Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Wolves are Beginning to Feed

Rapacious Capitalists and Their Running Dogs

When a moral imperative is providing a backbone to a capitalist—beware. Of course, not all moral imperatives are wrong. But there remains a sneaking suspicion that the capitalist will attempt to use the moral imperative to skew the market in his favour, weakening competitors and fleecing the public accordingly.

Adam Smith saw this with astounding clarity. Having a realistic view of human nature, Smith characterised capitalists as being motivated by a “mean rapacity”. He said that when in a group, businessmen “seldom meet together, even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, [New York: Modern Library, 1937], p.128.) The only way to restrain such rapacity was to keep the economy open and subject to full blooded competition. It is the dynamic of competition which restrains and controls the innate rapacity of human beings.

When a capitalist pronounces or seizes upon a moral imperative for their particular good or service, however, all bets are off. For almost inevitably they will turn to the political realm to secure particular non-competitive advantage, subsidy, or protection, for their business on the grounds of a greater good or a higher purpose.

In recent days we have been treated to the ugly spectacle of Patricia Woertz, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland Corporation, which just happens to be the largest ethanol producer in the United States, telling us that it would be a terrible mistake to pull back from producing biofuels. (CNN Money, “Archer Daniels Defends Ethanol,” 30th April, 2008) This is an industry which has been built by government subsidies and tax relief. Federal tax breaks alone amounted to $3.2bn last year. Then, on top of that, we have to add the guaranteed minimum price which the Federal government will pay for raw materials and a multitude of related subsidies and supports. Archer Daniels spent just short of a million dollars lobbying the US Federal Government to secure subsidies and government favours for its business.

But, says Woertz, all this is to the good. Why? Because it will “ensure” that the US will be able to meet the rising demand for energy. Adopting the garb of the humanitarian statesman, Woertz issued a litany of warnings about bad consequences that would flow if the US government pulled back from its subsidies to biofuel (that is, to her company). This would be “wrong. It's foolish. I think it's dangerous. I think it's a mistake.”

Yup, we get the picture. But wrong for whom; dangerous for whom? may we inquire.

The problem, according to Woertz, is the stupid, inefficient market. It is the high price of oil which has driven up food prices, not the plague of locusts that is the biofuel industry. Oh, yes—and what has caused the linkage between food and oil prices in the global market? Your company has—because you are rapaciously taking grain out of the food production chain and converting it to ethanol—all the while subsidised and funded by the Federal Government. No, the market is very efficient. It is responding accurately to the gross distortions which Woertz and her ilk have introduced.

But, then, the kicker: “Retreat from biofuels is just an empty gesture. That won't fill anybody's stomach and won't fill anybody's gas tanks,” said Woertz. To which we need to ask a simple moral question of Woertz and her political cronies: which is morally more important—food in the stomach or gas in the tank? In case it has not occurred to you, people can survive without gas in the tank, but no food is lethal. For the solution to the current food crisis which is already causing severe suffering—and looks likely to result in an horrendous global catastrophe—is simple. If the morally and ethically bankrupt ethanol industry were to stop consuming 30 percent of US corn production—as it currently does—and the figure is going to rise rapidly every year from now on—global prices of grains would ease immediately. Within a year, every staple food price would have fallen sharply around the globe—grains, meat, dairy, fish, and vegetables. Vulnerable lives would be saved.

This is a man made crisis. It is an artificially engendered crisis. It is the confluence of loopy global warming fears, coupled with inhuman greenist utopianism, politicians seeking to curry electoral favour by trumpeting “think big” visions, and of capitalists seeking to take advantage and make what is in effect, blood money.

Adam Smith was right. Beware the capitalist trumpeting a moral imperative and his politician-running dogs. A mean and cruel rapacity is being cloaked. In the end, the wolves will come out to feed. They have now emerged and are starting to feed on the carcases of the destitute and the vulnerable the poor, and the wretched of the earth.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Fatuousness and Dangers of Middle Class Welfare

An Open Letter to the Child Poverty Action Group

Dear Sirs and Mesdames

We understand that you are a special interest group which asserts that children have a right to security, food, education and healthcare. You have also set a goal to end child poverty by 2020 in New Zealand. You define poverty as earning less than 60 percent of the median New Zealand income.

You have recently called upon the government to transfer $4bn of money taken from New Zealand citizens via redistribution mechanisms to new entitlements and programmes to alleviate child poverty in New Zealand. (NZ Herald, 29th April, 2008)

You want to be taken seriously. You want people to have respect for your work and your policy ideas. We presume that your concern over child poverty in New Zealand is genuine. We note that your organisation is led by pediatricians and academics and inevitably reflects the values and views of the upper middle class to a significant extent. Your achievements demand that your views be treated with respect and granted due weight.

However, before you are granted the time of day or a moment's consideration we think that you need to cover off a few fundamentals necessary to give you views any credibility at all.

Firstly, since you define poverty to be living in a situation where children are dependant upon incomes that are less than 60% of the median New Zealand income, and since you have a declared goal to have child poverty abolished by 2020, could you please explain how that target can be in any sense meaningful. By your standard, you are perpetuating poverty in New Zealand, since by definition there will necessarily always be people below the median income level. It is inevitable that some will be more than 60% below, given lifestyle complexities, transitions, and preferences. And, while we are at it, why 60%; why not 65%? Why not 50%? Please explain.

Secondly, it is hard to get remotely interested in supporting your work when the definition of poverty is so relative. Would you please give us hard standards that do not adjust constantly with the changing whims of economic fortune. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. In a world where the medium income is ten million dollars, why would you even remotely want to suggest that the anyone living on an annual income of $6 million is poor . Now, of course, our median income is far from that, and will be so in 2020
(assuming, that is, we are not afflicted at the time with Zimbabwean records of mass inflation)—but you get the point. Unless you are prepared to give some hard, absolute standards that define and measure poverty, don't even waste our time asking for serious consideration. We suspect that definitions of poverty in such a loose and relative context end up being any state or situation less well off than one's own. Poverty is too important an issue to be thus trivialised.

We notice that you assert that children have a right to security, food, education, and healthcare. Would you please explain on what basis children have this right. Where does this right come from? Who grants it? On what is it based? The current democratic preference or popular prejudice? Can you suggest any law, any principle that transcends the fickleness of the current politics of guilt and pity upon which you ground or assert this these rights? If you are to be taken seriously and be given a respectful hearing, please explain. We note that others talk about a rights to life, and oppose abortion. Do you ground your assertion of child rights in the same vein as these people, or do you have a different rationale? Why should we listen to you and turn away from them? For, if they are right, surely abortion is the ultimate impoverishing of a child. Surely we should begin to address that issue first.

Fourthly, when addressing some of the more substantive and complex issues involved with the causes of child poverty we notice that some of your more serious papers acknowledge the causal complexities and confirm that superficial social actions often generate worse problems than those they were intending to fix. (D. Wynd, “Violence Against Children: Domestic Violence and Child Homicide in New Zealand”) Would you please explain how the latest call for a $4bn spend-up shows due concern for the complexities of the problem and avoids the law of unintended consequences. We are simply not interested in giving you a hearing until you are able to demonstrate that the most likely evil unintended consequences of your proposals have been identified, weighed, and removed, lest what you are advocating only makes the problem worse.

Fifthly, would you please declare what your view is of human nature. Some of your papers imply that human beings are predominately, if not universally, innately responsible, altruistic, aspirational beings. All they require is a chance. If such a chance is delivered in the form of more money, people will respond responsibly and gratefully. They will accept the help and, in gratitude, take serious steps to improve their lot and lives. So, fundamentally, the solution to child poverty (assuming it can be meaningfully defined) is very simple—more money provided. Could you please tell us where that view of human nature comes from and upon what it is based? For, if you are wrong on this, your programme risks the unintended consequence of consigning more people to wretchedness than ever before. We care far too much about poverty to allow that to happen—so, until you can convince us you know what you are doing by addressing the question—forget it.

Further, if people are innately responsible and altruistic and are going to respond to the carrying out of your governmental re-distribution with gratitude and a sense of obligation, could you please explain how this will happen when, at the same time, they are told that they have a right to such assistance? If people are owed the help, as a fundamental matter of justice, it would be entirely inappropriate to expect them to be grateful for it, would it not? After all, do we expect the victim of a crime to be grateful to the criminal when he receives restitution? It would be entirely inappropriate—even morally grotesque. Equally, we suggest, it would be morally grotesque to imply that people should have a sense of gratitude, thankfulness, and moral obligation to move out of a state of poverty when they are given state assistance that is both their right and due. How condescendingly middle class is that!

Finally, would you please explain to us how your programme will take account of people's trade-offs. Everyone makes trade-offs. We are prepared to assert this as a universal axiom. Until wealth and resources are without limitation—which will not occur any time soon—everyone ends up choosing some course or goods in preference to others. Behind every choice lies a trade-off which in turn draws upon the complete world-view of that person. Some will choose to purchase the weekly lotto ticket in preference of bread for their children. Behind that choice lies beliefs about truth, right, wrong, priorities, the past, government and justice, and hopes for the future. People are entitled to make those trade-offs—it is fundamental to being free—is it not? No-one has a right to compel them to make a certain set of trade-offs have they? Or do they? Simply providing more of others' money via state redistribution, while ignoring the power and rights of people to make trade-offs, is to be air headed in the extreme.

So, to be taken seriously, you have to tell us how you are going to address the fundamental paradox implicit in all programmes attempting to confront poverty: on the one hand, recipients of support need to be treated with dignity, such that their freedom, responsibility for their own choices, and respect for their preferences is maintained. On the other hand, if the support is to avoid merely perpetuating poverty in the lifestyle of the recipients (that is, merely funding their current trade-offs), what trade-offs which they are currently making which are contributing to their poverty, must change—and how can they be changed, without recourse to external compulsion (that is, a form of reduction in liberties)?

If you cannot address this paradox seriously—or give no indication of being willing to face up to the inherent problem—don't even waste our time. What you are proposing is not worth serious consideration. Even worse, what you are advocating, if executed, will make child suffering in New Zealand many, many times worse.

Until you can demonstrate that you prepared to do far more than make fatuous appeals to middle class guilt and pity please desist. Move over and make room for those who are genuinely and seriously concerned with the plight of the wretched of the earth and who refuse to duck the hard issues and questions.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sabbath Meditation

The Eyes of Faith

The eyes of faith see what the blind do not. The eyes of faith see the angels of the Lord who encamp around those who fear Him. The eyes of faith make us conscious that we walk in the presence of heavenly and earthly realms. The believer knows that the heavenly realms are more real, more true, more significant—more dense and thick with meaning, if you will—than the aspects of the world mediated to us through the perception of the senses.

This does not make the material aspects of the world unimportant, or even less important, than the unseen heavenly powers. The believer's view, however, is more true and complete in that it embraces all reality, both seen and unseen, physical and immaterial, it embraces both the Creator and the creature. The believer is not only someone whose eyes have been opened, but he is one who lives life in terms of “reality as it really is.” Therefore, the believer is blessed exceedingly. Therefore, the believer has life and has it abundantly—or, “in spades” to use the vernacular.

As we go to worship on this holy day the material and the sensual aspects will be only part of the reality. Also present, also gathering with us will be the Holy One of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be present in the person of His Spirit. His angels, His ministering spirits, will also be present. As we worship and bow down before Him, the angels will join with us, as part of the holy congregation, in worship. Together, with the angels, we will greet our Lord with praise and honour.

If it is true that where two or three are gathered together in the Name of the Lord, He is present amongst them, how much more when the congregation of the Lord gathers together on the holy day.

When we enter the halls of the congregation there is always to be found a great diversity of responses and thoughts. There is anticipation and excitement. There is reverential fear. We know that we will be standing on holy ground. There is also the joy of greeting the saints, and being greeted by them.

As they greet us and we greet them we are acting as the Lord's servants. In our greeting, He is greeting. In our extending the right hand of fellowship, God is extending His hand to us. For the only ground upon which we greet fellow believers in peace is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. He has brought to us a work—a state—in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and Scythian, slave and freeman—but Christ is all in all. (Colossians 3:11) As we greet one another in the holy convocation for worship we live out and experience this great work of salvation. We cannot accept a greeting without accepting also the cause and ground which brought it about—the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why when Christians greet each other in the presence of the Lord, He is greeting us in their actions.

In the singing of the congregation, we are singing to the Lord, Who is present with us. In the proclamation of the scriptures God is speaking to us and with us. We are indeed on holy ground.

In the particular congregation in which I am privileged to worship there are people from so many ethnic and racial origins. In a world racked with division, enmity, hatreds, and jealousies our congregational gatherings are a manifestation of the glory of Christ's salvation. Rich and poor, male and female, young and old, firm and infirm, white and black and every skin colour in between—all gather in joyful unity before the Lord—glad to be in each other's presence, glad to be worshiping our Lord together. The world longs for this joyous reality but can never engineer or create it.

When David was an outcast and not able to attend public worship and join with the congregation of the Lord he spoke of the yearning of his heart and his longing to be in the courts of God. He sang a dirge, a lamentation:

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for Thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'
These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42: 1—4
This holy day we are able to come and appear before God. There is nothing—nothing—in heaven or upon earth to compare with the joy, the privilege and the blessing of what we do this day.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Hell Hath No Fury Like an Electorate Scorned

Politicians and Their Diabolical Pacts

There seems no doubt the present government is going to lose the forthcoming election. The only question of interest that remains is whether the loss is going to decimate the Labour Party, consigning it to electoral oblivion for the next twelve to fifteen years, or whether the loss will be “respectable”, enabling the Party to recreate itself within a much shorter time.

On that question the jury is out—although the portents are not good. The current leadership of the party is unprincipled, gratuitous liars, venal, messianic, and above all, power hungry. Roger Douglasses and Richard Prebbles they are not. Such people are never likely to let go of power easily. Those that replace them within the Party are likely to be a bit vengeful. It seems probable that the Party is in for a good old fashioned round of blood letting. Watch for “The Gangs of New York” to be played out in live theatre.

Political commentators and the more serious journalists are still arguing that the election will turn around policies and that the party with the most electorally attractive will win. Nah. We recall the adage that oppositions do not win elections, governments lose them. The current Labour-led Government has lost the election already. We believe they all know it. They are just going through the motions. There is plenty of evidence that Labour players are already beginning to angle for advantage in the brave new world that will emerge after the election. They are clearly contemplating a post-Clark universe. They should, however, be careful. The dragon still has claws.

There is an irony in this situation. Most modern political leaders who win the favour of the Athenian electorates do so because they are prepared to enter a Faustian bargain with the people. Give me power, and I will sell my soul to you. This is the key to electoral traction. Either by direct blandishments or by implication, to be successful, a political party has to sell its soul to the people. If you give me power, I will bow down and serve you. How does the electorate want to be served? All successful political leaders have been able to convince people that they will indeed take care of them and provide for them. In exchange the people grant the wish of the political leaders. They love politicians who are prepared to sell their souls. Policies are irrelevant. Details are boring. I will support you if you you take care of me—cradle to the grave. I will give you power; you will take care of me, bow down to me, and serve me.

The more ambitious and driven the politician, the more deliberately and cynically they will traffick in this Faustian pact. But, of course, this is a two edged sword—as all Faustian pacts are. While governments can do an awful lot of damage they can achieve very little positive good. The law of contrary outcomes means that even policies and initiatives with genuine intent to accomplish some social good usually fail and end up producing far greater social evils. After a couple of terms in office, most governments cynically give up on genuinely trying to achieve anything salutary. All of their actions become directed to maintaining the pretense of delivering on the pact—that indeed they are taking care of people, and the consequences be damned.

But in the end it dawns on the credulous population that a government has broken its end of the bargain. At that point—which is a key electoral inflection point—the mood of the electorate turns nasty. The devil that lies just beneath the surface of the electorate stirs. It is not just that policies have failed, but that the government has broken the pact. This generates very real feelings of anger and a desire for revenge.

The present Labour-led Government has promulgated the Faustian pact far and wide. It has had behind it a fair economic breeze—which has been none of its own making, but for which it has claimed a great deal of credit. Now, contrary winds are blowing. Food and petrol prices are rising to the point where people are complaining. Things are not so good. The future looks more bleak. When you see interviews at petrol pumps where ordinary people are overtly saying they blame the government for rising petrol prices, you know that the Devil is coming to get his due. The Government has broken the pact. Electoral death and banishment to the oblivion of the underworld awaits.

We believe this is why political administrations rarely last beyond two electoral terms and almost never beyond three. All that is required is for the electorate to become convinced that the latest Faustian incumbent is not going to keep the bargain. And no government ever can. Civil government is neither a Messiah nor a Redeemer. The citizens of Athens, on the other hand, are constantly looking for and demanding both. They expect governments to care providentially for them (that is, provide for them), fix all problems, remove all inequities, defend against all threats, and provide the necessaries (and even luxuries) of life. Universal health, education, and welfare—these are the basics. Beyond that is income, prosperity, well being, happiness, and luxuries. Ultimately, the state is responsible to provide them all. Moreover, the state must competently defend against any and all forces—whether internal or external—that would threaten these life entitlements. This is what the modern devilish electorate requires and demands.

They used to say, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But the fury of a woman scorned is inconsequential when compared to the hellish fury of an electorate when a government fails to deliver and so scorns its Faustian bargain with the people.

So, in November we will have a new government in New Zealand. Will it last? No—not beyond a couple of terms, three at the most. Will it therefore be a failure? Yes. It will fail to deliver on its promises to the people of Athens who require that their governments function as gods. And waiting in the wings will be new, fresh, aspiring political leaders who long for power and who are willing to sell their souls to the Devil. But, be warned. It is to the Devil that you are selling your souls. Hades awaits.

Friday, 25 April 2008

ChnMind 1.23 History as Perpetual War and Certain Defeat

Two Human Races and Ne'er The Twain Shall Meet
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.
Genesis 3:15.

The history of the world is the history of two human races; everything else is a postscript. This reality is yet again a constitutive shaping element that governs human affairs and influences all lives.

Our text tells us strikingly that there are two seeds, two human lines, two lineages. One is named by God as the seed of the serpent. It does not take much thought to identify to who or to what is being referred. Since, by their works you shall know them, we can be sure that the seed of the serpent are those members of humanity that walk in the ways of the serpent in Eden―and therefore in the ways of the one who animated and inspired the serpent―the Devil himself.

The existence of a human race that has the Devil as its father is confirmed by our Lord when He was confronting the unbelieving Jews. A key issue in the interchange was progeny and lineage―and Jesus said to them: “You are of your father the Devil and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) These people were definitively categorised by our Lord as being the seed of the serpent. And what was their chief characteristic? They did not believe the Christ (verse 45), which is to say they did not believe in God and therefore they had adopted the world-view and beliefs of the Devil.

Lineage is proven by whom you follow, by whose footsteps in which you walk.

The other human race is identified as being the seed of the woman―“her seed” (Genesis 3: 15). This human race walks after the footsteps of Adam and Eve, not in their sin and unbelief, but who walk after God with the clothing with which He provides (Genesis 3: 21)―as Adam and Eve walked for the rest of their lives. They walked in Belief, not Unbelief. They were of the city of God, not the city of fallen man. There is no other alternative. There is no middle way. There is no amalgm between the two. There are only two human races. You are either of the seed of the serpent or of the woman.

So, two human races. The first believes God, turns to Him, seeks to obey Him and honour Him. The second denies God and seeks to ignore and therefore eradicate Him from their lives. Furthermore, God stipulates how these two seeds or races would relate to each other. He said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman . . .” The two seeds, while both human, are to be like oil and water―there will always be enmity between them. It is put there by God. It is inevitable and inerradicable. It will lead to mortal conflict―such that the seed of the serpent will be destroyed―fatally wounded by a blow to the head―while the seed of the woman would be struck, but not fatally―that is, bruised on the heel. (Genesis 3:15).

But, and here is an absolutely vital point, the aggression that expresses the enmity comes from the seed of the serpent to the seed of the woman. It is the Mind of Unbelief which over and over again cannot tolerate the Believing Mind and which seeks to destroy it―particularly by force. The evidence for this came very early into human history. Of Adam's two sons, it was Cain that rose up and killed Abel. Cain was an Unbeliever, an idolater who thought of God as a god, an idol, to be bought off and manipulated with his sacrifices. He found Abel's true faith so offensive that his anger raged against his brother and he murdered him. In Cain's unbelieving world view he thought that Abel had been beaten him in the contest of manipulating god, and that to kill him would remove a rival, a competitor, leaving his manipulations standing upon the field of conflict. His god would then have no other choice but to approve him.

The archetype of the way of the enmity between the two seeds is shown by how the seed of the serpent treated the Son of God. They hated Him and killed Him. Consider carefully our Lord's characterisation of this: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15: 18,19) Notice the reverbrations right back to Cain. Because I chose you, therefore the world hates you. They see you as competitors in the struggle to manipulate their god.

He explains further why they hated Him: “if I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin . . . . If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated me and My Father as well.” (John 15: 22,24) Cain hated Abel because his brother's actions and life showed up his own failings and sin, his idolatry and unbelief in the true God. The Jewish leaders hated Jesus because His actions and words exposed their sin for what it was and left them without excuse. Hating the message, they sought to kill the messenger.

The seed of the woman maintains the enmity in a qualitatively different, non-aggressive manner. Firstly, the Believer stands as God's servant, walking in His commandments and ways. Therefore, he rejects the advice, counsel, and lifestyles of the Unbeliever. He will not do as they do. But, secondly, and at the same time, he lives and manifests an open invitation to all to leave their unbelief and come to God that they too may be blessed and saved. This enrages the Unbeliever for in their world-view success and acceptance is a matter of manipulation of the gods and of the gods approving or endorsing those who have manipulated them successfully. In this warped world of deceit, the invitation from Christians to come to God is heard by Unbelievers as an invitation to give up and concede failure and defeat in the competition to manipulate the gods. Therefore they hate both the invitation and the one who extends it.

All Unbelieving or Athenian cultures have a view of history. Most often their views will turn around strife or conflict of some sort. History is the account of struggle between reason and superstition (read, rationalism versus religion), materialism versus idealism, capital versus labour, empires versus nations, democracy versus monarchy, white versus non-white, etc. In the end, however, all these poles of conflict will be seen as nothing more than footnotes and distractions.

The abiding and perpetual conflict of history is the struggle between Jerusalem and Athens, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, between Belief and Unbelief. This struggle is perpetual, unceasing, inevitable, and unavoidable. Friendship with the world is enmity towards God, declares James. (James 4:4) This is the great antithesis, for which there is no synthesis, no resolving dialectic. The enmity abides because God insists upon it; therefore, men cannot extinguish it.

But at leaset two biblical qualifications need to be added to this perspective of continual conflict. Firstly, the perpetual enmity of which we speak does not imply two equal opposing forces engaged in an unending war of mutually assured destructive attrition. While the enmity does not cease, victory is assured and certain for the seed of the woman, for the forces of Belief, for Jerusalem. The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. This we know for certain, not just because of the utterance of Almighty God in the Garden, but also because of the decisive victory of the Son of God over sin on the Cross and His rising again from the dead. The unwinding of sin and the complete re-creation of the world without sin is now irrevocable and inevitable. The One who holds all authority in heaven and upon earth is making it so.

Secondly, the ranks of Jerusalem are being constantly swelled as people come over from Unbelief to Belief. These are people who were once in the ranks of the enemy, but who defect from Athens and are welcomed with rejoicing at the gates of the Great City. They have come to consider that any hardship with the people of God is vastly preferable to the luxuries and splendours and honours of Egypt.

But the question is begged—how does such a defection, such a change occur, amidst conditions of such abiding enmity? How does one come to love what he once hated and despised? There are two aspects to this: a divine component and a human component. Somewhere along the line the former Athenian heard an invitation from God to come out from the City of Unbelief. The Spirit of God sealed this invitation to the heart and mind in such a way that the individual knew that it was indeed God speaking to him, and he believed.

The human component is represented in this: the Divine invitation to repent and believe was mediated through Jerusalem and her citizens. It came through people. Thus we learn that there are people whose instinctual and natural enmity towards God's people is being subdued and quelled by God to the point where not only do they interact with God's people socially and without hostility, but they also are prepared to listen to and regard what they say. Most often it is these people whose steps are already leading them out of the dessicated dust bowl of Athens towards the rivers of life flowing in Jerusalem.

This salvation dynamic has been laid down from the very beginning. When God made a covenant with Abraham that separated him from his idol worshipping family, He declared that He would bless Abraham—but not only him and his family. We read: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” (Genesis 12:3) When people from Athens lay aside their enmity towards God's people and seek to do good to them, to bless them, within that matrix the blessing of God flows to them and salvation comes.

So, in seeking to do good to all men, the Church opens wide the doors of the Great City. Many will respond, seeking to bless in return. In this way they are ready and open to hear the gracious invitation of the Son of God, issued by His people: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden. I will give you rest. He who comes to me, I will never cast out.”

While there are two human races and ne'er the twain shall meet, day by day, week by week, month by month thousands upon thousands are making their way out of the City of Death and are coming as refugees to Jerusalem. There is great joy, in both heaven and upon earth at their coming. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The S-Files

Dr Robyn Toomath: The Sinister Undertones of an Egregious Appeal to Pity.

Contra Celsum has nominated Dr Robyn Toomath, spokesperson for Fight the Obesity Trust for an S-Award.


Dr Robyn Toomath has appeared before the parliamentary committee considering the galactically stupid Public Health Bill. She is quoted as arguing: “People are desperate for Nanny State's help. Parents are desperate for help to get their children to eat healthily.”

She also endeavoured to get everyone's heart to bleed by telling us that she keeps a notebook detailing the patients who were admitted to her hospital ward, suffering severe problems because they were overweight. “I know from my day to day experience how big this problem is.” (We are sure no pun was intended)

She claimed that her patients “were intelligent people who knew they needed to regulate their diet and lose weight, but were overwhelmed by a nutritional environment which promoted high-energy, unhealthy foods.” (NZ Herald, 24th April, 2008)

So, laying aside the unconscionable and completely irrelevant appeal to pity, let us analyse what Toomath is actually saying:

1. People are enslaved and cannot control their own lives.
2. People are fundamentally irresponsible.
3. Parents cannot train and teach their children to eat appropriate foods.
4. People know what is right, but lack the will power to do it.
5. People are conditioned by the (nutritional) environment so completely they are “overwhelmed”.

Her solution? Nanny state (yes, she actually used the term) needs to step in to help them.

According to Toomath's world-view liberty, freedom, responsibility, and accountability do not exist. Since everyone is enslaved already, the best thing to do is increase the intrusive powers of the state and make our slavery both overt and official.

Now, laying aside the ethical and philosophical and religious problems with Toomath's world-view, let us just address it on a pragmatic basis. Let's just be clear that Toomath's solution will actually make obesity worse. If enslavement has caused the obesity problem, more enslavement will not arrest it; it will make it worse. If people are unable to control their appetites now, when the state makes itself responsible for what they eat, peoples' appetites will enslave them even more. It will then becomes the government's problem that I desire and eat such things.

Secondly, one never ceases to be amazed at the inconsistency of those who argue, on the one hand, that citizens are morally incompetent, yet, in the same breath, argue the moral competence of government and government officials. There is a universal suppressed premise amongst such people that once someone is either elected or goes to work for the state they become morally perfected or escape the moral imperfections of those whom they are required to govern.

But let us be clear. If Toomath is to be taken seriously she must also argue that we entrust our lives in this matter to state officials, legislators, institutions and bureaucrats who:

1. Are enslaved and cannot control their lives.
2. Who are fundamentally irresponsible.
3. Who will be utterly incompetent and unable to teach us and train us to eat the right foods
4. Who will know what should be done to overcome the problem, but will be completely unable to carry it out.
5. Who will themselves be conditioned by the nutritional environment so that they won't be able to do anything about it.

Someone needs to send Dr Toomath a "please explain" notice.

Remember the adage—when governments step in to prevent or lessen a deemed social evil, the inevitable outcome is that the social evil multiplies and becomes worse. Toomath's “ultimate solution” will actually throw petrol on the obesity fire—or, to use a more apt metaphor, will sweeten and enrich the obesity pie.

At Contra Celsum, we suggest a far more Christian solution to this social problem.

1. Let the government declare that “You are what you eat”, that everyone is responsible, and will be made to face the consequences of their behaviour. If you become obese it is highly probable that a short and painful life awaits you.
2. The government to allocate an obesity public health voucher to every New Zealander which will entitle them to limited treatment for a range of notified obesity related health problems.
3. If a person is admitted to a public hospital for treatment for a notified obesity related health problem, and is obese, the cost of treatment will be born by their voucher.
4. Once the voucher is used up, no further publicly funded treatment for obesity related illnesses will be available. The cost will have to be met by the patient or his/her extended family, charity, insurance, or social networks.

Our solution assumes that people are not slaves, they are accountable and they are responsible. Our solution presupposes that people are thereby treated with respect. Our solution dignifies man, rather than degrades him. Our solution represents principled tough love. Moreover, our solution will radically reduce obesity over time.

Dr Robyn Toomath—S-Award Class II for behaviour that is Stupid, Short Sighted and Stupefied.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The Slavery of Maoritanga

The Rise of Historical Determinism—Becoming Enslaved to the Past

In New Zealand we observed the emergence of a modern form of historical determinism with the recent rise of Maoritanga—in all its related manifestations. This is actually quite a curio to many in New Zealand because everyone who lives in this country is a migrant or descended from a migrant. Immigrants tend to loosen their ties over time to their whakapapa and culture. They become less wedded to the past.

For several decades British immigrants felt linked to the home country. They were even prepared to go and fight for it in its wars. But these things fade and today the ties with the home country are now tenuous at best. There is even talk of a republic in the air.

I recall meeting a Serbian immigrant family during the height of the troubles in the nineties. When they first arrived their faces were lined with the stress, the fear, the suspicions, the hostilities, and the animosities of their homeland. However, within two years this had all faded away and the hostilities of the former Yugoslavia seemed like another world. It was.

But for Maori the past is not over.

In the last half of the previous century Maori began to re-assert themselves. They sought to recover their historical culture, their historical language, their historical identity. They came to believe that these things had been virtually wiped out by an onslaught of European colonialism. If they were to survive as a people, if they were to liberate themselves from the pervasive repression (as they came to see it), they had to go back into the past and recover their whakapapa, their traditions, their culture, and their identity. The recovery of these things would enable them to establish their own sense of personhood. By knowing where they had come from (in the broadest cultural sense) they would learn where to stand. They would be able to stand apart from and against the dominant European culture.

This was an interesting development—not uncommon amongst indigenous peoples who now find themselves to be minorities in their own country. But it was new for this country.

In general educated white liberals agreed with the Maoritanga movement. The drivers of white liberal acquiescence to Maoritanga were twofold. Firstly, there was a gnawing sense of guilt over the illegal and unlawful appropriations of the past, and the resulting depredations of Maori for which white Europeans felt they had been responsible. So Maori were owed something. Secondly, there was a strain of elitist paternalism. White liberals knew that the pagan animism of traditional Maori culture, and the social arrangements that resulted, had been primitive and backward. But still white liberals encouraged Maori to recover these things in the same way that an indulgent parent will tolerate and be entertained by a child's play, regardless of how puerile it might be.

And so, New Zealand witnessed the first full flowering of a form of historical determinism. It is around 150 years since Maori “sovereignty” and culture came under sustained pressure from European migration. The recovery of Maori culture today is as curious as if the descendants of English immigrants began to seek their identity and place in the world by attempting to re-create the culture, language, mores, behaviours, dress, tattoos, and customs of working class Victorian England.

Historical determinism is like many modern idolatries. It has just enough of the truth to enable it to curry influence with the credulous. Clearly mankind is shaped and determined by what went before. Clearly, the past is determinative of the present. The Scriptures bear abundant and repeated testimony to this. God declares that He works through generations and families. He would be a God to Abraham and to his children. He would visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. He would also show His lovingkindness to a thousand generations of those who love Him. In Acts, at Pentecost, when preaching the Gospel of the New Covenant, Peter declares, “This promise is to you and your children.” (Acts 2: 39)

Under the Older Covenant every Israelite adult male had to come before God once every year at the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost) to recite a formal creed of whakapapa: “A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number . . . and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand . . . and He has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, . . . and now, behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which Thou O Lord has given me.” (Deuteronomy 26: 5—11) Clearly, the past was shaping the present and the future: God had determined and decreed that this would be the case. God's people were instructed to take this up and mold their lives around it.

So when Maori started to assert that their identity was tied up in their past they were half right. But they were also completely wrong. They turned the past into an idol, and separated their understanding of the past from the Living God who governs and ordains all histories, all whakapapa. In separating their understanding of the past from God, it became a pagan construct for them. Inevitably the advocates and disciples of Maoritanga came to believe in a form of historical determinism. If the past was to grant them identity, Maori had to believe they were determined, controlled, governed by the past. Their past has become their ruler or their god.

Every cultural inadequacy, every racial failure, every manifestation of suffering or degeneracy within Maori came to be blamed upon the past—and, in particular, upon how the pakeha had treated them. A deep sense of injustice and victimhood has flowered like a poisonous toadstool. Tariana Turia is a walking icon of the pathology. While wanting to represent her people and speak out for them and defend their interests, she has so deeply imbibed the waters of historical determinism that she believes Maori have suffered a holocaust and their victimhood is ineradicable. It needs to be perpetually atoned for by European immigrants and their descendants. She and those like her are doing Maori a terrible disservice.

Now, Maoritanga has left Maori more degenerate, degraded, enslaved, and eviscerated than ever before. Whenever man comes to regard any aspect of the creation as pre-determining his life he becomes enslaved to it. The more the influence, the deeper and pervasive the slavery. It becomes far worse when you believe a terrible injustice has been done to you in the past, and you are a living manifestation of that injustice today. Passing blame to another and seeing yourself as a victim leads to a realisation of the imagination. Because you think you are a victim, you act as one.

So, Maori, deeply convinced of their being victimised, end up actually role playing in real life all the characteristics of a victim. Consequently, Maori are hugely over represented in crime—both as perpetrators and victims—poverty, family disintegration, drunkenness, gangs, illiteracy, welfare dependence, and so forth.

Forty-nine percent of children living in care and foster placements are Maori. The rates of substantiated child abuse per 1,000 zero to sixteen year olds in this country is double for Maori compared to non-Maori. They have a shorter average life expectancy than non-Maori. Life expectancy amongst Maori has been static, while the rest of the nation's average life expectancy has been increasing. (Brian Easton, Listener, 20 March 2004). The higher morbidity rate cannot be explained by age, gender, location and socio-economic status.

Governmental and social agencies are flummoxed as to what to do about the problems. Their reflex response is to seek Maori solutions for Maori problems, attempting to elevate ethnicity into a solution. The white establishment has bought the ideology of Maoritanga hook, line, and sinker.

Maori are as enslaved today as they have been at any time in their history. They have less power and control over their lives as a people than ever before. And the reason? Maoritanga. If you seek for your raison d'etre in your past, historical determinism inevitably follows and soon after the mentality of a slave follows. You become like the idols you worship. And the white establishment is willingly complicit in the devastation. After all they have become cheerleaders for Maoritanga.

What will change this cycle of degradation? There is no easy way out of the prison cell. It is as if Maori have been led by the seductive sirens of Maoritanga down an increasingly dark and narrowing alley. The press of the followers makes turning around and reversing very difficult, if not impossible. Like the fish pots of their ancestors they have become trapped into an irreversible, one-way tunnel—but in this case they have both made the fish pot and they are the fish.

But there is hope. Two thousand years ago the Son of Man rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God Almighty. As a result, He declared His imperial reign over all nations, all whakapapa's, all histories, all peoples. No longer need any people be enslaved to their past. Despite the past, He summons every people, every culture to turn to Him as their Lord—and be accepted. He summons them out of their past to a new future.

But, in turning to Him, in submitting to His lordship and dominion, certain beliefs and actions result.

Firstly, Maori will be given a new whakapapa. They will be engrafted into the lineage of Abraham and adopted as his children. The determinative line will become not their ancestors, but Jesus Christ and His ancestors. They will be able to confess and recite, “a wandering Aramean was my father.” They will be given a new history which will shape their lives. But this new history will not imprison them as their own history has done. For this new history is redemptive history: God stands above it, as the maker and shaper of all reality, the all governing, all conditioning, Living God. Becoming enslaved to Christ means that they will be liberated from enslavement to their past and their present. They will find that their new yoke is not like the old: He is gentle and humble of heart. Maori will find rest for their souls.

Secondly, this liberation from the enslavement to the past will allow Maori to create a new future under Christ. In bowing before Him and believing in Him they will necessarily go through what all Christians go through: re-evaluating their past and all their lives in the light of His holy law. That means a comprehensive reappraisal of everything. Much that was once thought good will come to be rejected as evil. Much will required radical reshaping so that it is barely recognizable. And much that is new and never before seen will start to emerge. “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation: the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17)

Thirdly, the enslavement that results from seeing oneself and one's people as a victim will disappear like the morning mist. While much evil may have been done to my people and me in the past, all has been within the plan and providence of the Living God. Therefore, since God is now my beloved Heavenly Father, none of the events of the past need trap me nor enslave me nor condition me. Maori will be free to escape their past by responding in love to their Heavenly Father and rejoicing in His love for them. As Christ has risen from the dead, so I have risen in Him and with Him: the future is bright indeed, unto a thousand generations, world without end.

Fourthly, in acknowledging one's own and one's ancestors former rebellion and sinfulness against the Living God, and in receiving His gracious forgiveness in Christ, Maori will be accepting responsibility. And as the Lord leads Maori to accept responsibility, they will be free to do, and be, and act differently. In accepting responsibility, one becomes free.

The ideology of Maoritanga is like the old nursery rhyme: “come into my parlour said the spider to the fly”. However, like all idols, it will one day lie “broke in the temple of Baal.” As it brings Maori into increasing enslavement and degradation let the cry of the ascended Son of Man be heard: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He alone can break the bonds of this slavery—for it is a willful slavery of heart and mind.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

This Was Their Finest Hour . . .

Education: the Vanity of Vanities of the Modern World

Name any social problem you like. Ask any person or group what needs to be done to correct the problem, and within five minutes education will be offered as the solution. We call this the fallacy of reductio ad educatum.

Reductio ad educatum reduces all social issues, problems, immoral or criminal behaviour—virtually every human need or failing—to the lack of education as the fundamental cause of the problem. But, a necessary corollary provided by reductio ad educatum is that, if education were to be provided, then the problem would be lessened, if not fixed. At that point all discussion comes to an end, the argument is over, agreement and consensus is reached, and the protagonists can move on to other matters.

In fact, society in general could be saved an awful lot of time and effort if it developed a quick short-cut. We should all be taught from pre-school onwards that whenever a human problem is introduced, everyone should stand, face Wellington, and intone “education”. Everyone could then nod and move on to better things at hand.

We see reductio ad educatum in use everywhere. It is so pervasive that no-one even gives it a second thought any more. Are people foolish in their investment choices? The government and the finance industry proposes a financial literacy educational programme. Is the nation becoming too obese? Education units on diet within schools will fix the problem. Are too many people drinking and driving? We will educate them into better behaviour by a nationwide advertising campaign. Are too many people graduating from our schools unable to read and write? Yes, wait for it—we will solve that problem, too, with more education. What ten years of formal schooling have been unable to inculcate we will solve by raising the leaving age and providing yet more schooling.

Reductio ad educatum is an amazingly useful and helpful fallacy. Firstly, it is almost universal in its application. Regardless of the problem, more education seems to be a relevant and powerful solution.

Secondly, it allows people to convey the depth of their social concern, while neatly removing any responsibility from their own shoulders. To call for more education is always some else's problem.

Thirdly, it has the advantage of appearing profound. Criticizing a dearth of knowledge has the patina of seeing into the depths and roots of the thing, rather than treating with superficialities.

Fourthly, in a world where it is virtually universally believed that human beings are at root and origin morally upright, reductio ad educatum fits right in with the dominant and prevailing religion. Are people acting wrongly, foolishly, stupidly? It is not because there is some moral lack or inadequacy within them. It must be simply because they do not have sufficient information. We can be certain that if they did have the correct information they would act properly, since all men are, at root, responsible and morally upright. Given even half a chance, everyone will respond and do the right thing.

Fifthly, it is very useful in that it provides a veneer of pity and compassion on the part of the protagonist. It removes all (inappropriate) moral guilt, blame or responsibility from the person or class or group that is the problem under discussion; it substitutes a paternalistic concern for the well being of these fellow citizens. “Poor fellows, if only they had better education, they would be so much better,” and so forth.

Sixthly, it introduces the appropriate guilt sentiments into the discussion. Society is to blame. Society has failed “them”. Society have not provided sufficient information or education.

Seventhly, the argument appears powerful and conclusive, even self-evident. However, we do acknowledge that, strangely enough, the self-evidence of reductio ad educatum tends to be held only amongst the educated. Those who have been educated and have benefited from it seem to be the only one's for whom reductio ad educatum is self-evidently true.

Finally, reductio ad educatum offers hope. Whatever the problem it most surely and infallibly can be fixed. The remedy lies at hand.

In all the field of human endeavour, never has so much been done by so many at such great cost for such poor results and outcomes as in the field of education. Surely, future generations will look back and say, “This was their finest hour.”

Why is reductio ad educatum a fallacy? It is fallacious because in the vast majority of issues and cases education, or the lack of it, is of little relevance to the problem at hand. All too often lack of education is a symptom, not a cause, of far deeper problems. But the deeper problems have to do with the inflexion points of culture, society, and personality. They cannot be resolved or changed easily. There is no ready solution to hand.

My father used to tell me that although I could lead a horse to water, I could not make him drink. Mmmm. Just as well we no longer depend upon horses. But the point being made was that the provision of an external circumstance (in this case, education) is in itself insufficient. The proposed recipient has to partake—willingly—if there was to be any benefit.

Let us consider formal schooling as an example. Actually, this is not a bad example because if ever, one would imagine, there was an institution where the proof of the education pudding could be demonstrated it would be in schools. Education, after all, is the stock-in-trade of schools. If all human problems could be solved by more education, one would expect that the evidence and proof would be seen on every hand in the schools.

But what do we see? Au contraire, we find that long before children turn up at school the vast majority have already been conditioned to a certain outcome. That conditioning will determine whether they drink the waters of education and knowledge, or whether they will stand at the trough and be made to go through the motions, without ever drinking in a drop. This preconditioning makes a large slice of the population impervious to education.

Edward Banfield has written compellingly on the subject:

[The] idea of what the schools should do contrasts strangely with the account sociologists give of what they do in fact. According to this account, the school does not liberate the child from his class culture but instead confines him in it even more securely—it thickens the walls that separate him from the rest of society. The child has absorbed the elements of his class culture long before reaching school; what the school does is to “socialize” him into it more fully and to make him more aware of the differences that separate him and his kind from others. The child has “picked up” from parents and playmates an outline map of his universe, and the main features of it—the continents, so to speak—cannot be changed by anything that is said or done in school. At best, teachers can only help the child to fill in certain empty spaces on the map he brings with him to school. If the map is extremely crude or wildly inaccurate, teachers and textbooks can be of little help. . . .

How, it may be asked, can this claim that the school furthers the socialization of a child into his class culture be reconciled with the familiar fact that in America the schools are and always have been a principal vehicles of upward mobility? The answer is that the children who are stimulated into mobility in schools are the ones whose initial class culture permits or encourages—perhaps even demands—mobility. The more nearly upper class the child's initial culture, the more susceptible he is to being “set in motion” by the school. At the other end of the continuum, the lower-class child's culture does not even recognize—much less value—the possibility of rising or, rather, of doing those things, all of which require some sacrifice of present for future gratification, without which rising is impossible. The lower-class child's conceptual universe lacks the dimension of time; in such a universe, people rarely try to change things.
Edward Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited (Boston: Little Brown and Co, 1974), p. 158,9

Banfield characterises the lower-class mentality as one of instant gratification and the inability to sacrifice present benefits for a longer term, greater good. The essence of education requires just such a sacrifice—to work hard, now, in the present, with little or no tangible reward or pay out, for the sake of a perceived longer term benefit. If the child does not have that life-duty and life-attitude inculcated into them by the time they arrive at school, it is unlikely they will ever succeed.

Educationalists, of course, have come to realise this. They have adopted two key strategies, supported now by a credulous state. Firstly, they have sought to “get hold of the child” at a younger age. Pre-schools have been promoted as a key strategy to counteract the preconditioning the child would otherwise pick up from their whanau and immediate social group. The intent is to give younger children the “right” preconditioning that would inoculate them against the attitude that make them subsequently impervious to education.

Secondly, educationalists have responded by trying to make education an experience which provides instant gratification as much as possible. “Learning is play.” “Learning is fun.” They tell us that if you don't make it both play and fun, children will “turn off” education quickly. You mean, more quickly. For to learn anything that will generate lasting and future benefits you have to deny yourself immediate gratification and work hard—and in the very nature of the case the more focused upon immediate feedback you are, the more impervious you become to learning anything.

Sesame Street was a grand experiment and a naive idea which proved this to be the case. The idea was to get children in the ghetto via television before their culture got to them. So, four times a week, children were exposed to fun-learning. Guess what. The under class children had fun and enjoyed Sesame Street. Then they went to school and subsequently dropped out. Nothing changed. They had, at the very youngest ages, merely fitted Sesame Street into their preconditioned world-view of instant gratification—in this case, entertainment and fun. When education required hard work, they gave it away. Their inherited culture would not permit them to take it up.

Banfield concludes:

If the view taken here is correct, there would seem to be a fundamental incompatibility between the outlook of the lower-class pupil, who is present-oriented, and that of the school, which is . . “an institution where every item in the present is finely linked to a distant future, and in consequence there is no serious clash of expectations between the school and the middle-class child.

The lower-class child, by contrast, is concerned mainly with the present; his social structure, unlike that of the middle-class child, provides little incentive or purposeful support to make the methods and ends of the school personally meaningful. The problems of discipline and classroom control result not from isolated points of resistance or conflict but from the attempt to reorient a whole pattern of perception with its emotional counterpart.”
Ibid, p. 165,6

Hence reductio ad educatum is fallacious insofar as education per se is utterly incapable of producing any lasting change whatsoever—unless the recipients already have the psychological, spiritual, and cultural preconditions to make it successful. Education is the baking soda; it is not the cake.

There are other institutions in our modern societies which virtually ensure that the lower class mentality of instant gratification is ineradicable in the foreseeable future, consequently dooming public education to widespread failure. For example, social welfare and the fortnightly benefit payments have the effect of locking in and constantly reinforcing the instant gratification culture. Lotteries—state supported, sanctioned, and promoted—encourage people to look to instant transformation from indigence to maximal consumption. The gambling industry is a massive cargo cult, reinforcing the lower class mentality.

This leads us to a counter intuitive concept: we tend to assume that the lower classes will reduce over time. In fact this is not the case. The lower class mentality is moving up town as the culture of instant gratification takes hold and spreads. This is understandable as so many social institutions now reflect and play the tunes of instant gratification.

Is there any hope for the lower classes? No. At least certainly not within the realms of education and all its attendant social programmes. Our belief is that only a widespread return to the Christian faith amongst the lower classes will be sufficient to effect the necessary change. Only God, through Christ's great works on our behalf, can give the lower class a future and a hope, that will take them out of themselves to live for Another and His glory, not their own pleasures.

And when that happens—as it most surely will in time—education can and will be an enormously effective ally. Without it, education remains a vanity of vanities.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Meditation on the Text of the Week

The Cleansing of the Shire

The Lord said to my Lord:
Sit at my right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.

Psalm 110:1

Psalm 110 is the most frequently cited Older Covenant text in the New Testament. This should indicate something of its central importance to the Kingdom of God.

Firstly, we should note that the body of the Psalm expounds the opening stanza. It speaks of God stretching forth His hand to establish His rule in the midst of all God's enemies upon the earth. The people of God would volunteer freely and in great numbers to engage in the task of destroying the enemies of the Lord. The army would be continually refreshed by youth—forthcoming generations would rise to join the armies of the Lord and enter the lists of battle. Every day, like the dew, more soldiers would be added to the armies of God.

Secondly, we need to inquire when the events described in this Psalm were or are to be fulfilled. There are those who would cast it off into the distant (or near) future and see it as a reference to the Last Judgment. Others see it referring to Christ returning to earth to set up a physical kingdom which will hold sway over all the nations of the earth, prior to the Last Judgment. Both alternatives see it as a future event.

But the Scripture is its own interpreter. Most crucial, then, is when the Scripture sees this event taking place—the event of the Lord saying to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.” The scriptures of the Newer Covenant are clear and explicit on this.

At Pentecost, at the first apostolic proclamation of the Gospel, the apostle Peter declares that Jesus had recently been raised from the dead and had recently been exalted to the right hand of God. Then he quotes Psalm 110:1, and ends his sermon immediately thereafter with the words: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:32—36)

The Scriptures reveal that the declaration of Psalm 110:1 was given out in history, in heaven, when Christ ascended to God. At this point in time, which is the investiture of our Messiah as the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He sat upon the Throne of the King of all kings, and the task of putting all enemies under His feet began.

The decisive exchange with the enemy had by that time already taken place. Christ had vanquished the Devil on the Cross. He had atoned for sin. He had cleansed His people. He had risen before them as the first born from the dead. Now, He is enthroned to apply the spoils of that victory to the earth. God the Father and God the Spirit now assume the responsibility of applying that great victory to the earth. The whole bent of the Godhead from that point on is to ensure that all the implications, all the reality of Christ's victorious work is brought to pass on the earth, according to the direction and specification of the Son of Man upon the Throne. Thus, in Psalm 110, God says to the Lord Jesus that He has now assumed the duty and task of ensuring that all Christ's enemies are to be placed under His feet.

Since we are privileged to live in this glorious age, let us then bow the knee and pray in terms of the realities spoken of and prophesied in Psalm 110. Let us pray and work for the weakening and vanquishing of the Lord's enemies. Let us pray and work for the willing subscription of the saints in the vast armies of God. Let us take our place in the line once again, in holy array, from the womb of the dawn.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

ChnMind 1.22 "Oh my god!": A Modern Profession of Faith

The Ubiquity of Idolatry

When Alexander the Great tore into Asia Minor in 334BC, then through the Middle East and Egypt, and then on into Asia he saw himself and his army as a liberating force. He was the avatar of Greek culture, with a mission to bring enlightenment to the world. Alexander, having been tutored by Aristotle, had a lively interest in empirical research, investigation, study, and knowledge. He saw himself as a semi-divine force to bring the liberation of knowledge to a benighted, superstitious, and ignorant world. Hellenism was literally on the march and its mission was to save the world.

His lesser successors continued this imperialistic foray―an endeavour which was largely successful, insofar as hellenic culture and the hellenic world view became dominant throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Greek rationalism and Aristotelian empiricism was cool.

Given this vast and comprehensive cultural and religious influence, it is somewhat surprising to read that when the Apostle Paul travelled to Athens around 300 years later the thing that struck him was not the sculpture, the art, the architecture, nor the schools of philosophy, science and medicine, but the idolatry. The city was full of idols. (Acts 17: 16) It was very similar to present day countries still under the influence of Hinduism―different deities, same concepts.

When he was invited to speak in the Areopagus, Paul lampooned the stupidity and ignorance of the Athenians. He sarcastically said that he could clearly see that they were thoroughly religious. Amongst the multitudinous objects of worship he had even discovered an altar “To An Unknown God.” The Athenians had gone so far in their superstitions that they had decided to worship ignorance. What they were devoting themselves to in ignorance, he would declare to them. Now that was truly something that would have wound up the arrogant, intellectualist Athenians.

But how could this be? How could the enlightened Greeks have become so superstitious and ignorant that they splattered the city with idols literally at every turn? After all, Athens was one of the great centres of hellenic culture and learning. Surely, one would have expected instead monuments to Reason, or the Empirical Method, or to Socratic Inquiry.

Well, think of it this way. Ancient Athens was simply more overt, transparent, and honest than modern Athens. It turns out that if you are not a citizen of Jerusalem, idolatry is the “name of the game.” Idolatry is the act or mindset that gives ultimate loyalty, authority, and devotion to something in the creation, rather than to the Creator. Once again, Paul nails the point as he describes and characterises the Unbelieving Mind:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is know about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has ben made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honour Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures.

Romans 1: 18―23
If you don't worship and serve the Living God, you therefore worship and serve the creature―either an actual being (man or animal) or some aspect of the created world. The ancient Athenians were simply more honest than their modern successors―they made this reality overt, and set up idols and altars at every street corner.

Yet, this is a bit embarrassing―because it is so obviously superstitious nonsense. The old prophets of Jerusalem, inspired by God's Spirit, used to have a field day ridiculing the abject stupidity of idolatry and idolaters. They described a man going off into the woods, finding a tree, cutting it down, and bringing home the trunk. Half he cut up and put in the fire to warm his house and cook his supper. The other half he carefully carved and chiseled into the image of an idol. Then he bowed down and worshipped what he had made, and says, “Deliver me, for thou art my god”. (Isaiah 44: 12―17) Can you conceive of anything more dumb or stupid. The very crassness of it makes it offensive to any right-thinking person.

Nevertheless, and this is the point, the ancient Athenians were simply making outward what they had conceived inwardly. In their hearts they were worshippers of both creatures and the creation. They could see no contradition between extolling the virtues of autonomous rationalism, on the one hand, and bowing down to an image, on the other―and they were right. In principle there is no contradiction. The ancient Athenians were simply more transparent and honest than their modern descendants.

Under the influence of the Enlightenment actually physically bowing down to an image―or to anything for that matter―came to be seen as primitive and embarrassing. The Enlightenment philosophes spent much of their lives decrying and ridiculing religion—particularly as they found it within Roman Catholicism. For them religion was superstition and foolish ignorance. They had plenty of evidence to which they could point. So, having spent most of their professional careers extolling rationalism and empiricism and decrying religion, they could hardly tolerate an outward display of their own religion using the media of idols before which they would literally bow down.

But the Enlightenment was not only deeply religious, it was also profoundly superstitious. Ultimate truth was what the mind of man determined for itself―all Athenians have been agreed on that, ever since the Fall in Eden. However, in an attempt to obscure both its religion and superstition, the Enlightenment ended up extolling and reverencing abstractions and ideals. In its self-vaunted “more enlightened age”, it ended up extolling reason, rationality, evidence, inquiry, knowledge, and learning―and laid aside externalising its abstractions into personified forms and worshipping them. So, in modern Athens—which is the direct descendant of the Enlightenment—the Unbelieving Mind has changed the mode of idolatry, but kept its essence.

The gods now worshipped and revered, honoured and respected, according to current Athenian fashion are abstract ideas (love, justice, reason, truth, empiricism, materialism, dialectical materialism, scientific determinism, historicism), or vague magical superstitious constructs (life force, being itself, spirit, the god within). While not currently fashionable to make images representing these notions, the reverence and respect is as deep and pervasive as ever. An aspect of the creation is stylised, absolutised, and then, in heart and mind, reverenced. Meanwhile the superstition of ancient Athens is also everywhere in modern Athens. “Good luck” charms abound; astrological fortune telling is printed in daily newspapers and broadcast on national radio; when in trouble everyone cries out to a god of whom they are totally ignorant and at most times could not care less about—but they keep the god lurking in the background, “just in case”; Maori animistic rituals calling upon the spirits and the gods are employed officially at virtually every function of state; and everyday speech is riddled with blasphemous and superstitious expressions such as the ubiquitous “Oh, my god.” Which god exactly? It doesn't matter, for in Athens there is only one god at the end of the day.

Many within the halls of Jerusalem today find the numerous passages in the Scripture condemning idolatry somewhat old fashioned, if not downright antiquarian. This is because, unless one lives in a Hindu culture, physical idols to which acts of devotion are performed are simply not seen as obviously in modern secular Athenian culture. But they are there. The idols remain everywhere, on every hand. Paul tells us, idolatry is every act of transferring the honour due to God alone to any part of the creation. The fact that it is an intangible concept does not make it any less an act of idolatry or of superstition. Idolatry remains on every street corner in modern Athens, because it is regnant in every Unbelieving heart.

All idolatry has one thing in common: it always arises out of the devices and imaginations of the Unbelieving Mind—which presupposes itself to be the ultimate authority. Therefore, in the end all idolatry is an act and attitude of worshipping and serving Man.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Rest In Peace

Passing Beyond the Sight of Mortal Men

Contra Celsum wishes to acknowledge that seven citizens of the City of God yesterday passed beyond the sight of mortal men. Six were students at Elim Christian School. One was a teacher at the same school.

We know and believe, as part of the undoubted Christian faith, that their membership in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has not ceased, but that their duties and responsibilities for service and labour in the earthly sphere of God's Kingdom have come to an end. They have passed into the presence of the Lord. Doubtless their duties and tasks for service and worship will continue in that great general assembly of the Church of the First Born.

Many loved ones: family, friends, and colleagues, will feel bitter loss. With them, we long for the day when the last enemy to be vanquished will be vanquished indeed. We are uncertain whether those of us who remain will go to them, or whether they will return to us in the Final Advent of our Lord.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world is King!

William Fullerton, 1929

The S-Files

Sue Kedgley: Conduct Unbecoming in the Course of Duty.

Contra Celsum has nominated Sue Kedgley for an S-Award for her “clear and present danger” call over the threat of New Zealand being crippled by global food shortages.


Sue Kedgley, Green Party Safe Food spokesperson has blown the trumpet of alarm over rising international food prices. She has called for urgent measures to move New Zealand to self-sufficiency in as many basic staple crops as possible. (NZ Herald, 9th April, 2008)

However, her analysis of the causes of rising food prices is deplorable. Yes—wait for it—she blames “changing climate conditions.” She conveniently neglects to mention that the food crisis is largely man made and caused by environmentalism, by greenism—the very things she stands for. Bluntly, Kedgley and her fellow travellers are the cause of the food shortage.

There are at least two major causes of global food shortages for which geenism is directly responsible.

1.The drive to bio-fuel production. Motivated by a utopian dream of saving the planet millions of hectares of arable land and millions of tonnes of edible crops have now been removed from food production and diverted into fuel production. As Gwynne Dyer recently observed:

“But the worst damage [to food production] is being done by the rage for 'biofuels' that supposedly reduce carbon dioxide emisions and fight climate change. (But they don't really—at least not in their present form.) Some 30 percent of this year's US grain harvest will go straight into an ethanol distillery, and the European Union is aiming to provide 10 percent of the fuel used for transport from biofuels by 2010.

“A huge amount of the world's farmland is being diverted to feed cars, not people. Rainforest is being cleared to grow more biofuels. A study in the US journal Science calculated that destroying ecosystems to grow corn or sugarcane for ethanol, or oil palms or soybeans for bio-diesel, releases between 17 and 420 times more carbon dioxide than is saved by burning the biofuel grown instead of fossil fuel.

“It's all done in the name of climate change, but the numbers don't add up.

“'If . . . more and more land [is] diverted for industrial biofuels to keep cars running, we have two years before a food catastrophe breaks out worldwide.' said Vandana Shiva, director of the India-based Resaerch Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resources Policy. 'It'll be 20 years before climate catastrophe breaks out, but the false solutions to climate change are creating catastrophes that will be much more rapid than climate change itself.'” (NZ Herald, 10th April, 2008)

But, wait, it gets worse. Vandana Shiva is wrong. Climate change is a phyrric threat. It is not a threatening catastrophe but a gigantic false alarm, as the actual measured evidence is beginning to show. We are left with the deplorable situation that false solutions to what is increasingly showing up to be a non-existent problem are causing a very real global catastrophe. “The wicked flee when no-one pursueth.”

Sue Kedgley is right to call our attention to the looming food crisis. It is, however, utterly duplicitous for her not to confess that she and all her fellow greenists are the cause of the problem. Her continued advocacy and support for the current biofuels mania is deplorable, wrong, scientifically asinine, and a great threat to the world.

At Contra Celsum we are unsure whether Kedgley is acting out of foolish ignorance or her behaviour represents a wilful obscuring of the truth. She is an educated person, so we lean to the latter explanation.

2.The luddite greenist opposition to genetically modified food crops is a further cause of food shortages.

World population rose rapidly in the last half of the twentieth century. However, food production rose at a faster rate, leading to rising living standards around the globe and a decrease in hunger and malnutrition. The cause of the increased production of food was the discovery of genetically modified, disease resistant, higher crop yielding strains of basic cereals. These amazing developments, called—somewhat ironically now—the Green Revolution, resulted in much improved food production.

The greenists' mindless, inveterate opposition to genetically modified crops is a significant factor in food production not being able to keep up with population growth in the past decade. It is a material cause of rising food prices.

Sue Kedgley is like a mother who systematically starves her child, then blames anyone and everyone but herself for the child's demise. There is none so blind as those who will not see. Such cant, such hypocrisy must not go unrecognised. It deserves an S-Award.

Sue Kedgley—S-Award Class II for behaviour that is Stupid, Short Sighted and Stupefied.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

NZ Rolls out the Red Carpet for Robert Mugabe

Auckland Airport and the Nation Sold Out—for What?

In the past ten years the world has witnessed governments become corrupt and self-serving, grasping for power, then ineluctably slide towards tyranny. The result has been a rising tide of suffering of (initially) the poorest and most defenceless, then eventually the tide engulfs more, rising higher and higher.

Robert Mugabe and his ZanuPF thugs have systematically devastated and decimated Zimbabwe. It did not happen overnight. It happened gradually as the state elided from one corrupt and venal act to another. One thing can be said about Mugabe—the man has broken world records. Inflation now runs at 200,000% while the people starve. Bet that makes them feel better about it. At least their suffering and death has been dignified by the honour and glory of a world record.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez—less further along the road than Mugabe, but nevertheless closing fast—is grinding the poor in that country. Both “leaders” curried political favour by an appeal to envy. Both have targeted property as the main front of their political campaigns. Both have seized land to “redistribute” it to their political supporters. Then, as inflation started to mount and the food supplies grew thin, both have moved from one brutal extremity and abuse of power to the next.

Most New Zealanders look at these terrible abuses of power and crimes against humanity and believe them to be problems that other people—people on the other side of the world—suffer. Maybe they deserve it—who knows. Maybe they are just inferior and keep making silly mistakes. But New Zealand is different, better. Such things would never happen here.

Then last week we saw proto-Mugabeism rear its ugly head in our own back yard. We say “proto” because we don't want to be drowned in a chorus of objection to the effect that a comparison of Zimbabwe with New Zealand is so extreme as to be laughable. Yes maybe it is—at present. But it only took a short twenty years in Zimbabwe to move to tyranny. And it is our contention is that the same spirit that has animated Mugabe and Chavez to eventual brutal abuses of power is gnawing away and breeding in the caverns of power in this country.

Last week the Labour Government announced that it was blocking the partial sale of Auckland International Airport (“AIA”) to a Canadian pension investment fund. The government was able to do this because it changed the rules at the last moment, and engaged in a midnight quasi-legislative Order-in-Council change—a kind of executive decree outside of Parliament and legislative process—to provide the government with a veneer of authorization in its blocking of the sale.

Let us put this matter in context. In July 1988 the government of the day sold the airport to private investors. Let's be very clear on this: the government transferred ownership of the airport to others for a price consideration. The government was very happy to take the money and be relieved of an asset which had an insatiable demand for ongoing investment capital to keep up with the infrastructure demands of a modern economy.

The new owners duly faced up to their responsibilities and began to contribute the required capital for upgrading and expansion. AIA has been well managed and the new owners were rewarded for their commercial risk-taking in earnings growth, dividends and stock price appreciation. The whole country benefited indirectly as the expansion and development meant that AIA became the country's key commercial and travel gateway to the world.

But the demands for fresh capital only increased. Commercial jets were now larger, payloads greater, traffic numbers higher. New runways had to be build at huge costs. Terrorist threats and increased security brought additional plant requirements. Management and shareholders became aware of the need for a new capital source that would take the airport to the next required stages of development. Their cornerstone local council owners could not do it: they were cash strapped facing rate revolts among voters. There were a number of overseas investors, however that expressed interest. They were prepared not only to purchase a reasonable number of shares, but contribute to the on-going requirements for capital. They were prepared to take the commercial risks to enable the airport to move to the next stage.

The country has a vital, if indirect, interest in this. If capital cannot be found, AIA will lag behind providing the necessary infrastructure support services for the new bigger jumbos—which in turn will increasingly sideline New Zealand as a destination on global routes. When the planes don't call any more, exporting (including inward exports, such as tourism) becomes a lot more difficult. We all needed shareholders "standing on the wall" for us, putting increasing amounts of their capital at risk.

The Canadian pension fund offered a good price. Sixty-three pecent of the 50,000 shareholders—New Zealand mums and dads who had been prepared to take the commercial risks to date, yet were struggling to meet future demands for capital—decided to accept the price and sell their shares. This was their right, of course, because they owned the business and its assets. They had taken the airport business so far. Now it was time for additional help.

Now enter the Government. Remember, the government has no—absolutely no—property rights in the airport. It had sold them twenty years ago. But come the hour, cometh the clandestine, last minute, quasi-legal, Order-in-Council. Suddenly the Government invented a new category of assets which it decreed to be “strategic assets” over which the Government would hold final ownership sway, regardless of who owned them at the time. In other words, for a new class of assets deemed “strategic assets”—a term which it could not and would not subsequently define—the Government has claimed the prerogatives of uber-ownership, regardless of who actually, legally owned the assets, and who were facing and taking all the commercial risks.

The meaning of the term “strategic asset” is was what the government decrees at the time. The vagueness is not dumbness—it is deliberate. It will emerge below what has, and will, inform that definition.

Now, back to Mugabe. Remember the pattern: a need to appeal to a certain section of political supporters leads Mugabe and his ilk to suspend property rights and—for the sake of the “higher good”—take their property from them. In Mugabe's case it was land for his ZanuPF thugs. In Labour's case it is votes in South Auckland.

There is no doubt at all that this effectual theft by the Labour Government has absolutely nothing to do with control or protection of strategic assets. As many commentators have pointed out such protections already exist (and are effective). For whatever reason—and probably as a result of polling key constituencies—the Government determined that blocking the sale and traducing the rights of thousands of New Zealanders in the process was going to bring them political advantage. Their own statements reflected this as they told everybody that the move would be popular with voters—yes, they actually did come out and say it. The ethics and tyranny of Robert Mugabe is breeding in the caverns.

As for those poor shareholders whose property has been terribly damaged as a result of Labour's mugabeism the political risk is worth taking—apparently. After all, there will be no heart wrenching scenes of farmers being physically beaten and forced from their land. No visceral images on the nightly news to worry about. Only a very real, tangible loss of wealth--but it won't be in public view. There is little political downside. And the loss will be ongoing. The deprivation of the shareholders' property is just beginning.

The AIA still needs capital if it is to keep pace. Where will it come from now? Overseas investors are prevented, and, even if Mugabe-Labour changed its mind, they will not come back in a hurry. Midnight clandestine Orders-in-Council do not encourage investor confidence and send risk profiles rocketing into the stratosphere.

Local investors? Nah, local investors are too savvy. They know now that the real owner of the airport is the Mugabeist Labour Government which will continue to toady to its political supporters in South Auckland. Meanwhile Mugabe-Labour just want some other stupid idiots to take all the commercial risks, while they retain effective control through a new mechanism known as “the strategic asset rule”. The commercial risks can now be written in large caps. The investment risk profile of the AIA business just rose substantially—by over ten percent on the day, if the share price fall is any indication—but that is just the beginning.

Where will the capital come from? Our guess is that it simply will not now come. And the outcome will be a long slow lingering decline of AIA. Mugabe-Labour has, with just one stroke of a midnight pen, severely weakened one of New Zealand's most important strategic assets. So, it hit the trifecta, really. Firstly, it damaged the wealth and assets of 50,000 New Zealanders; it severely compromised the ongoing commercial strength of the Auckland Airport, and it increased the risk profile for international capital investing in New Zealand. Expect interest rates to stay higher for much, much longer. Our banks are funded by offshore lenders: without their willingness to risk capital in New Zealand, the banks will run out of money to lend. The price of money will rise—that's higher interest rates folks. So much for the interests of voters in South Auckland. But then Mugabe-Labour probably thinks that most of them are too dumb to work out the connection anyway.

One might have had a certain sympathy for the Government if indeed national interests were genuinely under threat. But, let's be clear on this: what transpired over AIA was nothing more than pure political theatre, designed to appeal to a certain type of person upon which the government now depends for their on-going grasp for power. There was no real threat to New Zealand at all. Now, however, as a result of the chicanery and theft, there has been real damage and there are now genuine threats going forward.

The careful deliberate stage managing of the whole tawdry affair proves the case. Under the new “rules” two Mugabe-Labour Government ministers were “given” power to make the final decision on the Canadian pension funds offer to shareholders—which, it transpires, are now actually the pseudo-owners of AIA. Commentators could not work out why the decision of these two stool pigeons was being delayed—as was the case.

But last week all was revealed. The long-before-made-decision was announced on the day of the convocation of Mugabe-Labour in Wellington so that Ms Mugabe could receive thunderous applause (see how the sycophantic masses love me), and could announce the new defining issue for this forthcoming election—wait for it, wait for it—yes, asset sales!

As Dr Michael Bassett says:

There are times these days when the modern Labour Party seems beneath contempt. Be warned. There is worse to come. Because of the opinion polls, ministers are desperate and will do anything to hold on to office. “Whatever it takes”.
Yes, the whole tawdry affair was carefully stage managed political theatre. If that were all that was at stake however, it would just be worth well-deserved derision. But the great sadness is that our country, our nation was weakened last week. It was hurt. In the national interest? No, desperate attempts to cling to power at all costs, and the nation be damned.

Ah, Ms Mugabe, aka Helen Clark, you are a true daughter of your spiritual father.

Disclosure of interest: We are not shareholders of Auckland Airport. There was a time when we aspired to become so--but no longer.