Ad hominem arguments...

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Under the post, "On images: an apology for our work...," a discussion of ad hominem has developed and I'd like to take a couple minutes to express a conviction I've had growing in me for quite a while; namely, I think ad hominem arguments might well be used much, much more by Christians, and particularly church officers contending for God's People and His Truth--that is, if we are to take Scripture as our model not only in its doctrine but also in the methods of its Author.

As just one instance, the Apostle Paul says of the Judaizers in the Galatian church, "They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them" (Galatians 4:17). And in the midst of theological diagnosis and correction this practice is repeated over and over within the pages of Scripture.

We must ask, was the Apostle Paul--or, really, the Holy Spirit--unaware of the categories of logical error we've come to recognize today? And were he and He writing today, would the arguments of Galatians, for instance, be altered to take them into consideration?

Then too, I've long appreciated the work of Paul Johnson and E. Michael Jones. Johnson's Intellectuals is a masterpiece of ad hominem which does much to demonstrate the heart of the errors of men like Rousseau, Marx, and Ibsen. And the one statement repeatedly made there has been foundational for me since reading it: that the men Johnson sketches shared in common the trait of professing love for all mankind while being unable to love any particular individual, least of all the members of their own household. Here's one example:

In Johnson's chapter on the Russian novelist, Tolstoy, Johnson records how, in the heat of a moment of charitable fervor, Tolstoy abandoned his wife, Sonya, as well as their sick four-month-old, Alexei, and set off into the country to lead some large act of social reform. Johnson continues:

This desertion, as (Tolstoy's wife Sonya) saw it, provoked ...a letter which struck a new note of bitterness in their relationship. It sums up not only her own difficulties with Tolstoy but the anger most ordinary people come to feel in coping with a great humanitarian intellectual: "My little one is still unwell, and I am very tender and pitying. You and (Tolstoy's spiritual guru of the moment with whom he had run off on this mission) Syutayev may not especially love your own children, but we simple mortals are neither able nor wish to distort our feelings or to justify our lack of love for a person by professing some love or other for the whole world."

Sonya was raising the question, as a result of observing Tolstoy's behavior over many years, not least to his own family, whether he ever really loved any individual human being, as opposed to loving mankind as an idea (p. 125).

Then to E. Michael Jones: ah, where to start?

About twenty years ago I attended the Allies for Faith and Renewal conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and met Jones there in the lobby of the campus dorm where conference participants were staying. Tall, thin, with a shoulder bag, he had the gnarly aspect of a disenfranchised intellectual fresh out of hippiedom that appealed to me then. When he told me he edited a magazine, I immediately subscribed, and I've been a subscriber ever since.

Marvin Olasky has to be one of the most courageous men I've ever worked with (and no flattery here--I've said this to many, privately), but E. Michael Jones goes him one better...

I could write for hours about the lessons I've learned from Jones but I need to get to my sermon. So I'll leave it at this: Jones shows, as well as an ultramontane Roman Catholic can, the truth of the preliminary principle of the PCA and PC(USA) I just quoted a week ago here on this blog, that "truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness; according to our Saviour's rule, 'by their fruits ye shall know them:' And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or absurd, than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man's opinions are. On the contrary, they are persuaded, that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth, or to embrace it."

Yes, an "inseparable connection between faith and practice."

Sadly, both Johnson and Jones are sinners and fail to live according to the very laws they so assiduously apply to others. But is this supposed to be a surprise to any student of the Word?

Some of their arguments will make you uncomfortable, but in my book that's good, tending toward decreasing the growing lethargy of late middle age.

If I'm to give one zinger to cause you to become a subscriber to Jones' "Culture Wars," I'd say that no one has a better understanding of the political utility of pornography and sexual immorality than Jones, and that's why Peter Jones (no relation) quotes him in his excellent Star Wars trilogy (Spirit Wars: The Revival of Paganism on the Threshold of the 3rd Millennium, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, and Capturing the Pagan Mind: Paul's Blueprint for Thinking and Living in the New Global Culture concerning the return of the fertility goddesses of paganism within the United States--Burning Man, for instance. (Those who cite Peter Jones' work include the Canadian Don Carson, Southern Rhodesian David Wells, and Jones' father-in-law, the late Ed Clowney.)

The name of E. Michael Jones' magazine was more appealing to me in the old days when it was called "Fidelity." But "Culture Wars" does a good job of explaining its work. If you're a risk-taker, here's how you may subscribe.

Caveat emptor: if you're of an anemic disposition, you love the neocons, you can't stand thinking about the role of particular ethnic groups in history (for instance, the Cretans of Pauline fame), or you hate eating from the hands of ultramontane Roman Catholics, I'd suggest you pass on Jones although Johnson might still be an option.)