Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Run-down of Recent Publications

Things have been so busy that I've fallen behind with posting links to articles I've recently published elsewhere. To catch up on all the backlog, I'm going to post all my recent articles right here in this blog post, instead of (as I would normally do) separate posts.

Colson Center
  • A Very Big View of Redemption. It is easy to get overly preoccupied with what we have been saved from and forget what we have been saved for. In this article I explain that by focusing on the positive aspects of redemption, we see that the scope of redemption is a lot bigger than we often allow.
  • Moral Order, and Wisdom.  This article is the 6th installment in my ongoing series on nominalism. In this article I explore the important role that prayer and holy living play in helping us to see the wisdom and order inherent in God's commands.

Salvo


World Magazine

  • The War on the Word 'Marriage'. This article looks at the sophistry in the gay rights' movement when they ingenuously claimed that they had no intention of changing the word marriage. (You have to be a subscriber of World to read this article, or agree to their free trial.)

Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
  
Christian Voice

Below are some key points from some of these articles.

Redemption For the World

When we talk about redemption, a lot of the time we focus entirely on what we are redeemed from, which is sin and death. If this is our main emphasis, then our focus is often on not sinning and we may even tend to think that anything that isn’t a sin is an open playing field.

However, we should also give attention to what we have been redeemed for.  But that involves taking an expansive view of redemption. Our view of redemption should stretch as far as the curse is found, which is to all of creation. That means that redemption and New Creation do not just cover our moral lives, as if the goal of Christianity were simply not sinning; rather, New Creation needs to be allowed to stretch into all the little nooks and crannies of existence, to change literally everything. (From 'A Very Big View of Redemption.')

The Omnipresent State

The normalization of the modern surveillance state in the West arises from the universal human temptation to surrender liberties for the promise of increased security, and to impute maternal characteristics to the state as a result.  As Christians we recognize that some degree of public watchfulness is necessary if law-makers are to fulfill their God-given vocation of punishing evil-doers (Rom 13:4). However, what tends to happen when a society turns away from Christianity is that the state displaces God and begins ascribing to itself God-like attributes, including the attribute of omnipresence. Until the digital revolution, the impulse for the state to achieve omnipresence was limited by the natural constraints of time and place. However, what modern computer technology has brought has been an almost horizon-less vista of opportunities to achieve a God-like omnipresence. (From Government To Defend Surveillance Measures in UK Court.)

"Sexting" and Personhood
Data is showing that women are sexting more than men. On one level, this is surprising, seeing that sexting makes women more vulnerable. After all, a man who has no scruples when it comes to receiving or asking for explicit pictures is probably going to have no scruples when it comes to forwarding those pictures to his mates. A woman who engages in sexting thus sets herself up for the worst sort of public exploitation and is forever under the power of the man she trusted. In another sense, however, sexting makes women less vulnerable since a girl can experience the excitement of giving her body to a man without ever having to do business with him as an embodied person, without having to approach him in all her vulnerability, fragility and humanness. For many women, this is precisely the appeal of sexting.

Sexting is thus seen as liberating sex from the problem that has dogged it from the beginning, namely having to deal with real people. An article in Sans Magazine was exuberant about sexting’s potential to free sexual relationships from the constraints that come with physical presence: "No longer do we actually have to commit to a single task of actually physically undressing, warming up our partner and then engaging in the carnal act of intercourse…. Plus, we don’t ever have to actually see the person."

This quote demonstrates how sexting is the culmination of the dehumanizing principles behind the sexual revolution. The promise of the sexual revolution was that intimacy could be fulfilling outside the obligations of marriage, a promise that researchers have now discovered to be false. The lie of the 21st century is that sex can be fulfilling without actual intimacy. This too will be found to be a lie. In the meantime, the problem is that by coupling sexual pathologies with extremely addictive digital technologies, that brain is being rewired to think differently about sex, relationships and what it means to be human.

Theology and Prayer
To be a theologian one must give extended loving reflection to God’s laws, like a musician aiming to know a certain composer’s music inside and out. But to achieve that type of depth of knowledge, the theologian must make God’s laws part of himself on every level: head, heart, hands and body. Hence, a true theologian must also be a mystic. The true theologian is the man whose life is devoted to contemplation, prayer, and ascetic disciplines like fasting, almsgiving, prayer vigils and sacrificial love. In short, the true theologian is one whose life is devoted so completely to loving the Lord that the workings of his intellect proceed out of an entire life of spiritual devotion. That is why
Saint Thomas Aquinas’s “16 Precepts for Acquiring Knowledge” are almost entirely concerned with practical external matters, and only secondarily with what we might think of us intellectual concerns.

One of the benefits of prayerfully meditating on God’s commands within the context of a life of obedience, is that we begin to see the fittingness of His laws instead of viewing them as arbitrary impositions on a neutral world understood separately from the Trinitarian God revealed in Jesus Christ. We begin to appreciate how God’s laws are the natural correlates to the is-ness of Christian. As a consequence, we are better able to take what the Bible says in one area, and apply the principles to other areas not directly addressed in scripture. This is because we are no longer simply looking at raw commands, but appreciating the moral order reflected in God’s commandments. This is essentially the task of wisdom as it has been practiced by saints and Christian mystics throughout history. (From
'Moral Order, and Wisdom.')
 
From Feminism to Lesbianism
In the thought of many modern feminists, romantic love is a sexist hangover from our misogynist past. Romance patronizes women by objectifying them. On street level, this creates real problems for girls who still cherish romantic ideals. In her book A Return to Modesty, Wendy Shalit showed that romantic desire is one of the last castles that modern feminists are out to conquer. “In a different time,” Shalit ironically observed, “a young woman had to avoid giving public evidence of sexual desire by living with someone out of wedlock, today she must avoid giving evidence of romantic desire.”

The sad thing is that by taking romance out of sex, women are left vulnerable to sexual exploitation. It is here that the real irony of modern feminism emerges. Feminists used to be content to attack things like men opening doors for women or men who offered to pay on dates. According to popular feminist narratives, these gestures are misogynist since they “objectify” women. However, this mistaken logic has now extended itself to the point whereby those things that really do objectify women (i.e., sleeping with a woman without any thought of her as a person, pursuing romance-free sexual relationships, etc.) are considered healthy and affirming.
Evacuating sex of relationship, love, romance, personhood and procreation promised to usher us into a feminist utopia, ridding the bedroom of the scepter of womanliness. A remaining problem, however, is that even impersonal sex outside of marriage can entrench gender roles by encouraging certain womanly attributes. Thus, some feminists have argued that in order for female sexuality to be truly liberated from the systemic patriarchy of our culture, men must be removed from the equation completely. In other words, the true feminist must be a lesbian. The notion that only lesbianism is truly liberating has found expression in a voluminous corpus of “Women’s Studies” literature. (From The Massacre of Valentine's Day: Feminism's V-Day Eliminates Men, Marriage and Romance)

The Problem with Predestination is Christ
Was Christ’s human will predestined to obey the Father, or was His human will exempt from the predestination applied to the rest of the human race? If we say that Christ’s human will was exempt from divine predestination, then it is hard to avoid the implication that there must have been true non-monergistic synergy and co-operation between the divine and the human wills of Christ. But if so, then it is equally hard to see why it would be problematic to assert a similar non-monergistic synergy and co-operation between the divine and the human wills when dealing with the rest of humanity, especially since Christ typified the appropriate relation between humanity and divinity. Saying that Christ is exempt from Divine predestination also seems to suggest, at least by implication, that some version of libertarian freedom may not be an intrinsically incoherent concept as Calvinists will frequently assert.
On the other hand, if we say that Christ’s human will was not exempt from divine predestination, then the results are just as equally problematic for a Calvinist. I do not refer merely to the problem that we would then have Christ predestining Himself, although that creates a host of thorny problems in itself. Rather, I refer to the fact that if Christ’s human will was “irresistibly” moved by the divine will, then it follows that there must have been only one energy operative in Christ—a divine energy, not a human energy—since on this scheme Christ’s humanity becomes little more than a passive tool. The reason we can say that Christ’s humanity is reduced to little more than a passive tool is because the human energy of Christ is then subsumed into, overcome by, subordinated to the divine energy, not because the human will genuinely surrenders to the divine in an act of co-operation or synergy, but because such subordination is required by the terms of predestination itself. However, such a position was condemned early on in the Christian era as a species of Monothelitism, though few Calvinists today are aware of the fact. (From  Why I Stopped Being a Calvinist, part 5)

Learning From Muslims


Even when Muslim children go to the state schools, their parents make sure that they get a solidly Muslim education. By contrast, Christian parents in Britain can often be incredibly ambivalent about the formative role that education plays, sometimes even completely denying that it has any relation to how successfully the faith is perpetuated from one generation to the next.

In addition to this, there is the strong role that community plays in keeping children Islamic religion is very totalizing, affecting every area of life. It is woven into the fabric of every level of the culture in which a child grows up. British Muslims have been careful to preserve this culture within their communities and to prevent it being neutralized through Westernization. This too has something to do with the strong retention rate. To grow up and leave the faith would be to grow up and turn one’s back on one’s culture.

Muslims are raised to think in very communal and corporate terms, so that to grow up and abandon the faith is equivalent to abandoning one’s own people. By contrast, Christians within Britain (and sadly throughout much of the Western world) tend to think very individualistically. Even when faith is perceived to be about more than one’s own spiritual interiority, it is still thought to be primarily an individualistic experience. Consequently, a Christian child can grow up and abandon the faith without feeling that he or she is also abandoning his or her own people. This makes apostasy a lot easier.
Are we doing as good of a job as the Muslims in proclaiming
the totalizing nature of our religion, showing that
the Christian faith affects every department of life?
Here are some questions we should be asking:
  • Are we doing as good a job as the Muslims in showing the communal nature of the Christian faith?
  • Do we also prioritize evangelism?
  • Are we doing as good of a job as the Muslims in proclaiming the totalizing nature of our religion, showing that the Christian faith affects every department of life?
  • Are we showing our young people that the faith is not just true, but lovely, so that when our children grow up they do not want to walk away from it?
  • Is there a noticeable difference between the lifestyle of Christians and those in the world, so that young people see the Christian faith as being an escape route from pagan decadence? (From The Islamisation of Britain (Part 2): retention and conversion.)



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