simplistic. That usually has reference to the covenant community. The identity is primarily between Jews and God, not Jews and fellow Jews. 

Keeping past sins in front of a people group was not intended to keep people in a place of perpetual guilt, but to keep them from committing the same evils again.

It depends on what you wish to accomplish. If your objective is "racial reconciliation," then "keeping past sins in front of a people group" is a recipe for perpetual racial resentment and mutual antagonism–which is counterproductive to the aim of reconciliation. Funny how Smith is oblivious to that obvious effect. 

People like Smith exacerbate a problem, then complain about how we need to solve this terrible problem. They fan dying embers into flame, then call the fire department. 

If you are a white Evangelical then you need to acknowledge the large-scale racial sins that occurred in the past and continue to occur in the present at the hands of our people. 

i) Notice how Smith lumps together past and present, as if the current situation bears any resemblance to "the large-scale racial sins" that occurred in the Antebellum South or Jim Crow era. 

ii) Historically, slavery is virtually a cultural universal. Does Smith think that American Indians, East Indians, black Africans, Chinese, Japanese, &c., should be fixated on the past sins of their people group? 

iii) Likewise, there are racial animosities between various ethnic groups in America. For that matter, there's racism within subsets of people groups. Why this myopic obsession with whites? 

While you may not have personally committed acts of racism, most of our white ancestors were complicit in supporting a system of racial injustice…

It's wholly artificial to insist that I'm supposed to identify with unrelated dead white people. Most of them are not my ancestors. Even among the few who happen to be my ancestors, they are total strangers to me. It's imaginary to project moral continuity. Their complicity hardly makes me complicit. That's just playacting. 

…and we all have benefited from this unjust system in one way or another.  

i) Insofar as that that's the case, Americans in general are beneficiaries of that system. 

ii) I benefit from many things people did in the past. I benefit from inventors and scientists. I benefit from the Roman Empire. 

If we cannot speak out against past and present injustices, then we are no better than our religious predecessors who remained silent during slavery and civil rights.

i) Although we should acknowledge past injustices, harping on that becoms a vacuous self-congratulatory exercise. We make ourselves feel virtuous by condemning others. 

ii) Once again, there's the strained effort to link past and present, as if the present situation is comparable to the past. Smith may believe that, but it's unconvincing to readers who don't already share his assumptions, and he's doing nothing to persuade them otherwise. 

I can choose whether or not I validate black people in their grief and outrage. 

There's paternalistic. Why does he imagine that blacks need whites to validate them? A white man who thinks black people need his validation suffers from a racial superiority complex, while a black man (or women) who feels the need for white validation suffers from a racial inferiority complex. 

But beyond that, I need to affirm that their pain is valid and is based on something real. By refusing to validate their claims, I would be charging them with delusion, or even worse, dishonesty. 

We need to begin with facts, not feelings. Some feelings have a factual basis, but it's emotional manipulation to demand that I validate a claim merely based on self-perception.

I require evidence commensurate with the scope of the claim. A while back I posted Sen. Tim Scott's 3-part speech on the Senate floor. He gave personal examples. I take that seriously–because he's a serious person, and he provided evidence. And one of the best ways to root out that kind of residual racism is having good, solid conservative minorities like Sen. Scott in positions of authority. 

But I refuse to be stampeded into a grand narrative about "systemic/structural/institutional racism," or "implicit/closeted racism". Moreover, the preoccupation with seeing racism everywhere sets people up for failure.  

Black Christians across the globe claim that this type of oppression exists, so to deny it would be to completely question their integrity.

What people group doesn't experience injustice and oppression somewhere around the world, at one time or another? 

The fact that Lecrae’s post offended so many white Christians exposed a problem in conservative Evangelicalism that is more serious than I ever imagined.

Speaking for myself, I don't take the opinion of celebrities seriously enough to be offended by what they say or do. 

Christians are not called to fight on behalf of or defend any nation.

Maybe Smith is a pacifist. It depends on the nation. Sometimes treason is the highest form of patriotism. Take people like Marlene Dietrich who sided with the Allies.

However, national defense can be a legitimate extension of self-defense. Sometimes individuals need to pool their resources to effectively deter or combat a common enemy. They can't do it alone.