Banning Sobriety in Palm Beach

Well, not quite…

It’s unlikely residents will see sober homes popping up in their Palm Beach neighborhoods any time soon.

Earlier this month, the Town Council declared “zoning in progress,” a measure that essentially halts permits for alcohol and drug-free living environments in town while officials consider how best to regulate them. Council members also directed the Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss an ordinance change at a future meeting.

If there’s one thing the Town of Palm Beach is good at, it’s restricting residential development.  They’ve even frustrated people who had the good sense to put bullet-proof glass next to a golf course to the point of razing their house.  If they want to keep sober houses off the island, they can turn the task over to the Architectural Commission (ARCOM,) who can bankrupt just about anyone with the “improvements” they require.

I’m not sure why anyone who wants to run a sober house would try to put one on the island.  In addition to ARCOM, the real estate prices are dreadfully high.  By the time they would have the house set up, they would be out of money to actually help someone with their substance abuse problem.

What will be fun, however, is when the Feds try to put Section 8 housing in Palm Beach…

The "Arabs" of Thomas Aquinas Weren't Arabs At All

Returning to the site Ite ad Thomam, I saw an advertisement for the “Annual Fall Workshop on Aquinas and the ‘Arabs'” at Marquette University (not, these days, an ideal venue for such a traditional Catholic conference.)  For someone like myself who started the Summa as an undergraduate and finished it as a PhD candidate, it looks to be interesting.

The two main scholars from the Islamic world that Aquinas cites are Avicenna and Averroes.  The first thing the conference needs to establish is that neither of these two worthies are Arab, although they certainly wrote in Arabic.

Avicenna (Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Sīnā) was Persian.  Having spent five years with Persian scholars, I can tell you that they’re a world apart from their Arab counterparts.  I’ll go a step further: if there is an “Islamic Civilisation,” it’s Persian, not Arab.

Averroes (ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd) lived in Moorish Spain.  His family was prominent under the Almoravids, a Muslim dynasty of Berber origin, from North Africa.  Some Berbers at least are very defensive about being called “Arabs.”

As an aside, Averroes’ chief opponent, Al-Ghazali, was also Persian.  About ten years ago I dealt with the difference between Al-Ghazali and Aquinas; it remains an often visited piece on this site.

So perhaps this will be the first order of business of the conference.   Such differences may seem trivial, but if they and others were better understood–especially by those making the decisions these days–our world would be a better place.

When One Steals From A Church, One Sins Twice

Never gave this much thought, but from the “Ite ad Thomam” site:

So stealing from a church is actually two sins, theft and sacrilege? Or is it still one – sacrilegious theft?

Two sins.  And both have to be confessed.  In other words, it’s not enough to say merely “I stole something from a building,” or “I committed sacrilege at the church”; one has to confess having stolen from the church, both theft and sacrilege.  And so with other acts that involve multiple species of sin, as when one does one bad thing for the sake of another.

Something to think about…

Brexit, Crisis and Opportunity

One of the more amusing moments I’ve had here at UTC has been the visit of the new Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Dr. Daniel Pack, to the SimCentre, where I just finished my PhD.  He wanted to meet with the students; it’s been a rough road for the program, and he wanted to “cast a vision” for the future.  Towards the end of his talk, he threw out the old B-school meme that, in Chinese, the character for “opportunity” is contained in the character for “crisis.”

However, as is the case with most gatherings of engineering students (and faculty) these days, the Chinese are well represented.  Once he said that he paused in puzzlement for a second, looked at the Chinese and asked, “Is that really true?”  The Chinese, after looking at each other, confirmed that it was true.  Needless to say, the Dean sighed with relief.

There aren’t many sighs of relief after the “Brexit” vote, at least from what one reads in the various news sources.  You’d think that the UK had voted to withdraw from the planet entirely.  The pound tanks (pack your bags, tourists) and the whining begins.  International commerce is rumoured at a standstill.  Suddenly well-positioned people want to move somewhere else, although it’s hard to know where.

I think it’s time to settle down and consider two realities.

The first, as I pointed out earlier, is that the European Union is an “undemocratic, Procrustean experiment” that has lurched from one disaster to another in the last eight years.  Successful unification of a group of nations as diverse as those in the EU requires some wisdom and flexibility, and the eurocrats have exhibited neither.  They’ve taken a “my way or the highway” attitude, and the UK has taken the highway.

The second is that the flow of international commerce isn’t as dependent upon the existence of international bureaucracies as people think it is.  I’ll even make a bolder statement than that: the improvements in communications and transport (mitigated, in the country, by our purposeful neglect of infrastructure upkeep) make those bureaucracies even more unnecessary than they make themselves.  We need some comity in the process, but there’s a point where necessary comity turns into unnecessary overhead, and I think we’re past that.

I keep being drawn back to my experience in China, in which I learned the following:

One of the lessons we at Vulcan took from China is that “experts” seem to gravitate towards the country. We found these experts in the U.S., too. They’d appear at international trade events, going on at length about how to deal with this exotic Chinese culture and how different it was from ours, and how with their advice we would do business.

The problem with many of these people is that they’ve never “done the deal.” Many of them have never sold or leased anything to the Chinese or anyone else for that matter. We found that such advice not to be as helpful as it looked.

I think we’ve got a tyranny of people who have never “done the deal,” and worse aren’t enthusiastic about any one else doing it either.  That’s certainly relevant now that attention turns back to our own elections.  (For those who whine about Trump being a Chapter 11 artist, make no mistake: we are heading towards our own bankruptcy, and there’s nothing to stop it, it can only be managed.)

And something else: why is it that we think that people can only succeed if they move to our shores?  Isn’t anyone interested in seeing some success elsewhere?  I know I certainly am, and have worked to make it happen, but I feel like I’m in the minority.  Such efforts would mitigate the need for immigration, which has been so explosive on both sides of the Atlantic.

As our Dean noted, opportunity is contained within crisis.  Events like this make our elites feel like David “Spengler” Goldman’s pithy saying: it’s not the end of the world, it’s the end of you.  Don’t let yourself get sucked into the whining, there are opportunities out there for all of us.

Now Audi Cashes In on Ramadan

Not to be outdone by Renault, Audi has their own Ramadan special for Bahrainis:

AudiExtraReminder.115800For Americans, Renault is an abstraction; they have not marketed motor vehicles in this country for many years.  Audi is another matter altogether: not only are they active here but a part of Volkswagen, which has an American plant and is fairly major (if in trouble with the EPA these days.)

Renault and Ramadan Go Together

I’m not quite sure how it came about, but somehow I got on the list for a number of spammers in the Gulf States.  In any case, I’m passing along the following, an ad for Renault during Ramadan from Bahrain:

RAMADAN-PROMO-_CAPcvbvTUR_BAHRAIN_Emailer---8It also came in Arabic, but I’ll leave it at this.

Hope the dealership hides the munchies during the day…but note the showroom times: they open at 0900, close at 1300 and open back up at 1930 until 2330, except, of course, on Fridays, when they close at 1130.  The Imam at the mosque better be in top form to compete with his people’s dreams of a new car…

I’ve also seen hotels offer Ramadan feasts after dark.

Don't Pack Heat When You're Up for Tenure

Yesterday we, the faculty of the University of Tennessee (and this includes the Instapundit,) received the following from our President, Dr. Joseph dePietro (emphasis mine:)

On July 1, a new state law takes effect that allows Tennessee’s public colleges and universities’ full-time faculty and staff, who have handgun-carry permits, to carry handguns on campus. I want to share information about the law and the new safety policy we have adopted in response.

Safety Policy 0875 addresses how UT applies the many different state laws regarding firearms and clarifies when an employee may and may not legally carry a handgun on University property.

The policy, which also takes effect July 1, expands on the following key provisions of state law:

  • Full-time UT employees with valid Tennessee handgun-carry permits may carry handguns on UT property, if:
    • They are not enrolled as students; and
    • They notify the law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the UT property on which they will be carrying a handgun
  • Employees must display their handgun-carry permits on request of law enforcement officers
  • Employees must not:
    • Carry a weapon other than a handgun
    • Carry a handgun openly or in any other manner in which the handgun is visible to ordinary observation
    • Carry a handgun at certain times and locations, such as:
      • Stadiums, gymnasiums or auditoriums where University-sponsored events are in progress
      • In meetings regarding disciplinary matters or tenure

I encourage you to review the policy in its entirety and answers to frequently asked questions provided here.

Additional information about implementation efforts will be shared soon by each campus and institute. Questions can be directed to the law enforcement contacts listed within the policy.

I understand strong feelings exist regarding guns on campus and want to assure you of our unwavering commitment to the safety of our faculty, staff and students as we implement this change.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I appreciate everything you do for the University.

I have to admit that I found the tenure proceeding exclusion a little amusing.  One would like to think that those who were up for this would have some maturity, but one can never assume anything these days.

I’m not sure about the student exclusion either, having spent the last five years as student and faculty at the same time.  I suppose that being a faculty member and student at the same time is so surreal that your mental state cannot be trusted.  I also had a student whose Mother’s Day tribute showed her and her mom at the firing range, so there are some students who could put the hurts on a potential mass shooter.

I’m not completely sold on this, we will have to see.  In the “old days,” if a person did carry on campus and saved someone’s life, the authorities would have been lenient, but we don’t live in that time any more.  But then again we’re coming up on the first anniversary of the Chattanooga shooting, and the perpetrator of that was a UTC Electrical Engineering graduate.

Brexit: Something Tells Me, It's Time to Go…

Amidst the tragedy of the Orlando massacre earlier this week, we have yet another major event facing us: the “Brexit” vote on 23 June, where the UK’s voters express their wish to stay in the European Union or leave.  The “Establishment” in the UK (and that, sad to say, includes the Church of England) have campaigned to stay in the EU.  But the polls have swung the other way.  Given that the Brits tend to lie about who or what they’re going to vote for (a tradition that’s moving up here,) it could go either way at this point.

It’s frustrating to be a student of history these days, because it seems that all the world has a serious case of collective amnesia about a variety of topics.  Britain’s leaders (such as they are) act like the sun rises and sets on the UK staying in the EU.  But it wasn’t that long ago when things were different, even among Europe’s leadership.

It used to be said that the purpose of the then-Common Market was to “keep the French in, the Germans down, and the British out.”  That philosophy came mostly from Charles de Gaulle, who in turn based his idea on France’s experience in the years leading up to World War II.  Keeping France in kept her engaged and not indifferent or isolated to events around her.  Keeping Germany down was obvious; the failure to do so in the 1930’s lead to Germany’s rearmament, a necessary prerequisite to France’s defeat in 1940.  Keeping Britain out came from France’s sour experience with British appeasement/pro-German feeling.  Chamberlain’s capitulation at Munich was just the last event in a long series of British concessions, explicit and implicit, towards Germany.  That destroyed much of the trust that came out of World War I.

What upset that formula more than anything else was the end of the Cold War.  Germany’s reunification, expensive though it was, made it the key nation in Europe.  France more or less tagged along.  Britain, as always, has its own interests at heart and isn’t shy about pursuing them.  Nothing says that more than Britain’s retention of the pound sterling.

That, however,  was prescient.  The key disaster of the EU is the euro itself.  Putting economies as disparate as the Netherlands and Greece is a recipe for trouble, as NAFTA proved with Mexico.  Putting them on a single currency, with the bull-headed Germans fighting devaluation tooth and nail, pulls the pin on the grenade.  That, in many ways, is Europe’s biggest fear with Brexit: if the Brits can bail, why not the Italians?  Or the Spanish?  The most viable option to keep this rickety chandelier together is to make some concessions to the Brits while spinning places like Italy and Greece out of the eurozone.  (The immigration business is something of a red herring.)

None of this, however, is likely to take place.  Both Europe and the UK would be better off apart than together.  To borrow a Biblical expression, the UK is in Europe but not of it, and has not been since Roman Britain or, at best, the Act of Supremacy.  The Brits will always want to do it their way; for better or worse, they should be allowed to do so.

As far as trade and commerce, it strikes me that one of the main purposes of trade agreements of any kind is to help provincial boobies do international commerce.  It used to be that it took a special kind of person to be successful in international trade. We should work on cultivating such people and not bending the system beyond what is economically beneficial to everyone just to make the boors happy.  The British have been successful traders and financiers for centuries and it’s hard to imagine that they will fall flat on their face without being joined at the hip with those on the Continent.

The biggest immediate question in the wake of a Brexit would be Scotland.  The CW is that Scotland would bolt the Union to join the EU, but the road from Edinburgh to Brussels isn’t as clear as many in the SNP would like for you to think it is.  There’s a positive possibility here: as things stand, power oozes from London in one direction towards Brussels in the EU and towards Edinburgh in devolution.  If the eastward oozing could be stopped, London would be in a better place to devolve more not only to Scotland but also to Wales and Northern Ireland (although it’s hard to imagine a better deal than Ulster has right at the moment.)  To put it another way, leaving the EU might lead to a BU…

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.   It’s hard to accept the apocalyptic view being spread by the current Government in London about a successful Brexit.  The European Union is an undemocratic, Procrustean experiment imposed on a group of nations that at least give lip service to democratic process while at the same time are highly diverse.  There’s no evidence that the UK is better off in such an arrangement.

Something tells me it’s time to go…

Another Anglican Divine Hit the Skids

In the nearly nineteen years this site has been active, I’ve had the opportunity to skewer Anglican and Episcopal “divines” for their strange and unBiblical positions.  My most recent efforts have related to my prep school’s chaplain and John Shelby Spong.

One of the irritating things I’ve run across in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere is the concept that revisionism is a relatively new phenomenon, and I try to reach into the Anglican/Episcopal “wayback machine” to cure this idea.  This time I’m going to reach back even further, to the nineteenth century, and the Anglican divine in question is Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838-1901).  Our guide is the Scottish theologian A.B. Bruce, from his work The Humiliation of Christ.  Let’s start with a little introduction, in his discussion of “new” Christologies of that century:

I could not well avoid saying something on a phase of thought which can scarcely be said to have any philosophic basis, and of which the chief interest is its crudity, which is neither orthodox nor heterodox, simply because it stops short of the point at which orthodoxy and heterodoxy diverge. Probably the best representative of this nondescript school in England is the Rev. H. R Haweis, one of the pulpit celebrities of London in connection with the Established Church, and author of several well-known books in which opinions on all manner of present-day topics are very freely expressed; whose popularity as a preacher and as a writer may be accepted as an indication that his way of thinking hits the taste of many.

It’s easy to forget in these days of secular Britain that London in the nineteenth century was the place of many “pulpit celebrities,” the best remembered of which is Charles H. Spurgeon.

Now to his explanation of answered prayer:

In Christ and His apostles the magnetic and spiritual forces culminated. God, who chose to speak to man through the man Christ Jesus, who thus revealed the divine nature under the limitation of humanity, also chose that Jesus Christ should take in the highest degree all the natural powers which were bestowed on humanity, both as regards magnetic force and spiritual receptiveness. Hence the healing miracles; hence also the frequent modus operandi by the use of magnetised substances, as when He made clay and anointed the blind man s eyes, and sighed or breathed hard upon him, another practice well known to magnetic doctors now. Magnetism also explains answers to prayer, whether recorded in the Bible or occurring in Christian experience now; for the magnetic element is the one thing common to those in the flesh and out of the flesh. And by prayer we put ourselves en rapport with disembodied magnetisers, and receive through their magnetic influence the desired blessing, e.g., restored health.

From here we can proceed to Haweis’ concept of Christ:

Christ is the second conception of God realised as a historical fact, an expression of God under the limitations of humanity. But it will be best to give his view in his own words: “When I am asked to define what I mean by Christ, I use such expressions as these. There was something in the nature of the great boundless source of being called God which was capable of sympathy with man. That something found outward expression, and became God expressed under the essential limitations of humanity, in Jesus. That such a revelation was specially necessary to the moral and spiritual development of the human race I believe; that such a revelation of God was actually made to the world I believe. More than this I cannot pledge myself to.”

In a day when seminary academics never seem at a loss for words, Haweis “stumped the chumps” and Bruce has to throw up his hands in bewilderment:

I am at a loss how to classify this Christological speculation. In some respects it reminds one of the kenotic theories of the Incarnation, according to which the Son of God in becoming man denuded Himself of the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, in order that He might be capable of living the life of a veritable man within the limits of humanity. But in other respects it has no affinity with the views of kenotic Christologists, or indeed with any views that can be characterised as Christian. The incarnation taught by Mr. Haweis has more resemblance to that believed in by the worshippers of Brahma, than to that embodied in the creeds of the Christian Church.

Bruce, however, gets to the bottom of the matter:

That such crude, undigested, and nondescript views should permanently satisfy many earnest minds is not to be expected. The only use they can serve is to be a temporary halting-place to those who, utterly out of sympathy with the formulated doctrines of the Creed, are yet unable to break away from Christianity and its Author. In this respect they are full of interest. It is certainly a striking phenomenon which is presented to our view in this nineteenth century in the person of such a man as Mr. Haweis, a man regarding creeds and dogmatic systems with morbid disgust, and yet compelled by the evangelic records to recognise in Jesus the Son of God in a sense in which the title can be applied to no other man. To some the phenomenon may appear a thing of evil omen, portending the disintegration of the Christian faith, and the ultimate dissolution of the Christian Church. But it has a bright, hopeful side, as well as a dark, discouraging one. It is Christianity renewing its youth, making a new beginning.

We need to stop and consider what happened here, because the “fork in the road” Bruce describes is the one that Christianity (especially in the West) has been presented with over and over again during the last century and into this one.  He makes two contradictory predictions, and in a sense both have happened.

One the one hand, his characterisation of a church of Haweis’ ilk is a “temporary halting-place to those who…are yet unable to break away from Christianity and its author” is pretty much what Main Line churches have been in this country for a long time.  Now that the culture is moving away from Christianity, the “halting-place” is no longer needed and the churches that acted in this way have bled members.  In that respect Haweis’ theology, and that of those like him, was a Faustian bargain whose payment has come due with a vengeance.

On the other hand, his observation that, in spite of his silly theology, Haweis’ recognition of Jesus Christ as extraordinary is worth thinking about.  Conservative Christians have always wondered just how much their liberal counterparts really believed that Jesus was divine, or even worth considering.  That thought came to mind in reading Jürgen Moltmann.  Bruce goes on to note that Haweis’ characterisation of Jesus is similar to the first one the disciples might have experienced.

What was needed—and is still needed today—is a Christianity that combines both a sound credal basis and an experiential one with the risen Saviour.  Bruce’s summary of the morass of Lutheran attempts to resolve the Christological problem in the first half of the nineteenth century should be a caution to a faith based solely on credal assent.  Today a great deal of resurgence of Reformed theology is based on doing just that, and it will fail as it has in the recent past.

But Haweis missed that twin-hulled boat too.  He was an Anglican delegate to the 1893 Chicago Parliament of Religions (at the World’s Fair where my family business exhibited.)  As Harvey Cox pointed out in Fire From Heaven, a little more than a decade later a religious “explosion” of an entirely different kind took place at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles.  For all of its difficulties Modern Pentecost has cut the Gordian knot of experience and creed, and much of the fuel of the Anglican Revolt that has laboured to reverse the damage of Haweis and his kind has come from its Charismatic wing.

Our greatest challenge, then, is to keep the likes of Haweis out of Pentecostal and Charismatic theology, lest he do the same damage to us that he did to what is now the Anglican/Episcopal world.

Sometimes It Pays to Think

Like in this, from A.B. Bruce’s The humiliation of Christ, about Eutyches, the Monophysite fanatic:

It is plain from those representations that Eutyches had no distinct definite conception of the constitution of our Lord’s person. He felt rather than thought on the subject of Christology. He did not pretend to comprehend the mystery of the Incarnation, but rather gloried in proclaiming its incomprehensibleness. He knew that God and flesh were altogether different things, and he believed that Christ s flesh was real; but the divinity bulked so large in his eye, that the humanity, in comparison, vanished into nothing. And if compelled by fact to admit that the humanity was still there, not drunk up like a drop of honey by the sea of the divinity, he refused, at all events, to regard it as on a level with ordinary humanity: reverence protested against calling Christ s divine body consubstantial with the bodies of common mortals.

The result of this was a mess:

It would have been well had the course of events permitted such a man to pass his life in obscurity. But it was otherwise ordered. Eutyches became the representative of a theory which engaged the attention of three Synods ; being condemned by the first, approved by the second,  and re-condemned and finally disposed of as a heresy by the third, the famous (Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon…)

The criticism Bruce levels against Eutyches has also been directed against the Orthodox in general.  Unfortunately Eutyches’ approach has its counterparts in other parts of Christianity.  And, in this emotionalistic age we live in, even the “rational” places are driven by the same kind of lack of thinking.