January 7, 2014

So if you want to buy an American car–out of a sense of economic patriotism, protectionism, or because you were moved by that Chrysler commercial about being “imported from Detroit”–does this mean buying a Chrysler product doesn’t count?  Does “buying American” allow for buying a Chevrolet made in Mexico?  How about a Toyota made in Kentucky?  From CNN:

U.S. automaker Chrysler will become fully owned by Italy’s Fiat under terms of an agreement announced Wednesday that also involves the United Auto Workers union. (more…)

November 21, 2018

Donald Trump is controversial, even among many conservatives.  But he already has accomplished a legacy achievement, something that will shape this country in what conservatives believe will be a positive direction for decades.  He has practically re-made the federal court system, packing it on every level with conservative judges.

The Supreme Court is the most obvious example, with his appointment of the two conservatives, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, who will give the high court a 5-4 conservative majority.  But President Trump has also done something similar with the circuit appeals courts and with federal trial judges.

Adam Cancryn, who laments the passing of the liberal judiciary, sums up the situation in Politico:

Aside from the Supreme Court, where Trump named Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the rightward shift may be most momentous in the 12 regional circuit courts that hear appeals, set binding precedents and often have the final say in the many cases the high court never takes up.

Trump has already placed 1-in-6 judges on the circuit courts, some of which are closely divided between Republican and Democratic appointees. Those 29 appointments are the most by any modern president in his first two years.

Counting both federal trial and appellate courts, Trump’s 84 judicial appointments to date far exceed the pace set by President Barack Obama in his first two years.

Furthermore, Cancryn points out, President Trump has been appointing not only conservative judges but young conservative judges, whose lifetime appointments will keep them on the bench for a long, long time, no matter which party comes to power.

Liberals have long imposed their ideas on the rest of the country–legalized abortion, outlawing school prayer, gay marriage, etc.–not through legislation but through the federal court system.   They may not be able to do that so much anymore.

Now liberals are invoking such once-conservative judicial principles as the need to uphold precent and that judges should not legislate from the bench.

Conservatives should not get giddy, though, at the prospect of conservative courts.  Liberal  judges are the ones who predictably rule in accord with their political convictions.  This is because they hold to a “living Constitution” and to interpretive principles that allow them to reach progressive conclusions, despite the original intent of the law.  But conservative judges actually believe in following the law, as written and as intended by the lawmakers.  This means that they will not always side with the conservative political position, even though they might personally favor it, if it violates statutory law or the Constitution.

But still, the rule of law is better than the rule of political fiat every time.


Illustration by succo via Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons

June 28, 2018

The doctrine of creation means more than opposing evolution.  It teaches that there is a “created order” that we belong to.  As Christians wrestle with the controversial issues of our day, we often forget this fact.

So says Breakpoint writer and Patheos blogger G. Shane Morris in his post Rules Without Reasons: Why the Culture Is Eating Evangelicals for Lunch.  He asks, “Is there a discernible moral and social order built into creation, as the old Christian theologians thought—an order which Christ came to this world to restore and glorify—or do the graces of salvation and special revelation abolish the natural order in favor of something unprecedented?”

The implications of how we answer this are far-reaching. For instance, do we need explicit statements from Scripture to reach certain moral conclusions, or are these conclusions evident in nature and accessible via reason? Do we need chapters and verses condemning women in military combat roles, LGBT “spiritual friendships,” masturbation, or surrogacy, or can we reach conclusions about these things by reasoning from the created order? Catholics have historically said “yes,” producing a rich body of natural theology that gives moral guidance (however imperfectly followed) to members of that communion. I suggest most evangelicals, by contrast, can’t answer this question, or else they will answer it in the negative, believing that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura requires them to “remain silent where Scripture is silent.”

To offer a more controversial example, evangelicals who see my social media posts about intentionally childless couples often reply that not everyone is “called to parenthood.” There is a superstructure of philosophy and assumptions buried beneath that sentence. It implies a theology of marriage as an essentially companionate institution which is fulfilled without even the intention of being fruitful. It also implies that parenthood is a supernatural, rather than a natural calling. Instead of being a major part of the telos or purpose of marriage, it is an optional side-quest to which God may summon a couple via new revelation. For many evangelicals today, there is no prior mandate evident in creation to reproduce, or for that matter, to do or refrain from doing much of anything. Roles, duties, and moral facts which generations of Christians before us would have seen as self-evident now puzzle evangelicals, who take the view that whatever the Bible doesn’t forbid is allowed.

This puts them in awkward postures when it comes to arguing against things like same-sex marriage. After all, if we have already embraced the companionate model of marriage, what is the difference between two intentionally childless heterosexuals and two necessarily childless homosexuals? It’s hard to make the case that marriage, shorn of its procreative telos, is something of which complementary sexes are uniquely and exclusively capable. This is one of the main reasons we evangelicals have lost the cultural and legal wars on this issue. We already accept many of the culture’s premises, and have little besides special revelatory fiat with which to answer the inexorable chant of “marriage equality!”

[Keep reading. . . ]

Note the confusion about the doctrine of vocation that Shane draws our attention to.  “Calling” is not a feeling or inclination.  It reflects reality in the here and now.  If you want to be married, that is not in itself a vocation for marriage.  If you get married, then you have the vocation of marriage.  If you have children, then you have the vocation of father or mother.

I’m intrigued by the distinction he makes between the “companionate model of marriage” and, I suppose it would be called, the “procreative model of marriage.”  The vocation of marriage, of course, involves both finding a companion (a “helpmeet”) and establishing a family with the purpose of having children (being fruitful and multiplying).  If the latter proves impossible, that does not negate the vocation of marriage.  Nor does problems with being “companionate” negate the vocation, contrary to the divorces on the grounds of incompatibility.

Shane goes on to apply the principle to other issues.  Many Christians reason like this:  “The Bible doesn’t say anything about transgenderism, so there can’t be anything really wrong with it.”  “The Bible says that women shouldn’t be pastors, but that means they can be anything else, including warriors in combat.”  “The Bible forbids sex outside of heterosexual marriage, so as long as the couple is celibate, they can be part of the gay lifestyle.”

As opposed to thinking about these issues in terms of what is natural–that is to say, not wildlife and wilderness, but what conforms to reality, to the created order.

Catholicism is all about the “natural law.”  Protestants have held various positions about the natural law, usually seeing it as no substitute for the revelation of Scripture, but applicable to this-worldly considerations.

Lutherans, as I understand the issue (correct me if I’m wrong), hold to natural law as applying to God’s temporal kingdom, which includes His created order and civil righteousness.  God’s eternal kingdom is brought about not by Nature but by His Word, which conveys Christ’s redemption.


Is Shane’s analysis too “Catholic”?  Does he hold sufficiently to “sola Scriptura”?


Illustration by William Blake,  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

April 6, 2016

Economist Thomas Sowell explains fascist economics (absolute government control of the economy while allowing private ownership) and puts it into the context of other varieties of socialism and leftist ideologies. (more…)

July 23, 2015

The state of Texas is striking a blow for the gold standard, starting a gold-backed bank. (more…)

June 23, 2015

Europe has gone further than the United States in embracing the new ideologies about sex, gender, and political-correctness.  And it’s going even further:  to unisex bathrooms, laws mandating women on corporate boards, and regulations about how men and women may be portrayed.  For example, it will not be legal for billboards in Germany to show women “smiling for no reason.”

What interests me are the attempts to impose–even to create–gender neutral language.  In languages such as German and Swedish in which every noun has a gender!  (In a German language class, teachers drill it into their students’ heads that the gender of a word has nothing to do with its sex!  So that the word for young woman is neuter. A spoon is masculine, a fork is feminine, a knife is neuter.)  So now the effort is to change the very grammar of these languages.  Sweden has added an “inclusive” personal pronoun to its dictionaries by fiat.  (Though linguists will explain that language doesn’t work that way.)

Details of this brave new world, which may well show up on this side of the pond before too long, after the jump. (more…)

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