Confronting Powerless Christianity (Kraft)

Kraft joins a host of Evangelical scholars (Moreland, Willard, Grudem, Storms) who are admitting the Spirit’s power being manifested in the kingdom today, yet are doing so from non-Pentecostal platforms. In this work Kraft summarizes past arguments, responds to recent criticisms, and offers models and templates on how to engage in deliverance ministry. Kraft makes the provocative argument that there are regularities, rules, and principles in the relationships between the human world and the spirit world exist and can be studied scientifically (61; I wish Kraft would have said “systematically” instead of scientifically).

*Dealing with Demons*

Kraft suggests that demons attach themselves to damaged emotions (at least part of the time) and many exorcisms, if they don’t go wrong, are protracted longer than necessary because the exorcist isn’t dealing with root-level issues. This seems to work more with “sin-issue” demons more than institutional or territorial spirits.

Kraft has come under attack for claiming we can make systematic studies of the spirit world. Perhaps he is sometimes guilty of overreach, but there does seem to be something there. He notes that God’s universe has rules and order. From this premise he infers that the spirit-realm also operates by an order. He gives seven principles that guide his work (108-110).

Kraft has been accused of animism, seeing power in objects and rituals. Kraft responds by noting that animists have relatively correct logical principles; they simply misunderstand how God works (112).

He notes a number of “rules” that he has seen work in deliverance ministries (see pp. 162ff). He does a good job noting the various hierarchies within the spirit realm.


This book does a fine job breaking open new paradigms and the differences between animism and biblical supernaturalism. I do have some criticisms: Kraft is correct in that synergy is a key point in intercession and deliverance, but he lends himself to overstating the case (God can’t work without partners, 151). *Kraft utilizes “Free Will” as an interpretive model but doesn’t actually define it (152).


Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands (Sir Roger Scruton)

Scruton, Roger.  Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands.

The New Left is different in that the traditional Marxist categories are harder to apply.  This makes sense.  How many “Starbucks Socialists” really understand the Base and Superstructure paradigm? The New Left focuses more on Liberation and Social Justice than on surplus value.  This is understandable since few are likely to get excited on the metaphysical reification of labour.

Social Justice is not equality before the law but the rearrangement of social structures.

Marx’s contradiction: the future state is one where there is a full legal order present with none of the structure of the law.

Socialist utopias are violent “because it takes infinite force to make people to the physically impossible.”

Thesis: The purpose of language, at least on one level, is to describe reality. Newspeak asserts power over reality instead. As he notes, “Ordinary language warms and soens; Newspeak freezes and hardens. And ordinary discourse generates out of its own resources the concepts that Newspeak forbids.”  The New Left encapsulates reality in “Newspeak.”

Resentment in Britain

Problem with the Marxist theory of history: there is a web of connections between social and economic life, but it really can’t say which is the cause and which is the effect.  Marxists would reply that base (economics) determines superstructure, but as Scruton points out, there is no series of experiments for which we could test the theory.

Another problem with class warfare theories of history: it cannot account for the fact that many people, indeed most people for most of history, did not place their loyalties in a class, but in entities like the nation or the church. Indeed, “Nation, law, faith, tradition, sovereignty – these ideas by contrast denote things that unite us.”

Scruton maintains that the concept of English Common Law completely devastates the class theory of history.  Common law transcends class and itself has been the instigator of economic change, not vice-versa.

Disdain in America

I might disagree in emphasis with Scruton on one point: I don’t think John Kenneth Gailbraith was entirely wrong. To be sure, he was a proponent of the Welfare State and that’s a problem. Still, I think Gailbraith somewhat accurately anticipated how mass consumerism and mass society enslaves us.  Galbraith is probably best seen, not as a socialist, but as a modern New-Deal liberal.  As Scruton notes, like other liberals, he isn’t bothered by private property. He is bothered by the private property of others.

France and Foucault

Galbraith remained a relatively sane liberal.  His interviews with William Buckley Jr. are worth watching. He would no doubt oppose the extremism of Zizek.  When we move to French philosophy, however, all bets are off.  We can probably understand this chapter as the central hinge of the book, since most of the disaster known as modern Continental philosophy today stems from France.

Fun fact: The French Communists were allied, at least indirectly, with Hitler when he invaded France.  Munitions workers went on strike in support of the Nazi invasion.

Before we get to Kojeve, we should clarify what Hegel meant:  As Scruton points out, the process by which we come to know ourselves as subjects and the process whereby we realize our freedom are one in the same. Whereas Hegel drew conservative conclusions and saw the opposites–Self and the Other, Subject and Object–as coming together in a unity, left-wing Hegelians hardened the opposites into oppositions.

Scruton’s comments on Sartre and others are important, and Sartre’s influence on Pol Pot cannot be minimized, but an extended analysis would take one far beyond the scope of the review.

Foucault: focus on episteme, a new structure of knowledge. It serves a power-interest. 

Tedium in Germany

Lukacs: Lukacs took the “hidden meaning” of Marxian exchange value and applied it across the board: There is always a hidden undertone to society that needs theory and interpretation to bring it out.  

Brutal Bon Mots

Scruton almost rivals Samuel Johnson in the well-time phrase.  We list a few:

“Liberation of the victim is a restless cause, since new victims always appear over the horizon as the last ones escape into the void.”

“Marx’s remark about hunting, shing, hobby farming and lit. crit. is the only attempt he makes to describe what life will be like without private property – and if you ask who gives you the gun or the fishing rod, who organizes the pack of hounds, who maintains the coverts and the waterways, who disposes of the milk and the calves and who publishes the lit. crit., such questions will be dismissed as ‘beside the point’, and as matters to be settled by a future that is none of your business.”

“Peace never appears in Newspeak as a condition of rest and normality. It is always something to ‘fight for’, and ‘Fight for Peace!’”

“Intellectuals are naturally attracted by the idea of a planned society, in the belief that they will be in charge of it.”

“Had Heidegger attached his great ego to the cause of international socialism, he would have enjoyed the whitewash granted to Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Hobsbawm and the other apologists for the Gulag. But the cause of national socialism could enjoy no such convenient excuse, and the sin was compounded, in Heidegger’s case, by the fact that it was precisely the national, rather than the socialist aspect of the creed that had attracted him.”

“When, in the works of Lacan, Deleuze and Althusser, the nonsense machine began to crank out its impenetrable sentences, of which nothing could be understood except that they all had “capitalism” as their target, it looked as though Nothing had at last found its voice.”

“Their few empty invocations of equality advance no further than the clichés of the French Revolution, and are soon reissued as mathemes by way of shielding them from argument. But when it comes to real politics they write as though negation is enough. Whether it be the Palestinian intifada, the IRA, the Venezuelan Chavistas, the French sans-papiers, or the Occupy movement – whatever the radical cause, it is the attack on the ‘System’ that matters. The alternative is ‘unnameable in the language of the system.”

“While exorting us to judge other cultures in their own terms, he [Said] asks us to judge Western culture from a point of view outside—to set it against alternatives, and to judge it adversely, as ethnocentric and even racist.”

“The search for a policy to overcome original sin is not a coherent political project.”

Against the Tide (Sir Roger Scruton)

Scruton, Roger.  Against the Tide. Bloomsbury.

This is a collection of Sir Roger Scruton’s best editorials.  To note, these are not precise argumentative pieces. They are generally short, witty, and to the point.  The prose is magnificent.  Imagine if G. K. Chesterton actually had something of substance to say.

Put a Cork in it

Corked wine slows down the pace of life.

Human Rights

Pace reactionary conservatism, human rights do in fact exist.  The problem is trying to delineate something like “universal human rights.”  A right not only implies a duty, but it also implies someone against whom a right is claimed.  It is not clear how this works on the global scale. I have a duty to my neighbor.  It’s not clear what kind of practical duty I can have to a Sherpa in Tibet.

On the Soul

Scruton defends some form of dualism. He is very clear that we should call it the soul, noting that cultural philistines call it “mind.”  He interacts with John Searle’s famous Chinese room experiment.  Though Searle was correct to rebut some hard forms of physicalism, his lack of belief in any sort of telos makes his dualism irrelevant to human life.

God and the New Atheists

Scruton employs something like Alvin Plantinga’s response to naturalism.  Richard Dawkins, the New Atheist, argues, or rather asserts, that religion is like a meme.  It replicates itself.  Here is where it gets interesting.  In terms of evolutionary theory, false “memes,” like false maths, do not survive.  Religion, for better or worse, is surviving. It has survived, even thrived, for quite some time.

Education and Sociology

Scruton defends what are called “the irrelevant subjects.”  Earlier custodians of the British Empire studied logic, Greek, and Latin and successfully managed the greatest empire in history. What they studied developed the mind and soul, yet was largely irrelevant to “practical matters.”  We have reversed the situation today.

He has a hilarious chapter on a mock dialogue between two sociologists from the BBC.


The current fad of “function over form” guarantees neither.  Modern buildings are ugly, and for that reason non-functional.  Most urban planning projects look like bombed out war zones.  They are not functional for the main reason that no one wants to live there.

Animal Rights

If you want to promote the well-being of animals, hunt and eat them.  Hunting animals guarantees the preservation of their ecosystem.  

Bon Mots

As with all of Sir Roger’s writing, we are treated to devastating one liners.

“Sociology takes legitimate relations–Lover/Beloved, Employee/Employer–and turns them into power structures.”

“The pit bull terrier will go most of his life before turning on and killing his owner, much to the delight of everyone else.  Unfortunately, it also wants to kill everyone else.”


Because Sir Roger’s prose is so fine, one is tempted to let it wash over himself.  That in itself is a worthy endeavor, but one should not miss the cogency of the argument for the beauty of the prose.

A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles (Moreland)

Moreland, J. P. A Simple Guide to Experience Miracles: Instruction and Inspiration for Living Supernaturally in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021.

This review is from the audiobook.

Even though I think his arguments are sound, I will not agree with everything he says.  I need to make that disclaimer up front.  The rest of his book is so strong that my argument will appear like an endorsement of his book, and to a large degree it is, but there will be points of disagreement.

Even for cessationists, this book should be a welcome read.  Moreland clarifies what we mean and do not mean by “miracle.”  Moreover, it should be a challenging foil for those who say that God does not do miracles today. Perhaps he does not, but a critic better be able to analytically interact with the leading figures from the other side (e.g., Michael Brown, Craig Keener, and Moreland). No longer can one attack the Benny Hinns of the world.  This is a much stronger challenge. Furthermore, regardless of what one thinks of God answering certain types of prayer requests, Moreland gives some gentle advice on persevering in prayer and the like.

Moreland defines a miracle along the lines of “an event caused by God or a supernatural being outside the law-governed course of nature.” Such a definition brings him to challenge the hegemony of David Hume and his disciples today.  Simply put, a supernatural act does not require an overwhelming support of evidence. Nor does all evidence need to be scientifically testable.  Disciplines such as forensic science do not even operate on such principles.

But that raises another question: how do we really know x is a miracle and not just a normal event?  This is the single most important contribution Moreland makes. For example, let us pretend I get the flu.  I ask God for healing and relief.  A few days later, I am feeling better.  Did God answer my prayer or was this just the nature of the case?  Or both?  We really cannot know for certain.

Intelligent Agent Principle

To answer this question, Moreland adopts “The Intelligent Agent Principle.” A miracle must meet several criteria:

  1. It has to be improbable by the nature of the case (at least <50%).
  2. It must be independent and have specificity.

In other words, there must be 

  1. An intelligent agent involved.

Does this criteria prove miracles exist? Of course not.  It simply delineates, with varying degrees of certainty, between natural providences and supernatural actions.  Moreover, and this is a valid epistemological point across the board, one can have legitimate knowledge with varying degrees of certainty. Let us say that I only have 75% certainty that x is a miracle.  That counts as legitimate knowledge.  I might not bet the house on it, but in terms of practical, day-to-day living it is knowledge.

Church History

Moreland neither claims that the entire church always believed miracles continued, nor does he claim that they were Macarthurite cessationists.  He actually goes to the evidence.  The best is Augustine, since Augustine was a cessationist for much of his life.  He then started investigating miracle stories in his diocese.  This was not a man who wanted to be convinced, since he actually rejected the idea.  Rather, like a good searcher of truth, he followed the evidence. You can read about it in City of God 22.8.  It reads like the headlines from Charisma News. Similar, though less documented, claims can be found in Irenaeus.

Praying for Healing

This chapter is not so much on how to heal people (since only God can do that), but on how to be a blessing to people who are suffering.  It gives gentle, yet specific suggestions on when you are praying for someone.  But what if God does not heal them (or less spectacularly, does not answer my prayer)?  The simple answer is “I don’t know.”  Why could not Paul, a man who had raised the dead, heal Trophimus?  

God might not answer prayer for several reasons:

  1. He might delay answering your prayer because he wants you to get others involved.  God is teaching you the connection between prayer and partnership with him.  That in itself is a good.  If God teaches you to get more people involved and they learn that connection, then more “goods” have been created.
  2. Let’s say you want a job.  Your prospective employer initially does not want to hire you.  Other things being equal, should God coerce his will that he hire you? What if the employer simultaneously prayed that God would make you stop asking for this job?  Should God listen to his prayer and coerce your will?  Of course not.  The point in this thought experiment is to get us thinking about how specific we are in prayer and what we really want in prayer.
  3. Do you even know what you are asking?  This is not simply a cliche. Many times we are not specific in prayer. If God answered your prayer, you might not even know since you did not specifically ask for anything.  How many prayers have you heard end with “lead, guide, and direct us”?  If God answered that prayer, what criteria could you possibly use to verify it.
  4. In short, we might not know why God does not answer prayer.

Angels, Demons, and the Like

They exist.  They are real.  There are two dangers: one in seeing angels and demons everywhere, the other in a deistic overreaction. I have written enough elsewhere on angels and demons, so I do not need to belabor the point here.


For what it is worth, this book helped me to grow in holiness. I do not want to be the type of person who is crippled by unrepentant sin. I do not want that to get in the way of any partnership with God.  This book might be Moreland’s swan song.  We hope not, but we are glad he was able to write it.

On Metaphysics (Chisholm)

Chisholm, Roderick. On Metaphysics.

Human Freedom and the Self

agent causation:  if a man is responsible for some particular deed, then an event, or set of events will be caused, not by other events, but by that man himself (Chisholm 6).

  • transeunt causation:  when one event causes some other event(s)
  • immanent causation:  when an agent causes an event.

Free will

  • actus imperatus: whether we are free to accomplish what we will to do (not what the question is concerned with)
  • actus elicitus: whether we are even free to begin this intention.

Identity through Possible Worlds

essential properties:  properties a subject has necessarily

Identity through Time

Ship of Theseus Problem: Parts of the ship (S₁)are being changed out at intervals, yet is it the same ship?  When does it become a different ship?    What if the parts of the old ship are gradually being used to build a new ship (S₂). 

Is a Person existing at one time the same as a person existing at another time, even though the human body is “changing?”

Parts as essential to their wholes

principle of mereological essentialism: for any whole x, if x has y as one of its parts, then y is part of x in every possible world in which x exists (66).

object pair: a class containing just a thing and a time that the thing constitutes an object during the time (76).  Objects are always objects at a time.

It is not necessary to say that nonprimary objects exist in any possible worlds (e.g., tokens), only primary objects (e.g., types).


A part of a thing is a constituent which is not a boundary (83).   We need the idea of boundaries as a description of physical continuity.   

“x is discrete from y” means there is nothing that is constituent of both x and y.

Df. of a part:  x is a constituent of y and x is not a boundary in y.

Substance: if x has parts, then for every y, if y is a part of x, x is necessarily such that y is a part of it (93).  Also, Platonic forms are substances.  

Problem for process philosophy: no one has ever devoted any philosophical toil showing how to reduce substances to processes (94).

The Mental

Nature of the Psychological

psychological attribute/property:  any property which is possibly such that it is exemplified by just one thing and which includes every property it implies or involves is psychological (99).


(D1) P is an attribute = Df. p is possibly such that there is something that exemplifies it.

Chisholm sees property as a subattribute.

implication: P is necessarily such that if anything has it then something has Q.

inclusion: P includes Q = Df. P is necessarily such that whatever has it has Q.

Presence in Absence (Intentionality)

There is no linguistic interpretation of intentionality.  Though precedes semantics.  

Questions about Minds

  • Descartes’ use: the mens refers to that which has psychological properties.
  • a person’s intellectual capacities
  • That which by means one thinks.
  • A spiritual substance.

Is there a mind-body problem?

The Primacy of the Intentional

de re belief: believing is a matter of believing certain properties of x. 

de dicto locution:  there is a y such that x believes with respect to it that it is true.

Object-Content distinction

object: x is an object = Df. x is something I want you to think about.


An Intentional Approach to Ontology

Properties and States of Affairs Intentionally Considered


extreme realism: there are properties, some of which are exemplified and some of which are not exemplified.

Basic Relations Between Properties

  • implication: P implies Q = Df. P is necessarily such that if it is exemplified then Q is exemplified.  The property “being a wife” seems to imply the property “being a husband”
  • Inclusion:  P includes Q = Df. P is necessarily such that whatever exemplifies it exemplifies Q.   The property being a dog includes that of being an animal, but not vice-versa.
  • Involvement: each is necessarily such that it is impossible for one to conceive it without conceiving the property x.
    • Being x.
    • Being ~x
    • Being possibly x
    • Wanting x.
  • Entailment: P entails Q = Df. P is necessarily such that for every x and every y, if y attributes P to x, then y attributes Q to x.

A negative property is a property that is the negation of a property.

States of Affairs

Df. a type of abstract object that is at least analogous in many respects to properties.  It either obtains or doesn’t obtain.

States and Events

Chisholm does not distinguish between universals as abstract objects and universals as particulars.  As a being of another thing, a state is not an ens per se.  States are ontologically dependent on things of which they are states.


The Self in Austrian Philosophy

Austrian definition of substance: something which is not a state of something else (Bolzano, quoted in Chisholm, 156).  Elements form the self-soul.  Bundle theory variant.

The Categories






Limits (boundary)





What of Classes or Sets?

Russell: the principles of set theory may be construed as being principles about attributes.

Spirit of the Disciplines (Willard)

Willard, Dallas.  Spirit of the Disciplines. Harper Collins.

This is not a book on specific disciplines as such, though Willard does cover a few.  Rather, it asks what is necessary to understand about the human person for these disciplines to become effective. It is, in fact, what the title says. It is about the “spirit” of the disciplines. 

We have capacities in our body (mind, will, etc) and they interact in a certain way with each other and with other people.  Sin broke the natural connection they had with each other. That is why there is a warfare between flesh and spirit.

The human personality is very complex and dynamic.  That is why the body is necessary for our spiritual life.  To put it in a “sciency” sounding way: bad habits live in your flesh, in your neurons.  That is why it is either very hard or very fulfilling to harmonize your body and soul for the Christian life.

Realities of the Christian soul:

Key idea: spiritual growth cannot be divorced from the habits we form and the character that results from them (Willard 20).

Man and Flesh

Definition of life: power to relate and assimilate (57).

Spirit: spirit is unembodied personal power (64).

The Disciplines

Dallas categorizes the disciplines as those of engagement and those of abstinence.


This was Dallas’s second major work and is much “heavier” than his later works.  

Intro to Philosophy Source List

Earlier I had done a list on which basic philosophy texts to read. Here I should step back and look at the best secondary literature on the topic. On one hand, some philosophers like Plato need no interpreters. His writing is too good. Others, like Hegel and Kant, demand interpreters. The writing is not so good. Even worse, men like Locke and Hume are not always using terms the way you think they are.

Learning the Language

101 Key Terms in Philosophy and their use for Theology. Eds. Clark and Smith. Covers theological prolegomena, some analytic philosophy, and some hippie continental nonsense.

Using the Tools

Baggini, Julian. The Philosopher’s Toolkit. Excellent job explaining the methodology in philosophy. Written from a secular standpoint.

History of Philosophy

Frame, John. History of Western Philosophy. Okay. Frame’s strength is in linguistic analysis. Good sections on Kant and Hegel. Misreads other thinkers, though.

Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. Once you get over how impressed Russell is with himself, this is a handy tool. Very well-written.

Scruton, Roger. A Short History of Modern Philosophy. A sheer joy to read. Writing style surpasses Russell’s.

Tarnas, Richard. Passion of the Western Mind.

Philosophy of Religion

Thiselton, Anthony. Approaching Philosophy of Religion. Superb writing. Leans analytical with discussions on Wittgenstein.

Rowe, William. Philosophy of Religion. Rowe is an atheist but a competent philosopher. This isn’t his best work, though.


Meek, Esther Lightcap. A Little Manual for Knowing. Wonderful account of how we know. Almost has a healing effect on the mind.

Wood, W. Jay. Epistemology. Echoes some of Plantinga’s moves.


Holmes, Arthur. Ethics. Great discussion of utilitarianism.

Geisler, Norman. Ethics: Issues and Options. Probably the best modern systematic treatment of ethics. Presents his “graded absolutism.”


Hasker, William. Metaphysics. In the same series as Wood and Holmes. Hasker is an open theist, but even then he presents a very weak defense of free will.

Chisolm, Roderick. On Metaphysics. Difficult at times but a number of important discussions.

Engaging the World

Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with All Your Mind. Probably the most important philosophy text I have ever read.

Moreland, J. P. Kingdom Triangle. Similar effect as the above one. Updates JP’s project to include virtue ethics and the Spirit’s power.

Philosopher’s Toolkit (Baginni)

Bagini, Julian and Fosl, Peter S. The Philosopher’s Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

If the word “philosophy” alarms you, as it might some pietists, substitute “critical thinking” and this book will give you a crash course in key concepts used in the literature. The book is divided into seven sections, with each section denoted 3.1, 3.2, etc. Section 1 deals with the basic tools of argumentation (validity, soundness, etc).  Section 2 explores more advanced topics, such as abduction and dialectic. Section 3 covers most of the basic fallacies. Section 4 is the most important in the book. Chapter 5 explores historical tools (e.g., Leibniz’s Law, Ockham’s Razor, etc.). Chapter 6 explores what will later be called “critical theory.”

In section 4 he deals with a number of powerful concepts. For example, analytic philosophers have noted the difference between de re and de dictionary beliefs.  De dicto refers to the statement about x, de re to the thing (4.6). In terms of necessity, it runs:

De dicto: Necessarily, (Fa)

De re: A is necessarily F.

In terms of historical analysis, for example, Baginini gives a lucid presentation of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology–no mean feat.  To note: consciousness is a fact of existence. However, we always experience ourselves as part of something in this world.  How then can we find the essence of a thing? Husserl uses epoche to bracket out what may or may not exist. This allows him to focus on intentionality.  In other words, consciousness is always consciousness of something.

Although most readers of this review will be hostile to critical theory, perhaps rightly so, that makes this chapter extremely important.  Not all of the radical critiques are important.  Even the pertinent ones are rarely logically cogent.  As a result for this review, we will focus on a few.  Per Marx, society is divided into opposing classes, with one class opposing the other

In terms of philosophy, deconstruction does not mean what it means to today’s “ex-vangelicals.” For Derrida, the problem with philosophy is a problem of metaphysical presence. It is not exactly the same as the thing in-itself, but close enough. Reality, by contrast, is always mediated through signs.  We can never have ultimate meaning (6.2).


By all accounts this is a most useful tool for both beginning and advanced philosophy students.  Each section contains a small recommended reading list.

Wealth of Nations, Notes #1


“The value of any quantity…is equal to the quantity of labor” (Smith 41).

The above statement might surprise some people, but that is a very un-capitalist thing to say. Marx and Smith did not fundamentally disagree on this point.

Interest: It is compensation which the borrower pays to the lender (74). The law can only prohibit interest.  It cannot prevent it.  I don’t think Smith is saying anything so trite as “you can’t make bad people obey the law.”  Interest, rather, is a reflection of time preference.  People prefer present goods to future goods.


Actual price: the price at which any commodity is commonly sold.  Also called “market price” (79). Commodities commonly gravitate towards this price (82).

Profits of Stock

Axiom: wherever a great deal can be made by the use of money, a great deal will commonly be given for the use of it (123).  “When you have a little, you can easily get more.  The difficulty is to get that little.”

Speculation is inevitable in a free economy.  If you have new agriculture or commerce or technology, then you have speculation.


The law can prohibit usury, but that only shifts it elsewhere. People have to borrow, and lenders won’t lend flat out to people who are at risk of not paying it back.  Money then becomes more expensive, so to speak, and that expense is shifted to other costs.


Any new investment or product requires speculation.

Incorporated Trade

Incorporated trade restrains competition (164).  Union laws are oppressive at root.  They restrict my right to work. My core property is my labor.  Union laws restrict my right to work at what price I believe I am worth, and they restrict the employer from hiring me at what price he is willing to pay.  From this Smith attacks the idea of long apprenticeships; they do nothing to encourage the love of labour.  The better thing to do is get the young man interested in labor early on, letting him taste the fruits of it, and then he will be hooked.

Making Sense of it All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life

Morris, Thomas V. Making Sense of it All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.

As with all of Professor Morris’s books, this one could not be boring even if it tried. Tom Morris gives a lucid account of Pascal’s worldview without its being another exposition of the Pensees.

Pascal is not trying to make an argument for God’s existence. His concern is much deeper. You cannot ignore ultimate concerns. You cannot be indifferent about an object of love. Although this will be a particular focus of his famous “Wager,” it accurately reflects his general outlook. His arguments report “on a connection that has motivational impact” (Morris 24). The form of our behaviors function in a certain context.

Diversion and the “Empty Self

Pascal and Morris address the problem that later psychologists would call “the empty self.” People have a vacuum in their lives and they fill it with diversions. It is only when crises arise that people deal with deep issues, but, as Morris cogently observes, “that’s not usually when we have the clearest heads for figuring things out” (34).

To combat the empty self, Morris, following Pascal, notes three realms: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. “A full, complete human life will encompass, or partake of, all three realms” (37).

The Meaning of Life

After exploring some reasons why people commit suicide, Morris explains how one can find the meaning of life. He begins with what he calls “The Endowment Thesis,” “Something has meaning if and only if it is endowed with meaning or significance by a purposive agent or group of such agents” (56). In other words, “Meaning is never intrinsic; it is always derivative” (57).

Following the Endowment Thesis is the “Control Thesis:” “We can endow with meaning only those things over which we have legitimate control” (59).

Wagering on a Hidden God

The problem with believing in God is not the existence of evil but the fact that God seems so hidden. Why does not God simply give me more proof or evidence? Probably because he knows what I would do with it. Morris writes: “In human development, the paramount importance attaches not just to what we know but to what we become and do. Perfect clarity, the free gift of unambiguous knowledge in matters of religion, might for many people be dangerous” (98).

Lacking such knowledge, we can now understand Pascal’s famous wager. This is not an argument for God’s existence but a strategy for living. A good wager will account for “expected value” (112ff).

(EV): (Probability x Payoff) – Cost = Expected Value.

Morris gives the following example. Gold (a horse) has a ⅔ probability of winning with a payoff of $300. Placing a bet costs sixty dollars. Silver, another horse, by contrast, “pays nine hundred dollars, and to bet on this horse costs only $20” (112-113). Even with only a ⅓ probability of winning, Silver is clearly the best bet.

The key strategy is not how much money I get at the end, but how can I quantify “the overall value of each bet.”

Applying this to the religious realm, we can look at the costs of admission into the best. As Morris points out, the cost of admission is not heaven or hell, but what we are giving up in this life. The Christian gives up, among other things, a life of selfishness and debauchery. The atheist gives up having any kind of real hope. Strangely enough, if the atheist is right, he cannot know that he is right (119). At best, the atheist can only have a finite number of benefits against the potential of infinite loss.

It might be objected that such a wager does not actually create belief in God. Of course it does not. That misses the point. One cannot simply manufacture beliefs. Rather, such a wager structures our actions, which in turn may condition beliefs. Pascal seeks “to cultivate those capacities on the part of people who, because of the great values involved, are gambling their lives, hoping for success (124).

How does such a wager condition our beliefs. Morris suggests the following: action creates emotion, which in turn either blinds us or opens our eyes to aspects of our objective environments. They “color patterns of perception that either reveal or hide from us the ultimate realities” (125). In other words,
Action → Emotion → Perception → Objective situation


I will admit that Pascal is not my favorite philosopher, and I certainly do not consider him a Christian apologist. He was a fairly good psychologist, though. Professor Morris, here and elsewhere, does a fine job elucidating these key realities of the human condition.