Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Elites Have Been Lying Like Hound Dogs

It's Early Days, But The Guillotine Is Being Polished Up

It is becoming more clear that there has been a rogue element within the FBI in the United States which has acted to pervert the course of justice.  It's exposure will doubtless eventually result in criminal prosecutions.  There are some people (now retired or moved on) who will likely see the inside walls of the penitentiary.

John Davidson, writing at The Federalist, explains what has gone down and how the FBI has been corrupted.  The corruption occurred, of course, because the FBI leadership had gone rogue and were committed to removing newly elected Donald Trump from office by fair means or foul, since the public was "dumb" enough to elect him to the Presidency.  This is truly historic.  When the clean up is finally complete its ramifications will echo for decades, if not centuries.

We expect that the rank and file in the FBI will be incandescent with anger around now.  Their former bosses and masters have dragged them through their own putrescent mud.

FBI Lied To FISA Court About Christopher Steele’s Credibility

The IG report shows how the FBI kept crucial information about Steele’s reliability out of its FISA application in order to spy on [innocent US citizen and Trump supporter] Carter Page.

John Daniel Davidson
The Federalist

The mainstream media is anxious—desperate, even—to claim that the report issued Monday from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz dispels once and for all the “conservative conspiracy theories” about the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 election.

The report, The New York Times assures us, “debunked President Trump’s accusations that former bureau leaders engaged in a politicized conspiracy to sabotage him.” Nothing to see here, move along.

But in fact the IG report does reveal that something is very wrong at the FBI.

Daily Meditation

Examining the Preceptive Will of God

The preceptive will of God relates to the revealed commandments of God’s published law. When God commands us not to steal, this decree does not carry with it the immediate necessity of consequence. Where it was not possible for the light to refuse to shine in creation, it is possible for us to refuse to obey this command. In a word, we steal.
We must be careful not to make too much of this distinction. We must not be lulled into thinking that the preceptive will of God is divorced form His decretive will. It is not as though the preceptive will has no effect or no necessity of consequence. We may have the power to disobey the precept. We do not have the power to disobey it with impunity. Neither can we annul it by our disregard. His law remains intact whether we obey or disobey it.
In one sense, the preceptive will is part of the decretive will. God sovereignly and efficaciously decrees that His Law be established. It is established and nothing can disestablish it. His Law exists as surely as the light by which we read it.

Coram Deo

During the next few days, read Psalm 119, which praises the preceptive will of God as revealed in His written Word.

Passages for Further Study

National Emasculation

Police Refuse to Recover Bodies From White Island 

It Must Be Questioned

Duncan Garner

We have a big decision to make as a country: What do we want our first responders to do when it comes to national emergencies.  Blink, delay, wait, and let people die perhaps, or charge in.  Think about the New York firefighters at 9/11 where many ran towards their death in the pursuit of saving lives. Dumb or brave national heroes?

I say we must let calculated courage be our test - and sometimes locals know best, not transplanted police officers from Wellington who take charge because a 50-year-old piece of law says that must be the case.   Although, I accept in many ways police are damned if they do and totally damned if they don't.  But I applaud the spontaneous, spur of the moment first responders who bravely touched down on White Island on Monday looking for signs of life.

They didn't wait for the cops, they just went in and put their own lives at risk - what a remarkable rescue.  That so many got off. They are now fighting for their lives and will in time receive the attention it deserves. Those local heroes, the chopper pilots, skippers and the like.  That's probably the way it should be - bugger the law and bugger the rules - judge it, call it , do it.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Good Reads

My Year in Books – Andrew Moody

Image ©2018, Text Publishing
The Storm, Frederick Buechner 
Frederick Buechner’s The Storm tells the tale of an ageing writer whose past and present failures come together under the gracious providence of a hidden God who works through nature, coincidence and even the machinations of troublemakers. Like many broadly protestant writers, Buechner doesn’t really manage to get past common grace, but this doesn’t stop him producing a deep and moving depiction of human life in magnificent prose. I was pleased to see Russell Moore commending Buechner over at TGC US a few weeks back.
Captivated by Christ. Seeing Jesus clearly in the book of Colossians, Richard Chin
There are academic commentaries for Greek-speakers and history buffs; there are occasional devotionals that give us scattered insights; there are synthetic commentaries which seek to show how a book or passage connects to the themes of the Bible and systematic theology. Richard Chin’s short commentary on Colossians (based on an AFES talk series) is something else—an exhortation that echoes as well expounds the text in the same spirit as the original letter. Read it if you want to be encouraged and excited about God’s plan for the world through Christ.
The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt  and Greg Lukianoff 
More essential reading from Jonathan Haidt. In this book Haidt and Lukianoff offer a sober picture of the university world of safe space, call-out culture and identity politics. Coddling of the American Mind demonstrates how smartphones and helicopter parenting have banished resilience and taken us back to the future with a return to honour and shame. The solution, they argue, is mostly to stop overreacting to everything and get some perspective from CBT. Of course, Christians have better resources for personal and community development in the gospel (as exemplified in the next book).
Coddling of the American Mind demonstrates how smartphones and helicopter parenting have banished resilience and taken us back to the future with a return to honour and shame. 
Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd Jones
I found myself vaguely dysthymic for a lot of this year—reading lots of Phillip Pullman didn’t help! But Martyn Lloyd Jones did. Spiritual Depression is filled with loads of scriptural truth and wise insights into the differences between personality types. If you want to think better about your life; if you want what the objective truth of the gospel to control more of your outlook (and what Christian doesn’t?), then Jones is your man. If you want a sample, you can listen to an incomplete collection of the original sermons that became this book over at Monergism.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
This year I’ve been reading post-apocalyptic fiction to help get me into the frame of mind for a writing project (Pilgrim’s Progress meets Mad Max). Of course, nothing in this genre comes close to the tragic beauty of McCarthy’s book. It will make you weep. But there’s faint hope there too:
The woman when she saw him put her arms around him and held him. Oh, she said, I am so glad to see you. She would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didnt forget. The woman said that was all right. She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.
Books that Saved my Life, Michael McGirr
Michael McGirr is a Melbourne writer, critic, former Catholic priest, and English teacher. He’s a person who seems to have done a lot of living and has been friends with a great many interesting people. In Books that Saved my Life, he writes forty essays about books that have meant a lot to him—authors ranging from Homer and Tolstoy to J.K. Rowling and Margaret Atwood. McGirr made me want to read better books and appreciate them better. However the best outcome for me was a resolution to memorise his favourite Psalm (63).
Pensées, Blaise Pascal 
This year I finally read it in full. Pascal’s notes are full of insights—here’s one that seems timely for our age of resurgent systematic theology:
There are then a great number of truths, both of faith and of morality, which seem contradictory and which all hold good together in a wonderful system. The source of all heresies is the exclusion of some of these truths; and the source of all the objections which the heretics make against us is the ignorance of some of our truths.
The Swelling Year, Matthew Pullar
I try to read at least one book of poetry each year and so was very pleased to be sent an advance copy of (Melbourne writer) Matthew Pullar’s first book of poems. The Swelling Year offers poems for every season (and every day?) of the church year. There are a lot of very good poems here: reflections on the meaning of Easter and Christmas and responses to Christians of the past and present. But, for me, the best are those  imbued with a specificity of time and place:
Fruit trees, plane trees, crickets in the night: all of this is built for peace, but never built to last.
See a lovely audio-visual introduction to the collection here:

Daemon Voices, Phillip Pullman
Certainly not the most trustworthy non-fiction book of my year, but definitely the most bracing. Reading Daemon Voices felt like a call to arms—or rather a challenge to arms. It made me, and still makes me, want to respond. See the beginnings of a response in my comments on the “Dark Materials” series.
Reading Between the Lines: Old Testament Daily Devotions, Glenn Scrivener
Technically I shouldn’t include this because my son and I are still working through it, but it’s such great stuff that I wanted to let other people know about it too. Glenn Scrivener’s daily devotions are great biblical theology: encouraging and thematically rich and useful for a range of ages from teen to adult. Highly recommended!

Daily Meditation

Comprehending the Decretive Will of God

God’s decretive will is sometimes described as the sovereign, efficacious will by which God brings to pass whatever He pleases by His divine decree. An example of this may be seen in God’s work of creation. When God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), He issued a divine imperative. He exercised His sovereign, efficacious will. When He did so, it was impossible for the light not to appear. It appeared by the sheer necessity of consequence.
The decretive will can have no other effect, no other consequence than what God sovereignly commands. He did not request the light to shine. Neither did He coax, cajole, or woo it into existence. It was a matter of absolute authority and power.
No creature enjoys this power of will. No man’s will is that efficacious. Men issue decrees and then hope they will bring about their desired effects. God alone can decree with the necessity of consequence.

Coram Deo

Read Genesis 1, observing how God repeatedly exercised His sovereign, efficacious will in creation.

Passages for Further Study

A Holiday Season With Little Rest

No Let Up, No Winding Down

As things wind down to the much anticipated summer holidays, the news and international events show no let up.  Top and centre in New Zealand has been the tragedy of tourists being caught in an eruption at White Island.  This has resulted in deaths and in terrible burns (external and internal) to the tourists and some of their guides.

The globe continues to shrink.  As a result tourists from all over the world can be found holidaying in New Zealand.  Most New Zealanders find themselves grieving the dead and wounded.  We are such a small country that, for many, these things are personal.

The United States is witnessing another impeachment of its current President.  This, too, is historic.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Identity Problems

Will the Real Boris Johnson Please Stand Up

Excerpts from "Boris's Blundering Brilliance"
Andrew Sullivan
The Intelligencer

It’s hard to take the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, completely seriously. Just look at him: a chubby, permanently disheveled toff with an accent that comes off as a parody of an upper-class twit, topped off by that trademark mop of silver-blond hair he deliberately musses up before venturing into the public eye. Then there are those photo-op moments in his long career that seem designed to make him look supremely silly — stuck dangling in midair on a zip line with little Union Jacks waving in his hands; rugby-tackling a 10-year-old in Japan; playing tug-of-war in a publicity stunt and collapsing, suited, onto the grass; or declaring at one point that he was more likely to be “reincarnated as an olive,” “locked in a disused fridge,” or “decapitated by a flying Frisbee” than to become prime minister.

And yet he has. And more than that: This comic figure has somehow managed to find himself at the center of the populist storms sweeping Britain and the West — first by becoming the most senior politician in Britain to back Brexit in 2016, and now by plotting a course that might actually bring the United Kingdom out of the epic, years-long, once-impossible-looking mess he helped make. Just over four months into office as PM, he appears poised to win an election he called and, if the polls are anywhere near correct, score a clear victory and take Britain out of the E.U. by the end of January. . . . 

Here is what the opponents of Boris darkly report:

Daily Meditation

Defining God’s Will

It is the will of God.” How easily these words fall from the lips or flow from the pen. How difficult it is to penetrate exactly what they mean. Few concepts in theology generate more confusion than the will of God.
One problem we face is rooted in the multifaceted way in which the term will functions in biblical expressions. The Bible uses the expression “the will of God” in various ways. We encounter two different Greek words in the New Testament (boule and thelema), both of which are capable of several nuances. They encompass such ideas as the counsel of God, the plan of God, the decrees of God, the disposition or attitude of God, as well as other nuances.
Augustine once remarked, “In some sense, God wills everything that happens.” The immediate question raised by this comment is, In what sense? How does God “will” the presence of evil and suffering? Is He the immediate cause of evil? Does He do evil? God forbid. Yet evil is a part of His creation. If He is sovereign over the whole of His creation, we must face the conundrum: How is evil related to the divine will?
Questions like this one make distinctions necessary—sometimes fine distinctions, even technical distinctions—with respect to the will of God.

Coram Deo

What is your response to the questions raised in this reading: How does God “will” the presence of evil and suffering? Is He the immediate cause of evil? Does He do evil?

Passages for Further Study

More and More Like an Agatha Christie Crime Novel

Twists and Turns.

Something continues to rot in the State of the Union.  The FBI has been criticized by the Justice Department's Inspector General for for "wrong doings" in its investigation of former President Trump's campaign staffer.  

Now this is starting to get down into the weeds, but nonetheless it is surprising that the FBI would not have been thoroughly scrupulous in its processes. 
The over 400-page report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticizes the FBI for “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the bureau’s applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, stating agents “failed to meet the basic obligation” to make sure their applications were accurate.  [Breitbart News]
The Inspector General has been focusing on the procedures and activities surrounding applications by the FBI to spy upon a US citizen, Carter Page--who was an election campaign adviser to Donald Trump.  It's all a bit abstract and distant now.  But it appears as though the FBI was less than thorough and professional.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Why Does the Left Appear to Hate the Sallies?

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

By Dennis Prager
National Review Online

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that’s all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad.

Such is the case regarding the Left’s hatred of the Salvation Army. You don’t have to be a Christian — I am not — to appreciate the goodness of the people who run and work for the Salvation Army. They devote their lives to helping the poorest, the saddest, the loneliest and the most troubled among us — completely irrespective of race, gender, transgender identity, faith or no faith. And they do it for almost no money. They do it because of their Christian faith.

They provide these downtrodden people with not only food and shelter but also human warmth and love. And they offer the people they care for the one thing most likely to get them out of their predicament: meaning. They offer it; they do not coerce it. And while the vehicle for this meaning — Christian faith — may not be your faith or mine, so what? It takes a truly narrow-minded bigot to want to deprive people of meaning just because that meaning is rooted in faith or in a faith other than their own.

Yet, leftists — most especially LGBTQ groups, which spread a remarkable amount of hate in the name of “love” — seek to crush The Salvation Army.

Daily Meditation

Restoring Our Relationship

Unregenerate man is consistently described as being in a state of alienation and enmity. This is the condition that makes reconciliation necessary. Reconciliation is necessary only when a state of estrangement exists between two or more parties. Estrangement is the natural fallen state of our relationship to God.
How are we enemies of God? Jonathan Edwards provides an insightful summary of the problem. He lists several points of tension between God and man:
1. By nature, we have a low esteem of God. We count Him unworthy of our love or fear.
2. We prefer to keep a distance from God. We have no natural inclination to seek His presence in prayer.
3. Our wills are opposed to the law of God. We are not loyal subjects of His sovereign rule.
4. We are enemies against God in our affections. Our souls have a seed of malice against God. We are quick to blaspheme and to rage against Him.
5. We are enemies in practice. We walk in a way that is contrary to Him.

Coram Deo

Examine your spiritual condition in light of Edwards’s five points of tension between God and man.

Passages for Further Study

Too Close to Home

Ethnic Cleansing In Eastern Europe Post WWII

Eastern European nations in the post World War II period harbour lots of dirty secrets.  The victorious Western allies allowed a process of ethnic cleansing, during which mainly German folk were forcibly repatriated back to Germany.  In many cases they had lived outside Germany for generations.  The victorious Allied nations at best turned away.  At worst, they helped facilitate the ethnic cleansing. 

R. M. Douglas has written a scholarly tome exposing and addressing the evil madness.  [R. M. Douglas, Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).]  Benjamin Schwarz, writing in The Atlantic said of Douglas's work:
The most thorough study available of the largest expulsion of a people in human history and by far the most horrific instance in post-war Europe of what is now called ethnic cleansing.
Douglas writes:
The moral and ethical questions raised by the population transfers are exceptionally complex and difficult, and it is not possible to deal with them exhaustively here.  But it is clear that many among the Allied leaderships and peoples derived a degree of vicarious satisfaction from the anguish the expellees were undergoing.  They also regarded the deliberately cruel way in which the expulsions were often conducted as not only forgivable but cathartic for the expelling societies themselves. . . .

(As David Curp has written) there is no doubt . . .  that the spectacle of "the Herrenvolk themselves (or at least their women, children, and elderly) being driven from their homes in misery provided a certain grim satisfaction for many Poles who had endured years of racially motivated contempt (punctuated by terror and grief) from their Nazi occupiers."  But grievously as these societies had been physically and psychically wounded by their experience of Nazi occupation, the suggestion that they could recover their collective self-esteem only by way of a display of their own capacity for violence and injustice is both psychologically unsound and ethically bankrupt.  [R. M. Douglas, p. 369-370.]

Surely this must leave a very sour taste in the hearts and minds of the victorious Allies. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Democrat Mendacity

Schiff’s Report Will Not Attract New Impeachment Supporters

In no serious, objective investigation would the tribunal deny one side the opportunity to present its case, and then write a report concluding that no evidence supported that side’s position.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review Online

The most striking thing about the impeachment report filed Tuesday afternoon by the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) is how unapologetically partisan it is.

Don’t get me wrong. Chairman Schiff is fiercely partisan and no one would have expected him to call it down the middle. A serious impeachment effort, however, has to try to attract support from Republicans and independents. Schiff gives us not a feint in that direction. His narrative is the Democratic base’s political case against Trump. There is no pretense of at least presenting the other side of the story, even if only for the purpose of refuting it.

To repeat what I argued in Faithless Execution (2014), impeachment is counterproductive if there is no plausible chance of removing the president from power. To impeach under circumstances where the president is certain to be acquitted at the eventual Senate trial (where a two-thirds supermajority is required for conviction and removal) is only to encourage further executive excesses.

That is why impeachment is a historical rarity even when the House (where only a simple majority is needed to file articles of impeachment) is controlled by the president’s opposition party. Prudent lawmakers grasp that it is not merely a waste of time to pursue impeachment in futility; doing so fosters divisiveness in society and dysfunction in government.

Schiff is not trying to develop a broad public consensus that the president should be removed from office. His report is a 2020 campaign document. Its heavy-handedness is only going to irritate Republicans. That includes many who are not particularly enamored of the president but want to see a fair process.

There is also the point I made in Tuesday’s column: If there were truly an impeachable offense, one that was patently egregious and provoked grave doubt about the president’s fitness for office, there would be no need to spin it. All that would be necessary would be a straightforward, nonpartisan recitation. Schiff, to the contrary, is spinning at every turn.

Daily Meditation

Recognizing Our Enmity

As children we played games drawn from the scenario of war. When a friend approached we pretended that we were sentries. The dialogue was simple: “Halt! Who goes there? Friend or foe?” Our categories left no room for indifferent neutrality. They were restricted to two options, friend or enemy. Those are the only options we have in our relationship with God. No one is neutral. We are either God’s friends or God’s enemies.
Jonathan Edwards once preached a sermon titled, “Man, Naturally God’s Enemies.” In this sermon Edwards declared: “Men, in general, will own that they are sinners. There are few, if any, whose consciences are so blinded as not to be sensible they have been guilty of sin … And yet few of them are sensible that they are God’s enemies. They do not see how they can be truly so called; for they are not sensible that they wish God any hurt, or endeavor to do Him any.”
Yet despite human protestations to the contrary, Scripture clearly describes natural fallen men as enemies of God. Paul, in speaking of our salvation, wrote, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10). Again, “You … were alienated [from God] and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). Also, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7).

Coram Deo

Think of the characteristics and qualities of intimate friendship, then apply these to your spiritual relationship with the heavenly Father. Are you truly a friend of God?

Passages for Further Study

Selective Morality

Hypocritical Prejudice

The dust is not settled in Australia.  Some folk have taken bitter umbrage at the confidential settlement reached by Israel Folau and Rugby Australia.  One of the more prominent, outspoken critics is ex-Rugby player, Peter FitzSimons.  He remains incensed that anyone would be allowed to hold, let alone practice, Christian beliefs and doctrines in the twenty-first century.

Here is FitzSimons in full flight:
As one who has followed the issues closely since Folau first disgraced himself by putting up a post endorsing the view that gays are destined for hell, and who has written and ranted about it extensively, I am more aware than most of the damage he has done, the hurt he has caused. In the 21st century, his homophobic gibberish—you heard me—simply has no place. And it is no excuse that the gibberish in question is sourced from the Bible. I was hoping the court would confirm that, hence the dissatisfaction.
Homophobic gibberish, eh.   It is sad to see a once great rugby player sneering at the beliefs of others.  It is sad indeed to see such sexist gibberish dribbling forth over the play ground.  FitzSimons should know better.  Well, he does know better, but we all love and energetically protect our own prejudices, don't we Peter.

FitzSimons, you see, is a grade A hypocrite.