Review: Gordon Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things

This book isn’t perfect but it does exhibit all of Dr Clark’s strengths as a communicator  My main problem with the book is the chapter lengths: they are excessively long. This isn’t too much of a problem, except Clark will spend 90% of the chapter debunking erroneous views, but he only gives a few pages to the biblical position, and even then it is only a summary.

Notwithstanding, there are a few areas where Clark shines, notably epistemology.  Even then, though, it is limited. We get evaluations of empiricism, skepticism, and relativism, and Clark lists all the inadequacies of these views–but there is more to epistemology than a survey of three or four options.  The book doesn’t have much on belief-formation, justification of knowledge, etc. Nonetheless, Clark hints towards a theistic summary (which would be later fine-tuned by Carl F Henry).

The Philosophy of Politics

What is the function of government?  Clark examines numerous ethical theories (Bentham, Aristotle, Plato) and notes that the definition of good [for government] depends on one’s nature of man (113).

A problem with Rousseau: “He seems to be torn between an infallible general will that cannot express itself and an expressed majority vote that is not infallible…” (121).

Theistic view:  state has limited power (136).  God is the source of all rights.

Funny quote: “But if men are essentially good, how is it that when they pass from psychology or theology to politics only the poor remain good and the wealthy become evil?   [The demand] for more government seems to imply that not only are poor people good, but politicians are even better” (139).

“The truths or propositions that may be known are the thoughts of God, the eternal thought of God. And insofar as man knows anything he is in contact with God’s mind.  Since, further, God’s mind is God, we may legitimately borrow the figurative language, if not the precise meaning, of the mystics and say, we have a vision of God” (321).

This is good.  And I think Clark was correct over Van Til on this point.  This also nicely sidesteps the Eastern Orthodox critique that the West relies on created grace and avoids any direct contact with God.  If Clark’s analysis holds, however, this isn’t true.

The South Might have Wanted Out of Slavery

Not the whole South, certainly, but the most important state, Virginia.

https://ia801208.us.archive.org/2/items/historyofslaver00blak/historyofslaver00blak.pdf

“In the year 1772, a disposition favorable to the oppressed Africans became very generally manifest in some of the American Provinces. The house of burgesses of Virginia even presented a petition to the king, beseeching his majesty to remove all those restraints on his governors of that colony, which inhibited their assent to such laws as might check that inhuman and impolitic commerce, the slave-trade: and it is remarkable that the refusal of the British government to permit the colonists to exclude slaves from among them bylaw, was enumerated afterwards among the public reasons for separating from the mother country” (Blake 177).

England said no.

Review: Clash of Civilizations

(This is an older review) I should have picked up Huntingdon’s work earlier. It is awesome. He argues (or at least the structure of his thought necessarily suggests such) that the utopian vision of liberal democracy (whether right or left-wing) has failed miserably and that societies will revert back to their original civilizational paradigms.

I am going to list my criticisms earlier, so that will put some at ease.

* I think the Middle East is in an identity crisis between Fundamentalism and Nationalism. Islamic countries like Syria and Turkey, for all of their problems, lean closer to nationalism than “jihadism.” Likewise, I maintain that Iran is more nationalist than fundamentalist, though it is very much the latter, too (cf Primakov’s Russia and the Arabs).

**Further, Huntingdon really doesn’t account for the fact that much of the unrest is due to Atlanticism’s financing terror regimes throughout the middle east.  If we let Syria annihilate Saudi Arabia, many problems would solve themselves.

Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilizations. It was truly the work of a genius. Huntingdon is too pro-D.C. and very naive concerning the purity of NATO’s motives, but other than that he is prescient on about every major issue (He wrote this book in 1996).

Civilizations assume the reality of objective cultures, but they are not identical to culture(s). I can’t remember exactly how SH defines civilization. There is an extended discussion on pp. 40-44. Frankly, I don’t think his definition, if any, is really that important. His book deals more with the empirical identity and clash of civilizations, rather than objectively defining them.

Civilizations have core states: states that have at least de facto leadership over smaller states in the civilization. For example, Russia is the core state of the Orthodox civilization (which includes Ukraine, Belarus, and the Balkans, though the latter are compromised by their membership in NATO; likewise, China is the core st ate of the East Asian civilization, excluding Japan).

Wars between actual core states of civilizations are quite rare. However, fault line wars are quite common. These are wars/battles/century-long skirmishes between two smaller states of two different civilizations that border each other. The obvious example is the Balkans: Orthodox Serbia fought Muslim Bosnia, both of whom were at war with Catholic Croatia.

While ideologies (Marxism, democratic capitalism) are nice and make academics and news pundits feel good, civilization/culture has a more primal claim upon people groups/ethnicities/states and in the absence of one ideology (say, Marxism) a nation will more likely identify with prior civilizational loyalties rather than the opposing ideology. For example, an old joke in former Soviet Union: our leaders lied to us about communism, but they told us the truth about capitalism.

Pros of the book:

His analysis is top-notch. We are reading a world-class scholar. Unlike 99% of elites in America, he knows that simply waving the magic wand of democratic capitalism will not make the nations swoon and willing become colonies of New York–and Huntingdon was actually attacked for making this obvious point!

He calls the Islamic threat for what it is. He is notorious for his famous “The borders of Islam are bloody.” I don’t really know how people can objectively respond to this claim. Yeah, it might be mean and bigoted, but look at the major hot spots of the world today–what religion is causing most of the trouble? In 1996 (at the time of the writing) 49 of the world’s 58 current conflicts had Islam involved. If it looks like a duck…

He gives an accurate (though extremely dated) analysis of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Of course, a lot of his musings are moot considering NATO’s bombing of civilians in Belgrade in 1999. Still, per his thesis on civilizational clash on fault lines, he does a stellar performance. Catholic Germany supported Croatia, the entire Muslim world–along with Hillary Clinton and Sean Hannity–supported the Muslim Bosniaks, and Russia supported Serbia. (he also documents American double-standards and calls them for what they are: when Muslims massacre a village and kidnap teenage girls it is because they are noble freedom fighters w. When Serbs execute 8,000 men in the 28th Bosnian Muslim infantry, it is because they are evil and genocidal. Even more strange, American conservatives who are almost 100% anti-Islam never challenge this fact and actually support Muslims).

Stuff Calvinist International doesn’t want you to know.

Along similar lines is the Turko-Armenian-Azeri wars of the 1990s. Armenia was an Orthodox state who was beset by Muslim Turkey and Muslim Azeribaijan. During the Cold War the Soviet leadership had Armenians serving in high-rank positions and being trained by elite special forces. When the USSR fell, the Armenian military, keeping the Motorized Rifle divisions of that region, had a fairly impressive, if small, military. Russian intervention in the 1990s kept her smaller sister Armenia from being overrun by Muslims.

Huntingdon ends with a fairly interesting scenario on what WW3 will look like and how it will start. A few qualms with the book: he actually thinks NATO is preserving Western civilization and evidently he ignores the fact that his best friend, Zbignew Brzezinski advocates using the War on Terror as a way to surround Russia with missiles and bases. Ironically, Huntingdon had argued that doing so would actually make America lose the next world war, which will be a clash between a Chinese or Islamic (or both) civilization.
Huntingdon didn’t write many more books after this. He had a high standard of writing and actually threw away many top-notch manuscripts because they weren’t good enough. Too bad, for he is definitely worth reading.

Review: The Devil’s Pleasure Palace

What is the Christian Response to Cultural marxism? While everyone is morally obligated to fight a war to the death against the Frankfurt School, that doesn’t mean every effort is equally good.  Most, in fact, are not. Walsh’s book is a mixed bag.  He is a professional music critic and when he sticks to that topic, his analyses are always erudite and occasionally insightful.  When he gets into biblical and philosophical issues, he is in trouble.  I will say it another way: he has no clue what he is talking about. 

devil
The pleasure was….not mine

Thesis: the West faces a war against the morality of the epic of Genesis vs. the neo-Marxist cult of critical theory.

Throughout the narrative Walsh will interweave Genesis (which he doesn’t necessarily think is real; he might, but his language is ambiguous), Goethe’s Faust, and Milton to illustrate the satanic seduction. I guess there is a way that can work, but the reader often loses sight of the thesis in the minute discussions of Faust.  Further, Goethe’s own private embodied the very sexual dissolution that Walsh rejects.

Overly Strong claims:

“Art is the gift from God, the sole true medium of truth” (12).   God’s only medium of truth?  Really?

Simply Erroneous Claims

~“And yet, paradoxically, it is her transgression…that makes her, and us, fully human” (19).  I thought it was because God created us human.  Further, Jesus didn’t have any transgressions, yet he is fully (though not merely) human.  Even more, we won’t have transgressions in heaven, yet presumably we will be human.

~Misreads Hegel as a simple thesis/antithesis/synthesis (23, 25).

~”There is no predestination, only free will” (162).  But even Arminians know the word is in the Bible, so there is at least one form of predestination.

Boomercon  Rhetoric

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This is the legendary Lloyd America Johnsonius from Facebook

Says Bush failed to stand up to Vladimir Putin. 

I think this is factually false, as the US engineered the anti-Putin elections in Ukraine in 2004, which resulted in the ousting of Yanukovych.  Further, Bush recognized the heroin/Mafia-state of Kosovo to allow the pipelining of cocaine, heroin, and prostitutes into the West. I think Bush opposed Putin quite often.

Pros

Occasionally neat observations, like where Parcival observes “time become space.” He has a decent analysis of The Eternal Feminine in Faust–none of which actually adds to his argument.

*Good section on Wilhem Reich and the sexual revolution.

* He anticipates meme warfare by noting the Left cannot tolerate being scorned.

Faults

The style is just….bad. And that’s strange given the plethora of literary references.  It reads like a “good ole boy conservative blog” without any of the Southern charm.

If this book were a focus on the musical decadence of the Frankfurt School, it would have been a welcome contribution.  It should have been 100 pages shorter.   As it is, the disconnected analyses on biblical literature, philosophy, and music detract from the scope of the book.

The book also was heavy on loaded language.  True, Critical Theory and Cultural Marxism are demonic and satanic.  True, Herbert Marcuse was a demon in human flesh, but using the epithet “satanic” in every paragraph burdens the reader.

Hoppe quotes on Democracy, the failed god

This is from “Journey into a Libertarian Future.”  They meant it as a slam against the Hoppean anarcho-capitalist project.  I don’t think they fully understood his arguments on time-preference.  Still, I thought it was funny and I am posting the quotes here.

property… is necessarily valuable; hence, every property owner becomes a possible target of other men’s aggressive desires. [255]

competition among insurers for paying clients will bring about a tendency toward a continuous fall in the price of protection… [281-282].

one regard[s] the central government as illegitimate, and… treat[s] it and its agents as an outlaw agency and “foreign” occupying forces [91].

One tries to keep as much of one’s property and surrender as little tax money as possible. One considers all federal law, legislation and regulation null and void and ignores it whenever possible [91]. One needs to be ready in case the government makes a move, and invest in such forms and at such locations which withdraw, remove, hide, or conceal one’s wealth as far as possible from the eyes and arms of government [92].

it is essential to complement one’s defensive measures with an offensive strategy: to invest in an ideological campaign of delegitimizing the idea and institution of democratic government among the public [92].

[A]s for the economic quality of democracy, it must be stressed relentlessly that it is not democracy but private property, production, and voluntary exchange that are the ultimate sources of human civilization and prosperity. [105]

the U.S. government has become entangled in hundreds of foreign conflicts and risen to the rank of the world’s dominant imperialist power[?] [How] nearly every president [since 1900] has also been responsible for the murder, killing, or starvation of countless innocent foreigners all over the world [244]….U.S. president in particular is the world’s single most threatening and armed danger, capable of ruining everyone who opposes him and destroying the entire globe. [244]

create a U.S. punctuated by a large and increasing number of territorially disconnected free cities – a multitude of Hong Kongs, Singapores, Monacos, and Liechtensteins strewn over the entire continent [291]

no-tax free-trade haven[s], large numbers of investors and huge amounts of capital would begin to flow immediately. [132]

 

Politics as Athanasian Pluralism

Gary North might have just solved my dilemma on Cromwell and the Covenanters.  As a Presbyterian I want to like the Covenanters, but given how they universally failed every political and military test, and how a national church is unworkable, and how most modern Internet Covenanters are hyper-legalists, I just couldn’t do it.

And while I like Cromwell, I was always troubled the nature of the Independents and schismatics in the New Model Army.  But maybe that’s just the cost of doing business in a fallen world.  I was tipped off to this possibility by reading Gary North’s Conspiracy in Philadelphia, arguably his best book. He described Cromwell’s project in this way:

He created a trinitarian civil government in which all Protestant churches would have equal access politically, and the state would be guided by “the common light of Christianity.”(I call this “Athanasian pluralism.”) [North 27].  North footnotes chapter 12 of Political Polytheism.

I think the New Model Army got into some problems because it had abandoned aspects of Covenantal Thinking.  In his just execution of Charles I it didn’t rely on the earlier Covenantal models of John Knox. So what would a Cromwellian system guided by the 5 Point Covenantal Model look like?  I think Athanasian Pluralism is a good start.

Political and ethical pluralism is bad.  But there can be a biblical pluralism.  It just means a plurality of covenants in a society.  At this point I am heavily relying on chapter 12 of Political Polytheism.

Dominion Christianity teaches that there are four covenants under God, meaning four kinds of vows under God: personal (individual), and the three institutional covenants: ecclesiastical, civil, and familial. 2 All other human institutions (business, educational, charitable, etc.) are to one degree or other under the jurisdiction of one or more of these four covenants. No single human covenant is absolute; therefore, no single human institution is all-powerful. Thus, Christian liberty is liberty under God and God’s law, administered by plural legal authorities (576).

The Solemn League and Covenant fails because it collapses civil and ecclesiastical covenants into one, so that the SLC is neither.

The Failure of Political Confessionalism

North explains why political Presbyterianism failed so badly in England:

Other oddities of the five-year effort of the Assembly are also worth mentioning. Scotland’s Solemn League and Covenant (1643) had been signed in preparation for entry into a war against the King, whose safety the 1639 National Covenant had promised to uphold.  Scotland became a military ally of Cromwell and the Independents, who rose to power and then destroyed the judicial basis of the Scottish National Covenant: first by executing the King; second, by imposing Protestant religious toleration on the realm, including Scotland.
As it turned out, a group of Englishmen established the foundational documents of Scottish Presbyterianism. In 1648, the year after the Assembly completed the annotated Confession, England went to war with Scotland (North, Crossed Fingers, 994).

The English Presbyterians had been trapped by the decision of the Scottish Presbyterians to defend the King and a Throne-Church theocratic order, which had been affirmed by the language of the Solemn League and Covenant (Sec. VI). English Presbyterians could impose Church unity only by force, but the only significant force available was Cromwell’s New Model Army, which opposed Presbyterianism.95 Haller writes: “The advance of the army under Cromwell’s leadership meant the final defeat of the work of the Westminster Assembly.”96 He concludes: “The English people were never again to be united in a visible church of any sort.,,97 After the Restoration, English Presbyterianism refused to accept the Westminster Confession of Faith as binding, and in 1719, the denomination went unitarian (996).

After 1647, the Presbyterians had a monumental problem. The Church’s foundational documents had been written to gain the acceptance of a civil assembly that included non-Presbyterians-as time went on, a growing number of non-Presbyterians. The documents did not fit together. The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government (1645) had no required statement of faith, i.e., no theological stipulations. It required no oath from Church officers or members. The Confession of Faith (1647) also did not mention Church oaths. It did not specify how its own stipulations were to apply judicially. The burning question should have been this: What was the covenantal relationship between these two completely separate documents? But no one in authority asked it in 1648, and no one in authority has asked it since.

This is why intellectually the Political Covenanter movement failed before it even began.

Wins and Losses this week

So Gorsuch got in.  That’s good.  That might be the only good thing from a Trump presidency.  The chemical weapons charges in Syria are almost certainly lies.  Why would Assad, having won the war, do the one thing that would bring the West in?  Even more, why would he do it on civilians and not on the goat-humpers he is fighting?

I think in one sense Trump had no choice.  The Deep State forced him to it.  And as long as we don’t put boots on the ground, Assad might not lose.  Or rather, the jihadis won’t win.

Would I vote for Trump again?  Maybe.  He has to earn it.  And he has to have a number of huge wins (e.g., exposing John McCain, arresting thousands of more pedophiles, etc)