Updating Mortimer Adler’s Classical Reading List

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of titles on here because I just don’t see how…well, I’m not going there.  And I’ve changed some works by some authors.  I think Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is far more powerful and infinitely more relevant to FEMA-Camp America than are his novels.  I’ve BOLDFACED the ones I have already read.

    1. Homer – Iliad; Odyssey
    2. The Old Testament
    3. Aeschylus – Tragedies
    4. Sophocles – Tragedies
    5. Herodotus – Histories (I’ve read it but I need to reread it)
    6. Euripides – Tragedies
    7. ThucydidesHistory of the Peloponnesian War
    8. Hippocrates – Medical Writings
    9. Aristophanes – Comedies
    10. Plato – Dialogues
    11. Aristotle – Works
    12. Epicurus – “Letter to Herodotus”; “Letter to Menoecus”
    13. EuclidElements
    14. Archimedes – Works
    15. ApolloniusConics
    16. Cicero – Works (esp. Orations; On Friendship; On Old Age; Republic; Laws; Tusculan Disputations; Offices)
    17. LucretiusOn the Nature of Things
    18. Virgil – Works (esp. Aeneid)
    19. Horace – Works (esp. Odes and Epodes; The Art of Poetry)
    20. LivyHistory of Rome
    21. Ovid – Works (esp. Metamorphoses)
    22. QuintilianInstitutes of Oratory
    23. PlutarchParallel Lives; Moralia
    24. TacitusHistories; Annals; Agricola; Germania; Dialogus de oratoribus (Dialogue on Oratory)
    25. Nicomachus of GerasaIntroduction to Arithmetic
    26. Epictetus – Discourses; Enchiridion
    27. PtolemyAlmagest
    28. Lucian – Works (esp. The Way to Write History; The True History; The Sale of Creeds;Alexander the Oracle Monger; Charon; The Sale of Lives; The Fisherman; Dialogue of the Gods; Dialogues of the Sea-Gods; Dialogues of the Dead)
    29. Marcus AureliusMeditations
    30. GalenOn the Natural Faculties
    31. The New Testament
    32. PlotinusThe Enneads
    33. St. Augustine – “On the Teacher”; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine
    34. The Volsungs Saga or Nibelungenlied
    35. The Song of Roland
    36. The Saga of Burnt Njál
    37. MaimonidesThe Guide for the Perplexed
    38. St. Thomas Aquinas – Of Being and Essence; Summa Contra Gentiles; Of the Governance of Rulers; Summa Theologica
    39. Dante Alighieri – The New Life (La Vita Nuova); “On Monarchy”; Divine Comedy
    40. Geoffrey Chaucer – Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales

Leonardo da VinciNotebooks

  1. Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
  2. Desiderius Erasmus – The Praise of Folly; Colloquies (I’ve read different parts of Erasmus
  3. Nicolaus CopernicusOn the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
  4. Thomas MoreUtopia
  5. Martin Luther – Table Talk; Three Treatises
  6. François RabelaisGargantua and Pantagruel
  7. John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion
  8. Michel de MontaigneEssays
  9. William GilbertOn the Lodestone and Magnetic Bodies
  10. Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote
  11. Edmund Spenser –; The Faerie Queene
  12. Francis BaconEssays; The Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum; New Atlantis
  13. William Shakespeare – Poetry and Plays
  14. Galileo GalileiStarry Messenger; Two New Sciences
  15. Johannes KeplerThe Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Harmonices Mundi
  16. William HarveyOn the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; Generation of Animals
  17. GrotiusThe Law of War and Peace
  18. Thomas HobbesLeviathan; Elements of Philosophy (It’s on the Shelf)
  19. René Descartes –  Discourse on the Method; Meditations on First Philosophy
  20. Corneille – Tragedies (esp. The Cid, Cinna)
  21. John Milton – Works (esp. the minor poems; Areopagitica; Paradise Lost; Samson Agonistes) (In progress)
  22. Molière – Comedies (esp. The Miser; The School for Wives; The Misanthrope; The Doctor in Spite of Himself; Tartuffe; The Tradesman Turned Gentleman; The Imaginary Invalid; The Affected Ladies)
  23. Blaise Pascal –  Pensées;
  24. BoyleThe Sceptical Chymist
  25. Christiaan HuygensTreatise on Light
  26. Benedict de SpinozaPolitical Treatises; Ethics
  27. John LockeA Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Currently reading)
  28. Isaac NewtonMathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Opticks
  29. Gottfried Wilhelm LeibnizDiscourse on Metaphysics; New Essays on Human Understanding; Monadology
  30. Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe;
  31. Jonathan SwiftThe Battle of the Books; A Tale of a Tub; A Journal to Stella; Gulliver’s Travels; A Modest Proposal
  32. William CongreveThe Way of the World
  33. George BerkeleyA New Theory of Vision; A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (On the shelf)
  34. Alexander PopeAn Essay on Criticism; The Rape of the Lock; An Essay on Man
  35. Charles de Secondat, baron de MontesquieuPersian Letters; The Spirit of the Laws
  36. Voltaire – Candide
  37. Henry FieldingJoseph Andrews; Tom Jones
  38. Samuel JohnsonThe Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; Lives of the Poets
  39. David HumeA Treatise of Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; History of England (Currently on the shelf)
  40. Jean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on Inequality; On Political Economy; Emile; The Social Contract; Confessions
  41. Laurence SterneTristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
  42. Adam SmithThe Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations (Currently on the shelf)
  43. William BlackstoneCommentaries on the Laws of England
  44. Immanuel KantCritique of Pure Reason; Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals;Critique of Practical Reason; Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace
  45. Edward GibbonThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;(Currently reading)
  46. James BoswellJournal; The Life of Samuel Johnson
  47. Antoine Laurent LavoisierTraité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)
  48. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James MadisonFederalist Papers (together with the Articles of Confederation; United States Constitution and United States Declaration of Independence)
  49. Jeremy BenthamComment on the Commentaries; Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions
  50. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Faust
  51. Thomas Robert MalthusAn Essay on the Principle of Population
  52. John DaltonA New System of Chemical Philosophy
  53. Jean Baptiste Joseph FourierAnalytical Theory of Heat
  54. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelThe Phenomenology of Spirit; Science of Logic;Elements of the Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History (I’ve read most of these)
  55. William Wordsworth – Poems (esp. Lyrical Ballads; Lucy poems; sonnets; The Prelude)
  56. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Poems (esp. Kubla Khan; The Rime of the Ancient Mariner );Biographia Literaria
  57. David RicardoOn the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
  58. Jane AustenPride and Prejudice; Emma
  59. Carl von ClausewitzOn War
  60. Lord Byron – Don Juan
  61. Arthur SchopenhauerStudies in Pessimism
  62. Michael FaradayThe Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity
  63. Nikolai LobachevskyGeometrical Researches on the Theory of Parallels
  64. Charles LyellPrinciples of Geology
  65. Auguste ComteThe Positive Philosophy
  66. Honoré de Balzac – Works (esp. Le Père Goriot; Le Cousin Pons; Eugénie Grandet;Cousin Bette; César Birotteau)
  67. Ralph Waldo EmersonRepresentative Men; Essays; Journal
  68. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter
  69. Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America (Halfway through reading)
  70. John Stuart Mill – A System of Logic; Principles of Political Economy; On Liberty;Considerations on Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women;Autobiography
  71. Charles Darwin – On the Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography (Currently reading)
  72. William Makepeace Thackeray – Works (esp. Vanity Fair; The History of Henry Esmond;The Virginians; Pendennis) (On the shelf)
  73. Charles Dickens – Works (esp. Pickwick Papers; Our Mutual Friend; David Copperfield;Dombey and Son; Oliver Twist; A Tale of Two Cities; Hard Times)
  74. Claude Bernard – Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  75. George Boole – The Laws of Thought
  76. Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience; Walden
  77. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – Das Kapital (Capital); The Communist Manifesto
  78. George Eliot – Silas Marner
  79. Herman Melville – Typee; Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
  80. Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
  81. Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary; Three Stories
  82. Henry Thomas Buckle – A History of Civilization in England
  83. Francis Galton – Inquiries into Human Faculties and Its Development
  84. Bernhard Riemann – The Hypotheses of Geometry
  85. Henrik Ibsen – Plays (esp. Peer Gynt; Brand; Hedda Gabler; Emperor and Galilean; A Doll’s House; The Wild Duck; The Master Builder) Currently reading
  86. Leo TolstoyWar and Peace; Anna Karenina; “What Is Art?“; Twenty-Three Tales (Currently reading)
  87. Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; The Mysterious Stranger
  88. Henry AdamsHistory of the United States; Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; The Education of Henry Adams; Degradation of Democratic Dogma
  89. Oliver Wendell HolmesThe Common Law; Collected Legal Papers
  90. William James –  The Varieties of Religious Experience; (Currently reading)
  91. Henry JamesThe American; The Ambassadors
  92. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; On the Genealogy of Morality; The Will to Power; Twilight of the Idols; The Antichrist
  93. Georg CantorTransfinite Numbers
  94. Jules Henri PoincaréScience and Hypothesis; Science and Method; The Foundations of Science
  95. Sigmund FreudThe Interpretation of Dreams; Three Essays to the Theory of Sex;Introduction to Psychoanalysis; Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; The Ego and the Id; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
  96. George Bernard Shaw – Plays and Prefaces (Have on shelf)
  97. Max PlanckOrigin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
  98. Henri BergsonTime and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
  99. John DeweyHow We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; The Quest for Certainty; Logic – The Theory of Inquiry
  100. Alfred North WhiteheadProcess and Reality; (I have on shelf)
  101. George SantayanaThe Life of Reason; Scepticism and Animal Faith; The Realms of Being (which discusses the Realms of Essence, Matter and Truth); Persons and Places
  102. Vladimir LeninImperialism; The State and Revolution
  103. Bertrand RussellPrinciples of Mathematics; The Problems of Philosophy; Principia Mathematica; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits; History of Western Philosophy
  104. Albert EinsteinThe Theory of Relativity; Sidelights on Relativity; The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
  105. James Joyce“The Dead” in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man;Ulysses (Have on shelf)
  106. Jacques MaritainArt and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; Freedom and the Modern World; A Preface to Metaphysics; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
  107. Franz Kafka – Metamorphoses (Currently reading)
  108. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1-3.  Currently reading.
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Rich Christians Age of Hunger (Sider)

If there is one book that summarizes the cultural ethos and failed nerve of Christianity Today and InterVarsityPress, it would be Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  First, I will highlight some good points, then I will say a few really ugly remarks, then I will critique the book.

Some Good Points

He has a fairly decent take on the Sabbatical year (83ff).  I don’t think he realizes that his master, The United Nations, isn’t that concerned with biblical law.  Further, I like how he notes that Scripture “prescribes justice” (83; cf. Dt 15:9-10).  Sider even approaches (and at times affirms) the godly principle that “sinful persons and societies will always produce poor people” (83).  Amen, and amen.   I have to ask though, if Sider can name some societies in the 20th century that adopted his principles and if they were sinful and produced poor people.  One such society had four letters in its abbreviation.

Sider has some surprisingly astute comments on interest and he realizes that Christendom’s painful back-and-forth on interest wasn’t pretty and so we shouldn’t generalize (85).

He further notes that Marxists and Capitalists worship the same god: Economic forces (105).  Of course, Sider himself labours (pun) for world revolutionary forces, so he can’t be taken all that seriously.  Further, he rightly criticises the business model that has infected churches today (107).

He has an excellent section on asceticism (111ff) and its false ontology/anthropology.  He writes, “Christian asceticism has a long history, but Jesus’s life undermines its basic assumptions” (112).  Of course, a lot of the biblical examples Sider cites assume that one can legitimately spend one’s wealth on grain, alcohol, or feasts without feeling guilty by socialist agitators.

Ugly Remarks

David Chilton has correctly pointed out that this book is a guilt trip.  But that’s not why I am mad.  Religious people of various denominations have been trying to guilt trip me over silly stuff for years. I’m largely immune to it.  But when he projects “guilt-psychoses” onto godly, hard-working Christians who have made cuts in their lifestyles and to hear “they have earned hell-fire” because they didn’t meet Sider’s arbitrary “line of essentials.”  To quote Chris Rock,

Shut the f%$k up

Criticisms

Hidden assumptions

Sider makes routine comments like “And justice, as we have seen, means things like the Jubilee and sabbatical remission of debts” (115; statements like these are throughout the book). It raises the obvious question:  Who will enforce this?  Laws without sanctions are no different than PCA “recommendations.”

peacekeepers

Holier than God?

Sider has modified his tone from his first edition where he was adding to the gospel (yea, preaching another gospel).  Still, he makes comments like “It is sinful abomination for one part of the world’s Christians to grow richer year by year while our brothers and sisters in the third world suffer” (98).  This would be a true statement if a number of other conditions were met.  Are North American Christians causing other Christians to suffer?  If they are, Sider has given us no argument nor shown any evidence.  Further, would he have N.A. Christians be just as poor?  If so, then how could they help?  If they didn’t have any wealth, then how could Sider’s globalist masters take it from them?  He hasn’t thought these things through.

Vague Terminology

He notes that conservative pastors speak on “personal sins” but rarely on “structural sins” (119).  He does cite some texts trying to prove the existence of “structural sins,” but the texts mention sophisticated personal sins (ala Amos 2:6-7).  If there is such a category of structural sins–by which he seems to mean a certain way of society in which participation is sinful–they usually appear as a complex of personal sins in a social setting.  It’s hard to really talk about structural evils outside of presupposing Marx.

The institutional evils that Sider does criticize are in fact evil.  I just worry about using a Marxist term to categorize it.  But are the evils perversions of goods (private property) or are they embedded in the nature of things (private property, discipline use of scarce resources)?  Sider has elsewhere affirmed private property, so it isn’t clear exactly what he has to say here.

To be fair, Sider does define what he means by structural evils:  “Initial injustices, unless corrected, mushroom” (127).  This is actually insightful, but he never disentangles his rhetoric from Marxist terminology.  Marx saw society as inherently violent and could only progress by historical dialectic, which itself would probably be violent.

Plainly Misreads Texts

The most glaring misreading of texts is his appeal to the Jubilee principle (80ff).  While he correctly notes that the text says “all land should be returned to original owners,” and that “it was the poor person’s right to receive back his inheritance” (81).  While he doesn’t draw the conclusion, this is a brilliant argument against the evil and satanic practice of Federal inheritance taxes.

He does correctly note that Yahweh says “The Land is mine” (Lev. 25:23), but what principle should we draw from that?   Only the dominum can thus distribute the land.   This is the same dominion economics that Wyclif argued.  Well and good, but one suspects that Sider has another dominum in mind: The State.

I don’t know how he thinks his model will work.  He says “the specific provisions of the Jubilee year aren’t binding today” (85).  I agree with him, so how does he apply it?  Why is this law binding today but the ones about stoning sodomites and idolaters not?  He gives us no answer.

External Contradictions with Scripture

Sider’s most notorious point is the graduated tithe.  I just want to point out one Scriptural difficulty with it. The Bible tells us that a godly man leaves an inheritance for his seed (Prov. 13:22).  Yet, if Sider has his way it’s hard to see how this could happen.  There would be no inheritance.  It would all have been given away!

Internal Contradictions with Logic

Sider’s book is riddle with inconsistencies.  He notes (rightly) that “the right of each person to have means to earn his own way takes precedence over a purchaser’s property rights” (81).  Absolutely.  But when the state is interfering with regulations, how can he seriously claim the above?

Further, if Sider complains about world debt (and I don’t really disagree with him) yet he presupposes structures like the World Bank and the United Nations (which, ironically, are structural evils!), then his problem shouldn’t be with right-wing Christians but with his own statist overlords.

He complains about LDC (limited developing countries) “protein deficiency,” yet he ignores a concrete solution to the problem.  A country like India with such a deficiency has a lot of cattle.  Unfortunately, they worship the cows instead of eating them.  Idolatry and economic devastation are connected.  Sider doesn’t seem to see it.

Keynes or Smith?

Sider urges us not to make an idol of private property nor seek the advice of “that deist Adam Smith” (102).  In the next paragraph he praises the Keynesian revolution.  If we are going to make irrelevant comments about Adam Smith’s religious views, is now the time to mention that Keynes liked to molest little black Tunisian boys?

Fat Cat Corporations

I won’t address the sections on corporatism.   A lot has changed in 30 years (both good and bad) and neither Sider nor I am really competent to speak on these matters.  I would simply challenge him that his beloved World Bank is probably culpable in a lot of these international corporate schemes.

‘Merica

There is a lot of America-bashing in this book.  For all of America’s evils, real or supposed, I do suspect that if America were to disappear, millions more would die.

Our Reaction

Am I guilty?

Jesus asked, “Is your eye evil because mine is good?”  I refuse to let socialist agitators make me hate God’s blessings.   Still, per Sider’s recommendations, I really don’t eat all that much beef (for reasons other than guilt-trips), both of my cars were made in the last millennium (and breaking now, for what it’s worth), both churches I was a member of in the last ten years contributed to concrete, local charities that actually made a difference.

Sider’s Recommendations

Graduated tithe:  he realizes he can’t make this binding on Christians today, so I will ignore it.

Communal Living:  This is almost funny.  One should study the history of communal living in America.  Besides a nigh-100% failure rate, they more often than not end up being sex orgies.  In any case, the agrarian in me does gravitate towards simplicity, but not because of Sider’s guilt trips.

How should we live in response to Sider?  For one, who are these cozy, fat-cat, presumably white and conservative Christians that are so callous to the poor?  He doesn’t list any names.  Further, I am not aware of conservative churches that don’t give money to charities (who are better able to manage it than some bureaucrat in Washington).

The danger isn’t that my feelings are hurt because Sider shamelessly libeled his brothers in Christ.  No, he isn’t stupid.  He is against charitable giving.  Therefore, the only solution is the Government.  But even here we have a problem.   At least in theory, America’s government is democratic.  Those white males don’t elect socialists.  That’s no problem, though, for Sider has a stronger play:  The United Nations.

Sider is long on saying governments should adopt biblical principles (79, 144, 194) but I get the sneaky suspicion that this is merely suppressing fire for a globalist order.  He says America and Russia have biblical obligations to give their resources to poorer countries (194), yet he lists no bible verses proving these obligations.

He says this is not a call for a violent revolution (194).  Okay, how will you enforce it then?  What if I say no to your demands.  What are you going to do then?  At this point Sider has two options:  something like PCA recommendations or the point of a bayonet.

Because I love my country, I won’t take up arms against the Government (unless I am led by a godly lesser magistrate; then I would be on the front line).   I will fight to the death any bureaucrat from Brussels or Paris or London or wherever).

WELCOME-TO-AMERICA-UN-DEMOTIVATIONAL

 

 

The problems facing American Neo-Covenanting

There is much good in the Covenanter tradition, and this post will pain many (myself most of all).  But if they want an intellectual (Or even better, political) future then they need to own up to some challenges.  I honor and admire Richard Cameron and Alexander Peden (hey, they received extra-scriptural prophecy.  Anybody want to take up that one?).  I do not think, however, that the entire Covenanting tradition was able to hold the strings together.  And that’s not just my take on it. I think Moore argues the same thing (Our Covenant Heritage). These challenges are not simply my making up because people started slandering Christ’s elders in his church on Facebook (like Stonewall Jackson).  They point to deeper issues.

While the problems in the Covenanter tradition can easily point back to the Battle of Bothwell Bridge (cf Maurice Grant’s biographies of both Cameron and Cargill; excellent reads), I was alerted to some of the tensions by T. Harris.  Again, I am writing this so Covenanters can work out the difficulties now instead of having to make hard and fast choices on the field of battle later.   You can be angry with me, but I am your best friend.

1.  The Hatred of the South

This is myopic and almost unhealthy.   Modern covenanting talks about how evil the South is and never once tries to work through the sticky issues of how best to help freed slaves.   Or slaves who didn’t want to be freed.  As evil as slavery might have been, simply throwing the blacks out on the street only it makes it worse.   The slave-owners (and many slaves) knew this.

And it really comes back to the question:  is the relation between master and slave sinful?  This is a very specific question.  This is why Freshman atheists have a field day with us.  But I know the response:  buying stolen property, especially human property, is sinful.  Perhaps it is, but didn’t Paul know this when he outlined healthy parameters for both masters and slaves?  How do you think the ancient Romans got slaves in the first place?  Democratic vote?  They were often prisoners of war, babies of raped women, and worse.  And does Paul say, in good John Brown fashion, “Rise up slaves and kill your masters” (though to be fair John Brown actually killed white Northerners)?

Northern Covenanters love to boast on how they “deny communion to man-stealers.”    Harris notes in response,

Athenagoras, defending the church against the pagan charge of cannibalism said, “moreover, we have slaves: some of us more, some fewer. We cannot hide anything from them; yet not one of them has made up such tall stories against us.” (Early Church Fathers, ed. C.C. Richardson, p. 338). But Alexander McLeod says to the slaveholder, “you cannot be in the church,” (p. 25) and this posture was eventually ratified by the entire covenanter church. On this point, their righteousness exceeded even that of our Lord and the apostles. And that is heady stuff.

Am I saying we should have slaves today?  Of course not.  But we need to seriously think through these issues instead of giving non-answers like “Christianity provided for civilization to move forward without slavery.”  To which I say, “early Medieval Russia.”

2.  The strange love-affair with Lincoln

This is odd, too.  Lincoln really didn’t care for Christianity and he routinely made darkie jokes.   He was the biggest white supremacist of the 19th century.  He ran on the platform, in essence, that he would not free a single slave.  My Covenanter friends–you are being deceived.

Someone could respond, “You’re just angry that the South lost.”  Perhaps, perhaps not.  That brings up another point

3.  Consistently outmaneuvered politically and militarily

Why is it that the Covenanters who have such a heroic (and rightly earned) reputation for godly resistance during the Killing  Times have routinely been outmaneuvered in the public square?  I’ll give three examples: Bothwell Bridge, Cromwell, and The War Between the States.

Bothwell

The Covenanters had already proved themselves at Drumclog.  Further, Bothwell Bridge forced the Royalists into a chokepoint.   While the ultimate cause for the covenanters defeat was lack of artillery and ammo, the outcome was in the air for a while.   The problem was whether to allow Indulged parties to participate.  Granted, the Indulged sinned and were under God’s judgment.  Cameron and others were right to resist elsewhere, but Bothwell was not an ecclesiastical act.  It was a military one.   Indulged ammunition wasn’t sinful per se.

Cromwell

Covenanters call Cromwell the Usurper.   It is somewhat ironic given that these Covenanters had fought a war of defiance (rightly so) against the very same king.  I have to ask, though, precisely what did you expect when rallying behind the (well-known) debauched papal pervert Charles II?  Granted, he vowed the covenants.  Granted, he should have owned up to them.   Still, anyone could have seen how this was going to end.

How else was Cromwell to interpret this?   He knew the Covenanters were militarily capable, so he is seeing an armed host rallying behind the dynasty against which both had recently fought a war.  But even then, the Covenanters could have held him off and forced a peace.   Their actions at Dunbar as as unbelievable as they are inexplicable.  They had the advantage of both place and time.  Ignoring that, they decided to meet Cromwell on equal footing.  In response, Cromwell executed one of the most perfect maneuvers in military history (that was still studied and practiced in the 20th century by America, England, and Germany) and in effect subdued Scotland.

To make it worse, Grant notes that Cromwell’s subjugation of Scotland allowed the kirk to flourish spiritually.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.

Lincoln (again)

I must quote Harris in detail for full affect.

“Most of its members were enthusiastically for the war and anxious to participate in it as far as they could without violating their principle of dissent from the government.” (p. 58) This despite the fact that Lincoln himself constantly said the war was not about slavery. We now know Lincoln was a pathological liar; the covenanters must have known this in their bones as well, and gave vent to their approval of the “real reason,” concealed by Lincoln. At any rate, it is hard to imagine them getting so excited about a war that was about enforced union. In view of their history, that would be ironic indeed.

However, they exhibited a certain naiveté in two ways which may go part way to explain the madness. At one point, they concocted an oath to propose to the US as a basis for enlisting in the army, an oath that would be consistent with continued resistance to full submission. “I do swear by the living God, that I will be faithful to the United States, and will aid and defend them against the armies of the Confederate States, yielding all due obedience to military orders.” (p. 58) The charming bit here is the notion of defending against the armies of the CSA — armies which were purely defensive, and which would have been glad to disperse and go home, if it weren’t for the invading and marauding union armies. Somehow, they had built up a mythic view of an aggressive South, gobbling up adjacent lands by force of arms.

Covenanting on the Ground

This is open for discussion.  How exactly is National Covenanting going to work today?  Surely it means more than strong-arming congress in rejecting the First Amendment.

Note Bene:  Harris’s quotations are from David M. Carson. Transplanted to America: A Popular History of the American Covenanters to 1871. (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, n/d).

Notes on Hegel

Taylor frames his book in order of several of Hegel’s main works. He does an excellent job outlining difficult terminology and highlighting key points which will serve as hermeneutical loci later.

Front Cover

Self-Positing Spirit

This introduces Hegel’s “identity of difference and identity.” Starting slowly, following Taylor, here is what I think he means. Hegel is trying to overcome the Kantian duality. Hegel wants to overcome this with his notion of “overcoming oppositions.” Therefore, identity cannot sustain itself on its own, but posits an opposition, but also a particularly intimate one (80). In short, Hegel married modern expression with Aristotle’s self-realizing form (81).

Following this was Hegel’s other point: the subject, and all his functions, however spiritual, were necessarily embodied (82-83).

The Contradiction Arises

Contrary to mindless right-wing bloggers, Hegel did not form the “dialectic” in the following way: we posit a thesis (traditional community), then we negate it (cultural marxism), which allows for the “synthesis” (our pre-planned solution all along). Here is what Hegel actually meant: there is reality, but the very structure of reality already contains a contradiction. The subject then must overcome that contradiction.

Taylor notes, “In order to be at all as a conscious being, the subject must be embodied in life; but in order to realize the perfection of consciousness it must fight and overcome the natural bent of life as a limit. The conditions of its existence are in conflict with the demands of its perfection (86).

Taylor has much more to say but that will suffice for now. Of course, I radically disagree with Hegel’s conclusions. That does not mean Hegel is value-less. On the contrary, one can see key Augustinian and Origenist points in his outlook.

Taylor seems to structure his discussion of Hegel along the following lines: Phenomenology of Geist is a sort of preparatory stage for the Logic. At the end of the last discussion, Hegel said that Spirit (Geist) comes to know himself, and that finite spirits are the vehicles of this self-knowledge. This is partly why Hegel says that Geist must be embodied.

We start off with an inadequate notion of the standard involved; but we also have some basicaly correct notions of what the standard must meet. However, we see the inadequacy of both when we try to realize it. Obviously, Hegel is simply following Plato on this point.

What if we are just arbitrarily positing some standard of knowledge? No big deal, for upon reflection we will find out that said standard is likely faulty and we will have to “re-think it.” When we re-think it we get closer to the truth. Thus, “the test of knowledge is also its standard” (136).

Hegel ends this discussion with the suggestion that consciousness inevitably posits self-conscious, which will be taken up in the next chapter.

I’m skipping the section on “self-consciousness” because I really didn’t understand it.

One thing I do appreciate about Hegel is that his worldview really is unified. His discussions on “ontology” (the study of essence) are directly connected to his politics and views on religion (and to show how “real-life” this really is: when Karl Marx read Hegel he kept a few elements but mainly despised the man and his system. He negated Hegel–pun intended. Following his negation, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao took this negation of Hegel and murdered 200 million people. Philosophy really does matter).

In the Formation of Spirit Taylor notes that Hegel idealized the ancient Greek polis: he saw a complete unity between citizen and society (171). Unfortunately (or inevitably) this had to break down. Spirit cannot become universal if it is confined to the walls of one particular city. This is an important, if somewhat abstract point. I will develop it further in my final reflections on Hegel.

Taylor remarks, somewhat side-tracking the discussion, that sin is necessary for salvation in Hegel’s view (174). Of course, as a Christian this is completely unacceptable, but it also shows my appreciation for Hegel. Hegel can be seen as the consistent high-point of a certain strand of Western thought. We saw the same type of thinking in Origen (for God to be Lord, there must be something for him to be Lord “over”).
Essentially, what Hegel is saying is that men feel a basic attitude of alienation–their substance lies outside them and they can only overcome it by overcoming their particularity (donum superadditum? 179). Unfortunately, that is what Hegel calls a “contradiction.”

This part of Hegel’s Phenomenology is dealing heavily with social life, which I will cover in greater detail in the chapters on politics.

This next section of the book, and presumably the logical outflowing of Hegel’s thought, deals with “manifest religion.” I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, partly because it is the most atrocious aspect of Hegel’s thought, and partly because I want to get to the politics. However, Hegel is nothing if not consistent, and it is important to see how one section implies the next (which is exactly how his later Logic is set up). And as always, even when wrong Hegel has some excellent insights on the human dynamic.

Building on Hegel’s premise that God/Geist/Spirit, which is the ultimate reality, must be embodied in history, it follows that one must ask in what manner is it embodied? One of the most fundamental modes, Hegel posits, is in religion (197). Briefly stated, Hegel sees each epoch in human history as manifesting religion, but always in a contradictory way. The Greeks were able to apprehend “the universal,” but they could only do so in a finite and limited way (and thus the infinite/finite contradiction). This contradiction is not a bad thing, though, for it opened up the possibility of the Christian religion (with a detour through the Hebrews). Hegel sees the ultimate religious expression in the Incarnation.

What do we make of this?

Like anything Hegel says, much of the surface-level language is quite good, but once you get beyond that you see the truly bizarre theology. Hegel has a strong emphasis on community and will say that is where the true Christian expression is found. From our perspective, this sounds a lot like saying Christ is found in the church, and that is true. Unfortunately, Hegel was not using that in the same way we are.

At this point in the narrative we are beginning the discussion of Hegel’s two-volume Logic. While this is the hardest of his works to understand (and I certainly don’t understand them beyond a fourth-grade level), it will be easy to discuss them. His main points are clear and tied together.

A Dialectic of Categories

When one is studying reality, Hegel says, one can start anywhere in the system, for each facet is ultimately tied together (226). If we start with “Being” then our method will proceed dialectically. What he means by that is the very structure of reality has a contradiction, and in overcoming that contradiction Being moves forth to something else. Throughout the whole of this discussion, Hegel is starting from Kant and reworking the system along problems he sees in Kant.

To avoid confusion, and to silence the right-wing conspiracy bloggers, Hegel’s idea of contradiction is this: he has a two-pronged argument, the first showing that a given category is indispensable, the second showing that it leads to a characterization of reality which is somehow impossible or incoherent (228).

In developing the above contradiction, Hegel assumes the Plotinian dialectic: a Something can only be defined by referent to another with which it is contrasted (236).

Hegel says a lot more on these topics, but I will not. Throughout Taylor’s analysis he reveals interstesting facets of Hegel’s thought, showing him to be a true heir of Augustine and Plotinus. We’ll discuss these topics later. The next discussion, Lord willing, will focus on the Essence.

Politics

Most right-wing bloggers think that Hegel’s view is the Illuminati finding its ultimate expression in world-government. Actually, what Hegel means is that communities become vehicles of the “Spirit.” This can (and has) been taken in numerous ways. I see it as communities organically expressing a common spirit, common values (see Augustine, City of God Book 19.4).

Hegel is trying to overcome the dilemma that social life poses: per man’s subjective life the important thing is freedom of spirit. However, man also lives in community and the norms of the community often bind his freedom of spirit (it is to Hegel’s credit that he recognized this problem generations before Nietszche and the existentialists).

Hegel suggests the form man must attain is a social form (366). It is important to note that what Hegel means by “state” is much different than what Anglo-Americans mean by it. Hegel means the “politically organized community” (387). Let’s explore these few sentences for a moment. Throughout his philosophy Hegel warns against “abstractions,” by which he means taking an entity outside its network of relations. With regard to politics, if abstraction is bad then it necessarily follows that man’s telos is in a community. Man comes into the world already in a network of relations.

Reason and History

Given Hegel’s commitment about the fulfillment of spirit, it follows that communities grow. As seen above, Hegel’s applies to history the problem of self-fulfillment. How does man realize the fulfillment of the Idea?

Jews: realization that God is pure, subjective Spirit. Ends up negating finite reality.

Greek: opposite of Jewish mentality. Harmonizes God with “natural expression.” Ends up with idolatry. Greek polis is pariochial. Each state his its own God. A universal realization of spirit is thus impossible. Men were identified with Greek state. Democracy natural expression. There is a necessary contradiction within the Greek polis: only represents a part of finite reality.

Romans: Origin of the idea as “Person,” bearer of “abstract right” (397).

Christianity: the finite subject and absolute spirit can be reconciled. The task of history is to make this reconciliation public–this is the Church.

Germans: they were to take it to the next stage.

The rest of European history is a working out these processes, a transformation of institutions. It is hear that we see feudalism, etc. At this point we need to correct a mistake about Hegel: Hegel is not saying that world history climaxes with Prussian Germany. There is no sensible way he could have believed that. Germany was weak and defeated when he wrote (it would have been interesting and perhaps more perceptive to say that Russia was the bearer of the World Spirit). Nonetheless, as Hegel notes and as his critics routinely miss, history did take an interesting turn in the 19th century and the force of ideas does not simply stop because the historian wants them to stop.

The Foundations of the Modern State

Monarchy as the Representative Individual: consistent with his earlier points, Hegel notes that there must be some way for the individual to retain his subjective right, yet at the same time freely and fully identify with the community (Staat). This happens by way of monarchy. Beneath the monarchy are Estates, who mediate the King to the people. Nowhere does Hegel mean representation according to our usage today. The King does not “represent” the will of the people, but through his kingly majesty allows the people to identify (399).

The French Revolution: Political Terror

Hegel defines it as “absolute, unlimited freedom.” Complete freedom means that outcome should be decided by me. Of course, since I am in society it is not decided by me alone. Therefore, complete freedom is decided by the strongest individual.

Charles Taylor is embarrassed by Hegel’s rejection of the principles of the French Revolution. I think the reason is that if Hegel is right and one should view the Modern Narrative as a continuation of the French Revolution, then the only moral alternative is to reject said narrative. He notes (if not likes) Hegel’s challenge to modernity: the modern ideology of equality and of total participation leads to a homogenization of society. This shakes men loose from their traditional communities but cannot replace them as a focus of identity” (414).

Translation: all natural societies organically flow from a unified belief system/ethnos (cf. Augustine, City of God, 19.4). Modernity is the negation of this. Without this unified system of belief, men cannot “connect” to one another. Thus, no real community. Thus, no real unity and society is held together by force (ala Hegel on Rome) and terror (ala Hegel on France).

Modernity is nominalism of politics.

Hegel’s conclusion, which Taylor rejects, is a rationalized monarchy. Hegel was a monarchist but he was not a traditionalist, and for that reason he was not a conservative. He agreed with the older conservatives that society must be founded on authority, estates, and a strong monarch; Hegel, however, based these spheres, not on divine right or tradition, but on reason. In this sense Hegel stands firmly in the Enlightenment.

According to Hegel France is utterly lost in terms of a political future. England is better, but she is not far behind in spiritual rot, for England (like America today) is run riot with an excess on particular rights. And in this chaos of individualism, special interest groups backed by powerful elites have taken control (like America today).

Taylor notes that for Hegel,

“The only force which could cure this would be a strong monarchy like those late medieval kings which forced through the barons the rights of the universal. But the English have crucially weakened their monarchy; it is powerless before Parliament which is the cockpit of private interests (454).

I first found this line of reasoning from Fr. Raphael Johnson’s take on Russian history. I guess Johnson got it from Hegel himself since he wrote his Master’s thesis on Hegel.

Taylor continues to the conclusion,

Hence the vehicle by which rational constitution could best be introduced and made real was a powerful modernizing monarchy…Hegel had hopes for the future based on the climate of his times. Germany had been shocked into reform by the Napoleonic conquest. It consisted of societies founded on law in which principles of rational Enlightenment had already gone some way and seemed bound to go further. It had a Protestant political culture and hence could achieve a rational constitution unlike the benighted peoples of Latin Europe, and it was not too far gone in rot like England. It held to the monarchical principle and the monarchs retained some real power unlike England, and yet the societies were law societies (454-455).

This paragraph warrants some reflection:

  • Although I am a traditionalist, and Hegel is not, I agree that a modernizing monarchy is much preferred than unreflected claims to “Throne and Altar.” Many monarchists today naively think that “restoring a king” will return the land to justice. Ironically, this tends to lead to the same problems that Republican government leads: you have the vision of a few determining the fate of the whole. Rather, a strong monarch who enforces Republican structures in the land, arising from the will of the ethnos (shades of Johann Herder), existing primarily to reign in the excesses of the free market, is one who is both authoritarian yet the people are still free.
  • while we are at it, I actually encourage one to read the thoughtful positions by N. T. Wright and Oliver O’Donovan on monarchy. However, most Protestant political forces have been confessedly thoroughly anti-monarchist, and it is no surprise there are few Protestant Monarchies left. Happily, though, there are examples of good, Protestant monarchies.

Conclusion

In many ways Taylor’s book is essential. One has to know how Hegel is using terminology and Taylor is a reliable guide in that regard. Taylor cannot square himself with Hegel’s politics, though, since Hegel is a rejection (negation?) of modernity.

Beer Journal: Southern Tier’s Choklat

This may be the most perfect beer I’ve ever had.

Why do most people drink? To enjoy quality and to feel good and relaxed.  What is the number one problem with drinking:  the loss of rationality which leads to hangovers and destructive decisions.   Here is why this beer is great:   with its 10% alcohol content, it gives the “relaxed feeling” but it doesn’t have the hangover effect.  I doubt you will drink more than one because it is expensive and filling.   You literally get the best of both worlds.

It has a stout beginning and a chocolatey finish.   Most stores will sell around $5 a pint.   It’s somewhat pricey, but it is perfect for the “once in a while” special.  While it won’t give you a hangover, I would not drink it and drive or operate farm tools.

Covenant and Economics

I was bored yesterday so I went to Lew Rockwell and perused some old Gary North articles (but only for the rhetorical verve).   I found this interesting gem that dovetailed nicely with John’s comments on Scottish Economic development.

North sees those countries who took the Old Testament seriously, especially its regard to Covenant and Community, and noted, other things being equal, that they became economic powerhouses. We can hazard a few guesses as to why:

  • Since God’s law came from God, to whatever degree it still applies today, its moral principles when applied to daily live have positive benefits (common sense realism even, since God’s world is reliable).
  • The covenant is future-oriented.  Interestingly, sound economic principles are also future-oriented.
  • Dominion economics:  North notes how the Dutch, a tiny country with few defenses and surrounded by powers, became a strong power: they simply worked hard and believed God would triumph in their labors.  The same with the Scots.

It’s further interesting that all these groups (maybe excepting the Armenians.  I did study up on Armenian Orthodoxy a few years ago, but the materials were too scanty to make it a worthwhile endeavor) engaged in frugality, innovation, and profit-and-loss.

What could they have done?

In reading my following arguments, someone will likely conclude, “But you are defending the Confederacy” or “You are defending slavery” or “You are wacisth.”  However, I advance the opposite conclusion: any black racial commentator, while not agreeing with some of my conclusions, will agree with the presuppositions behind those conclusions.  Further, with the black activist I agree that many of the neo-conservative counter-arguments on the race war are either lame or hypocritical.

(Further, I need to say one more time so no one draws the wrong conclusion:  I reject the Confederacy as a political unit, leaving other questions about society and culture aside.  Even more: while I think abolitionist exegesis is bad, I don’t think slavery is a long-term good for society, so I am certainly not advocating that).

Further, and in full agreeance with the black commentator, Southern appeals to “states rights” as opposed to slavery’s being the cause of the War are either misleading or frankly wrong.  True, the most notable white supremacist of the 19th century denied he was fighting to free slaves.

Further, I am not saying that the Confederacy was right en toto. I certainly do not agree with the Davis Administration on its key points. The conservatives who say, “It wasn’t about slavery, but states’ rights” miss the point:  precisely what were the states seeking to preserve? The conservative would answer, “Their rights.”  Very true, but what was the most notorious of those rights? The formal cause of the war was states’ rights–I agree.  The material cause was slavery. There is no getting around that.  (Of course, there are other causes, too, like economics).

Granting that man-stealing is wrong (and so the Yankee capitalists who engaged in it should have been put to death), we need to ask if the current unionized model of labor is really superior to biblical slavery.   Of course, I am not saying the South did it correctly all the time.

Trick question:  how many slaves came to America on ships carrying the Confederate Flag?  What about the Union Flag?

“Okay,” the American Communist might say, “we admit that the Yankee merchants who kidnapped the Africans should have been executed because of God’s law, but the South was wrong to buy stolen property.”

To which I say, “Maybe.  But what exactly would have been the best thing to do for the African?”  Few people have seriously thought about this question.   Set them free?   It sounds noble and Oprah-ish, but think about it.  Today, if you go to the ‘hood’ or to an Obama gathering and you ask them why blacks are so poor today, the response will not be “Crime” or “rap music” or “welfare system,” but it will be “Da Man is keepin’ me down.”   Both liberal and conservative whites get angry at that response, and I used to, but think about it for a moment: the interlocutor touched on something important: if you place someone in an advanced society who does not have the resources, culture, values, or skills to participate in that society, what will happen to him?  He will fall behind ad infinitum.

The southern gentleman knew this.  He knew that simply saying, “Thou art loosed” to the slave would be the worst thing for him. The slave would not have the resources to continue in society. He would immediately be thrown to the gutter without any recourse to labor or wealth.

So what should have happened instead?  I don’t know.  Just pointing it out.  Sometimes the solution is worse than the ailment.  In fact, any government solution is necessarily worse.

What should have happened?  As I’ve mentioned before on dominion, if the slave was regenerate, the master should have placed him in progressing degrees of responsibility so that he could practice being a priest-king of the new creation.  If we want to fault the Southerner, this could be a valid criticism. Further, I don’t think the South was as fully Reformed as some want to make it.  Some states like Maryland, elements of the Carolinas, Florida and Louisiana were Catholic and probably resisted any kind of biblical reformation.  So while my idea is noble and fundamentally correct, I entertain no delusions of its actually working.

But back to the original objection: the southern slave owner should have not bought the property and/or returned it because it is “stolen goods.”  Again, the nature of the case precludes a solid answer.  On one hand if I have stolen goods in today’s society, I’ll probably get in trouble, so I can understand the objection on that ground.  However, does that mean that William the Conqueror’s (my ancestor, actually.  Pretty cool, huh?) invasion of England was wrong?  Probably, but reasoning by extension that does not mean the entirety of English history is necessarily illegitimate.  As Dabney points out,

“The Norman Conquest resulted in a complete transfer of almost all the land in England to the hands of new proprietors; and nearly all the land titles of England, at the present day, are the legal progeny of that iniquitous robbery, which transferred the territory of the kingdom from the Saxon to the Norman barons. If lapse of time, and change of hands, cannot make a bad title good, then few of the present landlords of England have any right to their estates.”

Defense of Virginia, 299.

With a brutal inference Dabney concludes, “If the Virginian slaveholder derived from the New England or British slave-trader, no valid title to the African, then the trader had no valid title to the planter’s money” (301).  I am going to carry Dabney’s analysis one step further: future possessors of that money from the exchange are necessarily sinning by using the money. I disagree with the idea of reparations for former slaves, but if you grant the abolitionist’s point that buying previously stolen slaves is sinful, then you must logically carry the thought to the money from the exchange. While I think Je$$e Jack$on is a racist clown, if the above objection stands, then the conservative who votes Republican and watches Fox News really has no way to answer him.

Far from being the racist curmudgeon people make him out to be, Dabney observes,

“The title by which the original slave catchers held them may have been iniquitous. But these slave catchers were not citizens of the Southern colonies; these slaves were not brought to our shores by our ships. They were presented by the inhuman captors, dragged in chains from the filthy holds of the slave ships; and the alternative before the planter was, either to purchase them from him who possibly had no right to sell them, or re-consign them to fetters, disease, and death. (302).”

Sometimes noble ideology is the cruelest of schemes.  And this one quote by Dabney shows how utterly despicable liberalism is.  Lincoln wanted to send them back to Africa.  Aside from the sheer impossibility of it, it would have been a two-fold death sentence.  If the return voyage didn’t kill the slave, Africa would have.

Towards a Critique of Dabney

This does not mean I agree with Dabney in all aspects.  He defends the lawfulness of fugitive slave law:

“”But when we have proved that the relation of master and slave is no intrinsically unrighteous, and have shown that the fugitive slave law carries this out,” then we should obey it (Discussions III: 66).

The first half of Dabney’s argument is logically sound: any discussion of slavery as right or wrong must first answer the question of the relation between master and slave, and this has not been done.

I do not agree with his conclusion, though.  Deuteronomy 23:15 provides a method of freeing the slave, lawfulness of the purchase notwithstanding.

Further, Dabney’s attitude towards blacks after the War is hard to justify.   Sean Michael Lucas made much of Dabney’s refusal to grant black’s full status in Presbytery.  And Dabney was wrong.  However, I suggest Dabney should have handled it this way. He should have simply kept his mouth shut and nothing would have changed.  Freed slaves weren’t about to become ruling presbyters any time soon.

I’ll prove it by way of illustration.  While I do not endorse his theology, the sexually depraved theologian Paul Tillich pointed out that something like Erastianism always happens.  He is not advocating that the state rule the church, but notes that the “civic elite” usually find roles of leadership within the church.  This is official in countries like England and Germany. But in Presbyterian towns the most educated and affluent usually sit on college and seminary boards, if not rule in the church.  There is nothing wrong with that.  They are probably affluent because they are good stewards.  They deserve leadership roles.  Except at RTS Jackson.

Which brings me back to my point: the wealthy, civic elite likely had no intention of giving freed slaves anything more than a nominal role.  Thus, Dabney’s fear of an uneducated, unprepared populace leading the church would never have happened anyway.