Hezbollah’s threat to Israel

Michael Totten recently reviewed Warriors of God by Nicholas Blanford. Totten writes that Hezbollah is probably the best-armed and most militarily capable threat that Israel has faced in its 60-plus years of existence, a marked contrast, he notes, to the mostly inept armies of the neighboring states. It’s an interesting review of what sounds like a very good book.

One person, two natures: anhypostasis and enhypostasis

Sometimes I’m amazed by the questions that theological definitions raise.  They make sense when people ask them, but so often there are great theological questions that I wouldn’t think to ask.  David Mathis, writing a two post series on the Desiring God blog (links here and here), explored the implications in historical theology of the definition of Chalcedon that Christ has one person and two natures.  It seems that some asked how this could be once Christ took on human flesh.  The question seemed to be whether Christ had taken on a second person at the incarnation, as well as a second nature.

The two important terms were anhypostasis (that Christ did not take on a human nature that had its own personhood defined independently from Jesus) and enhypostasis (that Christ’s human nature receives its personhood from Jesus, the second person of the Trinitarian God).  There are several quotes that Mathis includes from theologians, and this one from Fred Sanders’ Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology summed up the doctrines well:

On the one hand, the human nature of Jesus Christ is in fact a nature joined to a person, and therefore enhypostatic, or personalized. But the person who personalizes the human nature of Christ is not a created human person (like all the other persons personalizing the other human natures we encounter); rather it is the eternal second person of the Trinity. So the human nature of Christ is personal, but with a personhood from above.

Considered in itself, on the other hand, and abstracted from its personalizing by the eternal person of the Son, the human nature of Jesus Christ is simply human nature, and is not personal. The human nature of Christ, therefore, is both anhypostatic (not personal in itself) and enhypostatic (personalized by union with the eternal person of the Son).

On this subject, I thought that I might share the way that I try to explain the Christological disputes of the 5th century to students in the first part of my Western Civ survey course.  Do you think that it’s helpful and, just as more important if not moreso, accurate?

I use analogies of liquids in glasses, with the liquids representing nature and glasses representing persons.

  • Nestorian view of Christ as having two persons and two natures: Since in the Nestorian view the divine nature comes upon a person and Nestorius tried to distinguish between the actions of the human Christ and the divine Christ, my analogy here is a smaller glass filled with the divine nature floating in a larger glass filled with the human nature.  (Actually, this might be a little clearer than the way that I’ve presented it in the past because I don’t know if I distinguished which glass was this).  The two separate glasses are the two separate persons.
  • Monophysite view of Christ as having one person and one nature: Here I portray salt (or food coloring) and water being mixed together in a solution.  The problem with this view was that Christ’s divine nature is changed by being mixed with the human nature.
  • The Chalcedonian view of Christ as having one person and two natures: There’s one glass that contains oil and water.  The two natures are separate (and in communication), but are contained in one person.

I’d be very grateful for your feedback on this!

War and meaning

Peter Leithart notes that many soldiers find war to be more meaningful than normal life, according to Sebastian Junger’s WAR.  Leithart’s musings are interesting:

First, Junger’s observations help to make sense of the fairly common historical combination of cultural degeneracy and war-making.  When normal life seems pointless and decadent, war is an attractive alternative.  War is a way to make a difference.Second, what does the US do with a sizable group of committed, well-trained, efficient soldiers who have been “ruined for anything else” but war?  What happens to them when (if?) America is at peace?

Third, the churches should inspire and equip her young men for something like a “moral equivalent of war.”  (“Like” it, because war is not per se immoral.)  The church should give her young men a sense that even in normal life they are “in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted.”  To do that, we have to recover some deeper, real sense of what it means to be a church militant.

Islamist terrorism and Middle Eastern states

I just read a really different perspective on this issue that I have not seen before.  Michael Totten recently interviewed Lee Smith (not the former Cubs reliever) about his new book, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.  Smith argues that terrorist groups in the Middle East are inextricably tied with Middle Eastern states, who use them to fight other states.  While they cannot ultimately control these groups, they believe that they can use them to deter or harm their enemies.

Here’s how he explains 9/11 in that context:

There’s no doubt that the region is rife with anti-Americanism and an attack on the US, even as it kills thousands of civilians, is apt to win acclaim in too many corners of the Middle East. Bin Laden and the 19 hijackers certainly understood this, but I am not sure the dynamic I am describing is as clear-cut with regard to 9/11. Instead I tend to see 9/11 like this: Middle Eastern regimes, almost all of them, but most notably Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia use various so-called non-state actors to advance their regional interests and deter each other. For instance, Syria’s relationship with Jordan’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front, and Jordan’s friendliness toward the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, means that these two states effectively deter each other—if you use Islamists against me, I will unleash Islamists on you. Al Qaeda, as a transnational outfit, seems to be a group that has been supported, manipulated and penetrated by a whole number of Middle Eastern security services, including but not exclusive of the Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Libya, Pakistan, and Iraq before Saddam’s downfall. This is not to say that any of these regimes have Al Qaeda or any of these terror organizations under their thumb; when you have a group of people with weapons, money and a deadly ideology it is difficult to manage them very closely. I think this is what happened on 9/11—one of these outfits had the wherewithal to carry its war elsewhere and they did, to the United States. Continue reading

Christopher Hitchens on North Korean propaganda

Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate, tries to update his view of North Korean after reading B.R. Myers’ The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters.  While Hitchens had assumed that North Korean totalitarianism was best understood as a combination of “classical Stalinism with a contorted form of the deferential, patriarchal Confucian ethos,” Myers’ book convinced him that North Korea has actually become a radically nationalist (and therefore far right) dictatorship.  Here’s part of his argument:

Consider: Even in the days of communism, there were reports from Eastern Bloc and Cuban diplomats about the paranoid character of the [North Korean] system (which had no concept of deterrence and told its own people that it had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in bad faith) and also about its intense hatred of foreigners. A black Cuban diplomat was almost lynched when he tried to show his family the sights of Pyongyang. North Korean women who return pregnant from China—the regime’s main ally and protector—are forced to submit to abortions. Wall posters and banners depicting all Japanese as barbarians are only equaled by the ways in which Americans are caricatured as hook-nosed monsters. (The illustrations in this book are an education in themselves.) The United States and its partners make up in aid for the huge shortfall in North Korea’s food production, but there is not a hint of acknowledgement of this by the authorities, who tell their captive subjects that the bags of grain stenciled with the Stars and Stripes are tribute paid by a frightened America to the Dear Leader.

Myers also points out that many of the slogans employed and displayed by the North Korean state are borrowed directly—this really does count as some kind of irony—from the kamikaze ideology of Japanese imperialism. Every child is told every day of the wonderful possibility of death by immolation in the service of the motherland and taught not to fear the idea of war, not even a nuclear one.

I knew that North Korea was a terrible place, but it is of course far worse than I could have imagined.  The title of for the article, “A Nation of Racist Dwarves,” is a bit crude, although here is the explanation for why he refers to the North Koreans in that way:

Here are the two most shattering facts about North Korea. First, when viewed by satellite photography at night, it is an area of unrelieved darkness. Barely a scintilla of light is visible even in the capital city. (See this famous photograph.) Second, a North Korean is on average six inches shorter than a South Korean. You may care to imagine how much surplus value has been wrung out of such a slave, and for how long, in order to feed and sustain the militarized crime family that completely owns both the country and its people.

Myers’ book is short (200 pages or so) and looks like an important read to understand the isolationist dictatorship.  Hitchens wonders if these realities mean that North Korea cannot be dealt with on any kind of normal, rational basis.

How to work against Roe v. Wade

Justin Taylor posts the text of an interview with Clark Forsythe of Americans United for Life.  Forsythe’s recent book, Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square, looks quite interesting, and he and Taylor discuss some of the content of the book in the interview.

Forsythe describes the difficulties of undoing Roe by asking the Supreme Court to apply the 14th Amendment to the unborn:

It is not simply “improbable” but almost certainly impossible in our lifetime. That’s because every single justice since Roe has rejected it (the proposition that the unborn child is a “person” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment), including the most anti-Roe justices, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas. And Scalia and Thomas have rejected it for at least two or three reasons. First, the words “abortion” and “unborn child” are not in the Constitution; they weren’t specifically considered by the framers of the 14th Amendment. Second, Justice Scalia and Thomas believe that the abortion issue was and is an issue for the states to decide, as a constitutional matter. The third is perhaps the most powerful and the one most often ignored by pro-lifers: Scalia and Thomas want the Court out of the “abortion-umpiring business,” which they think has undermined the integrity of the Court as a constitutional and political institution. The declaration that the unborn child is a “person” within the meaning of the 14th Amendment would not extract the Court but thrust it more deeply into the “abortion-umpiring business.” So, for both constitutional and institutional reasons, Scalia and Thomas have at least implicitly rejected 14th Amendment “personhood,” and it’s almost certain that any justice nominated by even a pro-life president and confirmed by the Senate in the next 20 years will be heavily influenced by the reasoning of Scalia and Thomas.

On the other hand, Roe could be overturned on less sweeping grounds (which Forsythe considers a more realistic option) and the issue could be left up to individual states, as it was before 1973.  It would then be up to “a majority of states enact and enforce prohibitions on abortion, thereby exhibiting a national political culture that opposes all abortion,” which might eventually create the political climate in which legal abortion would eventually be considered a violation of the 14th Amendment.

What can we do now?

On the legal side, the states can enact (1) fetal homicide laws (the strongest possible legal protection of the unborn child today), (2) legislation to limit and fence in and reduce abortion, and (3) legislation to protect women’s health and ensure that women get full information about the six major medical risks to women from abortion. Political science professor Michael New’s series of statistical analyses attribute the 25% drop in abortions (from 1.6 million annually in 1992 to 1.2 million annually in 2006) to legislation of this kind. The current majority of the Court will likely uphold any regulation of abortion that makes medical sense, and there’s a lot that the states can and should do to protect women from the medical risks.

For private citizens, he has these suggestions:

  1. Become active voters. Vote in upcoming primaries, and vote in the upcoming state and federal general elections, including the Congressional mid-term elections in November 2010.
  2. Stay informed through reading and information that’s on the Web. See e.g., www.aul.org.
  3. Get involved with a pro-life organization in your state that is actively involved in lobbying on the life issues in your state capitol this Spring.
  4. Support AUL’s work in the courts and legislatures.

The question of war in the ancient church

Peter Leithart passed on some summaries of his reading on this subject on Christmas Eve: the diversity of early Christian opinion on war, Augustine’s evolving thought on war waged by a Christian society, Lactantius’ pre-Constantinian condemnation of all killing and post-Constantinian approval of military service for the state, and the differing values that two military martyrs placed on the military service.

Each post is short and worth your time if you’re interested in this subject.