Just and the Justifier

A Christian Distinctive

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Rob Bell “Love Wins” – Hell or Purgatory – Part 1

I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 33:7-9, 3:17-19)

My heart lacks appetite for publicly critiquing and directly confronting the absurd nonsense that I hear from those who purport to represent Christianity. Really! Truly! I say this, despite the overwhelming evidence that I do unapologetically publicly critique and directly confront the absurd nonsense that I hear from those who purport to represent Christianity.

I cannot do otherwise, even if I must forgo ambitions for public office. I have tasted too much of Hell and some of Heaven; such that I intimately know of these spiritual realities. The Gospel and Full Counsel of God that I observe in Scriptures; when unfiltered by second and third rate theological/philosophical ruminations, disingenuous sophistries, factual and scriptural selectivity and interpretative contortionism; is pristinely rational and grants a wondrous intellectual and moral clarity.

And I will seek to use as incisive a surgical wit, to which I have been endowed, to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (1 Corinthians 10:5). But I retain a terror that in “speaking truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15); I favor or appear to favor too much, the truth side. Inevitably, some people will always declaim; although I have little motive in denigrating another. Or they will accuse without being able to honestly and objectively point out the mean-spirited in that specific comment. (With written, recorded words, one can always return to source.) But there are occasions when after one speaks repeatedly and gently on a matter of great import, a polemic thump is necessary.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity. (The Second Coming – Yeats – 1919)

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The Coming Persecution in America: Paul Washer

That a great persecution of existing Christians in the West, including the U.S. will occur, I have not doubt. A fabulist, pre-Tribulation Rapture requires fantastic elasticity of Biblical interpretation to mould this fanciful speculation into doctrinal orthodoxy. It coagulates from pockets of Scriptural mist, more vaporous than those justifying the ever-virginal quality of Mary, the mother of Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55). Even the Mormon doctrine of baptizing for the dead has clearer outlines of justification (1 Corinthians 15:29); even if there exists only one verse, which gives that birth.

It is not an issue of whether there will a resurrection of the dead and rising of those living, when Christ appears. It is a question of chronology and number of Second Comings. It is a question of fidelity to an interpretative key in Scriptures; that a doctrine can be garnered, only through a minimum of two or three clear Scriptural witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1). I have read too much Christian history. I have observed too much irrationality, too many absurdities, travesties and atrocities, originating from the creative innovations of peasant seers and vainglorious theologians.

The fluff that is proffered to support this doctrinal contention defies integrity and rationality. Serious persecution of Christians is proliferating around the world. Tentative forays are occurring in Europe. Initial probes are occurring in Canada. It is astonishing Exceptionalist vanity that the American Church should avoid that which 95% of the world is experiencing.

Nevertheless, even if one holds the pre-Tribulation Rapture position, it might be prudent not to hold the position too tenaciously. If it comes to pass, well and good. But if it does not come to pass, one might not be prepared for that any “hell that’s going to break loose on us”. If the doctrine has vaporous foundations; the basis for any anathemas against those who doubt it floats in total ether. Requirement of that belief in order to be a Christian and even for church membership, adds “mental works” to faith in Christ.

Where I might detour from Paul Washer’s warning, involves perhaps speculative eschatology and sociological prophecy in the light of political theory, psychology, history and Scriptures. I don’t have, at all, a bad record in this sideline. I would not dare consider myself a prophet of Biblical proportions. But while some Southern Baptist radio station owner is astonished at recent turn of events about same-sex rights, one of my essays in Grade 13 journalism class (1977-8), saw the writing on the wall on the coattails of the Black civil rights movement. This is a good decade before the self-interested Andrew Sullivan was given credit for that prediction. Read more…

RE: Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?

RE: Time Magazine article by the same title

Using data from the 1998-99 ECLS-K cohort, we show that the grades awarded by teachers are not aligned with test scores. Girls in every racial category outperform boys on reading tests, while boys score at least as well on math and science tests as girls. However, boys in all racial categories across all subject areas are not represented in grade distributions where their test scores would predict. Boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math and science tests are graded less favorably by their teachers, but this less favorable treatment essentially vanishes when non-cognitive skills are taken into account. For some specifications there is evidence of a grade – bonus for boys with test scores and behavior like their girl counterparts.1

Such sociological studies merely confirm personal suspicions about the insidious, deliberate and unintentional, biases in the public schools against the male. Because of extremely politicized nature of the soft sciences (i.e. sociological) and the ease, by which scientific studies can massage the findings in the caverns of methodology and interpretation; it might be wise to suspend credulity. However, if one’s sociopolitical adversaries cite the study2; but rather than dispute the findings, they attempt to explain them away; there is some support to believe in the integrity of the study’s procedures.

It seems like out-and-out discrimination, except there is an interesting wrinkle: teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude toward learning. In fact, the opposite seemed to occur: the well-socialized boys received a small grade “bonus” for their good behavior relative to other boys, suggesting that teachers may be overcompensating when they encounter boys whose behavior exceeds expectations.2

The amusing irony in this Time Magazine op-ed piece is the total obliviousness of the female writer to the cause of this institutionalized prejudice; of which she unwittingly shares. A positive attitude and appropriate behaviour, as subjectively defined by a predominance of female teachers in the public schools, is part of the impediments that demoralizes and extinguishes that natural curiousity in boys to learn. As summarized in a Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko study (2006); males graduating from a four-year university course in the U.S. fell from parity in 1980 to 74% of females. That ratio would be consistent with what I observed at a graduation ceremony at the University of Toronto, Canada for my oldest son around 2005.

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Evangelical Support for Immigration Reform is Biblical, Not Political??

RE:  The Credentialed Signatories of American Evangelicalism who intimate a Scriptural and Spiritual Imprimatur for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (see http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/)

RE:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2013/03/13/evangelical-support-immigration-reform-biblical-not-political-soerens/

Weaving through the Web to acquire factual information for many writing projects, I often get sidetracked onto articles and essays which, although worthy of interest, waylay the priorities of my time. This article reflects one of these occasions, to which I will, no doubt, be kicking myself tomorrow.

One comes across an inordinate number of ethical and sociopolitical advocacies by purported Christians, proud of their own voice, while displaying third rate Scriptural interpretation and reason. I often wish that the Internet had not been invented and thereby not give such free agency for such to utter their babblings in the name of Christ.

I am not timid in expressing economic, social and political analysis in this web site. And Scriptures deeply and insidiously influence my thinking. However, the underlying motivations conform to two of the few New Testament adages, which might bear any relationship with sociopolitical issues. One seeks to extend individual liberty of conscience in the social realm to the fullest extent that the virtue of a contemporary populace can bear (Romans 14). The other is a sociopolitical implementation of the frequently enjoined Scriptural admonishment to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Hebrews 12:14). If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). If I raise a concern about economic inequalities and their ensuing social, political and legal inequalities or with philosophical sectarianism, it is in the context of their relation with social piece and individual liberty.

So, I do not have problem with people voicing opinions, regardless of competence. The Internet might prove a worthwhile vehicle to induce iron sharpens iron precision and clarity to its participants’ arguments. What I do take umbrage with, is the SPIRITUAL IMPRIMATUR that some Christian adherents arrogate to their views.

I have seen Christ conscripted into the cause of capitalism and socialism; although I find that those advocates seem clueless about the respective economic philosophies, let alone their own theology. There is a distinction between free markets and capitalism. And a voluntary surrender of one’s goods and property with a community of one’s choice (Acts 204) differs from the coercive ideologies of socialism and communism.

One of the earliest uses of Scriptural imprimatur in my life came from adversaries of mixed racial marriages. As is so common from such advocates, the unity of the mind of God is ripped into little selective proof texts. The banner of Be you not unequally yoked together was waved in my face; until it was realized and pointed out that a couple of words were missing from that adage.

Therefore, I cannot help but feel like punching through church walls when I encounter such rubbish as the suggestion of a Biblical sanction for some American Comprehensive Immigration Reform policy or bill. It astonishes that church leaders, denominations and umbrella organizations even have Statements of Principles with its who’s who of signatories from many Evangelical denominations. Or that advocates, more interested in the things of this world than in things of God would dare to embellish their advocacies with Scriptural verses, located by a Google search without a coherent depth of understanding of Scriptures, theology or the complicated trade-offs required in sociopolitical policy.

From this article comes this little gem

I believe that the primary reason that most have spoken out is not, as Mr. Tooley hints, an embrace of sentimental, liberal theology, but rather an orthodox commitment to the authority of Scripture.

To correct this biblical blind spot, the Evangelical Immigration Table has launched the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge, providing a bookmark that lists 40 Scripture passages that relate in one way or another to the topic of immigration, which we are encouraging people to read, one passage per day. 

In this, the author of the article and the umbrella organization, which he cites, tosses tinsels of Scriptural proof texts to embellish their sociopolitical cause and impress the gullible and clueless.

Are these people serious and sane?

I do not desire to perform exegesis on the flak of Scriptures being offered. There are greater principles involved than discoursing on the minutiae of immigration policy.

And the source of my complaint stems not from any given position on the matter. My overall position on the matter, if it mattered, would be probably one of being in favour of a one-time amnesty program, but with grave misgivings. But these arguments are rational and nuanced. It is certainly not a clear-cut moral issue. Indeed, those who oppose naturalization of illegal immigrants have a better hold of justice on their side.

The issue and the only issue of this dissertation is the perverse abuse of Christ and Scriptures to give spiritual imprimatur to a temporal concern. It requires a hermeneutical contortionism, which betrays the competence or integrity of those credentialed signatories who wasted serious time and money on their theological training. It exposes the worldliness of modern Evangelical theologians, who scurry around like Constantinian bishops, self-deluded by the ostentatious flattery of secular authority of the importance of their influence. It helps explain why the person on the Evangelical pew is Biblically, theologically and ethically ignorant, while its leaders expend their time on needle point points of legislative policy. It causes unnecessary alienation from the Gospel of people with different views on this tertiary social matter, when the Magisterium of God is being invoked. It brings considerable and long-term dishonour to the cause of Christ if this scripturally unsupported policy goes south. The corruption of the theological elite is a tell-tale sign that the salt of American Evangelicalism has lost its savour. “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

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Politics of Sex and Marriage – Preamble

If marriage and family are in states of dysfunction, deterioration and deviance, the fault lies not in the Estate. If marriage is in decline, so is intellectual integrity, the state of mind and culture, concern for neighbours and for the common good, social cohesion, the state of free market economies, public finances, political will and wisdom, justice, the vitality and virtue of the Christian Church, etc. There exists an underlying demise of ethics and ethos that pollutes, corrupts, corrodes, erodes and destroys all endeavours and social entities in which ethical conduct and attitudes are integral and important.

To fault marriage or its ‘traditional’ principles is akin to claiming friendship as being now obsolete and flawed because contemporaries reduce friendship to networking; means of self-advancement and self-aggrandizement. Or that many abandon friends in a lurch or when they falter or undergo foul weather. Or that many ‘friends’ betray.

However, that greater concern exceeds the scope of this enterprise. The thesis of this project proposes that another reason for marital deterioration is the enervating and detrimental effects of external interference upon this most private estate and mini-society. In almost clearly delineated historical succession, external interference emanated from family lineages, ecclesiastical organizations and now civic authorities. Although the notions and principles upheld by these entities are often sound, the overall effects of coercive intrusions on the independent autonomy of the participants of marriage or on the Estate itself, whether in negation or in ‘positive’ role, always weakens and spawns travesty and deterioration.

Obviously writing in the context of an apparent winding down of the same-sex marriage debate in the last remaining bastions of resistance in the West; the terms of that debate has been framed in simple-minded mantra and muddle-headed reason by both factions. Contrary to the self-delusional propaganda that legalizing same-sex marriage constitutes a liberalization of the institution in the name of individual autonomy and civic equality, it is as much a detrimental intrusion upon the Estate of Marriage as every other element, foisted by Enlightenment liberalism.

I would contend that marriage more properly belongs to those non-enumerated, inalienable Rights (Ninth Amendment) upon which civic authority shall make no law respecting (First Amendment). And although a purist implementation of non-interference of marriage is practicably impossible, as has been found for all inalienable Rights; wisdom recommends that external authorities should strive to minimalize intrusive regulation over the Estate.

These are not mere echoes of libertarian sentiments, although I will not deny a personal desire to self-govern, free from mediocre notions imposed by Lilliputians. But these sentiments are accompanied by concerns that the imposition of any single vision about marriage upon society and all factions within it, by either hard legal proscriptions or soft economic incentives/disincentives, constitutes social tyranny that is bound to unravel social cohesion and disturb the civic peace. The same-sex marriage issue becomes just another flashpoint in an accumulating bag of flashpoints of a hitherto cold Kulturkampf (culture war).

Sexuality and this most intimate of interpersonal relationships are of profound importance to the individual person. A mutinous resentment to external interference will be more acute in this aspect of human existence than in others, even economic affairs. But the importance of sexuality and conjugal relationships, contrary to the obtuse and ill-informed assertions of social and religious conservatives, is not as immediately threatening to the survivability, viability and prosperity (in the greatest sense of that term) of society and the state. The noticeable decline of the family in ancient Rome (1st Century B.C.), for instance, preceded Rome’s social chaos and political crisis by four centuries (3rd Century A.D.). However, civic discord, caused by the arrogant folly of factions attempting to impress their interests and consciences upon all others, whether they be secular and liberal or religious and conservative, does pose a grave and immediate threat to civic unity and peace.

Explicit legalization of same-sex marriage or even its prohibition threatens social cohesion and peace, which will become more apparent in years to come. For, contrary to the self-deluded belief and propaganda by same-sex advocates, who modeled their campaign on the coattails of the black civil rights movement, this issue will not go away. Unless there is a complete collapse of the conservative and religious faction; like the Roe v Wade issue, it will remain a divisive and schismatic bone of contention.

Black civil rights ultimately triumphed, largely because both Bible and Constitution was on its side. Despite hermeneutical contortionism by same-sex advocates, the Bible is consistent and clear about its perspective on sexual relations between same sexes. Unless a sect or denomination is already in self-destruct mode, compromising or capitulating on this issue cannot be but seen as tantamount to the existential annihilation of the vitality, orthodoxy and viability of that denomination.

Legalization of same-sex marriage indirectly threatens the constitutional and inalienable right to belief and conscience, to expression of belief and assembly; amongst other considerations. Expectation, that encroaching statist governments and social opprobrium with economic and sociopolitical consequences will cripple the livelihoods of religious and conservative factions, cannot help but result in social and civic tumult. Most, who purport to be Christians, are not pacifistic. And history finds that the insidious motions of human nature tend to undermine and overcome, even religious beliefs and spiritual values for most; even pre-existing pacifist belief.

The problem is less about same-sex marriage. Rather the problem lies in the arrogant folly of any external entity to zealously define and legislatively regulate the Estate; or to be given the right to define and legislatively regulate the Estate. Attempts at increasingly minutiae regulation of marriage has historically only caused uproar, ultimately brought disgrace to the external entity that attempted it, led to travesties and some atrocities, and devastated the state of marriages and collaterally families. It is utter stupidity and madness for modern busybodies to attempt to repeat the same mistakes and expect different outcomes.

Copyright © 2013 John Hutchinson

Jefferson Bethke, Religion and the Evangelical Inquisitors

A year ago, a young Turk, Spoken Word poet Jefferson Bethke, puts out a winner evangelistic YouTube video, which has garnered in excess of 24 million hits to date. And the response from an outfit called the Gospel Coalition, a self-appointed Evangelical ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’? No less than three of its regular bloggers saw fit to take Bethke to task on points of minutiae. To his credit of his person and profit to his ministry, Bethke responded with humble supplication to assuage the ego of one of these Guardians of the Faith.

The fiery darts that originate from within Christendom were more frequent and with understandably more sting than those from outside. If one is largely naive of the state of Christendom, one is prone not to place another shield against that direction.

About the actual critique though, I’ll be honest, there were times after the poem came out that I just started to crumble. The pain of the critiques was too painful (which I talk about later)… But the tone, words, and down right vitriol from fellow brothers and sisters in the faith have crushed me. I’m a 22 year old dude who has only been out of college 6 months, and who has only been walking with Jesus for a few years. I am beyond thankful to the older godly men who chose to pick up the phone and find ways to contact me privately, before discussing me publicly. I personally had to stop reading and trying to follow the blogs because Jesus showed me pretty quickly it wasn’t healthy for my heart (whether praise or critique). The ones I did come across stung. Some hardly even dealt with my content, but wrote more about my character, my salvation (or lack thereof), my looks, my poetry, etc. Part of me was extremely hurt, while part of me started to really wonder how blog posts fit into the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:36.1

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“What is truth?” Behind this caustic retort by a representative of the classically educated elite of Roman society, this quip epitomized a final status of human thought of ancient Western civilization. It epitomizes the status of our own modern [Western] thought.

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead, an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.1

Pilate is characteristic of those lacking conviction; whereby no idea, principle or ideal is deemed worthy of defending. If sufficient pressure and threat to survival and self-interest is mounted against persons without belief, such persons will fold. Whatever Pilate’s personal sentiments about Jesus, it was insufficient to extend his neck over; unlike the zeal of the Jews over a trifling matter of images of Caesar being displayed in Jerusalem.2

In the end, those who fail to confront evil are little better than those who advocate it. The latter thrives in the presence of the former.

Loss of belief, whether in God, nation, utopian social visions, community etc, results in loss of moral and civic courage. And on the heels of losing of all conviction, modern western civilization evidences that truth. It is implausible to expect this generation to trudge into a barrage of artillery and machine gun fire for worthy causes, let alone for that cauldron of folly and futility, which was WW1. Indeed, the wealth and weight of all Europe could not subdue a second-rate Serbian dictator within their midst in the 1990s. Western hedonism excels at enjoying the peace, just like their ancient Roman counterparts. They are far less willing to personally defend and sacrifice for it.

And such should be expected. What reasonable person risks life and limb for an uncertain truth, a transient ideal or a delusional sham? And loss of belief in objective truth logically undermines all other convictions.

Subjectivism advances like a great Nothingness; logically and invariably giving way to skepticism and nihilism about truth and its knowability. If truth is in the eye of the beholder, verifiable objective truth cannot exist. What is objectively true if the same object is perceived floating off into space while concurrently gravitationally grounding into the Earth, depending on which set of eyes behold it?

At eighteen, I realized that the subjectivist relativism, propagated by my public school, endemically undermines thirst for knowledge. Knowledge merely becomes that which tickles one’s crotch and turns one’s crank. Ersatz reasons must therefore be fabricated to replace curiousity and natural wonder. Schooling exists for credentials, so that we can graze and hump in style and emulate glorified beasts. Hereby is the dumbing down of thought and culture since my youth, profoundly explained. We are a confederacy of dunces.

Intellectual integrity falls by the wayside. Why honestly pursue that, which one has concluded, does not exist or cannot be ascertained? Thereby, rational argument becomes but a tool to advance self-interest by deceiving the gullible; easily discarded when no longer useful towards those ends. No genuine social dialogue and political discourse can be undertaken without persons committed to determining what is true and good.

Intellectual integrity becomes psychologically difficult to sustain whilst those all around take initial advantage in their mendacity. Pandemic academic cheating in colleges and universities (around 80% of students) is, in no small measure, assisted by the rationale of evening out an uneven playing field in a highly competitive employment market. And leopards do not change their spots once beyond the academic churn.

Moral integrity falls by the wayside. For, maintaining integrity involves potential peril and heavy costs and risks. But under skepticism, there exists neither intellectual nor moral basis to uphold the Good. Most learn ways to compromise with excuses or denial of their compromise or capitulation in a slow, creeping degeneracy.

Without truth convictions, one can remain moral. But it is tragic Stoic stance; one which defies reason if skepticism be valid. History furnishes few who can forebear and sacrifice in the face of philosophical, epistemological, ethical and existential nihilism.

Social laws lack inherent moral validity, authority and credence in the eyes of the skeptic. Private operators (i.e. business) perceive laws as mere impediments and cost of operations; having no internal conviction to their intrinsic merit unless in accord with their own self-interests. Violations of law become but cost/benefit calculations. Consciences are at ease in violating the spirit of the laws through technical loopholes while remaining observant of their specifics.

Skeptics, obtaining a measure of public power, do not aspire to the true, good and just. They seek to reshape society to serve raw self-interests or existentialist conceptions of the desirable, regardless of whether those subjective fantasies correspond with any actuality.

These attitudes become a contagion; spreading from sole of foot to top of head of society. The idealism of youth is quickly swept aside by lack of integrity and public spiritedness among existing elites and elders. “Each of us has turned to his own way3 and “everyone [does] what [is] right in his own eyes4. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.5The people cast off restraint”.6

And subjectivism/nihilism and disintegration of thought is followed thereafter by societal entropy and disintegration. The community can no longer aspire to cohere through common consent in a unifying body of ideas, ideals and principles. And without such common consent, the intellectual underpinnings and moral authority of law and governance evaporate. Factions become unable to communicate at any point of contact. It soon becomes apparent that one’s sociopolitical safety and welfare requires the surmounting of the Commanding Heights of society by force, with or without moral authority and consent of the governed.

Seen in ancient Israel, Greek city states and the Roman Republic; loss of social cohesion through common consent to common ideas and ethics gives way to coercion, power politics and autocracy. Free civil institutions and a semblance of liberty and civic participation in the affairs of state wither in the wake of the death of truth. Increasing reliance on harsher external coercion is required to maintain coherent social order.

When a state or organization must rely on coercion to maintain internal order, its people will do no more than what is coerced. An apathetic populace conforms in the face of overwhelming threat and power. But the government is no longer their government. Willingness to dedicate and sacrifice for a common good and enduring vision lacks rationale and justification. The ‘sovereign’ becomes isolated and increasingly burdened in its concerns; increasingly relying on threat and bribe to execute its will.

Loss of conviction in objective truth enervates the will. Between skepticism and naturalist philosophy, there is loss of hope in the eternal or enduring. There is neither objective and enduring meaning, nor purpose, nor significance in our being and doing. Existentialist assertions of meaning are but necessary fantasies to allow conscious beings to endure the dark night of existence. Consciousness becomes a curse in the absence of truth, eternality and God.

A barometer of nihilistic despair can be found in suicide rates. Youth suicide rates (U.S.) triple in the last 50 years as secularization gathers apace.7 And secular societies systematically retain higher suicide rates than religious; although socioeconomic conditions in religious societies tend to be less wealthy. Overthrow of religious and moral taboos can only partially explain the difference and dynamic. For, all organisms have fierce desire to survive. But a desolate pall of despair overwhelms these natural and inherent defenses in a nihilistic cultural milieu.

These realities are well known. Any honest and non-partisan religious or secular thinker has and will acknowledge them. They are entirely rational and psychologically coherent. Those, who deny this, have not thought it through, are too fearful to think it through, are too disingenuous to admit it, or are too stupidly frivolous to consider it.

Moral degeneracy, loss of civic virtue and courage, loss of intellectual integrity, enervation of curiousity that leads to cultural and intellectual degeneracy, suicidal despair, loss of liberty and free civic participation, apathy and social disintegration ensues skepticism’s encroachment.

Skepticism’s Uninhabitability

The life of the first Greek skeptic philosopher, Pyrrho (360-270 B.C.), suffices to demonstrate the full practicable implications of non-committal to any truth assertions and a committal to chaos.

And his life corresponded to his principles; for he never shunned anything, and never guarded against anything; encountering everything, even wagons for instance, and precipices, and dogs, and everything of that sort; committing nothing whatever to his senses. So that he used to be saved, as Antigonus the Carystian tells us, by his friends who accompanied him…And once, when Anaxarchus had fallen into a pond, he passed by without assisting him; and when some one blamed him for this, Anaxarchus himself praised his indifference and absence of all emotion.8

Nowadays, such esteemed philosophers might be trudging the hallways of psychiatric wards.

It is intellectually fashionable, if deceitful, to purport to subscribe to skepticism while living otherwise as necessary ‘delusion’. However, such are often quick to pounce on the hypocrisies of their ideological adversaries. But the very act of criticism for inconsistencies incriminates the skeptic of hypocrisy; indicating the upholding of an objective standard. For under an honest and true skepticism, neither inconsistency nor hypocrisy is a vice.

Contained within the very emotion of anger, to which these adherents are no less prone, is judgment of some kind (i.e. intellectual, rationality, moral). Things are not as they ought. And whenever there is an ‘ought’, one betrays genuine belief in some objective value. For, why should one be angry at the lion who acts like a lion? Similarly, if others should desire to exploit and cannibalize you; well, that is the caprice of existence. Why should others live according to your personal framework of delusion? Self-interest might seek to survive by fight or flight. However, anger and anxiety have no place in a consistent skepticism.

There is no personal safety in a skeptic society. For, what is the value of one’s existence under a regime of philosophical nihilism or subjectivism? The law of the jungle reigns. To live in genuine skepticism is to dwell in sub-human existence; deliberately setting aside practicable use of one’s reason. All things are fresh surprise; with neither foresight nor hindsight, nor cause and effect, nor action and consequence. Nothing makes sense. Events just happen.

But even animals have a modicum of rationality. The wildebeest anticipates danger upon sensing the presence of lions. Only a rock can rationally and psychologically aspire to be a true skeptic.

However, detrimental ramifications from an idea are insufficient proof of an idea’s invalidity.

The Self-Contradiction of Skepticism/Nihilism

The notion that two assertions, which diametrically contradict each other, can be equally valid is incoherent and absurd. One or the other is true or both are untrue. If someone believes that two plus two equals four and that two plus two can also equal five; there are financial advisers, I would like that person to meet. And if this logic law of non-contradiction is objectively valid, there is evidently something that can be objectively known; even if it just be an algorithm of deduction.

Every variant of skepticism proves self-negating. Ancient skeptics needed to revise their earlier dogmatic assertions that truth is unattainable (incomprehensible). For, the assertion of the assertion proved negation of the contents of the assertion. Most modern skeptics have carefully recalibrated their rendition of skepticism to avoid that trap. However, if I state “nothing can be known, not even this”, it yet remains a dogmatic truth statement that differentiates it from alternatives. Indeed, any assertion contradicts skepticism. Scrupulous integrity and logic insists that skepticism cannot make any meaningful statement at all beyond an incomprehensible and incommunicable caveman grunt, subject to the broadest of interpretations. Thereby, skepticism becomes the philosophical disposition of brutes and rocks.

Every argument utilized to support skepticism is invalidated by the very central premises of skepticism. For, each and every supportive argument must be inherently deemed suspect of its validity. By its own logic, skepticism becomes an orphan from reason and evidence; an assertion floating in intellectual and ideological ether, without foundations.

The Heart Foundations of Skepticism

Considering the enormity of incomplete datum in which one might lose one’s way, were a person’s skepticism, the product of long study and rumination, I could respect that person’s despair. However, for the most part, the position is held by intellectual babes in diapers, without much rigour of thought, often parroting the propaganda line of their mentors or absorbed from their culture.

Skepticism and nihilism are natural rebel cries of hearts, averse to coming under any authority and circumscribed restraint, regardless of the demonstrated virtue of such order and constraints. But such will have exchanged reasonable limits on autonomy with that based on capricious power. Non-existent truth cannot speak to power with any cogency. Flashes of revolt quickly dissipate into incoherence (i.e. 1999 Seattle WTO riots on globalization, 2011 Occupy Movement). The logical consequence is law of the jungle within a civilized structure.

It ought not to surprise that the locus of skepticism in this modern era should be Europe. After a near century of revolution, wars of attrition and ensuing plagues, civil strife and wars, tyranny and oppression, concentration camps and genocide, current generations of Europeans have become understandably apprehensive of all firm commitment to any idea, which might inspire a resumption of hostilities. However, in the absence of conflicts of ideas and ideologies, remain the conflicts of self-interests; by which most of history’s conflicts have been fought.

To maintain civic peace and ‘niceness’ in an era of rampant immigration and pluralist cosmopolitanism, a nihilist version of Toleration is advocated; promoting intellectual, ideological, ethical, aesthetic, cultural and even ‘performance’ equivalence. Schools do not permit zeros for zero work. Sports’ score are not to be kept. There is to be no differentiation between excellence and mediocrity. It is an ethos advanced, not for its validity, but because of perception of its social necessity.

However, the history of other multicultural and pluralist societies (i.e. Roman & Austria-Hungary Empires) does not augur well. Pluralist tolerance barely papers over cracks, which are easily exploited by astute adversaries. It requires a low threshold of extraneous events to explode those latent cracks into open schisms (pre-WW1 Balkan powder keg, Yugoslavia). It reduces the meaning of civic (and ecclesiastical) commitment to minimalist flag-waving and tee-shirt-brandishing inanities; hardly inspirational to civic participation, dedication and sacrifice; hardly contributive to social cohesion. If ideological homogeneity tends toward oppressive conformity, ideological pluralism lends to entropy.

But this Cult of Nihilistic Toleration becomes itself a philosophical dogma and disposition, with its own inherent capacity for inconsistency, intolerance, oppression and persecution; as any honest observation of Human Rights Commissions can attest. Legal tolerance of convictions, sound or unsound, is intolerable. Even truth and truthfulness provides no defense. Social opprobrium must be neutered, even pathologized. Blanket social acceptance, normalization, even admiration and exaltation of the absurd, perverse and mediocre must be coercively insisted. The consciences of adversarial factions must be trampled, marginalized, pathologized and criminalized; even as this prevailing faction erects and imposes its own ‘ethical’ disposition upon these other factions.

A Reasonable Regime of Tolerance

An alternative form of toleration exists, which does not require the emasculation of truth and ethics, while permitting considerable latitude in the inculcation and expression of ideas and their practicable implementation.

It permits actions, however foolish and even evil, so long as the detrimental effects are of limited nature. It states that even if particular acts are wrong, there remains insufficient warrant or prudence to legally forbid it. For, in censuring every minutiae of wrongdoing, as both secular social liberalism and social conservatism is wont to do, the overall social consequences of overregulation is far worse than permitting a cacophony of petty evils to persist. It differentiates between allowable and unallowable forms of evil, and limits the scope and extent of harm that might occur when the evil themselves govern.

It is a seminal theme throughout New Testament Scriptures; this principle of liberty of conscience, to be extended beyond the confines of a limited Christian pluralism. Christ intimated as much in “let the dead bury their own dead9? And although Apostle Paul insisted upon a measure of moral purity within the church; as to those outside, he declared “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.10 It allows individuals to most ardently subscribe and practicably implement their beliefs and values unless the harms and potential harms are of such caliber as to threaten general society in an immediate or near-immediate, severe and scrutable way.

Unfortunately, although entrusted with this ‘best of all possible’ form of liberty, all streams of Christendom have been most hypocritical and unfaithful in the implementation and promotion of this Scriptural principle, through hermeneutical contortionism and dishonest sophistry. They have thereby discredited it. It is easier, more comfortable and convenient to coerce than persuade, and convince oneself that coercion is persuasion.

Like their secular counterparts, with whom they share common human proclivities; whenever any faction feels their relatively superior sociopolitical strength, and become deluded in the permanence of their triumphalist supremacy, these temporary victors are prone to impose their ideological worldview and ethical framework upon all others. The cause of such oppression is less about religion or irreligion. Rather, it is the universality of arrogance that permeates all humanity that is culprit and perpetrator. For, with every St. Ambrose and Tomas de Torquemada, there are Antiochus IV and Jean-Baptiste Carrier. For every Inquisitor and Salem witch hunter, there are Hébertistes and Leninists-Stalinists.

The Intellectual Foundations of Skepticism

The foundations of skepticism are not ultimately rooted in reason and knowledge. It does not originate from any philosophical axiom, induction, deduction or any epistemology. Rather, its genesis proceeds from existential realities apart from reason. It develops from the chasm between the human condition and humanity’s psychological aspirations, perhaps pathological need, for unassailable certainty (a.k.a. Cartesian Certitude), which might provide material security and psychological assurance.

In the absence of a Deity or willingness to trust/obey a Deity, who declares Himself to be fount of all knowledge, wisdom and goodness, humanity is driven to seek its material and psychological security elsewhere. In this, it requires perfect understanding in order to navigate the caprice of existence. (Even in the complete willingness to trust God; this psychological need can be manifest in inerrancy.)

However, the human condition is beset by lack of omniscience, an attribute self-evident and easily substantiated. Lack of omniscience undermines any possibility of attaining unassailable certainty. Greek sophists of old and the sophist tradition to which the legal profession adheres, exploit this fact. Because we can only know in part, the sophist can organize one set of arguments proving the truth of a proposition, while organizing another set of arguments disproving it; bringing doubt and discredit to the project that humanity can really know anything at all with full and incontrovertible assurance. It is the disingenuity that the Academic skeptic Carneades pulled on the Romans in 155 B.C.; praising Roman justice one day and thereafter, refuting all arguments, made the day prior.

Under the regime of Cartesian Certitude, every “i” must be dotted and every “t” crossed before one can be certain of anything. But under this philosophical standard of proof, since humanity is incapable of knowing all things, it cannot categorically know anything.  For, in the unknown might lay a germ of datum which potentially and significantly falsifies an aspect, a paradigm or perhaps everything that it believes it currently knows.

Modern science officially subscribes to this philosophical standard of proof; suggesting that all facts, truths and laws are, at best, contingent and tentative. But if the scientific community was sincerely consistent with this underlying premise, science would remain a theoretical hobby with no real practicable application. Scrupulous integrity to the premise would suggest that we should not depend with our lives on those tentative truths, which undergird our complex technological creations.

The meandering logic of this Cartesian standard of proof will always invariably and inevitably lead to total philosophical skepticism and nihilism. Modern Western thought has eerily echoed the historical trajectory of Classical thought towards similar variations of subjectivist and nihilist themes.

Manifestations of this dynamic erupt and transcend every philosophical approach to ascertaining objective realities. It lends to a pervasive sentiment amongst the intelligentsia that fashionable doubt is the only intellectually respectable position. Thereby, such individuals are disinclined to grant steadfast and loyal commitment to any idea, ideal, cause or person etc. But without true commitment, there is little true passion in life.

Cartesian certitude is the perfect granddaddy of all sophistries and circularities; rigging the rules of inquiry and setting up humanity for automatic failure because the standard of proof is inherently beyond the limits of mortal minds. It is a standard of proof for gods and the omniscient. It guarantees skepticism and unwillingness to commit or assent to any truth in lesser beings. The fault lies not in our inquiries, but in the unreasonableness of this standard and disingenuous device.

Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.11

Can one know anything in the absence of perfect knowledge? And herein, the Biblical standard of proof points to a more sensible and prudent standard of truth for sentient beings who lack that omniscience; a standard of long-standing and one which has sufficed for legal judgments, even judicial executions; even if fallible. It is a more reasonable approach for the limitations of humanity than to eternally suspend belief, assent, commitment and decision on the unattainable capacity to know all things before one can know anything.

On matters of pivotal significance, one should aspire to acquire as many artifacts as possible to justify primary beliefs. One should seek to acquire reasonable levels of confidence; whereby the artifacts are of such number and caliber and from differing epistemological ‘senses’, that failing to assent, commit and rely upon them, is inordinately more irrational than to commit and rely.

Because humans are not omniscient gods, we cannot consider every jot and tittle of data to reach conclusions. We cannot guarantee infallibility. There shall always exist a ‘leap of faith’. However, that ‘leap of faith’ is not of the variety that Søren Kierkegaard promoted; a leap apart from all rationality. Rather, it is the leap of faith between reasonable proof and actionable conclusion. And it becomes increasingly more of a step than a leap the more we close the gap between what is evidenced and that which we conclude.

A parallel existential fact of the human condition, upon which skepticism and nihilism builds its edifice, is the fallibility of our ‘epistemological senses’; (that is the means and approaches to ascertaining objective realities; whether they be sensory, empirical, rationalism, coherency, correspondence, foundationalism (axiom/presupposition), revelation, authority, intuitions, ‘public opinion poll’ etc.) Steven Pinker makes great effort in “How the Mind Works” (1997) to demonstrate how easily deceived our perceptions can be; intimating, perhaps inadvertently, that we should rely upon a scientific priesthood for our authority instead. Since the ‘senses’ cannot be fully trusted, we cannot know anything for certain, so goes the argument. Therefore, intellectual respectability demands that we refrain from giving assent to any proposition; (unless ordained by the scientific Magisterium).

It is a variant of the Cartesian Certitude argument. Until we have infallible cognition in ascertaining truth, we cannot know and commit to anything. For, in that germ of datum that we misapprehend, an aspect, a paradigm or perhaps everything that we know is overturned. However, the human existential condition guarantees epistemological imperfection. And thus, the rules of inquiry under this standard are also similar rigged for automatic failure; invariably guaranteeing skepticism and nihilism.

Scrupulous application of these arguments to technology would prevent the building of sophisticated machines and software applications. We should not build such devices because not every component and bond between components are certain to meet specifications; even assuming that the specifications are sufficiently rigorous. By this principle, humanity would still be dwelling in hovels in a Hobbesian state of barbaric nature.

However, standard procedures in engineering include built-in redundancies and error routine handling. In similarly applying the Biblical/judicial principle of the testimony of two or three witnesses, it is prudent to determine a truth by utilizing more than one or two unrelated epistemological approaches.

Multiple cognitive approaches provide means to overcome the ‘inverted spectrum’ (qualia) problem; the possibility that two individuals might perceive in the same way yet have different subjective experiences. If one observer sees green as red but calls it green and red as green but calls it red, while the other sees green as green and red as red; they may not know that they are talking about different subjective experiences of the same objective entities. However, when they both view a rainbow, one will see the ‘red’ band in a different place than the other. The discrepancy should raise doubts in the observers that they are perceiving similarly. Different senses or even different attributes within the same sense can overcome epistemological fallibility.

However, it is not only in the frailty of mortal minds, by which each epistemological approach suffers. There are limits to the scope and inherent ‘flaws’ within each approach. Like Newtonian physics, the laws of cognition and epistemology seem to break down at the outer fringes. (i.e. Foundationalism (axioms, presuppositions) suffers from eternal regress.)

In order to reliably ascertain objective realities through any epistemological approach, one must commit to intellectual integrity. However, intellectual integrity is, at best, a derived value from first principles. Therefore, one immediately runs into logical circularities. How does one establish that intellectual integrity exists and is a necessary good without first presupposing and conducting oneself with intellectual integrity? Intellectual integrity becomes a necessary but arbitrary prerequisite for all inquiry.

Nietzsche suggested alternatively, that we approach existence on the basis of that which affirms life instead of truth. But how coherent is that approach if we lack intellectual integrity to determine what affirms life? A man can sincerely and strenuously affirm that dancing in a WW1 no-man’s land is life-affirming.

The above essay only serves as a cursory and concise treatment against classical lines of arguments that have historically buttressed skepticism and nihilism and that have sought to discredit objective truth. It has again become necessary to refute these silly and largely self-serving propositions, which pervade not only secular, but religious society, and which will lead to total intellectual and moral chaos and invariably spread to sociopolitical chaos.

From the standpoint of Christianity, it is impossible to be a Christian unless one subscribes to the existence objective truth and its knowability. For, “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him12. Scripturally and rationally, it is impossible to believe in The God Who Is There, if one believes no objective reality or entities exist. It is impossible to practicably trust that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him if we doubt that we can know of His existence and faithfulness. God merely becomes a phantom of our furtive minds to get us psychologically through the dark night of existence.

I do not deny that ascertaining the truth is extremely difficult for beings that are limited and fallible; let alone suffering from many other impediments. However, the skeptic/nihilist disposition, which precludes the possibility of objective truth, is simply untenable.

Copyright © 2013 John Hutchinson


  1. Matthew 27:24
  2. Josephus, The War of the Jews, (75 A.D.), Trans. William Whiston (1737), Book 2.9.3. A similar incident is reported by Philo, On the Embassy to Caligula, (39 A.D.), Trans. Yonge (1854-5), 299-305 and Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, (94 A.D.), Book 18.3.1.
  3. Isaiah 53:6
  4. Judges 21:25 (AJV)
  5. Proverbs 29:18 (AKJ)
  6. Proverbs 29:18 (ASV)
  7. See Cutler et al., Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide, (Harvard University, March 2001). A corresponding modest decline amongst the elderly can be largely explained by Social Security programs and their improved socioeconomic lot.
  8. Diogenes Laertius, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, (Early 3rd Century A.D.), Trans. C.D. Yonge (1895), Life of Pyrrho.
  9. Matthew 8:22. Also Luke 9:60
  10. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13. See all 1 Corinthians 5.
  11. 2 Corinthians13:1
  12. Hebrews 11:6

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