Separating Body and Soul


C.S. Lewis once wished we could go from the modern man back to pagans — at least pagans believed in something firmly enough that Christians could engage in a real conversation, a real apologetic, with them. But rather than a new paganism, the world seems to be in the thrall of something much worse: a new gnosticism.

In the old gnosticism, the material world was the lowest of seven spheres. Your goal, as a gnostic, was to push your soul through those seven spheres, reaching ever higher into the spiritual. As a matter of course, the higher you reached into the spheres of being, the more separated you, as a soul, were from you, as a physical body. Ah, but who could believe such nonsense, right? We’re all scientists now, believing only what we actually see and feel. We can’t see and feel these seven spheres (you do know we’ve been up in space, right?), so we don’t believe such nonsense.

Before we assert our just rights as thinking men, we should listen to ourselves — for there, among the jumble of words, is the same belief, only a little more subtle. We’ve turned gnosticism on its head.

As an example, let’s look at a recent reaction to the plight of Gordon College, which has lost a state contract and is being threatened with loss of accreditation over it’s requirement that teachers abide by certain moral rules. As you might have guessed, the moral rule in this case is that if you aren’t married to a person of the opposite sex, the college expects you to be celibate. The rule applies whether you’re a homosexual or heterosexual, whether you’re 18 or 80. Gordon College holds to a strong Christian belief that sex be reserved for marriage, alongside a strong Christian belief that marriage is only truly possible between one man and one woman. The reaction in question is in response to the blog post linked above.

IMO their position is significantly weakened if they’re trying to impose behavioral requirements (that have no relation to job performance) on non-believers.

This sounds reasonable, right? Who could object to forcing a college to hire anyone who can competently teach the subject at hand? After all, what difference does it make if the teacher is an atheist, or a homosexual, or… ?? To answer this question, we must go back to the point of a Christian college: to teach Christian faith and character. How, precisely, can someone who doesn’t believe that Christian faith and character is a superior way of life — someone who doesn’t live out the Christian faith – teach that faith?

At a deeper level, the answer presupposes something quite simple: you can separate the soul of the person doing the teaching from the body of the person doing the teaching. It presupposes that teaching science is a soulless thing, something that does not involve any sort of soul at all. That we can, and should, separate the soul from the body, treating the body as a mere mechanical thing that can stand in the classroom and teach. That there will be no soul to soul contact in this teaching.

The modern mantra is that we can separate performance from the soul, sex from the relationship, sex from gender, and belief from religion.

This radical separation of soul from body is nothing less than a modern form of gnostic belief — that we can treat our bodies as machines, something that’s here until it passes, leaving us in a nonexistent state (or perhaps on yet another road that “leads to god,” without defining who that god might happen to be). Not only have we reverted to gnosticism, we’ve turned it upside down. No longer is the soul the pure and good thing, and the body the evil — in our modern form of gnosticism, the body is the good thing, and the soul is to be doubted, or if it exists, the soul is a thing of evil.

Religion (faith in the soul) is the root of all war in the modern parlance. Anyone who believes there is a soul apart from the body is a suspected “fundamentalist.” On the other side of the coin, we believe only in what we can touch and feel and experience. Relationships are about what each person experiences. Government is about what we can get someone to pay for us to experience. To “get real,” is to “connect” with your emotions. Even Christianity is infected through “head faith versus heart faith.” Unlike the ancient Gnostics, we have elevated the body over the soul, placing the evil out at the farthest realm, and the good close by us here on the Earth.

The modern Christian apologist, then, faces not a pagan, but an upside down Gnostic — a person so determined to be no more than the animal nature inside of him that he suspects anyone who believes there is something more of being evil incarnate.

Why, Indeed?


Asymmetric Warfare


Our Love Affair with Fair

Two stories with no apparent relationship — making certain “good” teachers are spread “equally” throughout the schools, and the number of deaths in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Look, when militants in Gaza fire rockets at Israel, then Israel has a right to respond, but with some proportionality. More than 200 Gazans have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians, according to United Nations officials; one Israeli has been killed. In any case, Israel’s long-term interest lies in de-escalating, not moving to the ground war it now threatens. -New York Times

Today, the Obama administration is asking states to create plans ensuring that all students have access to effective teachers — and it will publish profiles of all states that will include information about where children from minority and low-income families aren’t getting their fair share of these teachers this fall. -Politico

Like two kids arguing about how to equally split the last piece of cake, we live in a world obsessed with fairness. But is our obsession helping? Or is it ultimately hurting? Let’s look at the these three cases — Israel and Hamas, the distribution of “good” teachers, and the splitting of a slice of cake.

The slice of cake is easy for several reasons. First, it’s a zero sum game for this particular slice of cake; once the cake is eaten, it’s eaten. There may be other cakes, but there’s only so much of this cake. Second, it’s easy to see how much cake there actually is, and to judge that both of the kids want some. So it’s easy to judge the requirements (both kids want some), the resources are finite (there is only one slice of this cake left), and the results (the resulting slices can be weighed and measured to determine if the split is really equal).

The cake might be simple, but what about the distribution of “good” teachers? First, is this a zero sum game? Are there only so many “good teachers” available in the entire world, and only a specific number trained and graduated each year? This rather mechanistic view of humans is not only unreal, but insulting to the teachers themselves. Of course teachers can improve (or degrade) in their abilities over time, and of course more (or fewer) people might choose to become a teacher. So the supply of teachers is not fixed, and the “distribution of good teachers” is not a zero sum game. Second, how do we judge the desire of various school districts for “good teachers?” Is there some way we can survey all classrooms in all districts and determine the proportion of motivated verses unmotivated students? In fact, how do we know the “good teachers” aren’t, in fact, “good” because they are teaching motivated classes, rather than unmotivated ones? Finally, how do we measure the results of “good teacher equalization?” In short, there’s no way to measure the results.

What about the “equivalence” of Hamas and Israel? We’re often told that because more Palestinians are killed that Israeli’s, and because “Israel” has “better weapons,” the “fight is unfair.” But what does “unfair” mean here? When a bully starts a fight, do we really expect the bullied to only do what the bully does — or should the bullied have the option of fighting with all the weapons they have at their disposal? If your daughter is being raped by a thug with a knife, is it “unfair” for her to pull a gun — or call the police (who will bring a gun)? Again, this isn’t a zero sum game at all — lives are at stake, as well as the existence of a nation. “Unfair” doesn’t come into the picture here. Second, do we even bother to judge the desires here? When was the last time you heard that Israel wants two states, and Hamas doesn’t? If motives matter, then why aren’t the motives in play here? Finally, how would you measure the results? Is it really only okay to measure the number of dead, or must we also measure the number of dead within each age group, socioeconomic status, race, and religion? What is a “civilian?”

In the real world, our obsession with “fairness” hurts more than it helps. We think the number of “good” teachers is like a slice of pie that can be split evenly among all possible schools. We think the number of dead should be split evenly between Israel and Hamas, or the “fight is unfair.” The number of dead isn’t what matters — what matters is who attacked whom, for what reasons, and what the response options on the table are.

We need to dump our obsession with fairness, and come back into the real world, where the slice of cake isn’t fixed, and motivations and measurable results count.

Visions of Me, Myself, and I

The vision of the left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves — a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice” and otherwise be on the side of the angels. This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to. Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages, or innumerable other issues — and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision. -Thomas Sowell

Thursday Roundup

As always, my bookmarks runneth over. Time to clean them out.

It’s interesting that those who collect your data are often afraid of you even seeing what they’re collecting. In this particular case, it relates to information collected by public schools in their students. I suspect this might have to do with fear of the information being incorrect, or being required to build a process that allows you to fix what they’ve collected (or contest it), but I don’t think that’s all there is to it. The main reason I think they’re afraid to let you see the information is they realize just how intrusive the data collection efforts will appear when you really get a chance to see what they’ve collected.

Some folks on the progressive side of Israeli politics are suddenly discovering that language is the first thing to fall to thugs and bullies. There’s a difference between what Israel means when using the words “two state solution,” and what the Palestinians means. The problem is, of course, there’s an existential problem with progressives discovering someone else has been playing the same games with language they play all the time. If they fuss about their being duped by word games, then they are fussing about doing what they actually do. It’s not a comfortable situation to be in, I’m certain. Progressives don’t mind lies, so long as its not their ox being gored.

Another thing bullies always says — if they’re losing — is, “I didn’t mean to start a fight.” Really, I didn’t expect that firing those 600 missiles into the cities of a nation that supplies just about every scrap of food, fuel, and employment for my entire population might cause them to at least try and do something about it. Not that they’re celebrating their destruction of the lives of ordinary people or anything.

If you ever doubted that progressivism is a religious belief system that cannot, and will not, tolerate anything other than strict adherence to it’s orthodoxies, the results of the Hobby Lobby case should open your eyes. Five white Catholic men who seek total cultural and political domination by refusing to force a company to pay for completely voluntary medical treatments that could be avoided by learning some self control, and aren’t any more expensive than a weekly trip to the coffee shop. The horrors of Christian domination know no bounds.

The world is full of myths about monogamy; this article takes six of them apart in some detail. My favorite line is this:

Other Animals Aren’t Monogamous, So Humans Need Not Be Monogamous. Other animals also have scales, lack opposable thumbs, and are generally poor conversationalists. Higher-order thinking and awareness of one’s own mortality are also unique features of the human species. Despite that, this is a reliable feature of every single call to end monogamy.

The only mistake in this reasoning is that progressives really do think humans are “just another animal,” so they don’t see the problem with the line of logic they’re using here.

Sometimes the facts so obvious that the progressive media must do everything they can to keep them under wraps. How many times can you write about the murder of a teacher in front of a class of kids, and use euphemisms to avoid saying the killer is Muslim?

What do you get when you think politics doesn’t matter? Or, thinking politics does matter, think it mostly matters to get freebies from the government? Obama. And Obama’s chickens, so to speak, are coming home to roost. Only we’re going to be roost in this case, while Obama goes off into a multimillion dollar retirement, or some prominent post at the EU.

We often worry about the nature of our information culture — specifically, how easy it is to build yourself an information stream that only contains things you agree with. You might think that folks in the media would counter this trend, reading broadly, and learning as much as they can. You would be wrong. Folks who work in the media are breathtakingly ignorant of very basic things. It’s not so much that they are ignorant, of course, it’s that they are intentionally, willfully ignorant.

Progressives want the government out of their bedrooms. Unless, that is, they want businesses in their bedrooms, giving them free birth control. Then they want government in the business’ business telling them to get in their bedrooms so the progressives can do what they like in their bedrooms (and everywhere else) without any consequences — and remember, it’s none of your business what I want the government to force businesses to pay for. Got it? One problem. If the government gives you contraception, the government can take it away.

Priceless: the moment you discover a major group raising money to fight “dark money” in politics is funded by… (drum roll)… dark money.

So you think that anti-depressant is really helping? Maybe, maybe not. There’s a crisis in modern psychology, in case you didn’t know.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re really not watching you. Or rather listening — the facebook app is soon to be yet another passive listener on your phone, trying to figure out what you’re doing so they can automatically post information about where you are and what you’re doing when you post an update.

But the true reason that user-oriented praise and criticism of the Internet are alike misguided is that smartphones are not just windows into the world. They are, by their nature as a digitizing medium, windows into us. -Intercollegiate Review

Executing the Law


Our Self Centered Selflessness

So let’s say you want to start a business — maybe an ice cream store. You go through the process of finding a location, looking at suppliers, examine what sort of ice cream to sell, etc. Then you start the actual process of starting the process, and run into the wall of bureaucratic forms, regulations, [...] [...]

On Not Believing God


Marriage and the Slippery Slope

Is gay marriage a slippery slope? Proponents of gay marriage say, “no,” and propose two simple arguments: First, people are born gay, hence they have the right to get married. The process won’t go any farther because people aren’t born any other way than straight or gay. Second, those who can’t consent to sex can’t [...] [...]