Saturday, February 20, 2016

SC primary

Although it's disgusting that Trump won (no surprise, given the polls), if you add up all the Republican voters who didn't vote for him, nearly 70% voted against Trump. Problem is, too many candidates competing for the anti-Trump vote. 

If you combine Rubio/Cruz #'s, that's 10 points more than Trump

Rubio has razor thin lead over Cruz with 99% reporting.

Bush dropped out. Who picks up his supporters? Trump or Rubio? Same question if Kasich drops out.

A challenge facing Cruz is that he's probably more of a regional candidate than Rubio. If Cruz can't dominate Southern primaries, where will he make up the difference? Likewise, he didn't sweep the evangelical voting block in SC. Yet he needs that to build on. And he needed momentum. Now Trump and Rubio have the momentum. 

Posner's confused attack on Scalia

HT: Paul Manata

Scalia's nemesis

Along with Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia was the leading proponent of originalism and textualism. Richard Posner is his nemesis. His position represents the polar opposite of Bork and Scalia's. 

As one NRO pundit recently put it, "In constitutional theory, individual rights come from our Creator. They preexist the Bill of Rights. Constitutional guarantees merely safeguard our rights; they do not grant our rights in the first place."

Compare that to Posner:

The argument of The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory is that when we call practices “immoral” we do so in reference to our own values. The people who make this argument, people like Richard Rorty and me, are not immoralists; we are pragmatists; we simply believe that there is no reliable external perspective from which to evaluate competing moralities. Societies that practice infanticide do not regard infanticide as immoral, and we civilized Americans cannot say they’re “wrong” to do so unless we add—by our lights.

Posner's judicial philosophy is eclectic, which makes it hard to pigeonhole. He views humans are monkeys with big brains.  

It's been variously classified as legal pragmatism and the economic analysis of law. On social issues he can be by turns libertarian or authoritarian. One thing that comes through on national security issues is his commitment to consequentialism. 

What's interesting about Posner is that he embodies a central dilemma of liberal jurisprudence. Back in 2014 he authored a ruling striking down gay marriage bans. That was widely lauded by liberal pundits.

However, back in 2006, he authored a book, Not a Suicide Pact, that rubber-stamped nearly all of the Bush-era counterterrorist measures. Civil libertarians were outraged. 

He espouses a "Living Constitution". He thinks the Bill of Rights oscillates between provisions that are either vague and uninformative, or specific, but antiquated and obsolete. As a result, civil rights or Constitutional rights are ultimately a judicial construct. 

Since he doesn't consider the text, logic, or intent of the Constitution to be normative, what is the guiding philosophy that informs Constitutional rights? Well, when it comes to national security, consequentialism is his guiding philosophy. Balancing liberty and security. 

This stood in stark contrast to civil libertarian critics of the Bush administration, who take a more absolutist view of the Bill of Rights. Yet many of his critics share his commitment to a Living Constitution. Indeed, that's why they can conjure a right to homosexual marriage in the Constitution. Posner's jurisprudence exposes the contradiction in their own position. The civil liberties codified by the Bill of Rights are either absolute or relative, "inalienable" or conventional. If absolute, you can't combine that with a "Living Constitution". If relative, you can't take issue with Posner's utilitarian approach to the rights of terrorists. 

Posner on morality

The Supreme Court vacancy caused by Scalia's death will provoke a moralistic debate about his successor. The liberal establishment will contend that if Republicans are allowed to pick the replacement, that will be a catastrophic setback for social justice, human rights, &c. They will frame the debate in ethical terms.

To my knowledge, Richard Posner may well be the most influential jurist of his generation. He represents the principal alternative to the perspective of Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, and Robert George. I'm going to quote some statements of his on metaethics. On personal and social morality. 

There's a refreshing candor to his position. He doesn't hesitate to embrace the bleak consequences of atheism. Mind you, he can afford to be cavalier. As a member of the ruling class, he is not threatened by his own self-destructive logic. 

I should clarify that, in a primary respect, I don't think it's the job of judges to moralize. To substitute their own morality. To impose their own morality. As a rule, the job of a judge is to apply the law, rather than apply his own morality. It's the job of lawmakers to think ethically, and the job of judges to faithfully interpret and impartially apply the law. To be sure, impartiality is a virtue in that situation.

There are exceptions to that rule. Take the cliche of a judge in Nazi German. He should either resign or use his position to mitigate the evil of Nazism. Use his position to subvert Nazism as best he can. Likewise, a Muslim judge should cease to be Muslim. 

In addition, judges can write articles and give speeches in which they propound their moral vision. They can advise law students and lawmakers. Even if there's a sense in which they ought to check their morality at the courthouse door, they can influence the morality that informs law and policy. 

That said, it's instructive to see what Posner's alternative amounts to. 


Trump's Corrupt History As A Businessman

Trump makes much of his alleged success as a businessman. He assures us that he'll choose the best people for his presidential administration. He'll make America win, just as he wins as a businessman. And so on. Dana Loesch has an article and video addressing Trump's history of donations, changing his positions on issues, and business associations with the mafia, drug dealers, and other disreputable individuals and organizations. Here's the opening of her article:

I receive this question almost more than any other: Why don't you support Donald Trump? I've met the man, his camp asked me to introduce him at CPAC in 2015, he was perfectly amiable. He's been on my radio and TV programs more than any other primary candidate. I just can't get on board with his lack of consistency or his policies. So, to answer the question: A bulleted list of items that helped shape my opinion on the Republican primary candidate. All information is public domain as reported in the press, easily found everywhere online. You're certainly welcome to your own opinion, but this is what contributed to mine. As I give courtesy to diverse opinion on the topic, so do I expect it in return.

Trump says he will "hire the best minds" as president but according to the news items below, apparently did not vet his own business partners.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Antonin Scalia: An American Originalist

Conservative Roman Catholics: “Pope Francis Says Artificial Contraception is Acceptable”

Phil Lawler: The damage done—again—by the Pope's interview
How damaging was the latest papal interview? Let me count the ways.

Tomorrow, no doubt, the Vatican press office will go into its now-familiar “clarification” mode. Loyal Catholic defenders of Pope Francis will argue that the Holy Father’s words were taken out of context. But this time, the problem cannot be attributed to sensationalistic reporting; the Pontiff definitely conveyed the impression that he was ready to discuss the morality of contraception in the context of the Zika epidemic. The Pope’s own words are—at best—confusing.

Questioned as to whether contraception is the “lesser of two evils” when the Zika threatens birth defects, the Pope replied, in part: “On the lesser evil, avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of a conflict between the 5th and 6th Commandments.” What conflict? Does he mean to suggest that in some cases, adhering to one of God’s laws might entail violating another?

In the next sentence, the Pope refers to the decision by Pope Paul VI, authorizing nuns in (what was then) the Belgian Congo to use contraceptives when they were threatened with rape. But that decision does not apply to the situation created by the Zika epidemic. Contraception is immoral because it violates the integrity of the marital act. In the Congo, the use of contraceptives was justified as a means of thwarting an act of violence. In Latin America today, some officials argue that, because of the Zika problem, contraceptives should be used to thwart an act of marital love.

No doubt the Pope’s defenders will argue—in fact some already have argued-- that the Pope did not actually say that contraception could be justified. True enough. What he said was that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.” But in context, what other message were reporters likely to draw from his statement? If you ask me whether it is justifiable to rob a bank, and I reply that bank robbery is not an absolute evil, haven’t I indicated that I am open to a discussion about whether bank robbery is licit in certain circumstances? Certainly I have not given the impression that I think bank robbery is always immoral.

Yet the Church teaches that artificial contraception, when used to frustrate the purpose of the marital act, is always immoral. UN officials are now suggesting that artificial contraception should be practiced by married couples routinely because of the Zika epidemic. Nothing in the Pope’s statement suggested that there is an inherent moral problem with that approach. I have seen defenders of the Pope remark that secular reporters generally don’t understand the Church’s teaching on contraception. That’s true; and nothing that the Pope said would further their education.

Moreover, in answering the reporter’s question about Zika, the Pope failed to point out the flaw in the major premise of the argument for routine contraception. That argument is based on the assumption that the Zika virus is responsible for microcephaly. But there is very little scientific evidence to support that assumption: a fact that the Pope’s own representative highlighted in a presentation this week to the UN. Proponents of contraception and abortion have been exploiting the Zika epidemic as a means of advancing their cause. The Pope had an opportunity to remind the world that the effects of Zika are not well understood, and to suggest that research should be concentrated on killing the disease rather than its victims. He missed it.

Steve Skojec: Did the Pope Just Permit Contraceptive Use?
Short answer: yes...

The Risen movie

Not an Etch a Sketch

I'm going to comment on Posner's review:

I agree with Scalia's position regarding the role of judges, but disagree with his hermeneutic. As such, Posner may score some valid points against Scalia's hermeneutic. Of course, Posner has an ax to grind. He's attacking Scalia's position to clear the way for Posner's alternative. And I don't agree with Posner's alternative, which is far worse than any deficiencies in Scalia's hermeneutic. 

Before commenting on his review, let's put his review in perspective. What's his alternative? Here's a sample:

It is natural to think that constitutional rights are rights stated in the text of the Constitution of the United States. But it is wrong, not completely but in an important sense. Constitutional rights are created mainly by the Supreme Court of the United states by "interpretation" of the constitutional text. I put the word in scare quotes because the line between judicial interpretation and judicial creation is frequently–particularly in the case of American constitution law–fine to the point of invisibility. 
For the most part either the provisions are vague, such as the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of "unreasonable" searches and seizures…or they have an eighteenth-century meaning that if strictly adhered to today would render them largely obsolete. For example, "searches" and "seizures" could not in 1789 have encompassed wiretappings and other electronic surveillance. R. Posner, Not a Suicide Pact (Oxford, 2006), 17-18.

Several problems:

i) Notice how his view reduces the Bill of Rights to an Etch A Sketch. It means whatever judges impute to it. But that defeats the whole purpose of having a written Constitution.

ii) The text has a context. What the Framers were opposing. The whole point of the Revolutionary War. You also had continuity with Colonial American cultural values. 

To say it needs to be interpreted is not to say that the interpretive frame of reference is arbitrary. It includes the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, minutes of the Constitutional Convention, correspondence by Founding Fathers, ratification debates, John Locke, Edmund Burke, &c.  

iii) To the extent that the provisions are sketchy, that doesn't mean they must be penciled in judges. Details can be supplied by statuary law. That's what the legislative branch is for–among other things. 

iv) We need to distinguish between what the Constitution prescribes, proscribes, and permits. The silence of the Constitution makes room for supplementary legislation that's consistent with the Constitution. 

v) The business about electronic surveillance is willfully obtuse. Posner is a very smart man, so he knows that's a malicious and dismissive caricature. Unreasonable searches and seizures concern a general principle that's separable from 18C technology. The particular means is not the point at issue. Any particular means will exemplify the underlying principle. He's confounding culturebound instances of the principle with the principle itself, which is transcultural. 

Apple v. FBI

I'm not a lawyer, cybersecurity expert, or Apple technician, so I can't speak to the legal or scientific technicalities of this debate. I have spoken to some very tech savvy friends, and I've read analysis from computer tekkies and cybersecurity experts. 

Basically, I'll approach this from a hypothetical standpoint. Discuss the issue in principle. For instance, I'm less concerned with what the law actually allows, but what it ought to allow. 

1. I don't presume that Tim Cook is any kind of hero. I doubt he's really that high-minded. But he happens to be staking out the right position in this particular case, whatever his ulterior motives may be. 

2. Not coincidentally, this case isn't about preventing a terrorist attack, but responding to a terrorist attack. The authorities have proven, time and again, that they won't protect us from terrorists. That's because, to prevent terrorist attacks, they'd have to profile Muslims, which is politically verboten. 

Once you take profiling off the table, the alternatives are to turn a blind eye, wait for a terrorist to strike, or engage in dragnet surveillance. 

3. Apropos (1), this is not a case of balancing liberty and security. Rather, we lose both. We're not trading liberty for security. For the authorities refuse to protect us. We've had a spate of jihadist attacks on American soil since Obama became president. 

Every terrorist attack gives the gov't a pretext to eavesdrop on Americans in general. You end up with a police state. That doesn't make the general public safer. It creates a corrupt, law-enforcement culture that's unaccountable to the public. It turns law enforcement into an occupation force.

4. Regarding the security issue, from what I've read, the FBI is, in effect, demanding that Apple make a master key to open a particular safe. Problem is, that key can then be used to open any safe of the same make or model. 

This is the same gov't with a rogue NSA. The same gov't that won't even defend its own database from Chinese hackers. And Apple is supposed to create a backdoor for that gov't? 

5. Regarding the legal aspects, consider the very stretchy definition of a search warrant. 

i) Isn't a search warrant judicial authorization to examine a person or place to discover contraband, stolen property, incriminating evidence, &c.?

But the phone in question isn't Apple's property. It's not in Apple's possession. It's not on Apple premises. Rather, it belonged to the gov't agency that issued the phone to the decedent. 

ii) Does the gov't have the right to order Apple to design custom software to hack this model phone? Since when does the gov't have the right to order a company to make a particular product? Ordering a company to produce custom software is hardly equivalent to a search warrant.

iii) Isn't hacking illegal? Isn't the gov't ordering Apple to break the law? Or facilitating a crime. Even if US law contains exemptions for criminal investigators, surely there are international laws against hacking. How would international law exempt American criminal investigators?

For further analysis:

Life in the compound

Once upon a time, a few devout Arminians established a compound in a remote, wooded location, to keep themselves unspotted from the lubricious enticements of high Calvinism. 

The buildings were encircled by fields for grazing and farming. And the fields were encircled by forest. Everywhere you looked was a wall of trees. The settlers bought enough acreage so that civilization was nowhere in sight. 

In the course of time, children were born into the compound who knew not the existence of the outside world. Knew nothing beyond the woods.

As a deterrent to the curious, their elders told them spine-tingling stories about the many monsters lurking in the woods. The Black Forest of Calvinism. In this enchanted forest were man-eating trees with tentacles instead of branches. Forty-foot pythons. Spitting cobras. Arboreal vipers–with flesh-melting venom–that would drop from trees onto passersby beneath. Giants spiders. Fire ants the size of deer. Three-headed hyenas. And anthropophagi. These were the demon-spawn of Calvinism! 

Although you were allowed to cut trees facing the compound for firewood, to venture any distance into the woods, even in broad daylight, was fraught with peril. And to go into the forest at night was courting unspeakable horror. Indeed, everyone was always safely inside before darkness fell.

In time, even the elders began to believe their cautionary tales. They carved wooden statues of Arminius, John Wesley, and Paige Patterson, to ward off the monsters of the Black Forest. 

Boys and girls were duly catechized. Calvin's God was worse than Hitler. Not that they knew who Hitler was, but they figured he must be nearly as bad as sour milk.

Calvin's God was worse than Satan. When a girl inquired about Satan, they told her he was just like Calvin's God. When she inquired about Calvin's God, they told her he was just like Satan. But what the answer may have lacked in illumination, it more than made up for in symmetry. 

Girls, attired in ankle-length dresses, milked cows and made daisy chains, while boys were sternly admonished that if they must swear, only to use Batman exclamations ("Holy bat trap!"). In all, twas a veritable paradise on earth. 

Yet despite these pious precautions, a day came when three adventurous boys, overcome by curiosity, and rankled by repressive discipline, decided to explore the forbidden forest. For miles they hiked into the woods. Every snapping twig or falling walnut left them in jitters. Yet all they saw were a few squirrels, deer, and rabbits.

Finally, they emerged on the other side of the forest. It opened out onto a sandy beach with pineapple trees and coconut trees. 

Soon they lost all track of time as lazy days lengthened into weeks and months, while they feasted on fruit and shellfish, waded in the waves, or sunned themselves on the sandy expanse. 

Finally, after two or three years, they returned to the compound, manly and tanned, to share their thrilling discovery. There was a world beyond the woods. And a wonderful world it was! 

The elders denounced this news as witchcraft most foul. Whatever else it be, it can't be that! The boys were under a spell. The "beach" could only be some phantasmagoria, conjured by the Black Forest sorceress.  

So the elders stayed behind, as did some of the kids, but others left the compound to see for themselves, and never came back. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

When will the Vatican begin redistributing its wealth?

How to harmonize

[Metaphor alert: this post contains an overabundance of metaphors.]

1. I normally avoid debates over evidentialism because I think that's usually a cul-de-sac. Since, however, that's how Lydia McGrew has framed the issue on Gospel harmonization, I'll bite.

2. One objection to inerrancy is that commitment to inerrancy is a house of cards or row of dominoes. Or like pulling a thread. It only takes on error for the house of cards to topple and the dominoes to tumble. When that happens, Christians lose their faith. 

Evidentialism is said to be more stable. A protective against apostasy. Because evidentialism only requires Scripture to be generally reliable, the faith of an evidentialist can survive Biblical errors. 

This is often combined with a Resurrection apologetic. If Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true regardless of whatever else is false. If Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true, even if Adam and Eve never existed, Abraham never existed, Noah's flood never happened, the Exodus never happened, &c. (I'm not attributing that position to Lydia.)

I sometimes wonder how evidentialists like that would ever witness to an orthodox Jew. 

To use yet another metaphor, we might compare evidentialism to the "web" of belief–popularized by Quine. A spider web has redundant structural integrity. You can snip a strand here or there, but the web will retain its form and function. Some strands are central while others are peripheral.

3. Now, what I found curious about Lydia McGrew's position concerning Gospel harmonization is that it seems like the weight of even one or two stock examples will collapse the evidentialist web, depending on the harmonistic strategy. 

I understand what she's opposed to with respect to Licona, because she's spelled that out. She's also given some examples of what she considers to be acceptable harmonizations. For instance:

Jairus is distraught, he knows that even coming to Jesus has taken some time and that the child was dying when he left, and he says something to Jesus like, "My daughter is on the point of death. By this time, I'm sure she is dead! But come and lay your hand on her and she will live." One gospel reports "on the point of death" and the other reports "is dead." This is an economical and not at all implausible harmonization.

However, much of the discussion suffers from an abstract, hypothetical quality, due to the absence of actual, concrete examples from writers other than Licona. At the risk of using another metaphor, I don't know where all the tripwires are planted in her position. I know she thinks Licona stepped on a tripwire. But that represents one extreme. I'd like to probe the boundaries of her position. The inner and outer limits. What's the spread of acceptable harmonistic strategies?

I'm going to quote some notable inerrantist scholars on three representative examples she mentioned. Does she think their harmonizations step on the tripwire? Dropping the metaphor, does she think their harmonizations, if true, would render the Gospels untrustworthy? If that's what the Gospel writer were really up to, would that destroy their historical credibility? Let's get very specific. 

Centurion's servant

Matthew has the centurion speaking to Jesus directly, while Luke has Jewish emissaries speaking to Jesus, and the centurion never talks directly with Jesus. So what is taking place here?

Two things are happening at once. The cultural context of the sent emissary (shaliach) and literary compression are both in play. Matthew often compresses accounts. For example, his telling of the healing of Jairus's daughter is more compact, as is his telling of the triumphal entry…Luke, given his concern for Jew-Gentiles relations, offers more detail by noting the representatives. When the shaliach, as an emissary, spoke on behalf of someone, it was as good as that person speaking. Jesus said as much of his disciples when he said that to accept the disciples was to accept him (Jn 13:20; also 2 Kgs 19:20-34). A modern analogy would be how a press secretary speaks for the White House and the president. So Luke gives us the detail of the event, and Matthew simplifies its telling by compressing things literarily. Each account is accurate, but Luke's is more precise. D. Bock, "Precision and Accuracy: Making Distinctions in the Cultural Context," J. Hoffmeier & D. Magary, ed. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (Crossway, 2012), 373-74.

A more recent scholar, R. T. France, writes as follows:
His [Matthew’s] omission of the means of the centurion’s approach to Jesus is a valid literary device to highlight the message of the incident as he sees it (on the principle, common in biblical and contemporary literature, that a messenger or servant represents the one who sent him to the point of virtual identity).9

As a further illustration of the principle, Craig Blomberg points to Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15.10 Both verses report that Pilate scourged Jesus; but, given the social and military protocol of the Roman world, Pilate would not have taken up the scourge in his own hands. The verses mean that Roman soldiers would have physically handled the scourge, acting on Pilate’s orders. That is to say, the Roman soldiers represented Pilate because they acted under his authority. Pilate did scourge Jesus, though he did not do it “in person” but through representatives acting on his behalf. Likewise, the centurion really did address Jesus, but he did it by means of persons acting under his authority and on his behalf—the elders and friends represented him.

We have the accounts in Matthew and Luke, which are inspired by God. They are what God says and are therefore trustworthy. That is the conviction we have and the basis on which we work. But we do not have a third account, also inspired, to tell us exactly how the original two accounts fit together. We make our own reasoned guesses, but they are fallible. We do not have complete information. Our reconstruction, though it may be plausible, is subordinate to the Gospel accounts as we have them. V. Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway, 2012), 21-22. 

A careful reading of the text raises the question, "Who actually spoke to Jesus? Was it the centurion as Mt 8:5-9 records or was it the elders of the Jews and the friends as Lk 7:3,6 claim?…The problem can be resolved by the use of a present-day example. If a conversation between the President of the United States and the Premier of Russia were reported, it could be described in at least two ways. First, the president says in English to his interpreter, "A". The interpreter then says in Russian to the premier, "A". The premier says in Russian to his interpreter, "B", and the interpreter says in English to the president, "B". Second, the president says to the premier, "A". The premier responds "B".  Both descriptions are correct! The last account, which every newspaper report follows, chooses to omit for brevity's sake the role of the interpreter.

The apparent disagreement between Matthew's and Luke's versions disappears when it is understood that Matthew eliminates the reference to the messengers from his account…Matthew may have done this for the sake of brevity. He had other materials that he wanted to include in his Gospel. The length of a papyrus was limited…Both Matthew and Luke would take up an entire scroll. 

Which is correct? Both are correct, for both accurately report what happens between the centurion and Jesus. To be disturbed by Matthew's omission would be to require greater historical exactness in this account than in present-day reports. Neither Matthew nor Luke err in their reports of this incident. It is important to understand how they tell their story of this incident and not demand that they do so in a specific format. R. Stein, Interpreting Puzzling Texts in the New Testament (Baker, 1996), 35-38.

Common to modern Western and ancient Eastern cultures is the habit of speaking about people as acting for themselves even when they use intermediaries. A news reporter may state flatly, "the President of the United States today announced," when in fact it was his press secretary who spoke on his behalf, and quite possibly a speechwriter who composed the words, yet non-one accuses the commentator of inaccurate reporting…This type of linguistic convention undoubtedly explains the differences between Matthew's and Luke's narratives of the Capernaum centurion. C. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP, 2nd ed., 2007), 176.

Raising Jairus' daughter

The more challenging difficulty has to do with when the daughter died. In Matthew Jairus says, “My daughter has just died” (Matt. 9:18). In Mark and Luke we have two stages. First, Jairus asks Jesus to come because “my little daughter is at the point of death” (Mark 5:23). Next, while Jesus is saying his final words to the woman healed from her bleeding, someone comes from Jairus’s house announcing, “Your daughter is dead” (5:35).

Here it may be useful to remember Matthew’s tendency to compress material. We saw compression clearly in the opening genealogies. In this account of Jairus’s daughter, Matthew’s is the shortest of the three accounts, both in the number of verses and in the number of words. He has nine verses compared to twenty-two in Mark. Matthew omits the name Jairus. He mentions that the father is a “ruler,” but omits the detail of what he is a ruler of—“a ruler of the synagogue.” He omits the crowd around Jesus. He omits the second stage in which someone comes to say that the daughter has died. He omits the mention of Peter, James, and John. He omits the parents’ going into the room with Jesus. He omits Jesus’s direction to give the girl something to eat. He omits the charge to tell no one.

The collapse into one stage—the daughter has died—is in harmony with the kind of thing that Matthew indicates in his opening genealogy. It is compression. 

Matthew makes a choice to give us a compressed narrative. How much can a person say once he has chosen this kind of option?…If the narrative is going to unfold two distinct stages, there needs to be something that intervenes to differentiate them. In practice, this differentiation requires not only more specific information about timing of various events, but also the addition of a report to Jairus, so that Jairus comes to know of his daughter’s death. So a commitment to narrating two stages leads to the inclusion of an explicit mention of people from Jairus’s house who deliver the message to Jairus and to Jesus. Some complexity must be added to the narration.

But then, if a person has decided to give a compressed narrative, it does not really leave space for a full explanation. The narrator must be content with a summary… Compression reduces the number of options available. Hence, Matthew’s account, which wraps together what in Mark and Luke are two stages in Jairus’s interaction with Jesus, does not contradict Mark and Luke. He is not making a contrastive assertion that stands over against (“contrasts” with) a two-stage narration. 

The ancient context did not have special apparatus from modern medical technology to determine the exact moment of death. Even with our technology, there is a region of uncertainty, since, for example, it takes some time for cells in the brain to die after the heart stops beating. V. Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway 2012), 206-209,211.

The problems that Matthew's account raises can be resolved once the literary style of Matthew is recognized…Matthew obviously abbreviates the story by omitting the following details…It is clear that Matthew has a tendency to abbreviate the various accounts he incorporates into his Gospel…In his desire to include additional material Matthew was concerned with the limitation of his scroll. Our present Gospel of Matthew contains about much material as a single scroll could contain.

Matthew summarized the story of Jesus' raising of Jairus's daughter. He records that a ruler of the synagogue comes to Jesus for help concerning his daughter and that Jesus goes to his home and raises her from the dead. What he omits are various interesting but unnecessary details such as that when Jaurus first arrives his daughter is not yet dead. R. Stein, Interpreting Puzzling Texts in the New Testament (Baker, 1996), 40-42. 

Perhaps the most perplexing differences between parallels occur when one Gospel writer has condensed the account of an event that took place in two or more stages into one concise paragraph that seems to describe the action taking place all at once. Yet this type of literary abridgment was quite common among ancient writers (cf. Lucian, How to Write History 56), so once again it is unfair to judge them by modern standards of precision that no-one in antiquity required. The two most noteworthy examples of this process among the Gospel parallels emerge in the stories of Jesus raising Jairus's daughter and cursing the fig tree.

In the first story, Matthew drastically abbreviates Mark's three-part account, which includes (1) the initial summons for Jesus to come to Jairus' home before the girl dies, (2), the intervening delay while he heals the hemorrhaging woman, and (3) his climactic arrival after the death of the daughter, and her subsequent revivification (twenty-three verses compressed into nine). As a result, Matthew omits the initial appeal "my daughter is dying", and has Jairus in stage 1 declare that she has just died. C. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP, 2nd ed., 2007), 177.

Temple cleansing

On the other hand, there is the possibility that this event took place only once. If so, it is likely that what John did was move it forward as a type of foreshadowing capsule of Jesus' conflict with the leadership and their  failure to appreciate his authority. In favor of this view might be the point that 2:23 alludes to numerous signs that Jesus had done in Jerusalem when none have yet been described in John. D. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture (Baker, 2002), 427. 

The Synopticists make it clear that Jesus' cleansing the temple proved to be "the last straw" for the Jewish authorities, sealing his imminent doom (Mk 11:18), so a convincing harmonization would require John to be the Evangelist who has relocated the passage. The strongest evidence in support of this is twofold. First, Jn 2:13-25 is the only passage in the opening four chapters of John not linked to what precedes or follows it by an explicit reference to chronological sequence. Second, many commentators recognize a major division in John's Gospel between chapters 11 and 12, and chapter 12 introduces the second "half" of the gospel with a chronologically dislocated passage (see p219). One could therefore assume that the cleansing of the temple introduces the first "half" the same way, with the six-day sequences of 1:1-2:12 as an introduction. On the other hand, it is at least possible that Jesus cleansed the temple twice. C. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP, 2nd ed., 2007), 216-17. 

Perhaps we read John and picture the cleansing described in John 2:14–15 in immediate connection with the preceding and following parts of John’s narrative. We picture it as occurring near in time to the “first of his signs” narrated in 2:11. We picture it near the beginning. But this is a mental picture, not necessarily reality.

We have to ask whether John or any of the synoptic accounts make contrastive claims about temporal location. John 2:13 says, “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Which Passover? We are not told. It is natural for readers to see this going up to Jerusalem as proceeding from the location last mentioned, namely Capernaum, where Jesus stayed a few days (John 2:12). But John does not explicitly tell us about a direct temporal succession here. The “hint,” if there is one, is simply the juxtaposition of two episodes in the written neighborhood of one another. But might John have had other reasons for a juxtaposition like this one?

Do we get any help from what follows the cleansing of the temple? What follows is John 3:1ff., the passage about Nicodemus. Thematically, it is connected with the general statement in John 2:25that Jesus “knew what was in a man.”But there is no explicit temporal connection. We do not get information about the chronology of events. The placement of the episode in the text is, in my opinion, chronologically flexible. V. Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway, 2012), 137. 

“Pope Francis” vs “Pope Paul VI” in “Humanae Vitae”

“Pope Francis” continues to contradict earlier popes. He did it again today on his flight home to Rome from Mexico. This time he stepped all over his venerable predecessor “Pope Paul VI” in the unpopular but sometimes-thought-to-be-infallible “Humanae Vitae”:

... Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general...

From the Encyclical Letter
Of the Supreme Pontiff Pope Paul VI

And now, from the Wall Street Journal:
Updated Feb. 18, 2016 12:07 p.m. ET
ROME— Pope Francis said the use of contraception could be justified in regions hit by the Zika virus, a stance that could reignite a debate over the church’s prohibition of the use of condoms to stop the spread of the AIDS virus.

The pope’s comments on the use of contraception in Zika-afflicted areas comes amid proposals that women in regions hit by the virus—largely in Latin America—use abortion or avoid getting pregnant to prevent the birth of children with microcephaly.

Bishops in Latin America have said the Zika virus doesn’t justify the use of abortion or contraception.

However, responding to a question, the pope distinguished between abortion, which he said was never acceptable, and contraception, which he said could be justified as the lesser evil in certain circumstances.

The question is one of one pope saying that the “lesser evil” of contraception is “never lawful”, while another permitting the “lesser evil” of contraception “to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.”

See also:
Bergoglio’s Gig, Part 3: Opposing Ratzinger.
“Your Truth is as good as my Truth … trust me on this one, I’m the Pope”.
“We, ourselves, can effect ‘further developments’”.

Tone Police on Journalistic Propriety: “Screechy Here Lately”

Tone Police: “Totally inappropriate
 to show a picture like this”
OFFICIAL: Triablogue has been cited by the Official Tone Police for “screechiness”, “salacious gossip” and being “pretty darned bad” with its tone and language lately. Proper Christians are advised to avoid this blog as a way of avoiding sullying theirselves with such worldly topics. Why, let’s just look at some of the recent headlines (never mind the content of the artices!): “The Islamic Rape of Europe”; Trump: “How I’ve Avoided STDs All These Years”; Pope John Paul II Photographed in his Underwear with a Woman; and Let’s Drop a Nuclear Bomb Every Day on Trump.

“This is a blog where they have constructed a natural-law ethic for male promiscuity. They have a whole category devoted to ‘The Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal’. And in fact, they have even talked about ‘masturbation’,” the Tone Police said.

“In my opinion this whole blog not only fails in Christian terms, it fails in intellectual terms, and it also fails in terms of wisdom and experience of human relationships,” the Tone Police said in their official citation. “There is no place at all for these kinds of things in a Christian blog.”

“The Islamic Rape of Europe”

The Effect of Immigration on Europe?
One of Poland’s most popular weekly magazines has splashed a graphic depiction of the rape of Europe’s women by migrants on its front cover. The image may be one of the most politically incorrect illustrations of the migrant crisis to date....

Making perfectly clear the intention of the edition, the edition features articles titled ‘Does Europe Want to Commit Suicide?’ and ‘The Hell of Europe’. The news-stand blurb declares: “In the new issue of the weekly Network, a report about what the media and Brussels elite are hiding from the citizens of the European Union”.

Opening the cover article, Aleksandra Rybinska writes: “The people of old Europe after the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne painfully realised the problems arising from the massive influx of immigrants. The first signs that things were going wrong, however, were there a lot earlier. They were still ignored or were minimised in significance in the name of tolerance and political correctness”.

Outlining the fundamental differences between eastern Islam and western Christianity — “culture, architecture, music, gastronomy, dress” — the editorial explains these two worlds have been at war “over the last 14 centuries” and the world is now witnessing a colossal “clash of two civilisations in the countries of old Europe”. This clash is brought by Muslims who come to Europe and “carry conflict with the Western world as part of the collective consciousness”, as the journalist marks the inevitability of conflict between native Europeans and their new guests.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Trump Talks About His "Bravery" As A "Soldier" Who Avoids STDs From The Women He Has Sex With

See here. If Trump becomes the nominee, we can expect a lot more of that sort of material to come out and get widespread media attention.

One of the commenters in the thread linked above writes:

"Living in the tri-state area, I've listened to Stern on commutes for years. And I can attest that there is a treasure trove of Trump interviews to be mined for this type of revelatory material. And the sooner it's unearthed, the sooner we can hold a mirror up to evangelicals still supporting Trump and ask them if this is what they want to be part and parcel to when they deliver their vote"

Historicity and harmonization

Lydia McGrew's comments have been piling up in response to two of my posts. I'll consolidate them and respond to them here:

On the cleansing of the Temple, your hypothesis (if I understand you correctly) seems to be that John is *not* trying to give the impression that it took place early in Jesus' ministry.


Now, I disagree with this fairly strongly, but more importantly, it must be _sharply_ distinguished between saying that John _moved_ the cleansing of the Temple *to the beginning of Jesus' ministry*. The two hypotheses are, in fact, in complete contradiction to one another! The latter says that John _was_ attempting to write as if the Temple cleansing took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, even though he knew that this was not the case! Your hypothesis, in contrast, interprets John as _not_ implying that the cleansing took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry.

I don't see how that follows. In principle, John could relocate the temple cleansing without implying that it took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry–or intended to make it look that way. Gospel writers can rearrange events without implying that their narrative sequence is chronological. 

Now, I disagree with this. For one thing, we don't have nearly the evidence for John in other, uncontroversial places, that we have for Matthew that he arranges non-chronologically, so why think he is making such a major non-chronological move here?

Because, unless we think one or more of the Gospels is either mistaken or fictional in this case, we need to harmonize their respective reports of the temple cleansing in one way or the other. And that's one option. It wasn't pulled out of thin air. 

More specifically, the narrative of the Temple cleansing in John is flanked on either side with geographical markers that are far more reasonably interpreted by holding this to be a chronological narrative. Just before, Jesus is in Capernaum, following which he goes "up" to Jerusalem (not meaning north, of course) for the Passover. In the next chapter we find him apparently still in Jerusalem and visited by Nicodemus by night, following which he has a baptizing ministry in Judea, leaving Judea only at the beginning of chapter 4. All of this makes sense as following upon the Passover recounted along with the temple cleansing in chapter 2. 

I don't see how your supporting argument selects for your conclusion. John records three passovers. The temple was in Jerusalem, so any temple cleansing would require a trip to Jerusalem from whever Jesus happened to be living or ministering at the time. 

The end of chapter 2 says that many were believing on him during that Passover because of miracles he was doing during that Passover and then only that he "did not entrust himself to them because he knew what was in man." As a description of passion week, this seems quite implausible. Mark's detailed discussion of Passion week gives no such picture. 

Well, the only recorded miracle in Jn 2 is at the wedding of Cana, not in the temple complex, so I don't see how you derive your conclusion from John's narrative. As for Mark's, you have the cursing of the fig tree. 

It seems to me extremely strained to try to make the cleansing of the Temple in John be occurring during Passion week and merely for (largely unknown and necessarily highly conjectural) thematic reasons of some kind or other narrated at this point in John's gospel. And, strangely and coincidentally enough, connected up with a Judean ministry immediately thereafter!

There are good scholars who think positing two temple cleansings to harmonize the Gospels is "extremely strained". The problem, such as it is, isn't generated by a particular harmonization, but by the data to be harmonized. Scholars didn't create that difficulty. 

However, if you _do_ take that position, you are *at least* not saying that John was *trying* to imply that this Temple cleansing happened early in Jesus' ministry. So that theory should *not* be described by saying that John knowingly and deliberately "moves the Temple cleansing to the early part of Jesus' ministry." 

Again, that's a non sequitur, which trades on an equivocation between "moving the temple cleansing to the early part of Jesus' ministry" and moving the temple cleansing to the early part of John's narrative. You illicitly conflate narrative sequence with chronological sequence, but that's the very issue in dispute. To relocate an incident doesn't ipso facto insinuate that that's when it really took place. Where it occurs in the plot and where it occurred in real time are not interchangeable concepts. Take movies with flashbacks and flashforwards. 

I'm not saying John consciously relocated the temple cleansing. I'm just saying that even if he did, your conclusion is fallacious. 

Again, that is a _much_ more problematic theory from the perspective of John's trustworthiness as a narrator.

I disagree. 

I think it would be helpful for you to disambiguate the term "relocate" as you use it between
1) John wishes to give the impression that the cleansing did take place early in the ministry, though he knows it didn't,
2) John doesn't mean to give the impression that the cleansing took place early in the ministry.

That's a valid and useful distinction. However, I put it that way because you and Licona use "relocate" the same way, and so I preserve the ambiguity in the interests of consistency.

Do you intend to use "relocate" throughout the post to refer to #1, or might it refer to either? For example, you say that John may have "put it there simply because that's what he was thinking about on the day he dictated that section of his Gospel," but in that case by "put it there" do you mean just "put that material at that point in his narrative" or "tried to relocate the incident in his narrative so that it actually appeared to happen at that time"?

Several issues:

i) You're shadowboxing with Licona, which is fine, but that's not my position.

ii) There's a distinction between a writing giving a false impression and leaving a false impression. In the former case, he intends to create a false impression in the mind of the reader. That isn't inherently wrong, although it can be. Take the author of a Whodunit who confuses the reader by giving clues that point in the direction of the wrong suspect. To build suspense, the author tries to throw the reader off the scent with decoys. Make a reader finger the wrong character. Now, these clues aren't false. They happen to be true of the character. Yet they are intentionally misleading.

But in the course of the novel, the author will correct the reader's misimpression. By providing the reader with additional evidence, the reader will see that his initial suspicions were premature. Sometimes a writer will withhold information in order to subvert the reader's initial impressions. In a sense that's deceptive even though all the information he provides is true, and by the end of the mystery the reader will understand who did what. 

Incidentally, we have something like that in the Joseph cycle, where Joseph's premonitory dream appears to be thwarted by events, but as it turns out, the same events which initially seemed to scuttle the premonitory dream are the very means by which the dream is fulfilled. 

I'm not saying this is directly applicable to the Gospels. I'm just making a point of principle.

iii) Apropos (ii), writers don't necessarily have a duty to avoid all possibility that a reader will mistake what they meant. Indeed, any statement, however qualified, can be misconstrued. And it would be very pedantic and cumbersome to write in a way that tries to forestall the possibility of a reader drawing a false impression of what was written. 

On the one hand, the writer did not intend to give the reader a misimpression. On the other hand, a writer may not go out of his way to avoid the possibility of misconstrual, both because the effort would distract from his main point, and because the misimpression would be innocuous. No matter how careful a writer is, he can't prevent some readers from mistaking what he meant, but it may be a harmless inference, because it wasn't important for the reader to know that. 

This isn't just hypothetical. Take the way Matthew and Luke simplify Mark's Holy Week chronology. 

iv) Incidentally, putting words in the mouth of a speaker isn't necessarily fabrication. For instance, Bible translators must decide what to do with Biblical idioms that have no direct counterpart in the receptor language. If they substitute a different, but conceptually equivalent, idiom, they are putting words in the mouth of the speaker. But that's different than fabrication or falsification.

v) Likewise, if a Gospel writer summarizes a speech by Jesus, his paraphrase may use words Jesus didn't use, but so long as he accurately captures the sense of what Jesus said, that's true to what Jesus said. That's a trustworthy record. 

"It's unclear why defenders of the two-cleansings view think it's okay for Matthew and John to give the reader the impression that it happened on a different date than Mark, but misleading for John to give the reader the impression that it happened on a different date than the Synoptics."
Because a difference of a day is much easier to leave out without being willfully misleading than a difference of three years. 

Which may be a valid objection to Licona, but in general that's a prejudicial way of framing the alternatives. 

Moreover, you're guilty of special pleading. If Matthew and Luke change the Holy Week chronology, that's innocent, but if John changes the Holy Week chronology, that's willful deception which makes him historically unreliable. You have your thumb on the scales. 

Because the evidence is much stronger that John intended to say that Jesus cleansed the temple early in his ministry than that Luke and (especially) Matthew intended to say that Jesus cleansed the temple on the same day he arrived. (For example, there is also, in John, the geographical evidence that gives a sequence of Jesus' movements to and away from Judea for the Passover in which he cleanses the Temple.)

I've discussed that above.

"This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." One would have to postulate a completely unheralded break of *three years* at vs. 13. Moreover, get this: John gives this "beginning of miracles" (water into wine) in chapter 2. Then, not only are Jesus' movements within and then out of Judea described *after* the cleansing of the temple in chapters 3 and 4, including more material involving John the Baptist, but we have this in John 4:54: "This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee." 
These are clear tie-ins of the whole sequence of events with chronology and place this whole trip to Jerusalem, which includes the cleansing of the Temple, into that chronology early in Jesus' ministry.

You seem to be assuming that every anecdote between chap. 2 and chap. 5 must be part of a continuous chronological sequence. That's a very novelistic approach to the Gospels, as if John's Gospel is a carefully planned, tightly integrated literary production. But I think oral history is a more realistic model of how observers remember and report incidents they witnessed. A smooth storyline with carefully coordinated plot elements is what we associate with good fiction, rather than a string of autobiographical recollections. Compare the autobiographical novels of Mark Twain with his actual autobiography. The organization of the latter is much looser than the former. 

In contrast, there are no such positive statements in Matthew concerning the second cleansing of the temple that clearly place Jesus' second cleansing on the day of the triumphal entry. There is merely a failure to relate a day's break, and this is consistent throughout Matthew's relation of Passion week that he does not bother to count off all the days like Mark does.

No one who just read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John would have any reason to suppose there was more than one temple cleansing. No one who just read John would have any reason to think there was a temple cleansing at the end of Christ's public ministry. No one who just read the Synoptics would have any reason to think there was a temple cleansing at the beginning of Christ's public ministry. No one who just read Matthew would have any reason to think Jesus cleansed the temple the day after he arrived in Jerusalem. 

On your own view, there are multiple opportunities for readers to draw the wrong impression of when or where the incident occurred. But that's innocuous, because the Gospel writers don't intend to be exhaustive or rigidly linear. 

Notice that once we admit as remotely plausible the hypothesis that John *deliberately* implied, *though he knew it was false*, that Jesus cleansed the Temple at the beginning of his ministry, then one can simply say that all the arguments from differences in purpose, setting, etc., were part of John's clever work in moving the account! In other words, once we admit the hypothesis of deliberate falsification, John the evangelist becomes a lot like Descartes' imaginary Deceiver. Whatever one might point to as evidence that the event really happened early in Jesus' ministry is turned into so-called "evidence" of John's literary abilities in making it look like it happened early in the ministry even if it didn't!
In contrast, an approach to the text that assumes that the gospel writers are telling the truth as they remember it is able to take seriously the obvious evidential impact of considerations like the differences between the accounts. Those considerations _should_ cause us to consider that there may well have been two cleansings, but if one thinks that John was a deliberate falsifier of the timing of events, one loses the correct evidential impact of those considerations. One just says, "Yes, yes, of course that's all there, of course John is making it look like it took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He's _moving_ the cleansing of the Temple to early in the ministry."
This is not only a problem theologically. It's a huge problem epistemically. Like all ad hoc theories, conspiracy theories, etc., such a theory of an (in effect) Deceiver John will make it impossible to see the effect of evidence aright.

i) You're shadowboxing with Licona, which is fine. But in doing so, you typically impose an artificial constraint on the available alternatives.

ii) Redaction criticism usually presumes that differences between Matthew and Mark (to take one example) must be theologically motivated. I think that's rarely the case. For instance, I suspect Matthew generally simplifies Mark for the prosaic reason that he needed to free up space to make room for his own independent additions, while making the narrative fit onto one scroll. Ancient books were often not preserved because they were too long, because they required two or more scrolls.

iii) Likewise, I don't assume that John consciously relocated the temple cleansing. It may just be, as I said, that that's the order in which he remembered events on the day he dictated those anecdotes to a scribe. I don't know for a fact that he used a scribe. But that's a reasonable hypothesis.

iv) Even if he did consciously relocate the temple cleansing, that doesn't necessarily (or even probably) mean he was deliberately making the reader think there was only one temple cleansing, which occurred at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Rather, as I've said, that could function as a flashforward. A preview of the end. 

v) Matthew's simplified chronology makes it look like the temple cleansing happened on the same day as Jesus arrival in Jerusalem–even though it didn't. Mark's chronology is likely more precise at this juncture. So we need to distinguish between the effect of what he wrote and the intent of what he wrote. Which is applicable to John. 

vi) In addition, the average Bible reader doesn't engage in the kind of systematic comparative analysis of the Gospels that harmonists and redaction critics do. Indeed, that's an artificial way of reading the Gospels. They weren't designed to be read side-by-side. They were meant to be read lengthwise, not horizontally, with an eye to the other Gospels. 

vii) The problem with Lydia's Cartesian analogy is that she thinks there are probably errors in the Gospels. But if God allows undetectable mistakes to creep into the Gospel accounts, doesn't that make God a Cartesian Deceiver? Nearly all our information for these incidents comes from the Gospels. We have no independent source and standard of comparison. How is a reader is a position to distinguish truth from error under that scenario? 

Drop A Nuclear Bomb On Trump Every Day

Stuart Stevens has just published an article recommending something like the approach I've been recommending against Trump. The way I put it in January, on Facebook, was that Trump should have a nuclear bomb dropped on his head every day. Bring up how he boasts about committing adultery with so many women, his business failures, his poor electability, etc. Hit him hard, relentlessly, from every direction. Since the media are so unwilling to give him a full vetting, which they'll surely give him if he becomes the nominee, let's give him that full vetting now rather than later. It doesn't look like Cruz, Rubio, Bush, or anybody else is going to take this sort of approach anytime soon, but they ought to.

Here's an article by Kevin Williamson about some of Trump's business failures and dishonesty. It provides some examples of what could be used against Trump, but seldom is.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Scalia on textualism

1. Scalia is a conservative icon. He's rightly admired for his defense of popular sovereignty. He championed consent of the governed. He championed the Bill of Rights. He emphasized separation of powers as a necessary safeguard to protect the Bill of Rights. And unlike his liberal colleagues, he resisted the temptation to abuse his power. 

2. That said, I'm inclined to disagree with the hermeneutical underpinnings of his position. The issue is interesting because it overlaps with Biblical hermeneutics. 

Now, I only have a  superficial knowledge of his voluminous output, so it's possible that I have a simplistic grasp of his position. But if I understand what he's saying, I disagree.

Many internet sources routinely attribute to him a commitment to "original intent", but from what I've read, that's a mischaracterization of his actual position. If so, it's slipshod for so many sources to describe his position in those terms. Here's how he characterizes his own hermeneutic:

The theory of originalism treats a constitution like a statute, giving the constitution the meaning that its words were understood to bear at the time they were promulgated. 
You will sometimes hear it described as the theory of original intent. You will never hear me refer to original intent, because I am first of all a textualist, and secondly an originalist. If you are a textualist, you don't care about the intent, and I don't care if the Framers of the U.S. Constitution had some secret meaning in mind when they adopted its words. I take the words as they were promulgated to the people of the United States, and what is the fairly understood meaning of those words. 
I do the same with statutes, by the way, which is why I don't use legislative history. The words are the law. I think that's what is meant by a government of laws, not of men. We are bound not by the intent of our legislators, but by the laws which they enacted, laws which are set forth in words, of course. 
"Judicial Adherence to the Text of Our Basic Law: A Theory of Constitutional Interpretation". Speech at Catholic University of America (October 18, 1996).

"You will see recited in opinions all the way back that the object of interpretation is to determine the intent of the drafter.  I don't believe that.  We're not governed by the drafter's intent. We're governed by laws," he told NBC News in an interview at the court. 
"Judges should not be using such extrinsic factors as, ‘What is the general purpose of the statute?’ Or ‘What did the Senate committee say when the statute was enacted?’" he said.

Here he explicitly pits his own view in antithetical contrast to original intent. 

3. In fairness to Scalia, I believe his position is partly in reaction to lawmakers who are overly reliant on judges. That makes lawmakers sloppy, because they count on judges to "fix" poorly written laws. And I think he takes the position that it's incumbent on legislators to clearly express their aim through clearly written laws. It is not incumbent on judges to infer what lawmakers had in mind, when they fail to communicate their intentions. To that degree I agree with Scalia.

4. That said, he posits a false dichotomy. This goes back to the so-called "intentional fallacy". William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley came up with that tendentious designation back in 1946. It's a masterstroke of propaganda. After all, a quick and easy way to dispose of a theory you dislike is classify that theory as a "fallacy". That's an effective, prejudicial way, to discredit the theory. If it's a "fallacy," then it deserves no further consideration. But, of course, whether that frame of reference is fallacious begs the question.

5. Scalia caricatures the search for original intent as divining the "secret meaning in the mind" of the Framers or lawmakers. But that's deeply misleading.

To begin with, humans are social creatures and goal-oriented agents. Social life would be impossible if we were unable to reliably infer human intentions from human actions. If I see somebody enter a barbershop and emerge half an hour later, I conclude that he went there to get a haircut, not to read magazines and discuss sports or politics with the barber. If I see someone with an umbrella, I conclude that there's rain in the forecast, that he expects to spend some time out of doors, and that he brought an umbrella to keep himself dry in case it rains. In theory, he could use it as a cane or a weapon against muggers, but that's not the most plausible interpretation of his actions, and in any case, those would be secondary applications.

6. Apropos (5), Scalia erects a false dichotomy between meaning and intent. It's true that strictly speaking, intent is a private mental state. But you don't need to be a mindreader to infer intent. For instance, you can ask what problem the Founding Fathers (or lawmakers) were trying to solve. That's an obvious way to get a bead on their intentions. It's perfectly reasonable to consider the purpose of a statute, or consider legislative history. That's not mindreading. That's not subjective. That's construing a legal text in light of objectively identifiable, publicly available clues. Even though intent is directly inaccessible, intent is indirectly accessible via "extrinsic factors". And that's something we rely on everyday in our social interactions. 

7. You can't separate meaning from intent, for a communicator selects the words he does to assert or convey certain ideas or emotions, or elicit a particular response in the listener. 

Likewise, meaning is context-dependent, and there's more to context than words and sentences. There's the situation that occasioned the utterance. What were the words mean to achieve? Dictionaries don't give you the context. 

Take a word like "freeze". Makes a big difference whether that's used as a noun or a command. If I say "Freeze!" because my walking companion is about to step on a rattlesnake, the sense of my statement can't be determined by a dictionary. In that case, the correct interpretation depends on exigent circumstances. 

Except in fiction, an interpreter can't compartmentalized words from the world in which they arise, and to which they refer. And even in fiction, that's not always possible. To understand the Divine Comedy, you need to understand Dante's thought world, which requires you to become informed about the actual world in which he lived. His time, place, enemies, social circle, intellectual influences.