The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘A Reprobate Mind’

Posted on | January 22, 2018 | Comments Off on ‘A Reprobate Mind’

Emperor Nero (left); Aziz Ansari (right).

The Greek word adokimon can be translated as “depraved,” “unacceptable” or “foolish.” It is used exactly once in New Testament, in the first chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, where the King James Version translates it as “reprobate”:

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient . . .”

In other words, those who reject God thereby bring upon themselves a curse of mental depravity which causes them to behave in ways harmful to themselves and others. The King James wording “things which are not convenient” is a translation of a Greek phrase that includes the word kathikonta. This word mean “duties,” and is significant in the Stoic tradition of philosophy:

From this view, man should live in accordance with one’s nature. Kathikonta are the appropriate or fitting actions and duties of our lives, in accordance with our nature, such as being kind to one’s parents, etc. When appropriate action is combined with genuine virtue and logic, such actions are viewed as perfect actions . . . the action of a wise man.

Paul’s use of kathikonta in his letter to the Romans suggests not only his own familiarity with Hellenistic philosophy, but also shows how he appealed to the sensibility of his readership, by employing terms they would understand. Thus, he told the Romans, those who reject God are cursed with a “reprobate” (adokimon) mind, and behave in “inconvenient” ways, i.e., contrary to moral duties (kathikonta).

Who was the Apostle describing here? Paul was not only a missionary evangelist and teacher, but also a prophet, and students of Roman history may find in this famous passage of his letter to the Romans a remarkably accurate description of the Emperor Nero. At the time Paul wrote this letter in about 55 A.D., he was in the Greek city of Corinth and had never been to Rome, so it would have been impossible for him to know anything about the character of Nero, who had become emperor a year earlier, at age 16. Yet when Paul writes of people so wicked that “God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts” (Romans 1:24) and “God gave them up unto vile affections” (Romans 1:26), this is a near-perfect description of the immoral decadence of Nero’s reign. This famous passage of the Bible came to mind when I was pondering a more recent example of immoral decadence:

“I hate men. . . . He wanted sex.”
Those two brief sentences were texted by a 22-year-old girl during an Uber ride home from a date with 34-year-old TV star Aziz Ansari. Her account of their September 2017 date as “the worst night of my life” went viral last week, generating an enormous amount of commentary. Using the pseudonym “Grace,” she told her story to a website, (motto: “for girls who don’t give a f–k”) where it was presented as part of the #MeToo feminist narrative about sexual assault and “rape culture.” Immediately, Grace’s story came under fire because her own behavior was so irresponsible. . . .
The breathless “worst night of my life” emotionalism of the story obscures the objective reality, which is that Ansari’s behavior, while crude and selfish, was neither violent nor criminal. He never forced her to do anything, and the real question is, what did Grace expect when she went to back to his apartment? It is clear from her story that Ansari presumed she wanted to have sex with him, but just as clear that she was offended by his presumption. . . .

Please read the whole thing. It’s more than 4,000 words long, and I spent an entire day writing it, so if you find it in any way useful or entertaining, I hope you’ll throw a few bucks in the tip jar.



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