What does it mean to have a “right”? I’ve been contemplating this over the past week in the wake of watching congress pass health care reform on C-SPAN on Sunday. My gut level reaction, based on my basic presuppositions regarding the relationship between the individual and the state, is that our society has crossed the Rubicon towards an accelerated loss of individual liberty. Not that either party has had a monopoly on our long slouch towards authoritarianism. Still, I know that many well-meaning people, including many friends, hold that health care is a “right”. I find myself asking, “are they correct”? At the end of the day I simply can’t wrap my mind around this idea.
Reprinted from my previous and now defunct blog…
How does our society deal with controversial ideas? For too many, the first reaction (regardless of our place on the ideological spectrum) tends to be to label those with whom we disagree in order to cast them in the worst possible light. If the ideas of those we disagree with happens to have empirical backing, another successful strategy is to simply ignore their arguments. A great example of this is Charles Murray’s book Real Education. I initially hesitated to pick up this book because of memories of intellectual pressure from my college days: The Bell Curve (which he co-authored) was reportedly the work of a reactionary, and by extension anyone who read and engaged the ideas in a work by such an author was guilty by association.
Over the past month in my limited free time I have been working my way through N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope. This is the first thing by Wright that I have read, and I was quite impressed. The primary theme of the book is examining the ramifications of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. Wright defends a Biblical understanding of the resurrection and debunks a lot of popular misunderstandings in the process. Given that I am currently a student in the academy, I found these arguments particularly pressing. There is a great deal of concern and consternation amongst post-modern thinkers regarding living “embodied” lives, or recognizing that as human beings our lives are situated within our physical bodies living in a physical reality. In many ways this aspect of post-modernism is a reaction against a dualistic split between a disembodied soul and physical body which is more characteristic of Platonic thought than orthodox Christianity. In this sense, Christians have something real to say to our culture on this issue: material reality and physicality are not evil (as Gnostics would claim), but are at the center of our vision of eternity, which will be both embodied and physical. I would agree with Wright that having a proper view of the Resurrection of Christ is essential for living our day to day lives with balance and purpose. This world is not simply filled with cannon-fodder for Armageddon, for us to use and abuse in anticipation of the Earth’s final destruction. Instead, anything done for God in this world, to quote a popular movie, will echo in eternity…an eternity of embodied life in which heaven and earth are joined.
Recently, I discussed how in The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis elaborates on how Medieval cosmology exerted a profound creative influence on Medieval and Renaissance literature. Lewis worried that the creative aesthetic spark of this worldview had been lost in a utilitarian modern culture. It should not be a surprise that Lewis would incorporate elements of the Medieval worldview, which was both his academic specialty and passion, into his fantasy novels. Yet as Michael Ward points out in his book Planet Narnia, this aspect of Lewis’s work went unnoticed for decades and is only now beginning to be explored.
In this final blog on Geocentrism, I will present a rebuttal to the claims of modern geocentrists. This might seem like an exercise in futility, as those who reject geocentrism as gobbledygook will already have sound reasons for doing so, and those who do accept geocentrism are likely to adhere to the theory dogmatically and are unlikely to be swayed by any reason, religious, scientific, or otherwise. Given that one in five Americans believes this stuff, however, it’s good to have a firm grasp on the issue.
From my perspective, I believe that the fundamental religious issue here is one of fidelity to the meaning of the texts of scripture, which should be interpreted within the context in which it was written. An individual who starts from a modern viewpoint and reads contemporary questions of science into the text is simply not engaging in a literal (or sound) interpretation. Christian scriptures were not dictated by God from heaven (as in other religions), but were instead written by individuals operating within a specific historical and cultural environment. Scripture is viewed as “inspired” rather than “dictated”, in that they are viewed to contain the truth of God’s interactions with humanity from the pen and perspective of specific individuals in the setting of real culture and history. Viewing the scripture in this way does not question the truth of the Bible, but also does not assume that God was attempting to provide nomadic shepherds scientific theories which would be unintelligible 3,000 years ago and would continue to be until the advent of modern science.