Only Sensible Soteriology

The situation with Incarnation theology is not as if there are a dozen theories, some of which seem more plausible than others. Instead, there is only a single mantra, "Jesus died for our sins," which is as meaningless and incomprehensible as "Jesus painted for our hubcaps."

This particular phrase has destroyed the discernment of more Christians and has been responsible for more atheists than any other unreflectively accepted proposition of Christianity.

The first merit of my own theology is that it is not the case that it does not make a lick of sense.

The second merit is that it actually makes a good deal of sense by explaining adequately what happened and why.

The crucial question is, "What was God trying to achieve by incarnating?" My theology answers it; the "traditional" cant about "sacrificial lamb" does not.

The sacrifice theology goes like this: the Father was fed up with the world and about to pull the plug on it and execute everyone. The whole universe with stars and planets and tables and chairs was about to disappear, as the Father was preparing to wipe everyone out.

Then the Son intervenes and says: No, no, no, I love those guys. Don't kill them. Kill me instead.

The Father says: Well, I've got to kill somebody, I'm in the killing mood, so fine, I'll kill you. And now I am feeling particularly mean, so you'll die most unpleasantly, too. Go get yourself crucified.

Does that sound that like the sort of way God would act? It most certainly does not.

Is it possible that the Father wanted to test the Son's love for us? "You can save the world from destruction by me if you agree to be destroyed in its stead." This explanation has inched very closely to my own, but it's still inadequate for failing to explain the Son becoming man. Surely, the Father could have slaughtered the Son in His own self rather than go through a massive amount of highly peculiar trouble to get His human body killed by us.

In fact, I contend that the Son died and was reborn not once but three times for the sake of the world: before creation to get His intellect uplifted; at birth for the sake of power; and on the cross to decide whether to accept the charity in His will for humans. Why wasn't the first death enough for the Father? I think it was. The Son's second death was at the hands of the Holy Spirit, as per "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Lk 1:35) That's the "kenosis." And His final death was due to our human actions.

Jesus had to choose whether to condemn or redeem us in light of our ultimate act of violence against Him personally. That He chose to redeem, i.e., to connect humanity to the Father through Himself as branches to a vine, was a contingent event; it did not have to happen; the fate of the world hanged in the balance as Christ was contemplating His decision. Jesus was not simply going through the motions, where everything was already known and predestined; though He may have foreseen His course of action, He still freely chose it, and it is for that choice, in our favor, that we glorify Him.

In short, Jesus proved His love for us both to the Father, to the Holy Spirit, and to mankind.

We might say that the devil challenged the Son, and the Father refused to believe that the Son "loved" mankind without the trial or gauntlet of Incarnation. The Father would not allow humanity to be part of the divine family unless He could verify beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Son's claim to love us humans was not mere words on the Son's part. In this sense, we could say that the Father "did not spare" His own Son.

Is my soteriology "the protracted tale of the brinkmanship of God"? But don't you feel the drama? The burden both thrown on us and taken up by God? Life is not a game, where God leisurely supplies a happy ending for everyone. No happy ending was ever guaranteed. Lucifer bet both against us and against God the Son. Even the second bet was real, and the devil thought he had a non-zero chance of winning. He lost. The first bet is still on, however.

Mises on Racial Inequalities

Mises makes the following point in Human Action:

"It is vain to deny that up to now certain races have contributed nothing or very little to the development of civilization and can, in this sense, be called inferior." (89-90)

Now Mises writes very clearly, but his writings are decidedly non-trivial. This little proposition, however, has the merit of being not only true (as most things Mises writes are also true) but self-evidently so, even when taken entirely out of context.

And the context is Mises' critique of polylogism, the idea that different classes, races, nations, or other human groupings have a different logic or structure of the mind through which they think, such that mutual understanding between them is impossible.

For example, immediately before he condemns racists for "their postulate that there is an irreconcilable conflict between various racial groups and that the superior races must enslave the inferior ones. Ricardo's law of association has long since discarded this mistaken interpretation of the inequality of men."

Moreover, Mises expresses no opinion of the cause of the inequality of the races. Perhaps it's genetic. Then again, perhaps if the Africans were given suitable futuristic brain implants, then they would easily surpass the achievements of the whites. "We cannot know whether or not at a later date other races will supplant Western civilization," he says.

Mises' thesis is a particular case of his general belief in the innate inequality of men: "God or nature did not create men equal since many are born hale and hearty while others are crippled and deformed." (175) But races are very extended families. As individuals and families are unequal, so are races. Further, as a utilitarian in welfare economics, Mises would "recommend equality under the civil law not because men are equal but because such a policy is beneficial to the commonweal. In rejecting the illusory notions of natural law and human equality modern biology only repeated what the utilitarian champions of liberalism and democracy long before had taught in a much more persuasive way."

Hence it is a mistake to accuse Mises of un-PC thought crimes.

Ancient vs. Modern Economy

Plato's meticulous design of his "state" aimed to assign to everybody his "natural" place within the economy or social cooperation. The singular purpose of this all-encompassing "plan" was to eliminate or minimize interhuman conflict and strife.

That was also the attraction and promise of a caste society, where one's station at birth fully determined his destiny. The gods made Smith a serf; let him be content with his proper place for his entire life. His children will inherit his caste and be similarly content.

Imagine the chaos of competition! There will be an endless war of all against all. There will be rivers of blood, as the serfs would seek to raise their social positions by murdering the members of the upper castes and looting their property, only to be murdered themselves by the new and still more ambitious newcomers.

Unfortunately, the social peace was bought at an enormous price, namely, the absence of any economic progress.

Plato's Republic has an astonishingly lucid and historically important description of the actual division of labor in ancient Greece.

It begins with the following undoubtedly correct observation:

"A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can any other origin of a State be imagined?"

But Plato gives no thought to how this economy can improve. He shows no awareness that any improvement is possible at all.

At least in modern times there were writers of science fiction. Most of their stories, unless simply space operas (like Edmond Hamilton's entertaining Star Kings), are atrocious and contemptible. But they were at least trying; they were infected with the spirit of progress, even if their actual predictions of future societies usually made no sense.

It was the merit of the economists to realize that competition and freedom to improve one's own life need not cause any violence but can be harnessed for the welfare of society as a whole to the enormous benefit of all its members.

Thus, entrepreneurs are recruited into service of society through the cunning of the economists.

If one were to describe the essence of "modernity," it would be the belief that the universe, from the human point of view, is a process of its everlasting and always surprising self-improvement. This makes it on earth as it is in paradise.

Absurdity of War for “Oil”

From the point of view of an average American consumer, it does not matter which business firm or entrepreneur (or even government) owns the factors of production such as oil wells. The international economy, to the extent that it is at all free-market, assures that whoever's in control will be forced to serve the consumers.

Again, I as a consumer do not care who owns the "oil," as long as gas stations have gas, and energy prices drop with time, as economic conditions improve.

The only sense in which a war can be "for oil" is when some definite American oilman Smith bribes or blackmails congressmen into declaring war, and then recruits the US military to serve his, Smith's, personal interests to steal foreign-held oil wells from their current owners.

If this is so, then names should be named to condemn the guilty.

But the "American people" do not benefit in any way from Smith's crime. They have no reason to support any "war for oil."

Should You Vote?

From one standpoint, the general question "Should a person vote?" makes no sense. If you enjoy voting, then vote. If you don't, then don't. Should you eat this piece of chicken? I don't know, whatever floats your boat. Same with voting.

If we need a reason for voting, then here's one: all action takes place on the margin. I don't have the choice of abolishing the state or electing a politician who will abolish the state and then abdicate. I have a boring old choice of the lesser of the two evils. Given my actual choices, why not indeed choose the lesser evil?

<Insert the standard counter-argument that one's vote does not matter.>

There is, however, an aspect of voting that is disturbing. For when a libertarian votes for the lesser of the two evils according to the options presented to him, other people and the politician voted for if he wins do not interpret this action as such.

They do not say: "Smith did not vote for A; he actually voted against B." They say: "He did vote for A; therefore, he endorsed A's policies; therefore A has the 'mandate'." A then proceeds to bomb people thinking he has Smith's enthusiastic support.

Voting fails to convey to others, to whom it may concern, that one despises both candidates and that he does not, by the fact of rejecting the worse, endorse the other slightly less bad.

America As Theistic Nation

Christianity as a faith is built on the foundation of natural philosophy. There is such a thing as "theism," adhered to not only by Christianity but also, for example, by Judaism and Islam and maybe some enlightened other creeds.

As per St. Thomas, "the existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles; for faith presupposes natural knowledge, even as grace presupposes nature, and perfection supposes something that can be perfected." (ST, I, 2, 2, reply 1)

Now the government can make use of economics to decide its "policy." Economics is as much a legitimate science as our natural theology. To be sure, philosophy is controversial, and people disagree as to whether God exists. But economics is controversial, too. That should not stop the government from doing its best to evaluate economic theories. Why should the government be exempted from evaluating philosophical arguments in favor of or against the existence of God and making a definite decision?

The government ought not to decide between Christianity and Islam, say, because those involve divine grace which is far beyond the ken of temporal power, but it should consider theism vs. atheism. Withholding judgment is tantamount to choosing atheism.

If it chooses theism, then not only may it admit that we are by nature "endowed with inalienable rights," but that this state of affairs is determined by the "Creator." Such an understanding can be a potent deterrent preventing the state from turning predatory.

For a counter-argument, consider disciplines like the history of button-making or the best techniques for growing roses. These are just as natural as economics and ethics, yet no one would suggest that the state take a position on them. Thus, it seems that not all sciences are relevant, but only those aspects of them that somehow impinge on the proper use of violence in society. Everything else is none of the government's concern. Hence, perhaps natural theology is outside the purview of the state.

Jacob’s Slavery

The idea of slavery as a legitimate early stage in economic development is well-illustrated by the Biblical story of Jacob's two marriages:

"After Jacob had stayed with him a full month, Laban said to him:

'Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine? Tell me what your wages should be.'

Because Jacob loved Rachel, he answered,

'I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.'" (Gen 29:14-18)

Again, given such primitive level of division of labor, most "jobs" in those days were unskilled and paid equal subsistence wages. There was no advantage in being free.

But if you more-or-less enslave yourself to a master, as Jacob did to Laban, perhaps he'll let you marry his daughter 7 years later.

Silly Darwinism

The theory of evolution truly is the most pathetic science in existence. It:

  1. makes no quantitative predictions;
  2. makes no qualitative predictions (such as what biological structures or species will evolve in the future);
  3. makes no retrodictions, i.e., does not explain how, such as via what intermediate stages, a given structure or organ has evolved;
  4. tells us nothing about what creatures existed in the distant past or how they worked;
  5. absurdly reduces the ends of all creatures -- including humans! -- to mere survival and reproduction;
  6. is consistent with every set of data ("everything, whatever it may be, has evolved"); hence "explains everything," so actually explains very little.

No wonder fanatical Darwinists demand that we "believe" in evolution. (No one asks, "Do you believe in quantum mechanics?")

Essence of Victimism

It's not the concern with individuals as sufferers of government injustices. No left-liberal actually cares about the children or homosexuals.

Rather, modern victimism is about glorification of sin and ugliness.

Politically correct victimism does not enjoin us to love our neighbor but:

first, to love and praise the neighbor's sins;

second, never to challenge the neighbor's false ideas and even to convert to his idiocy ourselves,

since to do otherwise would constitute "aggression."

But note again the Gospels episode of Jesus saving the adulterous woman. He has mercy on her and saves her life, but does not tell her, "Go, keep whoring yourself, and be proud of it." He says, most reasonably, "Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more."

It's a perennial problem for people to love sinners but hate their sin. Victimism is just another grotesque error in regard to this elementary distinction.

Violent Unity

Girard denies that Satan exists, considering him to be a mere metaphor for certain societal processes. His interest is in the Jesus' argument: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him." (Mk 3:23-26) Amazingly, he claims that "Jesus does not deny the reality of Satan's self-expulsion; he asserts it." (34) I don't understand this: it's obvious that He does deny it; the denial is precisely a highly plausible proof that His miracles are divine in origin.

For Girard, the main Satanic trick is precisely to cast out himself:

Satan can therefore always put enough order back into the world to prevent the total destruction of what he possesses without depriving himself for too long of his favorite pastime, which is to sow disorder, violence, and misfortune among his subjects. (37)

When the trouble caused by Satan becomes too great, Satan himself becomes his own antidote of sorts: he stirs up the mimetic snowballing and then the unanimous violence that makes everything peaceful once again. (43)

What is the cure-all of the prince of this world, his most clever trick, perhaps his only resource? It is the mimetic all-against-one or single victim mechanism. It is the mimetic unanimity that, at the highest pitch of disorder, brings order back into human communities. This sleight of hand remained hidden until the Jewish and Christian revelation. ... Thanks to this deception, human communities are indebted to Satan for the shaky relative order that they enjoy. They are thus always in his debt and cannot free themselves on their own. (44)

Perhaps this could serve as an argument in favor of political anarchism, because the state is such an awful and crude tool of protecting social cooperation. It is through the Satan of the state (or for the ancient Jews, the entire community armed with stones) that the Satan of private criminals is expelled. It's a colorful way of describing the human condition.

But Girard is wrong that the devil does not exist as a real creature, a fallen angel. Moreover, the aim of Satan is not careful control; he wants to end mankind as soon as possible, but, being incorporeal, he cannot kill and destroy directly. He seeks to make us humans murder each other. Satan does not play games or have a "pastime."

What then is the essence of collective violence? My mother just bought a nice new electric tea kettle. My own kettle, being 5 or so years old, was slightly leaking, but I "conservatively" made do. It is only when she got her own that I was jolted into desiring a new kettle for myself. There was indeed imitation. But never did it occur to me to steal my mother's kettle or even to "covet" it. When my own desire for this good was kindled, I went on Amazon and bought my own. The imitation then was not rivalrous or violent. It was even good, a process of learning and self-discovery of what might give me future utility.

The mimetic violence then must refer to a special kind of imitation, i.e., of morality. How can a thousand Jews demanding the death of Jesus be wrong? To unite with them is to bind yourself to the community speaking in one voice, to be "accepted," to belong. In this belonging, where dissent is not merely not tolerated but is inconceivable, there is a definite pleasure and strength is numbers. You are one of us. And yet this pleasure comes at a price.

To murder one as all, thereby earning a joyous "catharsis," is the essence of respectability; or rather one can be respectable both in a peaceful country club and in a vicious gang. What crimes will you commit to merit your respectability?

The voice of the people is the voice of God, isn't it? The crowd is infallible and omnipotent. You can't fight City Hall. Well, not in the Gospels. It turns out that even the entire community can be objectively wrong about a point of morals or law. The voice of the people was in fact the voice of the devil inciting them to kill God.

I agree with Girard that this is an important lesson of Christianity.