Why should we believe Jesus was the Messiah, if He didn’t fulfill all the prophecies when He was here?

  1. Next, note that some of these seem to contradict one another.
  • How is the Messiah going to lead Israel to greatness, while at the same time the Messiah is to be rejected by Israel?
  • How is the Messiah going to be the ultimate conqueror, yet also be killed in weakness?
  • How is the Messiah going to usher in world peace (by destroying the wicked), when Israel herself is wicked (‘incurably ill, and desperately wicked’—said Jeremiah)?
  • How is the Messiah going to come ‘on clouds’ and ‘on a donkey’ at the same time?
  • How is Messiah going to come from the line of David (tribe of Judah) and from Levi at the same time?
  1. Let’s look at possible ways to ‘resolve’ some these tensions/contradictions:

Assuming we believe the Scriptures, which the first century Jews did, we have essentially three live options in resolving such contradictions:

  1. Let’s see these in action:

Option 1 (two different messiahs, at least) is most visible in the situation of dealing with the death of the messiah. Later Judaism came up with TWO Messiahs—a Messiah, son of David and Messiah, son of Joseph. A good summary of this is found in MTJL:165ff:

Messiah ben Joseph, also called Messiah ben Ephraim, referring to his ancestor Ephraim, the son of Joseph, is imagined as the first commander of the army of Israel in the Messianic wars. He will achieve many signal victories, but his fate is to die at the hands of Armilus in a great battle in which Israel is defeated by Gog and Magog. His corpse is left unburied in the streets of Jerusalem for forty days, but neither beast nor bird of prey dares to touch it. Then, Messiah ben David comes, and his first act is to bring about the resurrection of his tragic forerunner.

 

“Scholars have repeatedly speculated about the origin of the Messiah ben Joseph legend and the curious fact that the Messiah figure has thus been split in two. It would seem that in the early legend, the death of the Messiah was envisaged, perhaps as a development of the Suffering Servant motifA prophecy of Daniel, written about 164 B.C.E., is the earliest source speaking of the death of a Mashiah (“Anointed”) sixty-two (prophetic) weeks after his coming and after the return and the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24-26). While it appears that Daniel had a temporal ruler in mind, whom he calls Mashiah Nagid (“Anointed Prince”), some two centuries later, the author of 4 Ezra unmistakably refers to the Messiah, belief in whom had developed in the meantime, when he puts words in the mouth of God to the effect that after four hundred years (counted from when?), MY son the Messiah shall die (4 Ezra 7:27-30).

When the death of the Messiah became an established tenet in Talmudic times, this was felt to be irreconcilable with the belief in the Messiah as the Redeemer who would usher in the blissful millennium of the Messianic age.The dilemma was solved by splitting the person of the Messiah in two: one of them, called Messiah ben Joseph, was to raise the armies of Israel against their enemies, and, after many victories and miracles, would fall victim to Gog and Magog. The other, Messiah ben David, will come after him (in some legends will bring him back to life, which psychologically hints at the identity of the two), and will lead Israel to the ultimate victory, the triumph, and the Messianic era of bliss.

This splitting of the Messiah in two persons, which took place in the Talmudic period, achieved another purpose besides resolving the dilemma of the slain Messiah. According to an old tradition, the Messiah was perfectly prefigured in Moses. But Moses died before he could lead the Children of Israel into the Land of Promise. Consequently, for the parallel to be complete, the Messiah, too, had to die before accomplishing his great task of ultimate RedemptionSince however, the Messiah would not be the True Redeemer of God if he did not fulfill that ultimate task, the only solution was to let one Messiah, like Moses, die, and then assign the completion of the work of Redemption to a second Messiah.

[Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls testify to the Qumran Community’s belief in TWO messiahs: one priestly, and one royal—to resolve a different ‘tension’ within the messianic strands in the OT.]

Option 2 (complimentary and conditional descriptions) can be illustrated from the donkey-versus-clouds tension. The Talmud has this interesting passage at  b. Sanh 98a:

“R. Joshua ben Levi cited two verses that seemed mutually contradictory. One verse says, ‘And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven’ (Dan. 7:13), while the others says, ‘[Behold, they king cometh unto thee]…lowly, and riding upon an ass’ (Zech. 9:9). However, the two verses declare: If Israel are meritorious, Messiah will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’; if not, he will be ‘lowly, and riding upon an ass.’”

Notice that this option (although not present or suggested in the biblical text), makes the prophecies conditional—depending on Israel’s righteousness at the time of Messiah’s approach—and therefore the conflict is resolved by one side NOT being ‘fulfilled’ at all.

  1. The two contrasting descriptions/roles apply to TWO DIFFERENT “messiahs”
  2. The two contrasting descriptions/roles are each CONDITIONAL, meaning that only one will actually occur (the other being precluded by the circumstances)
  3. The two contrasting descriptions/roles apply to the same messianic figure, but will be fulfilled in DIFFERENT times (or circumstances)

Option 3 (two different comings of the same messianic individual) can be seen in the understandings of the earliest Jewish believers in Jesus.

  • The death of the Messiah was reconciled with the victory/eternal life of the messiah via the resurrection of the Messiah (preserving both prophecies, without having to “split” the messiah in two).
  • The donkey-versus-clouds tension is resolved by having the ‘donkey’ one happening at a different time than the ‘on clouds’ one. But again, notice both are preserved and both are fulfilled by the same person.
  1. Before we assess these different options, notice that all three approaches would create the same problem for you/us: why would you accept ANY messianic figure that DIDN’T fulfill ALL the prophecies.

  • In Option 1, why would you/we believe in Messiah ben Joseph (who came much earlier than Messiah ben David), since he obviously didn’t fulfill the promises of military victory over the Gentiles (instead he was killed and defeated!)? And, why would you/we accept Messiah ben David, since he obviously didn’t fulfill the promise of being killed?

  • In Option 2, why would you/we believe in a messiah who came ‘on clouds’, since he DIDN’T fulfill the prophecies of coming ‘on a donkey’, or vice versa—indeed, he wasn’t even supposed to do them both, since they were conditional and mutually-exclusive (in this option)?

  • In Option 3, why would you/we believe in a messiah who fulfilled only the first-appearance prophecies, since He wasn’t even supposed to complete the others until later?

So, if you are going to accept the premise of early Judaism that the Scripture is trustworthy in its recording of God’s messianic promises, then you are going to be faced with the same problem no matter what approach you take. What this means, friend, is that the Messiahship of Jesus cannot be thrown out on the basis of currently unfulfilled messianic prophecies—this situation exists within Judaism as well.

  • .. The Servant passages in Isaiah (esp. 52-53) depict a suffering, dying, rejected, and scorned (by Israel) Messiah. I have demonstrated elsewhere that this was a common Jewish understanding of this passage from very early on, but messianic interpretations of this passage persisted in Judaism for centuries and centuries. Compare this passage from Midrash Konen (no earlier than the 11th century AD, cited in MTJL:114f):
  1. Now, what are the strengths and weakness of the three options? How might we assess their relative credibility, in terms of their fidelity to the scripture?

Option 1 (multiple messianic figures) has the advantage of allowing every single messianic prophecy be completely true (by ascribing dissonant ones to different messianic figures, e.g. David, Elijah, Aaron, various prophets, Ezra, or even the entire nation of Israel). The obvious difficulty with this view is that there is generally no textual warrant for it, or textual evidence to support it. The texts never seem to distinguish between a Messiah, Son of David and a Messiah, Son of Joseph at all. And there are major complications of having two messiahs (for example): after Messiah ben David raises Messiah ben Joseph from the dead, which one fulfills the rest of the messianic functions? How do the two interact in the Messianic kingdom on the earth? But the main problem with it, of course, is that it is without biblical support.

.. There is the additional difficulty of how the “abused” messiah is to be recompensed. OT theology strongly asserts that the Righteous Sufferer not only is recompensed, but recompensed ‘wildly’ by the Covenant God. If the Acclaimed Messiah “gets all the glory and reward”, what is the suffering messiah supposed to get? [Notice that if the two figures are the same, and a resurrection is the ‘bridge’ between the two, then the problem is wonderfully solved—the Suffering One is rewarded for his suffering, with exaltation, dominion, and glory.]

Option 2 (conditional and/or complimentary fulfillments) has the advantage of recognizing that many prophecies ARE conditional, as taught in Jeremiah 18 and illustrated in the preaching of Jonah against Ninevah. This, in a messianic context, is sometimes appropriate as well, as can be seen both in the rabbinics and in the words of Jesus.

 

.. Option 3 (different comings/occurrences/events, but the same messiah) has a big advantage in not “needlessly multiplying messiahs” (thank you Ockham) and yet still allowing all/most the prophecies to be taken as to-be-fulfilled. So, it has the greatest likelihood of being faithful to the biblical text, as it stands and as it is naturally interpreted, but it has the disadvantage of requiring the difficult task of sketching out a vision of the Messianic career, in which ALL of these at-tension elements fit naturally and logically together.

The chronological approach (i.e., the events occur in a sequence, perhaps separated by periods of time, and these events are somehow logically related to occur in this sequence) is how the early Jewish Jesus movement understood the data, as taught to them by Jesus. [Of course, the chronological approach is ALSO used in Option 1, as should be obvious from the fact that M.b.Joseph was killed BEFORE M.b.David ‘saved the day’…so a chronological approach is not at all illegitimate, or even a Christian-only approach.]

 

Jesus consistently taught His disciples  (or TRIED to teach them!) that His ministry required suffering/obedience to God before he would be enthroned and exalted. It was a fundamental framework in His self-understanding as the messiah:

“He asked them, “What are you discussing with each other as you’re walking along?” They stood still and looked gloomy. 18 The one whose name was Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened there these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They answered him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in the things that he did and said before God and all the people, 20 and how our high priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and had him crucified. 21 But we kept hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. What is more, this is now the third day since these things occurred. 22 Even some of our women have startled us! They were at the tomb early this morning 23 and didn’t find his body there, so they came back and told us that they had actually seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24 Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.” 25 Then Jesus said to them, “O how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe everything the prophets said! 26 The Christ had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” [Luke 24.17ff. Notice that He specifically repudiates the theology that the ‘good part’ was supposed to come first!]

From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter,“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matt 16.21f)

He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ was to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [Luke 24.46f]

And the early Jewish believers in Jesus finally understood, that the messianic glory was supposed to FOLLOW the messianic obedience/suffering:

 

  1. So, if Option 3 is a better way of resolving the tension between the Suffering Messiah data and the Triumphant Messiah data, how was a first century Jew supposed to know that Jesus was the Messiah? If the miracle/glorious stuff was “scheduled for later”, then what reason would a first-century Jew have for accepting Jesus on this first appearance in history?

There was a background timing reason that would help ‘restrict our search’ to this time period, and there were basically two  reasons that were available to the Jewish generation of Jesus, and  one additional reason for both that generation and for the wider world:

The first was a timing one—current expectations about the messiah (from prophecies of Daniel and others) placed the coming of the messiah in this period (although they were said to refer to the Roman Emperor Vespasian, as opposed to a Jewish messianic figure!!!!). The ancient world was well acquainted with the expectations of the Jewish people of the day, and this shows up in several ancient historians:

 

The first evidential reason people of that time would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah would have been that the character of His miraculous works fit the profile of the Coming One.

Jesus gave numerous indications of His messianic status, but two particularly explicit incidences stand out.

First, in Matthew 11, John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus (from prison) asking about his messianic status:

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples  3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are  raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

.. 

  1. “Okay, so I see how the Suffering experiences of the Messiah needed to precede the Exaltation experiences of the Messiah, but why couldn’t the Exaltation experiences have IMMEDIATELY followed the resurrection?”

Actually, they probably were intended to do so…

After Jesus ascended to heaven, and sent the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost—as the means of facilitating the “in-dwelling” of the Law—Peter’s second sermon made that specific offer to Israel:

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance like your leaders. This is how God fulfilled what he had predicted through the voice of all the prophets—that his Christ would suffer. Therefore, repent and turn to him to have your sins blotted out,so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and so that he may send you Jesus, the Christ whom he appointed long ago. Heaven must receive him until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through the voice of his holy prophets. In fact, Moses said,

 

‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to everything he tells you. Any person who will not listen to that prophet will be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

 

 “Indeed, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who followed him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and the heirs of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendant all the families of the earth will be blessed.’,  When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning every one of you from your evil ways.” [Acts 3.17ff]

Notice that Peter specifically claimed that:

  1. Israel’s repentance would result in the “times of refreshing”
  2. Israel’s repentance would result in the second “sending” of Jesus the Messiah
  3. This Jesus was waiting in heaven (after an earthly life as ‘Jesus’) until the “time of universal restoration”.
  4. Jesus was sent FIRST to Israel, to bless them by helping them to renew their spiritual condition.

The rabbinic passages we looked at earlier indicated an awareness that Israel’s repentance had to precede the coming of the Glorious Messiah (see above), and the OT prophets said that Israel’s repentance had to precede it also. Indeed, the rabbinic passages from the Talmud indicated an awareness that the time had passed, and that the full-glory kingdom was being delayed because of Israel’s lack of social justice. To repeat them here:

.. So, technically speaking, the Glorious Return of the messiah COULD have occurred immediately after the resurrection, but it was (as the OT taught and as Jewish teaching recognized) dependent on Israel changing her mind about Jesus, about truth, and about social justice

Christian Political Principles in the Age of Trump

Recent years have seen a resurgence of thought about the age-old topic of Christian engagement in the public square. This is true in the United States in particular, where a historically Judeo-Christian culture is rapidly shifting, church attendance is declining, and once largely shared civic convictions are deteriorating. The 2016 election added another wrinkle to the story, especially for conservative Christians who struggled to rethink political allegiances in light of new realities. All of these developments are necessitating new answers to old questions. Namely, how do Christians engage faithfully and prudently in a pluralistic—and at times, antagonistic—public square?

 

  • Property/Wealth Allows you to be self-governing.
  • Homestead Act, not Basic Income
  • Value Added Sales Tax instead of Income Tax.
  • Targeting Families with incomes 80,000-$200,000 for wealth accumulation (UPS Drivers, previously $150,000)
  • Divorce Tax
  • Anti-Pornography
  • Require Schools to teach biblical literacy.
  • Principle and Duty of Self Defense, Just/War (26 min)
  • The Issue is not Populism, but Management Society and Selfie Man (30 min)
  • Gay Marriage is the ultimate-one percent issue (R.R. Reno)  (51 min)
  • We should care most about the middle, not the bottom third. (R.R. Reno)
  • We are in the midst of the 3rd Great Awakening without Religion: Guilt, Debt, Fault without a Religious Architecture.  (56 min)
  • We have a world with rights, but without a need for each other/responsibility
  • The Freshman class at College realizes that something is wrong (1:07)
  • Foolishness of those Evangelical Leaders who value Proximity to Power (Falwell, Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham)
  • Black lives matters attacked the Democratic Party.
  • Identity politics is a betrayal of Martin Luther King
  • Slavery is the only Moral Claim.  Africans are not one group among many.
  • The African American Community has been decimated by Planned Parenthood, an organization that started out with a eugenics policies (Roe)  (1:29)

The Anti-Christian Alt-Right

The Perverse Thought of Right-Wing Identity Politics

.. “The Church has become the number one enemy of Western Civilization. Soon the only people left in Christianity will be third-world immigrants and a handful of self-hating whites.”

..Hillary Clinton devoted a speech in Nevada to deploring its influence on the election. “These are race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman—all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘alt-right,’” she charged.

.. Clinton could not name a single member of a movement that, she warned, imperiled American democracy

.. The movement exists almost entirely among anonymous users of the Internet. It has no institutions, no money, no political representation, and no traditional media.

.. It enjoys the close attention of the liberal establishment it seeks to discredit and the conservative movement it intends to displace.

.. “Everything we have seen over the past year suggests that the alt-right will be around for the foreseeable future.”

.. The alt-right purports to defend the identity and interests of white people, who it believes are the compliant victims of a century-long swindle by liberal morality. Its goals are not conventionally conservative.

It does not so much question as mock standard conservative positions on free trade, abortion, and foreign policy, regarding them as principles that currently abet white dispossession.

.. Its creed, in the words of Richard Spencer, is “Race is real. Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.”

.. the alt-right represents something more nefarious, and frankly more interesting, than white identity politics.

.. The alt-right is anti-Christian.

.. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it.

.. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.”

.. it argues that Christian teachings have become socially and morally poisonous to the West.

.. Its intellectual birth is marked by the 1918 publication of the first volume of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West.

.. While the movement is often accused of advocating racial supremacy, its appeal is more often to cultural difference. A generation tired of multicultural pieties

.. A cultural relativist, Spengler rejects as a “ridiculous distortion” any view that privileges European thought or history.

.. “Each culture possesses its own standards, the validity of which begins and ends with it.

.. Spengler therefore sees the world as divided into fundamentally different cultures, whose identities he interprets in morphological terms. Cultures are like plants

.. They live through a determined cycle of birth, growth, maturity, and death. During its lifespan, a culture gives expression to the animating “form”

.. Spengler had no scholarly expertise in non-Western cultures (his advanced studies were in mathematics), and Decline of the West is frequently nonsense as both history and sociology. But its interpretations of cultural artifacts and their hidden symbolic meanings are often brilliant and have enchanted readers for a century.

.. All cultures are unique, but some are more unique than others. “We men of the Western culture are an exception,” Spengler claims. At the heart of his book is an interpretation of the culture he namedFaustian,” a term widely used in the intellectual circles of the alt-right.

.. a single idea permeates the arts and sciences of the West. Its distinctive mark is an intense striving for “infinity.”

.. our culture has uniquely sought to see all things in relation to the highest or most distant horizons, which, in turn, it seeks to surpass and extend.

  • The vaults of medieval cathedrals, the
  • discovery of perspective in painting, the
  • exploration of the New World, the
  • development of orchestral music, the
  • invention of the telescope and
  • calculus

—in Spengler’s story, all express the Faustian drive toward transcendence.

.. He argues that there is no Christianity without Western civilization. He arrives at this conclusion by claiming the West begins not with ancient Greece or Rome, but with the high Middle Ages and the birth of scholasticism, Gothic architecture, and polyphony.

.. Its cultural achievements are not testimonies to faith in God. They are the monuments of Faustian man’s attempt—in speculation, stone, glass, and sound—to propel himself into infinity. Of this aspiration, Spengler maintains, “the Gospels know nothing.”

..  In the minds and hands of Europeans, Christianity became a religion that affirmed the unceasing expansion of human freedom, power, and knowledge.

.. There is no biblical god for Faustian man, but there is high Christian culture, which is a tribute to his identity.

.. To a young man lacking a strong identity he says, “This heroic culture is your inheritance, and yours alone. You stand in a line of men who have attained the highest excellences and freely endured the hardest challenges.

.. Albert the Great, Cortés, Newton, Goethe, the Wright brothers all carry this daring spirit, and so do you.”

.. in his 1933 book Hour of Decision, he foresaw the rise of democratic “Caesars” and growing racial animosity. Who will give birth to the next great culture? Not Europeans

.. Spengler predicted the future would belong to the race that had preserved its “strength” in face of the rising “colored menace.”

  • If Spengler is the alt-right’s cultural critic,
  • Julius Evola is its political mystic.
    • Umberto Eco mockingly called him “the magician,” and the
    • future Pope Paul VI condemned his writings in a Vatican newspaper
    • Evola is the most right-wing thinker possible in the modern world. There is nobody to his right, nor can there be. His influence on the alt-right is detectable in one of its most controversial features: its rejection of human equality.
    • “We don’t belong to the liberal family,” writes popular blogger Hunter Wallace. “Nothing is less self-evident to us than the notion that all men are created equal.” Here is the movement’s clearest dispute with conventional conservatism
    • The alt-right denies that constitutional democracy is worthy of principled veneration. For Evola, its popular acceptance is a sign we are living in a spiritual dark age.

The basic problem with modernity is “desacralization,” the collapse of spiritual meaning in daily life. Work, family, and citizenship are no longer saturated with spiritual importance, but are understood in functionally secular terms.

.. materialism “kills every possibility

.. Spengler’s fundamental flaw was that he “lacked any understanding of metaphysics and transcendence,” which led him to conclude that human cultures are irreducibly different.

.. Evola believed more or less the exact opposite, arguing that there are timeless and universal principles that have provided the foundation for every true civilization. He referred to these perennial truths as “Tradition,” and he traced the disorders of modernity to our loss of contact with it.

.. No, the world had been slouching into spiritual poverty ever since the eighth century b.c., when the world of Tradition began to disappear.

.. Revolt Against the Modern Worldclaimed that these primordial societies—whose existence can be accessed only by way of myth and legend, not critical scholarship—all operated on the same principles.

.. In a traditional culture, every aspect of human life, every social activity, role, and caste, was dedicated to the service of an otherworldly order; indeed, they were ritual pathways into it. “According to Tradition,” Evola imagines, “every authority is fraudulent, every law unjust and barbarous, every institution is vain and ephemeral unless . . . they are derived from above.”

.. His key claim is that traditional societies were hierarchically ordered under an absolute ruler, who embodied the sacral order itself.

..  Men Among the Ruins, he argued that political conservatism is intrinsically impossible in a democratic age. True political order can never come from below; it must always be imposed from above.

.. only a transformative leader could elevate humanity out of its degraded state. Such a leader could not appeal to the masses—this was the mistake of the vulgar fascisms of Mussolini and Hitler—but must inspire submission through lofty contempt for democratic norms and popular tastes.

“The presence of superior individuals bestows on a multitude . . . a meaning and a justification they previously lacked,” Evola wrote. “It is the inferior who needs the superior, and not the other way around.”

Evola was less clear about what this sacred authority looked like than what stood in the way of its realization.

.. The problem is that Catholicism forbids the sacred state. And a state without absolute spiritual unity is no state at all.

.. Benoist is the leading theorist of the European New Right, an intellectual movement that began in France in the late 1960s

.. however, no return is necessary if we simply move beyond Christianity altogether. Evola did not believe in a personal deity, but his criticisms of Christianity were political rather than theological. With Benoist, the alt-right becomes explicitly and confessionally anti-Christian.

.. took its inspiration from the failed “conservative revolution” of Weimar Germany.

Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Spengler were its chief figures

.. Most of its members, including Spengler, took sides against the Nazi regime, but they also sought a path for the West beyond the twin evils of American democracy and Soviet communism. Benoist comes from this anti-liberal tradition

.. Benoist is the leading theorist of the European New Right, an intellectual movement that began in France in the late 1960s

.. attempt to envision a post-Christian future for people of European descent.

.. his 1981 work On Being a Pagan

.. Paganism’s central claim is simple: that the world is holy and eternal. “Far from desacralizing the world,” Benoist tells us, paganism “sacralizes it in the literal sense of the word, since it regards the world as sacred.”

Paganism is also a humanism. It recognizes man, the highest expression of nature, as the sole measure of the divine.

.. God does not therefore create men; men make gods, which “exist” as ideal models that their creators strive to equal.

.. Benoist’s case against Christianity is that it forbids the expression of this “Faustian” vitality.

.. It does so by placing the ultimate source of truth outside of humanity, in an otherworldly realm to which we must be subservient.

.. He accuses Christianity of crippling our most noble impulses. Christianity makes us strangers in our own skin, conning us into distrusting our strongest intuitions. We naturally respect beauty, health, and power, Benoist observes, but Christianity teaches us to revere the deformed, sick, and weak instead.

.. Benoist’s theology is in the service of a political warning, and it is this, more than his Nietzschean posturing, that attracts the alt-right.

.. Christianity is unable to protect European peoples and their cultures.

.. Christianity is not our religion.

..  Benoist means that Christianity renders Western culture morally lethargic and culturally defenseless.

.. its universalism poisons our attachments to particular loyalties and ties.

.. “If all men are brothers,” Benoist claims, “then no one can truly be a brother.”

.. Politics depends on the recognition of both outsiders and enemies, yet the Christian Church sees all people as potential members, indeed potential saints.

.. Christianity imparted to our culture an ethics that has mutated into what the alt-right calls “pathological altruism.”

.. Its self-distrust, concern for victims, and fear of excluding outsiders—such values swindle Western peoples out of a preferential love for their own.

.. Christianity today is the enemy of the West and the race that created it

.. we ought to see ourselves through the eyes of our pagan critics

.. They distort many truths, through both malice and ignorance, and lead young men into espousing views and defending authors they scarcely understand.

.. “Christianity provides an identity that is above or before racial and ethnic identity,” Richard Spencer complains.

.. invoking race as an emergency replacement for our fraying civic bonds.

.. identity politics on the left is a response to the same erosion of belonging.

.. we lack a compelling civic theology for the twenty-first century—a theology of the nation

.. In its absence the alt-right will continue to grow.

.. A nation will become an idol, however, if its cultural inheritance is not oriented toward, and inwardly transformed by, a divine inheritance.

.. “The inheritance we receive from Christ,” the late pope argued, “orients the patrimony of human native lands and cultures toward an eternal home land.”

.. It speaks of tradition, while transmitting no traditions. It guards a false patrimony, while destroying real ones

..  Race offers no inheritance, and its mere preservation reflects no human achievement.

.. Our stories, art, music, institutions, and religious traditions—unlike race—are transmitted only through special efforts of human intelligence and love. They are a bequest of the spirit, not blood.

.. The alt-right speaks a seductive language. Where liberalism offers security and comfort, the alt-right promises sacrifice and conflict.

.. . For Christians, the problem with Faustian man is not the vaunting heroism of his aims. It is the pitiable smallness of his goals.

We are not meant to merely aspire to the infinite. We are called to participate in it—to be, in a word, deified.

Faust could not overcome death. Through Christ, Christians already have.

Christians, Take The Alt-Right Seriously

the alt-right appealed to the young men — all of whom are white, conservative, and Evangelical — because it’s daring, and because the spirituality of megachurch Evangelicalism (in the kid’s view) is insipid. There was nothing much to inspire or to hold them. The alt-right fake “gospel” offered them an easy explanation of why they felt alienated and powerless, provided them with an enemy, and stoked their rage.

..It is anti-Christian, and it has strong arguments to make — not “strong” in the sense of “persuasive” (Rose is very much against the alt-right), but not arguments that can be easily dismissed with cries of “bigotbigotbigot!”

.. The alt-right is not stupid. It is deep. Its ideas are not ridiculous. They are serious. To appreciate this fact, one needs to inquire beyond its presence on social media, where its obnoxious use of insult, obscenity, and racism has earned it a reputation for moral idiocy. The reputation is deserved, but do not be deceived. Behind its online tantrums and personal attacks are arguments of genuine power and expanding appeal. As political scientist George Hawley conceded in a recent study, “Everything we have seen over the past year suggests that the alt-right will be around for the foreseeable future.”

.. The alt-right is anti-Christian. Not by implication or insinuation, but by confession. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.”

..“Like acid, Christianity burns through ties of kinship and blood,” writes Gregory Hood, one of the website’s most talented essayists. It is “the essential religious step in paving the way for decadent modernity and its toxic creeds.”

.. Alt-right thinkers are overwhelmingly atheists, but their worldview is not rooted in the secular Enlightenment, nor is it irreligious. Far from it. Read deeply in their sources—and make no mistake, the alt-right has an intellectual tradition—and you will discover a movement that takes Christian thought and culture seriously. It is a conflicted tribute paid to their chief adversary. Against Christianity it makes two related charges.

Beginning with the claim that Europe effectively created Christianity—not the other way around—it argues that Christian teachings have become socially and morally poisonous to the West. A major work of alt-right history opens with a widely echoed claim: “The introduction of Christianity has to count as the single greatest ideological catastrophe to ever strike Europe.”

.. Nietzsche got there first, of course — and he was not wrong about Christianity being a religion that exalts the meek.

.. Oswald Spengler’s Decline Of The West as a foundational text of the alt-right:

If Spengler’s theology is tendentious, his portrait of Western identity is deceptively powerful. To a young man lacking a strong identity he says, “This heroic culture is your inheritance, and yours alone. You stand in a line of men who have attained the highest excellences and freely endured the hardest challenges. Albert the Great, Cortés, Newton, Goethe, the Wright brothers all carry this daring spirit, and so do you.”

.. The juxtaposition was comic, just as it is comic to think about an obese, slovenly white guy vaping in front of his TV wearing a t-shirt sporting an image of, I dunno, Charlemagne, and a slogan claiming to be part of his lineage.

.. someone who is poor and at the bottom of the social hierarchy would find it consoling to identify with a hero — specifically, a racialized hero

.. There is no better introduction to alt-right theory than [Alain de Benoist’s] 1981 work On Being a Pagan. Its tone is serene, but its message is militant. Benoist argues that the West must choose between two warring visions of human life:

  1. biblical monotheism and
  2. paganism.

Benoist is a modern-day Celsus. Like his second-century predecessor, he writes to reawaken Europeans to their ancient faith. Paganism’s central claim is simple: that the world is holy and eternal. “Far from desacralizing the world,” Benoist tells us, paganism “sacralizes it in the literal sense of the word, since it regards the world as sacred.” Paganism is also a humanism. It recognizes man, the highest expression of nature, as the sole measure of the divine. God does not therefore create men; men make gods, which “exist” as ideal models that their creators strive to equal. “Man shares in the divine every time he surpasses himself,” Benoist writes, “every time he attains the boundaries of his best and strongest aspects.”

.. Benoist’s case against Christianity is that it forbids the expression of this “Faustian” vitality. It does so by placing the ultimate source of truth outside of humanity, in an otherworldly realm to which we must be subservient.

..  He accuses Christianity of crippling our most noble impulses. Christianity makes us strangers in our own skin, conning us into distrusting our strongest intuitions. We naturally respect beauty, health, and power, Benoist observes, but Christianity teaches us to revere the deformed, sick, and weak instead. 

Paganism does not reproach Christianity for defending the weak,” he explains. “It reproaches [Christianity] for exalting them in their weakness and viewing it as a sign of their election and their title to glory.”

.. Christianity is unable to protect European peoples and their cultures. Under Christianity, the West lives under a kind of double imprisonment. It exists under the power of a foreign religion and an alien deity. Christianity is not our religion. It thereby foments “nihilism.”

.. its universalism poisons our attachments to particular loyalties and ties. “If all men are brothers,” Benoist claims, “then no one can truly be a brother.”

.. Politics depends on the recognition of both outsiders and enemies, yet the Christian Church sees all people as potential members, indeed potential saints.

.. Christianity imparted to our culture an ethics that has mutated into what the alt-right calls “pathological altruism.” Its self-distrust, concern for victims, and fear of excluding outsiders—such values swindle Western peoples out of a preferential love for their own.

.. “Christianity provides an identity that is above or before racial and ethnic identity,” Richard Spencer complains. “It’s not like other religions that come out of a folk spirit.

.. invoking race as an emergency replacement for our fraying civic bonds. It is not alone; identity politics on the left is a response to the same erosion of belonging.

.. The alt-right is anti-Christian. But you cannot effectively fight the alt-right with progressive pieties and outrage. Nor can you effectively resist it with conventional conservative pieties, ones that do not address the crises that the alt-right is responding to

.. Richard Spencer is evil, but he is not stupid.

.. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.

.. Conventional conservatism is doing nothing, or nothing effective, to resist this tyranny. Do you know who does stand up to it, unapologetically? The alt-right. Andrew Sullivan’s piece is not about the alt-right, but I see both him and Matthew Rose sounding a very similar alarm. Pay attention; this is serious.

.. You too, conventional liberals: your own acceptance and promotion of illiberal, racialist ideology under the guise of “social justice” is calling up these demons on the Right. The best way you can fight the alt-right is to fight the SJWs, whose militancy, and whose effective militancy, can only make the alt-right stronger.

The Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity

In that way, the Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity — especially evangelicalism — in the United States today. It is lavishly funded and larger than life to the point of performance, often literally. Yet the approach is strangely superficial given the wealth of complexity inherent to its subject. There are dozens of illuminated manuscripts, but it’s unclear whether they’ve been read.

Every Day is Ash Wednesday (Jason Micheli)

The primary way Christians imitate God-for-us is by bearing judgement for others.

Don’t you see- that’s how this is good news.

It’s us. We’re the good news.

We’re the good news of God’s judgement. We’re the followers of Jesus Christ who, like Jesus Christ, mimic his willingness to bear the judgement of God on behalf of the guilty.

We’re the good news in this word of God’s judgement.

In a world sin-sick with judging and judging and judging, indicting and scapegoating and recriminating and casting blame- we’re the good news God has made in the world

.. We who are baptized and believing, we who are saved and sanctified- we who should be last under God’s judgement thrust ourselves to the front of the line and, like Jesus Christ, say “Me first.”

Rather than judge we put ourselves before the Judgement Seat.

Rather than condemning and critiquing, we confess.

    We bear judgement rather than cast it.

We listen to the guilty. We never stand self-righteously at a distance from them. We never forget that ‘there but for the grace of God’ we’d be just like them, and that them not us, them- the ungodly, are the ones for whom God died.

..  We confess: our own sinfulness and guilt, our own racism and violence and pettiness, our own apathy and infidelity and failures to follow.

Knowing that there have been plenty of times we’ve seen Jesus thirsty and not given him a drink, plenty of times we’ve seen Jesus an immigrant and not welcomed him.

.. We bear judgement rather than cast it.

Because we know we can come before God’s Judgement Seat expecting to hear the first words spoken when God came to us: “Do not be afraid.”

We’re the good news in this word of God’s Judgement.

.. Stalker, that dark, dystopian sci-fi flick from the ’70’s about a Room to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secret is hid…”  it’s a disturbing, unsettling, thought-provoking film.

It received hundreds of positive reviews.

It helped inspire HBO’s West World.

The British Film Institute ranks it #29 on its list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time.

It’s a good movie.

But you’d never call it good news.

You’d never call it good news.

Not unless the cast included a few more characters, people who thrust the terrified Writer and Philosopher aside at the threshold into the Room and said to them “Me first.”

 

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

The legend of the Confederate leader’s heroism and decency is based in the fiction of a person who never existed.

The strangest part about the continued personality cult of Robert E. Lee is how few of the qualities his admirers profess to see in him he actually possessed.

.. The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.

There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.

 But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black.
.. Then there are those whose reverence for Lee relies on replacing the actual Lee with a mythical figure who never truly existed.
..  Jack Kerwick concluded that Lee was “among the finest human beings that has ever walked the Earth.” John Daniel Davidson, in an essay for The Federalistopposed the removal of the Lee statute in part on the grounds that Lee “arguably did more than anyone to unite the country after the war and bind up its wounds.”
.. In the letter, he describes slavery as “a moral & political evil,” but goes on to explain that:

I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.

.. emancipation must wait for divine intervention.  That black people might not want to be slaves does not enter into the equation; their opinion on the subject of their own bondage is not even an afterthought to Lee.

.. “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

.. “in their eyes, the work of emancipation was incomplete until the families which had been dispersed by slavery were reunited.”

.. Lee’s heavy hand on the Arlington plantation, Pryor writes, nearly led to a slave revolt, in part because the enslaved had been expected to be freed upon their previous master’s death, and Lee had engaged in a dubious legal interpretation of his will in order to keep them as his property

.. When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

Every state that seceded mentioned slavery as the cause in their declarations of secession. Lee’s beloved Virginia was no different, accusing the federal government of “perverting” its powers “not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.” Lee’s decision to fight for the South can only be described as a choice to fight for the continued existence of human bondage in America—even though for the Union, it was not at first a war for emancipation.

.. During his invasion of Pennsylvania, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia enslaved free blacks and brought them back to the South as property. Pryor writes that “evidence links virtually every infantry and cavalry unit in Lee’s army” with the abduction of free black Americans, “with the activity under the supervision of senior officers.”

.. Soldiers under Lee’s command at the Battle of the Crater in 1864 massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender.

.. The presence of black soldiers on the field of battle shattered every myth the South’s slave empire was built on: the happy docility of slaves, their intellectual inferiority, their cowardice, their inability to compete with whites. As Pryor writes, “fighting against brave and competent African Americans challenged every underlying tenet of southern society.” The Confederate response to this challenge was to visit every possible atrocity and cruelty upon black soldiers whenever possible, from enslavement to execution.

.. Nor did Lee’s defeat lead to an embrace of racial egalitarianism. The war was not about slavery, Lee insisted later, but if it was about slavery, it was only out of Christian devotion that white southerners fought to keep blacks enslaved.

.. that unless some humane course is adopted, based on wisdom and Christian principles you do a gross wrong and injustice to the whole negro race in setting them free.

.. Lee had beaten or ordered his own slaves to be beaten for the crime of wanting to be free, he fought for the preservation of slavery, his army kidnapped free blacks at gunpoint and made them unfree—but all of this, he insisted, had occurred only because of the great Christian love the South held for blacks. Here we truly understand Frederick Douglass’s admonition that “between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”

..Lee told Congress that blacks lacked the intellectual capacity of whites and “could not vote intelligently,”
..To the extent that Lee believed in reconciliation, it was between white people, and only on the precondition that black people would be denied political power and therefore the ability to shape their own fate.
.. his life as president of Washington College (later Washington and Lee) is tainted as well. According to Pryor, students at Washington formed their own chapter of the KKK, and were known by the local Freedmen’s Bureau to attempt to abduct and rape black schoolgirls from the nearby black schools.
.. There were at least two attempted lynchings by Washington students during Lee’s tenure, and Pryor writes that “the number of accusations against Washington College boys indicates that he either punished the racial harassment more laxly than other misdemeanors, or turned a blind eye to it,” adding that he “did not exercise the near imperial control he had at the school, as he did for more trivial matters, such as when the boys threatened to take unofficial Christmas holidays.” In short, Lee was as indifferent to crimes of violence toward blacks carried out by his students as he was when they were carried out by his soldiers.
.. The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866; there is no evidence Lee ever spoke up against it.
.. The most fitting monument to Lee is the national military cemetery the federal government placed on the grounds of his former home in Arlington.
.. There are former Confederates who sought to redeem themselves—one thinks of James Longstreet, wrongly blamed by Lost Causers for Lee’s disastrous defeat at Gettysburg, who went from fighting the Union army to leading New Orleans’s integrated police force in battle against white supremacist paramilitaries.
.. But there are no statues of Longstreet in New Orleans.
.. Lee was devoted to defending the principle of white supremacy; Longstreet was not. This, perhaps, is why Lee was placed atop the largest Confederate monument at Gettysburg in 1917,  but the 6-foot-2-inch Longstreet had to wait until 1998 to receive a smaller-scale statue hidden in the woods that makes him look like a hobbit riding a donkey. It’s why Lee is remembered as a hero, and Longstreet is remembered as a disgrace.
.. The white supremacists who have protested on Lee’s behalf are not betraying his legacy. In fact, they have every reason to admire him. Lee, whose devotion to white supremacy outshone his loyalty to his country, is the embodiment of everything they stand for. Tribe and race over country is the core of white nationalism, and racists can embrace Lee in good conscience.

The question is why anyone else would.