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.


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

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