Noll on Bible and Slavery in US History

An essay by Prof Mark A. Noll of Wheaton College in the collection Religion and the American Civil War (Oxford, 1998) outlines the place of the Bible in the American debate on slavery during the years leading up to the Civil War. Noll identifies the dominant view of the Bible on both side of the debate as “Reformed literalist.” Given that view of the Bible, the proslavery side seemed to have the upper hand. The Abolitionists were willing to move toward a “spirit not letter” type of interpretation, but all the orthodox saw this approach as a trajectory toward liberalism. Noll knows that “proslavery” — his term — is wrong, though a high view of the Bible is right; so he explores what might have gone wrong. He examines four alternative hermeneutical traditions that could have led to a different conclusion on slavery, while still holding to a high view of the Bible:(1) the “African American” way of reading the Bible; (2) the Roman Catholic; (3) High-church Lutheranism or Reformed; (4) the non-Southern Reformed, especially Charles Hodge. Only the last named of these had enough of a foothold in America to temper the discussion, but it fell short because of a root inconsistency in the American outlook which compromised the profession of sola scriptura and led to failure to draw a key distinction that would have unraveled the proslavery argument. Continue reading

Berlin

Berlin was the city that anchored the start and end of my trip.

Now before getting to the question that is at the forefront of everyone’s thinking, namely: what were the women like? (and rightly so: Continue reading

Buchenwald Inmate #2491: Christian martyr

Paul Schneider was a German Reformed minister whose early ministry coincided with the ascendancy of the National Socialist movement in the 1930s. His critique of the folk’s movement in view of the Word of God as well as a series of stands for the independent rights of the church vis-à-vis the state led to continual conflicts with Party functionaries, and penalties of increasing severity. At length, the conflict culminated in consignment to the concentration camp at Buchenwald, where his life ended. Continue reading

A Brief Critique of Non-Cognitivism (Ayer’s Version)

A. J. Ayer’s view of ethical judgments, often dubbed “emotivism,” is that ethical statements are neither true nor false and therefore are without significance. Behind this stance is his empiricism. In order for a statement to be meaningful, it must lend itself to some sort of verification. Without any possible means of verification statements fail to have to express anything. But Ayer does distinguish ethical judgment from other meaningless talk such that of speculative metaphysics or theology in that the former have at least a semblance of meaning since they display the attitude of the speaker toward certain types of actions. When one says, for example, “treason is wicked,” he is, on Ayers view, not uttering a statement with any cognitive content, but is, displaying his strong disapproval of treasonous behavior. Continue reading

Stereotypes

Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies

One of the few benefits of living in an era of insanity is that it makes the peddlers of the most prosaic and obvious truths appear like sages. The banality I will defend here is that almost every stereotype you have ever heard is true. Continue reading

Gordon Clark on Science

The book entitled The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God expounds Gordon H. Clark’s view of science. The book proceeds by historical survey, and the three chapter divisions divide the history into the ancients, the Newtonians, and the 20th century. Roughly speaking, this corresponds to views of science that we could call rationalist, empirical-determinist, and empirical-indeterminist. Each of these is shown to come up short of the standard Clark has set for what science needs to accomplish Continue reading

Mill’s Refutation of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is famous for its many flaws (e.g. committing the naturalistic fallacy, positing a simplistic psychological theory, failing to come to terms with ethical distinctions). All these, and more, have been dealt with extensively elsewhere. Here I merely wish to show that if one of J. S. Mill’s arguments succeeds, then Utilitarianism fails. Continue reading

Francke and Halle

The return from Lutheran bare orthodoxy to inward change, known as Pietism, was begun by Jakob Spener, though anticipated in the earlier writings of Johann Arndt. It grew wings, however, as a result of the life of August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), and transformed the city of Halle in remarkable ways. This is a brief rehearsal of this amazing story. Continue reading

Nudity in movies

One of our correspondents raised a question about the ethics of nudity in movies in connection with a remark I made in reviewing Dreamlife of Angels. In trying to pen some preliminary thoughts, I soon realized that the topic deserved a thread of its own, both because more needs to be said than is appropriate in a little “comment” box, and also to provide a better stage for our readers to offer additional suggestions on how to address this topic. Here are a few random thoughts to prime the pump: Continue reading