The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “douglas wilson”

Book Review – The Authenticity Hoax

reviewed by Justin Dillehay

Authenticity_Hoax_FNL_cvrOrganic food. Samuel Adams. Mud-floors. Vintage Levi’s. What do they all have in common? According to philosopher Andrew Potter: authenticity. People eat, imbibe, walk on, and wear these things in an effort to be “real.” Potter views this so-called authenticity as a reaction to modernity, describing it as a “rejection of the various tributaries of mass society’s current, including the media, marketing, fast food, party politics, the Internet, and—above all—the program of free markets and economic integration usually derided as ‘globalization’” (8). In the space of 273 fascinating and often hilarious pages, Potter analyzes the history, meaning, and manifestations of authenticity, ranging from Jean Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century to Oprah Winfrey in the 21st. Through it all, Potter concludes that authenticity is a hoax; a “dopey nostalgia for a non-existent past, a one-sided suspicion of the modern world, and stagnant and reactionary politics masquerading as something personally meaningful and socially progressive” (270).

For me, Potter’s most helpful (and entertaining) insight is that authenticity is a form of one-upmanship and status-seeking; an effort not to be real, but to be different. If everyone starts listening to the Avett Brothers, the truly authentic will drop them like last month’s YouTube sensation (they must be sell-outs anyway). If Wal-Mart starts placing organic food within the financial reach of the hoi polloi, this is cause—not for rejoicing—but for anti-capitalist consternation (129). Once indie bands and organic food lose their ability to distinguish the authentic from the rabble, the truly authentic move on in search of substitutes, like locally grown food. All this and more in a chapter entitled “Conspicuous Authenticity,” a term Potter adapts from economist Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Read more…

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Rhetorical Hit, Theological Miss

A couple months ago, Mary Elizabeth Williams posted a column at Salon.com entitled, “So What If Abortion Ends Life?”  The vitriolic nature of the piece prevails from the title to the final phrase, designed to enflame the most seasoned of post-Roe veterans on both sides of the debate.  Her flippant handling of what’s often considered a sacred issue does its job.  The article was low on fact and high on accusation, but it is still able to accomplish its goal of engendering strife and perhaps, even a little bit of nausea.  However, as acerbic as the article is, Ms. Williams makes two salient points.  The first is about the use of language in public debate and the second about the arbitrary philosophical distinction in the “life-begins-somewhere-other-than-conception” camp.

Her immediate use of the phrase “diabolically clever” is diabolically clever, because it automatically brings to mind thoughts of a red-clad, pitchfork-wielding imp, mostly drawn from religious allusions.  Comparing the religious-right with the devil will certainly get folks stirred up in a hurry.  Then they’re not seeing straight when she gets to her arguments later. But her use of rhetoric is not as prominent as her analysis of how rhetoric is used.  Her opening paragraph begins,

Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word ‘life’.  Life!  Who wants to argue with that?  Who wants to be on the side of…not-life?

Then with all the hubris she can muster, she boasts, “that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me.  I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life.  And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.” Read more…

My Big Fat Greek Education

In Ephesians 6, the apostle instructs fathers to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Paul did not speak English, so instead of ‘nurture’ and ‘admonition’, he said paideia and nouthesia.  These Greek words carried the weight of their culture in their meaning and usage, just as ‘nurture’ and ‘admonition’ hold a cultural connotation for us.  Off the top of my head, ‘nurture’ reminds me of ‘promoting life and growth via food and warmth’.  It reminds me of gardening just as much as child-rearing.  The word ‘admonition’ comes across as stern and rigid.  When I’ve been ‘admonished’, no one has to be there holding a dictionary for me to know it.

Since God did not reveal himself in English, we have to translate, and that’s not a problem in and of itself.  God likes translation.  Jesus taught in Aramaic, so I’ve been told, and the gospel writers wrote in Greek.  Therefore, the original texts of the gospels are themselves translations.  Some translations are simple, like when Jesus was called ‘Rabbi’ and the gospel writers had to tell us that meant ‘teacher’.  The translation requires very little work when it comes to ‘common stuff’ like: dirt, fire, water, or donuts. “This means that” and the translator could point to it. However, some words require a little more background to understand, not merely because they’re antiquated, but because the meaning is not as superficial. Read more…

The Battle in Bear Country » Sullivan v Wilson: Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?

The University of Idaho hosted a public debate, to a crowd of over 800, on February 27, 2013. The debate was participated in by Andrew Sullivan, blogger and former senior editor of The Atlantic, and Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church of Moscow, ID, author and educator. The topic of the debate: Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?

Battle of the Beards

Battle of the Beards

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Gay Marriage and Christian Values

Last night, Douglas Wilson debated Andrew Sullivan on gay marriage. Peter Leithart summarized the debate and the difficulties Christians will face in that debate. He noted:

It will take nothing short of a cultural revolution for biblical arguments to be heard, much less to become persuasive.

Wilson’s [argument] was [came across as] a fundamentalist, theocratic argument.

The claim that legalizing gay marriage will make the legalization of polygamy easier, as Wilson repeatedly argued, is coherent, but doesn’t have much purchase. Nobody seems to be much worried about a polygamous future for America, and making polygamy the centerpiece of opposition to gay marriage looks too much like fear-mongering.

In the end, these dilemmas may not matter. Perhaps Christians are called to do no more than speak the truth without worrying about persuasiveness.

Whatever the political needs of the moment, the longer-term response to gay marriage requires a renaissance of Christian imagination. Because the only arguments we have are theological ones, and only people whose imaginations are formed by Scripture will find them cogent.

Leithart is right. We live in a world, always have, that doesn’t want to hear what God has to say about anything, especially the love between two people who want nothing more than equality with the rest of us.

It is at this point that one might wonder if the best way for Christians to handle the debate is to let it go. When Constantine reformed Rome’s laws, it happened in an empire that had a Christian leader. Whatever one might believe about the founding of America, to call it a Christian nation today would be laughable, even to Constantine. Constantine, however, saw the value in Christian law because he saw a Christian culture living by it and knew that was what Rome needed.

Maybe the best response for Christians would be to simply live out Christian laws and values, offer a competing polis and culture, that the rest of the nation will someday see the value in. Rather than imposing our values on a nation that doesn’t want them, maybe it would be best to live out our values and show the nation they are worth wanting. Maybe, just maybe, the world will see the righteousness of the Law and start wondering who it is that gave us these laws. Then, the nation will have an imagination formed (or, at least desirous to be formed) by Scripture and will begin to understand our arguments.

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