Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Childermas and the Sanctity of Life


Does a baby have inherent value by being created in the image of God, or is his worth derivative from the ‘choice’ of someone else? Does the state have the authority to facilitate the slaughter of innocent children in order to meet needs within the adult community?

While questions such as these are at the forefront of today’s abortion controversy, the basic issues they raise are nothing new. In fact, these very issues were raised when Herod “the Great” massacred all the infant babies in Bethlehem in order to satisfy his own selfish needs.

The Magi and the Massacre


Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when Christians have traditionally remembered the baby boys in Bethlehem that King Herod ordered to be massacred. A week from tomorrow will be the Feast of Epiphany, when Christians remember the journey the Magi took to Jerusalem to seek the Christ-child. Today I have posted an article over at the Alfred the Great Society which explores the historical background to these two events and their relevance for our own age. After exploring the history of Herod and his family I suggest some reasons why he found the Christ-child to be such a threat. To read the article click on the link below:



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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Postmodernism Notes

Earlier in the year I constructed a timeline for our Omnibus class to assist with the study of Gene Veith's Postmodern Times. Click HERE to download the timeline (and in the process, discover how the picture on the right embodies the principles of Postmodern art).

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

C.S. Lewis's Delight in Hierarchy

Four years ago Esther and I commented how the movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe disrupted Lewis's hierarchical vision that was embedded in courtly etiquette. We made the point that Lewis shows in his writings, such as The Allegory of Love, that chivalrous themes and symbols are pointers to higher realities, and that Narnian culture is saturated with such images. By contrast, Adamson, the director of the first Narnia film, seemed intent on eliminating all the subtle nuances that point to these symbols and images. For example, regarding the Father Christmas scene, Andrew Adamson said
"[In the book], Father Christmas says, ‘I do not intend you to use it because battles are ugly when women fight.’ I thought that was very disempowering to girls, the fact that you get a tool and you’re not allowed to use it. I think C.S. Lewis wrote this book before he met Doug’s mother. I think there are a lot more strong female characters in his books after he met Doug’s mother. ‘Battles are ugly affairs’ made it more of a universal thing and not a sexist thing. "
The problem here is not simply that Adamson tried to create a politically correct Narnia  but that Adamson’s approach was essentially reductive, getting rid of the hierarchical themes that permeate relationships between the different classes in Narnia and between men and women. It is reductive because he was subtly rejecting transcendent themes such as a chivalrous society where men are manly and fight to protect woman. Similarly, the whole way in which family solidarity was made to replace loyalty to Aslan as the childrens' motivating factor throughout the narrative (an point we develop here) was another move away from transcendent themes to two-dimensional, empirically accessible themes. This approach has the effect of flattening Lewis’ Narnia, like turning something that is in colour into black and white.
  
I was delighted the other day to have our perspective confirmed by Steven D. Boyer who has written some great things about C.S. Lewis' hierarchical view of the world, and the films' implicit rejection of this worldview. In his article, "Narnia Invaded: How the New Films Subvert Lewis’s Hierarchical World" he makes the following observations:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Philip Schaff on the "Sect System"

"...the sect system...brings all sorts of impure motives into play, and encourages the use of unfair, or at least questionable means for the promotion of its ends. It nourishes party spirit and passion, envy, selfishness, and bigotry. It changes the peaceful kingdom of God into a battle-field, where brother fights brother, not, of course, with sword and bayonet, yet with loveless harshness and all manner of detraction, and too often subordinates the interests of the church universal to those of his own party. It tears to pieces the beautiful body of Jesus Christ, and continually throws in among its members the fire-brands of jealousy and discord, instead of making them work together harmoniously for the same high and holy end. It should not be forgotten, that Christianity aims not merely to save individual souls, and then leave them to themselves, but to unite them with God and therefore also with one another. It is essentially love, and tends towards association; and the church is and ought to become more and more the one body of Jesus Christ, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all. If, therefore, the observer start with the conception of the church as an organic communion of saints, making unity and universality its indispensable marks, and duly weighing the many exhortations of Holy Scripture to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bod of peace; he cannot possibly be satisfied with the sect system, but must ever come out against it with the warnings of Paul against the divisions and parties in the Corinthian church." Philip Schaff, America, p. 99

Further Reading

“To the dogs with the Head”: The Anti-inellectualism of Charles Finney

8 Gnostic Myths You May Have Imbibed

The Problem of Mediation in the First Great Awakening

Religion of the People, by the People, for the People

Recovering the Protestant Affirmation of Life

Finney and the New Measures

Gender, Morality and Modesty



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Jack and the Beanstalk and Miracle on 34th Street

All good stories are echoes of the One Story, telling the account of the fall and redemption.
 
Jack and the Beanstalk is typical of a good fairy story: it begins with Jack and his mother impoverished, which we later learn was because of the giant’s cruelty to Jack’s father. This is a type of the fall, although in this case the enemy is not the serpent but the giant.
 
Just as Adam and Eve were banished from paradise, so Jack and his mother are sent to live the life of paupers. Jack, who is a type of Christ, comes and plunders the giant’s castle and redeems is father’s lost fortune, just as Christ bruised the serpent’s head and redeemed us for His kingdom.
 
The reason Jack and the Beanstalk and similar tales are so compelling is because they echo themes at the very heart of our world and our humanity. All good stories follow this same basic pattern, telling a story of fall and redemption. (This is a point that Brian Godawa brings out in his book Hollywood Worldviews, by the way.)
 
The movie, Miracle on 34th Street, is no different. It begins with Doris and Susan in a fallen state, although in this case it is a fall into a rationalistic, restricted epistemology which the cold Doris adopted as a form of self-protection after her divorce. Kris revealingly refers to Doris and Susan as “a couple of lost souls.” By the end of the film they are no longer lost but have found redemption, metaphorically, through “faith.” However, unlike Biblical faith, this faith is an existential leap of irrationality, revealing the postmodern epistemology of our age.

For more about this, see my article "Miracle on 34st Street and the Problem with Postmodern Epistemology."


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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Odysseus’ Emotional Labours

Click here to read my thoughts on some of the obstacles that women present to Odysseus on his voyage home from Troy and what we can learn from these about his character.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Domenic Johansson Update

In an article I posted last week, titled 'Swedish Social Services Snatch Christian Homeschooler and Jail Father', I shared about the tragic case of a Swedish homeschooler who was snatched from his parents by social services even though the parents had not broken any laws. Since then I have written an update on the situation with the father in prison for the December edition of the Christian Voice magazine. (To join Christian Voice and receive their monthly magazine, click here). I have been given permission to make my article on Domenic available, and it can be downloaded by clicking on the following link:


Those interested in the case should also watch and share the following short video which the Alliance Defense Fund produced on Monday.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The American contrasted with the Englishman

"The American, I grant, has less solidity than the much older Englishman. But he makes up for this in vivacity, elasticity, and capacity for improvement. The Englishman, too, is shut up on his island; the American moves on a great continent and between two oceans. The former has not yet been able to assimilate to itself the Celtic Irishman in his immediate neighborhood, nor thoroughly to redress his grievances; the latter, at once infuses into the immigrant the common feeling of the American." Philip Schaff, America
 
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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Swedish Social Services Snatch Christian Homeschooler and Jail Father

On June 26, 2009, seven-year old Domenic Johansson was seated in a commercial airliner with his parents awaiting departure of a flight to India. Domenic is a dual citizen of Sweden and India.

Though the family had received no prior warning, Swedish authorities boarded the plane just minutes before take-off, forcibly removing Domenic from the custody of his parents and placing him in foster care.

Domenic is a citizen of India, and his mother’s family all live in India. However, Swedish Social Services in Domenic's home town of Gottland decided to prevent the departure in order to force the boy to attend their school.

The family had received no preliminary warning, nor had they been forbidden from leaving the country.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Ravi Zacharias and the "Indispensable Balance"

I recently posted about Charles Finney and the unbiblical disjunction he posited between the head and the heart. In that post I pointed out that any system which elevates one's own feelings to an authoritative status in the name of the "heart", and then short-circuits rational critique by appealing to the spurious disjunction of between the head and the heart, is a charter for the worst type of spiritual abuse. I argued instead that the head and the heart, while being distinguishable, should not be divisible since scripture tells us that in Christ we are given both a new mind as well as a new heart. Both are to be sanctified under Christ and integrated within redeemed man.
 
My wife Esther recently drew my attention to some fascinating comments that Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias made in an interview. Ravi talks about the "indispensable balance" between the head and the heart that is so necessary within the Christian faith. I highly recommend these two short interviews which are available on Youtube. His comments about the necessary integration of head and the heart are in the first of the two interviews.




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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Finney and “The New Measures”

Known as the “Father of Modem Evangelism”, Finney grew up in the frontier wilderness of Oneida County in Central New York and always retained a robust pioneer attitude towards life. As a young man Finney found he was particularly gifted at debate and trained to be a lawyer as a consequence. While practicing law Finney experienced a dramatic conversion experience and decided to devote his life to the ministry. After being ordained into the Presbyterian ministry, he began ministering in upstate New York.

Finney’s evangelistic efforts climaxed in 1830 in Rochester, where he preached 98 sermons between 10 September, 1830, and 6 March, 1831. Finney’s electrifying personality, booming voice, musical ability and piercing eyes kept the community hypnotized and in a perpetual state of excitement. Many of Finney’s meetings lasted into the early hours of the morning and occurred over a series of successive days. It was not untypical for shops and businesses to close so people could attend his meetings, while crime reportedly dropped by two-thirds over the same period. When news of the revival spread, Christians throughout the nation began to look to Rochester as a pattern for revival and Finney as the revival’s chief spokesman, even as a century earlier the revival at Northampton had thrust Jonathan Edwards into the role of spokesperson for the first Great Awakening. But it was there that the similarity ceased.

Read entire article

Quantitative Easing Explained



For more about what is wrong with our economy, click here.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

"To the dogs with the Head"

I recently challenged a couple who have led a church out of their house for many years (if regular meetings, the administration of the sacraments and spurious "Word from the Lord" can be considered church) and whom I believed were guilty of grave spiritual abuse. The type of abuse I witnessed was not unlike the way the Pharisees treated people during the time of Christ.
 
I shared with this couple some of the things Jesus said to the Pharisees, hoping they might be convicted and seek forgiveness from their victims. When this couple eventually responded, instead of addressing the scriptures I had shared, they said that the the problem was with me, and in particular the way I relied on the head rather than the heart. The Lord, they said, favours cardiac faith rather than cerebral religion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Apology for Gender, Morality and Modesty

This 6-part series on gender, morality and modesty seeks to defend Biblical morality by showing the consequences of the alternative. While this is nothing new in itself, I have approached the problem from an original angle. Rather than simply lamenting how bad things have become in our society, I have tried to show that the results of the sexual revolution have actually been antithetic to its own goals.
 
Starting at the time of the ‘Enlightenment’ and working my way through to the present day, I observe that a consequence of rejecting the Biblical worldview has been to rob men and women of the ability to properly enjoy themselves as God intended. The reductionism of gender and sexuality wrought by the materialistic worldview has created a new network of secular taboos. The result is that gender has been neutralized and the spice has been taken out of life.
 
As my argument unfolds, it becomes clear that the Biblical approach is not simply the ethical option: it is also the most sexy. The alternatives to Biblical morality, which our society has been desperately trying to make work, not only fail to achieve their own goals, but are ultimately boring by comparison.
 
At the moment chastity is ‘in’ but coherent thinking about chastity is at an all time low. Many Christian young people think that as long as you don’t have sex before marriage then you are keeping to the Biblical sex ethic. That is ethics by subtraction, which leaves a moral vacuum that makes the young person a prime target for sexual temptation. My approach in these posts is to try to show that purity is not a matter of negation, but of affirmation. Against those who maintain that Biblical standards of purity and integrity represent a repressive or a pessimistic view of sexuality, I show that the shoe is actually on the other foot.
 
In the long run, I argue that Biblical morality is the truly erotic option.
 
Following are links to the 6 different posts in this series:







 
Overview of Argument
 

More of my articles




Features at ATG Society 


Resources at ATG Society



 
Spokane Libertarian Examiner 
 
Commentary on Current Events 



World Net daily
 
Christianity and Society
   
The Chuck Colson Center (put "Robin Phillips" in the search box at the top)

Jonathan Edwards Society

Articles on Gnosticism





Salvo Magazine 
 
The Salvo Blog

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Extraordinary Powers Granted to European Police

On 22 November, the full extent of the EU’s police and criminal prosecution powers emerged.
 
These powers include the “European Arrest Warrant.” This allows British citizens to be captured within the UK and extradited to foreign jails for months or years without bail while awaiting trial without the right of appeal.
 
Most UK citizens are unaware of these powers, which came when the Lisbon Treaty removed Britain’s veto in justice and home affairs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Power is Growing in the East

At a time when public opinion about the EU is at an all-time low, the European Union is refashioning itself as a global entity.
 
At the heart of the EU’s global aspirations is the European External Action Service (EEAS). Headed by Baroness Ashton (right) and financed with an annual budget of 5.8 billion, the EEAS is launching the European Union into a global movement.

Members of European Parliament Raise Their Pay

Even though the European economy is in meltdown,  on 24 November, Euro-MPs were handed an extraordinary £3,000 pay rise. Their pay will rise from £81,401 to £84,412. This does not include the luxurious expenses they also qualify for. (Read more here.)

EU legislation only allows for pay adjustments if there has been a ‘sudden and serious deterioration in the economic and social situation’. However, judges for the European Court conveniently ruled that this law did not apply.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Luther and the Sanctification of Work

When Martin Luther penned his 95 theses to the Wittenberg  door on 31 October 1517, he was challenging the church’s authority to sell indulgences. However, the implication of Luther’s challenge quickly accelerated beyond merely the indulgence controversy. By the mid 16th century the authority of the Roman Catholic church began to be disputed in virtually every other area. This included an overt challenge to the Roman Catholic doctrine of vocation.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Old Testament and the afterlife

“Modern readers often wish that Old Testament prophets and authors had been more forthright and explicit in their comments concerning the afterlife in general, and the netherworld in particular. The fact remains that biblical writers and ancient Israelite characters tended to be preoccupied with the here and now. Their goal was to enjoy a long full life, secure in the knowledge of God’s presence and rich in the blessings that attend a life of covenant faithfulness. Furthermore, eternal life was often viewed in terms of living on in one’s children. Accordingly, a man “with a full quiver” (Ps. 127:3-5) was considered most blessed; a person who was childless was deemed under the curse.” Daniel I. Block ‘The Old Testament on Hell’ in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Was the American Revolution a Just War?

"Congress, in the Declaration of Independence, accused George II of a whole list of atrocities. The King had 'refused his assent to laws [of the colonial assemblies], the most wholesome and necessary for the public good,' he had 'dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions of the rights of the people,' and on and on through specific allegations of royal misconduct. Each of the charges was based on real incidents of strife between the colonies and the mother country, usually during the fifteen years preceding 1776. But all of them exaggerated greatly the intent of the King and the Parliament to destroy the liberties of the colonies and the actual damages which their conduct had caused. We gain perspective on the plight of the colonists when we realize that they enjoyed more freedom than almost any region in the world in 1776. They had as many rights under the British government as citizens of Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C. (who are also taxed without voting representation in Congress) enjoy under the United States government today....Most historians of the Revolution concede that Parliament was committing serious errors. It was making mistakes of judgment and errors in action. Its leaders, like Lord North under whom the War began, did not understand life in North America well. But virtually no historian believes that the blunders of Parliament constituted the threat the colonists thought they did. Regardless of how the patriots perceived it, they were not in a desperate situation. 'In short,' as historian Gordon S. Wood has recently written, 'the eighteenth century colonists were freer, had less inequality, were more prosperous and less burdened with cumbersome feudal restraints than any other part of mankind in the eighteenth century, and more important they knew it.'"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When it's Too Late to Govern with Rules

The following is taken from The Way of a Man with a Maid, and describes some of the disastrous tendencies that can occur under the guise of 'courtship.'
When children reach the age of interest in the opposite sex, this is an ideal time for teaching and guidance. This teaching should not be a sudden shift but a clear continuation of an already established atmosphere and understanding that has been nurtured in the home. Consequently, there will be no need for a sudden safety plan because the children will already desire the right sort of relationships. If mistakes are made, these will be made by young adults whose allegiance is the Lord’s, not people in rebellion. Obviously godly parents hope the mistakes their children make will be minimal, but they should not, out of fear, prevent their children from engaging in their own lives independently before the Lord. When children grow up, they must go out and fight their own battles before the Lord with the equipment and weapons their parents have furnished them with.

The Constitutional Convention and States' Rights

Earlier in the year I put an article on Alfred the Great Society about states' rights and the Constitutional option that states have to nullify federal laws. Titled "Historic Breakthrough in American Politics," the article gives  a little history lesson on the founding of America.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Updating Mormon Morality

Mormonism has always had a knack for being able to modify morality in order to keep pace with the demands of one's libido, so I was not surprised to read today that "the Mormon Church no longer believes that same-sex attraction is inherently sinful after a major policy u-turn." They are updating their Church Handbook of Instructions to remove the claim that same-sex relationships “distort loving relationships”.

Blanchard's Surprise

In John Blanchard's article, "Whatever Happened to Heaven?" he noted the scarcity of the topic of heaven within historic Christian discourse. While Blanchard sees this as both a surprise and a great tragedy, I see it as neither. Rather, it makes sense when we  realize that bodily resurrection, not heaven, is the primary locus of the Christian hope according to the New Testament (a point I have developed in my other posts about resurrection). This is what Blanchard notes:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jonathan Edwards at his best

As there will be various members of different degrees in the body of Christ in heaven, so it seems to me probable, that there will be members of various kinds and different offices, as it is in the church on earth (1 Corinthians 12). That is, there will be some especially distinguished for one grace, others for another; some of one manner of the exercise of grace, others of another; some more fitted for this work, others for that. Everyone will have their distinguishing gift, one after this manner and another after that, the perfection of the saints in glory nothing hindering; for that perfection will not be of such a kind, that one saint may not be more eminent than another in grace, or that they shall not be capable of increasing, and so attaining to higher degrees, nor that one grace in the same saint shall not have a more remarkable and eminent exercise than others. And 'tis most probable, if it be so, that they shall excell most in the same graces, and the same kind of works, by which they were most distinguished on earth, God rewarding their graces and works by giving of them grace more abundantly of the same kind; as Christ has promised, that to him that hath shall be given. This difference will be for the beauty and the profit of the whole: they will profit one another by their distinguishing grace; with respect to those graces, they will not be beyond being profited by one another, as well as delighted; they will still be employing and improving themselves.
See also: Jonathan Edwards on Resurrection


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The Problem of Mediation in the First Great Awakening


In my post “Gnosticism, Marriage, Singleness, Matchmaking and Martin Luther “ I suggested that the Eucharist, and indeed both the sacraments (I was going to say “all the sacraments”, but I am a good Protestant and only recognize two, although it really remains a matter of definition), have become especially troubling among evangelicals for whom the matter/spirit dichotomy is the uber-presupposition. Since modern evangelicals find it offensive that God’s grace would be mediated through physical means or instruments (even as classical Gnosticism found it offensive that God would be incarnated in flesh), so the sacraments are reduced to mere symbols for what goes on inside the individual. As Ollif points out, the “physical manifestations” are simply epiphenomena of a relationship that can be fully defined apart from those physical manifestations. The Protestant tendency to separate spirit from matter means that the Eucharist can become merely an appendix to the Word, a disguised sermon or an approximation for our own spiritual interiority but certainly not a rite that objectively conveys grace.

Religion of the People, by the People, for the People

In my earlier post on Joseph Smith I talked about the egalitarian flavour of 19th century New England religion. In this blog post I will be suggesting that such egalitarianism was also apparent in the 18th century North American religion. My discussion will explore the peculiar conjunction of revivalism and republican politics that was the special province of the North American evangelical.

The Strange Outbreak of Canadian Gnosticism


In the late 18th century, Canada experienced a strange outbreak of Gnosticism. (Readers unfamiliar with Gnosticism should click here for an overview.) The outbreak centered on the strange figure of Henry Alline (1748-1784). An itinerant evangelist and church planter, he was incredibly well received in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Maritimes.
 
Alline took it upon himself to replace the region’s traditional Calvinism with an existential mysticism. Hostile to the material world, Alline denied the future resurrection of the body and taught that Adam and Eve had no corporeal bodies before the fall. Even the physical world itself was a kind of cosmic blunder that only arose because the angels had fallen. By the time of his death in 1784, Alline had helped to lay the foundations for the Baptist movement in the Maritime provinces, and left behind a number of hymns that were included in the standard 19th century hymnals.

George Whitefield and Marriage

That I think Whitefield was a great man of God, should be clear from my earlier post about him. However, he did have one fault: he was a lousy husband. Now that Whitefield is up in heaven I think he would be pleased to know that we are learning lessons from his mistakes as from his successes. 
     
Whitefield first met Elizabeth Delamotte in 1737 when he had been a guest in her parents’ home. Elizabeth was known for her stunning beauty and Whitefield became enamoured with her. Unfortunately, however, his emphasis on self-denial had left him unprepared to know how to deal with his feelings. Thus, when he proposed to Elizabeth, Whitefield made clear that his arduous travelling ministry would continue unabated even after marriage. In his proposal letter, Whitefield assured Elizabeth that he was free from the “passionate expressions” of love and coldly stated: “I have great reason to believe it is the divine will that I should alter my condition, and have often thought that you [were] the person appointed for me.” It is not surprising that Elizabeth rejected the tepid proposal.
 
Later Whitefield had another opportunity to marry. His friend, Howell Harris, had fallen in love with a woman, also named Elizabeth, but decided he wanted “no creature between my soul and God.” In order to remove Elizabeth from his life, Howell gave her to Whitefield. Whitefield married her, but his implicit sacred/secular dualism ensured the marriage was not easy. Believing God called him to neglect his family for the sake of missions, he maintained a schedule of preaching twice a day during their honeymoon, while even on the day of his only son’s funeral, he preached as the bells for the funeral service chimed. Most of his married life was spent away from home on his various preaching tours. During one season, when Elizabeth did try to travel with her husband, it was so stressful that she miscarried four times in sixteen months.
 
Now contrast Whitefield's approach to marriage with that of the Puritans. Puritan teaching on marriage allowed no dichotomy between one's devotion to the ministry and one's devotion to family. For the Puritans, loving one's wife is Christian ministry and a vital part of it. In my article Recovering the Protestant Affirmation of Life, I discuss this Puritan vision further. I argue that the Calvinist movement in which Puritanism was rooted dignified activities that were previously considered mundane, through vigorously affirming the sacredness of earthly life, the glory of the physical, the splendour of the ordinary and the intimate unison between spirit and matter. The Puritan allowed one to serve God by serving one's wife, to be faithful to the Lord through being faithful in one's vocation. To read more about that, click here.


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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bad King John and the Magna Charta


In my previous post, 'My Visit to Runnymede' , I promised to write to explain the background to the Magna Charta and why the signing of it at Runnymede was so important.

To set the context, a few words must be said about bad King John and his family background.

The thirteenth-century monk and chronicler Mathew Paris said, “Foul as it is, hell itself is defiled by the fouler presence of John." As these remarks suggest, King John (r. 1199-1216) has the distinction of being remembered as the worst monarch England has ever known, with the possible exception of Bloody Mary, four hundred years later. Possessing a seemingly endless supply of greed, violence, malice, rage, lust, sadism, treachery and hypocrisy, it seems that there was no vice in which John did not excel.
 

Tolerance

Someone recently commented on an article I put on Salvo's 'Signs of the Times' blog, which gets to the problem of the modern notion of tolerance. This is what he said,
I totally agree with this take on the idea of tolerance. In every other situation, the idea of tolerating something includes the fact that one must disagree or dislike what it is they are tolerating (e.g. pain tolerance). By definition, I can't tolerate something unless I DO disagree with it. Certainly there are people who are intolerant based on the original definition. But to refer to me (or others) as intolerant just because I happen to disagree with someone on a particular point is the first step in stifling change and growth. Obviously, if we're not ever allowed to disagree, we'll all become like passionless automatons who can no longer think for ourselves. Most of the advancements in technology, science, medicine, etc. came because someone disagreed with how things were done and came up with something new. This new definition of tolerance, I think, puts us on a path to kill that kind of ingenuity. Just my $.02. Great post!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dead Zones Substantiate Earlier Concerns About BP Cleanup

Earlier today it was reported that scientists “have discovered some new and troubling problems from the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.” According to latest discoveries, “approximately seven miles from the site of the BP oil spill, scientists have found a large area of ocean floor coral dead.” In another report that broke yesterday, a Canadian toxicologist has found that “chemicals used to reduce oil slicks during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have rendered the oil more toxic than official reports suggest…”

Today Google has registered 3,359 recent news stories all saying the same thing – that the disaster in the Gulf is a lot worse than anyone realized and that the cleanup efforts have left huge sections of the Gulf completely void of life.

I’m sorry to be cynical, but the only news is that the public is now recognizing what I and others warned at the time

Read entire article

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Matthew Phillips as Marc Antony

Here is my son, Matthew, giving Marc Antony's speech from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

My visit to Runnymede

When I was in England earlier this autumn I took a group of homeschool students to Runnymede and spoke to them about King John and the Magna Charta. (The picture on the right s of my at Runnymede.)
 
The signing of the Magna Charta was such an important milestone in Western history that I expected the place to be flooded with tourists and to at least have a gift shop. I expected it to be so crowded and noisy that I even considered giving my talk at the house before we arrived. But it is just a field and few visitors besides us were there. The monuments and plaques which do exist were donated by Americans. A local resident told me that most English people living in the area don’t even know that Runnymede exists, let alone the significance of the place.

In one sense this is understandable. The government of England -  which controls the education of most British citizens - has not been keen to advertise the Magna Charta since they have abolished many of its provisions. Moreover, the totalitarian legislation that has flooded through parliament in the last 30 years is directly contrary to the spirit the Magna Charta. I just read today, in fact that Louise Casey, the Government's victims' commissioner, has called for the scrapping of the right to trial by jury trial for lesser offences that "clog up the courts", to save money.
   
But why was the Magna Charta so important and how did it come about? That is the question that I would like to address in the next post.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dashed Dreams of Utopia

When Obama assumed office in 2008, experts declared that a new era of Democratic dominance was being ushered in. The atmosphere was Utopian, even Messianic.
 
In his acceptance speech in Chicago on November 5, 2008. Obama told the story of American history, from its inception to its growth into civic maturity in a “new dawn of American leadership” – a process that climaxes in his own utopian announcement: “Our union can be perfected.”
 
However, midway through his presidency voters have become disillusioned and are no longer inclined to believe Obama’s utopian promises.
 
It is not surprising that voters were disillusioned with Obama. Not only has he established himself as the most liberal president in America’s history, but the federal deficit has increased by more than $3 trillion since he took office. In October last year I reported on the state of the National debt and explained why it should alarm every American. I regret to say that twelve months later the situation is almost indescribably worse. On 18 October, the Bureau of Public Debt drew our attention to the fact that the National Debt had hit an all time high of $13.665 trillion. Mark Knoller has pointed out that if present trends continue, then by Obama’s fourth year in office, the National Debt will have reached nearly $16.5-trillion, which is over 100% of the value of the nation’s economy.
 
Voters have also been upset at the unprecedented expansion of the US military empire which Obama has engineered – an expansion that threatens to undermine America’s economic stability and throw the country back into the Dark Ages.

Further Reading










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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Republicans aren't much better

"We can and should pray that the turnover in Congress helps to undermine Obama’s legislative hyperactivity and spending spree. However, humanly speaking, last week’s election is unlikely to make a significant difference. Most American Republicans share with the democrats the same paradigm of a continually expanding government, they simply disagree about the rate that government should expand. Most republicans have followed Bush in believing that deficit spending and bailouts are unavoidable in the present economic climate, although they have a problem with the specific spending choices that Obama has made. Most republicans think that the state should be used as an engine to improve society rather than merely preserving law and order, they simply would like to move slower in implementing socialism." From "Midterm Election Disrupts Utopian Vision"

The Government just stole from the poor

I just read here that the day after the election, the Federal Reserve made a little-noticed announcement that it’s printing up another $1 trillion. To get an idea just how much money that is, click here.

Not enough people realize it, but every time the government prints money, it is stealing from us. It is stealing the purchasing value of the dollars we already have, and this tends to affects the poor the worst.
The government can choose who receives the new money (friends of government and military contractors) and by the time it trickles down to the rest of us, the new money has already lost much of its value. "To steal from the shoemaker the fruit of his labor," noted Herbert Schlossberg in Idols of Destruction, one can take his product or the money he has received for it. Or else one can so tamper with the monetary system that the money will not serve to purchase economic goods equivalent to the product the shoemaker provides. Outright stealing is widely recognized for what it is, but the economic crime that accomplishes the same thing through debasing the money is not. Yet the motive and the effect are the same."

Yay, Gridlock!

"Over the course of the next year or so, you will be told ad nauseum that the nation is suffering from endless gridlock. The American people, it will be said, want things to "get done." Well, I might want to ask, what things? If I am tied up on the deck of a pirate ship, with a bunch of fellow hostages, and a fight breaks out among the pirates, with one faction wanting us to walk the plank, and the other faction wanting to run us all through, I cast my vote for gridlock. As in, yay, gridlock."
From Douglas Wilson, "Principalities and Porkers"

Friday, November 05, 2010

Modern Music Scene

Does the modern music scene reflect a love of disorder and death? Yes and no. The problem is not universal. It would be simplistic to equate rock music and disorder. But it is not that difficult to point to numerous "musicians" who are unquestionably bent on glorifying ugliness and disorder. It occurred with a great deal of "punk" music twenty years ago, and is echoed again in a high percentage of the so-called "alternative" music of today. (I am always tempted to see the term as identifying an "alternative" to music: non-music.) It is typified by the lingering death-image of some popular musical celebrities: black cosmetics, ashen faces - a deliberate attempt to appear dead. "All those who hate me love death." Christian groups who imitate this are severely ignorant of their own message, and the message of the musicians they are imitating. These are two worldviews in collision: truth and beauty versus disorder and ugliness; creation versus curse.
My point here is not to claim that any kind of ugliness or dissonance in music, for any purpose, is evil. There is artistic value and appropriateness for some instances of ugliness and dissonance. But there is something evil about its glorification
The above passage is taken from Tim Gallant's excellent article "A Creational Perspective on Modern Music: Introductory Thoughts"


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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Cameron's U-turn on Europe

"Britons have been robbed of the chance to vote on a power grab by Brussels despite promises of a referendum," I read today.

"In the wake of the Lisbon Treaty fiasco, David Cameron vowed Britain would never again give away powers to Brussels without first holding a referendum."

"In a spectacular U-turn, however, Mr Cameron has now backed plans to sneak changes into the Lisbon Treaty without triggering referendums across Europe."

Further Reading


Europe and New Creation

European Police Prepare to Spy on Britons

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween

I am against Halloween, but not for the reasons that most Christians who are against it give. Pagan origins don’t bother me, nor do I think Satan somehow gains extra power when children dress up as ghosts or witches.

The real reason I object to Halloween – and this is a point I have never heard any other parent make – is because the holiday (at least in its contemporary manifestation) gravitates towards the celebration of ugliness. In so far as this observation is correct (and a cursory glance at Halloween decorations suggests that it is), Halloween is antithetic to the values we should be trying to instill in our children, namely an enjoyment of goodness, truth and beautiful.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The "Double-Truth" Universe 1

In my 2009 publication The Twilight of Liberalism, I discuss how beneath the apparent success of Christianity in the West during the 18th and 19th centuries, a subtle dualism crept into the picture which found expression in the anti-intellectual trends of the 20th century.
On the surface, Christianity seemed to spread in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Movements sprung up all over the place, including the Quakers and Methodists in England, the Great Awakening in America, Jansenism in France, Pietism in Germany, etc. However, beneath the apparent progress Christianity was making, there was an underlying, usually unconscious, acceptance of the divided epistemology. These movements tended to emphasize the personal, emotional and inspirational aspects of faith often at the expense of the objective, public elements. In his article, “The Pietistic Roots of Evangelicalism Today,” Ranald Macaulay shows that these pietistic evangelical movements led to an almost exclusive emphasis on saving souls while the domains of culture, society, politics, art and philosophy were left firmly in the hands of the secularists. The Enlightenment’s compartmentalization of the sacred and the secular, together with its definition of which belonged in which box, seemed to be winning the day. Christianity was fast ceasing to function as a religion in the classic sense of being a totalizing system that structured the whole of one’s life, but was instead becoming, at best, a system of strong personal piety and, at worst, a personal worship hobby. Further, as faith became analogous to a personal, inward experience, anti-intellectualism followed as surely as water runs downhill.

As time progressed, these strains only heightened, culminating in the strident anti-intellectual evangelicalism of the late 19th and early 20th century. Evangelists like Dwight Moody began to appear on the scene who boasted about not having any theology (“My theology! I didn’t know I had any”) or Billy Sunday who declared he didn’t “know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit knew about ping pong.”

The “double-truth universe” bequeathed by the Enlightenment found renewed impetus in the increasing polarization between earth and heaven that was so characteristic of 20th-century piety. If religion is about our personal and private experiences with God, then true piety consists in having our minds fixed on heavenly realities instead of earthly concerns. In practice this meant getting as many people into heaven as possible. Once you were “saved” – that is, once your ticket to a happy afterlife was secured – Christian living was thought to involve little more than living by a pedestrian code of personal pietism. No longer was the Bible seen as giving us a worldview that structured the whole of public reality. It became instead a privatized faith that, as Roszak put it, was “socially irrelevant even if privately engaging.” It is hardly surprising that around this same time (late 19th, early 20th century) hymnology began to be increasingly “feminized,” with the singing of robust psalms and hymns replaced by subjective sentiments (“he lives within my heart,” or “now I am happy all the day,” or “precious memories of everything Jesus has done for me”).

Religion, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Thus it was that as the church became diluted by anti-intellectualism, feminization, pietism and cultural anorexia, it retreated from the academic pursuits. Thus it was that the church as a whole was largely unprepared to combat the influx of liberal theology and deconstructionism that began to pour into England and America in the 19th and 20th centuries.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Emergent Church & the Theology of Isolationism

In my previous post "Matter/Spirit Dualism", I suggested that the implied dualism between mission and vocation or between gospel ministry and creation ministry closely parallels the matter/spirit disjunction that Dorothy Sayers' opposed. Mission and gospel relate to the “spiritual” end of saving souls, while our vocation and work with creation have only temporal value since such tasks are occupied only with the material world. In this post I want to suggest that there are ecclesiological consequences that have followed a similar trajectory within the contemporary evangelical project, especially within that cluster of evangelicalism that has self-styled itself as “emergent.”

 The “Emerging” Quest for the Invisible

Just as classical Gnosticism was self-consciously anti-establishment (a point I discuss in my review of Against the Protestant Gnostics), so those who have embraced the “emergent” or “liquid” paradigm have imbibed many emblems of anti-institutionalism in a move to self-consciously separate themselves from “religion” and in some cases from the structural connotations of the very term “Christianity.” The "emergent" sub-culture has largely formed its identity through its assault on the institutional church, as seen in recent bestselling publications like The Shack and So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. By following the postmodern paradigm of relocating the nexus of true religion in private experience as well as informal relationships that are deliberately and self-consciously outside the context of a visible church setting, these books have given a huge impetus to the groundswell of anti-ecclesiological assumptions that, more than anything else, echo Gnosticism‟s obsession with the invisible.

Jonathan Edwards on Resurrection

I recently posted some shocking statistics about the denial of future bodily resurrection among professing Christians. One of the best resources for understanding why this denial is so radically unbiblical is Tom Wright’s refreshing book Surprised by Hope. For those who don’t have time to read Wright’s book, however, the following words from Jonathan Edwards serve as a timely reminder of just how wrong-headed this crypto-gnosticism is:

Sex Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

"The fact is that the incidence of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy over the past fifty years (about 4%) has been similar to the abuse rate among Protestant clergy. The main difference is that the Catholic Church’s institutional unity enables the full scope of the problem to be perceived and attacked in a way that could hardly happen among the fragmented denominations of Protestantism. Moreover, since Catholics would do better not to defend themselves, even when slandered, we Protestants have the responsibility to come alongside them, expose slanders, and work to shine the light of truth on the situation, rather than descending like carrion birds on our wounded brothers." Brad Littlejohn, from 'The Ghost of Decades Past' from Fermentations Issue 3.

Friday, October 22, 2010

George Herbert Poem 'Grace'

My stock lies dead, and no increase
Doth my dull husbandry improve:
O let they graces without cease
                           Drop from above!

If still the sun should hide his face,
Thy house would but a dungeon prove,
Thy works nights captives: O let grace
                           Drop from above!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alarming Survey on Bodily Resurrection

"Most Americans don’t believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies after they die, putting them at odds with a core teaching of Christianity," I read today here. The article confirms concerns that I expressed in my earlier article, "Resurrection or Disembodiment." The writers go on to say:
The findings of a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll surprised and dismayed some of the nation’s top theologians since it seems to put Americans in conflict with the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, ancient statements of faith meant to unify Christian belief.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Worldliness"

"Something is not wrong simply because it is 'worldly,' according to biblical terminology; it is "worldly" because it is wrong." From Tim Gallant's excellent article "A Creational Perspective on Modern Music: Introductory Thoughts"


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Increase Mather on Drink

The Puritan Increase Mather, said in one of his sermons: "Drink is in itself a good creature of God, and to be received with thankfulness, but the abuse of drink is from Satan; the wine is from God, but the Drunkard is from the Devil."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ordering Art About

I wonder what Dorothy Sayers would say about some of the “Christian films” that have been produced in recent years. In his biography of Sayers, David Coomes writes (summarizing Sayers’ approach in writing a play about Christ), “It was not properly the object of a work of art to preach, teach, convince, convert, evangelize; her sole legitimate object had been to tell the story – nothing more and nothing less. Quality was all important: piety and a prayerful spirit would not turn a bad play into a good one, and all too often sloppy books, amateurish plays and syrupy music provided intelligent people with powerful arguments against the Church. The corruption of intellectual integrity had to be guarded against. Religion might be superior to Art, but Religion should resist the temptation to order Art about; the artist’s task was not to do good, but to express truth according to his or her own experience.

See Christian Film Making

Is Britain Becoming a Muslim Nation?

Britain is becoming a quasi-muslim nation complete with sharia law, just like in an Islamic country. Moreover, Muslims routinely receive preferential treatment and status over and above the indigenous British citizens. To read more about this, see "Is the UK now the United Kingdom of Taliban?"

Further Reading

Islam's European Conquest: Is America Next?

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades

Obsession

Giving Succour to the Extremists Who Would Destroy Us

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aristotle on an educated mind

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." Aristotle

Humour

Humour"The sense of humour is fundamental to our sense of proportion and therefore to our very rationality. No argument is needed to stress that humour is a bulwark against despair and insanity." Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind

Glorifying God in Music

How does my music glorify God? Some CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) folk seem to think that their music glorifies God, if only they sing about God. And I suppose that the proper response is: well, perhaps the word-content of your music glorifies God. (But even here, it is all too common to find shallowness and banality.)
 
It is, however, anti-creational to insist that the glory of God resides only in the text, not the music. We are created as embodied beings, who do embodied things. The precedent of creation means that we should not be indifferent to that which we create.
 
Consequently, as musicians we need to make higher demands of ourselves than merely asking the question: "Are these lyrics biblical, or biblically-grounded?" We need to ask ourselves: "Am I imitating God in my creativity?" Because God didn't create junk. He created beauty. If we wish our music to glorify God, we need to be more creational. And that means that we need to care more about the package. Not in the way CCM so often operates, where the "package" refers to image, and it means presenting yourself in a way similar to the worldly presentation. NO! I'll even go further: we have to stop thinking about music merely as a package. We're devaluing it. Music is more than a vehicle for lyrics. Music is an endeavour to reflect the creative activity of God. 

The above passage is taken from Tim Gallant's excellent article "A Creational Perspective on Modern Music: Introductory Thoughts". To read some of my other posts about music, click here.


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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Matter/Spirit Dualism

In my previous post, "Dorothy Sayers and the Aliveness of All Things", I discussed the way Sayers went to such lengths to establish what she termed “the intimate unison between spirit and matter.” To a large degree Sayers was legitimately reacting against the disjunction between the material world and the spiritual that was a recurring motif in 20th century Protestant discourse. James Campbell was typical when, in 1924, he observed that,
“When the material world perishes, we shall find ourselves in the spiritual world; when the dream of life ends, we shall awake in the world of reality; when our connection with this world comes to a close, we shall find ourselves in our eternal spirit home.” 
Behind Campbell’s words lay the assumption that matter and spirit are not merely distinguishable, in the way that men and women are distinguishable, but that they are utterly divisible and contradistinct, similar to the antithesis between light and darkness. Over and against the traditional of historic Christian theology which had maintained that the doctrines of Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection made possible the marrying together of matter and spirit, much popular evangelicalism of the 20th century seemed to be following the Gnostics in urging their divorce. Nowhere was this more evident than in the nascent Platonism opposed by Sayers which made the doctrine of the soul’s immortality, rather than bodily resurrection, the central locus of the Christian’s hope.

Calvinist Self-Confidence

Under Calvinism, the medieval division of humanity into those engaged in secular work vs. those engaged in spiritual callings (priests and nuns) was displaced by an acute awareness of the division between the reprobate and the regenerate, between those who are predestined to eternal life vs. those who are damned to an eternity of darkness.[1]

This new division presented certain practical difficulties, the chief one being the obvious question: how am I to know whether or I am predestined to salvation?[2]

John Calvin – who never personally struggled with doubt - was cavalier in dismissing the question.[3] Yet the question lost none of its potency, for as Calvin rightly discerned, “those who do not know that they are God’s own will be miserable through constant fear.”[4] To overcome this fear, Calvinists did not have the luxury, as Roman Catholics did, of assuming that one’s salvation could be guaranteed by the extent of one’s devotions to prayers, good works and participation in the sacraments. Salvation rested entirely in the hidden decrees of God, and if God had ordained you for destruction, there was nothing you could do to change this fact. So how could you know if you were saved? For the Lutherans the answer was simple: you knew you had been chosen by the fervency of your faith.[5] For Calvinists, who repudiated what Weber calls the “purely inward emotional piety of Lutheranism”[6] and were less inclined to separate law and grace, the matter was more complicated.

The answer, according to Calvin, is that a Christians knows he has been saved by his perseverance[7], good works[8] and ironically by the feeling of assurance itself.[9]

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