General Writings


One of the last entries of my now deleted and forever vanished webpage was an essay on orthocogy. Since a few people have asked me about this word, it will be one of the blog entry sites that I will attempt to reconstruct.

Orthocogy is a word that I had made up, but is necessary for the English language. It is a composite construction with the first part “ortho” designating that which is true, right, or correct, and “cogy” is from the latin “cogitare” (to think). Thus, orthocogy is the art and practice of thinking correctly. It is intended to complement the words “orthodoxy” – to believe correctly (connoting the correct/true content of one’s believes) and “orthopraxy” – to behave and act properly. Thus is formed a triad of thinking, believing and acting well.

It was Scripture that first clued me to the need for another word in the English language. In Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the sower, and he was later queried by his disciples as to the meaning of the parable. His answer was quite interesting. “And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” This suggests that right thinking would have allowed the disciples to grasp the meaning of this and other parables. If Scripture did not record an interpretation, it is interesting to speculate as to how various factions of Christianity would have dealt with this parable. I doubt that none of them would have gotten it completely correct.

There are other Scripture passages that provide an equal challenge, and the reader is often left wondering as to how a consistent theology or ethic would be formed with the passage under consideration. Take for instance the parable of the unjust steward, where a steward in the process of being fired by his boss for dishonest dealings works some shady business with his bosses’ clientele. In the process, Jesus’ assessment is stated in Luke 16:8,9, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Clearly Jesus is suggesting that the disciples develop the ability to think through situations and deal wisely with the circumstances at hand.

Orthocogy could simply be called wisdom. The word in Greek is sophia, but the Hebrew word hokmah (חוכמה) tends to have a broader meaning with implications as to general survival in life, including skills, artistic abilities and craftsmanship as well as shrewdness and craftiness in thinking.

So often, the wisdom literature seems to contradict the writings of other Scripture. How often has one questioned statements in the Proverbs or Ecclesiastes as to their ethical correctness? How often has one pondered how the wisdom of the book of James fits in with the doctrines of Romans? A clear-thinking, orthocog person should not have a problem with the wisdom literature, yet how often we need the wisdom literature to allow us training in orthocogy! It is often that the higher institutions of learning best remove us from being able to think with orthocogy.

Make no mistake, orthodoxy and orthocogy are not the same. How often have one seen people of strong faith sometimes make the stupidest decisions? How often do you see the academic scholars of the seminaries make the most foolish political or social judgments? How often has one seen personal heroes of the faith in their worst moments owing to a fogginess in their thinking and inability to act in an orthcog fashion? The most bitter fighting among the most academically respected Reformed scholars leaves me baffled but demonstrates how people could be so orthodox and yet lack orthocogy. For examples, think about Luther’s battles with the Calvinists over the substance of the eucharist, or VanTil’s treatment of Gordon Clark, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ treatment of JI Packer, or the general PCA witch trial of Peter Leithart. Politically, I think of Machen’s strange love for Woodrow Wilson, or Doug Wilson’s most obfuscated thinking about Donald Trump. The list could be far lengthier, but I think I’ve made my point.

Orthocogy is a difficult trait to specifically identify, but manifests itself with how well a person is able to conduct himself in the art of living. Orthocogy cannot be measured. It is like humility; the person that claims to have humility is precisely the person that is NOT humble. A person that boasts the ability to think well similarly must be viewed with deep suspicion.

Proverbs entreats us to seek wisdom. Orthocogy is a trait that is acquired with time and diligence. Like the rest of the triad, orthocogy must (of necessity) be in partnership with orthodoxy and orthopraxy. True, there are godless men who possess orthocogy, yet for the Christian man, right doctrine and ethical practice must be simultaneous with right thinking. May we all acquire wisdom, and may we all have a proper balance of good thinking, good beliefs, and good behavior.

From the Rosetta Stone to the US Tax Code

From the Rosetta Stone to the US Tax Code: The History of Taxation. A Seminar with Charles Adams ★★★★★
This is a series of 10 lectures in 14 hours that Charles Adams delivered for the von Mises Institute. Charles Adams was a young lawyer when he inadvertently became involved in his undesired rise to fame as a tax lawyer. Adams eventually wrote a book on tax law which had difficulty being published but eventually caught the eye of certain people high in politics, leading him to further fame. He is strongly libertarian, though he is unwilling to claim that it is rational to expect eliminating taxes altogether. Adams successfully shows how much of the events that shaped the world, such as major wars and revolutions, and even things such as the Rosetta Stone, revolved around the issue of taxes. He is the first to persuade me that the Civil War probably had more to do with uneven distribution of taxes than issues of slavery or state rights. There are many gems throughout. An example is his emphasis that a graduated income tax is a misnomer, which should be called income extortion since all graduated “taxes” are in reality extortions. He was also able to show how graduated taxes were a major source of political instability, the cause of social class instability, and ultimately the instability of the state. Adams lectures in a  casual style, very relaxed, telling many anecdotes about his own personal history with rogue internal revenue agents, mostly in terms of fighting for his clients. The lectures are slightly disorganized, and they don’t fit neatly with the titles that they were labeled with.
A few people who will have read to here will still think that the state is your friend and looking after your best interest. Perhaps so, but definitely not the United States. He shows how US tax laws have some unique differences from any other tax law in the world. He rightfully identifies the IRS as worse than the Gestapo, since the IRS has certainly way outdone the Gestapo on spying on US citizens, knowing their every move and every dollar spent. Yet, they are also able to persuade the masses that they are an impartial and benign entity. Recent IRS news shows us just the opposite. I didn’t realize it that every country in the world taxes people as residents and not as citizens: this implies that US citizens are the ONLY people in the world who are supposed to be taxed even though they no longer live in the United States. Adams ends by showing how 8 simple laws can help bring sense back to taxation. The laws aren’t what you think they’d be. The first is to end government spying on American citizens’ cash flow. He strongly recommends an emphasis on indirect taxes, with direct taxes being apportioned evenly throughout the population (e.g., a flat-rate income tax, everybody pays, and all pay the exact same percent) as has been stated so clearly in the US constitution.
This lecture series can be obtained for cheap from the von Mises Institute website and is highly worth it.