Worthwhile Reading

Thoughts on Church and State–in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–at Grim’s Hall

A professor argues that the epidemic of hysterical rage in the face of dissenting opinions, now sweeping America’s campuses, is a consequence of  cutting out the teaching of logic and rhetoric

Related:  the age of mass delusion  (via Bookworm)

Reputation culture and the cult of likeability

22 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading”

  1. “But Christianity accepts the existence of a secular sphere — Jesus himself said, “Render unto Caesar” — and the modern state falls easily into the role he assigned to the Roman empire”

    In fact, Christianity goes even further than that. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he clarified that religious law is subordinate to God’s will, and anyone who acts in accordance with the goodness of God’s will has automatically made their own law on equal footing with any religious law

    In chapter 2:

    For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
    For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
    For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

    And then in Chapter 13 he boils down the simple act that will fulfill all God’s commandments and all religious laws:

    Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
    For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    These passages are a testament of the universal loving tolerance of Christianity and the true basis of its propagation and the propagation of the values inherent to Western Civilization.

  2. I have wondered about the ‘render unto Caesar’ passage, which goes as follows:

    “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”

    So was this really intened as doctrine, or was it only a clever rhetorical device to escape the trap which had been set for him?

  3. I understand that ‘Thou shall not kill’ is more properly translated ‘Thou shall not murder’. That gives it an entirely different meaning.

  4. The ‘separation of church and state’ in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages seems to have worked something like this: There was a formal separation, but the Church acted as a limit on the State..if you as a king got excommunicated, that was a bad thing for the continuation of your reign, and even your life…and kings were crowned under the authority of the Church.

    Not nearly as intertwined as Islam is designed to be, but also not something the Founding Father would probably have approved of.

  5. Or perhaps we shouldn’t push everyone who wants a decent long term earning prospect towards college and it’s looming debt servitude.

    Most people need a trade by whatever name and the 800 gorilla on the college campus today is DEBT. The rest of the antics are window dressing. The privilege they’re looking for isn’t so much free stuff as freedom from debt slavery so many of them face.

    Just as conscription was the real “peace” movement during Vietnam.

    They were nice enough kids until they met the professors. Time for some distance.

  6. Michael Hiteshew: You are correct. The best translation for Ex 20:13 is “No Murder”.

    Jonathan: I have said this before. Islam has had its reformation. What you see is what you get. It seems very unlikely to result in a peaceful settlement.

  7. Dearime: The events of the 16th Century seem to be quite distant in time. Human beings are capable of being truly awful, particularly in tribal conflicts. To me the difference between religions, is not what their adherents do during their worst moments, it is what they can coax out of their followers to be in their best moments. A good Christian is somebody like Mother Teresa who spends her life taking care of the poorest and sickest people in the world. A good Buddhist is somebody like the Dali Lama who spends his life spreading joy and love to people of all religions all around the world.

    A good Muslim, OTOH, is somebody like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Caliph of ISIS. He spreads death, beheadings, rape, slavery, and terror.

  8. “tell that to the heretics who were burned”…criticizes the “loving tolerance” of people and not Christ or Christ’s teachings.

    I don’t think He would have burned anybody and his teaching didn’t include directions for prejudicial behavior such as beheading and extreme prescriptions regarding apostates and sinners.

  9. Robert,

    As a wise man said, predictions are difficult, especially about the future. A significant minority in Islam has veered onto one or another jihad tracks. If the West seriously fights the jihadists, maybe the other Muslims will have second thoughts. The only reason the jihadists think they have a chance is that we’re hesitant about our own values. We have technology and demographics on our side, the only thing we lack is resolve. I’m betting the resolve will come, and that most Muslims would rather live the western bourgeois dream than under despotism and privation.

  10. To clarify my comment about: “Not nearly as intertwined as Islam is designed to be, but also not something the Founding Father would probably have approved of”….that is Founding Fathers (plural), as in the founders of the United States.

  11. “tell that to the heretics who were burned.”

    I think the key here is what was intended, not how later day adherents behaved. No one these days thinks Alexander VI was a good Pope and the Church has drifted into politics again with modern day leftists supporting this Pope and Liberation Theology.

    A far as Islam is concerned, this small symposium on Muslims has gotten me interested in the role of “Arabism” in what we call “radical Islam.” I plan to read two of Ibn Warraq’s books mentioned there. I have ordered them and will report when finished. I think he may have a point that what is attacking us is “Arabism.”

    The other strand running through my book is Koranic principles. I thought that the Koran has not been subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the Bible has been subjected to since at least the seventeenth century with Spinoza. In subsequent books I wrote on the Koran—in The Quest for the Historical Muhammad and What the Koran Really Says. These are essentially anthologies of articles critical of various aspects, but on a more technical level, various aspects of the language of the Koran, the origins of Islam, the traditional story of the origins of the Koran, and so on. They were very critical, and I thought that it was time that we started applying the same sort of criticism of the Koran that had been applied to the Old and the New Testaments.

  12. Oh, those Christian heretics who were burned some … how many centuries ago – three or four?
    As opposed to that Muslim heretics who was burned a couple of months ago. In an iron cage. Not to mention the ones who were beheaded, drowned in an iron cage, and linked up with det-cord and explosives.
    Got it. Nice equivalency you got going there, Dearie.

  13. I think that article is using a false premise.

    Commentators on the right and the left routinely equate it with Stalinism, Nazism and Socialism, among other dreaded isms.

    “Secular” is an old word used in the Catholic Church. Priests who were not members of an order were called “secular priests” as they had not taken vows of poverty. Frankly, I think the vow of chastity has passed its time of usefulness as Greek Orthodox married priests have done quite well and that church has not had the scandals of the Roman Church, largely due to the heavy influence of homosexuals on seminaries and the selection of men for the priesthood.

    “Secular Humanism” is a term used a lot by certain commentators, like Dennis Prager, who is talking about the decline in religious affiliation. The decline, in my opinion, is part of a rise in hedonism and leftist political orthodoxy. Some of that is the effect of a period of prosperity and a loss of educational quality that has left the younger generation with the delusion that prosperity and freedom are natural, default, states of nature. I suspect we are coming to the end of that period.

  14. Not only is rhetoric not taught, the word has taken on a negative connotation, often qualified as “toxic rhetoric” or “racist rhetoric”.

  15. We used the first edition of The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric for Eng 101. Great book, well written, insightful, and had no detectable axes to grind. Just a well written straightforward examination of the techniques of writing and persuasion, as well as lots of good recommendations on how to write clearly. I recall with some amusement a jargon filled academic piece filled with references to the author’s academic credentials, and filled with what David Rogers (two science PhD’s) used to deride as “big, fancy, obscure college words”, being held up as an example of bad writing. The point was, you need to argue and persuade on the merits of your argument, not your credentials or knowledge of obscure words. They also spent time analyzing different types of arguments: appeals to emotion, appeals to logic, appeals to self interest, etc. The point, of course, was to get you to recognize the buttons the author was attempting to push and evaluate them in that context. It’s the only English text I recall ever being really impressed with. Lots of comments to that effect on the Amazon page too. It always struck me it would be widely useful, and high school sophomores or juniors would most benefit from a book like that.

  16. Just an aside here: Is there any distinction to be made Re. “commenters” and “commentators”? If there is maybe the use of the word “comentators” won’t irritate my sensibilities as much.

    The grammarist website indicates that a “commentator makes comments”…”it’s what they do”. A distinction with out a difference. That commentator grates on me.

  17. The founding fathers didn’t mind states having established churches; it was the Union that wasn’t to have an established church. The reason is obvious.

  18. Yes, it might make sense to call a rhetoric course something other than ‘rhetoric,’ due to some of the connotations of the word. But the subject does need to be taught, first for citizenship reasons and secondly for professional reasons.

    I am frequently appalled the number of people whose jobs are *largely about* verbal communication and yet are pretty bad at it…the college professor who can’t give a decent lecture, the executive who gives mind-numbing Powerpoint presentations. One would hope these individuals would have enough personal pride to learn to do this aspect of their jobs effectively, but evidently not. I’ve even known *commissioned salespeople in business-to-business environments*, whose paycheck was directly linked to their presentation skills, who didn’t work to achieve needed improvement.

Comments are closed.