Skip to content
August 3, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

A Case for Christian Spiritual Arts as Part of Apolegetics and the Church

The first 25 minutes are pretty good….I’m sure the rest is as well.

He quotes Cicero along the way….

August 2, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Subjective and objective ethics in the Bible–Getting God out of your box

If the bible is an instruction book, inspiration and guide to morality and life, why are so many of its passages vague and open to interpretation?

I think this is an interesting question…..but its looking in the wrong direction in some respects. I think it also misses the point of what the Bible is about–why it exists and how we are to use it now.

First, this seems sufficiently broad to provide flexibility and freedom of choice, but sufficiently targeted such that anyone can

The Fruit of the Spirit
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Or for instance:

Luke 6:31 New International Version (NIV)
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Why is ethical flexibility good?
Lets look at this from an analogy. Did your art teacher tell you how to paint by numbers to be the next DaVinci or star of the art world?

An ethical standpoint that understands the following means that precision isn’t always of utmost importance in terms of how ethical principles are communicated:
growth and development over time (personal ethical evolution–via a developmental model)
the state of your heart as being most important (i.e. trying & striving)
grace and forgiveness

Life isn’t supposed to be like a math problem.
There is a benefit to perspectivalism.
Life would be boring without change over time.
Live would be boring without differences in perspectives.

Humans aren’t robots. Effort, wrestling, conversation, and debate is good.

The challenge of dealing with diversity of perspectives in terms of interpretation is part of the joy, experience, and excitement of the faith when seen in proper perspective.

Ethics in the Bible is living, dynamic, and perspective and experience can breath meaning into its most important principles.

Gods grace means that the place of our heart and our faith is more important than our ability to follow doctrinal rules.

In some ways this allows people to come to God on their own terms–rather than a copycat or . We assemble a **grounded** ethical system based on the principles, narratives, and themes of the Bible. This model transcends the problems of typical rule based morality. It incorporates the need for objectivity in principle, but some degree of perspective and subjectivity.

Ultimately, the question misses both the value of the beauty and meaning of the way that God thinks about the ethics of person, the way in which grace and forgiveness, the importance of the state of our heart (our fundamental intent).

August 1, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Bible Verses about Atheists and Agnostics

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.


August 1, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

The Ethical and Practical Case Against Anarchism

Here are 15 criticisms of anarchism (actually not all criticisms per se–for instance some address the issue at the heart of the question from a different perspective and there are actually 27 to 29 arguments with the extra updates):

1) Law is imperfect executed by imperfect individuals. The best way to fix it is from the inside. You shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have 200 years of history….and a history thats improving over time as the basis for these claims in the US.

2) Not all coercion is the same. US vs. dictatorships. Also, not al instances of freedom invasion are bad. Grouping all coercion together is really, really unhelpful from a utilitarian or truth perspective.

3) When I’m asked not to infringe on the rights of others–that doesn’t infringe on my rights. I would imagine that form most people this is fine. And I seriously question those who think this is a real infringement.

4) Clear expectations and lack of extra-stress is incredibly helpful.

5) Anarchism would experience rather difficult issues in the realm of national security.

6) Law deters vigilantism which risks cycles of violence.

7) Private security forces risk arm races and cycles of violence.

8) Other forms of power and coercion would likely fill the gap. Plus the unpredictability of such a situation would create the risk of misperception…along with arms races and violence.
If we all started from an exactly equal place, it might make sense. But thats not the case due to class, educational differences, etc…. I think those at the bottom would be expected to gamble (i.e. be irrational) even more so than they are now.

9) Perfect rationality doesn’t exist in human form. People sacrifice the long term for short term interests. We need the force of the law. Humans are emotional, make decisions based on imperfect knowledge, and even some based on pleasure seeking in the short run.

10) Many of the reason why relativism is a bad idea seem like reason–seem like the same reasons why anarchism would experience similar problems.

11) Even Rand wrote a short indict of anarchism (I think its in Virtue of Selfishness).

12) Also, you can always vote with your feet. You have the freedom to choose the types of freedom that are most amenable to the types of freedom you want or desire.

13) If anarchists want more freedom in society, the way to do so is to is to help reform our prison system or other specific manifestations of injustice. That is a far, far more viable form of effective social change.

14) Debating the areas where government should be reduced is much more helpful on a case by case basis. You more accurately and concretely target the actual issues you have with government and its policies.

15) I would suggest that many of the issues outlined here also at an underlying level provide significant problems for anarchist type configurations: What are the best arguments against efficient market theory?

• Reputation management systems for judges wouldn’t work–because the losing person in the case almost always has a reason to spike the judgement. Moreover, judges have a reason to be lenient to get reputation for both people in the dispute.

• The time and efficiency issues associated with not having judges would also be a massive drag on productivity and time.

• Poor people would likely be priced out of the market.

• In some cases government + informal arrangements don’t solve problems–why would removing one of these possible solutions “help” the situation:

• Anarchism amounts to the Old West where justice was problematic and real security was in short supply. Moreover, native american cultures who have been said to be anarchic….got overrun by settlers….but even beyond this had significant problems beyond their borders.
Small failures can be potentially catastrophic. When issues of justice and security are undermined……freedom and efficiency suffer.

• History and human behavior dictate that getting rid of the state will re-emerge due to the need for a justice system and protection of individual rights. But in the mean time…..we will endure cycles of violence and injustice while the state re-emerges.

• The history of utopian community experiments like Anarchism in the US are’t particularly good. I think most that went as far as anarchism or very close….died out. And those people self-selected and had a very short time of existence to draw from.
The economic value of the speed of trust….you know what shared values to expect from the majority of people you encounter. Imagine this parallel scenario: if the person you were talking to at any point in the day were randomly assigned a language (1 in 25)….the number of calculations and additional brain power which would make this. Either….people will be incredibly insular….or won’t and will have sooooo much extra time devoted to managing expectations in order to maintain freedom, justice, fairness, and not getting beat up for no reason.

Gut checks/Update 2:
One that I didn’t fully develop though deals with human irrationality or even semi-rational calculation.

1) Almost any risk of irrationality on the part of 5%, much less 50% of the population seems to be a reason to favor. If you look at a bell curve….what percentage of the time are our decisions “irrational”?

2) At a minimum…..perspectivalism and/or phenomenology means that we don’t have. Not everyone agrees on what rational is. Multiply this times of number of decisions per day X number of people.
This is still a problem for a state based rational actor model….but at least some of those actors have trust in the law as semi-fair to resolve disputes and to provide accountability if those disputes end up being unjust/biased.

3) The basis of the elephant-rider model which comes from behavioral economics. Irrationality is baked in. I tend to think state-based systems have more “safety nets” for us to make irrational decisions.

I don’t have the theory to back it up, but shared goods and commons areas (aka tragedy of the commons) is probably better solved via.

The foreign policy problem….this becomes incredibly massive as the number of anarchist communities increases because these are now countries that you have to have relationships with (based on their power and geography). The empirical problem of outside invaders that are still states is also a problem.

I simply trust reformism as a means to change the abuses of the state in a just, predictable, and accountable way. This seems more consistent with an experimentalist model of government–which has enabled us to reform over time.

Don’t think we get the ROI on government now….or we could get better ROI….apply Six Sigma, so you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater….and you can optimize for what the society does best.

August 1, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

What kinds of accomodations should students with dyslexia seek out?

How should dyslexic students get help? What kinds of help should they ask for or seek out?

July 31, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Critique of materialist reductivism–Sensing God and the Limits of Neuroscience

Whether we are talking about the music of Beethoven and Mozart, the paintings of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, or the poetry of John Donne and William Butler Yeats, we are encountering the works of geniuses who thought they were answering a call to express the transcendent. Interestingly, even some of the greatest scientists, including Newton and Einstein, seem to have thought much the same. In each case, it would be apt to say that these men understood their works as affording them, and to some extent us as well, a glimpse of the mind of God. They believed that it was not only possible but necessary for human beings to meditate on certain transcendent themes, such as death and love, in order to understand our true position in the larger scheme of creation.

Of course, not every composer is a Mahler, nor every painter a Van Gogh, every poet a Yeats, or every scientist an Einstein. Great music is real, but so is bad music, and the same can be said regarding art, poetry, and science. Sometimes people simply get it wrong. But getting it wrong, no less than getting it right, is associated with certain neurochemical changes in the brain. In other words, the mere fact that neurochemical changes are taking place does nothing to help us distinguish between good and bad, the great and the merely insipid. The truth or falsehood of such expressions is not simply a matter of correspondence with some verifiable material state. It is also a matter of elegance, rhythm, balance, and above all, beauty, qualities that are to some degree transcendent.

Ultimately, we cannot define the beautiful in strictly material terms. We cannot prove on solely material grounds that Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is one of the greatest works of world literature, no matter how many copies it sells or how long it remains in print. When our child or grandchild asks us why anyone should read a Dostoyevsky novel, or visit a Van Gogh exhibit, or attend a performance of Mahler, we can offer no material proof. We can only try to describe the difference such works have made in our own lives, and offer up the hope that they will discover something similar.


RICHARD GUNDERMAN, MD, PhD, is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He is a professor of radiology, pediatrics, medical education, philosophy, liberal arts, and philanthropy, and vice-chair of the Radiology Department, at Indiana University.

* I’m pretty sure Gunderman is a humanist vs. a Christian

** Also, the article seems to make an argument for ther experience and evidence of the transcendant

July 30, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Critique of the Folly of the Folly of Scientism

The following is a critique of an essay which critiqued the article “The Folly of Scientism” by evolutionary biologist Austin Hughes from the University of South Carolina. The following article takes a critical view of the worldview of scientism, which seeks to extend the purview of science beyond its bounds in physics, chemistry, and biology….in a way that re-makes the world in the model of the reductionist, physicalist, and ultimately determinist view of reality which destroys choice, rationality, responsibility, ethics, along with the subjective, identity, and emotion :

Tools that help as cultural, institutional, and personal decisions. They also help with inspiration, self reflection, and emotional support–reminding humans that they aren’t alone.

The call for objective knowledge outside the realm of science is fundamentally question-begging. These areas aren’t meant to find “the one perfect answer”–if they were we’d be a society of near borgs. Life outside of science isn’t like math.

Hughes actually answers the question that misses. Moreover, a simple look at history and looking at the big picture can yield answers to such questions.
1) ethics in science
2) motives and purposes in science
3) institutional funding of science (philosophy, history, political science, etc..)
4) prioritization of science (and prioritization of important goals within science).
5) accountability of science
6) everything in society thats helps science that isn’t pure science
7) cultural leadership, innovation, and values to catalyze more helpful forms of science.
8) marketing and sales

More specifically theology and Christianity as ideas and movements and belief systems have played a primary role in facilitating this. Particularly in relation to:
1) Ethics and accountability
2) Free societies
3) Inspiring the original scientists and a number of others (many who have been Nobel prize winning and saved millions of lives)
4) Education and the university system
5) Funding for science & support of science education.
6) Arguments to the contrary are using a reductionist soundbite and snippet vision of history of these values–that selectively pick out worst case scenarios (in a way that perverts the search for truth). While the church hasn’t been perfect–its perhaps precisely when its been an over-bloated bureaucratic force of idllic proportion–that its been at its worst–and thats precisely what Austin Hughes is warning science is the fate that awaits it–if it fails to come to terms with scientism. While this historical analysis one focuses on the best, its certainly more representative than those I’ve seen by skeptics and atheists–and it stands as a decent answer to their misrepresentation of history (particularly when you omit Catholic examples).

But ultimately, part of this is the accountability that the “Folly of Science” accomplishes. Austin Hughes is pushing for greater accountability in science….so that it doesn’t become a shibboleth….so that it doesn’t end up thinking too much of itself…..while simultaneously discrediting it.

Fundamentally, he’s missed something about the history of ideas. He’s missed that the Renaissance, the Romantics, and the Enlightenment all have something to offer us as a society. When the enlightenment took hold, it didn’t totally overthrow all other values–it was ultimately integrated. And for good cause–the enlightenment philosophy would turn us into rational automatons. That is to say humans are BOTH rational and emotional. Both forms are absolutely vital to who we are and to neglect that is to miss the role of identity, passion, subjective knowledge, emotional problem solving, and a host of other deeply human issues. If this wasn’t true–psychology as a discipline wouldn’t exist.

If reason/science/skepticism represent an acid….in this case…..the acid has gone awry in the lab……corroding too much……and not noticing the nuance and distinctions of history.

• The Folly of Scientism by evolutionary biologist Austin Hughes from the University of South Carolina (link)
• The Folly of the Folly of Scientism Jerry A. Coyne at the University of Chicago (link)
• Critique of Scientism by philosophy Alysdair McIntrye(link)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 204 other followers