Some Warm Theological Debates

“Every man knows that he understands religion and politics, though he never learned them; but many people are conscious they do not understand many other sciences, from having never learned them.” 

Jonathan Swift, paraphrased in the Letter of the Earl of Chesterfield to his Son (March 25, 1751)

“Carefully avoid an argumentative and disputative turn, which too many people have, and some even value themselves upon . . . and when you find  your antagonist beginning to grow warm, put an end to the dispute by some genteel badinage.” 

Letter of the Earl of Chesterfield to his Son (Nov. 5, 1765)

Theological and political debates at the Orthosphere are only sometimes argumentative, disputative and warm.  The prevailing tranquility in these parts is partly owing to our civility, partly owing to our personal modesty, and partly owing to our prudent use of cooling doses of “genteel badinage.”   This tranquility is creditable because, as Swift somewhere said, every man is jealous of his own religious and political opinions.  A man who is grateful to be corrected on a practical point in natural science will, as it were, fight like a tiger to defend his religious and political cubs.

Here are a couple of instructive examples from my neighborhood in Texas, a century and more ago.  The first appeared in the Navasota Examiner, April 18, 1895, and relates a theological debate that grew overly warm at a church in Iola, twenty miles east of here.  The incendiary question was whether grace must be evidenced by works or may be fully present in an unreformed sinner.

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In a Shoddy Land

Abandoned House, Lyons

“There is considerably too much guessing about this large nation.

Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel (1899)*

“One report says that six cars were derailed and fell off the bridge into the big lake of water below.”

Brenham Daily Banner (Sep. 1, 1889)

Kipling had this thought while passing over “a groaning, shivering trestle” on a train from California to Oregon in 1887.  His train did not suffer the misfortune of of the train that jumped the tracks near here two years later, but that it didn’t was due to nothing but providence or dumb luck. Continue reading

On “False Flags” and Agents Provocateurs

“There have already been many astonishing and horrible provocations against the FN by the Sorathic powers; but these have so far failed to evoke any escalation from that side.  Therefore, I think that the 2023 provocations will be directed against the West.”

Bruce Charlton, “What Will Be the 2023 Early Year Offensive Against Western Civilization . . .” Bruce Charlton’s Notions (Jan. 7, 2023)

Bruce is here predicting a dramatic escalation of the Ukrainian War by means of a staged atrocity or “false flag” operation.  Russia,  which he calls FN or the Fire Nation, has so far declined to lose its temper, overreact, and therefore furnish the pretext for its own destruction.  So Charlton expects the “Globalist Establishment” will dress up as a Russian and commit the atrocity for them.  Covertly “poking the bear” is Provocation Level 1, the purpose being to make the bear bellicose, thus providing a pretext to destroy the bear. Provocation Level 2 is dressing in a bearskin and conspicuously eating some widows and orphans.

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Laodiceans in Lotus Land: Moderate Liberals Today

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3: 15-16

“There is no wild wind in his soul,
No strength of flood or fire;

He knows no force beyond control,
He feels no deep desire.”

Edgar Vine Hall, “A Laodicean” (1906)

Christ does not like moderates and likens them to a lukewarm drink, which neither refreshes nor warms.  Christ said this when he appeared to John on Patmos, in reproof to the church at Laodicea, and by it meant to say that the Laodiceans were languid in both love and hate.  As the poet put it, they have “no strength of flood or fire.”  Desire does not sweep them off their feet; repugnance does not ignite their fervent wrath.  Laodiceans see good and bad in everything, and that is why Christ tells them to correct their blurred vision with “eyesalve.” Continue reading

On Finding One’s Own Way to Hell

“If any man err from the right way, it is his own misfortune, no injury to thee; nor therefore art thou to punish him in the things of this life because thou supposest he will be miserable in that which is to come.”  

John Locke, “Letter Concerning Toleration” (1689)

“If I should attempt to characterize the Democratic party in the most general way possible consistent with accuracy, I should call it the party of Individual Liberty . . . . It believes in the right of each man to go to heaven or hell in his own way.”

Daniel Greenleaf Thompson, Politics in a Democracy: An Essay (1893)*

I must begin by making clear that I do not believe that Individual Liberty defines the Democratic party of today.  The Democratic party of today stands like Cerberus in defense of the peculiar peccancies of its coddled clients; but it is otherwise modeled on the popular stereotype of the Spanish Inquisition.  Far from believing in the right of each man to go to heaven or hell in his own way, the Democratic party of today requires each man go to hell in the Democratic way. Continue reading

The Last State of Man is Worst than the First

“Every great reform which has been effected has consisted not in doing something new, but in undoing something old.  The most valuable additions made to legislation have been enactments destructive of preceding legislation; and the best laws passed, have been those by which some former laws were repealed.” 

Henry Thomas Buckle, History of Civilization in England (1872)*

Henry Thomas Buckle could be remembered as Henry Thomas Unbuckle, since he was a nineteenth-century liberal who most admired government when it was abolishing itself.  Buckle believed that the best laws repealed old laws, that the most constructive political policy was destruction of old political policies. Buckle did not carry his doctrine to absolute anarchism and the abolition of government, but he believed that government was pernicious when it attempted to do anything more than “maintain order,” “prevent the strong from oppressing the weak,” and “adopt certain precautions respecting the public health.”** Continue reading

History is Checkered with Shadows and Reflections that Come from Both Banks of the Stream

Davidson Creek

Davidson Creek at the Old Falls Crossing

“We are in a war of philosophy — a war between anti-racists, who would fundamentally transform America’s systems in a sincere but misguided belief in their racist origins, and the conservatives who believe America’s institutions are worth defending despite a checkered and imperfect history of living up to their ideals.”

Isaac Willour, “Why Conservatives Lose the Race Debate—and How We Can Win It.” National Review (Dec. 28, 2022)*

Mr. Willour is not engaged in a “war of philosophy.”  He is engaged in a matrimonial squabble like that between a husband who wants to send the old car to a mechanic and a wife who wants to send it to the junkyard.  Just as the husband and wife agree that the old car has mechanical problems, so anti-racists and Willor-style Conservatives agree that America has racial problems.  Just as the husband and wife agree that something must be done about the car, so antiracists and Willor-style Conservatives agree that something must be done about race.

And race is, of course, a euphemism for the grievances of American blacks. Continue reading