Political Correctness: A Parallel Morality

MosesTablets

It is not possible to read the Bible for very long before one comes to realise that central to its message is the concept of law.

The Law of God enters very early into its pages. Before Moses brought the stone tablets down from Sinai in an awesome – even staggering – demonstration that God is the supreme legislator of the universe, there are hints of an inviolable moral construct. Joseph appeals to this, for instance, when resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife.

Much of the Old Testament is an exploration of the splendours of God’s Law. The lengthy 119th psalm is an extended meditation on God’s law and the excellence of its precepts- those things that are moral, behaviourally, and spiritually “legal” are always beautiful, noble, and exalted. It is a moving psalm insofar as it reveals much about the author, a faithful priest whose life had not been a bed of roses, but who had discovered through it all that God’s Law was a bedrock foundation that even offered consolation.

Modern evangelism does not often present God’s Law in this light!

The New Testament does not hesitate to introduce us to Jesus of Nazareth, who is identified as the “Word made flesh“. In his own words, the Lord tells us that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it. Christ, therefore, is the embodiment of God’s Law; the solitary perfect man who follows the Law when all around him are lawbreakers.

Later, St. Paul provides an infallible and inerrant interpretation of Christ’s life and ministry, explaining the interplay between Law and grace, and how it is now possible that lawbreakers can be spared the penalty of their spiritual criminality. St. Paul explains that these people who are now saved from the wrath of God the Final Judge, can be renewed in a divine rehabilitation that makes them desire to be true, upstanding citizens of the Kingdom, obedient to the King and to his righteousness.

From beginning to end, the scriptures are soaked with Law. Indeed, the Law of God is the earthly manifestation of God’s character and nature.

The concept of law itself, though pivotal in scripture, is not isolated to Christian societies. Law has emerged in all human societies in all places and at all times. Man may be a natural rebel against the laws of God and even the laws of man, but his own heart and mind bears the indelible imprint of his godly origin – the imago dei –  and so laws and rules flow out of his character nearly spontaneously. Man may lay in moral ruins, like a fallen castle, but the very ruins themselves bespeak of a time when he was erect and walked tall.

Even criminals operate according to codes, rules, and laws. The notorious Italian mafia – the cosa nostra – who have no respect for the laws of either God or man, and pillage and loot according to their whim, nonetheless enforce iron discipline upon each other. They mete out death penalties, tortures, and savage beatings for violating rules that they themselves have legislated.

In this we can see how the imago dei is inescapable, even in a group as revolting as the Mafia. Ironically, the Mafia’s existence is predicated upon rebellion, yet even they have found it necessary to establish laws in order to maintain cohesion within their rebellious group.

A natural capacity for law is expressed early in children. Though they quickly learn that rules often curtail exciting opportunities and tempting pleasures, children are natural lawmakers. Watch any group of children playing a game together, and it will not be long before one or other is appealing to rules, or making rules up, or arguing over the rules.

Neither is the law merely a matter of doing what works, although laws certainly serve the practical purpose of maintaining harmony within a collective of people. But there is a deeper, intangible moral universe underpinning laws that everyone is innately programmed to both understand and recognise. For instance, all people are able to identify laws that are actually forms of injustice – such as those that typically emanate from despots. No child needs to have “rules” and “laws” defined for him or her. They may need to be taught what the rules are for a particular place or situation, but they never need to be taught what rules are. This understanding is native, as it were, straight out of the box.

In our time – a time of universal moral chaos – our culture is in the process of supplanting God’s Law, hitherto communicated through scripture, nature and conscience, with a parallel law. It is manifested primarily in political correctness, and is every much a binding legal code. Sometimes it even has the force of parliamentary law behind it. Yet this new moral code of our times is a direct antithesis to the moral law given by God. It is a challenger to the throne of the Heavenly Legislator. Nearly at every point – in a manner that exceeded even a few ancient pagan societies – the new moral code contradicts God and his Law, which is maligned as bad, retrograde, and repressive.

A prominent example is sexuality. God’s law condemns all forms of sexual behaviour outside of a covenanted union between a man and his wife. But the new morality commands people to not only refrain “from judging” but to celebrate all the forms of sexual expression that carry God’s explicit censure. Thus, our times are marred by sexual abomination and purposeful gender confusion, and this in turn, inflicts great damage upon everything else. Or, take the laws pertaining to fidelity. God’s Law calls men to a life of worship of himself. But the new morality celebrates all religions, and claims some kind of validity for them all.

Movies and music are full of the new morality, with its debased language; its constant innuendos; its crass materialism; its coarse and guttural sensibilities. (No wonder historians in the past used to say that without marriage and all the attendant restraints on human appetites, civilisation is impossible.) It is seen in activist groups, like feminists who wish to impose a whole constellation of outlandish and ridiculous ideas upon the populace, and are halfway to succeeding. It is seen in the theory of climate change which, when taken to extremes, becomes an ideology in search of law.

It is everywhere around us, these new rules and sensibilities. Woe betide “offending” someone who is a member of a protected group of class! Woe to those who dare to speak plain truths into a world governed by this new parallel moral law (I had a comment erased from The Guardian some weeks ago because I had the temerity to point out the reality that homosexual unions are, by definition, sterile).

Yet even so, like the writer of Psalm 119, we can still take comfort from the Law of God. Its penalties as far as Christians are concerned have been lifted by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the work he has wrought on the cross. Whatever else may happen, we can stand on this expression of God’s character as a rock foundation. Forevermore it will be a “lamp for my feet and light to my path”, a sure anchor, worthy of our delight and meditation, and that which surely spells the way to a happy, fulfilled, and ultimately purposeful life.

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Bringing Alan Watts Back to Earth

Watts

Alan Watts was a religious everyman, the sort of religious person who is both bizarre and contemptible. No one likes a religious everyman, except other everymen. No true Christian feels any affinity for a man who takes a pinch of Christian theology and mixes it with a pinch of Buddhism and a punch of Hinduism. For their part, Buddhists and Hindus tend to be rather down on the freelance blending of their cherished traditions too.

Although ordained as an Anglican priest in 1945, Alan Watts was never a Christian in any meaningful confessional sense. His first love was always Buddhism and Eastern religion. After five years in the priesthood, an extramarital affair drove him to leave it. He became a wandering star among the firmament shared by 50’s, 60’s and 70’s new age spiritualists, effortlessly spewing forth the buzzwords of the day: “cosmic”, “mystic”, “nature”, “meaning”, “identity”, “psychotherapy” and so on.

Blending various religions together according to his own tastes, Watts created a philosophy that is humdrum and shopworn to anyone familiar with the contemporary New Age movement. There is nothing novel in Watts’ outlook. Nothing distinctive. It is only style that marks him out as different, not substance.

His was a philosophy that celebrated hedonism – good food, alcohol, parties, and sex – and like every other New Age teacher on the block, he taught people to believe that everything that seems real is not real. We are so deceived about the true essence of things, he reasoned, that we need to be shown the reality of our nature.

Watts’ taught that every person “is god” yet was secretly pretending not to be. But if we simply opened our eyes we would see how powerful and grand we all really are. Indeed, the entire universe is compressed into our tiny beings. Thus, life, he claimed, is the discovery of the “true self”. The “true self”, naturally, is always glorious, magnanimous, and free, and never wretched, evil, or in bondage to sin.

Looking inward to oneself in the effort to find a divine essence is a trait of all New Age thinking. It produces, in turn, prideful arrogance and a worldview that is unhinged from the requirement to be based on any objective deposit of reality. Listening to Watts gives one the distinct impression of standing next to quicksand and watching a man paddle across it on a log, making things up as he goes along.

For one after the other – now here! now there! – Watts makes bold assertions about life upon the basis of no authority other than himself. Then, to justify these, he selects convenient examples from nature, or daily life, or something he claimed to have seen. This constitutes the “evidence” for his views, but it is really such a flimsy, folksy approach, and so nakedly intellectually dishonest that only a person already halfway up New Age creek would find it at all compelling. Deeper scrutiny reveals that the foundation for his claims rests entirely on Watt’s own subjective, ever-moving opinion.

New Age teachers were buried by the hecatomb when the hippie movement ran out of steam and the young radicals started to settle into the conventional lives they had professed to despise. Alan Watts, too, would have disappeared into the fog of time like the overwhelming majority of his fellow gurus, except for three things.

Firstly, he was much given to having his monologues recorded, which had the attendant effect of prolonging his notoriety. Secondly, Watts was a skillful speaker; something that most people would be forced to acknowledge even if the actual content of his speeches were utter nonsense. And thirdly, Watts never missed the opportunity to tell people that they were amazingly powerful and could shape their realities to their will. The only reason they had failed to do so, he said, was because they had not realised that they were god after all. Start telling people that they are god with the power of the universe within them, and what do you know? They like it.

If only starving refugees and the victims of war could have had the good fortune of Alan Watts breezing into the nearest town to let them know that they were actually god and had created their own realities, I’m sure they would feel as enlightened and liberated as Watts did, living out his final years on a serene houseboat and in a semi-intentional commune on Druid Heights. (The fatal flaw of the New Age religions is their incapacity to cope with the problem of evil. Theodicy is not merely the Achilles’ Heel of the New Age, but the inferno that consumes it and renders it mere ashes.)

Despite Watts lecturing to others about the secret of life, his own was astonishingly sordid. Three marriages, one ending through an extramarital affair, and another because after having started a family with one woman, he met another. Toward the end of his life, his friends worried about his excessive drinking. It seems probable that he became an alcoholic – or something dangerously close to it. And alcoholism does not exactly sell the idea of a glorious, successful, radiant, god-shaping-self, type life. Well might we say, “Physician, heal thyself“.

The following clip shows Alan Watts at his finest, mixing logical categories and getting stuck on words, projecting his own subjective experiences out to humanity in general and turning them into law, and drawing from this or that anecdote as if it somehow makes the case for the otherwise incoherent nonsense being spouted.

It is difficult to rebut, not because there is so much robust and logical substance, but because there is scarcely any substance at all. Skip to 4:08 to see a classic example.

Evolution: Sophisticated Magic

magic

An old article appeared in a newsfeed sidebar last week that caught my attention. It was about human hair, a topic that is addressed on nearly every news website. Usually in kitschy, tabloid articles that pad out the political news.

This article responded to a question: “From an evolutionary standpoint, why is it beneficial for men to have facial and chest hair?”

The question, of course, presupposes 1.) that evolution is true, and 2.) that evolutionary theory tells us something meaningful about male hair. I would dispute the first premise. There is abundant testimony in the natural world that it has been carefully formed by our Creator.

Yet even if a person accepts evolutionary theory, exactly how are scientists to derive objective, useful, provable information about why men have chest and facial hair? Where might scientists go and what evidence might they look at to derive insight into a abstract process that allegedly took millions of years, and was unfocused, undirected, and completely mindless? Evolution is not, after all, a person. It does not have the properties of personality. It does not set out with a specific purpose in its “mind” to shape organisms in a general direction until they reach a targeted end-point.

Yet whenever evolution is spoken of – even in this case by a professor of zoology – it is nearly always in terms that attribute personhood to the process. It is nearly impossible for evolutionists to speak of evolution without implying it had a mind and purpose of its own. A creative force can never be a mindless force. And since evolution is regarded as a creative force, usurping the place of God, it cannot be spoken of for long without giving it a mind. Take the following example:

But evolution is usually pretty prompt at getting rid of features we don’t need, says Gibbins, so the reason men still have facial and chest hair is more likely due to sexual selection.

The article goes on to give the professors answer to the question. Note that the professor appeals to no objective, concrete evidence at all. The answer is a story. The professor uses the ubiquitous evolutionary narrative-technique which draws everything back to sexuality and natural selection. It is a technique that is easy to master with a bit of effort. All that is required is a little imagination.

First, the professor sets the stage by pointing back to a mythical ancient time – a time long, long ago, too far removed for anyone to prove anything one way or another with any certainty. There is no data about this time, but that is irrelevant because there are all kinds of hidden clues in the human body. The human body is regarded as the equivalent of archaeological source material:

In fact, Gibbins suspects it wasn’t that long ago that we sported a pretty impressive fur coat of our own. The evidence for this comes from goosebumps.

The professor explains that these ancient humans needed to make an impressive show to “get ahead of the pack”. The article then interjects: “Basically if you’re a very hairy man and hairy men are in, you get the girls“, which is so basic that its fundamental irrationality could evade the casual reader.

It is irrational because the inverse is manifestly untrue: “Basically if you’re not a very hairy man, and not very hairy men are in, you get the girls“. We should anticipate then that all relatively hairless men will have no difficulty whatever in finding partners in the modern world, since women are simple creatures and look at nothing else but the hirsuteness of their match. But we know that is not true. Entire populations of people are not motivated, even in their sexuality, by one, simple common feature. Even animals do not select their mates because of eye size alone or the length of their hair, or whatever.

The professor explains that our piloerection system (e.g. goosebumps) would fluff up a more hairy person so that they would look bigger and more impressive. But alas, our thick hair has gone and now all we get is the gooseflesh.

Yet earlier in the article, the professor explained that evolution is prompt at getting rid of features we do not need. Despite evolution’s famous home economy, our goosebumps reflex has survived despite all the hair they once operated going missing from the human body. The professor explains this away by suggesting that our hair has only “recently” been lost in our evolutionary history, and the goosebumps reflex still has not caught up.

It does not take a great deal of scepticism to see how bereft this explanation is. It is a fallacious begging of the question coupled with circular reasoning. The professor assumes from the outset that goosebumps are evolutionary leftovers that “originally” moved hair around. He assumes that human beings were once exceptionally hairy beings. Having made these assumptions, he strings together all the “evidence” and poof, bingle, bangle! An evolutionary answer is born.

The closest the professor gets to actually addressing the question in evolutionary terms, is to tell us that an assumed process was already underway. Why this should be so, we are never told:

At some stage while we were losing our excess body hair either women found hairy men more attractive, or men preferred non-hairy women.

So, there you go. It just is. And as all this “excess” hair (note again, the presumption is always that evolution is moving toward a targeted endpoint) was flying off the human body generation after generation, somehow ideas of attractiveness shifted as well. We are not told how. We are not told why. It just is. Somehow, amidst  a population of humans with a gorilla-like appearance, men started to find less hairy women attractive, or women found hairy men attractive. Why? How? It just is.

Hair growth and size is modulated by hormones, in particular androgens like testosterone, which kick in during puberty. As men generally have higher levels of testosterone than women they tend to have more terminal hair. Testosterone also increases the size of hair follicles on men’s faces at puberty so that they begin to grow visible beards.

Then we are then told that there are complex biochemical processes that govern the differences in human hair between men and women. Hormonal differences at puberty lead to differences in hair thickness and prevalence. So, which came first? Ultimately all evolutionary narratives devolve into chicken-and-egg scenarios, or hopeless circularity.

Did men start to find less-hairy women attractive first, and then the biochemical complexes of their bodies followed suit? Or did the biochemical complexes begin to change first, leading to women with less-hair and thus allowing for men to find them more attractive? Where did the variation come from to start this process? How do you tell the difference between a hairy and less-hairy gorilla? After all, women at some point must have been walking rug carpets too. Maybe there was intense competitive squabbling between males over the occasional near-bald specimen.

The fact that such complex processes govern hair formation suggest quite the inverse of the professor’s claims. It suggests that the differences between the genders are ancient, not recent. Indeed, our bodies would function very poorly with a heavy coat of fur or hair. The scenario works only if a person re-imagines human beings as apes, and then applies simian biological logic to the imaginary construction.

In the end, the professor’s answer is simplistic – despite its pretences to be more, with its clever erudition – and does not answer the question because it cannot. The professor’s answer is merely a sophisticated magic spell, an eminent foolishness. It denies the Creator of all life, and is an assault on His wisdom.