Book Launch: “Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness”

My first book went live on Amazon today. Its introduction and first chapter were originally blog posts, but the rest the book consists of essays published over the past five years. If you can help spread the word, please do. I’ll prepare a paperback version. I now append the book description.—Anthony Flood

Herbert Aptheker (1915-2003), a pioneering researcher in African-American slave revolts, was also an American Communist theoretician. Anthony Flood, who attended Aptheker’s lectures a half-century ago, became his research assistant, friend and comrade. Decades after Flood repudiated the comradeship, it dawned on him that Aptheker’s politics had blocked his research in his area of specialization: he failed to recognize The Black Jacobins, the work of C. L. R. James (1901-1989) that chronicled the only successful slave revolt in modern times. The failure was ideological.

In the course of investigating this silence, Flood discovered scholars who admired both writers, but never at the same time. Doing so would have forced them to address the uncomfortable truth that one of their heroes ignored the other. That is, the white radical scholar ignored the black radical scholar who was 14 years his senior. The only explanation, Flood contends, is that Aptheker, the Stalinist, could not bring himself to acknowledge the work of James, the Trotskyist.

There are other problems with Aptheker’s legacy, of course, such as his uncovering the truth about slavery in the Americas while covering it up in the Soviet Union and its satellites. The “dissing” of James, however, undermines his “anti-racism” reputation as well as his argument that “partisanship with the oppressed” makes objectivity in history writing possible. He was a partisan of too many oppressors. He eventually admitted his own “willful blindness” (his words), yet that didn’t stop him from defending, as late as 2000, The Truth about Hungary, his book-length apologia for the Soviet Union’s crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness includes not only Flood’s essay on Aptheker and James, but also vignettes of his coming into Aptheker’s life as a high school student and that of Sidney Hook (Aptheker’s nemesis and Flood’s philosophy professor). Also included are a review of the first biography of Aptheker and an inquiry into Aptheker’s status as an historian. Appendices include Aptheker’s first essay (in The American Hebrew) and Flood’s first letter on Aptheker (in The Journal of American History).

Herbert Aptheker expressed the ethos of the American Communist Party in its heyday, an atmosphere that pervades “progressive” American politics today. If you want to look at his role in that “progression,” this monograph is a good place to start.

Once more on Romans 13: James Redford’s “Jesus Is an Anarchist”

As I have an interest in dislodging the sediment of encrusted theological opinion, today I post an excerpt from James Redford’s 2001 essay “Jesus Is an Anarchist,” the text of which is here: anti-state.com and revised and expanded in 2011. It complements Otis Q. Sellers’s situating of Romans 13:1-7 in the Acts dispensation, posted recently.—Anthony Flood

It is often claimed that Christians are required to submit to government, as this is supposedly what Paul commanded that we are supposed to do in Romans 13. Thus:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1-7

But in actual fact Paul never does tell us in above excerpt from Romans 13 to submit to government!—at least certainly not as they have existed on Earth and are operated by men.

In fact, Paul would be an outright, boldfaced hypocrite were he to command anyone to do such a thing: for Paul himself did not submit to government, and if he had then he would not even have been alive to be able to write Romans 13.

Continue reading “Once more on Romans 13: James Redford’s “Jesus Is an Anarchist””

Two Passovers? What a difference a calendar makes.

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, “it was the day of the Preparation of the Passover” (John 19:14; emphasis added). Passover lay in the near future. And yet Jesus told his disciples, “With desire I have desired to eat this the Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15; emphasis added). What is commonly called “The Last Supper” was the Passover.

If, however, the arguments of Colin J. Humphreys’s The Mystery of the The Last Supper hold up, there is no discrepancy. We may believe Jesus did celebrate the Passover on Nisan 14, not according to the calendar devised during the Babylonian Exile, however, but according to the pre-exilic calendar of ancient Israel. Those calendars were as different from each other as, say, the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar differs from the equally serviceable calendar of the Eastern Orthodox.

The pre-exilic calendar, being 364 days in length, is evenly divisible by 7. In such a calendar, therefore, any given date falls on the same day every year. Therefore, that calendar’s Nisan 14 has always fallen on a Wednesday since the first Passover.  Humphreys’s hypothesis, to which I cannot do justice here, dissolves apparent discrepancies that have challenged faithful readers of the Gospels.Image result for The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus

For example, even though Jesus was arrested after eating His Passover, John’s Gospel has servants of the high priest Caiaphas conducting Jesus to Pilate’s hall of judgment before the “official” Passover: “and they themselves went not in the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover” (John 18:28b).

Continue reading “Two Passovers? What a difference a calendar makes.”

Romans 13: another contrarian interpretation

Last week I posted Eric Voegelin’s “Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 13,” which exposes the weaponization of the Apostle Paul’s words in the service of the state, even Hitler’s, making every scoundrel with executive authority an ordained minister. After reading it, libertarian scholar Gerard N. Casey brought to my attention other alternative interpretations of Romans 13:1-7,  readings that regard the “powers that be” to be, not “civil,” but rather ecclesial or spiritual. Those views pass in review in Casey’s magisterial Freedom’s Progress?: A History of Political Thoughtwhich I unreservedly recommend to my visitors, especially (for its relevance to our topic) pages 198-209.

Today I share with you yet another view, one I discovered forty years ago, but only now am willing to own. It’s from the pen of the late Otis Q. Sellers (1901-1992), whose life I’m researching for a biography. Today happens to be his birthday.—Anthony G. Flood

The  Powers That Be

Otis Q. Sellers (1901-1992)

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” This is Paul’s positive declaration recorded in Romans 13:1, and there is no verse in Scripture that has been misapplied more than this one. In all church theology “the higher powers” are made to be the civil authorities, whoever they may be in any country and at any time. And it needs to be said that of all the absurd interpretations ever made by theologians, this one takes first prize. It is unworkable and unbelievable, and it cannot be followed out through the additional statements that follow this declaration.

Continue reading “Romans 13: another contrarian interpretation”

Eric Voegelin on Romans 13

The following “Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 13” has been taken from Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the Germans, translated and edited by Detlev Clemens and Brendan Purcell, University of Missouri Press, 2003, 178-183. This is from a lecture Voegelin gave at the University of Munich in the summer of 1964. I have taken the liberty of breaking up long paragraphs. I’ll share another contrarian interpretation of Romans 13 next week.—Anthony G. Flood

Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 

Image result for Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the GermansAnd now, in concluding this investigation on the Evangelical side, a theoretical inquiry into Romans 13 for the Evangelical part, and then for the Catholic part an inquiry into the theological idea of the corpus mysticum Christi, so that the decadence I have repeatedly spoken of will come to light.

In all the documents, Evangelical and Catholic, with which those belonging to the communities were enjoined to obey Hitler, there are two texts from the Bible invoked by the clergy in order to command obedience to the authorities. Among the two, on the Catholic side, in the documents I will present to you next time, the fourth commandment is preferred. That commandment is “Honor your father and your mother.” This father and mother is now interpretatively expanded as “Honor the state, carry out its laws, obey the authorities!”

Please note that. Not a word of all that is in the fourth commandment—for the good historical reason that precisely in the covenant of Sinai, within which the Decalogue was announced, the people existed under God and not under authorities. There was no occasion for speaking about having to obey any kind of authorities at all. So it is unhistoric and anachronistic, and if such an alteration of an interpretative kind were made to a text in a secular context by a scholar, one would say: Absolutely barefaced falsification of the text!  When theologians do it, then it is the church.

Continue reading “Eric Voegelin on Romans 13”

Do atheists have an excuse?

In a short post few months ago, Bill Vallicella argued that “If God exists, and one is an atheist, then one is ignorant of God, but it does not follow that one is culpably ignorant.” (Italics added.)

Bill takes his definition of “culpable ignorance” from a Catholic dictionary: ignorance is blameworthy if the ignorant one could have “cleared up” his ignorance, but chose not to. “One is said to be simply (but culpably) ignorant,” the dictionary says, “if one fails to make enough effort to learn what should be known.”

Bill applies this to the atheist this way:

I hold that there is vincible ignorance on various matters. But I deny that atheists are vincibly ignorant. Some might be, but not qua atheists. Whether or not God exists, one is not morally culpable for denying the existence of God. Nor do I think one is morally culpable if one doubts the existence of God.

Bill acknowledges that his exculpation of the professing atheist “puts me at odds with St. Paul, at least on one interpretation of what he is saying at Romans 1: 18-20.”

I’ll say! As Bill wrote in the post he linked to: “There are sincere and decent atheists, and they have plenty of excuse for their unbelief. The best of them, if wrong in the end, are excusably wrong.”

Continue reading “Do atheists have an excuse?”

God has spoken. “So what?,” you might ask.

Forty years ago an atheist drew a sound inference:

Working from the premise that an omniscient, infallible being exists and that this being has revealed a proposition to man, it is a short, logical—and uncontroversial—step to conclude that this proposition is worthy of belief. . . . If the proposition comes from an infallible, nondeceitful God, it cannot be false; therefore, it must be true. George Smith, Atheism: the Case against God, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books 1979, 172. New edition with a foreword by Lawrence M. Krauss 2016

Atheism - The Case Against God.jpgSince the ultimate ground for drawing inferences (including Smith’s) is the existence of the God of the Bible, I take every proposition I find in the Bible to be God-communicated and therefore worthy of belief. To the best of my ability I regiment my thinking in accordance with the information they convey from God’s mind to mine.

So I agree with Smith, not on his authority but on Jesus’:

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

That’s how it will be when God governs the Earth. (Jesus said “shall,” not merely “ought to.”) As Isaiah prophesied:

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven! Matthew 6:10 (ESV)

Going forward, I’ll be exploring what that regimentation means. My conclusions won’t please all visitors, even the friends among them. But since I’m morally certain that there are more grains in the bottom of my hour glass than the top, people-pleasing cannot be my priority. Ephesians 6:6. Love the truth, I say, and let the chips fall where they may.

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George H. Smith

As for what Smith (and others) thought he achieved in that book: his metaphysics of “natural necessity,” epistemology of “reason,” and ethics of “life” (or “happiness”) jointly constituted the philosophy he adduced in support of what he called “critical atheism.” By its internal incoherence it disqualified itself from being a reasonable basis for affirming or denying anything. I exposed that incoherence thirty years ago. The curious among you may read that exposé on my old site.

“Your word is truth,” the Word said.

Jesus prayed those words to His Father a few hours before His crucifixion. (John 17:17; see also Psalm 119:160: “The sum of your words is truth”). He probably meant all the thoughts the Father had ever communicated to His created image-bearers. He asked the Father to sanctify His disciples (set them apart) in the truth (ἀλήθεια, aletheia).

But He had also said, “I am the way (ὁδός, hodos), the truth, and the life (ζωή, zoe).” (John 14:6) So when He prayed “Your word (λόγος, logos) is truth,” Jesus could as easily also have meant Himself, for He is also the Word of God. (John 1:1) Not figuratively, or poetically, but actually. When Pilate asked Him, “What is truth?,” He denied him the privilege of hearing what Thomas heard: “I am [identical with] the truth and life.”

The Truth of God the Father is expressed in the Word. An excellent translation of the Greek λόγος (logos ) is “expression.” Jesus expresses or “projects” the Father perfectly to us. He’s the invisible God’s εἰκών (eikon) or express image (Colossians 1:15). Jesus, the Son of God, is the “exact imprint (χαρακτήρ, charakter) of God’s nature (hypostaseos, ὑποστάσεως, person, substance). That’s why “If you had known me you would have known my Father also.” (John 14: 7) He’s the perfect expression of the Father, His Character, His Truth.

Jesus’ life is the light (phos) of men (anthropos, not andros). (John 1:3) King David, whose son He was, was divinely inspired to express this insight into the organic link between illuminating Light and Life: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

If we love wisdom, the wisdom of God (the only wisdom worth seeking), then Jesus is our philosophical (wisdom-loving) GPS.

Jesus declared that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) But as great as that joy is, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” wrote the Apostle John under divine inspiration. (3 John 1:4)

How often do our lives occasion this joy in God?

“We were the first fascists”: from Garvey to Farrakhan

On August 13, 1920 Marcus Garvey presided at the convention of the United Negro Improvement Association held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There he promulgated the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. Its 54 points comprise the farthest thing from a fascist manifesto.

And yet, as my friend Hugh Murray noted a quarter-century ago, Garvey “admired . . . leading anti-communists, such as Mussolini. Indeed, in 1937 Garvey proudly proclaimed of his Universal Negro Improvement Association, ‘We were the first fascists.’[1]

Here’s the full quote:

We were the first Fascists, when we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown. Mussolini copied our Fascism.[2]

He said this in 1937, after Mussolini consolidated his rape of Ethiopia.

While many liberals [Murray continues] are the first to hurl the word “fascist” at those with whom they disagree, they usually ignore the fascism of blacks, even when publicly advocated.[3]

A few years after Hugh wrote those words, King’s College Professor of American and English Literature Paul Gilroy came out with “Black Fascism” (Transition, Indiana UPress, 2000, 70-91), a scholarly monograph on Garvey’s boast, the first instance of Black public advocacy of fascism. I recommend it to students of this overlooked chapter of Black American history.

George Lincoln Rockwell, center

On June 25, 1961 American Nazi Party Commander George Lincoln Rockwell sat in the Uline Arena, Washington, DC (where the Beatles would give their first US concert a few years later). He was there at the invitation of Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Elijah Muhammad. Thousands were in attendance. During the collection, Rockwell shouted:

George Lincoln Rockwell gives $20!

Continue reading ““We were the first fascists”: from Garvey to Farrakhan”

“The Godless Delusion”: my truth-in-advertising concern

Image result for Patrick Madrid and Kenneth HensleyA Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism is the subtitle of Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley‘s 2010 The Godless DelusionI applaud their popular presentation of the presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics in the course of taking down contemporary atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and many others. They rack these naturalistic bowling pins and knock them down, with strike after strike. Readers can cull a rich bibliography from the reference notes.

But what is distinctively Catholic about their challenge to atheism?

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Patrick Madrid

Granted, Madrid and Hensley are Catholics. So are some (but not all) of the authors they cite in illustration of their arguments. Paragraphs of The Catechism of the Catholic Church are cited on many of the book’s pages. But, unlike virtually every other book by Madrid, it’s not a primer of Catholic apologetics, that is, a case for joining the Roman Catholic communion.

Image result for kenneth hensley
Kenneth Hensley

They argue that the Christian worldview alone makes sense of our sense-making. But that approach to apologetics has been a Protestant, largely Reformed (Calvinist), enterprise for more than a century. Madrid and Hensley do not make that clear. Continue reading ““The Godless Delusion”: my truth-in-advertising concern”