Sunday, February 5, 2023

A First Look at Aesthetics


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

This is the first in a series on Aesthetics, the branch of philosophy that deals with the principles of beauty and artistic taste. It necessarily touches on Truth also. "Beauty is an effect of Truth that manifests when the object closer to the Truth is perceived by the subject." This is why Aesthetics cannot be set apart from ethics.

Beauty is recognized where one is closer to Truth. Thus, Truth is fundamental and beyond subject-object duality. This approaches Plato's understanding of beauty as transcendent eternal Forms. In Plato's philosophy beauty is not about art or nature. Were we to ask Plato: what is beauty? he would answer: “Forms are beautiful, the perfect being is beautiful, and among these forms, the form of Good is the most beautiful.” 

For the Ancient Greeks, beauty was not a matter of personal taste. According to Aristotle, beauty could be measured. Literally. “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree,” he says in Metaphysics.

An expert on Greek and Roman art, Dr. Dietrich von Bothmer (1918-2009) explained, "Beauty was considered an excellence, like honesty or bravery. Physical beauty was important, but it had to be coupled with goodness of spirit as well."

The Neo-Platonist, Plotinus, insisted that beauty inspires an enquiry into its own source (ontology), and that this world is beautiful because it reflects the beauty of a supreme, undivided, transcendent "One". This One "is prior to all existents" and identified with the concept of Good and the principle of Beauty.

Plotinus has influenced those whose discontent with things as they are has led them to seek the realities behind the appearances of the senses. One of those persons is the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).

Schopenhauer believed that art and aesthetic experience provide escape from an otherwise miserable existence, and that these allow one to attain greater objectivity than science or empirical knowledge. The more a person's mind is concerned with the world as representation, the less it feels the suffering of the world as will. Schopenhauer analyzed art from its effects, both on the personality of the artist, and the personality of the viewer.

When it comes beauty, either as Truth or as an antidote to misery, it is difficult to escape the impression that discernment of beauty is highly subjective. The Irish poet, Oscar Wilde, wrote, "Beauty has as many meanings as man has moods. Beauty is the symbol of symbols. Beauty reveals everything, because it expresses nothing. When it shows us itself, it shows us the whole fiery-coloured world."

In this series on Aesthetics, we will consider three topics:

1. Beauty as a Form of the Good
2. Symbols of Beauty
3. Beauty as therapy

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Turkiye Attacks Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds


Zeynab Serekaniye’s grave is seen in Tal Tamr, Syria on Sept. 4 after she was killed by a Turkish drone strike. Her mother placed a bride’s veil on the grave, saying: “I did not imagine that I would bury my daughter with her unfulfilled dreams. I wanted my daughter to wear this veil at her wedding, not to bury her underground.” SOLIN MUHAMMED AMIN FOR FOREIGN POLICY

Many in the West heard of the severe atrocities the jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) committed against the religious minorities of the Fertile Crescent, especially Christians and Yazidis. Several Western governments later classified these atrocities—which included massacres, crucifixion, torture, and sex slavery—as genocides.

Today, however, few are unaware that these same genocidal atrocities have resumed against the very same religious minorities who most suffered at the hands of ISIS in northern Syria—this time by another Muslim force with caliphal aspirations: Turkey, under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan.

Between November 20-25, 2022, Turkey launched 2,500 attacks—air, mortar, drone, artillery, etc.—several miles deep into Syria's northern border. Governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), this also happens to be where most of the formerly persecuted religious minorities, Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds, live.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

What Albert Einstein Thought of Christianity


Albert Einstein wearing a yarmulke at a synagogue in Berlin.

Einstein's preference for Judaism as a moral system.

Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934

"If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curbing all the social ills of humanity.

It is the duty of every man of good will to strive to steadfastly in his own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so far as he can. If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being crushed and trampled underfoot by his contemporaries, he may consider himself and the community to which he belongs lucky."

(Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, New York, Bonanza Books, 1954, pp. 184-185. Also, Einstein's The World as I See It,Philosophical Library, New York, 1949, pp. 111-112)

He believed that "Judaism is not a creed: the Jewish God is simply a negation of superstition..." (Ideas and Opinions, p. 186.)

Einstein's attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church.

In a 1940 issue of Time magazine, Einstein expressed a change of heart toward the Catholic Church for its role in opposing the Nazis:
"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly."


Einstein's appreciation for the uniqueness of Jesus.

Einstein expressed his attitude toward Jesus in an interview by George Sylvester Viereck that he gave to The Saturday Evening Post (October 26, 1929). He was asked, "To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?

Einstein replied, "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."

When asked if he had read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus, Einstein stated, "Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot."

In the same interview, Einstein was asked if he accepted the historical Jesus.

He answered, "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus.” (Einstein, as cited in Viereck 1929; see also Einstein, as cited in the German magazine Geisteskampf der Gegenwart, Guetersloh, 1930, S. 235).

George Sylvester Viereck said, "Ludwig Lewisohn, in one of his recent books, claims that many of the sayings of Jesus paraphrase the sayings of other prophets."

"No man," Einstein replied, "can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he."

Einstein on the relationship of Science and Religion.

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." ("Science, Philosophy and Religion: A Symposium", 1941.)

Saturday, December 3, 2022

American Evangelicals Fail to Support Palestinian Christians

Alice C. Linsley

American Evangelicals seem to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses in Israel. They generally support Israel as the Holy Land promised to Abraham the Hebrew. This unexamined claim is both historically and biblically inaccurate. Abraham's territory was in the land of ancient Edom, between Hebron and Beersheba. It did not correspond to the boundaries of the modern state of Israel.

Israel justifies its continued land grab based on the erroneous claim that Jews have a special religious connection to the land. This effort to achieve legitimacy through an appeal to religion fails when examined in detail. 

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has gone on for more than 100 years with no end in sight.

Israeli authorities have expropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian land for settlements and their supporting infrastructure. Discriminatory burdens, including making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in East Jerusalem and in the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control (Area C), have effectively forced Palestinians to leave their homes or to build at the risk of seeing their “unauthorized” structures bulldozed. For decades, Israeli authorities have demolished homes on the grounds that they lacked permits, even though the law of occupation prohibits destruction of property except for military necessity, or punitively as collective punishment against families of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis.

The law of occupation, designed to regulate the exceptional and temporary situation in which a foreign military power displaces the lawful sovereign and rules by force, grants an occupier broad but limited powers to restrict individuals and their rights to meet security needs.

After more than 50 years of failure to rein in abuses associated with the occupation, the international community should take more active measures to hold Israeli and Palestinian authorities to their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. Other countries and businesses should cease activities carried out inside settlements and change policies that support settlement-related activities and infrastructure, in keeping with their respective human rights responsibilities. 

Before 1948, Jerusalem was almost half Christian, now it is barely 2% due to wars, violence, and discriminatory policies practiced by the Israeli government.

Christians fail to support their fellow Christians

Ironically, the support of Israel's policies by American Evangelicals puts tremendous burden upon Christians, especially in places such as Bethlehem where they are already persecuted by the Muslim authorities.

Samir Qumsieh, director of the Catholic television station Al-Mahed Nativity TV in Bethlehem, reported in AsiaNews that "the emigration of Christians is growing, even if the authorities refuse to give precise numbers. Every day there are people who flee to other countries. As Christians, we live in a constant feeling of fear and uncertainty, and if you live in constant tension and pessimism, you cannot plan anything."

Many Palestinian Christians have immigrated to other countries where they find greater opportunities for their children. Sadly, it is possible that in the near future there may be no Christians living in the homeland of Jesus Messiah.

The Christian population of Taybeh is beginning to stabilize due to initiatives within the village that have stimulated the economy. One cause of celebration is the October Beer Festival which draws tourists from Jerusalem in spite of the many roadblocks maintained by the State of Israel. The beer is produced at Palestine's only micro-brewery.

A housing area for Jews only has been built in the area. It receives water 7 days a week while the nearly 2000 residents of Taybeh receive water only 3 days a week.

About three and a half million Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza, but only a small percentage are Christian. While Jews and Muslims slaughter each other the Christian minority is caught in the middle. It is trying to live in peace and to practice Christ's command to love even those who seek to harm them.

Archbishop Atallah Hannah (Orthodox Church of Sebastia) reports that, "Palestinians, Christian or Muslim, are deprived [by Israel] of visiting holy sites in Jerusalem."

Israeli expansionism punishes all Palestinians, regardless of their religion.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

TEC is the Anglican Communion’s Undisciplined Child


Alice C. Linsley

There is no conciliar spirit in the Episcopal Church USA. ECUSA/TEC has consistently set itself apart from the received Tradition by its dangerous innovations. It does not care about the Anglican Communion. It acts on its own impulses like an undisciplined, rebellious child.

Rebellious actions are evident in the way TEC has progressively distanced itself from the core beliefs and practices of Christianity. Catholicity and ecumenical consensus play no role in the body’s decisions. TEC was the first to break the back of catholic orders when it unilaterally began to ordain women to the priesthood. Then came the ordination of partnered gay and lesbian clergy, and the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian bishops. This was followed by same-sex “marriages” and experimental liturgies and prayers that ooze political agendas and leftist ideologies.  

Consider this collect circulating on Episcopal social media sites:

“Fire-borne God,

before the violence of your passion

no separating wall can stand:

may your unseen Spirit

pour herself upon young and old,

male and female, gay and straight,

throw our borders into confusion

and give us a new language of love;

through Jesus Christ, the Image of God’s Being.”


The wording is reminiscent of the 2019 American Socialist Convention slogan: “No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries.” The borders are indeed thrown into confusion.


Now the General Convention of the Episcopal Church is to consider a proposal to eliminate Baptism as a prerequisite to receive Holy Communion. Resolution C028 reads:

Resolved, That the Diocese of Northern California requests that 80th General Convention repeal CANON I.17.7 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (2018 Revision, page 88), which states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”


If TEC's definition of "inclusion" takes precedence over Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we know what the decision will be. The debate has been heated and there have been some excellent observations by a few orthodox clergy. Now there is a rumor that the decision will be postponed. The Episcopal Church cannot afford to lose more people and people leave when they are angry.

We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of Jesus' death and resurrection. The proper order is articulated by the Apostle Peter. “Repent, be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2). If passed at TEC’s General Convention, this canon change will overthrow the Apostolic order, endanger the souls of many people since the Blood of Jesus both saves and condemns, and put orthodox Episcopal clergy in an extremely difficult position. Some will leave TEC. Probably the inclusion activists want exactly that.

Speaking as an anthropologist, every society, religious group, clan, and tribe have boundaries that preserve their identities. The Scriptures indicate that for members of the Body of Christ the boundary is set at Baptism into the Lord's death and resurrection. Having put off the old and put on Christ, the new member receives His Body and Blood, the medicine of immortality. Paul says that it is spiritually dangerous for the unregenerate to receive the sacrament. Whether we agree with the Apostle or not, those who are to protect the soul and edify the Body should not take this decision lightly. The Lord holds them accountable for the spiritual injuries they inflict.

The Hebrew (long before Judaism emerged) were a royal priest caste, probably the oldest known caste. The Hebrew ruler-priest caste protected its identity by marrying only within their caste, not eating with non-caste members, circumcision, etc. Peter applies this to the Church, saying that those who serve Jesus Christ are a nation of royal priests. The Church has every right to protect its identity. Indeed, this is a sacred duty.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Artifacts Confiscated from New York Met


This Hellenistic bust of a veiled woman, dating to 350 B.C. was looted from a temple decades ago, and confiscated from the Met in February 2022. It was returned to Libya.

Five Egyptian antiques collectively valued at more than $3 million, have been seized from the Metropolitan Museum by the New York District Attorney’s Office. The confiscation is part of an extensive investigation into the international trafficking of Egyptian antiquities that led to the indictment of former president and director of the Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez.

Four of the pieces came from the collection of Roben Dib, a dealer suspected by U.S. and French authorities of selling looted objects to art institutions. Dib is currently detained in Paris, where he is awaiting trial on charges of gang fraud and money laundering. The Met has been contending with its connections to Dib for several years.

Among the artifacts seized were a resplendent Fayum portrait, a painted panel commonly placed over the face of mummies in Roman Egypt. That work depicts a woman in a blue dress and dates to around 60 BC.

The other seized work is composed of five fragments of a wall hanging from the 4th or 5th century AD. They are considered one of the oldest representations of the Book of Exodus.

Read more here

Monday, May 9, 2022

Alastair Norcross' Scalar Utilitarianism


Alastair Norcross is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, specializing in normative ethics, applied ethics, and political philosophy. He is a defender of utilitarianism and "regards all natural rights as nonsense."

Norcross maintains that consequentialism does not offer a criterion of right action and it does not answer the question of what we are morally required to do, or what actions are right or wrong. Instead, it only offers a ranking of the moral value of actions. It tells us that action A is morally better than action B, but it does not tell us how far down the scale of goodness moral acceptability extends. 

The consequentialist cares about promoting values which come in degrees. In his 2020 book Morality by Degrees: Reasons without Demands, Norcross articulates and defends his approach to ethical theory or scalar utilitarianism. He argues that the basic judgments of morality are essentially comparative: alternatives are judged to be better or worse than each other. Scalar utilitarianism is not concerned with values of right and wrong, but rather addresses actions as comparatively and contextually better or worse in terms of their consequences. 

In Norcross' view, the consequentialist plays into the hands of his deontological opponent if he makes the distinction between right and wrong actions central to his ethics.

Norcross denies divine authority because he contends that any moral theory can be made to bow to "divine command."

In a 2019 interview, Norcross was asked, "If you could ask an honest omniscient being one question, what would it be?"

He responded with this question: "Is there continuation of worthwhile conscious existence after physical death? I’m pretty sure the answer is no, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed to hear that. But if the answer is yes, that would be worth knowing."