Saturday, December 31, 2005

Britain’s Historical Amnesia

Where my generation had to start at 1066 and advance through the centuries, children doing the national curriculum now have no idea how the periods they study relate to each other. By the time they get to university, even to study history, they may have a detailed knowledge of the second world war but only the haziest idea about the 1930s or the cold war.

Younger children jump from studying the Tudors to learning about the Nazis; they have no idea what happened in between. They no longer learn who all the kings and queens were; they believe that Britain had slavery until recently, and despite the imaginative approach of getting them to write about themselves as a Victorian orphan or a victim of Jack the Ripper, little grasp of how these grew out of what had passed before or affected what happened later…

As the boom in history books and biographies shows, there is a great hunger for learning more about history. It may be that adults are compensating for what they didn’t learn at school, but I fear this impulse, which is so crucial to our sense of ourselves as a nation, will not be transmitted to the next generation unless the way they are taught is radically improved.

Taken from Amanda Craig's article in The Sunday Times, "Standing up For Patriotism". On the same subject, see the article from the Telegraph "My book was just too British" about the reaction to George Courtauld's recent guide to Britain’s key historical facts.

"Since the past has ceased to throw its light upon the future, the mind of man wanders in obscurity." Alexis de Tocqueville

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look back to their ancestors.” Edmund Burke.

“Just as a loss of memory in an individual is a psychiatric defect, calling for medical treatment, so to any community which has no social memory is suffering from a dire illness unto death.” John Briggs

"He who forgets his own history is doomed to repeat it." Common aphorism

“If we don’t know our own history then we simply have to endure all of the same mistakes and all of the same sacrifices and all of the same absurdities over again times ten.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” Ps. 88:12

“The past is given to those in the present to keep and guard those in the future, that lessons learned and obstacles overcome might contribute to the gospel’s assent and subvert the ready temptation’s lure.” Alfred the Great

King Kong vs. Aslan

What would happen if the Walden Media/Disney Alsan were to have a stand off with Peter Jackson's King Kong? Click here to find out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Peace on Earth, Good-will to Men!

Peace on earth, good will towards men.” We hear that phrase a lot at Christmas time. Though it is often unclear what exactly people mean by these words, the phrase does seem to convey a vague sense of warmth towards humankind, together with attendant associations of brotherly kindness. Few people stop to ask themselves what this phrase would have originally conveyed in its 1st century context.
The sentence comes from the second chapter of Luke’s gospel where we read about the angels praising God for the birth of Christ. It follows directly after the angelic announcement of the “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Lk. 2:10) To a first-century Jew, phrases such as these would have bound together a whole network of associations and expectations.

The ‘good tidings’ come right out of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies. In texts such as Isaiah 40:9-11 and 52:7, we read about a royal herald announcing the glad tidings that Israel’s God has come to restore His people, to renew and reign on the earth. This was the great event that God’s people in the 1st century were waiting for. They were waiting for God to defeat the enemies of His people and establish a physical kingdom over the face of all the earth. As Messiah, this is exactly what Jesus came to do. Thus, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, Gabriel says that Jesus is coming to sit on the throne of David, to reign over the house of Jacob and that His kingdom will have no end (Lk. 1:32-33). These royal terms were not coded references to an invisible ‘spiritual’ work - rather, they indicated that God’s kingdom was about to be established on earth as it is in heaven. That is what the gospel (lit. “glad tidings”) were all about. No wonder the shepherds got so excited! When the angels announced ‘peace on earth, good will to men’, the context is still the same: this is a reference to the peace the Messiah brings when all the earth is submitted to His sovereign rule of justice (Isa. 9: 2-7, 11:1-5, 42:3-4; Zech. 9:9-10; Mic. 4:2-3). The great Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7 points to this same reality:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called “Wonderful, Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Notice this prophecy referred to the Messiah’s government increasing. We must bear this in mind when we reflect that it’s been over two thousand years since Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom, and the world still appears to be just as much a mess. Yet, contrary to appearances, Jesus kingdom has been steadily increasing, and it will continue to increase until it is culminated in the resurrection of God’s people. The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ (Rev. 11:15), and any leader or ruler who does not acknowledge this fact is a usurper. Christ’s kingdom is a subversive influence against all other thrones and powers because all authority on heaven and on earth now belongs to Jesus (Mt. 28:18). Jesus is king over all the arts, the sciences, the economies, the politics, the music, the philosophy, the educational systems, etc. of this world.

That is the true message of Christmas and that is what peace on earth, good will to men is all about. It’s not about human kindness and the goodwill of brotherly love, it is about the fact that king Jesus is now in charge. It is about the kingdom of Christ marching forward like an unconquerable army and consuming all the kingdoms of this world (Dan. 2:44).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Narnia Film

Joost Nixon has a provoking cultural commentary on the new Narnia Film. Check out his Deconstructing Aslan .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Recent Readings

I’m reading a number of interesting books at the moment. One of them is Thomas Woods' The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Wow! Does anyone know whether any liberals have tried to offer a scholarly rebutal? I'd be interested in reading any responses from the politically correct gurus.

I'm also reading Robert Booth’s Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism. Booth makes a strong case as he amasses all the Biblical evidence in support of infant baptism.

Interestingly, I’ve always been a strong paedocommunionist, meaning I don’t believe in withholding communion from the children of believers, however young. I have recently been challenged by another paedocommunionist as well as a baptist anti-paedocommunionist that my paedocommunionism is inconsistent with my baptist views. So I’ve having to look at the issue of infant baptism a bit more seriously.

As a family, we just finished reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit together. It is always a special book to read, but this time it was extra special because it was the first time Matthew (my seven year old boy) had heard it.

At the moment I’m reading Matthew The Children of Odin, which is Padraic Colum’s retelling of the Norse myths. We have a number of different retellings of the Norse myths but decided to read this one since the beautiful language really does justice to the subject matter – something that, sadly, cannot be said for most of the fairy tales in the children's sections of our libraries. Jefferson Davis once observed that attacks on great culture always begin with the denigration of language; conversely, I want to suggest, the sustaining and development of great culture begins by exposing our children's minds to beautiful language. This means No Harry Potter. (On the aesthetic and literary deficiency of the Harry Potter books, see John Pennington’s excellent article “From Elfland to Hogwarts, or the Aesthetic Trouble with Harry Potter” in The Lion and the Unicorn 26.1, January 2002.)

I’ve also been downloading audio lectures from various websites. Some of the more interesting lectures include Greg Bahnsen’s three lecture series, ‘A Christian View of War’; Dr. George Grant’s ‘Dumb and Dumber: The Desperate Need for Covenantal and Christian Education’ and Dr. Grant's comparisons between - hold your breath - ‘Lincoln and Lenin’. I’ve also listened to the debate Sproul and Bahnsen had over apologetic method part 1 and part 2. I chose this debate because I hoped it would give me some clarity on the presuppositional/van Tillian approach, which I’ve never been able to get my mind around. However, everything Bahnsen said only confused me further! Because many of the authors and people I respect the most advocate this approach, I am willing to accept (for the moment, at least) that the logical incoherence I find in it may just be the result of my not understanding it properly. I’d welcome the chance to talk to someone more versed in this school of thought.
In Bahnsen's lecture on the ethics of warfare, he argues that since war is as an extension of the police powers of the state, a war may only be waged justly if it falls within the circumscribed area of lawful authority given to the state by God. Because the state has authority only over the people is has responsibility over, it has no right to take authority elsewhere even when the cause is just.

Friday, December 09, 2005

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