Thursday, 30 April 2009

The S-Files: Gelding the Citizens

Another Hero Abused

Contra Celsum is pleased to nominate Zhuo Feng Jiang for an S-Award for bravely defending himself, his family, and his family's business against a criminal.


The newsmedia have recently carried reports on a brave and heroic twenty-six year old shop worker who resisted an armed robber, snatched his gun off him, pushed him to the ground, told him to lie still, fired a warning shot, then, as the criminal tried once again to get up, shot him in the leg.

Zhuo Feng Jiang, son of the store owners, deserves a public service medal. He acted with courage, decisiveness, and true public-spiritedness. He deserves to be feted as a true hero. But, no. He is likely to face criminal charges.

Enter Mr Plod--also known as the Police.

Police have not said whether Mr Jiang will face charges, but Tokoroa Detective Senior Sergeant Todd Pearce said they did not encourage robbery victims to approach their attacker.

"This situation could easily have resulted in a fatality and it could have easily been one of victims that had been shot or killed.

"Fighting back when firearms are involved dramatically increases the danger to everyone present and should not be considered."
Now, let us be clear. We believe very strongly in the rectitude of having a police force, just as we believe strongly in the rule of law and order. However, there are times when the law is an ass: respect for the law requires citizens to say so
plainly . The dignity and rectitude of the law is not served by stupid, evil, or asinine laws. The sooner such laws are exposed and disposed of, the better for the law's sake.

Similarly for the Police. The fight against crime and the punishment of criminals belongs firstly and fundamentally to the community. Specialised powers are devolved and delegated to the Police force. However, when the Police turn against the community and wages war upon its members when they stand up to criminals, resist them, and seek to arrest them, the Police Force has become asinine.

Thankfully, the NZ Justice system has retained a far stronger understanding of justice and of the duties and rights of private citizens to fight and resist crime. There have been a spate of vexatious prosecutions brought by the Police in recent years against people who have defended themselves against criminals, or who have sought to interdict criminals in the committing of a crime, and in the process have done grievous bodily harm to the criminal. Almost without exception, justices of the peace, judges, or juries have thrown the cases out.

The Police are completely wrong in these misguided policies and processes. It is time to re-write the PC manuals under which the Police currently operate. They increasingly show the Police up as Plods, which is terribly wrong, and must be corrected. It would be so much better in terms of fighting crime and dealing with criminals and for re-building public respect for the Police, if the Police bureaucrats in Wellington were to throw out their PC policy manuals, and the NZ Police were to award, on behalf of the NZ public, a medal to Mr Zhuo Feng Jiang for "bravery above and beyond the course".

If the NZ Police publicly thanked Mr Shuo, public respect for the Police would increase exponentially overnight.

Zhuo Feng Jiang, Crimefighter: S-Award, Class I for actions in the course of duty that have been Smart, Sound, and Salutary. Thank you for your respect for the law and your bravery in resisting crime and criminals. The people of New Zealand are in your debt.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Antarctic Ice Shelf Breaking Up

We have started to hear the first warming up sounds of the banshees over the Wilkins ice shelf in Antarctica breaking up. It's global warming. Proof positive. Deadly! Calamity! Thus the MSM frame the story. As do politicians.

Peter Garrett, the once were rockster, now Environment Minister in Kevin Rudd's government, wants the whole world to be in no doubt.
Last week, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said experts predicted sea level rises of up to 6m from Antarctic melting by 2100, but the worst case scenario foreshadowed by the SCAR report was a 1.25m rise.

Mr Garrett insisted global warming was causing ice losses throughout Antarctica. "I don't think there's any doubt it is contributing to what we've seen both on the Wilkins shelf and more generally in Antarctica," he said.

Sadly, the lead scientists in this case demur. Apparently ice levels in the Antarctic have remained stable, according to a Dr Allison, Australian Antarctic Division glaciology program head. "Ian Allison said sea ice losses in west Antarctica over the past 30 years had been more than offset by increases in the Ross Sea region, just one sector of east Antarctica."
Dr Allison said there was not any evidence of significant change in the mass of ice shelves in east Antarctica nor any indication that its ice cap was melting. "The only significant calvings in Antarctica have been in the west," he said. And he cautioned that calvings of the magnitude seen recently in west Antarctica might not be unusual.

"Ice shelves in general have episodic carvings and there can be large icebergs breaking off - I'm talking 100km or 200km long - every 10 or 20 or 50 years."

Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m.
Oh, well, we should never let the facts get in the way of a legend. The neat thing is that these days the month by month data is readily available on the net.

Last year, 2008, was a doozy for ice cover in the Antarctic. It was well above the longer term average. This year is trekking up there as well. So, Mr Garrett it looks like those that are measuring the data are right, and you are wrong. The Antarctic is getting colder.

But, hold on. All that indicates is a fluctuating weather pattern. It does not signify that global warming is not taking place. A local blog, Adding Noughts, tells us that the global warmists have long accounted for the Antarctic ice expansion as an exception that proves the rule of global warming. Apparently, the climate models allow for "temporary" cooling in some isolated parts of the globe, particularly in the Antarctic, even while warming is occurring.

Adding Noughts refers us to the US agency the National Snow and Ice Data Center

Another important point is that the increase in Antarctic sea ice extent is not surprising to climate scientists. When scientists refer to global warming, they don’t mean warming will occur everywhere on the planet at the same rate. In some places, temporary cooling may even occur. Antarctica is an example of regional cooling. Even our earliest climate models projected that Antarctica would be much slower in responding to rising greenhouse gas concentrations than the Arctic. In large part, this reflects the nature of the ocean structure in Antarctica, in which water warmed at the surface quickly mixes downward, making it harder to melt ice.

So, everyone can disregard Antarctica. It's not important in the overall scheme of things. But the Arctic--that's another story. Noughts again refers us to the US Ice Agency to explain why everyone needs to focus upon the ice reductions in the Arctic, not the Antarctic.

Unlike Arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice disappears almost completely during the summer, and has since scientists have studied it. Earth’s climate system over thousands of years has been "in tune" with this annual summertime disappearance of Antarctic sea ice. However, satellite records and pre-satellite records indicate that the Arctic has not been free of summertime sea ice for at least 5,500 years and possibly for 125,000 years. So Earth’s climate system and ecosystems, as they exist today, did not develop in conjunction with an ice-free Arctic. Such an ice-free Arctic summer environment would be a change unprecedented in modern human history and could have ramifications for climate around the world
Hmmm. "Unprecedented in modern human history?" It would seem that either some people have remarkably short memories, or they are just sloppy in their knowledge of the past. Does one sense a smidgin of special pleading here?

Once again, let's go to the actual data. Below is a graphic of northern hemisphere sea ice area over the past 365 days.

The line at the bottom of the graph provides the anomaly--which tells us that Arctic sea ice is below average. But it also shows us that it is not far below--and in fact right now it is very close to being right where the longer term average says it should be.

So, the Arctic is really critical in the evidential bulwark of global warming. And the evidence is that the sea ice is about average. Around about now, global warmists should be licking their wounds.

And, oh, one slight problem with the insistence upon the Arctic being the "real deal" as far as evidence of global warming goes--it was largely free of ice in the fifteenth century. And Amundsen navigated the North West passage in 1903 to 1906. Obviously the deterioration and declension of Arctic ice in those cases had nothing whatsoever to do with anthropogenic global warming.

And here is another embarrassing set of data: Anthony Watts reproduces the activities of US nuclear submarines in the Arctic in 1958 and 1959. They were able to surface right at the Pole. Ice was really, really thin, if non-existent. So for an event which allegedly is unprecedented in human history, the photographic evidence and the accompanying data is an acute embarrassment. Read the piece at Watts Up With That--but we will entice your taste buds with just one photograph:

But who wants to have facts get in the way of the thrill of being in a horror movie. Give me those spine-tingling banshee wails any day.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Ten Lessons From Our Fathers

Wisdom Mediated Through History

Dr James Spiegel, lecturer in philosophy at Taylor University, Indiana provides his take on ten lessons from Great Christian minds. He also provides a brief exposition and citation on why each particular lesson has been so significant. It is worth a read.

The lessons are:

#1—Augustine (5th century): Remember that you are a citizen of another kingdom.
#2—Martin Luther (16th century): Expect politicians to be corrupt.
#3—Thomas Aquinas (13th century): God has made himself known in nature.
#4—John Calvin (16th century): God is sovereign over all, including our suffering.
#5—Jonathan Edwards (18th century): God is beautiful, and all beauty is divine.
#6—Thomas a’Kempis (15th century): Practice self-denial with a passion.
#7—John Wesley (18th century): Be disciplined and make the best use of your time.
#8—Fyodor Dostoevsky (19th century): God’s grace can reach anyone.
#9—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (20th century): Beware of cheap grace.
#10—Alvin Plantinga (21st century): Moral virtue is crucial for intellectual health.
Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds

An interesting exercise would be for each to make up a similar list, with appropriate justification.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Laying Waste to Hell

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.
Matthew 16:18
The text for this week has been one of not inconsiderable controversy within Christendom over the centuries—a controversy which has now essentially passed. The issue at hand was whether our Lord sanctioned the primacy of the Roman Catholic church in this text. It was a debate which saw the Orthodox and the Western churches take different sides in the medieval period. The issue was also debated strongly during the centuries of the European Reformation, as one would expect.

The real point of debate was whether the text would actually sustain the weight which the Roman Catholic church sought to place upon it. In the post-Reformation period, when the catholic (that is, universal) Christian church is facing the threat of militant Unbelief at every point and on every front, the issue has faded in importance. There are other more pressing things Christendom needs to focus upon.

No doubt in another future era the issues will be canvassed once again, and the Church will focus upon the proper exegetical meaning of our text. Nonetheless, our text remains more vital and more relevant than ever before. For its significance to our age is now unquestioned; the text needs (or rather our minds need) to be liberated from the Reformational debates and we need to believe upon its promises once more.

For our part, we believe the classic Protestant view is correct: that Peter and the apostles were the foundation stones of the Church. This position of being the fundamental ground of the Church, as Paul also declares in Ephesians 2: 20) did not belong to them as isolated individuals, but as that special college of men to whom God had revealed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and was also the Son of the Living God.

Upon the rock of apostolic revealed and professed faith in Christ, the Lord would build His Church. Here we have the first indication of why this text is so relevant and important in our day. The Lord declares that the building of the Church—its truth, its light, its power, its influence, its extension and significance in the world—is His work. He will build it, not men. He will use men, but will not be dependant upon them. It is heaven which will inspire and empower men as His servants.

As the forces of Unbelief mount and gather strength in the Western world many a Christian may become timorous and fearful. Many may be tempted to consider placating the foe, or seek some accommodation with the latter day Athens before it is too late. Better to save something than lose everything. Not so. It is the Lord who builds His Church. Either we would be willing stones in the grand enterprise, or we will be rejected.

This leads to the second reason why our text is so vital to our day. The Lord's building of the Church would be so powerful, declares our text, that the gates of Hell would not be able to withstand it. Now, let us mark well, that is not how many in our day understand the Lord's words. They have not had the faith to hear them and receive them.

Through most of the previous century the Christian Church went through a long night of pessimism. It deserved to do so in many ways, for at the beginning of the twentieth century, in general, the Church in the West had got caught up with the widespread optimism of progress and prosperity that the ideology of the Enlightenment was busy pushing everywhere. Truth, reason, justice, liberty, peace, prosperity—the universal reign of goodness—was just around the corner. Mankind was on the cusp of the new heavens and the new earth. The Church had confused secular rationalistic idolatry with the Christian faith. It conflated them so that they were regarded as one and the same. The West was the Christian faith, and the Christian faith was the West. It was a most pernicious idolatry to which much of Jerusalem had become suborned and subverted.

But the Lord does not tolerate idols in His presence. So, what followed was the bloodiest, most turbulent century yet known to mankind. As a result a deep pessimism spread through the Western churches. As the idolatry collapsed, so the optimism engendered by the idol dissipated. It was replaced by fear and doubt. The end was nigh. Things were getting worse. Evil would triumph. Eschatological visions of war, collapse, devastation, followed by beliefs in the imminence of the Final Advent of our Lord to rescue the last Christian remnant off the planet before its conflagration. Such views became widespread and commonplace.

But this pessimism was yet a further doubting and unbelieving response to the Lord's discipline upon the Western churches for their joining and participating in the godless humanism of the post-Enlightenment West in the first place. It was just one more idol nurtured in the heart of Jerusalem. But our text became a favorite proof text of the pessimists. They misunderstood the Lord to be saying here that the Church would become a smaller and smaller island amidst a rising sea of hellishness. Yet, Hell would not wipe out the Church; it would abide and remain—a pitiful remnant to be sure, but it would not be extinguished.

But this was fear perverting the text. The Lord is actually declaring the exact opposite. It is Hell which is under siege, and the besieger is His Church. Hell is a fortress city, trying to hold back the forces of Messiah which is waging war with weapons not of this world. Hell has raised its bulwarks high, but it will fail. Its gates will be broken down. Hell will be entered into, broken down, and plundered. Hell will not be able to withstand the onslaught of the Church. As someone once acutely observed, in the ancient world gates were defensive constructions, not offensive. The fearful pessimism of the Western churches in the twentieth century had led to them being “read” as the exact opposite. This is how fear can distort faith, and even pervert the plain and obvious meaning of the Scriptures.

An example of the prevailing pessimistic fear can be found in the translation of our text in the NASB. It reads, “and the gates of Hell shall not overpower it.” The NIV translates the word as “overcome”. Both these translations imply that it is Hell which is the aggressor, and the Church is the defendant. But the actual Greek word means “to prevail against” or “to withstand”. Thus, in the context of our text, if Hell were to overpower the church Jesus would be telling us that the gates of Hell would be able to withstand successfully the onslaught of the Church, whereas our Lord declares the opposite.

If our Lord had said, the armies, rather than the gates of Hell shall not overpower the Church, there may be some warrant for these translations. But the reference to gates clearly places Hell in the defensive, not the offensive frame.

With the rise of militant and aggressive Unbelief, what is needed now is to revert to our Lord's declaration in our text and let it speak with its plain, obvious truth. In the end, the forces of Unbelief are paper tigers. Evil is self-destructive. It integrates into its own void. It destroys itself upon the rocks of its own confusion and contradictions. It tears itself apart from the inside—for the Lord makes it so. The Lord is building His Church. Hell will not be able to withstand it. Its gates will be torn down and laid waste.

The Lord declares, through His servant Paul, that the weapons of our warfare are not of this world, but they are powerful for the tearing down of every thought, word, and deed raised up against the Son of God. As the forces of secular humanism wax, so their downfall will be the more certain. The Lord will make it so. It is He who builds His Church. It is He who has decreed the destruction of Hell's defences. None can stay His hand. So let us believe. So let us act.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Losing Ground

Only Certain Kinds of Religion Tolerable

The Washington Post recently carried a piece on how Christian groups and institutions are losing legal battles in the States.

Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.

The lawsuits have resulted from states and communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those laws have created a clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion, religious groups said, with faith losing. They point to what they say are ominous recent examples:

-- A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney's costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple's commitment ceremony.

-- A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

-- Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.

-- A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

"It really is all about religious liberty for us," said Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of a New Jersey Methodist group, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which lost a property tax exemption after it declined to allow its beachside pavilion to be used for a same-sex union ceremony. "The protection to not be forced to do something that is against deeply held religious principles."

These developments are perfectly consistent with the humanist idolatry of demand rights. Civil liberty is re-defined from its original construction in the founding documents into a demand-rights construct, where everyone is required to tolerate, approbate, serve, and support the particular beliefs and practices of everyone.

Now, of course, this is contradictory and nonsensical. To approbate everything and deny nothing means that one must be forced to adopt a radically agnostic and amoral approach to all of life. The only way in which such a community can be maintained is by force. Since it is clear that not everyone is radically agnostic and amoral (faith groups do exist, after all), they at least must be forced to conform--along with anyone else who has reservations about a particular moral or ethical practice.

The homosexual and other demand-rights activists seek to blur this tyrannical reality by acknowledging that people still have a right to believe what they want in their consciences. It is just that they cannot act according to their beliefs in public--by which they mean, in any interaction with any other person.
"People seem to say that if you enter the world of commerce, you lose all your First Amendment rights" to free exercise of religion, said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization that has represented several businesses. "They . . . have become nothing more than vending machines, and the government can dictate the conditions under which they dispense their goods and services."

Even when groups opposing homosexuality have prevailed in court, they have gone on to face other setbacks. The Boy Scouts of America won a lawsuit in 2000 because it did not allow openly gay Scouts or Scout leaders. Since then, some private charities have refused to support the Scouts, and some local governments have yanked free use of facilities and other benefits. In Philadelphia, the city is demanding that the Scouts pay $200,000 in annual rent for a building that they had been using rent-free. The dispute is in court.

Banning religion from the public square has long been a tactic of the anti-Christian brigades. As the foment has continued, increasingly the only tolerable religion is one which is entirely private. Religion cannot be allowed to affect how one raises one's family, educates one's children, runs one's business, or any other public activity. This is exactly the same kind of tolerance accorded the Christian faith by the Soviet Union under Stalin. The Constitution of the USSR prescribed religious liberty, but the observance and practice of one's religion was entirely at the behest and prerogative of the government--and the government insisted that it be an entirely private matter.

Demand rights theories cannot sustain civil liberty. They are a fundamentally inimical to human liberty. Over time the sheep's clothing is removed to reveal the wolf underneath. You cannot demand and enforce approbation, on the one hand, and defend religious liberty of thought, conscience, and practice, on the other, unless you are prepared to do what the Communists did--which was to tolerate only a certain kind of religion--one which was prescribed and proscribed to remain within non-public, private, mental, inner, realms.

It seems as if the Communist approach to religion is finding favour. If so, the United States is about to see the establishment of religion in that country--albeit, an official pagan idolatry which adores the State. New Zealand will likely follow suit, as we always tend to do, in these matters.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Sauce for the Goose

Flies on the Wall in Ros Noonan's Office

Joris De Bres (Race Relations Conciliator) walks into the office of his boss, Ros Noonan, Commissioner for Human Rights. "Ros, we have a problem," he announced self-importantly. "Oh, Ok," said Ros. "At least it will give us something to do today. Things have been pretty quiet lately."

"Well," continued De Bres, "you know I am in trouble with McCully and the right wing fascists in the National Party over going to Geneva to the UN Conference on racism."

"Don't worry about that," interjected Ros. "I approved your trip. We can spin it as a demonstration of the independence of our office. It is vital to our human rights and constitutional fabric to have a Commission for Human Rights that is completely independent of the government, etc. etc. Besides, our friends in the Labour caucus have been banking political capital over the government's stupid boycotting of the UN conference. We had a little informal strategy session the other day. They were very pleased that we had decided to send you over. It really showed the up the racist fascist thuggery within the National caucus. A rather neat contretemps, was how Goffie and Kingsy put it. I said thanks, and reminded them that contretemps are my speciality."

"Ros, I appreciate your support. It has been the highlight of my otherwise lacklustre career to date to work with you. But, my spies tell me that this thing has legs. I mean McCully is mad--well, he is more mad than we thought, is what I mean. You know how he struts around parliament like a little Napoleon. Power has gone to his head and we all know there was nothing else in there to begin with, so it's having free rein. I am reliably informed that he has been discussing with Key that the contretemps is inexcusable. It is just too big a contradiction with the Government. I mean independence is one thing, but McCully thinks there is a conspiracy between ourselves and the Labour caucus. Apparently Key agrees. He thinks a suitably high profile sacking would take people's attention away from worrying about losing their own jobs."

"Well," said Ros, after a long thoughtful pause, "that's unfortunate. But it has been really great working with you. We did some good things while it lasted. Will you be wanting a reference?"

"No, no Ros. You don't understand. It's worse than that. McCully has told Key that you are the one who is the contretemps expert, and that we both have to go. And Key agrees, because he hates contretemps."

"Why didn't you tell me, you overrated obsequient," screeched Ros. "I'm your boss. You are supposed to protect me."

"Look," stammered De Bres. "I've got a plan. We've got to do something big and quick--something so big and compelling and public that they won't dare fire us. You know how you said that our finest hour was when we got our Labour colleagues to ban David Irving from coming to New Zealand. It was like the good old days, standing on the barricades. That horrid monstrous little creep who minces around the world denying the Holocaust--we stomped on him. I realised that day that we are people of destiny, Ros--and so did everyone else.

"Cullen bombasted on our behalf in Parliament. Clark exuded her inner beauty over banning the creep. Everyone loved us, especially the Jewish lobby. "

"Oh, no," groaned Noonan. "I had forgotten. Key is Jewish. How could you be so stupid as to go to that horrible UN Conference on racism. No wonder he's mad. It's contretemps every which way."

"Yes," purred the unctuous De Bres, "but I have not forgotten Key's Jewish connection. And that's why we can use our Irving triumph again, and relive the glory days. Key will really appreciate that--and he won't dare fire us, without being seen to be anti Semitic, which would drop his ratings in the polls to Goffie levels."

"I'll believe that when I see it," snapped Ros. "No-one could ever get as low as Goffie. He's a phenomenon in his own right. Ok, so what do we do? How about a big press release on Anzac Day reminding everyone that the Human Rights Commission struck a decisive blow for humanity by courageously working to have David Irving, Holocaust Denier banned from New Zealand, and that was our part in Hitler's downfall."

"No, that's too subtle for National party people. They would not be able to join up the dots. You know how ignorant they are of history. You do have a tendency, Ros, if I may say so, which in its own way is quite charming, to overrate our opponents. That is a mistake Helen (may she never die) avoided. She saw right through them because she could see there was nothing there. No, we need a new uber-obvious Holocaust Denier to ban--one who is a clear and present danger to our land. One so vile, so perverted, so anti-Semitic that John Key and everyone else will just love us for acting against him. "

"Yes, but who?" wailed Ros.

"Mahmoud, of course. He's the biggest Holocaust Denier the world has ever seen. He's full of racist hate. He's in the news. We will come out on Anzac Day (a nice touch, by the way) and call for the Government to ban him from New Zealand. It will take the wind completely out of McSilly's sails. And Key won't dare fire us, because people will think he harbours secret anti-Semite tendencies."

"Ban Ahmadinejad! What a fantastic idea", enthused Ros. "Yes, the little anti-Semite creep. I have really never liked him, you know. And he's Muslim. That's a plus--I mean, a minus. No-one likes them. Everyone will love a ban. And he's homophobic--so Labour will support us too. But hold on, I made a public statement the other day that there was nothing at all anti-Semitic at the UN conference--before I knew McStupid and Key were going to fire us. That's going to make a call for a ban on dirty Ahmadinejad a bit hollow."

"Ah, Ros. That's what makes you so fantastic. It's all about contretemps--and you are really good at that. You were making the perfectly valid point that after all the pro-semites walked out, the only people left were anti-semite ravers, who, of course, could not see their anti-semite forest for the trees."

"Joris! You are wonderful. You are so right. I really am good at contretemps."

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Scholastic Mythbusters, Part IV

Concluding Reflections

For the past two hundred years or so the Western world has taken great pride in science and the scientific method. The scientific method has become a propaganda front for empiricist rationalism. It propounds the neutrality and objectivity of human reason. It boasts of the autonomous ability of the mind of man to determine truth for itself, without precommitments or prejudice. It proclaims that the facts, are the facts, are the facts. The facts have a brute quality. In the end the facts or the data are asserted to speak through all errors, false ideas, and distorted views.

This breathtaking arrogance has led us into a state where the liberal academic complex plays tricks on itself. It has led to academia easily getting sucked in to myths which it then busily cloaks with claims about evidence and proof. The proof or the evidence turns out to be little more than selective fitting up to adorn the case.

When it comes to all human activity, and especially research and scholarship, objectivity requires that at all times the scholar remains self-conscious of his assumptions, precommitments and prejudices. He must be overt about his “conditioning” or his starting points and his biases as he researches, studies, and draws conclusions. This is the paradox of objectivity. In order to achieve true objectivity, the knower must be self-conscious—that is, he must be conscious and overt about his subjective state before he can achieve reasonable objectivity. In arguing his case, he must be transparent to others about his precommitments and prejudices. You first have to know yourself, before you can know anything else.

It is this prevailing lack of honesty and integrity about the “knower” that has distorted so much of what is “known”. It is what has seduced much of the liberal academic complex into believing myths. Michael Polanyi has argued that much of modern science is nothing more than intuition and guesswork. He believes that this is not a bad thing—in fact, it is inevitable. But the intuition and guesswork takes place within a context, an intellectual and scientific tradition which all scientists are taught as an apprentice learns from a master craftsman—and about which they must remain self-conscious at all times. Once they have mastered the tradition, they guess, then they test and examine—and that leads to advances in knowledge.

But this in turn leads to significant and irreversible changes in theory and conclusions. Today's scientists think very differently about matter and the structure of the material world than they did one hundred years ago. The facts are not quite what they seemed—it turns out. There is nothing wrong with this: it only becomes destructive or harmful when scholars turn a particular set of framed data into an undoubted infallible orthodoxy.

It is not by chance that the examples of myths provided in our earlier posts all revolved around a recasting of history. The study of the past is one of those disciplines which is particularly susceptible to revision (“revisionism” was coined to describe the outcome of changing a “narrative” about the past) and to framing. Because all historical study is selective in its data mining and is concerned to produce a narrative or account or story, the risks of getting it wrong are considerable. When brute objectivity is assumed from the outset, the risks rise exponentially.

It is not by accident that the most persistent and powerful myth of our age—the cosmogony of evolutionism—is an attempt to construct a narrative about the past. Data is mined to construct and reconstruct the pattern. Polanyi describes how scientists must make value judgments every day.
The scientist in pursuit of research has incessantly to make decisions whether to take a new instrument reading or some other new sense impression as signifying a new fact, or to regard it merely as a new indication of an old fact—or else to reject it as having no significance at all. These decisions are guided by the premisses of science and more particularly by the current surmises of the time, but ultimately there always enters an element of personal judgement. Michael Polanyi, Science Faith and Society (London: University of Chicago, 1946), p. 90.
In contrast to the hard sciences, of which Polanyi is speaking, the influences of premisses, surmises, and value judgements are far greater when one is attempting to create and "prove" a naturalistic cosmogony because, after all, one was not there at the time. The evolutionist cosmogony, potent myth and narrative that it is, derives its potency from sources other than the data, which, in the very nature of the case are racked to ruin with surmises and value judgements and fitting.

Nor is it an accident that another powerful emerging mythical narrative is anthropogenic global warming. If narratives of historical cosmogony are necessarily thick with surmises and suppositions, prognostications of the future must be equally so.

Yet, in time, we believe both the myth of the evolutionist cosmogony and of anthropogenic global warming will be exposed and exploded for what they are: falsehoods. But whilst the hubris of Western rationalism retains its grip, the myths will endure and remain powerful conditioners of our times.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

First Modern Turkish Martyrs

We are One With Them

From a press release:

April 18, 2007, two Turkish Christians and a German missionary were tortured and killed inside a Bible Publishing house in Malatya, Turkey.

Summer 2008, two young filmmakers from Texas set out to create Malatya, a documentary exploring how three Christian martyrs have shaken the nation’s roots.

Necati Aydin, Uğur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske were tied to their chairs, tortured with butcher knives and killed for worshiping Christ. Semse Aydin and Susanne Geske, the wives of Necati and Tilmann, both contributed to the film. Echoing Christ’s words from the cross, they’ve publicly forgiven those guilty of their husbands’ deaths. Resources for Christian counseling are scarce in Turkey, a country of nearly 72 million, 99.8 percent of which is Muslim. This has left their surviving families and friends with little human support to lean on in a nationwide church of around 3,000 believers. The joy they find is purely in the hope of their sovereign God working through this time of trial for His glory and their good.

Testimony from leaders of the Turkish church shows even before the martyrdom, Turkish Christians faced persecution. They were unlawfully jailed, interrogated about their activities and even tortured. The deaths of these men have crossed a new line. Attacks and attempted murders have increased since the Malatya martyrdom. The current leader of the Turkish Protestant Alliance, Zekai Tanyar, told the filmmakers, "Before this, I would have said that we do suffer, but I wouldn't call the Turkish Church 'the Persecuted Church,' but all of a sudden, we are the persecuted church."

Turkish pastors revealed to the filmmakers the rise in persecution following the martyrdom has led many in the church to quit attending their fellowships or fall away from their faith all together. Others however have grown bolder in ministry, both in the sharing of their faith and serving in their churches, fully aware any church could be the next victim of violence.

Malatya also covers how the ongoing trial against the murder suspects has gained nationwide coverage in Turkey, where religious freedom is established by law. While some Turks think any Christian in Turkey must be a foreigner, and likely a subversive, thus championing the martyrdom in the name of patriotism, others despise the martyrdom as a hate crime. Turks now face a cultural dilemma: for the first since the founding of their republic, Turkish Christians were martyred.

Malatya is scheduled for DVD release across the globe April 18, 2009, the two-year anniversary of the martyrdom. Screenings are scheduled from Austin to Brazil, the UK, Germany, South Africa, Australia and more.

HatTip: Between Two Worlds

PS: how deeply troubling it must be for American Christians hearing their President congratulate and embrace Turkey in his recent visit, whilst their brethren have been martyred at the hands of consistent Islamists, and whilst Turkey remains divided over whether it is a bad thing or not. He could have done so much to strengthen the hands of those in Turkey who are horrified at the murders, and shame those who are not. He could also have done much to encourage the Christian minority. That he did neither is cause for sadness.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Deflation or Inflation?

Scylla and Charybdis Redivivus

Well, which is it to be? Is the world heading into another bout of inflation, or will deflation be the order of the day? Neither option is attractive.

Ever since governments assumed the power to print money with no hard precious metal backing, inflation (hidden theft) has been a major risk to national and global economies. In the last three decades of the previous century controlling and reducing inflation has been the major focus of most central banks in the developed world.

However, many argue that deflation is a more serious threat.
Deflation comes in two forms: benign and ugly. Benign inflation occurs when an economy is steadily growing in productivity, leading to a gradual decrease in the cost of living over time. We have seen this and example of this form of deflation from the electronic revolution. Generally, every year for the same or lower cost you could buy a more sophisticated cell phone, full of more features. This is benign deflation. It is production led. It discourages debt and rewards saving.

Ugly deflation is where an economy is shrinking, incomes are falling, unemployment is rising, people are not spending and the prices of goods and services are generally falling. Ugly deflation is demand led--that is, it is led by falling demand, leading to lower standards of living, or increasing poverty. This is the form of deflation we are facing now. Ugly deflation. It is what stops Ben Bernanke sleeping at nights.

Hyper inflation and ugly deflation are both alike very, very bad news.

Economic pundits are arguing which is likely to emerge as a result of the current global delevering (debt reduction), on the one hand, and the policy responses on the other--which have essentially involved huge increases in deficit spending by governments and monetary stimuli by central banks.

Clearly right now inflation is not a problem. Prices are falling. But every so often commentators will put their heads above the parapet to argue that hyper-inflation is just around the corner.

Here is a taste from Henry Blodget:

The economy is cratering, so the Fed is printing money. When the Fed prints money, this eventually produces inflation (more dollars, same amount of goods).

Ben Bernanke assured us yesterday that, this time, the Fed's money-printing won't eventually lead to inflation because the moment the economy begins to recover, the Fed will stop printing money and start burning it. Specifically, the Fed will start selling assets instead of buying them and thus shrink the money supply.

Unfortunately, Ben is unlikely to keep this promise.


Several reasons:

* First, it will be hard to confidently assert that the economy in full recovery. Remember, in 2007, Ben (and most other people) thought the economy was in great shape as far as the eye could see. He and most other observers missed that disastrous turning point. So why do we think he'll correctly spot the next one? Especially because, if he blows it by jacking up rates too early, he'll kill the recovery.

* Second, there will be intense political pressure to MAKE SURE that the economy is in rip-roaring health before hammering consumers and businesses by raising interest rates. Everyone loves low interest rates. And they'll only stop screaming about your taking them away when they're fat and happy (which will be long after inflation really gets going).

* Third, the US government desperately needs low interest rates to fund its soon-to-be-monstrous debt load, so there will be another source of pressure on Ben to keep rates low. When we finish with all this stimulus, we're going to owe a boatload of money. We're really going to allow our Fed chief to send interest rates to the moon and jack up our refinancing costs?

* Fourth, many of the assets that Bernanke has been buying to print money won't be easy to sell. This time around, the Fed isn't just buying easy-to-sell Treasuries. It's buying trash mortgage assets, et al. To reduce the money supply, it will need to sell them to someone. But who?

Those reasons, particularly the last three, are pretty substantial. We, at Contra Celsum, lean towards the coming hyper-inflation school.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Meditation on the Text of the Week

The Light of His Countenance

For His anger is but for a moment; His favour is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning
Psalm 30:5
Our text portrays the inequality of God's wrath and favour. His anger is temporary, short-lived, soon over. His favour, however, is constant, abiding, and life-long. This means that for His people, the wrath of God occurs only within the context of an already established love and faithfulness. The love and faithfulness of God is the “deeper magic” of life.

The perfect analogy is the love of parents for a child. A parent's love is both faithful and constant. It undergirds the entire relationship with the child. It shapes the way the household operates. It sets the household schedules, its preoccupations, the meals, the budgets, and the activities. It is the love of parents for children which shapes the household as a child-centred environment. A parent's love for a child lasts the entire lifetime of the child—as long as the parent lives on the earth. Age does not diminish the love, it only changes its modes of expression.

It is interesting to find that as we have grown older and our children have become adults and parents in their own right, our thoughts and cares and concerns for our children (and now their spouses) have not lessened one wit. We find that our thoughts are constantly bent toward them, daily.

The favour of parents toward a child is for a lifetime. Consequently, the anger of parents towards their children is brief and fleeting. We refer here, of course, to the righteous anger of parents when they must chasten and discipline their children for their wrong doing. The ignominy of bad behaviour provokes the anger; faithfulness leads them to discipline the child. In this context, even the wrath becomes an expression of loyalty, love, and faithfulness.

But these realities of parental love are but a pale reflection of the intensity and the constancy of the love of our Father in heaven toward us. If we being evil are able to love our children in this way, how much more our Father, the Lord of glory.

This is why the people of God are characterised by a perpetual, irrepressible happiness. Clearly God's people suffer—often terribly so—in this life. Sometimes our suffering is due to our own stupid actions. We bear painful consequences of foolish behaviour. But it passes. God's people return again to have the light of God's countenance lifted up upon them.

As our text says, in the most moving of images: weeping may last for the night, but with the morning comes the shout of joy. Most of us have spent more than a few harrowing nights. We have experienced the truth of the proverb that it is darkest just before the dawn. But as the dawn has broken and the sun has risen, the pains and anxieties lessen, and one knows yet again that underneath are the everlasting arms. We know that God will again turn our mourning into dancing and our sackcloth into gladness (verse 11).

The opposite is too fearsome to contemplate. To sense that the entire cosmos is against you and lives in sleepless malice towards you is too great to bear. But that is the essence of the circumstance in which all Unbelievers live. Suppressing the truth about God, they have carelessly sought to give Him the flick. The Bible describes the condition of life of the Unbeliever as one upon whom the wrath of God abides. (John 3:36) Therefore all experiences of love and joy are fleeting, temporary and chimerical. Children will end up hating parents. Parents come to despise and detest their children. Hell is the state where each hates all and all hate each. The implacable wrath of the entire cosmos is known and experienced without end.

This is what our Saviour experienced on the Cross in His descent into Hell. It is from this that our Saviour came to deliver us. While there is still time, while it is still today, we call upon all men to repent and turn from their evil ways, and believe upon Him, for, as the apostle declared, He is the only Name on earth, given by God, amongst men, by which we must be saved.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Green Jobs

Foolishness is Bound Up in the Heart of Government

The Law of Unintended Consequences warns us that when governments exceed their God-given sphere of competence the unintended consequences of their actions mean that we are worse off than if nothing was done. The actual outcome is usually the direct opposite of what was intended.

Another way of expressing the law is, beware politicians with a grand vision. Grand visions usually turn out to be grandiose, causing a great deal of unintended harm, pain, and suffering.

The current economic malady has produced a number of grand visions. We have had a few in New Zealand. One example is the "feel good" policy of the government funding home insulation. We are told that this is a win,win,win. Well, that's it then. Who could possibly object?

The protagonists argue thusly: the government needs to spend money to keep the economy from sliding into depression. So, funding home insulation gets a tick. It will fund jobs that would not otherwise exist. Secondly, people will end up with warmer, better insulated homes. This will reduce sickness and disease--thereby lowering public health costs. Tick. In the long run it will reduce government spending. Tick. Thirdly, heating costs will be lower, thereby reducing our "carbon footprint", lowering demands for energy, and reducing our national pollution. Tick.

It has to be good. There simply aren't any downsides. As we said, it is win, win, win. We have shattered the Law of Unintended Consequences!

Well, not quite. Firstly, the government will have spent money it does not have--thus increasing our national debt burden. That is a bad outcome. Secondly, the jobs will be unsustainable. They will exist only by virtue of government subsidy--thus no real long term national wealth based on sustainable production. Meanwhile, there is an opportunity cost. Those home insulators could have been employed in jobs producing goods and services that would be sustainable and productive.

Thirdly, home insulation is likely a crock. Modern methods of home insulation seal up houses so that air is kept within a house. Over time, it entraps moisture in the house, leading to mould and dampness--ideal conditions for respiratory diseases and maladies like colds and flu. Moreover, the more damp a house is, the more energy it takes to heat it, and keep it warm. Thus, the outcome of home insulation is more likely to be greater energy costs and a less healthy population.

Snap. The Law of Unintended Consequences will bite with a vengeance. The actual outcome will be the exact contra-polar opposite of the intent. We expect that within fifteen years we will be hearing how stupid we all were back in the noughties, when home insulation was the official flavour of the decade.

Another example of unintended consequences has recently come to light. Spain has been touted as having a progressive and advanced policy on creating "green jobs" through state subsidisation of "clean energy" projects (wind farms and the like). Now, however, the truth has started to emerge. A study has been undertaken by Dr Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at Juan Carlos University which has shown that in Spain for every four jobs created through state subsidised green energy projects, nine jobs were lost.

State subsidising of green jobs results in rising unemployment! Now, of course, President Obama has cited Spain as the country he wants to imitate in his green jobs initiative (part of the huge public spending to stimulate the economy.)
"Think of what’s happening in countries like Spain, Germany and Japan, where they’re making real investments in renewable energy,” said Obama while lobbying Congress, in January to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “They’re surging ahead of us, poised to take the lead in these new industries.”

“Their governments have harnessed their people’s hard work and ingenuity with bold investments — investments that are paying off in good, high-wage jobs — jobs they won’t lose to other countries,” said Obama. “There is no reason we can’t do the same thing right here in America. … In the process, we’ll put nearly half a million people to work building wind turbines and solar panels; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to new jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”

Yup. Win, win, win. The guy's a genius. Well, actually, no. Obama's great green energy spending initiative will make energy in the United States more expensive, less efficient and productive, and it will destroy permanent jobs. Moreover, the Spanish study concluded that only one in ten jobs created in the "green energy subsidy" rort actually turned into a permanent job. So even the jobs that were created have largely proved to be impermanent.

But who can gainsay a politician with a grand vision, who chants "yes, we can". Well, no-one. Expect the Law of Unintended Consequences to bite deep and painfully.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Scholastic Mythbusters III

The Dead Sea Scrolls

We have been discussing the prevalence of myth in modern scholarship. While it is not always the case, there have been notable examples of prejudice and cant in the Academy—often lasting generations—where prevailing views alone are heard on a particular topic and all contrary hypotheses are rejected out of hand, if not ridiculed.

So strong can be the hold of the dominant view that anyone who has the temerity to express a different view, or to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy, risks being cast into outer academic darkness. Yet, in time, many of these "orthodox" views are shown to be false and, to employ the euphemism, prejudicial to the truth.

We have argued that the implicit arrogance of rationalism lends itself to such errors and to a kind of naïve credulity. The belief in the autonomy and ultimate veracity of the human mind predisposes the academic elite to an underlying arrogance, which all to often becomes overwhelming.

It is ironic that modern Athens betrays on every hand this worst form of blindness. Ironic, because modern Athens boasts of its enlightened character. Its much vaunted “scientific method”, its scholarship, its institutions of research, its mass media promulgating knowledge far and wide, its halls of learning, its publicly funded education system, its technological prowess—all play a part in reassuring us that modern man is truly advanced, enlightened, and wise. The modern Athenian citizen has banished all superstition and ignorance from the playground. Or, so the mantra runs.

The honest broker or the properly wise commences with a frank disclosure of his fundamental and guiding assumptions. He puts them out there for all to see. He discloses his prejudices and his pre-commitments from the outset. He is rigorously self-conscious of them. Of course, this procedure—the only one which avoids the trap of invincible moral culpable ignorance—would force a great deal of humility into academic and learned debates. That's partly why it is avoided like the plague. Declaring one's pre-commitments from the beginning forces everyone to face up to the fundamental circularity of all knowledge—which, to the modern rationalist, is a deep, if not fatal, embarrassment.

The dishonest broker will not acknowledge his pre-commitments. Rather, he appeals to the neutrality and objectivity of the facts, of the data, and of his “seeing things as they really are”. His claim to authority is based upon the “evidence”. He presents himself as dispassionate, detached, objective. For him, knowledge is not circular because he, the investigator, has not intruded himself onto the facts. He is not part of the factual landscae. His pre-commitments have not informed him throughout. His net has not determined from the outset what fish he will catch. The dishonest broker, by denying the circularity of all knowledge, including his own, ends up being little more than a propagandist.

We have given some examples of how scholarship over many years has perpetrated myths as undoubted fact. The first example was the prevailing myth about the sour bitterness of the Puritans and their rejection of music, gaiety, and the arts. So deep, extensive, and pervasive has been this myth that the adjectives “puritan” and “puritanical” have entered the lexicon, meaning an attitude of bigotry and intolerance. Yet, this slander has now been exploded as a myth. In this case, Voltaire has been proven right: the discipline of history is a cheap trick played upon the dead.

A second example is the overwhelming and near universal rejection of the historicity of the Old Testament and in its place the Academy has insisted that Manetho's chronology of ancient Egypt is the true and accurate historical record. This has controlled (and distorted) the study of the ancient near east for hundreds of years. Opposing views were simply not heard, let alone tolerated.

Now, however, some within the Academy have started to question the prevailing scholastic myth—and the edifice is starting to crumble. When one considers all the errors and distortions built into Manetho's scheme, it is a marvel that it was taken so seriously by such experts for so long.

A further example of scholastic mythmaking comes from a more narrow area of study. It has to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were first discovered (in the modern era) in 1947. The initial discovery was augmented by additional finds over a number of subsequent years. For over 50 years it was asserted that these scrolls were produced by a Jewish sectarian community, the Essenes, living at Qumran on the Dead Sea during the time of the incarnation of Christ our Lord.

This has now finally been demonstrated to have been an egregious error. Not only did the Essenes not produce the scrolls, they had nothing to do with them, and, to add insult to injury, there is no evidence of an Essene community ever having been at Qumran. But for 50 years the error held sway amongst scholars, governments, universities, journals and media. But it held sway in a particular manner: this was not a consensus forged through irenic and open-minded research. Rather it was perpetrated through power politics within the Academy. People that dared to question or expose the prejudice were vilified and their careers jeopardized.

The Scrolls themselves were an amazing archaeological find. They have the potential to shed much light on Judaism during the intertestamental period (300BC to 70AD)--a period when much of Judaica was destroyed and subsequently lost to history. But they have been pushed into a backwater for over fifty years through scholastic prejudice.

Fifty years of error in a supposedly enlightened world! Reputations and careers were made by promulgating the error. Careers were ruined by those with the temerity to question the then current orthodoxy. There is no doubt that the reigning mode of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship for over half a century was flat out dishonest and culpably ignorant.

How did this happen in such an enlightened, modern age? In a truly remarkable book, Norman Golb, of the University of Chicago, documents a lifetime of fighting the Academy's orthodoxy and the personal and professional cost of doing so. (Norman Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Search for the Secret of Qumran. [London: BCA, 1995]) He shows how the myth was initially promulgated, took hold, then suppressed contrary views. It occurred very simply. Here are the steps:

1. Initial scroll research asserted the Essence theory without a full disclosure of the fundamental assumptions lying behind the theory which undergirded it. (In this particular case, the assumptions were speculative, baseless, and until recently, never been examined, verified or tested.)
2. Academics began promulgating the theory as established fact—based on the “evidence”. Evidence was "manufactured" to fit the theory. Contrary theories or interpretations were never allowed to intrude.
3. Those who questioned the theory were personally attacked and ridiculed as fantasizing ignoramuses. They were excluded from access to the Scrolls for research purposes.
4. A wilful sociology of ignorance took over. The more the error was stated, the more widely it was promulgated, the more believable it became. Credulity runs in packs. Repetition means truth. Mantras have huge influence in a culture dominated by culpable ignorance.
5. As data or evidence was subsequently found that did not fit with the Essene theory, it was explained away (“the evidence was alleged to have been forged”, etc).

The theory has recently collapsed and has been shown up for the folly that it was from the beginning. So, we had a grand conspiracy—but one where the culpable perpetrators allowed themselves to be duped and then defended their duplicity.
Remember these were the best and brightest in their respective fields.
They turned out to be nothing more than propagandists. This arose because they suppressed their starting assumptions.

Now, of course, if they had been honest from the beginning and disclosed them, their initial findings on the origin and provenance of the Scrolls would have been far more tentative, less sensational, more humble, and much more quickly revised and corrected. The circularity would have been evident from the beginning, and therefore much more quickly scrutinized (and in this case, rejected).

A church caretaker once noticed the preacher had left his sermon notes on the pulpit. Scrawled in the margin at one place in the manuscript was the notation: “Weak point—speak more loudly.” The prevailing modern blindness which refuses to accept the circularity of all knowledge and hides fundamental pre-commitments and assumptions has fallen into the same deceit: the modern world thinks that by repeating something loudly and often, it establishes its veracity. Truth becomes a matter of shouting down the opposition. Truth becomes politicized. Truth becomes propaganda.

So, for over fifty years the scrolls were said to have been written by the sect of the Essenes. This is now shown up to patently false. Now scholars have to work out who actually did write them and where they came from. Hopefully, with the blinkers off we will come to understand a whole lot more of the intellectual, cultural and religious world in which our Lord ministered than ever before.

The final nail in the coffin came when archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (that is, “official” scholars) committed to doing comprehensive archaeological work at the site. The dig took place over ten years. Recently they have reported and concluded that there never was an Essene community at Qumran. In a summary of their findings, the New York Times reported in 2006:

New archaeological evidence is raising more questions about the conventional interpretation linking the desolate ruins of an ancient settlement known as Qumran with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in nearby caves in one of the sensational discoveries of the last century.
After early excavations at the site, on a promontory above the western shore of the Dead Sea, scholars concluded that members of a strict Jewish sect, the Essenes, had lived there in a monastery and presumably wrote the scrolls in the first centuries B.C. and A.D.

Many of the texts describe religious practices and doctrine in ancient Israel. But two Israeli archaeologists who have excavated the site on and off for more than 10 years now assert that Qumran had nothing to do with the Essenes or a monastery or the scrolls. It had been a pottery factory.

The archaeologists, Yizhak Magen and Yuval Peleg of the Israel Antiquities Authority, reported in a book and a related magazine article that their extensive excavations turned up pottery kilns, whole vessels, production rejects and thousands of clay fragments. Derelict water reservoirs held thick deposits of fine potters’ clay. . . .

Norman Golb, a professor of Near Eastern languages and civilization at the University of Chicago who is a longtime critic of the Essene link, said he was impressed by the new findings and the pottery-factory interpretation. “Magen’s a very seasoned archaeologist and scholar, and many of his views are cogent,” Dr. Golb said in a telephone interview. “A pottery factory? That could well be the case.”

Dr. Golb said that, of course, Qumran could have been both a monastery and a pottery factory. Yet, he added: “There is not an iota of evidence that it was a monastery. We have come to see it as a secular site, not one of pronounced religious orientation.” For years, Dr. Golb has argued that the multiplicity of Jewish religious ideas and practices recorded in the scrolls made it unlikely that they were the work of a single sect like the Essenes. He noted that few of the texts dealt with specific Essene traditions. Not one, he said, espoused celibacy, which the sect practiced.
The scrolls in the caves were probably written by many different groups, Dr. Golb surmised, and were removed from Jerusalem libraries by refugees in the Roman war. Fleeing to the east, the refugees may well have deposited the scrolls for safekeeping in the many caves near Qumran.

The new research appears to support this view. As Dr. Magen noted, Qumran in those days was at a major crossroads of traffic to and from Jerusalem and along the Dead Sea. Similar scrolls have been found at Masada, the site south of Qumran of the suicidal hold-out against the Romans.
Dr. Magen also cited documents showing that refugees in another revolt against the Romans in the next century had fled to the same caves. He said they were “the last spot they could hide the scrolls before descending to the shore” of the Dead Sea.

The full preliminary report of the archaeologists can be downloaded here.

The upshot is that now almost every book on New Testament and intertestamental history is out of date and requires significant revision. This is irritating in its own right. But at least another scholastic myth has been exploded. However, if Golb is correct and the scrolls represent part of the (Sadduccean controlled) Temple Library, spirited out of Jerusalem and hidden in the caves to protect them from the Roman siege, they will contribute a great deal to our understanding of those times.

While the particular field of Qumranology may be somewhat esoteric and specialised the case serves to illustrate how the Academy can get things very wrong for a long, long time. We believe this dysfunctional situation is becoming more and more prevalent as rationalism takes hold. The more autonomous rationalism holds sway in the Academy the greater the likelihood of myth and superstition becoming regnant in the liberal-academic complex.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Beginning of a New Secession?

Slavery and Civil War

Measuring the significance of current events is a perplexing task. Media "headline-ism" and rampant sensationalism do not help at all. The histrionic pronouncement of an apocalypse every day is little short of obscurantism.

So, we have found a deep internal well of scepticism bubbling up when we have heard pronouncements of a global economic apocalypse. But when we consider the implications of the graphic below we wonder whether in the medium term things will indeed be very difficult. The strains upon the US body politic will likely be considerable.

Forecast US Federal Deficit

(Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media)

We recently saw a Democratic strategist being interviewed on Fox. When asked about the size of the deficit, her defence was that the deficit was an unfortunate by-product of the cost of doing all the things which the Obama administration promised to do (and some more besides, we may add). In other words, the huge deficit spending is part of the collateral damage of achieving Democratic goals.

When pressed on the huge burden the government will be putting on future generations, the regime apologist just shrugged and said that they had no choice but to take on that level of debt. Democratic socialism has its price, and it must be paid.

We have blogged earlier on how, over the longer term, the borrower always becomes the lender's slave. The US is clearly going to wane as a world power; its place will be taken by other nations. We are indeed entering a different world order.

Now something else has emerged in the US which gives us pause.

Tue Apr 14 2009 08:44:54 ET

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

Perry continued: "Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas."

A number of recent federal proposals are not within the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally designated powers and impede the states’ right to govern themselves. HCR 50 affirms that Texas claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.

It also designates that all compulsory federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties, or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited or repealed.
Hat Tip: Drudge Report

Resolutions affirming state sovereignty over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government certainly have strong constitutional warrant. Depending on how the Federal Government responds, this could be a first step towards secession on the part of some states. It was the secession of states, you recall, which led to the Civil War. Impossible in the modern world? Nothing is beyond the pale. We should not discount the possibility.

If the Obama administration were to bring an iron fist out of the velvet glove, all bets would be off. Would there not be an irony in this? Obama, like Lincoln before him, a president from Illinois, prepared to use force to "preserve the Union." Last time the casus belli was the abolition of slavery--the Union denying the state's rights to protect slavery within their jurisdictions.

This time the casus belli would be the Federal government's promulgation of slavery--the Federal Government enslaving its people by huge mountains of government debt and the Federal controls which go with it. This time it would be the seceding states standing up against the Union for abolition of slavery (albeit of the debt-based kind).

It will become more serious if Texas is joined by other states in asserting state sovereignty.

Forthcoming Book

The Doctrine of Scripture

Between Two Worlds has a preview of a forthcoming work on Holy Scripture. It looks interesting and is now available for pre-order. Check it out here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Scholastic Mythbusters, Part II

The Fetish of Egyptian Chronology

Much of what passes for thorough and objective scholarship in our post-Christian world is nothing less than determined ignorance. The study of the ancient world is an example. It has been afflicted with a raw prejudice against the Bible and its historical accounts. However, even a superficial comparison of ancient historical documents shows immediately that the biblical historical records of events in the Ancient Near East are far fuller, and more detailed, precise, and voluminous than the records of surrounding nations.

But scholarship and the liberal academic complex have steadfastly refused to treat the biblical historical documents as genuine historical accounts. For the past three hundred years they have overwhelmingly viewed them as works of religious propaganda. The biblical records lack objectivity, we are told. They have been written, edited, redacted, and reconstructed by people with axes to grind. Consequently everything in the Bible must be second guessed.

The fact that the historical records of the Scriptures are so full and detailed is taken as an evidence that they are not genuine historical accounts. If they were, well, they would be as patchy and difficult as other non-biblical historical documents of the period. The fact that they are so clear and full is an evidence of their being edited, massaged, re-worked, and altered—for religious purposes. The argument is viciously circular.

The liberal academic complex has proceeded by asserting its own rationalistic autonomy over the biblical documents. The result has been a prevailing antipathy and blind prejudice against the historicity of the Bible for over two hundred years. As scholar after scholar after scholar has repeated the same views and expresses the same cant, over time it has become an undoubted orthodoxy. Yet the foundations of this so-called orthodoxy are worse than the Great Grimpen Mire.

One of the most persistent myths of the Academy has been to elevate the chronology of Egypt to a status of near infallibility, to which all other histories and chronologies, including the biblical chronology, must conform. The chronological structure of Egypt has been used to “rework” the histories of all other ancient near eastern peoples, such that if they do not “fit” or “agree” or “conform” to the Egyptian schema, the records are erroneous or wrong. The status of Egyptian chronology as the fundamental history has functioned like the myth of the flat earth.

This would not be such a problem if the Egyptian chronology were well founded. However, the Egyptian chronology that is widely accepted as academic orthodoxy is based upon the writings of Manetho, a Graeco-Egyptian priest of the second century BC. He presented an Egyptian history back to its beginnings, using the dates and reigns of successive Pharaoh's and their dynasties in Egypt. Manetho's chronology is the spine upon which virtually all scholarship of the ancient near east has been built for the past two hundred years. However, whilst a "complete" chronological record, with its successive dynasties, is convenient for scholars and thereby likely to prejudice them in its favour, it is of little use if the chronology itself is wrong, or is in places a fabrication.

The first issue is to reckon with is the tendency in the ancient world to produce chronological schemas for reasons of propaganda. Clearly Manetho sought to establish the prime antiquity of ancient Egypt, over against the rival (Antiochene or Syrian) claims of his day. This was important because longevity and antiquity in the ancient world established primacy, and Manetho was interested in establishing the primacy of the Ptolemaic dynasty. The chronology was used to support its imperial claims. James Jordan has argued that,
This is not just an ancient phenomenon. Not too long ago, German historians were diligently falsifying and inventing history in order to prove the seniority and superiority of the Aryan race. The rulers of England have often supported the absurd notion that the English and Saxon races are descended from the “lost tribes of Israel.” Today, the Israeli claim to the land of Palestine is grounded in events 2000 years old.

When the Greek politician Solon visited Egypt in the 6th century BC, he was chided as a citizen of such a youthful culture, and was told that Egyptian history ran back 8000 years. Herodotus was told a century later that Egyptian history ran back 11,340 years before his time.

The Babylonian priest Berossus presents us a dynasty of 86 kings who reigned for no less than 33,091 years. His contemporary, Manetho, produced a similar claim regarding the earliest, divine rulers of Egypt. Manetho expert W. G. Waddell suggests that "the works of Manetho and Berossus may be interpreted as an expression of the rivalry of the two kings, Ptolemy and Antiochus, each seeking to proclaim the great antiquity of his land." [Loeb edition: Manetho, p.x]

Everyone admits that these are fictional exaggerations, but when it comes to Manetho's dynasties, the admission is not so forthcoming. The reason for this blindness is not hard to discern. It lies in the presuppositional hostility of secular scholarship for the Bible. If Manetho cannot be trusted, scholarship must rely much more heavily on the Bible, and that is not regarded as acceptable. . . .

We shall let W. G. Waddell, the editor of Manetho, have the last word: "But there were many errors in Manetho's work from the very beginning: all are not due to the perversions of scribes and revisers. Many of the lengths of reigns have been found impossible: in some cases the names and sequence of kings as given by Manetho have proved untenable in the light of monumental evidence. If one may depend upon the extracts preserved in Josephus, Manetho's work was not an authentic history of Egypt, exact in its details, as the Chaldaica of Berossus was, at least for later times. Manetho introduced into an already corrupted series of dynastic lists a number of popular traditions written in the characteristic Egyptian style. No genuine historical sense had been developed among the Egyptians, although Manetho's work does illustrate the influence of Greek culture upon an Egyptian priest." [Loeb edition, Manetho, pp.xxv-xxvi]

In other words, Manetho's chronology is likely to be notoriously unreliable, particularly with its claims to ancient lineage. Yet scholarship has insisted on using it as the chronology to which all other histories of the Ancient Near East must conform.

Secondly, the histories of all other nations in the Ancient Near East are required to conform to the accredited Egyptian history. Thus, in the case of Israelite history, the standard method of the Academy is to date the Exodus by attempting to fit it into the accepted orthodoxy Egyptian chronology. And guess what--there is nothing in the standard Egyptian chronology that would be consistent with the events of the Exodus (devastating plagues, a slave people leaving, the Egyptian army and its Pharaoh being destroyed) occuring at the time they were supposed to have happened. However, since the Manetho chronology is sacrosanct amongst scholars, they have concluded that the biblical account is wrong, fanciful, mythical, and the work of religious propaganda.

Moreover, the imposition of the Manetho chronology upon all other histories of the region has meant that the dating of events in ancient Greece, Mynos, and Syria is problematic. Recorded events in those other civilisations, such as natural catastrophes (earthquakes, tidal waves, and famines) are compared with the Egyptian chronology and history, and the dating of these events is skewed (usually placed far back in time and made much older than the actual events themselves).

Thirdly, the Manetho chronological schema, in seeking to "prove" the ancient lineage of Egyptian, Ptolemaic civilisation, overlooks the fact that royal lines often bestow multiple names and titles on their kings. For Manetho, each name or title usually meant a distinct person, successively reigning. English history gives apt examples. The Prince of Wales often becomes the king of England. Prince Charles will become King Charles. But for Manetho, in arranging his chronology, this would represent two different people, two different reigns, and possibly in different dynasties. In English history we have two James: the Sixth (of Scotland) and the First (of England). For Manetho, these would be two different Pharaohs.

It was common in the ancient world to endow multiple names and titles on royal persons. It is not uncommon in the modern world. For example, in the case of Swedish royalty, the name of a particular Swedish sovereign could be:

Carl-Gustaf Bernadotte
Crown prince Carl-Gustaf
Duke of Jamtland
King of Sweden
Carl XVIth Gustaf
King Carl-Gustaf
Holder of the Serafim Order
Chief of State
(Lennart Moller, The Exodus Case: A Scientific Examination of the Exodus Story, and a Deep Look into the Red Sea. [ Copenhagen: Scandinavia Publishing House, 2000], p. 78)

If Manetho's method had been employed, each of these would have become separate persons, part of a long dynasty, or possibly in different dynasties. This has led to the insertion of hundreds of years into the orthodoxy Egyptian history which are mythical. They never existed.

This orthodoxy was initially unable to be challenged from within. It was a severe career-limiting move. The first challenges in recent times have come from outside the liberal academic complex, from non-specialists who came to the problem with more open minds. The first of these was Immanuel Velikovsky, whose book Ages in Chaos (London: Sidwick and Jackson Ltd, 1952) was a reconstruction of ancient history from Exodus to King Akhnaton. He discussed documentary Egyptian evidence of a time of plagues, death, devastation, and a slave people in ancient Egypt from the Egyptian records themselves (but of course, according to the conventional academic prejudice, far earlier than the time of the Exodus.) He also drew amazing parallels between the Tel-el-Amarna correspondence between Egypt and Syria and northern Israel and the biblical accounts in the time of Elijah and Elisha--yet according to the conventional prejudice, the el-Amarna correspondence was centuries earlier.

The issue was taken up later by another non-specialist--Donavan A Courville in The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications. (Loma Linda, CA: Challenge Books, 1971) However, these were not credited within the Academy--and were consigned to the realm of idiosyncracy. Thousands of accredited and professional scholars could not be wrong.

In recent years, however, some scholars from within the Academy have begun to revolt. It has been lead by Peter James (Peter James, I. J. Thorpe, Nikos Kokkinos, Robert Morkot and John Frankish, Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the Conventional Chronology of Old World Archaeology. (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991)

The publisher's blurb had this to say:
The Old World has confronted archaeologists with many riddles, perhaps the most tantalising of which is the Dark Age, an economic and cultural recession so devastating it lasted for 400 years from 1200 to 800 BC. Or did it? The dates for the Near East and Mediterranean are derived from the highly regarded chronology of ancient Egypt, but could not that itself have been miscalculated? This is the pioneering theory proposed by Peter James in an intricate piece of scholarly detective work.

Deciphering the clues from papyri and pottery, he and his team of experts search layer by layer through the excavated treasures of a vast area from Spain to Iran and from Denmark to Sudan, until they reach Egypt, the root of the labrinthine riddle. It is here that they unearth 250 years of ‘ghost history’. Once these are eliminated, fresh perspective is thrown not only on the reality of the Dark Age, but also on the Trojan War, the foundation of Rome, the origin of the Greek alphabet and the Golden Age of King Solomon. Centuries of Darkness is a masterpiece of archaeological reasoning which will revolutionise our view of the ancient world.
But the Academy fights on. The issue here is, assuming the fundamental truth of the Biblical historical records (which we do) why is it that for two centuries scholars have insisted on their unreliability and cling to the authority of Manetho, building up fantastical histories in a completely circular fashion?

The reason is that the more anti-Christian rationalist scholars assert their objectivity and independence, the more they are made subject to fables, myths, and wishful thinking. Man remains a creature: weak, limited, conditioned, derived, and dependant. This includes his rational faculties and abilities. The more he asserts his autonomous independence, the more he becomes unconscious of (or refuses to acknowledge) his limited and finite and conditioned capacities. That, in turn, produces prejudiced and perverted thinking in virtually every area of life. This is why the Bible declares that the Unbeliever is blind.

As we argued in our first post, there is little doubt that one of the reasons the Puritans are hated and ridiculed to this day is due to their faith in the Living God. Whole worlds of myth and untruths have been built up around them by scholars who are willingly conforming to the prejudices of their day. They want the myths to be true. The need the myths to be true.

A similar phenomenon has occurred with respect to ancient history. Since the Scriptures from the outset are assumed not to be true, something else must be. The mind of autonomous man is more fundamental than the Word of God. Scholarship quickly descends into mythmaking, but with a breathtaking insistence upon their impartiality and detachment at the same time! The reality is that if two hundred years of "experts" had taken the time and care to examine their initial assumptions and pre-commitments to the Manetho chronology, as well as their prejudice against the Old Testament, and candidly put these on display for debate and critique, this would never have happened.

All the while the emperor has had no clothes. When scholars turn away from self-conscious dependance upon the Living God, He gives them over to fables and lies.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

In Praise of Carbon Dioxide

The Health Police Take a Quantum Leap

We live in a mad, mad world. "Those who hate Me, love death," says the Lord. So, Unbelief is left to run in directions and courses that end up denying life and health to human beings. If you turn away from God, the author and sustainer of life, and break His commandments you end up afflicting and breaking life.

Nowhere is this more evident in the matter of specious anthropogenic global warming. It is a death cult in so many ways.

The following Editorial of the Washington Post gets the point.

Sunday, March 29, 2009
EDITORIAL: Protect us from the EPA

One man's meat may be another man's poison, but the Environmental Protection Agency has taken the idea to an absurdity. EPA has just sent a proposal to the White House that would classify carbon dioxide as a health hazard.

But if there wasn't carbon dioxide around, there would be no plants. And, for that matter, neither would there be any people or pets if we weren't allowed to exhale. The claimed "health hazard" from carbon dioxide is, of course, global warming, yet the data we have seen, such as Stanford economist Thomas Gale Moore's work, show that warmer temperatures and higher incomes are associated with healthier, longer-living people. In case environmentalists haven't noticed, bio-diversity is also much greater when temperatures are higher.

Over history, human civilizations have expanded during warmer periods but declined when it got cold. For a history lesson, we recommend University of California Professor Brian Fagan's excellent book, "The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History."

Obviously, higher temperatures support more plant life, and that in turn supplies the food for more animals. If you want more plants, animals, and healthier people, more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures are beneficial and certainly not "hazardous to health."

All sorts of bizarre regulations already are devoted to "protecting" us from warmer temperatures - regulations that do endanger health and safety. Take mile per gallon regulation rules for cars. These rules directly endanger health and life because smaller cars are simply inherently less able to protect their passengers. Then there are mandates for compact fluorescent light bulbs that contain mercury. The EPA itself has extremely detailed and scary instructions about requiring people to leave the area once a bulb is broken. You can't vacuum the spot, and if the spill occurs on a carpet the EPA claims that you should cut out that portion of the carpet and dispose of it properly.

There is little rational discussion on global warming these days. Consider the following questions. A "no" to any of them should logically imply that we should not restrict carbon dioxide.

(1) Are global temperatures rising? They were clearly rising from the late 1970s to 1998, but temperatures just as clearly have not gone up in the last 11 years. Indeed, the more recent numbers show evidence of cooling.

(2) Is mankind responsible for a significant and noticeable portion of an increase in temperatures? Mankind is responsible for just a few percent of greenhouse gases, and changes in greenhouse gases are responsible for just a tiny fraction of changes in global temperatures. The big factor is variations in the sun's energy output. Last December, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a list of 400 prominent scientists who questioned the general notion of significant manmade global warming.

(3) Are increased temperatures "bad"? That answer is hardly obvious. Higher temperatures could increase ocean levels by between 7 inches and 2 feet over the next 100 years. On the other hand, massive areas from Canada to Europe to Russia would be much more habitable than now. We have already noted the other benefits to life.

(4) Finally, let's assume that the answer to all three previous questions is "yes." Does that mean we need more regulations and taxes? No, that is still not clear.

If we believe that man-made global warming is "bad," we still don't want to eliminate all carbon emissions. Having no cars, no air conditioning, or no electricity would presumably be much worse than anything people claim results from global warming. We would want to balance the benefits with any costs of additional carbon dioxide emissions.

One can see government do stupid things daily; the staggeringly harmful course it is already on is breathtaking. But hold on to the gunwales, for the ship of state in President Obama's new environmental era will leave the United States pitching and yawing, with the world much poorer and less healthy because of it.
We feel an urge to paraphrase Winston Churchill. If the human race were to last ten thousand years, they will look back upon us and say, "This was their most ignoble hour."