Belatedly coming to their senses

Republicans finally turn against the decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan:

Support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low with the majority of Americans saying the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline set by the Obama administration, according to a new poll. The CNN/ORC International survey released Friday indicated only 25% of Americans favored the war in the Asian country. A majority of Republicans voiced opposition to it, for the first time since the war began in 2001.

I still find it amazing that Obama has gotten a pass for continuing the occupation, considering that the only reason he beat out Hilary for the nomination was because he was supposedly the anti-war candidate. Republicans may be stupid and slow to grasp the obvious, but the cognitive dissonance of the American liberal truly knows no bounds.

In memoriam

RIP Keith Olbermann’s career. SNL presciently provided it an appropriate premortem tribute:

Richard, as you know, throughout this campaign, I have frequently called for Senator McCain’s arrest. But with this latest celebration of all things Nazi, has not McCain crossed the line and for the good of the country should he not straightaway resign?

Well Keith, I too have been critical of Senator McCain. But to suggest that he has Nazi sympathies I think is rather outrageous.

Courageous? I suppose. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been called that. That started in high school, with my editorials for the school radio station and my work as equipment manager for the cross country team. So courageous? Sure. Guilty as charged.

He really should have stuck with Sportscenter.

The false doctrine of the Trinity

The eighth point in Jamsco’s attempted summary of my doctrinal beliefs is a succinct one. “8. The Trinity is obvious BS. It’s easily proved. [Direct quote from a comment here].” As it happens, he got that one entirely correct, which is not the case in two of the other ten points.

Now, the falsity of the doctrine can be proved in a variety of ways, but since we’re dealing with mainstream Churchianity here, I’ll utilize the easiest and most obvious because those who subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity also subscribe to the doctrine of divine omniscience. Note that since I am skeptical of both doctrines, this argument obviously does not reflect my own theological beliefs. Let’s follow the logic:

1. The Trinity is God as three divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial. These three divine persons are combined in one being we call God.

2. This one being is omniscient, and therefore knows everything.

3. It is written, in Matthew 24:36: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Therefore, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not omniscient, and furthermore, do not possess the same knowledge as the Father.

4. Therefore, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not co-equal and consubstantial with the Father. They may or may not be co-eternal.

5. Being neither co-equal nor consubstantial, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not one being with the Father.

6. Therefore, God is one person, the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity is a false one.

I further note that we can branch from (3) and prove the falsehood of the Trinity in a slightly different manner.

4b. Since God is omniscient and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit are God.

5b. Therefore, God is one person, the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity is a false one.

It should not escape one’s attention that if one insists on clinging to the doctrine of the Trinity, it is necessary to abandon the doctrine of divine omniscience. Obviously, I subscribe to neither, but it is not possible to subscribe to both. My perspective is that divinity can be most usefully understood in a manner akin to human royalty. Prince Harry may be royal, but no one is under the impression that he is co-equal and consubstantial with his grandmother, the sovereign Queen Elizabeth. This is in keeping with the idea that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are Man’s advocates, they are not his judge.

And for another perspective from one with doubts about the Trinity doctrine, this is an interesting summary of Isaac Newton’s studies of the subject. Another one can be found here.

In one notebook it is clear that, already in the early 1670’s, Newton was absorbed by the doctrine of the Trinity. On this topic he studied extensively not only the Bible, but also much of the Church Fathers. Newton traced the doctrine of the trinity back to Athanasius (298- 373); he became convinced that before Athanasius the Church had no trinitarian doctrine. In the early 4th century Athanasius was opposed by Arius (256-336), who affirmed that God the Father had primacy over Christ. In 325 the Council of Nicea condemned as heretical the views of Arius. Thus, as viewed by Newton, Athanasius triumphed over Arius in imposing the false doctrine of the trinity on Christianity.

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

The Euro debacle keeps getting more and more interesting:

The central bank of Germany will no longer accept bank bonds backed by Ireland, Greece and Portugal as collateral, becoming the first euro-zone central bank to exercise a new privilege to protect its balance sheet from the region’s debt crisis. The decision signals the determination of the Deutsche Bundesbank to limit risks from the nonstandard measures the European Central Bank has taken to combat market stress during the crisis.

More broadly, it reflects concerns that the ECB’s crisis-fighting measures may be encouraging banks to shift debt of dubious value to central-bank balance sheets, ultimately exposing taxpayers to what may wind up being toxic assets.

Translation: the Germans are getting tired of propping up the Euro and the rest of the European Union.

A failure of narrative

Conservatives increasingly distrust scientists:

Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review. That represents a dramatic shift for conservatives, who in 1974 were more likely than liberals or moderates (all categories based on self-identification) to express confidence in science. While the confidence levels of other groups in science have been relatively stable, the conservative drop now means that group is the least likely to have confidence in science….

Less-educated conservatives didn’t change their attitudes about science in recent decades. It is better-educated conservatives who have done so, the paper says.

In the paper, Gauchat calls this a “key finding,” in part because it challenges “the deficit model, which predicts that individuals with higher levels of education will possess greater trust in science, by showing that educated conservatives uniquely experienced the decline in trust.”

The left-liberal narrative wants to push the idea that conservatives have turned away from the scientific method for ideological reasons and are willing to do so because they are less educated. But that won’t fly, since it is the more educated conservatives who don’t trust “science as an institution”. Which, of course, is very different than science as a method.

And the reason is obvious. Science as an institution is increasingly abandoning science as a method, so much so that it is often not even appropriate to refer to “science” or “scientists” when one is discussing some of the various quasi-sciences such as econometrics, the theory of evolution by (probably) natural selection, and what presently goes by the name of “climate change”.

Power struggles in China

The fact that the battle is taking place behind the scenes and away from the news cameras doesn’t mean that it won’t have a serious impact on the geopolitical situation:

After three hours of eloquent and emotional answers in his final news conference at the National People’s Congress annual meeting this month, Wen uttered his public political masterstroke, reopening debate on one of the most tumultuous events in the Chinese Communist Party’s history and hammering the final nail in the coffin of his great rival, the now-deposed Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai. And in striking down Bo, Wen got his revenge on a family that had opposed him and his mentor countless times in the past.

Responding to a gently phrased question about Chongqing, Wen foreshadowed Bo’s political execution, a seismic leadership rupture announced the following day that continues to convulse China’s political landscape to an extent not seen since 1989. But the addendum that followed might be even more significant. Indirectly, but unmistakably, Wen defined Bo as man who wanted to repudiate China’s decades-long effort to reform its economy, open to the world, and allow its citizens to experience modernity. He framed the struggle over Bo’s legacy as a choice between urgent political reforms and “such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution,” culminating a 30-year battle for two radically different versions of China, of which Bo Xilai and Wen Jiabao are the ideological heirs. In Wen’s world, bringing down Bo is the first step in a battle between China’s Maoist past and a more democratic future as personified by his beloved mentor, 1980s Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang. His words blew open the facade of party unity that had held since the massacres of Tiananmen Square.

This October, the Communist Party will likely execute a once-in-a-decade leadership transition in which President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen hand over to a new team led by current Vice President Xi Jinping. The majority of leaders will retire from the elite Politburo Standing Committee, and the turnover will extend down through lower tiers of the Communist Party, the government, and the military. Wen hopes his words influence who gets key posts, what ideological course they will set, and how history records his own career.

The vicissitudes of civil war amongst the Chinese nomenklatura aside, I thought this was a particularly illuminating, if ironic, comment. “Hu taught his children to resist the idea, wired into the Communist Party psyche, that they had any particular hereditary right to high office.”

And thus we see the Ciceronian political cycle at work, as democracy, aristocracy, and tyranny all represent temporary phases rather than stases.

A Rooney Rule for players

Surprisingly, an unemployed black coach believes that professional football teams should have to interview black coaches before even thinking about who they want to hire:

Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was seated next to Edwards on the SportsCenter set when the subject came up, and Rice questioned whether any minority candidate would agree to interview for the Saints’ interim head coaching job. All indications out of New Orleans are that if the Saints go outside the franchise for an interim head coach, they’re going to hire Parcells. And that means any minority candidate they interview would know in advance that the purpose of the interview is to satisfy the letter of the Rooney Rule, even after they’ve already violated the spirit of the Rooney Rule.

“I know for me, I would not want to go do an interview if I’m not going to get that job,” Rice said.

Edwards added that the Saints have already, by reaching out to Parcells but not reaching out to any minorities, indicated that they’re going to go after the coach they want and not broaden their coaching search to include minority candidates, which the Rooney Rule is designed to make teams do.

“They’re making a mockery of the rule right now,” Edwards said.

Given that there are far too many black players in the NFL compared to their percentage of the American population, why isn’t there a Rooney Rule for players? Why isn’t the NFL addressing the problem of insufficient Asians and women on the football field? I think the Saints ought to comply with the rule by bringing in a drug-addled Negro crack whore and interviewing her before hiring Bill Parcells, thus complying with the rule while treating it with all the seriousness that it deserves.

Mailvox: awaiting enlightenment

I am sure we all await, with no little interest, the enlightenment that Freddy, the Calvinist, is sure to shed upon the arrogant, and yet somehow feeble little brains of the “Arminians” here at Vox Popoli:

The Arminians here act just like Jehovah Witnesses. They deny Trinity and the Diety of Christ because they can’t wrap their feeble little brains around those concepts…just like what the fundy Arminians do with the Sovereignty of God. The height of arrogance and intellectual pride.

Well, Freddy, since you have apparently been able to wrap your powerful and enormous, yet humble and not-at-all intellectual brain around the Trinity, the Diety of Christ, and the Sovereignty of God, I can’t imagine that you will have any trouble whatsoever in explicating the true and correct theology of those three concepts, slowly and patiently, for the edification of the less capable minds here.

I certainly look forward to hearing your explanation of how a man can be held responsible for something he cannot do, for how God can simultaneously know and not know the hour, (still less forsake Himself), and to hear your opinion on whether it was God, in His Sovereignty, who personally contemplated the issue before finally deciding how many times your pair of anal sphincters would constrict in the process of your daily defecations over the previous 24 hours. I am also curious to know if you believe a Calvinist, who by his own assertion cannot choose to worship God, will be damned or saved in the event that human action is required for salvation. Perhaps we can call it Jamsco’s Wager, the idea that the Calvinist who claims he is incapable of making a choice has nevertheless made it in the event that he is wrong about his incapability.

We’ve long assumed that Calvinism isn’t a salvation issue, but I am not so sure in this one regard. After all, how can someone claim to have done something they simultaneously claim cannot be done? Perhaps it was this dichotomy, and not his panoply of evil actions, that explains why the Robispierre of Geneva went to his grave wondering if he was not one of God’s Elect after all.

The “Arminian”, after all, needs fear nothing. What is it to him if God laughs at his illusion of ability and tells him, “you did not choose me, my friend, I chose you!” The Calvinist, on the other hand, is once more in exactly the same position as the atheist, in attempting to explain to the Almighty why he did not choose to submit himself to the Lord Jesus Christ when he had the opportunity.

The atheist will say: “It’s not my fault! I didn’t choose to worship you because I didn’t believe you existed!” The Calvinist will say: “It’s not my fault! I didn’t choose to worship you because John Calvin, and RC Sproul, and John Piper told me I couldn’t!”

Why Tebow matters

It’s because he understands that the real game that matters isn’t on the football field. After the upset playoff victory over the Steelers, Rick Reilly confesses that despite his initial doubts, he has become a believer:

Remember last week, when the world was pulling its hair out in the hour after Tebow had stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard OT touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs? And Twitter was exploding with 9,420 tweets about Tebow per second? When an ESPN poll was naming him the most popular athlete in America?

Tebow was spending that hour talking to 16-year-old Bailey Knaub about her 73 surgeries so far and what TV shows she likes.

“Here he’d just played the game of his life,” recalls Bailey’s mother, Kathy, of Loveland, Colo., “and the first thing he does after his press conference is come find Bailey and ask, ‘Did you get anything to eat?’ He acted like what he’d just done wasn’t anything, like it was all about Bailey.”

More than that, Tebow kept corralling people into the room for Bailey to meet. Hey, Demaryius, come in here a minute. Hey, Mr. Elway. Hey, Coach Fox. Even though sometimes-fatal Wegener’s granulomatosis has left Bailey with only one lung, the attention took her breath away.

“It was the best day of my life,” she emailed. “It was a bright star among very gloomy and difficult days. Tim Tebow gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. He gave me the strength for the future. I know now that I can face any obstacle placed in front of me. Tim taught me to never give up because at the end of the day, today might seem bleak but it can’t rain forever and tomorrow is a new day, with new promises.”

I read that email to Tebow, and he was honestly floored….

For the game at Buffalo, it was Charlottesville, Va., blue-chip high school QB Jacob Rainey, who lost his leg after a freak tackle in a scrimmage. Tebow threw three interceptions in that Buffalo game and the Broncos were crushed 40-14.

“He walked in and took a big sigh and said, ‘Well, that didn’t go as planned,'” Rainey remembers. “Where I’m from, people wonder how sincere and genuine he is. But I think he’s the most genuine person I’ve ever met.”

There’s not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow, and I’ve looked everywhere for it.

How can you not admire that equanimity? “Well, that didn’t go as planned.” The fascinating thing about Tebow, the polarizing thing about Tebow, is that in much the same way as Jesus Christ, the radiance of his actions shines a light upon us and forces us to look ourselves and our own actions in comparison. And we react in different ways. We can be inspired and attempt to go forth and do likewise, we can simply admire him while remaining personally unmoved, or we can react with hatred and anger for the way in which he causes us to lose righteousness in our own eyes.

Tebow matters because our instinctive response to him tells us, and others, an awful lot about our hidden inner characters.

This is why a mere backup quarterback for the New York Jets, not even worthy of so much as a third-round draft pick, commands such attention. It is part of why a team with a chaotic coach and a dysfunctional locker room brought him on board. And whether he replaces the Sanchize for three Wildcat plays a game or as the starter, who isn’t looking forward to the upcoming season, where the success or failure of Peyton Manning in Denver will tell us a lot about whether it was the Denver defense that should have gotten the credit for the Broncos’ unexpected playoff run.

Speaking of Peyton Manning, Peter King provides a detailed chronicle of his decision-making process, which is fascinating in light of his otherwise inexplicable choice of Denver over a stronger San Francisco team.

The real persecution today

Remember that some atheists are treating Christians and others deemed “irredeemables” in this manner today, right now, as their co-godless in the West whine that religion is somehow oppressing them:

His first memory is an execution. He walked with his mother to a wheat field, where guards had rounded up several thousand prisoners. The boy crawled between legs to the front row, where he saw guards tying a man to a wooden pole….

The South Korean government estimates there are about 154,000 prisoners in North Korea’s labour camps, while the US state department puts the number as high as 200,000. The biggest is 31 miles long and 25 miles wide, an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. Numbers 15 and 18 have re-education zones where detainees receive remedial instruction in the teachings of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, and are sometimes released. The remaining camps are “complete control districts” where “irredeemables” are worked to death.

It’s an incredible story. It is arguably the most horrific situation on the planet today. And yet, none of the “Never Again” crowd appears to give even the slightest damn about what is happening in the Hermit Kingdom; they’re too busy worrying about the persecution inherent in a Christmas greeting.

As for Christians, this is what real persecution looks like. The martyrs of North Korea have stubbornly held to the faith for decades despite it. How many of us could do so? The Cambridge Medieval History reminds us:

In the middle of the third century the Emperor and the Empire learnt to dread this organised force within their midst. The despised “third race” had become indeed a nation within the Empire. The first impulse was to exterminate what seemed to be a source of danger. One well-organised universal persecution followed another. From each Christianity emerged with sadly diminished numbers (for the lapsed were always a larger body than the martyrs), but with spirit unbroken and with organisation intact and usually strengthened.

The Church will always survive. But note that the lapsed always outnumber the martyrs. So when you pray for the persecuted of North Korea, remember both the fallen and the fallen away.