Progress and Realism

Technology is a Christian concept.  Pagans (the sons of Cain) can have technological advances, but it’s not clear why.  When magic pervades all there is no point behind cause-and-effect.  Stuff happens in Homer for no rhyme or reason.

Mature Christian man does not need magic or to see nature “re-enchanted.”  Anchorites accuse Calvinism of gnosticism because we don’t “sanctify” and bless different objects.   The opposite is true.  The Reformed Protestant asks what is so wrong with nature that it needs to be “graced.”  If nature–even pre-fall nature!–is seen in such a way that it needs “a little sumpin’-sumpin’” in order for it to be “good,” then the Anchorite is the real gnostic.

Syncretizing the goddess

This is from a conversation I had with a gentleman who was reading Maximus’ book on Mary (and much of Maximus’s book was drawn from the gospel of James).

Now our NATURE HAS BEEN RAISED to Heaven by the ascension and translation of the holy VIRGIN, as before by the Ascension of her son. SHE has become MORE exalted than the thrones, cherubim, and seraphim, 15 for truly SHE has become far more exalted and glorious than all the other bodiless and immaterial creatures, the blessed mother of our savior Christ God, clothed in royal splendor, praised and venerated by the powers and dominions and every name that has been named, not only those in this world but those in the one to come, which are invisible and unknown to us. I have said what is more brilliant and useful for us 16 than all the rest. Now a SECOND MEDIATOR has gone forth to the first 17 mediator, a devout human being to the incarnate God, a SECOND OFFERING of our nature TO THE FATHER after the first one who was himself sacrificed one time on behalf of all, and SHE is ever living to intercede on behalf of those who approach God through her.”

I am not going to critique this so much, as to draw out some contrasts and raise some observations:

  1. Substitute “Gaeia” or “Sophia” for Mary and this isn’t any different from gnosticism or paganism.
  2. For argument’s sake I can grant a distinction between heavenly intercession and mediation (I don’t actually believe in any such distinction).   This has always allowed Eastern Orthodox to deny, in contrast from Roman Catholicism, that Mary mediates our salvation.  The Maximus quote, however, completely voids that denial.
  3. How do we reconcile the mediation language in Hebrews 7-10 with the Marian use of another mediation and another offering (of our nature?  Christ’s nature?)?
  4. I’ve long suspected that Bulgakov better interpreted Maximus than his critics.  I think this proves it.

Rise of the Fourth Reich

One should retitle this book “A popular version of some of Joseph Farrell’s conclusions without the rigor and discipline of Joseph Farrell’s scholarship.”   Jim Marrs’ thesis is sound and not new:  an elite group has controlled Western politics and economics for the past 100 years.   This group is connected to or synonymous with the Anglo-American banking establishment.   Their modus operandi consists in playing different political and national factions against one another.
(note:  These are not all my thoughts on this book.  There are a lot of other musings about Marrs I have, but I won’t say them here because I am tired and the book isn’t that good and you should read Joseph Farrell instead.)
Strengths of the Book

http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fourth-Reich-ebook/dp/B0018QUCWQ/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2
Marrs has a very good section on the rise of Hitler and what happened behind the scenes in WWII.  Marrs relies heavily on Joseph Farrell’s research, and this part of the book is strong because of that (the second half is notoriously weak).  Marrs makes the interesting suggestion that the Nazis actually detonated an atomic bomb in Russia (and he gives the reasons why the Allies and Stalin would have covered this up.  I agree with him ).  Marrs highlights the various banking clans that funded and aided the Nazis both before the war and after the war.  Marrs has an intriguing chapter on Otto Scorzeny and the lost Cathar treasure.
Criticisms of the Book

Did Marrs’ thesis shift?   (I am open to correction on this one.)  Marrs’ main thesis is that the Nazi elite weren’t eradicated in WWII and/or Nuremberg, but rather made it to South America via the Vatican “ratline” (and Marrs is to be commended for pointing that out).  Further, he points out that these same elites eventually influenced American society and policy, and I suppose there is some truth in that.   On the other hand, it seemed that his earlier thesis is that an international cabal in London/New York financed first Lenin, and then when the Russians got too dangerous, financed Hitler to fight the Commies off.   Fair enough; I buy that.   What I don’t get is the connection between the international elite who created Hitler and the international elite’s relationship to present-day America.   Hitler’s crew is bad, to be sure, but it seems the more nefarious power is the group that made Hitler possible.  Marrs seems to forget about that.
The scholarship and research methods are about as bad as one can get.  Note:  I am not contesting the majority of Marrs’ facts.   I think for the most part he is correct on what he reports.  The problem is he does not cite his sources!  At all.   Yes, he does have a “sources” page at the back, including page numbers of books, but I don’t know to which arguments in what chapter he is referring.   True, I could double-check and make some intuitions, but the burden should not be on the reader for that.  That’s just simple clicking “insert endnote” in MS Word.    This is a half-assed junior high bibliography.  Even the joke of a research method known as APA is more respectable than this.
His New Age Conspiracies Get the Best of him.

While I am intrigued by the possibility that the Cathar’ treasure was taken from the Temple of Solomon, and that this treasure represented in some way an advanced form of “paleo-physics” (again, I am fairly open-minded here), Marrs did not elaborate on what was probably the most interesting point of his book.   Had he used real scholarship and evaluated the sources in a detailed, logical fashion, he could have shed much light on a fairly unresearched topic.  Instead, he mentioned it in passing and the book he “referenced” in the back was one of the New Age Gnostic pamphlets on Jesus being one of the dragon children ala David Icke!     I officially stopped taking Marrs seriously at this point.
He offers no real plan of action.  Towards the end of the book Marrs (rightly) points out that all political candidates are funded by the same people and eventually advance some form of the same cause.    There is really no way to stop them.  He makes vague appeals to the Constitution and has an interesting idea to “vote with your shopping cart” (buy local), but no detailed plan of action on how to stop the Fourth Reich.   To be fair, I won’t fault him too much on this point because given the structure of today’s republican government, there is no way to stop the moneyed elite.  America is down for the count (though resurrections are certainly possible).
The Second half of the book doesn’t say anything new.  I enjoyed the first part of the book.   The second part, unfortunately, felt like a collation of all the various rightwing and leftwing blogs attacking the government.   I agreed with most of the points, but it did not tell me anything new.
Marrs’ Logical Fallacies.  Marrs seemed to make the argument:  The Nazis did x.  George W. Bush’s administration does x.  Ergo, Bush is a Nazi.  He may well be a Nazi, and his grandfather certainly funded the Nazi party, but the above argument is an example of the fallacy “correlation equals causation.”
Misses other possible conclusions.  On one hand, it is not fair to criticize an author for not saying one’s own personal conclusion or hobby-horse, so this really is not a fault of Marrs’.  It is fairly obvious that Jews own most of the media, the lobbies, and the banks.   (Btw, that is not anti-semitic.  That is simply looking at the last names of the CEOs!).     Since that is the case, how does that square with Marrs’ claim (which I also believe to be correct) that the Nazis also control much of the media and banks?   Both claims are fairly true, but most people don’t accuse Nazis and Jews of being on the same side!
Conclusion

Don’t get the book.   Marrs has several radio interviews where he explains this in better detail (and the radio interviews are worth downloading.  Marrs is a gifted and enjoyable speaker.  He has a unique way of connecting to his audience).  If one wants to pursue further research in this area, read Joseph Farrell’s The Nazi International, Daniel Estulin’s The Story of the Bilderbergers, and Farrell’s Babylon’s Banksters.   Farrell is a gifted writer and employs easily-followable footnotes and is an actual scholar.  Estulin has a more focused look on the Bilderbergers and doesn’t get distracted from his thesis.

 

Review of New Interpreter’s Study Bible (and a critique of postliberal theology)

One of my hobbies in college (when I was still a baptist and the most important crisis of the day was making sure the moderates didn’t gain control of the seminaries) was  surveying various study bibles (often those of liberal persuasion) and examining their ideological presuppositions.  The classic example was the Oxford Study Bible (Revised Standard Version).  I looked at evangelical study bibles, too, but the liberal ones were always more revealing.

Back in the day the reigning paradigm of unbelief was the old-school bowel movement of German higher-criticism reflected in American universities.  They reasoned that the supernatural of the Bible was obviously false because 19th century Protestant scholarship had clearly shown it to be so (note the Hegelian presupposition here:  we in our moment of history have reached the apex of intellectual history and [only] we get to be the arbiter of what is true or false).  Thus, if you looked at the study notes of any particular passage, you would see some learned professor explaining it away on naturalistic grounds.   (Whole dissertations have since been written on William Barclay’s unbelieving presuppositions that made his scholarship possible).  The study bible soon became boring.  One could almost anticipate the next note of unbelief.

Liberalism, though, soon underwent a strange mutation at Yale University.  Some liberals suddenly realized that they were as myopic as the fundamentalists they had attacked.   The fundamentalist has a blind faith in the truth of the text.   Oddly enough, the liberal realized that he had a blind faith in the falsity of the text.   Other liberals realized that both fundamentalists and liberals approached the text in the same way—it was simply a document to be analyzed and whose meaning was ALWAYS determined outside the liturgical life of the Church.   What was to be done?

Liberals soon proclaimed themselves “post-liberals.”   They realized (quite correctly) that narrative was a fundamental component, not only of Scripture, but also of reality in general.     Emphasis soon went to the narrative of Scripture in its received canonical form,[i] and not to the various (and often admittedly unknowable) strata of oral Hebrew traditions.  And with the use of narrative as a philosophical tool, post-liberals (who still remained leftist and “progressive” in their social morality[ii]) realized a fatal weakness in their forebears:  if Scripture is really fake after all, and the supernatural doesn’t happen, how can we call upon a God to take away the wealth of social structures of the middle class conservative American voter?  Only a God who really acted in history could confiscate and redistribtute wealth!

Okay, on to the actual contents of this study bible itself.  Like any study bible, the notes are often “hit or miss,” and this isn’t a fault of the editors themselves.  There are different writers for each book who have various levels of intelligence and competency.  Therefore, it is hard to make generalizations about the study bible.   On the other hand, with a few exceptions, a number of observations are possible:

  • The authors of this study bible are committed to the thesis that the Jewish editorial readers at The New York Times must be appeased at all costs.  Anytime there is a reference in the New Testament to the sins of the Jewish people (e.g., Christ calls them children of the devil; St Paul says wrath will come on them to the uttermost, etc), the editors explain it away with the line that anti-semitism must be condemned at all costs (except when perpetrated against Arab Christians).
    Further, when speaking of the glorious prophecies for the Christian church the author is quick (see notes on Jeremiah 33ff) to point out this doesn’t apply to Christians but to Jews today.   This is an example of letting post-Holocaust guilt determine exegesis.  In other words, for the authors desire to reject modernism, they embrace fully its tenets.
  • The authors generally have a negative image of “the male.”  Like all feminists they see in every passage an example of masculine social structures being destroyed.  While it is true many passages do reverse the social orders, not every passage does and to keep maintaining it is reading conclusions into the text.
    It gets worse, though.   The authors of both Luke and Acts see (correctly) that the Christian image of the Trinity is masculine and assumes a certain social order on earth (later thinkers were to draw the conclusion that the monarchia of the Father assumes a political monarchy as the ideal on earth).  This is an example where post-liberals are far more honest readers of Scripture than American evangelicals.    The liberal realizes the monarchical and hierarchical[iii] implications of the ancient doctrine of the Trinity, and thus rejects it.   She doesn’t reject the Trinity, per se, but reworks it around postmodern and feminist categories.  She will answer to God for that, but at least she perceives the implications of the text far more clearly than evangelicals.

Conclusion

There are a few let downs with this bible (aside from the unbelieving problems listed above).  The first is the joke of a translation that is the New Revised Standard.  While it captures English grammatical mores nicely, even the most jaded feminist (forgive the redundancy) has to admit that the text reads in a wooden and blocky fashion.  The King James Version created the modern English language, of that there is no argument.  Even later revisions to the King James implicitly kept much of the syntax and wording of familiar and beloved passages.   The NRSV utterly destroys this.[iv]

I didn’t expect all the notes to be equally good, and I don’t begrudge the editors that decision.  In many ways, though, the thought and format of this study bible is far inferior to the bibles that had Bruce Metzger as the editor.  Metzger always had interesting (if wrong) articles on the nature of Biblical scholarship, the canon, and the formation of the Biblical text.    This study bible has no articles on the canon (which remains a gaping hole), but it does have a decent article on the formation of the text.    Of course, there is the mandatory article on the superiority of feminist criticism.  (What the feminist doesn’t realize is that given her emphasis on “suspicion” and “critique,” I, too, can employ the same suspicion and critique on her article and on that basis render it false.  Deconstructionism devours itself).


[i] The problem of how liberals and evangelicals justified the canon on scriptural basis alone was never answered but simply assumed and removed to another place.  This remains a fatal weakness in both post-liberal and evangelical scholarship today.

[ii] This might not be true, though.   Many of the doyens of liberal scholarship, while rejecting evangelical social ethics, were not comfortable with nihilistic ethics, either.   They may not have joined the John Birch Society, but neither did they want the existing social order threatened too much).

[iii] Not that the Trinity is a hierarchy, for that is neo-Platonism, but that in its masculine language and in the other Scriptural commands about male headship, a hierarchy on earth is assumed as normative.

[iv] Though Evangelicals probably do not see this given their indifference or hostility to liturgy, the NRSV, in altering the wording of the most beloved passages, contains within it an attack on the nature of public liturgy.  Liturgy, especially the public reading and recitation of the Scriptures, is a formative event.   It forms the soul and shapes the memory through the repetition of familiar passages.   When the NRSV changes these passages, it changes the event of liturgy itself.   (This is probably connected to why mainstream churches who use the NRSV also want to change the liturgy to more feminine constructs).