Saturday, August 20, 2011

Only one reliable force

“Only one reliable force stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. Only one reliable force forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law. Only one reliable force restrains the hand of the man of power. And, in an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.” Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Towards a Protestant Marian Devotion

At the end of my article 'We You Shouldn't Pray to Saints', I wrote about the Blessed Virgin that, "Though Mary said herself that future generations would call her blessed, there are many Protestants who hate Mary with a passion, while others simply ignore her altogether. This is quite sad and we Protestants have a long way to go to recover a proper and balanced Maryology."
My friend Brad Littlejohn has recently laid some groundwork towards a Protestant Maryology in his recent blog post "Honouring Mary as Protestants." Littlejohn's article is worth reading in full, but here are some gems that particularly resonated with me:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homosexuality and Sophistry

In an article published yesterday at the Charles Colson Center, I have compared America's homosexual lobby with the sophists of Ancient Athens. To read my article, click on the link below:

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Sometimes Cringe

I sometimes cringe when I see what pagans think of Protestants. Thomas Jefferson noted, "As to tradition, if we are Protestants we reject all tradition, and rely on the scripture alone, for that is the essence and common principle of all the protestant churches."


(And yes, Thomas Jefferson was a pagan, in addition to being one of the wisest statesmen America has ever known.)

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Leftism released from painful bonds

"There is a general belief in the West that Marxist revolution came to a bitter and conclusive end with the fall of the Soviet Union and the European Communist regimes in 1989-1991. On the contrary, the New Left were released from painful bonds by this collapse. No longer were they burdened with the failure of the Soviet experiment, which could always be used to argue against them. They were free at last from the identification of radical politics with the Kremlin enemy, which kept them out of political power in the Western democracies."  Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God

Saturday, August 13, 2011

De-Christianised Society

"I came to the conclusion, and nothing has since shifted it, that enormous and intrusive totalitarian state power, especially combined with militant egalitarianism, is an enemy of civility, consideration and even of enlightened self-interest. I also concluded that a high moral standard cannot be reached or maintained unless it is generally accepted and understood by an overwhelming number of people. I have since concluded that a hitherto Christian society which was de-Christianised would also face such problems, because I have seen public discourtesy and incivility spreading rapidly in my own country as Christianity is forgotten. The accelerating decline of civility in Britain, which struck me very hard when I returned there in 1995 after nearly five years in Russia and the USA, has several causes. The rapid vanishing of Christianity from public consciousness and life, as the last fully Christian generation ages and disappears, seems to me to be a major part of it. I do not think I would have been half so shocked by the squalor and rudeness of 1990 Moscow, if I had not come from a country where Christian forbearance was still well-established. If I had then been able to see the London of 2010, I would have been equally shocked.” Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Not resignation but consent

In Church and State, Luigi Sturzo wrote that "the totalitarian State demands not resignation but consent, not a sullen opposition but joyous surrender. Thus all the more interesting expressions of collective and personal life have passed into the hands of the State - youth associations, sport, wireless, the cinema, newspapers and publications of every kind, private and public schools of every grade and type. Nor is this enough. There must be a discipline of mind, will and body."

I warned about this type of all-embracing totalitarianism in my review of The Social Animal and also in my article 'Totalitarian Creep.' In both these articles, I discuss the type of totalitarianism that takes an interest in every area of life, including the mind. Indeed, true totalitarianism can only work if it controls our minds, as Sturzo has rightly discerned. Only by influencing our hearts and minds can the state actually achieve its totalitarian aspirations.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philip Schaff on American Christianity

Philip Schaff
Things have not changed much since Philip Schaff wrote his book America, in which he said
"American Christianity...expands more in breadth than in depth. It is often carried on like a secular business, and in a mechanical or utilitarian spirit. It lacks the beautiful enamel of deep fervor and heartiness, the true mysticism, an appreciation of history and the church; it wants the substratum of a profound and spiritual theology; and under the mask of orthodoxy it not unfrequently  conceals, without intending or knowing it, the tendency to abstract intellectualism and superficial rationalism. This is especially evident in the doctrine of the church and the Sacraments, and in the meagreness of the worship, which lacks not only all such symbols as the cross, the baptismal font, the gown, but even every liturgical element (except in the Episcopal and most of the German churches), so that nothing is left, but preaching, free prayer, and singing...
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Monday, August 08, 2011

Fourth Child Furor

The news of David and Victoria Beckham's fourth child was met with anger from campaigners who felt that the Beckham's family size is now environmentally irresponsible.
At least that is what the Guardian recently reported in their article "Beckhams a 'bad example' for families." The article quotes the UK-based Optimum Population Trust, whose chief executive, Simon Ross, linked family size to carbon emissions:

"The Beckhams, and others like London mayor Boris Johnson, are very bad role models with their large families. There's no point in people trying to reduce their carbon emissions and then increasing them 100% by having another child."

Mr. Ross’s comments were echoed by Sir David Attenborough, who called for an end to the "absurd taboo" in discussing family size in the UK.

In reality, no such taboo exists. As I showed last year in my Salvo feature, "Baby Freeze: Is Population Control the New Solution to Global Warming?", environmentalists in both the UK and America have a long history of paranoia about population and have been using climate change as a reason to scare people into having less babies.
Also in "Baby Freeze" I drew attention to the fact that seventy-three members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to the White House urging President Obama to add one billion dollars in funding for international family planning to his 2011 budget. While advocates of family planning are hardly a new phenomenon, what was significant about this letter is that it cited “climate change” as a reason to advocate lower birth rates. “Family planning,” the Representatives said, “should be part of larger strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Slower population growth will make reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions easier to achieve.”
The ruthless utilitarian logic is actually very simple: less people = less polluters.

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Implications of Repealing DOMA

On 20 July I read that President Obama had backed Sen. Feinstein’s bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). For many years the homosexual lobby has been incensed by this Act, which was passed by President Clinton in 1996. DOMA mandates that the federal government can only recognize a union between one man and one woman as being "marriage." DOMA also restricts marriage benefits to married couples.

What are the implications of DOMA being repealed? That is a question I have explored at the Charles Colson Center in my article 'Sophistry in America.' I encourage my readers to visit that article, as this is an issue that should concern us all and may change our lives in very practical ways.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Clothing Truth in Beauty

The 19th century Scottish novelist, George MacDonald, is best remembered for his fantasy books for children, works such as The Princess and the Goblin and At the Back of the North Wind. He is also remembered as having played a seminal role in C.S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity (a point I discussed in my earlier article ‘The Baptized Imagination.’) Still others may be familiar with MacDonald through the popular novels that my father, Michael Phillips, edited for Bethany House Publishers in the 80’s.

Few people are as familiar with MacDonald’s views on beauty. As a young man, MacDonald was deeply moved by things of beauty, while he relished the romantic poets and the German romances of his era. The literature from these genres stirred MacDonald’s imagination with images of loveliness, while his close affinity with the natural world constantly fed a deep attraction to things of beauty.

Friday, August 05, 2011


I've found James K.A. Smith's book Letters to a Young Calvinist very helpful. Here's something he says about the importance of friendship:
...I've become convinced that perhaps nothing is so important for our walk with the Lord as good friends. I think God gives us good friends as sacraments - means of grace given to us as indices of God's presence and conduits for our sanctification. While 'there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother' (Prov. 18:24), that same Friend sends us friends to help make his presence tangible and concrete. Nothing continues the incarnation like Christian friendship."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Pray to Saints

Is praying to saints unbiblical? Yes it is, and I will start with a little history lesson.

In the ancient pagan world, certain gods and demigods had powers in specific areas. For example, Hermes (below) was the god of messengers, travel, and a few other things. So if you were preparing to take a long journey or to send an important message, you would want to invoke Hermes rather than, say, Demeter, who was goddess of agriculture and grain. But if you were going on a journey to buy grain, you might want to invoke both Hermes and Demeter, to increase your chances of a successful enterprise.
When the gospel originally permeated the polytheistic world, many common people began treating saints in the way they had previously treated their pagan gods and demigods. So different saints were seen to have different specialties, and by knowing the area each saint specialized in, one could more effectively evoke their blessing, favor and assistance. For example, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of travel while saint Saint Bernard (778 –842) is the patron saint of agriculture.

Over time, as legends accumulated about the different saints, their range of specialties increased, so that Wikipedia tells me that Saint Joseph is considered to be the patron saint, not only of travel, but also of doubt, hesitation, dying people, expectant mothers, happy death, holy death, interior souls, people in doubt, people who fight Communism, pioneers, pregnant women, travellers, and fetuses. (Wikipedia is not where we go to for theology, but it can be very useful in giving the popular view of things, which is what I’m concerned about right now.) One of my favorites is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (626–659) who can be “invoked against fever, rats, and mice, particularly field-mice.” I like the “particularly field-mice” bit. If you have a house-mice problem, you might be better off with Saint Servatius from the 4th century, since he deals in all kinds of mice, in addition to rats and trouble with your feet.

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