ContraCelsum Backup

Dear Reader: Although Google professes to have a policy of free speech, there are now disturbing examples of Google peremptorily shutting down blogs on the Blogger platform espousing views which (presumably) Google wants to censor. Therefore ContraCelsum has set up a mirror blog via WordPress (http://contracelsum.com/). We update the latter weekly. If this site should suddenly go dark, you will find ContraCelsum alive and well at the above address. You may want to bookmark it now (just in case).

Monday, 21 April 2014

Camels and Needles

Inglorious Rich Man Trying to Pass Muster

Every so often Unbelief pulls of its particular mask and shows itself in all its ignoble vainglory.  Big Nanny Michael Bloomberg served as the fall guy recently.  Bloomberg, you recall, has become exceptionally wealthy owning and developing Bloomberg News.  He served as a three-time mayor of New York City.  During his tenure he became infamous for his nannying controls over what people eat and inhale: sugar, fat, and tobacco.  Mike has a plan for our good, whether we like it to not.  Mike knows best.  Mike for Saviour.

Bloomberg is also famous for his record of donations--to all kinds causes, but most often to doppelganger Bloomberg favourites.  The most recent is gun control in the United States.

Our Lord declared that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Clearly, our Lord would not have said that had He met up with Michael Bloomberg, who clearly regards himself as the exception to our Lord's warning.   This, from the New York Times:

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 7: Saturday

Saturday, April 4, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament scholars Andreas Köstenberger and Douglas Moo. Dr. Köstenberger looks at the role of Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus’s burial, the rules for burial at the time, and what we know about first-century tombs. Dr. Moo answers the question of where Jesus was between his death and his resurrection, focusing on 1 Peter 3, which says that Christ preached to spirits in prison. Is this a reference to Jesus descending into Hades?


H/T: Justin Taylor

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 6: Friday

Friday, April 3, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with historian Paul Maier and New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger, looking at the origin, object, and purpose of Roman crucifixion, along with one difference in emphasis between the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and John on suffering and glory.





H/T: Justin Taylor

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 19

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

... and with all thy mind!

True religion was never meant just to produce some general effect. The Bible is a revelation of God's ways with respect to man. It is meant to give "understanding." ... There are many things that we could do that would make us feel better tem­porarily.

There are many ways of forgetting our troubles for a while. Some go to the cinema, others run to the public-house or to the bottle of whiskey which they keep at home. Under its effect and influence they feel much better and happier; their problem does not seem so acute.... There are many ways of giving temporary relief, but the question is, Do they give understanding; do they really help us to see through our trouble?

Mouldy Tyrannies, Free Spirits

Freedom For Us, Controls for Everyone Else

There are two ways in which a secular society can be organized.  It can be built upon maximising a form of human freedom, or it can enforce one view as absolutely right, imposing it upon all.  The former champions liberty of opinion and freedom of thought, word and deed.  The latter champions order, structure, and the one right way.  The former reflects libertarianism.  The latter reflects an authoritarian dictatorship either by One or the Party.

Unbelief will always pull either one way or the other.  But over time, libertarianism will crumble and tyranny will win out.  Why?  Libertarianism has no authoritative standard by which the limits of liberty can be nailed down. It has no authoritative standard to define what the human being is who is to be free.  Humans in the womb, senile humans, comatise humans don't necessarily qualify.  Sexual perversions performed by sexual perverts do.  Man-boy-"love" must enjoy the protections of liberty.  Libertarianism produces the ruthless discarding of humans from their own race. Libertarianism inflicts a deadly tyranny upon those judged to be "outsiders".

At the same time, libertarianism must foster and allow and even indirectly encourage views which champion authoritarianism, its opposite. Libertarianism is a vacuum which the natural order eventually abhors. Consequently, all secular societies gradually morph into tyrannies of one kind or the other.

Here is an example of  what we speak.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 5: Thursday

Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with scholars Doug Moo, Nick Perrin, and Paul Maier, focusing on the background of the Passover, why Jesus and the disciples reclined at the Last Supper instead of eating at a table, and why the Jewish officials had to get Pontius Pilate involved after beginning their judicial proceedings against Jesus.



H/T: Justin Taylor

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 18

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

It is God's word that counts

Take all the writing, preaching, and teaching of the past hundred years. In a sense, human ability and effort have never exerted themselves to such an extent. Philosophy has been glorified, and man has claimed that he could solve the riddle of life and of the universe. Never has man been so proud of him­self and his achievements and his understanding.

But what has been the result of all this? What of life today? Is it not clear that we are precisely in the same position as was the world in the time of Paul? Oh, the tragedy of it all! We have boasted of processes and systems, but they have yielded no results. We have taken pride in our ability to think, but it is the function of thinking to arrive at valid conclusions.

Let us be honest. Are we any nearer to the solution of the problems of life and living than the philosophers were who lived and died before Paul? The answer is to be found in the state of the modern world.

What in the World To Do?

Building, Restoring, and Cleaning

The perspective held by Christians about human society and economy tells one a great deal about their beliefs concerning Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. 

That we all live in human society to one degree or another is inescapable.  Even the foolish Stylites, who committed themselves to a life of isolation from all others, living on poles in the extreme attempt to divorce themselves from human society and the world, could not escape.  The most famous were plagued by tourists coming to gape.

Since living "in the world" is a providential given--a divine decree--the belief we Christians have about the world and our place in it is a vital concern.  Since God has placed us in human society and human economy, we had better get our understanding of it right and in conformity with the Bible. 

R. H. Tawney tells us that there are four distinct beliefs or attitudes about human society and human economy. He presents them as follows:

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 4: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 1, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with historian of ancient history Paul Maier (of Western Michigan University) and New Testament professor Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), focusing on the behind-the-scenes motivations and actions of the Sanhedrin as they plot to put an end to Jesus once and for all.



H/T: Justin Taylor

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 17

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC wesbsite

Don't mortgage the future

[Jesus] asks ... Why do you allow yourself to be worried thus about the future? "The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." If the present is bad enough as it is, why go to meet the future? To go on from day to day is enough in and of itself; be content with that....

Worry about the future is so utterly futile and useless; it achieves nothing at all ; ... worry is never of any value at all. This is seen with particular clarity as you come to face the future. Apart from anything else, it is a pure waste of energy because however much you worry, you cannot do any­thing about it. In any case its threatened catastrophes are imaginary; they are not certain, they may never happen at all....

Christian Activists

Hard Work the Highest Service

The general medieval world-view was deeply suspicious of economic motives.  Lucre was, after all, filthy.  Therefore, it had to be limited, controlled, and governed.  All economic activity had to be carried on for the public good; profits must be restricted to sustenance payments.  Clearly, the medieval world had a problem with the Parable of the Talents. 

These generalisations hold generally true.  But there were exceptions.  Gradually, as Western economies developed, the exceptions became more common, more widespread.  Medieval theology, and the economic theories it produced, were broken apart by economic realities.  Theological understanding did not catch up until the Reformation--and then, only gradually.

John Calvin argued that laws against usury were entirely inconsistent.  They simply did not make sense.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 3: Tuesday

Tuesday, March 31, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament professors Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Andreas Köstenberger (of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) along with historian of ancient history Paul Maier (of Western Michigan University), focusing in particular on the opposition to Jesus and what angered his Jewish antagonists so much.


H/T: Justin Taylor

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 16

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

Take this first step

Look at nothing and nobody but look entirely to Christ and say:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust my sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus' Name;
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

You must so believe that as to be able to go further and say with holy boldness:

Hard to Believe

 Naomi Klein On a Good Day

A recent piece in the Guardian by Naomi Klein should come with a health warning:  "During reading, you may die laughing".  Naomi (the Fulminator) Klein--the ardent anti-globalization campaigner and anti-climate change warrior--has turned her attention to the latest evil to threaten humanity.  Ukraine is going to exploit its natural gas reserves by means of fracking. This is eeeeeviiiillll, says the Fulminator.

Why so?, you mildly ask   One would have thought that Ukraine, hitherto dependant upon Soviet (er, Russian) gas, would be well within its rights and prerogatives to harvest its own gas supplies using whatever means it saw fit.  Moreover, it would be wise to do so.  Since fracking is a recovery technique accepted to be safe, what's the fuss about?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 3: Tuesday

Tuesday, April 1, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament professors Nicholas Perrin (of Wheaton College) and Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), focusing in particular on the cursing of the fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, and the role of the temple in the theology and practice of Jesus. We will be releasing a new video each day this week.

H/T: Justin Taylor

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 15

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

Waiting on Him

To the first question about the power of God, [Habakkuk] received a positive answer. But this problem of the holiness of God is more difficult. After stating his absolutes and bringing his problem into this context, there is still no clear answer. Now in experience it is often like that. You apply the same method which has worked so well in other cases, but there is no immediate answer. What does one do in such a case?

Certainly do not rush to conclusions and say, "Because I do not understand it, therefore, I wonder whether God is righteous after all." No! ... We make a mistake when we talk to ourselves, and then to other people, and ask, "Why this? Isn't it strange?" We must do what the prophet did: take the problem to God and leave it with Him.

A Christian may be kept in this position for a week, or months, or years. It has often so happened.

Lenten Meditation

Grinding Axes in the Dark

The late Christopher Hitchens liked to frighten little children with horror stories about the evils of religion.  Often times he was more narrowly referring to the religion of Islam, but he did not hold back from the "evils" of Christianity, either.  Of all the things that offended him, the offence of the Cross of Christ was the most acute.  He wrote:
The idea of a vicarious atonement, of the sort that so much troubled even C.S. Lewis, is a further refinement of the ancient superstition [of atoning sacrifice]. Once again we have a father demonstrating love by subjecting a son to death by torture, but this time the father is not trying to impress god. He is god, and he is trying to impress humans. Ask yourself the question: how moral is the following? I am told of a human sacrifice that took place two thousand years ago, without my wishing it and in circumstances so ghastly that, had I been present and in possession of any influence, I would have been duty-bound to try and stop it. In consequence of this murder, my own manifold sins are forgiven me, and I may hope to enjoy everlasting life. [Cited by Tim Challies, quoting from Hitchen's God Is Not Great.]
Against this, the Apostle Paul provides the counterpoint:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Lenten Meditation


Holy Week, Day 1: Palm Sunday

Sunday, March 29, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament professors Doug Moo (of Wheaton College Graduate School) and Andreas Köstenberger (of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). We will be releasing a new video each day this week.

H/T: Justin Taylor

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 14

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

The Beatitudes: a wonderful harmony
... All Christians are meant to manifest all of these characteristics.

Not only are they meant for all Christians, but of necessity, therefore, all Christians are meant to manifest all of them.... It is not right to say some are meant to be "poor in spirit," and some are meant to "mourn," and some are meant to be "meek," and some are meant to be "peacemakers," and so on. No; every Christian is meant to be all of them and to manifest all of them, at the same time.

A Great Oxymoron of the Age

Christian Socialism

We have recently read R. H. Tawney's, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. (London: John Murray, 1923).  Being published in the period historian, Richard Overy has called the Twilight Years [The Twilight Years: The Paradox of Britain Between the Wars (New York: Viking/Penguin, 2009)]), Tawney's work is significant in that it cannot help but reflect the radical, revolutionary changes taking place in the intellectual and spiritual history of Britain and the West at that time. (For a summary and interaction with Overy's Twilight Years, readers can refer to a series of eight pieces, published in Contra Celsum in early 2010, the first of which can be found here.)

Tawney was both a professing Christian and an ardent socialist.  In these days, when socialism has become thoroughly secular, racked with the deadly sins of avarice, envy, and covetousness, "Christian socialism"  ranks amongst the seven most infamous oxymorons of the modern world, along with "Christian capitalism".

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

All Stove In

Posted on  

Andrew Sullivan should receive real credit for saying, as he did, that if the treatment of Brendan Eich is what the gay rights movement is all about, then he, Sullivan, wanted to be dealt out. Eich is the Mozilla CEO who was forced to resign because he donated money a few years ago in defense of heterosexual marriage, which is to say, marriage. In a tweet the other day, Andrew said, “The hounding and firing of @BrendanEich disgusts me – as it should anyone interested in a tolerant & diverse society.”

For those who are opposed to this sort of business, they will have many opportunities to register their dissent. There will be a steady stream of them. As I put it the other day, in this Tolerance Parade, the elephants just keep on coming — ow.ly/vprzA

This stand means that Andrew is not a hypocrite, and I am glad for it. When I debated him a while ago, he said that he would be opposed to some of the things that we opponents of same sex mirage were predicting would come from all this. And good to his word, this incident shows that he meant what he said. He is no hypocrite. If Andrew comes to read this, an honest well done from me.


But the fact that he is not a hypocrite does not keep him from being a patsy. He is like an idealistic revolutionary who labored for years to overthrow the czar, only to have Lenin, three weeks after the revolution, send around a couple of the boys to put a bullet in his head.

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 14

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

If you tarry till you're better
You will never come at all!


There is a very simple way of testing yourself to know whether you believe that [we must look to Christ and Christ alone]. We betray ourselves by what we say.... I often had to deal with this point with people, and I have explained the way of justification by faith and told them how it is all in Christ and that God puts His righteousness upon us.

I have explained it all to them, and then I have said, "Well, now are you quite happy about it; do you believe that?" And they say, "Yes." Then I say, "Well, then, you are now ready to say that you are a Christian." And they hesitate. And I know that they have not understood. Then I say, "What is the matter; why are you hesitating?" And they say, "I do not feel that I am good enough."

At once I know that in a sense I have been wasting my breath.

Memorial Stones

Humble Heroes of the Faith

Missionary endeavour and the acceptance of the Gospel by Maori have been pretty much air brushed out of recent accounts of New Zealand history.  Secular humanism is a trick the living of our day are attempting to play upon the dead.  We Christians have a duty to ensure that the past is not lost.  To that end, Keith Newman's Bible and Treaty: Missionaries Among the Maori--A New Perspective [London: Penguin Books, 2010] is a much needed corrective to the current whitewashing. 

Contained in Newman's book is a gripping story of one Taumata-a-kura, an East Cape, Ngati Porou tribesman.  He had been taken as a slave during a raid by the northern Ngapuhi tribe, but in the early 1830's found his way to the mission school at Waimate, where he learned to read and write, and was instructed in the basic doctrines of the Gospel.  He eventually made his way back to his family and tribe.
One account describes the reunion of Taumata-a-kura with his people as "aioio ana te noho a te iwi" (black with people who hung onto his every word).  Ngati Porou believed he had been lost forever but now here he was, as if he had returned from the dead.  Rumours of his return, along with his message of an "atua hou" (a new god), had reached up into the Waiapu Valley before he even set foot in his homeland.  [Newman, p. 118.]

Friday, 11 April 2014

Letter From the UK (About Looking Back)

How did the IPCC’s alarmism take everyone in for so long?

Climate scaremongers are still twisting the evidence over global warming 

4:16PM BST 05 Apr 2014

When future generations come to look back on the alarm over global warming that seized the world towards the end of the 20th century, much will puzzle them as to how such a scare could have arisen. They will wonder why there was such a panic over a 0.4 per cent rise in global temperatures between 1975 and 1998, when similar rises between 1860 and 1880 and 1910 and 1940 had given no cause for concern. They will see these modest rises as just part of a general warming that began at the start of the 19th century, as the world emerged from the Little Ice Age, when the Earth had grown cooler for 400 years.
They will be struck by the extent to which this scare relied on the projections of computer models, which then proved to be hopelessly wrong when, in the years after 1998, their predicted rise in temperature came virtually to a halt. But in particular they will be amazed by the almost religious reverence accorded to that strange body, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which by then will be recognised as having never really been a scientific body at all, but a political pressure group. It had been set up in the 1980s by a small band of politically persuasive scientists who had become fanatically committed to the belief that, because carbon dioxide levels were rising, global temperatures must inevitably follow; an assumption that the evidence would increasingly show was mistaken.

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 11

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

The porches of Prayer

I know a number of Christian people who have a universal answer to all questions. It does not matter what the question is; they always say, "Pray about it." ... What a glib, superficial, and false bit of advice that can often be; and I am saying that from a Christian pulpit.

You may ask, "Is it ever wrong to tell men to make their problems a matter of prayer?" It is never wrong, but it is sometimes quite futile.... The whole trouble with this poor man [Psalm 73] ... was that he was so muddled in his thinking about God that he could not pray to Him. If we have muddled thoughts in our mind and heart concerning God's way with respect to us, how can we pray? We cannot. Before we can pray truly, we must think spiritually. There is nothing more fatuous than glib talk about prayer, as if prayer were something which you can always immediately rush into.

Improving the Citizens

Ve Vill Make You Free

There has been a bit of aog'nghast in certain quarters in the United States recently.  It turns out that a previously highly regarded chap called Brendan Eich was recently appointed CEO of Mozilla--an internet browsing software company--but was subsequently forced out because he was a pariah.  His crime?  Years ago he was guilty of donating some money to a political campaign in California to restrict the institution of marriage to adult males covenanting with adult females. 

That meant he could not serve as the CEO of an internet browsing company.  He was guilty of thought-crimes.  Eich was forced out for his political and ethical opinions.  The supine Board of Mozilla surrendered faster than Baltic Ukraine, and with less fuss and bother.  All this, in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave"--a sentiment which must now be understood in the wider context of a herd of lemming-like creatures rushing for the cliff.  To be fair, some public homosexuals have expressed shock, horror, and outrage--and good on them.  Andrew Sullivan, for example, who campaigns for the recognition of homosexual marriage wrote: “The hounding and firing of @BrendanEich disgusts me – as it should anyone interested in a tolerant & diverse society.”  Bill Maher, who has publicly ridiculed even the suggestion that homosexuality may be immoral, spoke disconsolately of a "gay mafia":
I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do. TheBlaze
Satirist H. L. Mencken commented on this kind of thing from a broader perspective:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Foolish Politicians, Nannies and Wowsers

Prohibition Redux

The old adage from George Santayana runs, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  A corollary is the proverb, a hundred blows on the back of a fool make no impression (Proverbs 17:10), but a word to the wise is sufficient. 

History has illustrated and taught repeatedly that when the state overreaches to ban or criminalise something as contraband (all for our own good, of course), criminals get richer and stronger.  It happens every time.  When governments overreach to ban tobacco and cigarettes, or tax them out of existence, it becomes, in the words of Yogi Berra, deja vu all over again. 

This, from Breitbart London:

Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 10

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

Let all the people praise Thee!

We should all have a consuming passion that the whole world might come to know God [as the ever-present One who will never leave us nor forsake us] ... The Psalmist in Psalm 34 invites everybody to join him in "magnifying" the Lord. What a strange idea! ... At first sight that appears to be quite ridiculous. God is the Eternal, the self-existent One, absolute and perfect in all His qualities. How can feeble man ever magnify such a Being? How can we ever make God great or greater (which is what we mean by magnify)? ... And yet, of course, if we but realize the way in which the Psalmist uses it, we shall see exactly what he means.

He does not mean that we can actually add to the greatness of God, for that is impossible; but he does mean that he is concerned that this greatness of God may appear to be greater amongst men.

Rarities

The Sport of David-Brenting

The instinctual sympathies of the media in New Zealand are statist--that is, generally the media, with few exceptions, favour more state intrusions, controls and beneficences than less.  Given that predilection, it is not surprising that the media and the Commentariat in general lean Left and are comfortable with giving left-wing parties and causes a supportive shove. 

Therefore, when the Left turn against left-wing parties, such as Labour, something significant is churning beneath the surface.  We have discerned in recent weeks the sport of David-Brenting the Labour leader, David Cunliffe in national media.  As our readers will know, the David Brent character in the hit show, The Office, is the past master of cringe comedy--the most cruel and cringe-causing lines, the only relief to which is embarrassed laughter.  The media appear to have cottoned on to this, and are goading Cunliffe to deliver David-Brent-like utterances which cause the entire nation to cringe. That Cunliffe appears serious only exacerbates the "cringe".  It is the media's version of a blood sport.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Letter From Australia (About a Caravan of Doom)

Caravan of gloom slowing down