September 25, 2014

Today’s Picks: Sept 25

By In TRL's Picks from Around the Web

See yesterday’s picks here.

Theological and Philosophical

—> From February of this year, Reformed Baptist Tom Chantry addresses the philosophy, among other things, of John Frame.  While it was a controversial piece (these issues always are and John Frame is popular in Reformed circles), there is much to be gained from it.  The epistemological portion of it was most interesting to me. Here is an excerpt:

[…] Working within Van Til’s construct of the noetic effect of sin (sin’s effect on the mind), he developed a rather remarkable system which is alternatively called “triperspectivalism” or “multi-perspectivalism.”

Triperspectivalism posits that every individual approaches truth from three perspectives: the normative, the situational, and the existential.  The normative perspective involves those assertions of objective truth which come to the individual from an accepted authority.  To the Christian, these truth-claims are most obviously found in Scripture, although because God is the God of nature as well they may come also from the study of general revelation.  The situational perspective involves the context from within which the individual views these truth claims.  That context may be cultural, doctrinal, or related more to personal history.  Persons in different contexts, though, view truth claims differently from one another.  The existential perspective involves the inward man – the individual who must interact with normative truth claims from within a distinct context.  Every individual is different, and our existential distinctions also lend a unique perspective to our perceptions of truth.

To sum [Frame’s position] up in layman’s language, while the truth of God is objective and absolute, it is received by different personalities from different contexts, and as such they are going to perceive the truth differently.  On the face of it this is a profound observation of the way in which sinful and imperfect men receive the truth of a holy God.  No matter how clear and objective God’s truth may be, in our differences we tend to inject a good deal of self into our reading of that truth.  It is why, for instance, different cultures, different languages, and even different denominations produce different theologies, all while asserting their fidelity to the same Scripture.

I suspect that for roughly half the time that I was a student in Escondido we all thought that this was what Frame was doing – offering a critique of the sinful human soul in his struggle for knowledge.  At least, that’s what I assumed that he was doing.  But then it became evident that he was not speaking merely of how things are, but instead of how things ought to be!  Increasingly he urged us to give the situational and existential perspectives their due consideration.  Finally one of my more perceptive classmates asked point blank, “Do you not agree that the normative perspective ought to take precedence over the situational and existential?”  Understand in layman’s terms what he was asking: “Does Frame not agree that the objective revelation of Scripture ought to take precedence in our thought over our own circumstances and personalities?”

Frame’s answer was a resounding “No!”  The perspectives, he insisted, are and must be equal.  The situational and existential inform the normative as much as and in the same fashion that the normative informs them.  To put this again in layman’s terms, yes, the objective word of God ought to affect the way in which I view the opinions formed from my own personality and my context, but at the same time and in the same way my personality and context ought to inform my understanding of the word of God.  And that, my friends is relativistic hermeneutic – plain and simple.

Political and Economic

—> Richard Ebeling gives a long, yet rewarding overview of the contributions of the eminent Austrian economist Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, whose greatest contribution to economic science was his development of Austrian Capital theory; that is, how capital participates in production and economic expansion.  Covering both personal and academic aspects of the life of Bohm-Bawerk, Ebeling, an able economist in his own right, provides key information to anyone who is just being introduced to the Austrian School of economics and is interested in learning about the leading thinkers of that tradition.  A quote:

To his last, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk defended reason and the logic of the market against the emotional appeals and faulty reasoning of those who wished to use power and the government to acquire from others what they could not obtain through free competition.  His contributions to economic theory and economic policy show him as one of the greatest economists of all time, as well as his example as a principled man of uncompromising integrity who in the political arena unswervingly fought for the free market and limited government.

—> Journalist Ryan Devereaux reports on newly released CIA documents which reveal how the agency “watched over the destruction of Gary Webb” who was the journalist and reporter who in the mid ’90s broke the story about CIA participation in the cocaine epidemic in Southern California.  Webb issued a detailed investigation into the cocaine trade and more than proved the CIA involvement in these matters, even to the point of the Reagan administration shielding inner-city drug dealers.  Webb’s career was destroyed after publishing these investigations and, as the new documents demonstrate, the CIA was watching over these events the whole time, with lips tightly closed.  Webb’s place in journalist history was sealed when in 2004 he was found dead with two gunshot wounds; which was actually ruled a suicide.  Here is an excerpt from Devereaux’s piece:

These days, Webb is being cast in a more sympathetic light. He’s portrayed heroically in a major motion picture set to premiere nationwide next month. And documents newly released by the CIA provide fresh context to the “Dark Alliance” saga — information that paints an ugly portrait of the mainstream media at the time.

On September 18, the agency released a trove of documents spanning three decades of secret government operations. Culled from the agency’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, the materials include a previously unreleased six-page article titled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story.” Looking back on the weeks immediately following the publication of “Dark Alliance,” the document offers a unique window into the CIA’s internal reaction to what it called “a genuine public relations crisis” while revealing just how little the agency ultimately had to do to swiftly extinguish the public outcry. Thanks in part to what author Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer at the time of publication, describes as “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists,” the CIA’s Public Affairs officers watched with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter.

Cultural and Social

—> Mark Nenadov wrote a thoughtful piece for The Kuyperian Commentary on the issue of immigration.  This post is worthy of recommendation because it offers thoughts that should taken to heart by advocates on both sides of the open borders/closed borders debate (which is really a false dichotomy).  Nenadov urges his readers to proceed in the debate “under the Lordship of Christ.”  Which of course is a relevant urging to any and all policy matters.  Nenadov is aware that not every reader will agree with his every word on the matter, but hopefully both the general themes and the manner in which they are written will be meaningful to the reader.  He concludes as follows:

Let us remember that God’s people, in many seasons of history, have been and are pilgrims and strangers, and so our treatment of others should reflect sensitivity to those in the same situation.

We need to do some serious thinking on the immigration issue on a level that is more basic than merely that of a policy discussion. No matter what policies we may wish to support, we Christians must proceed under the Lordship of Christ. Why should we be concerned about the immigrant? As John Calvin said, it is “the image of God, which recommends him to you” (Institutes, 3.7.6).

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com