Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

John C. Wright compares the GOP and Democratic platforms on abortion. It truly is a life and death difference:

Democratic Party Platform on Abortion (source http://www.issues2000.org/Celeb/Democratic_Party_Abortion.htm)

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

The Republican Party Platform on Abortion (http://www.ontheissues.org/celeb/Republican_Party_Abortion.htm)

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm)

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.

Between Babel and Beast

Between Babel and Beast is Peter Leithart’s newest book, this time on the subject of American Empire. My copy is on the way. I just read a review from Roger Olson, a man who is probably not at all sympathetic with Leithart’s theological positions, but hear what he says:

If Leithart were not who he is, a theologically conservative American Protestant (and possibly some kind of Christian Reconstructionist), he would be labeled (by Religious Right types and conservative evangelicals in general) a liberal liberationist critic America and dismissed as a “leftist.” Of course, he’s not that. But many of his criticisms of America echo ones found in the literature of Latin American liberation theologians. For example, he gives numerous examples of instances in which America has contributed to the overthrow (often violent) of democratically elected Latin American governments solely to protect “American interests” (viz., the interests of large American corporations). He doesn’t just throw these charges out there without supportive detail. Read the book.

[…]

Of all the books I have read in the past several years, this one strikes a chord with me most strongly. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Get it and read it. Let it speak to you. Share it with someone you know who believes in “American exceptionalism.”

I don’t know if Leithart is a prophet in the same category as Isaiah or Amos or John the Baptist (or Gregory of Nyssa or Chrysostom), but this book is prophetic. It (especially Parts II and III) ought to be required reading in every American church and Christian organization.

I think this will be a great follow up to Against Christianity and Defending Constantine.

Bavinck on Darwin

Bavinck writes of Darwin:

Darwin was led to his agnostic naturalism as much by the misery which he observed in the world as by the facts which scientific investigation brought under his notice. There was too much strife and injustice in the world for him to believe in providence and a predetermined goal. A world so full of cruelty and pain he could not reconcile with the omniscience, the omnipotence, the goodness of God. An innocent and good man stands under a tree and is struck by lightning. “Do you believe,” asks Darwin of his friend Gray, “that God slew this man on purpose? Many or most people believe this; I cannot and will not believe it.” The discovery of the so-called law of “natural selection” brought him accordingly a real feeling of relief, for by it he escaped the necessity of assuming a conscious plan and purpose in creation. Whether God existed or not, in either case he was blameless. The immutable laws of nature, imperfect in all their operations, bore the blame for everything, while at the same time guaranteeing that the world is not a product of chance and is progressing as a whole towards a better condition.

Hagarism Sources II

Patricia Crone’s book Hagarism refers to the History of Bishop Sebeos, translated here. Crone says, “For this we have to turn to the earliest connected account of the career of the Prophet, that given in an Armenian chronicle written in the 660s and ascribed to Bishop Sebeos. The story begins with the exodus of Jewish refugees from Edessa following its recovery by Heraclius from the Persians towards 628:” She then quotes part of the following section about the rise of Islam:

I shall discuss the [line of the] son of Abraham: not the one [born] of a free [woman], but the one born of a serving maid, about whom the quotation from Scripture was fully and truthfully fulfilled, “His hands will be at everyone, and everyone will have their hands at him [Genesis 16. 11,12].”

Twelve peoples [representing] all the tribes of the Jews assembled at the city of Edessa. When they saw that the Iranian troops had departed and left the city in peace, they [122] closed the gates and fortified themselves. They refused entry to troops of the Roman lordship. Thus Heraclius, emperor of the Byzantines, gave the order to besiege it. When [the Jews] realized that they could not militarily resist him, they promised to make peace. Opening the city gates, they went before him, and [Heraclius] ordered that they should go and stay in their own place. So they departed, taking the road through the desert to Tachkastan to the sons of Ishmael. [The Jews] called [the Arabs] to their aid and familiarized them with the relationship they had through the books of the [Old] Testament. Although [the Arabs] were convinced of their close relationship, they were unable to get a consensus from their multitude, for they were divided from each other by religion. In that period a certain one of them, a man of the sons of Ishmael named Muhammad, a merchant, became prominent. A sermon about the Way of Truth, supposedly at God’s command, was revealed to them, and [Muhammad] taught them to recognize the God of Abraham, especially since he was informed and knowledgeable about Mosaic history. Because the command had [g104] come from On High, he ordered them all to assemble together and to unite in faith. Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father, Abraham. Muhammad legislated that they were not to [123] eat carrion, not to drink wine, not to speak falsehoods, and not to commit adultery. He said: “God promised that country to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And what had been promised was fulfilled during that time when [God] loved Israel. Now, however, you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfill the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father, Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you.”

Then all of them assembled together, from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt [The text is corrupt here. The citation is from Genesis 25.18], and they set out from the P’arhan desert [being] twelve tribes [moving] in the order [of precedence] of the Houses of the patriarchs of their tribe. They were divided into 12,000 men, of which the sons of Israel were in their own tribes, 1,000 to a tribe, to lead them to the country of Israel. They travelled army by army in the order [of precedence] of each patriarchy: Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah [Genesis 25. 13-16]. These are the peoples of Ishmael. They reached Moabite Rabbath, at the borders of [124] Ruben’s [land]. The Byzantine army was encamped in Arabia. [The Arabs] fell upon them suddenly, struck them with the sword and put to flight emperor Heraclius’ brother, Theodosius. Then they turned and encamped in Arabia.

The author of Sebeos later writes: “We heard this [account] from men [who had returned] from captivity in Xuzhastan Tachkastan, who themselves had been eye-witnesses to the events described and narrated them to us.” Crone notes “The chronicle ends in 661 and was clearly written by a contemporary; the question of its true authorship and title does not concern us. The account of the Arab conquests is stated to be based on testimony of eyewitnesses who had been held prisoner by the Arabs (p. 102).”

The differences of this account of Islamic origins and the version we here from Islam are obvious.

Note:

Post I here.

S.S. Beheadings

In the 1977 book The Nazis and the Occult, Dusty Sklar mentioned a bizarre practice that she maintained the Nazi SS practiced. Sklar said that the SS beheaded young Aryans and used their heads to communicate to the spirit realm (this reminds me of an incident in the C.S. Lewis Space trilogy). Sklar wrote:

A professor of anthropology at Occidental College in California, C. Scott Littleton, provided me with astonishing details of another SS ceremony which has not been corroborated by anyone else, but which may well be true. A professor friend of his, he claims, saw original Nazi depositions taken for the Nuremberg Trials, but never included in the record, which told of a periodic sacrifice wherein a fine Aryan specimen of an SS man was beheaded and the severed head made a vehicle for communion with Secret Masters in the Caucasus. These beings, presumably, were not believed to be earthly, and were looked to for guidance.

Her source for this assertion was a Professor named C. Scott Littleton. I looked him up back in June 2008 and emailed him about this practice. Professor Littleton wrote me back. I looked him up online today and noticed that he died in 2010. Since he has passed on, I thought I should publish his remarks to me, as they provide background to Sklar’s book and are probably not available elsewhere. Our exchange follows:

[I asked]: Dusty Sklar’s book the Nazis and the Occult mentions you talking about an SS ceremony involving beheading. Have you confirmed the veracity of that story? Have you documented it anywhere?

[He replied]:

My information on this bizarre SS ritual came from a old UCLA friend and professional colleague, who, at his longstanding request, must remain nameless. However, having known the guy for more than forty years, I have every reason to accept what he related to me–and what I related to Ms. Sklar–as true. My friend is a native German-speaker, who came to this country as a child in the early 1950s. He went on to do graduate work in Germanic literature, and in 1968, while studying at a German university on a Ford Foundation grant, he became friendly with one of his professors, who must also remain nameless, although he was then well on his way to becoming a distinguished folklorist. One evening, after they’d quaffed more than a few steins at a local bierstube, for reasons my friend has never completely understood, his companion said he wanted to show him something. They went back to the professor’s office, and, as it was late in the evening, few other people were around. From a locked cabinet in an inner room he removed a set of yellowing files and asked my friend to look at them. What they said sobered him up almost immediately.

As it turned out, during what turned out to be his last leave, the professor’s late father, who’d been an SS general, left a box of files with his wife, telling her to hide them away–and especially not to show them to any Allied soldiers or officials. He soon returned to the Eastern front and was never heard from again.

Some years later, after his mother’s death, my friend’s informant inherited the box of files. Although he’d been a member of the Hitler Youth at when he last saw his father, by the time he became a university student, he’d long since divested all remnants of the Nazi ideology he’d been exposed to as a child. But he kept the files hidden away, agonizing over whether to make them public. He ended up keeping them in the locked cabinet just mentioned.

What they contained were transcripts of what amounted to extremely bizarre “séances” regularly held by the senior officers of his SS unit. A young, totally “Aryan”-looking SS lieutenant would be invited for a private dinner with his superiors. After the dishes had been cleared away, the victim’s arms would be pinioned against his chair and a SS surgeon would swiftly decapitate the young man, cauterize his head, and place it in a tray in the middle of the table. After the headless body had been removed (his family would be told that he died in battle as a hero), the senior officer (that is, the SS general) would ask it questions about various military matters, and then, in a trance, repeat aloud the head’s replies–although it appeared that the head was simply a conduit for information from “secret masters” of some sort (aliens, perhaps?). In any case, the questions were supplied by Berlin, and similar rituals were apparently conducted at other SS units. The answers were all forwarded to Berlin, where they would be collated and used in strategic planning. What my friend saw were the file copies the general had kept.

As you can imagine, my friend was not in a position to take any notes, let alone photocopy what he’d read, even if he’d had a camera with him. But as soon as he returned to his room he spent the rest of the night waiting up his impressions of what he’d just read–and heard, as the professor had glossed a number aspects based on what he remembered his father and later his mother telling him.

There’s a curious twist to this story. After my friend returned to the States, he showed his notes to me, and I urged him to photocopy them ASAP. This was 1969, and Xerox machines were not yet ubiquitous, so he decided to use the library machines. On his way there, he set his briefcase down for a few seconds while he took a drink from a drinking fountain. But when he reached down to pick it up, the briefcase was gone. Someone had stolen it–along with his notes. Was this a coincidence? Or did someone know what was in that briefcase. . . ? We’ll never know.

Yes, he subsequently did his best to reconstruct what he’d written immediately after seeing the documents, but it wasn’t the same. Some years later, at my suggestion, he approached a publisher, but that was shortly after the Howard Hughes biography hoax surfaced, and they wouldn’t even begin to consider something like this without extensive documentation.

Anyway, that’s where it remains. I can’t “document” any of this, and yes, it’s definitely hearsay, from a legal standpoint. I emphasized this to Dusty Sklar. But as I said, I trust my immediate source implicitly. It’s possible, of course, that the folklore professor could have hoaxed the whole thing. But from what my friend said, he was still agonizing over what to do with the files: destroy them or make them public. I might add that after that fateful evening, the professor never once mentioned the incident; it was as if it had never happened. My friend thinks that after a few beers he simply decided on an impulse to share it with his young German-American student.

I have no idea if the professor is still alive–or why other such files have never come to light, after all these years. I suspect that the Nuremberg Commission would have used them had they been available. The bottom line here seems to be that my friend was in the right place at the right time–though the theft of his briefcase does make one wonder.

Hope this helps. Lots of good wishes & Cheers,

Scott

[I replied]:

That’s an incredible story! Why do you think there would be any hesitation on the part of the Germans to publish that information? I wish we knew more.

Prof. Littleton replied:

Yes, it’s a fascinating account indeed. I think one reason that it (or another set of similar files) hasn’t been published is that the files my friend saw are (or were in 1968) the only ones that hadn’t been destroyed. And the handful of aging SS officers who might know what went on during those bizarre “dinner parties” are still probably reluctant to talk about it, even to their close relatives. And who would believe them without supporting documents? As I think about it, even if the Nuremberg people had discovered existence of this ritual, they might have introduced it for the same reason that other elements of the Nazi’s occult beliefs weren’t mentioned. They didn’t want to muddy the waters by allowing the defense to claim their clients were simply following their “religious” beliefs (I’m not the first to suggest this).

As I just said, the people who might be able to shed more light on this are now mostly dead, so we’ll probably never get to the bottom of it—unless someone comes up with another set of files and/or a long hidden diary or journal. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. . .

Anyway, let’s keep our eyes–and ears–open!

[end of correspondence]

There you have it. The chain of transmission of this story looks like it is:

1. An SS General who is the father of:

2. A German University Professor who in 1968 reveals the story to:

3. A Professional who is later at UCLA, who is visiting Germany and later tells:

4. Prof. Littleton who then passed the information to:

5. Dusty Sklar for her book.

The Moral Law in Islamic Missions

Horatio Southgate writes:

The boast of Mohammedanism is the morality which it inculcates, and this boast is the weapon which can be most effectually used against it. A Mussulman not only listens with patience to the strongest delineations of moral duty, but they invariably increase his respect for the teacher. Many of the Mohammedan treatises on practical religion may be read with profit, even by a Christian. They inculcate the fear and love of God, humility, patience, resignation, purity, and kindness, very much in the spirit and manner of the Old Testament. The religious state of the Mohammedans corresponds remarkably with that of the Jews at the coming of Christ; and the introduction of Christianity furnishes us with the true model of a Christian mission among the Mohammedans. Each missionary should be a John the Baptist, preaching repentance to a guilty nation, or, like the Saviour, should go about teaching the spiritual character of the Law of God. The Mohammedans, like the Jews in our Saviour’s time, have departed very far even from the original spirit of their own religion. Their moral character has degenerated, and their religious practice has become a round of vain and frivolous superstitions. It stands only in meats and drinks, in divers washings and carnal ordinances. They need first of all a forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord. They need to feel their moral necessity of another Mediator and a better covenant.

From Narrative of a Tour Through Armenia, Kurdistan, Persia and Mesopotamia: With Observations Upon the Condition of Mohammedanism and Christianity in Those Countries, Volume 2.

Zadie Smith on Happiness

From here.

SMITH: The thing about happiness is novelists think they know something that other people don’t know. [David Foster]Wallace wrote about this subject quite well. And I witnessed it just last week when I was in Mexico at this resort. The things we think are going to make us happy, that we aim for, are full of nullity. If you go to an upscale resort, which Nick and I went to, never going to these places before, you think, “I want go somewhere with no culture. Just a beach, drinks. I’ll be able to have a good time.” And it’s like death, right? It’s a nice time, but it’s basically like death. And it’s lots of Americans walking around telling each other, “This is great, right? I’ve got a big fuzzy nipple drink and I’m in the pool, and I can see the sun setting. This has got to be happiness!” I heard one Texan saying to another, after a moment of doubt, looking slightly glum and bored, “If you can’t be happy here, you can’t be happy no place.” He knew he was unhappy. Many novels are about that. But I just read this book called Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis. He put it in the context of Christianity because it was the joy that made him a Christian. But this feeling of joy that came over him—Emerson had it, too—it’s completely different from happiness. Happiness is, “I won some money,” or, “You got the bird you wanted.” This is an inexplicable feeling of gratitude. It comes over you sometimes. And particularly if you are unreligious, you don’t know what to do with it. You suddenly get this wave of something beyond pleasure. And I think the novel has been a bit shy of describing that because it blends itself so easily to sentimentality. But I’ve had that feeling from time to time ever since I can remember. Nick always says this about me, and it’s true, I have to do everything I can to not be a Christian. I have to put all my energy into not being religious. It’s a daily effort. But I think we often pretend this feeling doesn’t exist-that it’s deceitful. When I was writing NW, I read A Simple Heart by Flaubert. It’s a long short story about a girl—a maid-—who has a parrot. She lives a perfectly nice, quiet, happy life as a maid. And then she dies. That’s it. What’s so extraordinary about it is how unusual that narrative is.

AMiA Congregation Count

Trying to get a fix on just how many parishes remain with AMiA is difficult. David Virtue says, “With less than 100 parishes and six bishops, its long-term survival would seem unsustainable.” A newsletter from Fr. Kevin Donlon’s parish says that AMiA has “approximately 80 parishes.”

A friend of mine looked into these numbers and estimates that there are less than 47 active parishes. He said:

80 seems inflated. I was on the AMiA website, through the “Find a Church” feature to count how many “affiliated congregations” (vs. emerging networks and the like). I counted 47 “affiliate congregations” listed in the US and 8 in Canada. However, not all of the listed affiliates are truly ready for the go it alone Missional Society gig.

He points out Kingdom Life Anglican in Naples. AMiA has them as an affiliate, but the Church’s own website hedges and mentions both AMiA and ACNA. There is a similar story for Grace Church in Olive Branch MS. Their affiliation is listed equally with AMiA and ACNA.

St. Paul’s in New York City is listed as a church – but it doesn’t have a pastor (he left to an Episcopal church in Texas) and the community is “discerning its future.”

AMIA also includes the troubled All Saints Anglican in Houston Texas; an African immigrant church (Nigerian?) which is so divided it no longer has a website. See this link.

Some parishes are unclear: E.g. St. Peters in Mount Pleasant SC – They are proud members of the AMiA, but someone should let the webmaster know about the outdated statement about being “vitally connected to the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

Perhaps slow on the uptake are churches like Christ Church Jacksonville, FL, which mentions that they are part of the AMiA and connected to the worldwide Anglican Communion through the Province of Rwanda.

This does not account for the churches under Bishops Miller and TJ Johnston who temporarily joined ACNA but now are back full time with AMiA. The status of their churches is not clear to me. Also, it is not clear if it accounts for “fellowships” with 50 or less regular attenders and “missional communities” or “ministries” that seem to have no required number of attenders. All in all, the actual number is difficult to determine.

Update: Another friend says, “discussion with people who should know indicates that the REAL AMiA count is about 20 congregations that could reasonably called churches.”

Blasphemy in the West

The latest vulgar display of Islamic violence illustrates once again the seriousness with which Islam takes blasphemy and the utter incomprehension that secular Westerners have for this seriousness. The YouTube video that provoked the mobs this week is a vile piece of foolishness. It clearly does blaspheme Muhammad, although this is not troubling in and of itself because Muhammad was a false prophet. It is distasteful on many levels and designed to inflame.

From the Muslim point of view, it is obvious blasphemy, which will be punished in the hereafter: “Who, then, doth more wrong than one who utters a lie concerning Allah, and rejects the Truth when it comes to him; is there not in Hell an abode for blasphemers?” (Surah 39:32). In the Hadith, we find:

A Muslim who blasphemes against God or the Prophet or any of God’s messengers is guilty of denying the Prophet. This is apostasy, which entails that repentance be demanded of the offender. If he repents, he shall be released; if not, he shall be killed. Similarly, if anyone from amongst non-Muslims protected under pact becomes hostile by openly blaspheming against God or the Prophet or any of God’s messengers, he is guilty of violating the pact; you shall kill him too. [1]

Finer points of Islamic law aside, Srdja Trifkovic puts the Islamic definition of blasphemy in Islam this way: “Their definition of “blasphemy” is any irreverent behavior toward persons, objects, rites, and beliefs that Muslims revere. To put it succinctly, being non-Sharia compliant is blasphemous. Not accepting the divine origin of the Quran is blasphemous. Applying the standards of natural morality to Muhammad’s illustrious career is blasphemous. Resisting the imposition of Sharia is blasphemous. In the end, being a non-Muslim is blasphemous.”

Westerner liberals, which include most Christians who think that freedom of speech is sacrosanct, cannot understand why people would take blasphemy seriously. You saw this in Russia when the members of Pussy Riot were jailed for sacrilege in an Orthodox cathedral. The West was indignant that anyone should suffer for insulting God.

Christians are expected to take things like The Last Temptation of Christ or whatever other insult to God is offered up and smile. God’s name is publicly profaned constantly. This is the reality of a post-Christian society. Rushdoony puts it this way, “When all the world is in blasphemy, no definition of blasphemy is possible: everything is the same. As the world moves towards total blasphemy, its ability to define and recognize anything diminishes.”

The Church also used violent methods at times in the early destruction of idolatry. MacMullen cites John Chysostom, who “learnt that Phoenicia remained still within the cult of the demons…[and] he assembled ascetics afire with holy zeal, and, arming them with imperial laws on idolatrous shrines, sent them forth.” They proceeded to demolish these idol shrines. While we don’t see such violence today, it may be from a lessening of faith rather than an increase of knowledge.

The Justinian Code punished blasphemy. Novel 77 said:

For because of such crimes there are famines, earthquakes, and pestilences; wherefore we admonish men to abstain from the aforesaid unlawful acts, that they may not loose their souls. But if, after this our admonition any are found persisting in such offenses, first they render themselves unworthy of the mercy of God, and then they are subjugated to the punishment enjoined by law.
For we order that most illustrious prefect of the Capital to arrest those who persist in the aforesaid lawless and impious acts after they have been warned by us, and to inflict on them the extreme punishments, so that the city and the state may not come to harm by reason of such wicked deed. And if, after this our warning, and be found who have concealed their crime, they likewise shall be condemned by the Lord God. And if the most illustrious prefect find any who have committed any such offense. And shall omit to punish them according to out laws, first he will be liable to the judgment of God, and he will also incur our indignation.

This attitude has collapsed in our time. A future society that has been re-evangelized might think of excluding offenders from certain public goods, or issuing a public reprimand. My conclusions are:

  1. It is not possible to blaspheme Muhammad because he was not a prophet.
  2. Nevertheless, this YouTube video is crass, in poor taste and generally vulgar.
  3. The West no longer has any concept of blasphemy.
  4. Christians should consider what blasphemy really is and think about how to deal with it in future Christian nations.

References

[1] Abū ‘Abdullāh Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr ibn Qayyim, Zād al-ma‘ād fī hadyi khayr al-‘ibād, 1st ed., vol. 4 (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1998), 379. cited here.

Mosser on Scholarship

Several years ago Prof. Carl Mosser wrote a definition of scholarship that I found helpful.

Scholarship is the product of a certain kind of activity.  This activity can be done poorly or well, with varying degrees of precision and exhaustiveness, and by minds of varying cognitive abilities.  This results in qualitative differences in scholarship so that one can speak in terms of a continuum of bad, mediocre, good and excellent scholarship.

Pseudo-scholarship is the product of different kinds of activity but gives the impression that it is the product of scholarly activity.  Admittedly, drawing sharp lines of demarcation between poor scholarship and pseudo-scholarship can be difficult.  But this is no more a good reason for rejecting the distinction than evening and morning are good reasons for rejecting the distinction between day and night.

What is scholarly activity?  I don’t think anything like a list of necessary and sufficient conditions can be given.  Perhaps a basic working definition is that doing scholarship is to “openly study some issue or set of issues.”  This open study is characterized by such things as: investigation of evidence pertaining to specific issues to see what knowledge can be gained about those issues, a careful and controlled analysis of the evidence, a realization that evidence is sometimes ambiguous and open to multiple plausible interpretations that need to be considered, entering a critical but charitable dialogue with others who have investigated the same issues (past or present) to gain insights and correct errors, and constructing plausible hypotheses and cogent arguments.

Furthermore, this activity is requires one to reject epistemological dogmatism.  He/she recognizes that the results of the investigation cannot be determined before the evidence has actually been looked at and analyzed.  He/she recognizes that his/her preferred theories and positions must be adjusted in light of the full body of evidence and argumentation. He/she is committed to fairly representing and responsibly engaging the views of others.  He/she seeks to handle the primary and secondary literature in a responsible and critical manner.

The academic community has developed a number of practices designed to safeguard the integrity of the scholarly activity.  Most noticeably, this results in the use of precise technical terminology and the following of certain conventions when research is published.  For example, quoting authorities in a field, including bibliographical footnotes to the relevant literature one has consulted, using precise technical terminology are designed to help ensure that an author has engaged in the scholarly activity at some level (even if poorly).  However, the presence of these trappings of scholarship do not guarantee that this has in fact occurred. Thus, behind the scenes publishing houses employ editors and editorial boards that review the material they publish, journals have recognized scholars review articles being considered for publication, etc.

Pseudo-scholarship is what we get when somebody employs (usually quite heavily) the trappings of scholarship–quotations, footnotes, technical terms, etc.–without really having engaged in the scholarly activity.  I suspect that it could be a product of several different activities, some malicious and others entirely well-meaning.

The person who produces pseudo-scholarship confuses the trappings of scholarship with scholarship.  And they produce things that on the surface look like scholarship but really are not.  To do this requires that a kind of superficial research is done–one has to look up books in the library, consult lexicons, look up references to ancient texts, etc.  But the writer has not really investigated the issues being discussed in anything approaching a responsible manner.  The issues haven’t really been studied and considered–the answers were all known at the beginning.

One of the most common signs of pseudo-scholarship is that primary and secondary literature is not handled responsibly or critically.  For the most part literature is simply culled for quotations that appear to bolster one’s polemical claims.  There is an evident inability to discern qualitative differences between sources.  There is a lack of critical engagement with the sources–everything that appears to favor one’s point is taken as reliable.

Lastly, it should be noted that doing scholarship does not depend on having academic degrees.  Someone with a very limited education can learn to engage in the scholarly activity and even to do it well.  Most people without a formal education cannot achieve this on their own, but it can and is done by a few.  Formal education is a process whereby one is given instruction, resources, opportunities to practice and correction.  It is right to assume that the person who has made it through this process will have some capacity to do scholarship (especially if they have earned graduate degrees).  But the process cannot guarantee the outcome and the having of degrees does not guarantee that one is capable of doing scholarship or doing it well.