Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 2, The temptation. Eve is attacked before Adam.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Lord, make me understand the depths of Satan and the unbounded intricacies of this spirit, which you have been pleased to preserve all its subtlety, all its depth, all the natural superiority of the genius it has over us, to be used in the trials into which you wish to place our loyalty, and to make known magnificently the power of your grace.

This is the first work of this dark spirit. His evil and jealousy lead him to destroy the man whom God had made so perfect and so happy, and to subjugate him to whom God had given so much power over all bodily creatures, so that, unable to overthrow the throne of God himself, he overthrows him as much as he can through the man whom God has raised to such a high power.

We must, then, consider how he succeeded in this work, in order to know how we are to resist him, and to raise ourselves from our fall, that is to say, to raise up again in us the overthrown dominion of God.

We were, indeed, below the angel; but, as we have seen, a little below, for we were equal in the happiness of possessing the sovereign good; and, like an angel, we had intelligence and free will, aided by grace, and capable, with that grace, of rising to that blessed joy. We could easily resist Satan, who had lost grace and wanted to make us lose it also. No matter how much advantage he had in the way of intelligence, far from being able to force us, the grace which we had, and which he had rejected and entirely lost by his fault, rendered us his superior in strength and virtue. Thus he could do nothing against us except by persuasion, and it also flattered his pride to subdue our minds to his by skill, to trap us in the snares which he held out to us.

The first effect of this artifice is to have tempted Adam through Eve, and to have begun to attack us through the weaker part. However perfect she was made in body and still more in sprit, when the first woman immediately emerged from the hands of God, she was, according to the body, only a portion of Adam, and a diminutive type. It was in proportion nearly to the same spirit, for God directed in his work a wisdom which arranged all things with a certain propriety. It was not Eve, but Adam who named the animals: it was to Adam and not to Eve that he had brought them. If Eve, like her beloved companion, had participated in her dominion, it remained to the man a primacy which he could lose only by his fault and by an excess of complacency. He had given the name to Eve, as he had given it to all animals, and nature meant that it was somehow subject to him. It was, therefore, in him, the superiority of wisdom; and Satan comes to attack him by the weakest place, and, so to speak, the least fortified.

If this artifice succeeds in this mischievous spirit, it is not surprising that he continues it, and that he is still trying to defeat man by women, though in another way; because he did not yet have desire. He raised up his own wife against Job, and raised against him this domestic enmity, to try his patience. Tobias, who was to be after him the model of this virtue, had in his house a similar persecution. The greatest kings have fallen by this artifice. Who does not know the fall of David and Solomon? Who can forget the weakness of Herod and the murderess of St. John the Baptist? The devil, by attacking Eve, was preparing in woman one of the most dangerous instruments for the loss of the human race; and it is not without reason that the wise man said that she had subjugated the most powerful and given death to the most courageous.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 1, The Snake

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

The snake was the most refined of all animals. Behold, in the apparent weakness of such a strange beginning in the recital of our misfortunes, the admirable depth of Christian theology. Everything seems feeble, dare we say it; everything here looks like a story: a serpent speaks, a woman listens, a man so perfect and enlightened is led to a crude temptation, the whole human race falls with him into sin and death. All of this seems senseless. But it is here where the truth of this sublime sentence of St. Paul begins: what is apparent folly in God is wiser than the wisdom of men, and that which is in God a apparent weakness is stronger than the strength of all men.

Let us begin with the refined nature of the serpent, and do not regard it as refinement of an animal without reason, but as the finesse of the devil, which with divine permission had entered into the body of that animal. As God appeared to man in bodily form, so it was with angels. God speaks to Adam, God brings the animals to him and brings him his wife whom he had just taken from himself; God appears to him as something that walks in paradise. There is in all this another aspect, though it is not expressed. It was proper, with man being composed of body and soul, that God made himself known to him according to both: according to the senses as well as the spirit. It was the same with the angels who conversed with man in such a form as God permitted, and in the form of animals. Eve therefore was not surprised to hear a serpent speak, as she had not seen God appear in a bodily form. She felt that an angel spoke to her, and it only seemed that she could not make out whether she was a good or a bad angel, since there was no obstacle that the angel of darkness would be transformed into an angel of light.

Here then is something to elevate ourselves to something higher than what appears, and we must consider in the serpent’s speech a secret permission of God, by which the tempting spirit presents itself to Eve in this form.

Why did he determine this proud angel to appear in this form, rather than another? Although it is not necessary to know, the Scriptures insinuate by saying that the serpent was the most refined of all animals, that is, the one who presents himself in the most supple and hidden way, and which, for many other reasons which are developed in the sequel, better represented the devil in his malice, snares, and then his torture.

Ignorant men would have Eve at first, instead of hearing the serpent, frightened, as we do at the sight of this animal, without thinking that the animals subject to the dominion of man had nothing awful for him in the beginning. On the contrary, as it were, the animals crawled before him, the serpent included, by a divine mark as if printed on his face, which kept them in subjection. The devil, therefore, did not have to worry about frightening Eve with the form of the snake, nor being harsh to weaken her will by a kind of force; but this cunning spirit went by speech and subtle insinuations which we shall see.

Up to this point everything appears only excellent in the nature of man, to whom all animals seem submitted, even those which now naturally give us the most horror. Jesus Christ re-established this dominion in a higher way, when he said, recounting the wonders that faith will do in those who believe: They will subdue serpents, and the poisons they drink will not harm them. This miracle will be accomplished in an admirable way, if among the many errors, temptations, illusions and, so to speak, in a corrupt environment, we know, with the grace of God, to keep our pure heart, our simple and sincere mouth, our innocent hands.

The Core Problem With Liberal Arts Curricula/Degrees

I’ve taken flak for saying this in other contexts, but this comment on a frustrated history PhD’s failure to land a tenure-track position hits the nail on the head:

my own experience has been very similar although now i’m glad that i left the humanities and i believe that the humanities themselves should be completely erased as actual graduate disciplines. so many wasted minds, so much wasted capital for really very little societal value and much much grief to very smart individuals only to keep up a very vague idea that a university teaches you “how to think” or how to “read” or “how to write.”

the irony is that, given the current way in which most writing and reading occurs, taking a humanities course in milton, cervantes, or baudelaire may actually make you a worse writer and reader for today’s environment… but i digress.

i encourage you to think of this as an opportunity and to go outside of the field completely. i myself am now a software engineer although i once did a phd in comparative literature. it is possible to change, and it can be very fulfilling.

Painting Ourselves Into a Corner on Porn

Ross Douthat’s idea to ban porn is entirely sensible:

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine there is a long profile of a new kind of pedagogy unique to our particular stage of civilization. It’s called “porn literacy,” and it involves explaining to young people whose sexual coming-of-age is being mediated by watching online gangbangs that actually hard-core pornography is not an appropriate guide to how the sexes should relate.

For anyone who grew up with the ideals of post-sexual revolution liberalism, there is a striking pathos to these educators’ efforts. The sex education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all.

Although he puts it differently, Douthat has put his finger on the central dilemma of feminism and the #MeToo movement: when you live in a society whose elites believe that the central purpose in life is to get laid, high, or drunk, getting away from anything that encourages sexual activity simply cannot happen, or life loses its significance.  As a consequence they have painted themselves into a corner, and are not big enough to either admit it or seek alliances (which Douthat recalls from the 1980’s) with people who have common cause on at least this issue.

For the #straightouttairondale Set, the Canonisation of Paul VI is a Brown Pants Moment

It’s coming soon:

Acclaimed Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli reports that a unanimous vote has taken place at a meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, positively recognizing a purported miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1897-1978). This development effectively paves the way for the Pontiff’s ‘canonization.’

But the #straightouttairondale people aren’t happy about it, to say the least:

The ‘canonization’ of Papa Montini is nothing else than a ‘canonization’ of the sordid agenda and disastrous orientation of Vatican II, the abysmal Novus Ordo Missae, and the embarrassing entirety of post-conciliar legislation and innovation.

This is unsurprising.  Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had as their basic mission the walking back from many of the changes that took place under Paul VI.  That, of course, would include the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which was in many ways spoilt by its leadership.

And as for me?  I think that my fate as a Roman Catholic was sealed by his death in 1978, when I came back three years later things were not moving in a nice direction for those of us who were the product of the previous decade.

It’s also worth noting that most of the Catholic music linked to here came from Paul’s pontificate.

Jubal: Trust

Wheat WR 1001  (1977)

Although this Detroit-based production has been described as “Christo-funk,” it’s really very eclectic, with a wide variety of styles that reflect the makeup of the group.  There’s both jazz and soul elements in it, some hard driving stuff and some very light stuff too.  One thing that’s missing is any churchy or even any CCM sound to it.  A real delight that is sure to brighten your day.

Thanks to Dennis for providing this music.

The songs:

  1. Whom The Son Sets Free
  2. Changed Man
  3. I Long To Glorify Thee
  4. Blessed Abundantly
  5. Rock Of Refuge
  6. Be All That You Can
  7. Psalm 57
  8. Expose Yourself To His Love
  9. Loser
  10. Trust


For more music click here

Those Unscientific Science Journalists

NPR wants a new one, but…

NPR, which to its credit at least attempts to cover science and health, is looking for a new Science Editor. Unfortunately, actually being trained in science is not required for the job.

Under the qualifications section, the ad says, “Education: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience.” Amazingly, not only is a background in science unnecessary, college itself is optional. Despite such a low bar, whoever gets hired for the job will be responsible for covering “consumer health trends, medicine, public health, biotech and health policy.” Seriously?

It’s fair to say these days that a journalism position is an advocacy position.  But that’s one thing that’s discredited many scientific initiatives: the total lack of people with science training either reporting, advocating, or setting public policy on these kinds of issues.  No where is this more evident than climate change, where the biggest carbon-free solution in the mix–nuclear power–has been shunted aside, even when most of scientific community is good with it.

But that’s the American way, and has been for years.  It’s little wonder that countries such as China, Iran and Russia, where more of the educated population is trained in the sciences, are perceived as such threats.

I Guess YouTube Will Flag the Boring Video, Too

YouTube is doing some strange things these days, and this is yet another:

YouTube announced Friday it will start flagging videos published by organizations that receive government funding.

Viewers will be able to see labels on videos from government-funded outlets above the video’s title on the page.

“News is an important and growing vertical for us and we want to be sure to get it right, helping to grow news and support news publishers on YouTube in a responsible way,” YouTube News senior product manager Geoff Samek said.

I guess that includes this masterpiece, which I use in my Soil Mechanics class:

Watch it for a minute or two and see why I call it the “Boring Video.”  I told my students that labelling it as such was my attempt at “truth in advertising.”

This video was produced at the University of California at Davis with a grant from the Feds.  Like so many documents and other material in this field, it was produced with government funding, and use of this kind of material is widespread amongst the Federal and State agencies charged with civil and military works, and used in the teaching of civil engineering, most of which in this country takes place at state (government) universities.

So I guess that YouTube will, once it figures all this out, label this as “propaganda.”

Like I said, YouTube is doing some strange things these days.  Recently they demonitised “small” YouTube channels (like mine, the pennies rolled in) and frankly I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to accomplish other than getting rid of a large number of accounts that were more hassle to service than they were worth.  The obsession of social media with “propaganda” (and YouTube certainly isn’t alone) is going to kill it for themselves and everyone else.

Just Because Your Alma Mater is “Christian” Doesn’t Mean You’ll Be

Higher education is a competitive business.  One of the things that educational institutions that are affiliated with a church or profess or call themselves Christian use to attract students is “your faith will be enhanced by coming here.”  Christian parents and students find that attractive, which is why many pay the premium to go to one of these institutions.

Unfortunately things don’t always work out the way we think they’re supposed to.  I didn’t have to wait until college to find that out: the one and only church affiliated educational institution I ever attended, the St. Andrew’s School, was the place where I entered an Episcopalian (the school was and is affiliated with the Episcopal diocese it’s in) and left a Roman Catholic, a move which liberal and conservative alike found distasteful.

So how did this happen?  There are basically two reasons for this.

The first is that the school, like many in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, received an influx of sixties radicals in the faculty.  These obviously had little use for any “traditional” agenda of any kind, Christian or otherwise.

The second is that neither of the school’s head chaplains–who also taught the required theology courses–had much use for the Episcopal Church’s historical beliefs either.  I document my conflict with the second one here.

Although life at Bethesda had its moments, when I came to St. Andrew’s I was basically happy with being an Episcopalian.  By the time I left I wasn’t.  I could have just dropped out of church altogether, like many did (and do) when faced with people who had fled their post.  Thankfully I didn’t.

Christian educational institutions don’t exist in a vacuum.  They’re subject to the changes going both in the society at large and in their own church (if they’re affiliated with one.)  It’s takes a special effort–and occasionally some unpleasant staff and policy changes–to keep such an institution on course.  It’s easy to let things and people slip.  This is true for Evangelical and Pentecostal institutions as well; the firm doctrinal stand is frequently overwhelmed by the shame-based desire to be acceptable in society.  The accreditation system accelerates this process.

For me, I went to Texas A&M, which exceeded my expectations in many ways.  I’ve never been on the faculty or received a degree from a Christian institution since.

So what is to be done?  For Christian parents and prospective students, it’s time to be discerning.  Don’t accept labels and heritage at face value; things are changing too fast these days.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in his good time, laying all your anxieties upon him, for he makes you his care. Exercise self-control, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, like a roaring lion, is prowling about, eager to devour you. Stand firm against him, strong in your faith; knowing, as you do, that the very sufferings which you are undergoing are being endured to the full by your Brotherhood throughout the world. God, from whom all help comes, and who called you, by your union with Christ, into his eternal glory, will, when you have suffered for a little while, himself perfect, establish, strengthen you. To him be ascribed dominion for ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 TCNT)

Is Going to a Canadian Style Immigration System That Bad?

While most Americans were bracing themselves for Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address (which turned out reasonably,) I got myself into a Facebook argument with the most bilious person I know about immigration policy.  During that dialogue I stated my preference for a Canadian (the Aussies use a similar system) immigration system which uses points to favour immigrants which, in the opinion of the government, would contribute most to the betterment of the country.  This usually means those with more education and income potential, as opposed to the “Emma Lazarus” dream we usually see in the US.

There was a time when such a proposal would have gone down well with progressives in the US, for two main reasons.

First, it’s Canadian.  Our elites have been holding up places like Canada and Western Europe as a model for us as long as I can remember.  They have universal health care; we don’t.  They have strict gun control, we don’t.  They have lots of paid family leave and holiday; we don’t.  And so on…remoulding this country in the image and likeness of places like this has been a long-time dream for many progressives, at least up to now.

The second is that it would skew our immigration towards more educated people.  Our elites constantly hold up people with high intelligence and as many degrees as Dr. Fahrenheit as the ideal; the more people like this we can attract, the happier they should be.

It would make sense that the left should then be the first to propose such a system.  But they haven’t: Donald Trump did, and reiterated that proposal in his SOTU address.  Personally I’m surprised that he did this; I would think his base would react badly to it, having been pummeled by legions of “pointy-headed,” overeducated elites and with little stomach for more.  Donald Trump, however, not only knows how to play to his base; he knows when they’re not paying attention, and this is one of those times.

My bilious opponent was unreceptive to such an idea; she changed the subject and then blasted me for my disinterest in DACA (I am fine with the legalisation on the table, actually.)  I think her idea on this exemplifies the apparent volte-face of the left on the subject, which has its roots in more recent history.

First, the obvious: they’re thinking, if Donald Trump proposed it, it must be bad.  For people who style themselves as reason- and reality-based, this is pretty stupid.  Everything they look at is through the lens of Trump even though the law passed (if the opposite of progress gets moving) will be in place after he is gone (kinda like the ACA and BHO, and we see how that’s come out.)

Second, it would dilute the large numbers of unskilled people coming in who, in their mind, would automatically vote Democrat if they achieved citizenship (and, in some places, before then.)  In addition to an abuse of the electoral system, this is a monument to their inability to “close the deal” with the American people.  If the ten trillion in debt the illustrious BHO borrowed couldn’t buy off the population, how can they expect to hold new people?

Third, I think the traditional Europhile nature of our “knowledge classes” has been diluted by years of multiculturalism.  About the only countries that get that treatment any more on a routine basis are the Scandinavian ones, and honestly Canada, Australia and the UK are better comparisons for many reasons.  Conservative people decry the fact that people in the West don’t believe in Christendom any more, but really they don’t believe in the secular replacement either!

I said that I’m surprised that Trump proposed this.  But if he believes he’ll get more immigration from Norway, he’s badly mistaken; he’s likely to get more from India, China and Iran than any place in Western Europe.  Perhaps, in this case, ignorance is bliss.

It’s also bliss for his base: what will happen with more merit-base immigration is the importation of a new elite which will crowd his base into an underclass.  As David “Spengler” Goldman put it a long time ago, the children of the soccer moms will be serving tea to the children of the tiger moms.

At this point I’m not prepared to predict how or whether this “critical moment” will come to a legislative resolution.  I wasn’t optimistic about a new tax law but we got one anyway. Maybe we’ll take a cue from our neighbour to the north and maybe we won’t.  On this topic we could do a lot worse, and given the current state of our political system, one can never count worse out.