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.

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

 

 

Reflections on Scottish Independence

Given my Scottish background and heritage, perhaps it’s surprising that I’ve stayed quiet on the upcoming Scottish vote.  Obviously, I don’t live there and should be somewhat reticent about offering advice that won’t be taken.

Still, the referendum does provide for critical reflection which can shine light upon our own situation in America.  Tentatively, for what little it’s worth, I think it would be neat to see it happen, but with that said:

Nothing changes on the national level

Very few Christians are able to make an intelligent distinction between “nationalism” and “jingoism.”  Nationalism is simply Genesis 10 and Acts 17.  In some’s desire to attack Kinism, they end up espousing Marxist views on race and border.  I’m not a Kinist (whatever that word means), but in rejecting Kinism please don’t reject Genesis 10.  I used to perform an experiment on critics of Kinism:  I used to quote Acts 17:26 without stating the verse and watch reactions.

In a debate with an Orthodox apologist he explicitly told me too bad for Paul, this is what it means today.  Such a view was pure Marxism, of course (especially ironic for an Orthodox guy), but at least he was consistent.

The Scottish nation has existed for over 1,000 years and even though today it is Leftist and a shadow of its former glory, it’s still a nation.  The Scottish State and Government apparatus is an entirely different matter, and the referendum will affect that.

So even if “Better Together” wins, the Scottish nation will still be the Scottish Nation.

Will they be poor?

Probably.  I don’t see their keeping the pound and it is no guarantee they will be in the Eurozone (and stay out of that Harlot of Revelation 17).  If they can make money off of their oil reserves that might help.

On the other hand, Europe is socialistic.  It’s not like Socialists have any ability to keep long-term wealth apart from the threat of sanctions and the barrell of a gun.  So for Socialists to tell Scotland they will be poor if they don’t’ stay is somewhat hypocritical.

Will they be threatened nuclearly (or newkular, to quote Bush)?

This is among the better objections.  However, Scotland has somewhat natural borders.  If Hitler couldn’t take England at the height of his power in wartime, Scotland probably won’t be invaded by anybody anytime soon.  And if they are out of NATO, that simply means they won’t have to die in Bankers’s Wars.

Look at their geography.  They are literally at the far North end of the world on an island.   Even in a technological age it would be difficult.

But will they be holy?

This is what matters the most.   The Church of Scotland is borderline apostate.  At least the Roman church isn’t that large. I know an independent Scotland and popery often go together, but today’s Pope opposes independence.

 

 

The Anyabwile/Wilson debate

My take is different.  I am not here to defend the “Confederacy” or State’s Rights.  I am largely indifferent to the political minutiae of such issues.  My concern is that well-meaning Christians, rightly recoiling from concrete instances of racism, go beyond Scripture and proclaim as sin what Scripture does not call sin. This is the essence of Legalism.

I am not defending slavery. I am defending the Bible.  If the bible doesn’t call “slavery” a sin, then I can’t.  If the Bible doesn’t call for the Jubilee laws to be enacted on all Christians (whether or not that is a good idea) then we can’t say someone who doesn’t call for that is sinning.

Further, unless conservatives own up to the fact that the Bible sanctioned slavery as a regulation of ills in society, whether related to sin or just bad luck, they will lose every debate with humanists.

It’s difficult to follow this debate.  Neither debater does a good job collecting all of the posts for and against.  More often than not Anyabwile is not attacking biblical arguments but pointing out to Wilson that he is “insensitive.”  And?  After a while it gets hard to find yet new ways to “reconcile” or apologize for the infinite strands of racism.   Even worse, insensitivity isn’t  a biblical category.

Anyabwile begins with a list of agreements that most could agree on.  I do want to call attention to his “Jubilee” logic.  I agree that the Gospel liberates, but appealing to the Levitical Jubilee is problematic: 1) It’s in Leviticus so it isn’t immediately clear how it applies today (remember why Bahnsen got persecuted?) and 2) Jesus and the disciples did not make the connection between Jubilee logic and freeing slaves, whether or not such an inference is warranted.

Anyabwile rebuts Wilson for privileging constitutional arguments over GOd’s word.  If that is what Wilson truly were doing, then he’s wrong.  I don’t think that is the case, though.

Anyabwile writes,

Only an immediate end to slavery would have been consistent with the “jubilee logic” of the gospel and repentant of the “grievous sin” of racism upon which the practice was based.

I don’t want to sound cold or hard, but this isn’t true.  It flies in the face of Leviticus 25 (and if the Jubilee applies today, then so does chapter 25). And it is a matter of common sense that a person, white or black, who is culturally, educationally, and spiritually not as advanced cannot seriously participate in the advanced culture of a civilization.  Go to the ghetto today and tell me I am wrong.

Regarding #2: Speculation is vain.  We have no idea how slavery would have continued or ended if the South had won.  We do know that the Confederate elite:  Jackson, Lee, A.H. Stevens, and others rejected slavery and sought for better means of ending it.   Further, Wilson completely refutes Anyabwile’s logic:

For an American soldier to go the Middle East today and fight for “democracy” is also to fight against nations that don’t allow abortion-on-demand, and it is to fight for a nation that does. To help America is therefore to help abortion.

That is the most devastating rebuttal I have seen in the past few years.

Further, Wilson points out something painfully obvious:  Our obedience before God will be reckoned in how we dealt with the sins of our own era, not the sins of another. My central interest in all these historical issues has to do with how the legal principles that were laid down then are being understood and applied today.

Regarding #3 Anyabwile effectively concedes the debate to Wilson, only noting that we need to be gentle about “angular texts,” whatever that means.

Regarding #4:  I agree that the Constitution is a weak document and appeals to it are pathetically naive.

Elsewhere, Anyabwile tries to give concrete definitions on “racism” and “sensitivity.”  This is good, as many are notoriously vague on this point. He defines it as,

I would suggest it’s a certain inability or unwillingness to sense and lovingly consider the concerns, feelings, and perspectives of others across racial lines

Fair enough.   We should all be aware of common courtesy.  I’m just not clear on the biblical directive that I should use this as the filter for all truth and discussion.  Further, anybody to the left of Hillary Clinton is a racist by these standards.

He goes on to say,

So, who gets to decide? I don’t know if they get the final word, but the person so hurt should at least have the first word

 

Looks good on paper, but this can go back and forth.  Given the ubiquitous dominance of rap music, particularly its lyrics about women–white and black–does this count as a “hurt party?” (Just consult any Dr Dre song about white women getting raped and killed).  Anyabwile then gets to the heart of Wilson’s book, which I will address in another post.

 

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.