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Messages - pearson

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Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: September 10, 2021, 11:52:46 AM »

Really, Mr. Garner, and others. Explain this fanaticism about being able to refuse the vaccination. I don’t get it.

It doesn't sound to me that the concerns being raised are about "being able to refuse the vaccination."  You, yourself, acknowledge that people can refuse them.  It sounds like it is about being able to resist a mandate.  Vaccinations are good.  Government mandates are something else.

Tom Pearson   

Your Turn / Re: Once again, in loco parentis
« on: September 07, 2021, 01:18:27 PM »

Or a commercial for parochial schools where higher regard exists for parents.

And that also implies a lower regard for students.

You know, that's an interesting model you're proposing here.  This suggests to me (probably against all your better instincts, Pr. Stoffregen) you are thinking that the relevant subjects here (i.e., students) are participants in a commercial consumer transaction.  It is the students who shop at the public school store, and they are the consumers who need to be considered in all the transactions.  The parents are not shoppers at the public school store, and so their needs are irrelevant to the management of the store.  The store must supply the commodities that they are convinced their consumers are seeking, or the store will fail in its mission (i.e., go out of business).  Considering what non-customers are seeking (i.e., a "higher regard" for parents) will interfere with catering to what you believe your actual customers really need (i.e., producing a "lower regard" for students).

As I said, an interesting model for analyzing public education.

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: Once again, in loco parentis
« on: September 06, 2021, 11:55:52 PM »

Is accepting a child's homosexuality "traditional sexual morality" or not? If parents don't accept it, then what? They disown their child? The same could be said about parent's reactions when a child in a boy's body insists, "I am a girl." What does a "traditional moral" parent do?

I'm not at all against "traditional sexual morality." My concern is when a child doesn't fit the ideals that the parents have for their child. In other words, when their "traditional sexual morality" runs into conflict with a traditional family value of sticking together as a family; supporting one another, loving one another, and correcting one another.

I must have missed something -- I thought this thread had nothing to do with whether there are functional families that handle a child's departure from "traditional sexual morality" appropriately, and whether there are dysfunctional families that handle a child's departure from "traditional sexual morality" inappropriately.  I had thought that the focus of this thread was on two related issues: whether public schools in America possess independent interventionist authority to take custodial responsibility for their students (apart from an immediate on-site emergency; e.g., an active shooter); and whether public schools in America are to be held accountable to the local communities they serve (beginning, first and foremost, with the parents of their students).

I suppose I should be wary of assuming that everyone agrees that public schools are accountable to their local communities (beginning with the parents).  But I'll do it anyway.  Further, while there are designated agencies within our legal system that do possess independent interventionist authority to take custodial responsibility for children in families under highly specific conditions, as far as I can tell our public schools have no such authority.

Tom Pearson 

Your Turn / Re: Shameless
« on: September 06, 2021, 12:27:37 PM »

This is an interesting point to me. If abortion is not a sin, how could any pastors offer absolution? I am interested if Pastor Austin or perhaps Pastor Stoffregen could explain how you would handle such a situation… a woman who got an abortion now seeking absolution. If the previous example is bad pastoral care in a denomination that permits abortion, what would good pastoral care be?

Just what is absolution intended to accomplish in a case like this?  Is it intended to absolve the objective guilt attached to the act performed (i.e., having an abortion) or the subjective guilt as experienced by the woman involved in the act performed?  Absolution would seem appropriate in the latter instance, but not the former.

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: Once again, in loco parentis
« on: September 05, 2021, 10:44:06 AM »

The cheerleader reference simply trivializes the issue, and that often seems to happen here. And, no, teachers and school administrators are not only substitute parents. There are broader issues.
In New Jersey, teachers are required by law to present suspicions of child abuse to the authorities. Parents who believe that a solid spanking or paddling is good discipline for their kids may suddenly find them selves in court. And the parents who psychologically abuse a transgender child? Perhaps, they, too, might face a court date.

Perhaps I live in an unusually perverse geographical area, but just about once a month, there is a story on the local news of some public school teacher or counselor who has seduced a minor student into an illicit sexual relationship.  As far as I can tell, the phenomenon of abusive parents is easily matched by the phenomenon of abusive public school officials.  No institution is without its abusers.  That does not affect the general principle that public schools are accountable to the communities they serve; and for public school officials, the parents of their students are the front rank of those communities.

I find it curious that there are those who advocate for creating a strong social and political infrastructure to support public expression of sexual identity, but those same folks are often adverse to creating a strong social and political infrastructure to support public expression of traditional religious identity.  Why is that?

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: The Benedict Option
« on: September 04, 2021, 12:10:43 PM »

It also spurred me on to tackle MacIntyre's "After Virtue" which was incredibly insightful, but not bedtime reading.

Wonderful!  MacIntyre is the godfather and immediate intellectual source for the particular cultural critique embodied in the work of Dreher, Esolen, Douthat, Reno, Dineen and others.

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: Atheist Chaplains
« on: August 30, 2021, 07:00:28 PM »

I wish that we could get beyond the adage, "You can't legislate morality." What is legislation but enforced morality? With our national, state, and local laws we lay out what people should do or should not do, and put teeth into it. Laws protecting the environment legislate moral treatment of the environment. OHSA laws legislate the morality of employers in the work environment they provide for their employees. Statutes about murder legislate the Fifth Commandment.

Surely the very act of promulgating "what people should do or should not do" must not be confused with "morality."  I tell my students what they should do or should not do to get a good grade; but no one would mistake my directives to be an "enforced morality."  Bank robbers are notorious for shouting orders about what people should do or should not do at that moment; but no one suspects the robbers are proclaiming moral commands.  In crafting traffic laws, legislatures may possess an moral intention to protect lives; but no one believes that a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit is in itself a moral mandate.  And unless you consider pragmatic concerns for efficiency and utility to be moral considerations (some people do), I cannot imagine how environmental legislation or OSHA laws qualify as specifically moral enterprises.     

I suppose that I could rephrase my objection to affirm that "All legislation legislates moral behavior."

Your rephrased objection is clearly not true.  Some legislation (a good deal, in fact) legislates empowerment for people to accomplish certain tasks.  For instance, there is legislation that empowers people to enter into legal contracts, or to make wills.  There is nothing in that kind of legislation that even remotely suggests regulating or managing moral behavior.  There may be other legislation that might perform a separate punitive function, such as imposing penalties for illegal or fraudulent contracts or wills.  But the original legislation simply establishes a process by which certain public tasks may be performed, and empowering people to undertake such tasks if they so choose.  Again, there's nothing remotely moral about any of this legislation.

At best, then, the relationship between law and morality is a deeply congested and uncertain one.  And I'll admit that I have a highly specific understanding of "morality," and that laws (or rules) have only a limited and secondary role to play in that understanding.  So I'll further admit that I may be running roughshod over elements of "morality" that I should be more sensitive to.

Tom Pearson   

Your Turn / Re: Atheist Chaplains
« on: August 28, 2021, 09:28:07 PM »

I am using morality here in the sense as a moral code, a code of good behavior so it is, in effect like the Law.

How do you understand "morality?"

Well, I suspect that I have pretty well exhausted folks here on the Forum over the years with my detailed renditions of what I understand "morality" to be, Pr. Fienen.  Suffice it to say that I am sympathetic to Joel Biermann's effort in A Case for Character: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics to refurbish a form of contemporary virtue ethics (although I am skeptical of his effort to situate that ethics in a theological context). 

It's easier to indicate what I understand "morality" not to be.  I'm convinced that any law-governed (or rule-governed) "morality" is inadequate to address the complexities of ethics.  I've never been able to figure out how a moral code in and of itself translates into sustained ethical performance.  But I may have missed, or misunderstood, something.  Do you have any suggestions?

Tom Pearson     

Your Turn / Re: Atheist Chaplains
« on: August 28, 2021, 06:19:31 PM »

Walther's insight (and he is not alone in this) is that Christianity has two messages, Gospel and Law. He would agree with you that Gospel and the grace that the Gospel teaches, must not be contaminated with law or morality. Being moral does not, could never save us. But along with grace, the Bible also teaches us what is God pleasing (and wise, and beneficial for our neighbor) to do now that we have been saved. In this understanding, Christianity does teach morality, but that teaching of morality is a distinct and different teaching than what saves us. Thus the proper distinction between Law and Gospel and the placing of them in the proper role and place is of vital importance lest we confuse and mix the two.

I've never read Walther's Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, so perhaps I am speaking out of turn here, Pr. Fienen.  But it seems to me that you are reducing "morality" down to an expression of "Law."  That strikes me as a very malnourished way of understanding "morality."  Is that what you intend here, in distinguishing Law and Gospel?  Is that what Walther intends in distinguishing Law and Gospel?  Thanks.

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: Afghanistan
« on: August 26, 2021, 05:19:12 PM »

I just read the more tolerant approach this new and improved Taliban will take. It is more tolerant than previous incarnations, but it does say music will be banned, but they hope to enforce that by persuasion before resorting to mandate, because music is banned by Islam. I’ve never heard that before. I thought there was a kind of music (terrible sounding, but whatever) that was characteristic of Arab countries. Does Islam really ban music? It is it just Western music they’re talking about?

"Islam" does not forbid music.  In the Hadith, Muhammad is reported to have discouraged his followers from playing certain instruments; but singing and percussion instruments have always been encouraged.  In recent years, western popular music has been actively suppressed in many Muslim countries.  But a few years ago, Saudi Arabia announced plans to create a "world-class symphony orchestra for entertainment" in Riyadh (, which would presumably offer western classical music.

The Taliban's polemic against music may be a reflection of a long-standing dispute between strict fundamentalist factions in Islam (e.g., Wahhabis) and more mystical orders, such as Sufis.  Sufis have always been attached to musical expression.  And some Islamic countries have legal restrictions on public performance of music (e.g., Iran, Pakistan), while others have no such restrictions (e.g., Turkey, Indonesia).  There is a lot more diversity within Islam than many non-Muslim westerners often recognize.

Tom Pearson


Meanwhile, the most active ELCA posters here are saying in regards to Pastor Bolz-Weber's new role either: "not much to see here" or "what's wrong with her message?"

Well, you can mark down this ELCA poster here as thoroughly embarrassed by the whole sorry mess.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the Donald Trump of the ELCA, both with regard to her public persona and her pubic policies.

Yes, you read that right.

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: Lutheran Creationists
« on: August 19, 2021, 02:13:17 PM »

A paper I did in college as a Psych major with a Greek minor (the college didn't offer a Greek major), was on the origin of the Greek word, ψυχή. This word came into being to describe the difference(s) between a living being (whether human or animal) and a corpse. It encompasses everything that makes those carbon-based elements a living being. So things like breath, movement, life-force, personality, thinking, etc. are included in this word, which was often translated, "soul." I've summarized it as saying, the ψυχή is all the things that make me, me.

So, "soul" is not the name of any actually existing thing; it's just a word that summarizes all of our relevant psychological functions.  That's a turn toward nominalism, and that's fine with me.

Tom Pearson

Your Turn / Re: Lutheran Creationists
« on: August 19, 2021, 01:53:47 PM »

Not trying to be ridiculous here, but just doing what people generally do to Creationists. The RC position is that evolution works "as long as you believe x about ensoulment." If you don't believe x, you have to say that evolution is incompatible with Christianity. So the question becomes what would cause us to believe x about ensoulment? Scripture?   

I think this is a pretty potent question.  "Ensoulment" is an infinitely variable term.  Are there authoritative Roman Catholic texts that specify precisely what that means?  Suppose someone doesn't accept any notion of "ensoulment" at all, particularly if the reference is to an "immortal soul"?  The creeds, for instance, do not mention an "immortal soul," only the promise of "the resurrection of the body."  So we're talking bodies here, with no creedal affirmation of the existence of an "immortal soul" (there are a couple of references in the Athanasian Creed to Jesus as possessing a "reasonable soul"; but no citation of an "immortal soul" for human beings).  Scripture does contain scattered references to "soul."  But trying to distill a clear description from Scripture of just what a "soul" is turns out to be well nigh impossible.  As Pr. Speckhard suggests, if we consider the creation and destiny of human persons simply as embodied creatures made by God, those who tend toward some form of biblically-based creationism, and those who tend toward some form of neo-Darwinian evolution, might both rest content.

So if the Christian affirmation seems to focus on the promise of the resurrection of the body, not on any "immortal soul," do we really need anything more?

Tom Pearson       

Your Turn / Re: God and Time
« on: August 19, 2021, 10:45:12 AM »
This is really good stuff, Pr. Fienen.  A few responses:

But the upshot of all this is that if God is eternal, He doesn't foreknow anything we do, He simply sees us doing it. If I see you doing something, I know absolutely that you are doing that, but my knowledge of your action in no way implies a necessity that you do it. In God's eternal present, His knowledge of your action is in His present, but He can also act (or say) at some other point in time (even what is to you a prior time) according to what He sees you doing.

You're right; these are murky waters.  When we wade into them, the result is usually obscure theological speculation.  That said -- I think your proposal here works just fine.  But you should recognize what you're doing.  By placing God outside of time and assuming that therefore God's perception of things is concentrated in an eternal present, you have simply eliminated the divine attribute of foreknowledge.  It turns out you can solve any of these dilemmas about God's relation to creation by eliminating an divine attribute.  For instance, if God is typically (in western Christianity) regarded as possessing the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, and so forth, you can always solve the problem of evil by denying one of the attributes.  If you rule out God's omnipotence, such that God knows about evil in creation and He doesn't like it but He can't do anything about it -- well, then, that explains pretty well why there is evil in creation (this is the sort of move Plantinga makes).  Likewise, if you eliminate God's attribute of foreknowledge (a potential implication of omniscience) by placing God outside of time, then you have resolved the issue of divine determinism.  So it works.  But it still leaves at least two questions.  In eliminating God's foreknowledge by placing Him outside of time, are we seriously messing with the traditional western Christian doctrine of God?  And, of course, none of this actually establishes the reality of human free will.  It just says that God's foreknowledge is not going to be the problem for a putative human free will.         

The limits on God are self-imposed by His choices.

I've never understood this kind of claim.  It seems to embrace an unresolvable paradox.  How can God impose limits on Himself?  If God is truly omnipotent, then this amounts to God's omnipotence reducing His omnipotence.  Or are God's "choices" more omnipotent than His omnipotence?  This seems like a dead end to me, one that runs straight down into those murky waters.

And why should we think that God makes "choices," anyway?  This runs up against the notion that God is outside of time, existing in an eternal present, doesn't it?  If God makes "choices," then He must be deliberating over options, which suggests a process that occurs over time -- which is precisely what we want to get God out of, isn't it?

I confess that my question here arises in part from my resistance to reducing the concept of human free will -- particularly the "free" part -- down to "choosing."  The "freedom" of human free will can be (and often has been) explained as "getting what I want."  If I am able to accomplish or secure whatever seems to me right, good and proper, without hinderance or interference, then I have been able to act "freely" in reconciling my will and my actions.  Here's an familiar example I use with my students:

So here we are, all of us sitting in the classroom having a spirited and compelling discussion about human free will.  Everyone is engaged; no one wants to end the conversation; no one wants to leave without resolving the issues involved.  Class officially ends at 3:00 PM.  But unbeknownst to any of us in the room, at 2:58 PM someone has locked the classroom doors from the outside.  We can't get out.  But the conversation roars on -- 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM.  We are all fully engrossed in the deliberations; no one gets up to leave the room.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday -- every student earnestly desires to resolve the questions about human free will; no one makes a move to exit the room.  August, September, October -- everyone is dedicated to making the best possible sense of the recondite problem of human free will, and no one expresses any desire to leave until we do.

The question is: are exercising our will to remain in the classroom all that time "freely"?  If free will is fundamentally about "choosing," then we are not free; no one could actually choose to leave the room, since the doors were locked.  But if free will is about "getting what I want," then we are all there "freely," since we are achieving what we intend to achieve.

I tend to think that, in discussions about human free will, "choosing" is overrated, and "getting what we want (with no "choosing" involved) is underrated.  Does all this mean that God does not engage in "choosing"?  Murky waters.

Tom Pearson       

Your Turn / Re: God and Time
« on: August 18, 2021, 11:00:58 PM »

Not sure the distinction you're making, but yes, what I mean is that events in the past are knowable but not changeable. Events in the future, (again, from the perspective of being on/in the timeline) are not knowable and are changeable. I can decide what I will do tomorrow but cannot be sure I will be able to do it. I cannot change what I did yesterday, but I can be fully aware of it. I might die tonight. There is no chance I die last night. The unknowable, changeable future transitions constantly through the present moment to become the unchangeable, knowable past.

Right.  Good.  This makes perfect sense.

My initial concern was that your comment, "we have no experience with something being known but not fixed. Everything is fixed and known or unfixed and unknowable," was a general observation and much too sweeping.  Clearly, we can have knowledge of things that change.  If we couldn't, we'd be unable to have causal knowledge, since causality involves knowledge of change.  But restricted to the context of time (past and future), I think you've nailed it.

Tom Pearson

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