Archives for posts with tag: First Things


Are you worried about WWIII? You should read this. Do you love history? You should read this. Do you wonder at Russia, especially the enigma of the old USSR? You should read this. Russia is not the USSR. Putin may be cold, but he is rational, and he is a patriot. Russia plays defense. It does not think offense. Even the unimaginable numbers asserted by the Soviet at the height of the Cold War, Russia thought of defense. Her offense was only intended, at least in the Russian heart, to ensure the battle lines were drawn far from Russia’s heartland.

Perhaps the grand communist experiment, the epic failure (which was and always will be inevitable), was able to happen largely due to the mindset of the Russian-related peoples. Perhaps they had lived in danger so long, that stable dread was tolerable. I hope it cannot happen again. Surely enough people know that communism, socialism, in all its forms, fails, moreover, it kills and destroys.

The article is long. Read it anyway. Grab a mug and learn, enjoy it all.

Mr. Hitchens mentions a movie, a documentary of the sorry conditions in the USSR.

In Russian, of course. No English text. So, learn your Russian or guess.

A note of one who was looking for the movie in 2015.

From the Internet Movie Database:


The misreading of Russia’s geopolitical situation is especially sad because for the first time in . . . .

Source: The Cold War Is Over by Peter Hitchens | Articles | First Things

I wrote, on Facebook, the comments below in response to an old First Things article.

Good, in-depth look at what might be wrong with the desire to solve aging and eliminate disease and to try to make us able to live indefinitely. Insightful.

Still, he only addresses conquest of life’s gradual degradation. I really don’t think we can, but even if we did solve all the problems of aging, the problems of the aged, and cured all disease, we wouldn’t approach unending lives. There are too many other problems. Accidents, homicide, and suicide are not problems science or modernity can solve.

Some commentators have speculated that risk aversion would become the primary consideration if no one simply died of natural causes associated with longevity. For instance, such speculation assumes that no one would ride motorcycles. Yeah, sure. That will be the day.

We are all familiar with stories of long-livers, and the power, and enemies, they accumulate. Much less motivation has resulted in far too many murders.

And then there is suicide. Roughly speaking, around one in 10,000 persons lose the battle and intentionally end it. Such a circumstance exists throughout history and across all cultures and groups. For better or for worse, for grand cause or desperation, such it is. No medicine will change it.

Life focused on self implodes. Life without honest and appropriate consideration of others is hardly worthy of the title.

He addresses procreation, and nothing shows more routinely the greatest love than the selfless parent who sacrifices for the children. Balance in all things, and certainly there is ample meaning for those who go childless, by choice or not, but for most of us, it is our truly meaningful accomplishment, having and rearing our children such that we know we are justified being proud of them. It is, as the article explains, our true way of overcoming our mortality.

Of course, he leaves off the ultimate. He discusses life everlasting, and admit it or not, we all believe. Still, eternal life is, or it is not, and we all will know soon enough. Yet, for what we know, in what we must accept, we cannot ultimately overcome our impermanence. Ultimately, it is not given to our universe, to this natural reality, to continue. It is finite. Even if we have a billion generations, it will end eventually. Physicists speculate variously, but they all agree it will end, and no evidence allows for alternatives. How long? Does that actually matter? Is even 1,000 years long when life as we know it has been around about a million times longer? For that matter, is just a few years short? Just a few months? Just a few minutes? As sad is it may be, and truly we are justified in feeling sad and deprived at untimely death, the truth is, we all die young.

I also note that the article is a decade-and-a-half old. That dates much of what he says. Some of what he feared is continuing, but much of it has faded as reality marches on and our unfounded hopes are dashed. Yet, now we hear of transhumanity, of technological longevity in some presumed digital facsimile of ourselves. This too shall pass. So too shall each of us.

I came across a 2014 essay at First Things, by Samuel Gregg.

I wrote the following on Facebook:

Wow. Please read.

Gregg discusses economic freedom in Asia, and says:
“The ADB estimated that between 1990 and 2005 approximately 850 million people escaped absolute poverty. That is an astonishing figure.”

The article is a year old, and the numbers and predictions can be checked for this year, if you care to.

He discusses other examples. If you are a statist, this should shame you. If you believe in your political party, you are probably a statist. If you believe in and hold up the authority of the state and the obligation of the people to subject themselves in obedience, you are a statist. Statism, corporatism, socialism, and various other progressivisms are failed and detrimental to the human condition. Flatly, progressivism is against the human soul. Progressivism as practiced for the last century or so in the USA and much of the rest of the world destroys people by claiming to save them. Progressivism destroys the individual from within.

If you are a staunch Democrat, you are probably a progressive. I aver you hate humanity by your actions and attitudes. You can pretend to “do it for the children,” but you in fact do it for the authority, and the authority is invariably corrupt. The power is corrupted. It is always so.

All authority must be strictly and powerfully constrained. That is hard to do, because who watches the watchers? Still, it must be so. Authority must be strongly constrained, or it is tyranny.

We cannot allow for absolutist authority in any regard. We cannot allow for absolute religious authority. We cannot allow for any sort of political or regulatory authority, because it always seeks its own. It always becomes corrupt. It always corrupts all it controls. We must have strict controls on anything even resembling authority. Of course, all authorities cry foul and claim I’m rebellious, and worse.

Gregg closes thus, “None of this means compromising on the demands of justice. It would, however, allow the “seeing” of Catholic social teaching to take wider account of the empirical without being empiricist, to look at what actually works without lapsing into pragmatism, and to remove some of the conceptual blinkers that have inhibited many Catholics’ vision of how to transform the world’s economies into arenas of human flourishing. The well-being of the poor surely demands nothing less.”

Feel free to comment. I welcome opportunity to stretch and challenge my thinking.

Writing for First Things, of course, R.R. Reno reviews Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si Excellent.

I’ll likely be of similar opinion once I’ve read it myself.

I look forward to Maureen Mullarkey’s comments. She doesn’t pull punches, and she has a keen eye for seeing through the ornamentation and fixing on the essential truth in a presentation. Perhaps a characteristic of an artist.

I think Reno finds a key when he notes the inconsistency of the Pope aligning with science consensus, while at the same time condemning it. Reno says, “In this encyclical, Francis expresses strikingly anti-scientific, anti-technological, and anti-progressive sentiments. [and anti-modern]” If I understand Reno’s use of progressive, I would say antigrowth, antiadvancement. When I use the word progressive, I’m generally talking about the leftist ideology that is akin to socialism. I’m not inclined to suppose the Pope anti-progressivist in this sense. He seems to have socialists leanings as well as I can tell.

Reno indicates the Pope was speaking against globalization, and probably specifically as related to China and its impressive recent growth. I think it is quite important to recognize that China will not pay attention to the Pope, nor to any policies or edicts from outsiders that hinders its continued growth. China is far too big and far too poor to entertain notions of slowing growth and increasing per capita wealth. They have the resources in raw material and manpower. They will use it. They will burn fossil fuels and nuclear fuels as fast as they possibly can. They are finding that fouling one’s nest is a bad thing. They are becoming ever more conscience of decreasing pollution. As their growth and wealth increases, they will afford more and more means of keeping it clean. That is a good thing on the whole.

I note this Reno quote, including a Francis quote:

Another feature of modernity and its faith in progress has been a political commitment to liberty, equality, and fraternity. To be modern is to believe that, for all our flaws, Western societies are more democratic, more egalitarian, and more inclusive than any in history. This is not the Pope’s view. The West is rapacious. He quotes one source approvingly: “Twenty per cent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.”

I find that sad. The Pope seems to not understand that commerce and freedom are not zero sum. The more the better-off produce, the more is available for all. The 20% consuming are also producing, and they are producing far more than they are consuming. Energy is a particularly good example here. We need to bring the poor, the undeveloped communities up to the power levels of the west. Ask any missionary in undeveloped lands about how important electricity is, and how often they have to manage without. Inexpensive, reliable electricity (and fossil fuel) is the key to lifting the truly poor out of poverty and oppression.

Reno says:

In effect, the present world system created by European and North American modernity—the world made possible by Newton, Locke, Rousseau, Ricardo, Kant, Pasteur, Einstein, Keynes, and countless other architects of modern science, economics, and political culture—is an abomination. Francis never quite says that. But this strong judgment is implied in his many fierce denunciations of the current global order. It destroys the environment, oppresses the multitudes, and makes us blind to the beauty of creation.

If Reno has captured the intent of the Pope, I strongly disagree with the Pope. The modern world is what we have to work with. I know the Pope put some emphasis on personal, individual responsibility. Yes, I agree. Be the change you want to see in the world. The modern world is actually, quantifiably, verifiably better than any before. MLK Jr. is still correct in his observation that the moral arc of the world bends slowly, but it bends toward justice and freedom. The fact is, the doomsayers may be right, but they have yet to be, and there is more evidence now than ever before that things are actually getting better.

I agree with R.R. Reno. I may alter this and that after I’ve read for myself, but I agree with what Reno says. I agree that the Pope seems to be leading in a dangerous direction. I believe society as a whole is experiencing pain associated with bad choices. I see from history and observing our world today that our choices will continue to be bad until the pain gets much worse. The better choices rest in freedom and respect for the individual at all levels in all of life’s stages and ages. We must first do no harm. We must work with and for others. We must cherish each his own. We must not coerce. We must allow all possible latitude as rational, cooperative children of God. When each of us, well, most of us, can view everyone as equal and of inestimable worth, then we will be back on the right track. Till then, over consumption will continue. The Pope cannot change that. However, market forces correct for such. Shortages result. Pain and suffering ensue. People wise up and work then.

The gods of the copybook headings come to mind.

The world will not overheat if we burn every last kilogram of coal, oil, natural gas, and even the methane clathrates. The systems are hydrodynamic and biologically buffered. Dissipative systems emerge, and the will get as complex as necessary to push back against any perturbation. 1,000 years from now, assuming something else doesn’t extinct human beings, no one will ever think of high CO2 levels, unless maybe they are trying to figure out how to raise them back up some.

I wrote this on Facebook, in response to a First Things article,, and decided I wrote too much for Facebook. So, I’ve duplicated it here.

To Mark Bauerlein’s article:

Good point.

Are we alone in this galaxy? Yes. Yes, we are alone. There are no aliens who might visit. Think. If they could, the almost certainly could have done so at any time for the last several million years. People pretend, but there is no evidence. We have lots of evidence that they have not come, but we also have lots of evidence that they are not out there.

We have looked too well for too long to suppose we simply haven’t noticed them yet. There has been too much time for them to have not made their presence known, intentionally or for lack of caring. Nobody is there. Fermi noticed.

There is still the question of life. Well, the nature of the universe, the laws of physics, seem to make life, in some recognizable form, inevitable most everywhere we might find liquid water. However, if it could get off its planet, it most likely could have been doing so for millions of years, given the obvious fact that most of the planets in the galaxy had millions, even billions of years longer to work at it. So, there is probably life, but the chances of it having even the sense of a rat is vanishingly small.

There is also the question of the rest of the universe. Well, if you factor in the vastness, there is simply no knowing. While I assert the one data point we have implies the odds of others in any way resembling us, with hopes, dreams, desires, and drives, drive to spread amongst the stars, those odds are vanishingly small, but with the unimaginable vastness of all of space and so many galaxies, it is simply impossible to know.

We cannot know. We can never know.

If we find someone, then we will know. If we don’t, even for 100 billion years, we still will not know. It is impossible to prove we are alone in the universe.

We are alone in the galaxy. Accept it.

We cannot know if we are alone in the universe. Accept it.

Time and energy. The requirements for interstellar travel are doable. In fact, assuming humanity survives, we will populate the entire galaxy, probably within several tens-of-thousands of years, at least within hundreds-of-thousands, but the requirements of intergalactic travel are too great. It is not possible in any imaginable engineering sense. Sure, we may figure out some workaround. Perhaps there is something akin to a stargate. Star Trek warp-type drive is useless in this regard. Intergalactic space is too immense. The void is too barren. There is NOTHING between here and there. No possibilities of resources for refueling or repairing. Nothing. It is not possible. If something like a stargate is developed, then we can expect to populate many galaxies, but never most. The universe cannot be supposed so enduring to allow us the opportunity even if we could jump from galaxy to galaxy in a wink. We would still take billions, many billions, of years to populate and buildup and explore just thousands of galaxies. And frankly, there is no reasonable possibility of anything like a stargate existing, ever. Even an ansible type communication is impossible as far as we can suppose. Perhaps, but probably not. (I recall greater minds than mine have been proven wrong with such statements, but there is much science, experimental record, and well-tested theory behind such a supposition.)

So, is there really a scientific case for God? Yes and no. First, regardless of the evidence for God, it says nothing about God, that is: the who, the what, the why, the motive. These are mostly questions science, testing, cannot address. (As with students, academic testing may be used to assess progress, at least in some limited degree, but it can tell us nothing of the person. [And children are people first.])

There is no scientific or philosophical evidence or case that proves God in any way. There is evidence. There are cases to be made that are reasonable, but they are not definitive. Thus, the scripture tells us that to come to God, we must believe, and that we must believe that God is a rewarder–that seeking is fruitful. It is certain, without faith it is impossible to please God. The just shall live by faith. Faith is not science. Faith should be reasonable, not blind. Faith should be faithful, not obstinate. Science should be rational and natural, not forced and dogmatic. No scientism. That is far worse than any superstition ever.

Are we special? Well duh!


Things matter, or nothing matters.

I choose to suppose that things matter. That supposition leads me to believe God is. (Either God is, or God is not. That is about the same statement. Further, there is a reason, or there is no reason. Again, pretty much the same statement, and I just don’t think it is reasonable to assert there is no reason.)

Now, if any of these words mean anything, then I find that it follows that I freely choose. I can change my mind, but I am determined to find truth as I may and adhere to facts and reality as well as I can perceive.

I chose to write just now. It is not a mechanistic, chance confluence of quantum effects at the subatomic level with electromagnetic and chemical effects at the atomic level. I happen to be more than a machine.

There are issues we may need to address if we manage to create machines that can rationally choose as well, but that is not yet and a subject-heading for another day.

Dr. David Bentley Hart penned a retelling of a conversation he had with his dog. He wrote at First Things, (First Things is an excellent source of insights on many subjects.)

Dr. Hart supposes the event was a dream, but Roland is obviously one smart pooch.

Roland says, “…and the rational freedom of the spirit, which is always striving to subdue the brute. Oh, what’s that lovely line from Yeats about the soul? ‘Fastened to a dying animal?’ Anyway, there’s something truly free there, something that isn’t the creature of an unhappy childhood or a frustrated hunger—it’s spirit, nous, Geist—something that can convert the countervailing tempests of physiological urges into the elations of reason set free. Well . . . this is something dogs understand very well.””

Excellent observation. Likewise, “Every aspiring young materialist dreams of growing up to be a robot.” Which is so simple minded, even silly. Yet, it seems so true of so many.

The saddest part of reductionist materialism is the ultimate hopelessness. It really does suppose there is nothing real, that there will be absolutely nothing in the long run.

The bottom line for me is that it is all real, and I really do have freedom, and I really am responsible for myself.

Peter J. Leithart, writing for First Things, here, gives us something to read, reread, and ponder deeply. A small excerpt:

A coming in “flesh” is not simply an advent “as man.” In Scripture, “flesh” has a more specific connotation. It’s the biblical name for “the weakness of the human. . . . It is the way we are vulnerable, exposed.” We are flesh because “our life is subject to touch, that is, to what gives pleasure and pain, gives joy, and makes wounding possible” (Theodore Jennings, Jr.). The Word makes himself weak and exposes himself to pain. If you prick him, he bleeds; if you tickle him, he laughs; if you crucify him, he dies. To say the Word becomes flesh is to say the Word becomes woundable and dwells among us.

Death is part of life. God made it that way. (The adversary did not.)

Jesus, the Word, the Logos, knew. He knew what it was intimately for He created it.

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life,a and the life was the light of men.5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I don’t suppose that Jesus knew as he breathed as you and me as he had known before His advent in flesh. He felt everything we feel. Insecurity. Awkwardness. I’m sure he found that one girl down the street particularly cute, and felt shy, same as I did all those years ago. He was a man. I’m certain he figured it all out as he grew. He knew His Father. He knew the indwelling Spirit. He knew.

He knew as only God can know before he took on our flesh, our weakness. He came anyway.

By the garden, He knew, limited as His realization may have been, He knew. Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine. He knew. He had to have realized the infinite breadth of the sacrifice he was about to make–how utterly it would darken his soul, but that was surely secondary to being familiar with Roman crucifixion. He was going to die in the utmost of pain, in frustration and fatigue, struggling even for every breath, as the weight of not only his own body, but the weight of the sins of us all, even the weight and vastness of the entire universe compressing upon Him. He knew. The creator knew it was required for the ultimate reality he created.

We don’t understand it. We can try. We should try, but we do not understand it.

Most of all, while He did it for all, all of everything, he would have done it just for me.

My sin drove the nails.


Carl R. Trueman writes about Stalin Volume 1: Paradoxes of Power by Stephen Kotkin, Penguin, 976 pages, $25.30, over at First Things, here:

He points out that the author takes a very grand scope and succeeds.

History has lessons. We need more historians and application to circumstances today.

The article is worth the time. I expect the book is too, but that is a hefty investment. I admit I’m unlikely to get to it. Hopefully those with influence in national policies will take note, read, and learn the lessons the easy way and apply them skillfully so the rest of us have a less hard life. (We can always hope.)

Worthy article pointing out the truth. Children are not the problem.

Stephen Phelan writing for First Things:



I remember long ago, there were people asking, “Why is a village considered more prosperous if a goat is born, but less prosperous if a child is born?”

Property rights. If the government of a place will guard and ensure the rights and freedoms of its citizens, in their persons and in their property, then each tries to better his own lot by industry and trade and voluntary cooperation.

Sure, the relationships are complex, but the requirements are simple. Security in person and property, the rest takes care of itself.

Mathew Block, writing for First Things here,, decries the extremities of a few modern Christian groups who push the modern stereotype of masculinity too far. I shared the article on Facebook and stated that I agreed with the article. I still do.

Mr. Block decries the notion that all men should be warriors, that we have a repressed warrior in us that needs battles. Well, I think he is correct in denouncing that notion. Of course, truths are rarely monolithic.

Greg Forster, also at First Things, here,, takes exception, trying to achieve balance.

I think it quite significant that God established our creation mythos around agriculture and keeping garden, not conquest. Honestly, there is no reason God had to start with our first parents. HE could have started with the first conqueror that followed Him. Mr. Block’s points on it are quite well stated and full of truth.

Sure, as Dr. Forster points out, God’s command included subduing the earth in a militaristic sense, but Christ, our King, first sacrificed all for us. Jesus proclaimed peace, but also the sword. We must be careful of the context, but most of all we must focus on his example.

Before he paid in full every debt
Jesus wept

Dr. Forster suggests the whole point of creation was to battle darkness and establish the light. Well, I agree, and I see it as an established feature of Church history and orthodoxy. Most of all, the scripture leads us to that conclusion.

Consider I John 3:8 and all the statements of Jesus that we should follow him and do even greater works than he. John 16:33 is encouraging.

Jesus came to undo what the adversary has done. Jesus came to redeem all of creation. Romans 8 shows us that Christ has redeemed it, but it is still subjected until we, the children of God, are truly revealed in Him. How long is a mystery, but the point seems clear. We, through our conquering Lord, are to conquer evil and undo all the works of the devil. We do that by walking in love. We do that one person at a time. We do that by starting with the man in the mirror, focusing on keeping ourselves in Christ, following him, and remembering, “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

This quote of Dr. Forster’s is worth repeating:

However, at the very least we must say that Adam is created to struggle against a world that is not yet in conformity to God’s final plan for it, and which resists his efforts to put into such conformity; Adam is to overcome the world’s resistance and wrench it into the shape God intends it to have.

You’re right that God made a gardener—or, in light of the full scope of Genesis 1–2, it might be more precise to say farmer. And I would be the last to slight the central importance of the farmerly virtues you point to. But being a farmer in a world like this one, even before the fall of Adam, involves being a warrior—and a prophet, and a priest.

I’ll conclude with saying it ain’t supposed to be easy. Everyone needs a warrior within. Battles will come. Each must keep ready to fight, but always paramount, do justly, love mercy, and hold fast to humility.


Perhaps I’ll receive feedback and write more in response, but for the moment, I will simply state that Dr. Webb’s articles are arguments, not proofs. He is hoping we can discuss, have a conversation, and not fight over it.

He first compares the Civil Rights movement to the gay marriage activist strategies.

Then he responds to a critic with some thorough and thoughtful reasoning.

These articles are worthy of thorough reading, and perhaps we can all learn more together.

I generally find Dr. Webb quite worth reading. He makes me think.

Over at First Things, Roger Scruton has provided an insightful review of why we have government, why we need it, and what we seem to be doing with it at present.

What he presents here should be something everyone can read regardless of where they fit on the political spectrum. Conservatives and liberals alike should be able to learn from these words.

You owe it to yourself to go read the article. Follow the link, read, apply it in yourself, and share.

Good political article at First Things.

Quoting Mr. Roger Scruton

It is therefore pertinent to consider not only the bad side of government—which Americans can easily recognize—but also the good. For American conservatives are in danger of appearing as though they had no positive idea of government at all, and were in the business simply of opposing all new federal programs, however necessary they may be to the future and security of the nation. Most of all, they seem to be losing sight of the truth that government is not only natural to the human condition, but an expression of those extended loyalties over time, which bind generation to generation in a relation of mutual commitment.

Long article, worth reading now, and worth referring back to.

On the personal level, the fact is, we are free moral agents. We are free to choose, and our will to choose rightly must be developed. We are most free when we rule ourselves and internalize the fact that we will give account. We will be judged justly. All scores will be settled. I am accountable to God. I must act accountable to every other individual. I must do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. That realizes freedom for me and those around me and for our country and our world.

At the First Things blog, Michael Hannon writes a weighty treatise pointing out how artificial and recent our notion of duality in human sexuality is. He points out how false the notion is. We are defined by our worth to God, not by our failings nor by what tempts us to fail. He makes the case that traditional reasoning in Christianity is firm ground for understanding sexuality and marriage, and politics are not only false in this regard, but running out of steam, even being shunned by leftist, et al. 

Jesus said he came to bind up the broken and loose the captives. Whom the Son has set free is free indeed. 

Mr. Hannon lets his education and broad vocabulary shine through. He thinks and writes relatively deeply. So, steel yourself and be determined. I am confident you will see the worth and understand the subject and also yourself better for reading through it.


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