Capitalism Samizdat

I read nearly everything Carl Trueman puts out; I always find his analyses helpful. And he writes very well English. And he’s a nice, uh, bloke, I happen to know from personal experience.

His recent review essay shows how easy it is to boast that we’re not “conforming to the world”—without ever considering some of our culture’s most basic influences on our worldview. I’m guilty, too. It’s extraordinarily difficult to look at your own eyes without looking through them.

Trueman’s essay, in this case, takes aim at nothing less than capitalism. He’s not opposed to it, mind you. You and I wouldn’t be reading his essay without it. But he shows how its assumptions color even the most theologically conservative among us. And if you read this blog that’s probably you. Give it a read.

A TV Ramble

With all these new flat screens, they can’t really call it the “idiot box” anymore. What, “idiot slate”?

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Just remember: the medium is the message. And if you’re watching the idiot box, what does that say?

I get the biggest kick out of the vision of our society painted by Idiocracy, a film I don’t plan to see but haven’t stopped meditating upon since I read about it (warning: the linked essay is not appropriate for our kids—because our culture isn’t). In the projected future of our TV-saturated America, the leader of the nation is “Dwayne Elizondo ‘Mountain Dew’ Herbert Camacho,” announced in the House of Representatives with appropriate fanfare as “five-time Ultimate Smackdown Champion, porn superstar, and President of the United States.” Is that really so far-fetched?

The other joke that has come to my mind often from that movie is one that targets America’s rampant consumerism and scientism. Instead of using water to irrigate their fields, the Americans of the future use “Brawndo, the Thirst Eliminator!”

Thank you, idiot slate. I’m sorry; I just don’t have time for you. I don’t need you to be relevant.

Plus, I’ve got a nice computer which does everything you can do…

Why I Believe Again

The fascinating testimony of a Christian turned atheist turned (recently) Christian who once wrote a controversial biography of C. S. Lewis:

Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist “explanations” for our mysterious human existence simply won’t do – on an intellectual level. The phenomenon of language alone should give us pause. A materialist Darwinian was having dinner with me a few years ago and we laughingly alluded to how, as years go by, one forgets names. Eager, as committed Darwinians often are, to testify on any occasion, my friend asserted: “It is because when we were simply anthropoid apes, there was no need to distinguish between one another by giving names.”

This credal confession struck me as just as superstitious as believing in the historicity of Noah’s Ark. More so, really.

Do materialists really think that language just “evolved”, like finches’ beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena – of which love and music are the two strongest – which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.

[From New Statesman – Why I Believe Again, by A. N. Wilson]

Presuppositions make the man.

Chambers and Creationism

Another great quotation from Whittaker Chambers that has come to my mind many, many times:

I date my break [from Communism, which Chambers lived for and which, he says, was inherently atheist] from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. It was shortly before we moved to Alger Hiss’s apartment in Washington. My daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life. I liked to watch her even when she smeared porridge on her face or dropped it meditatively on the floor. My eye came to rest on the delicated convolutions of her ear—those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through m mind: “No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.

Witness, Whittaker Chambers, 16
Random House, 1952

Theologically Exhausted

I’ve just had the longest post famine in the history of my blog (excluding my honeymoon), I believe. I’m afraid I’m currently focused on work and dissertation, both of which have required significant attention recently.

But I can’t let my blog readers—both of you!—miss this great quotation, which I just placed in the new Bible Truths 12th grade textbook on worldview. The anecdote comes from Whittaker Chambers’ famous book Witness. Chambers gained his notoriety from his writing skill (notably at TIME magazine) and his controversial testimony against Communist Alger Hiss.

I use this illustration to show that we all believe things on authority and that we all have presuppositions we accept on faith.

In summer, my mother was a great pie maker and she had a way of holding up a pie on the fingertips of one hand while she trimmed the loose edges of crust with the other. She was doing this one day, when, in some rambling child’s conversation, I said something about “when God made the world.” I think I was trying it out on her. If so, the result was much better than I could have expected.

She froze with the pie in one hand and the trimming knife suspended in the other. “Somebody told you that,” she said with a severity she seldom used to me. “You picked that up somewhere. You must learn to think for yourself. You must keep an open mind and not accept other people’s opinions. The world was formed by gases cooling in space.”

I thought about this many times. But it was not the gaseous theory of creation that impressed me, though I did not reject it. What impressed me was that it was an opinion, too, since other people believed something else. Then, why had my mother told me what to think? Clearly, if the open mind was open (as I would say to myself later on, still turning over this conversation in my mind years afterwards), truth was simply a question of which opening you preferred. In effect, the open mind was always closed at one end. pp. 116-117.