Roswell and the Reich (Farrell)

Establishing the Problem

The Roswell investigation functions as a dialectic. Either the event is so extraordinary that it could only be from outer space, or it is so terrestrial, and hence ordinary, and so should be dismissed. Farrell attempts (successfully, I think) to break the dialectic by arguing “that the technology, while extraordinary, is within the possibilities of human achievement” and is tied to a wider international context (Farrell 328).

Saucer or Weather Balloon?

The First Articulation

The first news report explicitly stated that a disk, and not debris was recovered at the crash (Farrell 3). No mention of bodies.

The Second articulation

Even the later reports that mention bodies only mention one crash site, not two (13).

Problem (ET1): The problem with any ET explanation of Roswell: “If, as is so often alleged, ET’s technology was so far superior to our own as to allow such interstellar reconnaissance, then why would they bother with such antiquated technologies as atom-bombs and rockets” (17)?

Problem (B1) with the balloon hypothesis: Are we to believe that the 509th’s base intelligence offer, Major Jesse Marcel, of the world’s only atomic bomb group could not tell the difference between a weather balloon and a flying saucer (26)?

Problem (ET2): by all accounts the strange writings on the “recovered debris” were recognized as numerals. Is it likely that aliens would have been using Roman or Arabic numerals (32)?

Summary of Timeline: 56ff.

The Third Articulation

Problem (B2): How could a flimsy weather balloon’s crash have come to earth so violently and strewn debris over a quarter of a mile (60)?

Fourth Articulation

Problem (B3): What sort of experimental aircraft was being tested in New Mexico…at night…during a thunderstorm” (137)?

Those questions more or less destroy the original “It was a weather balloon” claim. I think the govt suspected that also, which is why they officially changed the story to a Mogul Balloon (an aircraft that was to track Soviet nuclear tests. The technology wasn’t all that impressive, yet it was top secret in that its mission was important). But it, too, is open to a damaging criticism:

Problem (B4): “If the debris was from a crashed top secret balloon project, why draw the world’s attention to it with a crazy story about flying saucers” (171)?

The Hot Air Force, The Balloon Hypothesis, and the Skeptics
The govt officially changed its story in June of 1997.

Majic-12 Documents

Short definition: simple photographs of a top secret meeting by the Truman administration for the incoming-Eisenhower. The “document outlines the crash and recovery of a flying saucer, its occupants, its technologhy” (254). This is the original set.

Another set of documents released were the “Cooper-Cantwheel” set.

Problem of Verification

All the documents came on film. No provenance to determine authenticity (258).
Only way to tell is from internal evidence (259). Several members of the Majic-12 group had Nazi/CIA connections, including one with the ability to read Japanese (which makes sense given some of the symbols on the recovered crash).

If it were Nazis….

There are three possible scenarios for what happened at Roswell:

Operation Paperclip (284-285). A research project by Nazi scientists in America after WWII. Everyone rejects this option. What crashed at Roswell was not German WWII technology.

Independent Nazi scenario (285-286). It was a continuation of Nazi technology, but not from America. This would explain how the US Army was caught flat-footed and issued the response it did. It would explain how it was able to penetrate US airspace. It also accounts for the extraordinary hieroglyphics found on the debris.

ET-Nazis. Suffers from other criticisms.

Recap: if the documents are genuine, then aliens exist. However, on even the most charitable reading, we have no way of verifying that. Further, there are aspects of the documents which make no sense on the alien hypothesis, but make perfect sense on the Nazi hypothesis.

But Farrell takes it a step further. Roswell researchers make a good point: this isn’t a simple hoax, “for it contains too many details that only a very experienced forger would know” (287). This leads us to several possibilities:

a) It is a disinformation exercise to cover the tracks of an independent Nazi program.
b) it is calling attention to the Nazi program by leaving clues.

Kevin Randle’s argument:

The documents were on 8 ½ x 11 paper, whereas standard govt documents at the time were 8×10.

Notable Figures

Wernher von Braun: Hitler’s rocket scientist who was brought to the US in Paperclip (237). Rosin Affidavit.

Hans Kohler: invented a little coil that contained nothing but magnets in a hexagonal pattern. It contained no power source but was able to produce an electrical current (246).

Willy Ley: member of Vrill Society. Investigated properties of space-time medium (248).

Allen Dulles: OSS station chief and later CIA director.

Reinhard Gehlen. Head of Nazi military intelligence within Eastern Europe. Commanded Fremde Heere Ost. Gehlen notes the following about his arrangement with the Allies (346-347):

Clandestine German intelligence agency that would gather intel on the Soviets.

It worked “with,” not under the Americans.
It would operate exclusively under German leadership until a new govt was formed in Germany.
It would be financed by the Americans with funds that weren’t part of the occupation costs.

But here is the kicker: Gehlen made a separate peace with Dulles, resulting in the clean grafting of Nazi spy apparatus to the American clandestine sources. This was the birth of the CIA” (Jim Keith, quoted in Farrell 347-348).

Farrell explains: one member of the “American oligarchic elite–Allen Dulles–had negotiated a separate peace….with a member of the Nazi elite” (348).

General Gehlen also “traduced” (to use a theological term) a “vast network of emigre fronts,” whom Farrell will argue were influential in the Reagan and Bush administrations (348).

Arthur Rudolph. Principal designer of the Saturn V booster. Was noted as a “100% NAZI” and fled the US after the moon launch (352).

Ernst Steinhoff. Top rocket scientist of Von Braun’s Peenemunde rocket team (352).

Essays (George Orwell)

Orwell, George. Essays ed. Carey, John. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2002.

Eric Blair, otherwise known as George Orwell, was a victim of his own success.  His two dystopian novels defined the genre for generations to come. Animal Farm is the most important book a student will read in high school.  1984, while nowhere near Animal Farm in terms of perfection, is the final word on dystopian literature.  As a result, when people think of Orwell, they think of those two novels.  They rarely read his essays, which is a shame.  Orwell was a master of English prose and he didn’t flinch from hard topics, willing even to subject his fellow socialists to brutal criticism.  These essays are organized chronologically, beginning in 1928 and ending in 1949.

Several themes emerge from this 1,300 page volume: Hitler, Pacifism, Socialism, and Literature. Regarding Hitler and Socialism, Orwell has strong opinions, but his conclusions might surprise you.


Review of Mein Kampf

Orwell explains, no doubt in terms that will be unintelligible to today’s intelligentsia, Hitler’s rise to power. Like all demagogues, Hitler captured the sentiments against the prevailing world order, this one being the decadence of progressive living.  If all one desires is comfort and ease, it’s hard to imagine a world of patriotism and virtue.  As Orwell notes, “The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do” (251).


Orwell, rightly, has nothing but contempt for bourgeois pacifism.  Leaving rhetoric and emotion aside, the position is ultimately incoherent.  Pacifists know they do not really have an answer to the “Hitler problem.”

The pacifist will not resist Hitler. So far, he is consistent.  If he lives in Germany he has a few choices: roll over and probably be arrested, or he can move to an Allied country.  That seems logical.  Here is where the problem is: in order for the pacifist to continue to believe in ideals like democracy, he has to hope that war-like countries can defeat Hitler.  By force.  If killing is a moral wrong, then for the pacifist it must be just as wrong for Churchill as for Hitler. In the following line, Orwell skewers the pacifist on the horns of a dilemma:

“You can let the Nazis rule the world; that is evil; or you can overthrow them by war, which is also evil.  Whichever choice you choose you will not come out with clean hands” (389).


Orwell’s socialism is simple: abolish private property.  What he never connects, at least I have not seen him connect, is that such an abolition entails the statism he so eloquently condemns elsewhere.  Orwell is quick to assure us, though, that the abolition of private property does not entail a stripping of private possessions (316).  Technically, he is correct but if the State were to do so, it is hard to see on what grounds Orwell would oppose it.

It is actually refreshing to see a Socialist come to grips with the key problem of socialism.  Orwell writes, “The State simply calculates what goods will be needed and does its best to produce them” (316).  I said Orwell wrestles with this problem.  In fact, I do not think he does.  As every serious free market economist has pointed out, “By what criteria does the State know what will be needed?”  Even worse, at what price should these goods be charged?  This question is unanswerable on socialist grounds.


Politics and the English Language

Orwell’s insights on modern literature pervade this volume and probably deserve their own review.  His most important essay, moreover, is “Politics and the English Language.” He does two things in this piece: exposes garbled prose and shows how that such prose warps reality. The death sentence for any writer is “You sound like a textbook” or “You sound like a sociologist.” Orwell gives you pointers for avoiding this fate.

“Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes” (954).

Modern English prosody prefers catchy phrases than precise words (956ff). Verbs now become phrases. “Noun constructions are preferred to gerunds (‘by examination of’ instead of ‘by examining’)” (958).

A good writer, therefore, follows:
a) avoid pretentious diction

b) avoid meaningless words

c) prefer the concrete over the abstract.

A good writer asks the following questions:

a) What am I trying to say?

b) What words will express it?

c) What image or idiom will make it clear?

d) Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

Orwell suggests, though he understands its limits, the following maxim: use the fewest and shortest words to convey one’s meaning (965). There is a danger to this.  If applied too strictly, the writing loses all elegance and begins to look like an outline in prose form.


Readers of all political and cultural backgrounds should read Orwell.  He serves as a model for clarity in writing and in thinking.  In politics he is brave enough to avoid the party line.  He is a socialist, but socialists come under far worse criticism than nationalists or conservatives. These are the ideas that formed his more famous dystopian novels.

The Road to Wigan Pier (Orwell)

Orwell, George. The Road to Wigan Pier.

Originally planned as a Leftist expose of “capitalist society,” Orwell actually gives us a fine expose of mass-industrial society, whether capitalist or socialist. To whatever degree northern British society was actually capitalist is a question beyond my expertise. Orwell’s remarks, however, show a society essentially at the same level of (non) flourishing as any you would find in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The real enemy is any impersonal system. This goes beyond mere economics, whether socialist or capitalist. Orwell could not have imagined how advanced technology is today (or maybe he could have). His observations are even more relevant.

Orwell explains the psychology of the working poor, and unlike the rest of world socialism, he actually cares about the poor. Unlike today’s socialists, Orwell believes in work. He believes in a welfare state, to be sure, but for him it was a necessary evil. Man did not want to be on the dole. He wanted to work and would cry to God for work. Today’s socialist, by contrast, believes that welfare is of the very essence of the Good.

The first six chapters or so are grim reading. It is England at its ugliest. The next seven chapters turn into a savage critique of modern “bourgeois socialism.” Think of the Starbucks socialist today. This is Orwell at his literary best. He writes,

“I have known numbers of bourgeois Socialists, I have listened by the hour to their tirades against their own class, and yet never, not even once, have I met one who had picked up proletarian table-manners.”

He made many socialists uncomfortable with his critique of industrialism. Industrialism had long been the Holy Grail of world communism. The problem, though, is that increases in technology seemed to make work, and by extension man, unnecessary. The more advanced the technology, the less needed for man’s muscle and skill. As a result, anyone who wants to learn a skill will be perceived as anachronistic.

Orwell also saw the connection between poverty and bad diets. Why do most people below the poverty line choose to gorge themselves on junk food, when healthy food is often cheaper? He notes,

“Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food.


One of socialism’s PR problems was reversed expectations. The early socialist believed that the working man would want to make his working condition better. What actually happened, at least in America, is that the working man became patriotic, largely religious, and violently anti-communist. Socialism was relegated to university professors and social media activists.

Homage to Catalonia (Orwell)

Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia.

I enjoyed this book more than I expected. I hate communism with all of my heart. I am not sympathetic to the republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine any way Orwell could have better written one of his books. Every word and sentence is perfectly crafted. What surprised me the most is that Franco wasn’t the real enemy. The background in which we find every war was the real danger: Heat. Cold. Lack of supplies. Friendly fire. Disease. To top it off, the book ends, not with Franco’s crushing victory, as would happen a few months later, but with the Communists and republicans purging the ranks. It ended with betrayal, though Orwell should have seen it coming, since the essence of communist leadership is to kill anyone who might have helped some years earlier. This book defined Orwell’s later political outlook and is key to understanding his later fiction works. Orwell was a socialist, to be sure, but he was primarily an anti-Stalinist.

Orwell fought as a militiaman in the Workers’ Party for Marxist Unification (POUM). This was only one of the Marxist and anarchist fronts fighting Franco. He notes how the militia did most of the fighting while the Army trained away from danger. The biggest problem from the POUM, as for most of Republican Spain, was the lack of decent supplies and weapons. If they got a rifle–if–it would have been an old German rifle predating WWI. Revolvers were needed for trench fighting and were almost impossible to come by. The first casualty Orwell saw was not from a Fascist bullet, but from a rifle misfiring (if it fired at all). He notes,

“In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles, and the enemy. In winter on the Zaragoza front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last.”

Truth be told, the Marxist factions never had much of a chance. Part of this was due to the nature of Marxist ideology. If we are all equal and if we are all “comrades,” then how can I as a senior officer command you to do something? I’m being serious. Orwell notes how ideological soldiers spent five minutes arguing with their superior officer. Communist militaries, to be sure, can be quite successful. They have to have what Trotsky called “The Necessity of Red Terror.” Of course, that further aggravates the problem of just how we can be equal in a communist society.

The book ends with betrayal. Various militia groups were accused of collaborating with Fascists or Trotskyites. Orwell and his wife (why would you bring your wife into the middle of a foreign civil war?!?) barely escaped.

As in all of Orwell’s works, it is filled with savage irony. We will look at a few quotes:

“The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think worth describing in detail.”

“Philosophically, Communism and Anarchism are poles apart. Practically—i.e. in the form of society aimed at—the difference is mainly one of emphasis, but it is quite irreconcilable. The Communist’s emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency, the Anarchist’s on liberty and equality.”

“The Spaniards are good at many things, but not at making war. All foreigners are alike appalled by their inefficiency, above all their maddening unpunctuality. The one word that no foreigner can avoid learning is mañana.”

“No one I met at this time — doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients– failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.”

“Fortunately this was Spain and not Germany. The Spanish secret police had some of the spirit of the Gestapo, but not much of its Competence.”

Between Two Millstones vol 1 (Solzhenitsyn)

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. Between Two Millstones Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974-1978. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2018.

This is a great book, but it is not a happy book.  The eponymous millstones are the KGB/Soviet Dragon and Western liberalism. Let us not miss that point. It is easy to focus on Solzhenitsyn’s anti-communist narrative that we miss the other enemy, decadent liberalism.

He begins with an appreciation for German Culture. As hinted at in other works (August 1914 and In The First Circle) Solzhenitsyn admired high German culture.  Take Hitler away and Germany could have been a noble leader of Europe. He notes: “But I did like Germany…Not for a moment did I connect Hitler with traditional Germany” (Solzhenitsyn 5, 6).

Although it goes without saying that the KGB (and Communism in general) is pure evil, Solzhenitsyn should be credited as one of the first heroes to demonstrate also how wicked and treacherous Western media is, even saying, “You are worse than the KGB!” Of course, the media isn’t worse in the sense that the media, perhaps with a bit of wistful longing, cannot put patriots in jail. Like the KGB, however, the media can erode the moral foundations of a society.

Solzhenitsyn explains the purpose of all his writing: to show the different Russias.  At the time of his writing the book, there was the rich cultural Russia of the emigres and then there were the Communists.  He laments the path that Russia did not take (92).  We see something similar today in Putin’s Russia.  For many years Russia was right to resist Soros and the globalists. Putin, though, descended into paranoia and forced Russia into an anticlimactic, if not doomed invasion of Ukraine.

Before he left for America, Solzhenitsyn took an idyllic tour of rural France. It “struck me as gentle, tender, and natural. If I were to live in Europe there would not have been a better country for me: not because of the formidable cathedrals of Reims, Chartres, Soissons, or the palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau, but because of the placid flow of life in the forgotten little towns, the soft and noble contours of the fields, the woodlands overgrown with mistletoe, the long gray garden walls, and the simple French manner of using earth-gray stone in buildings (100-101). This is the moral vision that conservatives have always wanted, if not always articulated.

Solzhenitsyn’s sojourn in Switzerland allowed him to see the decentralized nature of the Swiss cantons.  This might be the most virtuous style of republicanism there is.  As he notes, alluding to a speech by the community leader, “Our community never gave itself over to the folly of total freedom…There cannot be a functioning state without a dash of aristocratic and even monarchic elements” (109).

Aside from dodging the KGB assassination teams, Solzhenitsyn spent most of his time responding to lies by the Western media. Complicating this, he had a rather incompetent lawyer, a Swiss man, who seemed as baffled by the Western legal system as Solzhenitsyn was.

Aside from the KGB and the media, his other opponents included Pope Pius VI and Henry Kissinger (187).  His message to America was simply this: “stop aiding the oppressors” (189).  He wasn’t asking the US to go to war with Russia, nor stop its supplies to Russia. That last sentence might confuse some readers. The USSR wouldn’t have continued existing for much of its history if it weren’t for American shipments of food and materiel to it.

He has a touching section on meeting Prince Franz Joseph II of Liechtenstein.  Prince Franz had refused to deliver Russian soldiers to Stalin, who would have had them murdered.  Britain and America, one must point out, did precisely that (194).

Concerning his later fiction, the book does explain the somewhat tortured side plots of the Red Wheel trilogy.  Solzhenitsyn’s own understanding developed during the writing.  He came to understand that the liberalizations didn’t achieve anything. The educated people who were “bitterly opposed to arbitrary rule, now turned cowardly and fell silent or lied” (226).

Even if the West didn’t have the Soviet terror, it was too weak to morally stop it in the long run.  Communism fell because of the contradictions inherent in the system (and because Reagan forced the USSR to spend money it did not have). The West was drowning itself in commerce and litigation.  They did not want to hear the words of a prophet: “When I called out ‘live not by lies’ in the Soviet Union, that was fair enough, but when I called out ‘live not by lies’ in the United States, I was told to take a hike” (287).

Solzhenitsyn also realized, however, that the America of the decadent academics and media was not the true America.  The true America was “one that was small-town and robust, the heartland, the America I envisioned as I was writing my speech, and to which my speech was addressed” (291). This is the America one finds in a Travis Tritt song.

A social and moral vision emerges from Solzhenitsyn’s memoirs.  The healthy society is one that eschews both Communist terror on one hand and decadent modernity on the other.  Few modern conservatives would disagree.  That analysis, though, might be too superficial. A life as a cog in the machine and always threatened by a ubiquitous legal system, is not much better.  It might be more comfortable (what with no Gulags and all), but it doesn’t allow any human flourishing.

Important points to note:

~Solzhenitsyn supported American involvement in Vietnam (99).

~He correctly noted that General Franco of Spain saved his country from Communist enslavement (206ff).

Reflecting on Theonomy After I left it

EDIT AND CORRECTION: Prof Clark linked David Bahnsen’s post where his father, Greg, supported Norman Shepherd.

A few blogs ago, I did a series called “The Theonomy Files.” I have since updated my own thinking more in line with Reformed Scholasticism since I wrote that. Here is the gist of it. Part of this will be a number of problems in theonomy. These aren’t “gotcha” but they are difficulties to which I never saw a satisfactory answer. I do plan on offering more substantial criticisms later.

 Let’s briefly define our terms:   theonomy is the position that all of the old testament laws are binding for the new covenant Christian, unless rescinded by command (or presumably practice), and are to be applied in their new covenant context.  

It is hard to debate with theonomists.   Part of the reason is they respond to every criticism with “Oh, but you are simply an antinomian/statist/relativist.”  

The following points of criticism do not necessary serve as any one  refutation of theonomy.    Taken together, however, the place a burden of epistemological proof upon theonomists that I deem is impossible for them to bear.

  1. Where were you all this time?   Theonomists like to point out that older, medieval Christian societies were theocratic and would be opposed to the secularism of today’s politics.   Yes, they were theocratic, but they were not theonomic.   And to the degree that the early Western medieval church was Augustinian, they were most certainly not theonomic (Oliver O’Donovan’s reading of Augustinian ethics shows how difficult the Augustine = theonomist case really is).  Further, almost ALL of these societies were explicitly monarchist, a position theonomists vehemently reject.  Obviously, you can’t simultaneously say you affirm (King) Alfred the Great’s social ethic while denying the form of Alfred the Great’s politics (and by implication, social ethic).
  2. Bird’s Nests and God’s Law.  Deuteronomy 22:6 tells you what to do when you come across a bird’s nest.   Is that considered civil case law, moral law, or ceremonial law?   While I admit at times the law can be delineated along such lines, more often than not it cannot.  It is not always clear whether a law is civil, moral, or ceremonial.  Or maybe it’s all three.   If it’s all three, and we obey the moral part, do we not also obey the ceremonial part? But isn’t that heresy on the standard reading of the law (by both sides)?
  3. Moses isn’t the same as John Locke.   Similar to (1);  theonomists have a tendency to read 18th century American (and 17th century British) political concepts back into the law of God.  Ultimately, this means they reject Christian Monarchy, but they reject Christian Monarchy along American revolutionary lines.   They conclude their rejection of monarchy (which would entail a rejection of most of Christian historical ethical reasoning–a point theonomists often fail to grasp) by an appeal to 1 Samuel 8.   Presumably, 1 Samuel 8 is binding on all Christians all the time (though 1 Samuel gives no evidence to that claim).   Notwithstanding, theonomists cannot give us a clear answer to the question:  does Torah teach monarchy or theocratic republicanism?  (Read Deuteronomy 17 and Genesis 49).  Further, is 1 Samuel 8 civil law or moral law?  Is it even law? If it isn’t a law, should we be bound by it?

Torah isn’t the Congressional Register

Of course, by Torah we mean after Christ, apart from works of Torah.   I am saying that seeing the “Law” as Torah and not theonomy provides a better model for understanding Scripture.  A quick perusal of the Pentateuch will show that it was not written with late Western modernity in mind.  In fact, seen in our categories, much of it is quite bizarre.

That’s not to deny its importance.  If anything, the strange ways in which Torah is organized should invite the reader to reflect even deeper about reality and the way that God’s world works.  Let’s consider a few and ask how these can possibly work on the theonomic thesis:

  1. While there are covenantal-sequential patterns and typological motifs (riffing off of the days of creation–Ex. 25-40), many of the laws are apparently haphazardly organized together.  This should alert us to the fact that maybe God didn’t intend for these laws to be understood in a post-common law framework.
  2. Torah is also story.  In Paul’s use of Abraham in Romans Torah is not functioning as a list of dos and don’ts, but as story.  How do you put story into a law code?

Women Breaking up fights

Here is another difficulty with theonomy.   Maybe it’s not with theonomy the idea, but it does invite young theonomists to reflect more deeply on what they are actually saying.  Here is Deuteronomy 25:11

“When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, 12then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.

There are several problems here if we take it at face value and apply it to a modern Western law code:

  1. Just think about it:  how likely is something like this ever going to happen?   I am a school teacher and I break up fights all the time.   It’s not that easy to get between two people in a fight (and I’ve been hit before, though I was so pumped up with adrenaline I didn’t feel it).
  2. If two guys are moving rapidly and throwing punches, how likely is it that a woman is going to go low and grab the private parts of the other guy?
  3. And would you really apply this?  If a bad guy broke into your home and the wife was able to help out by “disabling” him (and for the sake of argument, save your life), are you really going to reward her by cutting off her hand?  Really?

Someone could say, “Well, that applies to the Mosaic covenant when it was important to provide an heir.”  Maybe.  The text doesn’t say anything about that, so it’s just ad hoc and speculation.  There is still the justice of the matter, covenant heir or no.

And then there is the equity of the matter.   Well before that:  is this law moral or civil/judicial?   It’s obviously judicial since there is a penalty attached to it.   So what’s the equity for today for theonomists?  Remember, on the theonomic gloss the “judicial law abides in exhaustive detail.”    The Reformed Confessionalist does not have this problem.   The Confession only says “allows” the equity and no more.  Which is a nice way of saying that this law would never be applied.  The theonomist has to apply the law.

The After-Calvin Source Failure

One of the reasons theonomy failed as a movement, and this reason perhaps dovetails with why theonomy went Federal Vision and also failed to work out a coherent alternative, is that theonomists generally did not read the Protestant Scholastic sources carefully, to the degree they read them at all. 

That raises another problem:  reading these sources required reading these sources on the sources’ terms.  Theonomists usually viewed anyone who disagreed with them as a “natural law adherent,” defining natural law as a mix of Locke, Newton, and Aquinas.  Here is an experiment for you:  pick up a theonomic text and find a fair definition of natural law on Reformed terms.  Bahnsen avoids it in TiCE . Gary North slams it but never really defines (or explains how modern Reformed accepted natural law).   The real villain, I think, is Kuyperianism (though, ironically, Kuyper himself was a pluralist).   The result was the no-neutrality concept was applied to areas which really didn’t make sense in a practical way (yes, we should do math and plumbing to the glory of God, but there really isn’t a Christian praxis to Christian plumbing).

If you read Reformed natural law sources carefully, you will note that
1) they don’t contradict Moses [many advocated using the Mosaic judicials because of the wisdom found therein;
2) they aren’t using the term “nature” to mean butterflies and puppies [which is how I had usually glossed it].

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, reading the Protestant Scholastic sources on their own terms will also bring the reader face-to-face with their teachings on covenant and justification, areas which modern theonomists are painfully weak. 

The Steroid Effect

One of the dangers in taking steroids while lifting weights is that despite all the gains, the level you reach is likely the highest you will ever reach.   Once you get off steroids, and even the biggest “user” won’t take them perpetually (No one does steroids, or even creatine, during the regular season for risk of dehydration), it is unlikely you will ever reach those levels naturally again.

We see something similar in theological studies.   Deciding which area to major in will determine how deep one’s theological knowledge can get.   Here was my (and many others; and for what it’s worth, throughout this post substitute any Federal Vision term in place of a theonomy term and the point is largely the same) problem in institutional learning:  I immediately jumped on how important apologetics was for the Christian life to the extent that I made apologetical concerns overwhelm theological concerns.  I essentially made theology proper (and soteriology and ecclesiology) subsets of apologetics/ethics, instead of the other way around.

I won’t deny:  I became very good at apologetics and ethics, but I didn’t know anything about theology outside of a basic outline of Berkhof.   Studying Reformed theology among sources, and worse, movements, who are only barely Reformed, limited how deep I could go in Reformed theology.

I’ll say it another way:  when I was taking covenant theology we had to read sections of Gisbertus Voetius and Cocceius in class.  I got frustrated thinking, “These guys are tying in the covenant of works with natural law.  Don’t they know how un-reformed natural law is?”  Problem was, I was wrong.  But if you read the standard theonomic (or FV; by the way, the FV fully adopts the Barthian, and now historically falsified, Calvin vs. Calvinist paradigm) historiography, there is no way to avoid such misreadings.  Even worse, said historiography fully prevents one from learning at the feet of these high Reformed masters.

The Collapse of First Generation Reconstructionism

I’m not going to touch on the infamous “whitewall” sermon.

I suppose the inevitable question, one loaded with irony, is that given Christian Reconstruction’s commitment to postmillennialism, how come the movement fractured immediately and society is not reconstructed?  Before we get into the individual faults of the men and camps, it is important to first note perhaps why they were prone to fracturing.

Many CR leaders knew they wouldn’t be welcomed in the presbyteries.   So they reasoned:  too bad for the presbyteries!  For all the problems and limitations in local presbyteries, they tend to keep individuals from going off the deep end.   We will soon see why.

  1. Rushdoony:  On one hand it’s a good thing that Rushdoony’s errors are so easy to see.   Being egregious errors and out in the open, they are fairly easy to avoid.  His main errors are the dietary laws, ecclesiology, and shallow readings of some Reformed sources.  I won’t bother refuting his interpretation dietary laws.   I suspect his personal experiences drove his ecclesiology.  I don’t know the whole story, though Gary North has documented it here.   Evidently he got angry at the OPC and separated himself from church bodies for the greater part of a decade. A bit more minor issue but one more prevalent is that many young CRs began their study of theology by beginning with Rushdoony.  As a result, many simply parroted his slogans without really understanding all the theology and philosophy behind it.  Their grasp of Reformed theology was very tenuous beyond the basics.   Once they came across sharp Orthodox and Roman Catholic apologists, they were toast.  They didn’t have the strong foundation in Turretin, Hodge, and Owen that older men had.  Had they begun with the latter and had a decent foundation, then they could have approached Rushdoony Finally, people who really follow Rushdoony have a hard time accepting any criticism of the man.
  2. Was the home-church movement an inevitable spin off from Rushdoony?  That he endorsed something like it is clear, but most Reformed people understand he is wrong on that point.  I think one of the dangers of the home church movement is that apart from any presbyterial oversight, there is nothing stopping the members from embodying outrageous positions.
  3. Gary North:  His Y2K debacle lost him his credibility.  Others have pointed out his refusal to condemn the Federal Vision, though truth be told, would it have mattered?  Most people stopped listening to him in 2,000.   Would his condemning FV in 2003 have changed anything?  Another of his problems would be the Tyler connection. Tyler had the bizarre mixture of independent congregationalism and quasi-sacerdotal episcopalianism.  
  4. Was Federal Vision inevitable?  If you read Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics carefully, it doesn’t seem like it.  He is citing standard P&R and evangelical textbooks on hermeneutics and the Sermon on the Mount.   All of this is wildly at odds with the later Federal Visionists. That’s the problem: other theonomists either became Federal Visionists or they ran interference for them.  

Gary North notes that CR split into two camps:  Tyler Ecclesiasticalism and Rushdoony’s Home Church Patriarchalism. Neither seems like a good choice.

Das Kapital (Karl Marx)

If Marx had decided to end this volume after chapter 2, he would have given us a relatively interesting philosophical analysis of labour.  It would have been completely wrong, of course. Part of the book is his labour theory of value and several theorems deduced from it.  The rest of the book is a scare tactic on how bad industry is. Whenever argument is lacking, in come the sob stories.

We should perhaps cut off one argument at the pass. You will hear some say that Marx anticipated problems in today’s marketplace.  He did no such thing.  When Marx uses terms like alienation, he means something entirely different than why the minimum wage advocate means today.

This review will focus mainly on the first part of the book.  The reason is simple: it is the heart of his argument and if it is wrong, it really doesn’t matter what he gets right.

Chapter 1: Commodities

A commodity is a thing outside of us that satisfies our wants.

“The utility of a thing is its use-value,” and this is independent of the labor that goes into it.  Consumption of a product actualizes the use-value.

A thing’s exchange-value must be equal to another commodity.  (Marx also says that exchange value is a mode of a thing’s existence.  It is a “phenomenal” form, “contained in it, yet distinguishable from it.” For someone who hated metaphysics, Marx uses many metaphysical concepts).

Marx then moves to the heart of his system, and indeed, the most fatal problem to it.  Since a thing’s exchange-value is equal to another thing’s exchange-value, how do we make this work? In other words, how do I really know that x weight of corn = y weight of iron?  Marx sees this problem, so he introduces a third term: each entity must be reducible to this third term.

What is this “something?”  Marx tries really hard to find it.  He notes that “exchange-value” is just an abstraction, and since any abstraction is as good as any other, we can do away with that.  What seems to be left is “labor.”  In language reminiscent of Renaissance alchemy, Marx notes that the “material thing is put out of sight.”

Let’s summarize the problem: there is a common substance (metaphysics-language again!) but it keeps manifesting itself as “exchange-value.”

Let’s go back to use-value.  Marx says a thing is valuable “only because human labor in the abstract has been embodied or materialized in it.” The only way we can measure this value is by the quantity of labor. I don’t think Marx is saying that the hours spent making a watch determine how much we can sell it for.  He says “the total labor power of society,” the sum total of the values, “counts here as one homogenous mass of human labor.”

That does nothing to help me find out how much to sell my watch.  Marx’s answer isn’t much different from the earlier one: we take the average sample.

Conclusion: “The value of one commodity is to the value of any other, as the labor time necessary for the production of the one is to that necessary for the production of the other.”  As Sir Roger Scruton remarked in Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands, Marx isn’t dealing with empirical data but with some occult entity embedded in the exchange. There is always a hidden essence in the exchange.  Whereas real economists would focus on how supply and demand influence pricing, Marx thought that irrelevant since it said nothing about the hidden essence.

In earlier metaphysics, either Christian or Neo Platonist, there was a cycle of exitus and redditus, of exit and return.  Imagine a circle with God (or Being or Good) at the top and a movement downwards along the circle.  That is the exitus.  There is then a return movement to the top, the redditus.  Marx does the same thing with currency and commodity.  We begin with C, Commodity.  It is exchanged for Money, M, and that money is then used to purchase another Commodity, giving us:

C → M → C

Marx takes it a step further: there are antagonisms within these oppositions.  Even more so, the commodity actually changes into the form of money.  This is alchemy. This transformation is itself an alienation (chapter 3, sect. 2).  

In the next chapter, Marx explains how this transformation completes the cycle.  We now move to M → C → M.  After further transmutations, Marx concludes that this is the general formula of capital.  All of this is very interesting, but the reader might be asking: what does this have to do with how much something should cost?  That’s the problem with Marxist economics: facts are subservient to theory.  Marx is always considering the matter in the abstract.  That’s completely backwards.

We’ll refute this in detail at the end.  It is worthwhile, in the meantime, to explain some of his other concepts:

Labour power: the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities in a human being when he produces value.  Its value is specifically determined by labour time.  If the owner sells the product at a profit, the surplus doesn’t go back to the labourer.  He is thus alienated from his labour.

The rest of the book is a collection of sob stories.  Now to the refutation:

First, as Bohm-Bawerk notes, Marx rests upon Aristotle’s theory of equality in exchange.  Aristotle said that goods of equal value are traded in an exchange.  Marx agrees but puts labor as one of the terms.  But if that’s true, then there is no reason to even exchange anything.  Nothing would disturb the equilibrium (Bohm-Bawerk 2007:70).

Further, Bohm-Bawerk continues, some goods that are exchanged do not involve any labor time: such as the soil, wood in trees, water power, coal beds, stone quarries, petroleum reserves, mineral waters, gold mines, etc.” 

There are even more damaging criticisms of the labour theory.  Labor isn’t homogenous, so how can it serve as a uniform medium of exchange?  Furthermore, Marx thinks that the businesses that are labour-intensive are the most profitable (which he has to say, since there has to be an active agent putting his labour into the product).  This means that the more machinery one employs, the less profit there will be.  Experience tells us the complete opposite.

Moreover, Marx sees all credit systems as the fat cat capitalist oppressing the poor borrower.  He never imagines a situation where the creditor lends to the government.

Marx has no concept of time-preference, where he sees production only as the gratification of immediate selfish needs.

Throughout his writings Marx says that the worker is on the side of society, and the interests of capitalists is against the interests of society, yet it is undeniable that capitalists produce technology (medicine, scientific advancements, etc) that benefit society.

It is true that there were many abuses in the Industrial Revolution.  We can be grateful for child-labour laws and the like.  None of that, however, requires a Marxist outlook on life.

Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen v. 2007. Karl Marx and the Close of His System. Auburn: Mises Institute.

The Concept of the Political (Carl Schmitt)

Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [reprint 2007].

In what concrete apparatus does political authority lie? Answers could be God or natural law or the social contract?  That might be true in an ultimate sense, but power is always mediated.  To phrase it another way: who is the actual sovereign? 

Carl Schmitt begins on rather innocuous grounds: the state cannot be simply equated with the political. In other words, society cannot be equated with the political. What, then, is the political? It begins “with the distinction between friend and enemy” (Schmitt 26). To be sure, as Schmitt notes, this is a criterion, not an exhaustive definition.  (Schmitt is using ‘enemy’ in a terminological sense, not in a moral sense of ‘bad guy’.) The enemy is one who intends to negate your way of life. To ward off confusion, Schmitt says it is a public, not a private enemy. Indeed, the enemy in this sense “need not be hated personally” (29).

Jesus’s comments do not contradict this.  He is speaking of private enemies.  As Schmitt notes, “Never in the thousand-year struggle between Christians and Moslems did it occur to surrender rather than defend Europe out of love toward the Saracens or Turks” (29).

The contrast between friend and enemy is most stark in the context of war.  There contrast becomes absolute and internal tensions within the political structure become relativised (e.g., as a patriot I dislike moderates, but in the face of an existential external threat, I put that dislike aside).  Indeed, “War is the existential negation of the enemy” (33). A world without war would be a world without the friend-enemy distinction: it would be a world without politics.

We can now tentatively define the political as an entity which is able to escalate the friend-enemy distinction to war. It is any community “that possesses, even if only negatively, the capacity of promoting that decisive step” (37).

Subordinate societies within the political certainly exist.  These are Burke’s “little platoons” or “free associations.” They are necessary to health of the state.  Schmitt’s reiterates his point, though, with stark clarity: “the political entity is by its very nature the decisive entity, regardless of the sources from which it derives [its power]. It exists or does not exist. If it exists, it is the supreme, that is, in the decisive case, the authoritative entity” (43-44). We might recoil at his conclusion, but it remains true that the political, not the church or the guild, is able to use the sword.

I think at this point Schmitt is still at the level of theory, for there are examples in European history where entities other than the state had the power to wage war.  Theoretically, he is correct.  

Any group that has the power to make this distinction and does not do so ceases to exist.  As Schmitt notes, if a group within the political chooses not to engage in the friend-enemy distinction, it in fact joins the enemy. “Only a weak people will disappear” (53).

Interestingly enough, we can apply Schmitt’s insights against globalism.  If the political presupposes an enemy, it means another political entity, another state, must exist.  “As long as a state exists, there will always ben in the world more than one state. A world state which embraces the entire globe and all of humanity cannot exist” (53). The enemies will not cease to exist.  The world-state will simply transfer the category to a group of whom it deems “deplorables.”

The Contradiction of Liberalism

Liberalism seeks to protect individual rights and liberty.  It does so by hindering the state’s control. While noble, this also means liberalism cannot really accommodate the existential nature of the political as mentioned above.  If war arises, the political can demand that you sacrifice your life.  Classical liberalism says it can’t make that demand.  It is here that Schmitt gives his famous rule of the exception, the rule that fundamentally kills liberalism: “An individualism in which anyone other than the free individual himself were to decide upon the substance and dimension of his freedom would be only an empty phrase” (71).

This doesn’t mean liberal societies cease to exist.  They undergo a transformation. “A politically united people becomes…a culturally interested public.”  “Government and power turn into propaganda and mass manipulation, and at the economic pole, control” (72).


This isn’t as shocking as it appears. Politics is about negating the other.  I want my political candidate to win.  That means I want the other to lose.  Completely.  Democrats want Republicans to lose.  Republicans want patriotic Republicans to lose, and so on. Of course, at this point it hasn’t yet come to war.  Actually, that’s’ not true.  The Democratic Party has numerous paramilitary groups burning cities.

I’m not sure I would build a political worldview on Schmitt’s thinking.  Questions like pursuing the Good and virtue are not relevant for him.  He doesn’t dismiss them, to be sure, but they have no meaning on the friend-enemy distinction.  Nonetheless, he writes with bracing clarity and forces the reader to grapple with hard issues.

Note on Hegel: all spirit is present spirit.  Hegel is also the first to bring the nature of the bourgeois forward: “The bourgeois is an individual who does not want to leave the apolitical riskless private sphere” (Schmitt 62).  The enemy, for Hegel, is “negated otherness.”

The Politics of Samuel Johnson

Greene, Donald.  The Politics of Samuel Johnson.  Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Donald Greene resists using the categories of Whig and Tory to interpret Samuel Johnson. To an extent he certainly makes his case. He masterfully refutes articles, whether in support of or criticism of, that make Johnson out to be a strict Tory.  These articles, he notes, are drawn from conversations that Boswell had with Johnson and were written down decades from the actual event. So far, so good.  Notwithstanding, it still strains belief to see Johnson as a Whig.

His larger point stands, though.  Let’s take the term “Republican.” It can mean a Trump voter or a never-Trumper, a patriot or a Deep-State groupie.  Something similar was probably true of Whigs vs. Tories. And so he argues: “though Johnson may continue to have a claim to be a Tory, we are not justified in inferring from that label what nineteenth-century writers inferred from it: dogmatism, reaction, subservience to authority” (Greene 20).  Perhaps, though Johnson would have embraced larger nuances of the term: established church, hatred of revolution, and skepticism of the Whig view of history.

The Whig Interpretation

Greene argues that our understanding of Johnson as the “narrow-minded Tory” is the creation of several Whig thinkers. Tories were reactionaries, Whigs progressives.  Moreover, “parties were not parties in the modern British sense” (Greene 5). Rather, groups were held together more by shifting interests than party ideology.

Moreover, Tory and Whig overlap on perhaps the most crucial topic: property.  John Locke, the proto arch-Whig, was also the most vocal champion of private property.  Private property, obviously, is the touchstone of Tory identity.

The Tory Reemerges 

Notwithstanding Greene’s correct observations, Johnson can only but remain a Tory, as even some passages by Greene suggest (132).  Johnson reveals himself to be a true conservative in his comments on political change:

“Experience [and not metaphysical programmes] is the guide which a wise man will follow.”

“Customs, if they are not bad, are not to be changed.”

Such comments could be lifted word-for-word from books by Sir Roger Scruton.  Whigs and revolutionaries normally do not approve of such sentiments.


Greene helpfully reminds us that “eighteenth-century politics is confusing, and Johnson was not a simple person” (43). Quite so.  Moreover, he rightly points out that the term “Tory” at Johnson’s time meant little more than a country gentleman, perhaps a Lord.  If that’s the case, then Johnson really wasn’t a Tory.  If that’s all Greene’s argument claimed, then there wouldn’t be any confusion.  However, Greene soon adopts the methodology he attacks. He then subtly redefines Tory as a high-church partisan of the House of Stuart.

On one hand, so Greene remarks, we can’t take at face-value any of Johnson’s (of Boswell’s Johnson) claim to being a Tory.  On the other hand, if Johnson says anything remotely “Whiggish,” that might be an argument for some secret Whig inside him.

Greene does face the rhetoric in Johnson’s tracts during the 1770s.  He supports the British monarch against the colonies and elsewhere refers to the people as “rabble.”  Greene says to base one’s analysis of Johnson on these comments is special pleading.  He doesn’t tell us why it isn’t special-pleading to ignore other evidence to the contrary.

Greene’s analysis of “Taxation no Tyranny” is rather astute and supports his thesis.  While Johnson did attack the practical Whiggism of the American colonies, he wasn’t putting a Tory alternative in its place.  In fact, his comments on an omnicompetent Parliament sound a lot like Carl Schmitt’s “rule of the exception” (cf. Greene 244).  That’s probably an accurate enough interpretation.  Johnson was usually quite skeptical on the practical good of politics.  It wouldn’t be fair to call him a Hobbesian, but I do think Johnson would agree with Schmitt. Sometimes there is an exception to the law.  He who decides the exception is the actual sovereign (and that one sentence shows how constitutional theory, while useful from time to time, is actually built upon a foundation of sand.)

In the end, he does force us to think hard about the nature of Whig and Tory.  As the terms were used during Johnson’s time, we can all agree that Johnson probably wasn’t a Tory.  Given the outcomes of the French Revolution, however, which Johnson didn’t live to see, it’s not hard to see where Johnson would have landed.   

My criticisms of some of his analysis notwithstanding, Greene’s concluding chapter is a fine and learned exposition of what Johnson might have thought given later political developments.

The Sword of Imagination (Russell Kirk)

Kirk, Russell.  The Sword of Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

This is an unusual memoir, as Russell Kirk narrates his intellectual life in the third person.  It is a fascinating account of the intellectual currents that would later merge into post-WWII conservatism (which is to be distinguished from the banal variety today).   True conservatism means the defense of Permanent Things.  Modern day conservatism is simply libertarianism that is too scared to go all the way.

Kirk does a great job describing his studies at St Andrews, Scotland.  No doubt it provided fodder for his ghost stories.  He also shows the big difference between real scholars and American university guns for hire.  

“The St Andrews scholars of that generation were truly learned men who reda, who thought, who were civilization incarnate…Kirk reflected that some of his American professorial colleagues had no books in their homes except free copies of textbooks” (88).

Following Kirk, we should understand our goal for society should be something like a “mannered aristocracy.” In one devastating but undeveloped remark, Kirk notes that “Many Americans labor under the illusion that they exist in a classless society–and are startled if informed that the classless society was the goal of Karl Marx” (110).  Kirk should have drawn the logical conclusion: if you don’t believe in some form of aristocracy and cultured nobility, you are at root an egalitarian.

Kirk gives us a neat overview of the beginning of modern American conservatism overlapping with the Eisenhower generation.  As he was always wont to point out, conservatism is the negation of ideology. It does not negate, however, conservative impulses (143).

“If Communism is the inversion of Christianity, [then] Ayn Rand, reacting against practical communism, negated the negation” (144).

Among his more interesting acquaintances was the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg of the old imperial dynasty. Archduke Otto’s family can best summarize the goal of conservatism and why it should never be identified with small-govt American conservatism.  “When Theodore Roosevelt inquired of Franz Joseph how he saw his imperial place in modern times, the Emperor answered, “To protect my people from the government” (208). That’s monarchy in a nutshell.  We are too much infected with the Whig notion of progress to really understand this. As a general rule, monarchs saw themselves as last-stand efforts to save the people from monied interests (or in our times, technological experts).  No monarch ever dreamed of the power over a people that Anthony Fauci has.

As with many of the older books by Eerdmans, this is bound with chains of iron.  The spine of the book will never crack.  Unfortunately, you might get carpal tunnel syndrome from reading it.