Saturday, March 29, 2008

Camus and Christianity

A few years ago, I bought the book Albert Camus and the Minister by Howard Mumma. Camus was an existentialist -- although he didn't like that label -- who was famous for claiming that the primary philosophical issue is suicide: that is, determining whether or not life is worth the trouble of being lived. Some of his most well-known works are The Myth of Sisyphus, The Plague, and The Stranger (the latter book's title is sometimes translated as The Outsider, although my wife insists that it's best translated as The Foreigner). Sisyphus refers to the Greek myth of a man in the underworld condemned to roll a heavy boulder up a steep hill for eternity. As soon as the boulder reaches the top, it rolls back down to the bottom, and Sisyphus has to start all over again, ad infinitum. His punishment was to be forced to perform a meaningless act for eternity. Camus thought this was an excellent metaphor for the human condition. Should we continue engaging in the meaningless activity of rolling the boulder up the hill by going on living? Or should we just give up and commit suicide?

Camus thought Sisyphus should continue rolling the boulder up the hill. Even though he knows it is futile and will end in nothing, he should devote himself to it and invent his own meaning for it. It's kind of like the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray was stuck repeating the same day over and over, and nothing he did carried over to the next. He went through several stages: first, he indulged himself (because there were no consequences), then he despaired, then he ended up just doing everything he could to make everyone's day happier. Even though the next morning, everything would be set back to the beginning as if he hadn't done anything, and all the difficulties would have to be dealt with again, he just tried to make everyone as happy as he could.

This is problematic for two reasons, which are also true of existentialism: first, the choice to make other people happy is arbitrary in this scenario. Bill Murray tired of self-indulgence, but he would have tired of helping others as well if doing so didn't have any ultimate meaning. Second, it amounts to the claim that we should pretend that life has meaning even though it really doesn't. So we have to simultaneously believe that the world is both meaningless and meaningful. Maybe "problematic" isn't a strong enough term, but you get the idea. I know a philosopher who became a Christian after reading The Plague.

In the 1950s, Camus met Howard Mumma, an American minister preaching in Paris at the time, and they became friends. Mumma is a journaler and so he kept a detailed journal of the conversations he had with Camus. Albert Camus and the Minister just came out in 2000, because Mumma decided that with Camus 40 years dead (and Mumma himself in his 90s) it was no longer necessary to uphold the confidentiality of their discussions. Actually, only the first half of the book is about Camus. In the second half Mumma discusses other people he encountered that had a strong impact on his life, like Albert Schweitzer. As such, the book amounts to his memoirs.

The conversations between Camus and Mumma centered on Christianity. Camus had heard Mumma preach some sermons, and was very intrigued. Mumma was something of a neo-orthodox theologian, taking many aspects of the Bible metaphorically. At one point, Mumma told him how the fall of Adam and Eve and the subsequent banishment from Paradise refers typologically to our separation from God.

Suddenly, Camus threw up his arms and said, "Howard, do you remember what Augustine said: 'Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee.'?" His face lit up dramatically. Camus was excited by my explanation of man's being cast out from the garden -- which related to his own interest in man's estrangement. I said to myself, here is a man who is on the road to becoming a Christian. Here was a key moment, a turning point in this man's life. I could tell by the light in his eyes, the expression on his face, that Camus was experiencing something new in his life.
This seems so odd -- that Camus was seriously considering Christianity -- that I find myself doubting the veracity of Mumma's account. According to the book, their relationship culminated with Camus asking Mumma to baptize him. He wanted to become a Christian and devote his life to God. This would be a bizarre thing to make up, but it's difficult to accept on its face. Some friends of mine who know Camus better than I do have read this book, and are basically split on it: some think it's quite plausible, while others don't.

James Sire, a philosopher, wrote an article about this book for Christianity Today entitled "Camus the Christian?" Sire summarizes the book, and points out that that when Camus published The Fall in 1956, many people thought that he had accepted the existence of God. An excellent essay which comments on Mumma's book is "Taking Doubt Seriously", by historian Preston Jones. If you have the time, I highly recommend reading this article.

Mumma comes from a tradition that doesn't "re-baptize", and since Camus had been baptized as an infant, he declined. He tried to get him to engage with a Christian congregation and be confirmed, but Camus wanted it to be a private affair, "something between me and God". He was a celebrity at the time, so a public confession of faith would have caused an uproar. The following year Camus died in a car accident, and Mumma believes that he committed suicide (although this is incorrect, since Camus was not the driver). Regardless, Mumma believes that he failed him by not baptizing him.

Despite my misgivings, I recommend Albert Camus and the Minister. It's very unusual. In many ways, it shows how close existentialism is to Christianity.

(reposted from OregonLive)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Defining Racism

This blog is otherwise too provocative for my tastes, but here is an excellent post on how we define racism. He goes over standard definitions, then shows how some try to define it in a more postmodern sense. He concludes,

It's no coincidence, of course, that under these definitions, the only way to be white and not a be "racist" is to be a marxist.

Given these disparate definitions, it's no wonder that "typical white people" who don't hate anyone find themselves labeled as "racists" while being told that racial demagogues like Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan "can't, by definition, be racist."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Jesus Myth

As we celebrate Easter today, we would do well to remember what it commemorates: Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Of course, this claim is plenty controversial. I have frequently heard people refer to what is variously called the Jesus myth, the Christ myth, the myth of the resurrection, etc. As I've examined these claims I have found that they are really going back and forth between two definitions of "myth": urban legend on the one hand and mythology on the other. In this post, I'll just address the second of these, since this is how it was originally conceived.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries some scholars argued that the stories of Jesus in the four Gospels were the result of a mythological process that eventually attributed miracles to Jesus, and culminated in the ideas that he was God incarnate and that he rose from the dead. Such a process is very slow, so these scholars assumed that none of the New Testament was written until after AD 150, since this is how long it would take for such ideas to be attached to a historical figure and be widely believed -- at least, there are no examples of such a process happening faster. One school of thought at the turn of the century, the religionsgeschichtliche Methode, sifted through various pagan mythologies to try to find parallels to the stories of Jesus to prove this. Despite the fact that it was a very short-lived movement, it captured the imagination of the general populace. Today, even though it has no scholarly acceptance, it still has plenty of adherents among laymen.

Now there are a few things to note right away: first of all, no serious scholar today dates any book of the New Testament outside of the first century AD. In fact, the New Testament quotes creeds and hymns which nearly all scholars date to the 30s and 40s AD, and these creeds already contain the doctrines of Jesus' divinity and resurrection. For example, Philippians 2:5-11 is a pre-New Testament creed which refers to Jesus as "being in very nature God"; and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is a pre-New Testament creed that states Jesus died, rose from the dead, and appeared to literally hundreds of people. Bearing in mind that Jesus was probably crucified and killed in AD 33, these ideas were present at the very beginning of the Christian movement. The time necessary for a myth of this magnitude to arise is simply not there. Moreover, all of the early Christians from the late first century to the mid-second century affirm the same concept of Jesus that we find in the New Testament. As William Lane Craig wrote:

The letters of Barnabus and Clement refer to Jesus’ miracles and resurrection. Polycarp mentions the resurrection of Christ, and Irenaeus relates that he had heard Polycarp tell of Jesus’ miracles. Ignatius speaks of the resurrection. Quadratus reports that persons were still living who had been healed by Jesus. Justin Martyr mentions the miracles of Christ. No relic of a nonmiraculous story exists. That the original story should be lost and replaced by another goes beyond any known example of corruption of even oral tradition, not to speak of the experience of written transmissions. These facts show that the story in the Gospels was in substance the same story that Christians had at the beginning. (emphasis mine)
Second, the four Gospels (and Acts) do not fall into the literary genre of myth, legend, folk story, or allegory. They are in the genre of historical writing. This is universally acknowledged by New Testament scholars. Those who have claimed that we should read the gospel accounts as a myth or allegory say this should be done despite the genre in which they are written. C. S. Lewis, a literary expert, once wrote the following about the gospel of John (the one most accused of being non-historical):

I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths, all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage ... or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.
This is a very important point: the style of writing in which fictional characters and events are written as if they were historical is a product of the modern age. Trying to apply a contemporary literary genre to the writings of ancient history (and this is what is done by calling them "allegorical" or "mythological") is as irrational as saying the tragedies of ancient Greece were really social commentaries on the neutron bomb.

Now the proponents of the religionsgeschichtliche Methode claimed that we should read the gospels as myth or legend because they contain certain motifs which we frequently find in myths, such as virgin births, or dying and rising gods. But in order to claim this, they had to broaden the definitions of these concepts to such a degree that they could apply to almost anything. This is why it was such a short-lived movement: the "parallels" they found between the Gospels and pagan mythology were absurdly contrived. They had to describe the myths with biblical terminology in order to make the parallels not appear as vague. Anything involving water was a "baptism". Anything involving food and drink was a "last supper".

The same holds true for resurrecting gods. For example, the myth of Osiris, one of the closest and most frequently cited parallels to the resurrection, involves Osiris being killed and his body sunk in the Nile River (sorry; "baptized"). The body is then recovered, stolen, dismembered, scattered, and recovered again. In some accounts, Osiris' sister has sex with the body and gets pregnant before it's buried. Meanwhile Osiris' spirit goes to the underworld and he becomes its ruler. That’s it.

Likewise, there are many myths about gods who go to the underworld in the fall and winter but return to the earth in the spring and summer and cause the crops to grow. This is clearly indicative of the cyclical pattern of nature and hence such mythological figures are sometimes called "corn kings" or "vegetation gods". But to try to compare such stories to the death and resurrection of Jesus can only be done in the vaguest of senses. C. S. Lewis, again, wrote "I myself, who first seriously read the New Testament when I was, imaginatively and poetically, all agog for the Death and Re-birth pattern and anxious to meet a corn-king, was chilled and puzzled by the almost total absence of such ideas in the Christian documents".

Additionally, there are a few other problems with the "myth hypothesis":

-- It is almost universally accepted by scholars that the doctrines of Jesus' divinity and resurrection arose in Israel, and were already present in the 30s and 40s AD. Yet none of the myths that allegedly parallel these beliefs were present in Israel in the first century. Therefore none of them could have had any influence on early Christianity.

-- Most (not all) of the myths suggested that may have influenced Christianity are very late, most occurring in the third or fourth centuries AD -- at least the specific motifs that are cited as paralleling Christian beliefs can’t be traced back any earlier than this. And since these myths existed in societies where Christianity had been present for awhile, if any borrowing was done it was done from the New Testament not by the New Testament.

-- First century Judaism and Christianity were not myth-friendly belief systems. Any attempt to conform them with other religions would have been met with staunch resistance by its followers. Moreover, Judaism was especially hostile to this particular "myth": the divinity and resurrection of a man. This was blasphemous.

-- Most importantly, the mythologies under discussion are completely divorced from history. Jesus was crucified in a year we can roughly estimate, just outside of Jerusalem, under a Roman magistrate we know, in a certain religious and social context, etc.

-- Only Jesus' death was undertaken voluntarily; is for sin; is for his followers; and is a victory. None of the "dying god" myths have these elements. Indeed, they are considered tragedies.

Today we are in the midst of the "Third Quest" for the historical Jesus. One of the primary claims of this quest is that Jesus is best explained in the context of first-century Judaism rather than pagan mythology. Thus, few, if any, New Testament scholars accept these parallels as having any bearing on the historical validity of Jesus' resurrection. It’s a dead issue and has been for some time. The only people who still argue for these parallels are not scholars, although they often try to portray themselves as such.

(reposted from OregonLive)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The War on Terrorism

September 11, 2001 changed the way I think about terrorism and defending my country. In a nutshell, I think the war on terrorism is a necessary evil. I'm sympathetic to those who disagree, since necessary evils are, after all, evil. But if we hadn't responded with military force, I think the results would have been much worse. The best thing I've read on this is this huge outline by Steven den Beste, written a few years ago, that details the whitherto's and the whyfor's of the war on terrorism. I agree with about 75% of it. If you think the war on terrorism is fundamentally misguided, not in the particulars but in its essence, I would encourage you to wrestle with den Beste's post.

Regarding Iraq, I think a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein was inevitable, and that the longer we put it off, the worse it would be. While most debate about Iraq focuses on the WMDs, another frequent challenge is that Saddam Hussein had no operational ties to al-Qaeda. In response I make the following points:

1. The war on terrorism is not merely against al-Qaeda; it is against all terrorist organizations.

2. All sides agree that Saddam Hussein had ties to nearly every terrorist organization in the region. This is not in question.

3. "Nearly every terrorist organization in the region" includes al-Qaeda. Saddam Hussein had diplomatic ties (not operational ties) to al-Qaeda. He offered Osama bin Laden sanctuary in 1999. You can't offer someone sanctuary if you don't have any diplomatic ties to them. This is why Richard Clarke said that a big concern in 2001 was that bin Laden was going to "boogie to Bagdad" once his bases in Afghanistan were destroyed.

4. Diplomatic ties, however, are not the same thing as operational ties or support. There was no evidence that Saddam supported or worked together with al-Qaeda.

5. The Bush administration never claimed that Saddam supported or worked together with al-Qaeda. They only claimed that he had diplomatic ties to al-Qaeda, and that he supported many other terrorist groups. Again, neither of these claims is in question.

Last week, the State Department released a study which the mainstream media trumpeted as saying that, after going through reams of documents captured in the Iraq War, there is no evidence of an operational tie between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. I wasn't moved by this, because I thought we already knew it. The report just solidified what had already been said. It doesn't affect the points I made above.

Well, after a few days, some people actually read the report, and it turns out it says the exact opposite of what the media claims: the report details that Saddam Hussein did have operational ties to al-Qaeda. Specifically, he provided financial support to the Army of Muhammad and Egypt's Islamic Jihad, two al-Qaeda organizations, the latter headed up by al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's right hand man.

This information does move me. For the last five years, I've been assuming that the only connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda was a diplomatic one. That assumption has now been refuted. Ed Morrissey has suggested it only proves financial support, not operational support, but I would argue that the former is a type of the latter. Saddam may not have helped al-Qaeda plan specific terrorist acts, but he provided them with the means necessary to engage in them. Financing someone's operations is an operational tie.

Here is the report's conclusion:

One question remains regarding Iraq's terrorism capability: Is there anything in the captured archives to indicate that Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against United States? Judging from examples of Saddam's statements (Extract 34) before the 1991 Gulf War with the United States, the answer is yes.
[19 April 1990]
"If America interferes we will strike. You know us, we are not the talkative type who holds the microphone and says things only, we do what we say. Maybe we cannot reach Washington but we can send someone with an explosive belt to reach Washington."
"We can send people to Washington... a person with explosive belt around him could throw himself on Bush's car.
In the years between the two Gulf Wars, UN sanctions reduced Saddam's ability to shape regional and world events, steadily draining his military, economic, and military powers. The rise of Islamist fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's "coercion" toolbox, not only cost effective but a formal instrument of state power. Saddam nurtured this capability with an infrastructure supporting (1) his own particular brand of state terrorism against internal and external threats, (2) the state sponsorship of suicide operations, and (3) organizational relationships and "outreach programs" for terrorist groups. Evidence that was uncovered and analyzed attests to the existence of a terrorist capability and a willingness to use it until the day Saddam was forced to flee Baghdad by Coalition forces.

However, the evidence is less clear in terms of Saddam's declared will at the time of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003. Even with access to significant parts of the regime's most secretive archive, the answer to the question of Saddam's will in the final months in power remains elusive. Potentially, more significant documents and media files are awaiting analysis or are even yet to be discovered.

As noted in the foreword of this paper, access to the captured archives of this regime provides researchers with the ability to document a part of the context in which this regime operated. While this context is far from complete, it provides at least one glimpse into the complex nexus between state and non-state terror.
This pretty much confirms the reason why I think the Iraq War was inevitable: if we were going to take the fight to the terrorists, it was necessary to remove Saddam from power. Now, in addition to this, I can also say that he had operational ties to al-Qaeda. It seems to me that the case for the Iraq War is very strong. I think the only way around this is to deny the case for the war on terrorism in general. But then you have den Beste to deal with.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Trek for you!

OK, so I just discovered that you can watch the original Star Trek, all three seasons, online. Also, the first two seasons of the original Twilight Zone. Oh joyous day! But when I try to play them, I just get a message saying, "This content is currently unavailable".

Now here's the thing: I frequently get messages saying that Internet videos are unavailable in my region (Europe), and that might be the case here. In which case, you can watch it if you're in the United States, even though I can't.

So, enjoy. Don't say I never did anything for you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thought of the Day

Atheists have used evolution as a beating-stick against Christianity.
Christians have responded by getting mad at the stick.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


In my (almost) first post, I wrote that 1. I would be reposting items from my blog at OregonLive; 2. These posts might be rewritten; and 3. I would provide a link to the original post. I also pointed out that the archives at OregonLive only go back to April 2007, but archives going back to 2004 are still at their older site.

Well, OregonLive has understandably removed the content from the old site, so I can no longer link to posts from it. Fortunately, I saved all of them on my computer (aren't you lucky!) so I can still repost them. What I can't do is link to the originals, unless it's from the new site. So from now on, reposts will have the same little statement at the bottom (reposted from OregonLive), but without the link.

Another point: I don't think there's anything inappropriate in rewriting reposted items, since I'm the original author. Before now I could also add that I was linking to the original version, so you, dear reader, could see what exactly was changed. That last step is no longer possible. Nevertheless, I still maintain it is entirely appropriate to rewrite them, for the same reason that it's appropriate for an author to rewrite a book even after the first edition is no longer in print. At any rate, most, if not all, of what I'll change will just be comments that date the post. But if anyone wants to compare a repost with the original, just e-mail me, and I'll send you the original version.

Update (April 8): I'm working on a post that will actually bring together two or three posts from the old blog. So changes to reposts will probably cover more than just comments that date them, despite what I wrote above. Also, if I repost a quote -- that is, something from a book or essay by someone else -- I won't mark it as a repost, since the content is not original to me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Breaking News from Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn, is about to perform a close flyby of the moon Enceladus, coming within 120 miles of it. In doing so, it will actually go through plumes from geysers on the moon's surface, and determine what chemicals the plumes consist of. Pretty cool.

Also, some recent studies suggest that Rhea, another Saturnian moon, may have a ring system. Planets have rings -- in our solar system, all of the outer planets have them, although the most prominent are around Saturn and Uranus. Stars do as well -- the sun has the asteroid and Kuiper belts. But if this is verified, it would be the first discovery of rings around a moon. In fact, it would be a ringed moon orbiting a ringed planet orbiting a ringed star. Again, pretty cool.

Update (Mar. 16): I should have linked to this when I first wrote this post, but NASA has a blog detailing the Enceladus encounter. Check it out.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Bias Fear

This is a disturbing story, if it's true (via Glenn Reynolds). An older part-time student, janitor, and avid reader reads a book in a break room on campus at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis. The book is entitled Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. It's about a historical incident, a street fight in May 1924, involving Notre Dame students and some KKK members. It's received good reviews.

A couple of people in the break room say they don't like the KKK. The reader tells them that the book is about the KKK receiving their come-uppance, but they don't seem interested.

Weeks later, he is informed that because he read this book -- a book that denigrates the Ku Klux Klan -- he has been accused of racial harassment. A few weeks after that, he is informed he has been found guilty of racial harassment and told he cannot read the book around his co-workers.

Fortunately, there's more to the story than this. The avid reader complained about the judgment, and received a follow-up letter to replace the earlier judgment, which ultimately drew no final conclusion. Yet the fact that this went as far as it did still troubles me, unless there are significant details being left out. Indeed, I hope there are significant details being left out, because otherwise, this case is obscene. It would be like someone being found guilty of anti-Semitism for reading a book about the Allies' victory over the Nazis in World War 2. Such a book, after all, would be about Nazis, and people are offended by Nazis. The fact that it's about the Nazis being defeated would be irrelevant, for the same reason that it's irrelevant that the subtitle of the book above is "How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan".

But leave all that aside: folks, he was found guilty of racial harassment by reading a book. Unless he was reading it out loud, I don't see how that could possibly infringe upon others. If you don't want to read the title of the book someone else is reading, don't read it. Look somewhere else, sit somewhere else. I really hope there's more to this story than this.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Great Omission

I love the writings of Dallas Willard. He's a philosopher who specializes in the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, particularly his early writings on logic and the philosophy of mathematics. But those aren't the writings I love; Willard also writes books on Christianity and discipleship (a word which simply means being a student of Jesus) which I think are absolutely brilliant.

His first three books form a kind of trilogy, although they can be read independently: the first is Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (previously titled In Search of Guidance). The second is The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. And the third is The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. He has also written a stand-alone book entitled Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. These are obviously not books defending Christianity, they are books written for people who already accept Christianity. If you are a Christian, I cannot recommend them strongly enough. Here are some of his shorter writings on Christianity, and here are some of his shorter philosophical writings. There's some overlap between these two sections.

My introduction to Dallas Willard's writings was Hearing God. Part of the idea here (although he doesn't say it in so many words) is that your "inner monologue" isn't really a monologue; not all of those thoughts originate with you. The goal is to learn to identify when it's God speaking, when it's just your own subconscious, when it might be other spiritual voices that may not have your best interests in mind, etc. For me, this was revolutionary. I was very suspicious of this claim, so the fact that it came from someone who's clearly a critical thinker and an expert logician assuaged much of my concern. In fact, it brings to mind C. S. Lewis's statement in The Problem of Pain,

If your thoughts and passions were directly present to me, like my own, without any mark of externality or otherness, how should I distinguish them from mine? ... You may reply, as a Christian, that God (and Satan) do, in fact, affect my consciousness in this direct way without signs of "externality." Yes: and the result is that most people remain ignorant of the existence of both.

Dallas Willard's most recent book is a collection of essays entitled The Great Omission: Rediscovering Jesus' Essential Teachings on Discipleship. The title is a take-off of the Great Commission, the command of Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples. What is sometimes omitted in this is the next verse, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you", which is, after all, the goal of discipleship. I haven't bought this book yet, although I plan to. I just realized, however, that most of the chapters are actually available as articles on his website. So as a sort of advertisement, I thought I would present the table of contents of The Great Omission with links to those chapters that can be read online. This isn't meant to dissuade you from going out and actually buying the book -- on the contrary, as I've said before, I can't recommend reading his books strongly enough.

The first chapter is also the second appendix to Spirit of the Disciplines. The last section is (apparently) excerpts from a few of the great writings on discipleship from Christian history. I've provided links if they are available on the Internet.

Section I: Apprenticed to Jesus
1. Discipleship: For Super Christians Only?
2. Why Bother With Discipleship?
3. Who Is Your Teacher?
4. Looking Like Jesus
5. The Key to the Keys of the Kingdom

Section II: Spiritual Formation and Development of Character
6. Spiritual Formation in Christ Is for the Whole Life and the Whole Person
7. Spiritual Formation in Christ: A Perspective on What It Is And How It Might Be Done
8. The Spirit Is Willing, But… The Body as a Tool for Spiritual Growth
9. Living in the Vision of God
10. Idaho Springs Inquiries Concerning Spiritual Formation
11. Personal Soul Care: For Ministers…And Others

Section III: Discipleship of the Soul and the Mind
12. Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, And The Restoration Of The Soul
13. Christ-Centered Piety
14. Why?
15. Jesus the Logician

Section IV: Books on Spiritual Living -- Visions and Practices
16. Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach
17. The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila
18. Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton
19. When God Moves In: My Experience with Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians
20. A Room of Marvels by James B. Smith

A Parting Word: "As You Go…"

Update (April 8): I fear I was misleading about the content of Hearing God. The point above, about how our inner monologue may actually be a way that God communicates to us, is correct and important. But one of Willard's main points in that book is that hearing God is just one part of an overall life with God. One can't live as if she were her own person, but then try to "listen" to God when she wants some advice. If someone ignored you except when they wanted something from you, would you accommodate them? Why would we expect that God would?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Natural Born Leaders

The Constitution says "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President". I've always understood "natural born" to mean a citizen by virtue of being born within the United States (being born within the US automatically bestows citizenship). The next election is gearing up to be a unique one, because both John McCain and Barack Obama were born on American military bases outside the United States (McCain was born in Panama and Obama in Hawaii before it was a State). Such bases are considered American soil, so they are both eligible for the Presidency by this definition. The New York Times recently tried to challenge whether McCain is really eligible for the Presidency, but their arguments are fallacious and would apply equally to Obama.

However, it looks like I was misinformed; the Volokh Conspiracy challenges my understanding of "natural-born", arguing that "If the drafters of the Constitution had wanted to require that presidents be born in the United States, they could have done so. Instead, they invoked the then-standard idea of natural citizenship as reflecting natural allegiance to the king or the state". As always, the comments are worth reading as well.

Update: I'm informed in the comments that Obama was actually born after Hawaii became a state (which happened in 1959). So I'm doubly misinformed. In the age of the Internet, there's really no excuse for that. My apologies.