The Scotch Whiskey Principle of Theology and Other Observations

Every issue of First Things Magazine includes a section titled “While We’re At It.” In it editor R.R. Reno writes short, witty, and smart comments on current events. The section is filled with commentary that is too short to be an article but a little too long to be tweetable. Today I give you the best of this month’s “While We’re At It.”

Commenting on Andrew WIlson’s “Twenty Five Bloggers in One Sentence

Wilson has a take on other First Things regulars. Carl Trueman: “No one after tasting Old Calvinism desires new, for he says ‘the Old is better.’” I think that’s best understood as the Scotch whiskey principle of theology. Peter Leithart: “I wouldn’t have a problem with Protestants if they were all like me.” Wait isn’t that the first principle of Protestantism?

Commenting on Union Theological Seminary’s Investment Strategies

Union Theological Seminary here in New York has taken a stand. It’s divesting from fossil fuels. Investment chairman Michael Johnston intones, “Climate change is affecting this globe. It’s killing people, and its going to destroy what the world looks like as we know it. As a seminary we have a moral obligation to no longer profit from the production of fossil fuels.” Presumable that means divesting from companies that are engaged directly in coal, gas, and oil exploration and production, not their use. After all, the latter would entail divesting from the modern economy as a hole since so many companies gain a distinct advantage from using gas powered trucks rather than horse-drawn wagons, thus profiting from the production of fossil fuels.

Conceits about “fossil fuel” divestment aside, what comes through loud and clear is moral self-congratulation. Seminary President Serene Jones: “As a seminary dedicated to social justice, we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.” Indeed, and one thinks of the catastrophic threat posed by our all-too-human anger, bitterness, greed, lust, and will to power. But worry not, rumor has it that the trustees of Union Theological Seminary are considering resolution to divest from the human condition. (Note: I case you missed the punch line – they already have with the denial of original sin.)

Regarding F.A. Hayek’s “Anti-Conservatism”

F.A. Hayek observed that conservatism has little of no place – or at least no positive place – for change. “It has for this reason, been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing.” True, but do we ever reliably go down paths of our own choosing? Take life as an example. The path toward death isn’t one I’ve chosen, and dragging my feet to slow my way toward that destination strikes me as exactly the right reaction. When it comes to death, I’m very reactionary.

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