Distinguishing nothing from something

Brandon Vogt and Bishop Robert Barron had what I thought was a great exchange on the topic of creation and being with respect to Stephen Hawking’s argument that the existence of the universe does not require an explanation:

Brandon Vogt: Hawking seems to suggest that really, the only reason to believe in God, is if you think he’s necessary to explain the universe. That God would have been the only possible cause of the universe, and so the rest of the chapter aims to show why the universe could have been created without God. Hawking says explicitly, “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing according to the laws of science,” and he later says, “The laws of nature itself tell us that not only could the universe have popped into existence without any assistance like a proton, and have required nothing in terms of energy, but also that it is possible that nothing caused the Big Bang.” What’s your take on that analysis?

Bishop Robert Barron: He’s doing there what a lot of his acolytes do, which is equivocate on the term “nothing.” I know it seems odd to put it that way, because nothing is nothing. But they really are, they’re equivocating on the meaning of the term.

Let’s stay within the philosophical frame. Within philosophy, “nothing” designates absolute non-being, right? The absolute negation of being of any kind. But when the theoretical physicists use the word “nothing,” they’re using it in a highly equivocal way. They’re not intending by that word absolute metaphysical non-being. They’re talking about really a very rich and fecund field of energy out of which these subatomic particles emerge.

The minute you say what they came from and what they return to, you’re not designating nothing. You’re not designating absolute metaphysical non-being. You’re pointing to this very richly textured field out of which these energies appear. And so it’s throwing the word “nothing” around as though it’s solving a metaphysical problem. What they mean by it is not like a measurable thing, so you might be pointing to a dimension of reality which is not a measurable thing in the conventional sense. If by that you mean “nothing,” fine, but see, what they in fact are indicating is a contingent state of affairs that therefore needs to be explained metaphysically. We still can ask the question, “What’s the condition for the possibility of that state of affairs?”

The thing that you read, that passage, when I read that on the plane, I remember I laughed out loud because: so the universe comes out of absolute non-being, but given the laws of nature. Say what you want about the laws of nature—they’re not nothing. The laws of nature are naming certain fundamental constants that the scientists are operating out of. That’s the epistemological context in which scientists are operating. Say what you want of those, but they’re not absolute non-being. So then the question arises, “How do you explain the laws of nature?” Which I think is a very searching question.

Look, all of the sciences are predicated on the assumption that there is a fundamental intelligibility about being and “laws of nature” is just a way of saying that. That there is an intelligible structure to reality at the ordinary level of our experience and at the most fundamental level of theoretical physics. And Hawking is calling those, for sake of argument, “the laws of nature.” I want to know where those come from! I want to know how it’s just the case that reality is explicable in terms of densely complex mathematical intelligibilities. And all of the sciences assume it—they don’t prove it, they assume it, they rest upon it. Where did those come from? I want to know that.

And don’t play the game of saying, “Oh it’s coming from nothing, it just comes out of absolute non-being.” Oh, and of course conditioned by the “laws of nature.” I mean, philosophically speaking you’re just trading in nonsense there.

Conservatism and T.S. Eliot

Roger Scruton writes on T.S. Eliot, prefaced by this from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute:

Conservatism as understood by Burke and Eliot, isn’t blind adherence to tradition but the ability to immerse oneself in and clearly see present realities. Conservatism’s eye to the present makes it a modern animal.

What was T.S. Eliot about and why does his thinking resonate and endure? Scruton writes:

T. S. Eliot was indisputably the greatest poet writing in English in the twentieth century. He was also the most revolutionary Anglophone literary critic since Samuel Johnson, and the most influential religious thinker in the Anglican tradition since the Wesleyan movement. His social and political vision is contained in all his writings, and has been absorbed and reabsorbed by generations of English and American readers, upon whom it exerts an almost mystical fascination—even when they are moved, as many are, to reject it. …

Eliot attempted to shape a philosophy for our times that would be richer and more true to the complexity of human needs than the free-market panaceas that have so often dominated the thinking of conservatives in government. He assigned a central place in his social thinking to high culture. He was a thorough traditionalist in his beliefs but an adventurous modernist in his art, holding artistic modernism and social traditionalism to be different facets of a common enterprise. Modernism in art was, for Eliot, an attempt to salvage and fortify a living artistic tradition in the face of the corruption and decay of popular culture. …

The Waste Land was later republished with notes in which Eliot explained some of his references and allusions, such as that contained in the title, which alludes to the Fisher King of the Parsifal legend, and The Waste Land over which he presides, awaiting the hero who will ask the questions that will destroy winter’s bleak enchantment and renew the world. The allegory of modern civilization contained in this reference to the medieval fertility cults, and their literary transformation in Arthurian romance, was not lost on Eliot’s readers. Nor was it the first time that these symbols and legends of medieval romance had been put to such a use—witness Wagner’s Parsifal, to which Eliot refers obliquely, by quoting from Verlaine’s poem.

Nevertheless, there was a peculiar poignancy in the very erudition of the poem, as though the whole of Western culture were being brought to bear on the desert landscape of the modern city in a last effort to encompass it, to internalize it, and to understand its meaning. The use of anthropological conceptions parallels Wagner’s use of the Teutonic myths. (In The Waste Land there are more quotations from Wagner than from any other poet.) Eliot is invoking the religious worldview—and in particular the sense that life’s renewal depends upon supernatural forces—but as a fact about human consciousness, rather than an item of religious belief. In this way, he was able to avail himself of religious ideas and imagery without committing himself to any religious belief. As he was rapidly discovering, without religious ideas the true condition of the modern world cannot be described. Only by describing modernity from a point of view outside of history can we grasp the extent of our spiritual loss.

After The Waste Land Eliot continued to write poetry inspired by the agonizing dissociation, as he saw it, between the sensibility of our culture and the available experience of the modern world. …

Culture seems to me to be a necessarily directed thing, meaning that it’s not just a word used to describe community habits or ways of being together, but rather that culture and its roots in the cultus is concerned with elevating and holding sacred certain things, while marking out those things which are not life-giving. Scruton writes on how Eliot thought of culture and democracy as parallel and perhaps oppositional forces:

Eliot was brought up in a democracy. He inherited that great fund of public spirit which is the gift of American democracy to the modern world, and the cause of so much ignorant hatred of America. But he was not a democrat in his sensibility. Eliot believed that culture could not be entrusted to the democratic process precisely because of the carelessness with words, this habit of unthinking cliché, which would always arise when every person is regarded as having an equal right to express himself. …

Hence, the critic has, for Eliot, an enhanced significance in the modern, democratic world. It is he who must act to restore what the aristocratic ideal of taste would have spontaneously generated—a language in which words are used with their full meaning and in order to show the world as it is.

And Scruton on how Eliot thought of religion not simply as dogma, but as something with a rooted and timeless character:

For Eliot, however, religion in general, and the Christian religion in particular, should not be seen merely in Platonic terms as an attitude towards what is eternal and unchanging. The truth of our condition is that we are historical beings who find whatever consolation and knowledge is vouchsafed to us in time. The consolations of religion come to us in temporal costume, through institutions that are alive with the spirit of history. To rediscover our religion is not to rise free from the temporal order; it is not to deny history and corruption, in order to contemplate the timeless truths. On the contrary, it is to enter more deeply into history, so as to find in the merely transitory the mark and the sign of that which never passes: it is to discover the “point of intersection of the timeless with time,” which is, according to Four Quartets, the occupation of the saint. …

And finally here’s Scruton describing Anglican Christianity in a way I’ve never seen it described before:

For Eliot, therefore, conversion was not a matter merely of acknowledging the truth of Christ. It involved a conscious gesture of belonging, whereby he united his poetical labors with the perpetual labor of the Anglican church. For the Anglican church is peculiar in this: that it has never defined itself as “protestant”; that it has always sought to accept rather than protest against its inheritance, while embracing the daring belief that the truths of Christianity have been offered in a local form to the people of England. It is a church which takes its historical nature seriously, acknowledging that its duty is less to spread the gospel among mankind than to sanctify a specific community. And in order to fit itself for this role, the Anglican church has, through its divines and liturgists, shaped the English language according to the Christian message, while also bringing that message into the here and now.

Kevin Williamson wrote on Elon Musk and Eliot’s The Waste Land recently.

‘Better now and unimaginably changed’

I saw this excerpt on Twitter from a conversation with Nick Cave; a brief meditation on the death of his son:

It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madness exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that led us out of the darkness.

I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.

If “infinities of experience” can exist in finite creatures like us, it makes sense to me that our fate is not ultimately finite, either.

‘You might be the source of your own pain’

Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, reflects in an unexpectedly beautiful way on the good life after she was literally hit by a bus:

Sin is like this in that one small lapse can cause great damage. The split second in which I did not see the bus resulted in the breaking of my body and the torment of physical and emotional pain—damage that will take months to heal. Likewise, even small decisions by those in positions of power to look the other way, to fail to see or heed, can result in a multiplicity of brokenness in the church body—brokenness that, like the fractures in my body, must be tended to with great care, time, and skill in order to prevent deformity and malformation from setting in.

Sin is like this in the way its consequences roll like a small snowball into a heaving avalanche. The moment in which I failed to see the bus rendered profound costs for many other people: the members of the medical teams serving in the ambulance crew, emergency room, and the trauma unit; the other patients sharing space and resources in an overcrowded hospital; the witnesses to my accident, one of whom, a fellow believer, connected with me through the increasingly small world of social media and blessed me with her prayers, but who needs prayers herself because of what she and her husband saw that morning; the family and friends whose lives are directly impacted by the care, concern, and service they offer now out of their love for me. Even when the original error seems small and insignificant, sin’s toll is infinite.

Sin is like this in that it’s terrifying to acknowledge that you might be the source of your own pain as well as the pain of others. Sin is like this in that it’s easy, when facing this truth, to become entangled by self-pity, regret, and a sense of helplessness.

And yet, the God of the universe doesn’t leave us alone in our own error. He offers help in the form of people made in his likeness, whether they be strangers who reflect the image of God by intervening out of compassion or brothers and sisters in Christ who serve as his hands and feet in our time of need.

God also intervenes through the person of Jesus Christ, who suffered on our behalf to remove our pain once and for all, not here on this old earth but in the new earth to come: a new earth where busy crosswalks will become streets of gold, where buses will be replaced by horse-drawn chariots, where medical personnel will make way for the Great Physician, and where every tear wrought by our own sin—and by those who have sinned against us—will be wiped away.

But to ignore our sin, to refuse to repent of it once it has been pointed out to us, is as disastrous as ignoring a massive bus bearing down on us.

What a gift she has to write in such a penetrating way after something so physically traumatic. I’ve had this excerpted for a long while sitting in my notes, and keep coming back to it.

Even distributions and new norms

Nellie Bowles reports on the unexpected impact of new technology, namely its unequal utilization across American communities and among the young:

It wasn’t long ago that the worry was that rich students would have access to the internet earlier, gaining tech skills and creating a digital divide. Schools ask students to do homework online, while only about two-thirds of people in the U.S. have broadband internet service. But now, as Silicon Valley’s parents increasingly panic over the impact screens have on their children and move toward screen-free lifestyles, worries over a new digital divide are rising. It could happen that the children of poorer and middle-class parents will be raised by screens, while the children of Silicon Valley’s elite will be going back to wooden toys and the luxury of human interaction.

This is already playing out. Throwback play-based preschools are trending in affluent neighborhoods — but Utah has been rolling out a state-funded online-only preschool, now serving around ten thousand children. Organizers announced the screen-based preschool effort will expand in 2019 with a federal grant to Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho and Montana.

Lower-income teens spend an average of eight hours and seven minutes a day using screens for entertainment, while higher income peers spend five hours and 42 minutes, according to research by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit media watchdog. (This study counted each screen separately, so a child texting on a phone and watching TV for one hour counted as two hours of screens being used.) Two studies that look at race have found that white children are exposed to screens significantly less than African-American and Hispanic children.

“The future is already here,” said William Gibson, “it’s just not very evenly distributed.” I think what we’re seeing is that even as new technologies become “evenly distributed” across geography and demographics, norms and habits of use of that technology also change in response to the pervasive availability of those technologies.

‘Science … our god’

Joan Desmond writes on P.D. James’s The Children of Men, which I hadn’t heard of before, about a world where humanity is dying out because it has lost its spirit:

At the start of this story, Theodore Faron, “Doctor of Philosophy, Fellow of Merton College in the University of Oxford, historian of the Victorian age, divorced, childless, solitary,” contemplates a human race approaching extinction.

Twenty-five years have passed since a child was born in the world and experts can’t explain the cause of this unprecedented tragedy.

“[M]any diseases … have been difficult to diagnose and cure,” Theo muses as he begins a new journal on his 50th birthday in the 2020s.

“Science… our god,” has always provided the key to the puzzle. …

A childless world poses another set of problems for the last generation of human beings, called the “Omegas.” They are generally self-absorbed and passive, with no particular reason for disciplining themselves for future responsibilities. Some have formed themselves into marauding tribes that can turn violent. “If from infancy you treat children as gods they are apt to act like devils,” says Theo.

He respects truth and posterity too much to engage in self-deceiving or destructive behavior. And he is brutally honest about his own flaws, including his “terror of taking responsibility for other people’s lives or happiness.”

But he has one claim to fame: he is the cousin of the “dictator and warden of England” — the egocentric ruler who oversees a nation too fragile and depressed to resist dictatorship.

Theo’s ties to the warden draw the attention of a small band of anti-government dissidents who seek to reform the warden’s policies, including the practice of euthanasia.

Among them is a Christian woman named, Julian. She invites Theo to join a thrilling mission that will have consequences for the entire human race. Likewise, their deep, unconditional bond transforms this brittle elitist into a man capable of genuine love and service for the common good.

The Children of Men is about a world in desperate need of renewal. It is also about one man venturing beyond the fortress of self-sufficiency.

Checking email for 5+ hours daily

Cal Newport on a recent Adobe survey:

… self-reported time spent checking work email has decreased slightly to 3.1 hours per weekday on average. By contrast, the average time spent checking personal email has increased by almost 20% to 2.5 hours per weekday.

Combined: the average daily time spent checking email is now 5.6 hours — up almost a half hour since 2017. …

No one doubts the reality that it’s more efficient to hit “send” than to print a memo or mail a letter, but as observations like the above become more extreme, the claim that email is a straightforward productivity booster has become increasingly indefensible — the dynamics at play are more complex and decidedly dire.

We cannot, in other words, escape the necessity to radically rethink how we work in the age of computer networks.

A metaphor from many years ago that’s stuck with me is the need to balance “vertical” and “horizontal” priorities. The majority of priorities will be spread horizontally, across many different areas of focus requiring many different bits of attention and circling back. But the priorities likely to have the highest impact are often “vertical” priorities, requiring lots of sustained focus and real depth in how one attends to and executes those priorities.

Dignity and placelessness

Gracy Olmstead on Sarah Smarsh’s bookHeartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth“:

“The American Dream has a price tag on it,” she writes. “The cost changes depending on where you’re born and to whom, with what color skin and with how much money in your parents’ bank account. The poorer you are, the higher the price. You can pay an entire life in labor, it turns out, and have nothing to show for it. Less than nothing, even: debt, injury, abject need.”

… many Americans disdain manual labor and the workers who do it. We talk dismissively about those who make our roads, buildings, and airplanes—the farmers who grow our food, the plumbers who fix our toilets, the electricians who make sure our houses have light. We pit blue-collar work against white-collar work as if the latter has greater dignity, meaning, and benefits for society. Yet if push came to shove, we could do without D.C. think tanks much more easily than the men and women who fix our roads. Sadly, all the financial benefits and security go to the knowledge economy workers, while those who make their work possible struggle from paycheck to paycheck. …

There are some important things in this book that conservatives should walk away with. First, we need to do a better job fighting poverty and empowering the poor. Those who call themselves “pro-family” should demonstrate it with policies that support single mothers and new parents (like paid family leave, for one). Sure, it would be better if businesses provided this on their own. But the fact of the matter is that many do not and will not.

Second, our language surrounding the dignity of work and self-sufficiency is good—but it is not sufficient. …

One thought I had while reading Smarsh’s book is that placelessness features largely in the instability and resulting poverty of her story. She does an excellent job explaining why instability is so common among the poor—especially poor women. But I’ve also observed the way embeddedness in good communities (ones with lots of involved citizens, nurturing neighbors, and vibrant associations) has historically fostered better opportunities and social capital for those who stick around, even the poor. Unfortunately, these sorts of communities are on the decline throughout America—which means you have to get lucky in order to find a place like that, or to be born into it. I have increasingly realized that I was one of the lucky ones. There’s a privilege that comes not just from a family or an income, but from a place that nurtures and grows you. Fewer and fewer Americans live in those sorts of places.

“Placelessness” reminds me of “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry” that I saw sometime last year. It’s a “cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of Wendell Berry.” It’s focused on the intersection of American culture and agriculture, but it’s also a good introduction to some of these concerns of Olmstead and Smarsh.

Constitutional approaches

Adam J. MacLeod writes on the Constitution:

I argue that the terms of our Constitution are intelligible when understood in the context of the centuries-old legal tradition from which they are taken. Today I explain why efforts to render intelligible the U.S. Constitution’s terms without reference to the tradition fall short. I examine four efforts to interpret the Constitution and argue that they succeed only insofar as they point to important aspects of our legal tradition. In tomorrow’s conclusion I describe the legal tradition that supplied our constitutional terms and how those terms can be understood and used in both legal and civic discourse. …

He explores four interpretive schemes: the Novelty Constitution, the Enduring Constitution, and the Axiomatic and Natural Rights Constitutions. MacLeod concludes his analysis in his follow-up piece:

The view that the Constitution evolves as judges invent new understandings of its terms falters, for the expansion of judicial power comes at the expense of judicial legitimacy. The text of the Constitution is not alone sufficient because the Constitution does not define its own terms. Interpretive methods that look to natural law and natural rights are grounded in the Constitution, but they are quite limited in practice. The Constitution is not, in Edward Corwin’s words, “a mystic overlaw.” The law of reason on which it is grounded requires specification in rules and judgments.

In today’s essay I argue that those rules and judgments are packed into the Constitution’s terms. For many of the terms of the Constitution are legal terms, pulled out of the common law. …

So, our Constitution is both particular and universal, both young and ancient. Its rules and specifications change over time, but they were designed to change in keeping with the artificial reason and peculiar institutions of the common law. Our Constitution is both much younger and much older than 231 years.

The common law that our Constitution declares and the common-law rights and duties that it secures have a thousand-year history in England and the United States. And the common law incorporates elements that preceded it by several centuries more. Aspects of our Constitution can be traced back to ancient Babylon, Athens, and Jerusalem. In a sense, our constitution is universal.

Yet our Constitution is also not universal in an important sense. It is ours. It reflects our commitments as a people. We have chosen those norms and institutions that enable our people to flourish, such as private property and the jury trial. We have rejected those that suppress human creativity, such as monarchy. And we have abrogated those that are unjust, such as slavery and racial segregation.

We continue to disagree about matters of civic importance. And today our disagreements are often emotional and expressed with rancor. But understood as an expression of the common law commitments on which it was built, our Constitution still supplies common terms in which we might re-transform our civic discourse into something rational and productive.

Worth reading, especially for non-attorneys interested in making sense of the often sharply different perspectives on what the Constitution really is.

Ambiguity, young people, and discernment

Pope Francis and the Vatican are hosting the Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” in Rome this month. Chris Stefanick suggests what Catholic engagement with young people requires right now:

A back-to-basics clarity. I’m not merely speaking about clarity when it comes to specific teachings, but in a more encompassing sense of the word: They want clarity on what, exactly, we have to offer for their lives. And if we can’t answer that for them, they want us to get out of the way.

Our message, the “thing” that we offer, is the Gospel, which, despite all the failures of the Church, remains the best news ever. It’s the news that the human person isn’t a cosmic accident whose destiny is worm food and then nothingness. It’s the message that we’re created with a purpose, redeemed by a loving God who has a plan for our lives, and destined for eternal glory. It’s the message that we’re called to greatness by making Jesus the Lord of our lives. We’re not just invited to call him “friend” and then do what we want. It’s the message that he loves us, even in our weakness, and that his love has deep and profoundly good implications for our lives.

The results are conversions. Every week. A young woman recently approached me after an event and said, “I had an abortion. You’re the first person I’m telling this to. And this is the first time since my abortion that I feel like God can love me again.” I walked her to her priest who heard her confession, and she left a different person. These stories happen all the time. …

Ambiguous language about hard moral issues won’t win souls. After the McCarrick debacle, frankly, vague language from our clerics attempting to be more open-minded and push the envelope on sexual ethics will just seem … well … creepy. (Now is definitely the hour for black-and-white clarity to make a comeback.) …

Creating a rift between new propositions and old moral teachings in an effort to go along with the times won’t make us attractive. It will make us look faithless and confused.

If we want to actually win souls in a world where young people are bombarded by 3,000 ads per day, we have to get back to the basics. We need to be clear about what, exactly, we offer the world. … We have to be known as the Church of the Gospel again.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is in Rome for the Synod, and is a member of its permanent council. At gatherings like these, bishops offer statements called interventions and I’m excerpting from two of Archbishop Chaput’s interventions. First:

Who we are as creatures, what it means to be human, why we should imagine we have any special dignity at all — these are the chronic questions behind all our anxieties and conflicts. And the answer to all of them will not be found in ideologies or the social sciences, but only in the person of Jesus Christ, redeemer of man. Which of course means we need to understand, at the deepest level, why we need to be redeemed in the first place.

If we lack the confidence to preach Jesus Christ without hesitation or excuses to every generation, especially to the young, then the Church is just another purveyor of ethical pieties the world doesn’t need. …

In reality, young people are too often products of the age, shaped in part by the words, the love, the confidence, and the witness of their parents and teachers, but more profoundly today by a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist.

The elders of the faith community have the task of passing the truth of the Gospel from age to age, undamaged by compromise or deformation. Yet too often my generation of leaders, in our families and in the Church, has abdicated that responsibility out of a combination of ignorance, cowardice and laziness in forming young people to carry the faith into the future. Shaping young lives is hard work in the face of a hostile culture. The clergy sexual abuse crisis is precisely a result of the self-indulgence and confusion introduced into the Church in my lifetime, even among those tasked with teaching and leading. And minors — our young people — have paid the price for it.

And second, Archbishop Chaput on youth and vocational discernment in light of maturity:

In his opening Mass homily, the Holy Father described Jesus as “eternally young.” When I heard this, it reminded me of a song by the artist, Jay-Z, that was popular a few years ago. The song was entitled “Forever Young,” and it was a remake of a popular tune by the German group, Alphaville, from the 1980s. Jay-Z sang for the young – and for all of us – “I want to live forever and be forever young.”

The image of Jesus as “eternally young” is not only beautiful but powerful. As we deal with the many outside pressures on the Church today, and the problems we also face within our believing community, we need to remember that Jesus is alive and vigorous, and constantly offering his disciples an abundant new life. …

Of course, the Jesus who came into the world as an infant did not end his mission as a youth. He matured into an adult man of courage, self-mastery, and mercy guided by justice and truth. He was a teacher both tender and forceful; understanding and patient – but also very clear about the kind of human choices and actions that would lead to God, and the kind that would not.

The wealthy societies of today’s world that style themselves as “developed” – including most notably my own – are in fact underdeveloped in their humanity. They’re frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose upon others.

[We need] to be much stronger and more confident in presenting God’s Word and the person of Jesus Christ as the only path to a full and joyful humanity.

I might share one or two more items as the Synod continues, but I’m following it as news filters from Rome. If there’s anything I’ve taken from this so far, it’s how true it is that relationships between different generations can be very difficult, especially for older generations. There’s a continual temptation to “read into” younger generations the same virtues or vices, the same spirit and passions, that characterized your own life, or your own entire generation at an earlier time. This sort of thing makes real encounter with others really difficult, because you’re bringing lots of psychological and emotional baggage into that encounter.