Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Don't Knock It; It's Essential

Sarah Palin has mocked Obama recently for his verbal gaffes, "misspeaking", and mistakes.  She has strung together a concatenation of speaking errors, presumably when he was "doing impromptu" rather than working off the TOTUS (Teleprompter of The United States).
My fellow Americans in all 57 states, the time has changed for come. With our country founded more than 20 centuries ago, we have much to celebrate – from the FBI’s 100 days to the reforms that bring greater inefficiencies to our health care system. We know that countries like Europe are willing to stand with us in our fight to halt the rise of privacy, and Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. And let’s face it, everybody knows that it makes no sense that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma and they end up taking up a hospital bed. It costs, when, if you, they just gave, you gave them treatment early, and they got some treatment, and ah, a breathalyzer, or an inhalator. I mean, not a breathalyzer, ah, I don’t know what the term is in Austrian for that… 
Our favourite is Obama's error of pronunciation when Obama he was speaking at a National Prayer Day gathering.  He repeatedly (mis)pronounced "corpsman" as "corpseman". 

At the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, President Obama slipped up in his speech when speaking of a Navy corpsman named Christian Brossard. However instead of pronouncing the word corpsman like kawr-muhn, he pronounced it as corpse-man.
But then again, you can't blame the lack of a teleprompter for that one.  It all goes to show every human being has feet of clay, TOTUS notwithstanding. 

Thy Kingdom Come

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
 Evangelism; Great Commission;
I myself believe that King Jesus will reign, and the idols will be utterly abolished; but I expect the same power which turned the world upside down once will still continue to do it.  The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that He was not able to convert the world. 
Quoted in Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), p. 258.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

The TSA of the Reformed World 

Theology - N.T. Wrights and Wrongs
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, November 27, 2010

Justin Taylor posts a helpful summary by Andrew Cowan of the N.T. Wright word-flurry at Evangelical Theological Society this year. You can read about that here.

This seems a quite reasonable summary to me, and it means that Wright is not a stalking horse for some kind of Romanist self-righteousness. But this means, in its turn, that Wright's blunders are genuinely Protestant blunders. But blunders they are, and we really need to address them.
Also, perhaps the debate can now shift from this red-herring to the real points of disagreement: Wright’s understanding of the meaning of “righteousness” language and his construal of the question under consideration in the divine courtroom.

Amen. But in order to address them effectively, someone needs to take the trueblue confessional screechers aside, and tell them to stop being the TSA (Transport Security Administration) of the Reformed world. Our TSA is not involved in establishing real security for air travelers, but rather is putting on an elaborate show of security theater. If you don't count making life miserable for all the innocent travelers, their measures are only adequate for capturing really stupid terrorists, and that's about it. So, in a postmodern world, teeming with egalitarian, evolutionary, academic, and relativistic C4, Scott Clark is busy confiscating knitting needles and bottles of contact solution containing more than three ounces.

So in my view, some "ready, fire, aim!" conservatives have made up their blundering part of this gaudy show. But this does not make Wright faultless when it comes to the existence of these confusions. He consistently has set his views over against the "traditional" Reformation view, and adherents of that view may be pardoned for thinking that he knew what he was talking about which, as it turns out, he didn't. His area of expertise is not historical theology of the Reformation era, and it shows. And he managed to write an entire book responding to John Piper without really responding to him, which, let's face it, looks fishy.

Cowan again:
He has not changed his view at all, but he has finally offered the clarification for which Piper hoped by denying that he understands works to be the “basis” of final justification in the way that Piper understands Christ’s righteousness to be the “basis” of final justification. One might wish that he had made this clarification clearer in his book-length reply to Piper (Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision), but we may all be grateful that he is now speaking in a way that perhaps fewer people will misunderstand.

What Cowan does is let us distinguish between these two questions: "has Wright written heretically?" and "has Wright written responsibly and accurately?" He clears him on the first question, and urges us to discuss the latter . . . responsibly.
The keys to adjudicating this question are Wright’s understanding of the meaning of “righteousness” language in Paul and his understanding of the trial to which justification stands as a verdict.

If you all have a minute, I would like to address just the first part of the question.
In his view, when Paul applies the word “righteousness” to a human being, it means 'covenant membership.' (This is slightly different than when the word is applied to God, in which case it often, but not exclusively, means 'covenant faithfulness' according to Wright.)

Cowan shows how these definitions exclude the idea of personal, meritorous righteousness being used by a person to put him in with God.

Great. Righteousness, when applied to a human being, refers to his covenant membership. This view is not Romanist, but there are more ways to be wrong than that. There are numerous ways to show the faultiness of Wright's position here, but let us just take one.

Suppose someone made a historical claim, saying that whenever John Adams used the word patriotic, he was referring to a man's willingness to pay his taxes, and that's all. If that were the claim being made, it would be relevant to the discussion to bring in all the times when John Adams used the word unpatriotic. And if the claim were correct, unpatriotic would need to refer to an unwillingness to pay taxes. If it turns out that the word unpatriotic applies to a bunch of other things, then the claim would necessarily fall.

So how does Paul use the word unrighteous when applied to human beings? Try to shoehorn in "lack of covenant membership," and see how it fares. All quotations are from my forthcoming translation, tentatively titled The Massage.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and lack of covenant membership among men, who suppress the truth in that lack of covenant membership" (Rom. 1:18).

"Being filled with an unwillingness to join a church, which is to say, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers . . ." (Rom. 1:29).

"Know ye not that those who won't join the covenant shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind" (1 Cor. 6:9).

So you see, in order to make this kind of reading make sense, I would need to do a lot more massaging than that.

Picking Up the Pieces

Overcoming Adversity at Pike River

It is a gross understatement to say that things went wrong in the Pike River mine. In the end, despite best endeavours, all of the preventative safety systems proved inadequate. At first glance it would also initially appear that not nearly enough thought and planning had gone into building a technological infrastructure that would not only survive a mine blast, but would enable rescuers expeditiously to enter the mine thereafter.

We are pleased that inquiries will take place--although we are scathing of the number. All this speaks of a plethora of bureaucratic bodies fulfilling respective statutory obligations. Ten different inquiries are not going to add much supplementary information--but they will consume an awful lot of time and money as labyrinthine bureaucratic boxes are ticked. This is but a small part of the price we have to pay for having decided that we would rather be managed by bureaucrats, than live our lives in thankful acknowledgement of God's wondrous providential care.

But we expect the mining industry will learn a great deal from the disaster. Mines generally, and coal mines in particular, will end up being better, safer, and more productive places to work. As we apply our God-given gifts, intelligence, resourcefulness and skills to analysing and learning from the disaster we will make progress; we will all be better off. And that is the way it is supposed to be. God has commanded us, after all, to go forth and subdue His earth, making it bring forth its pluriform riches (Genesis 1:28). Mining is an act of obedience to our Creator.  

Just as every earthquake is studied and engineering knowledge grows, leading to safer and better buildings, so it will be with the mining industry as a result of Pike River.

In this respect, several salutary things have impressed us in the aftermath of the disaster. Firstly, while pop-pundits like Mike Hoskings of a local radio breakfast show has repeatedly asked every guest whether mining has a future in New Zealand (implying that it should go the way of whale blubber), the industry and company spokesmen and national leaders have remained judicious and non-reactionary. Gerry Brownlee, Mining Minister has used the simile of an aircraft crash. When a plane goes down we work to make aviation safer, not use it as a reason to stop flying.

Career miners have affirmed that the industry in their minds is something about which they are passionate and they would never willingly give up. "It gets in your blood," the Chairman of Pike River said--and he is a life-long miner. The Coasters themselves have more than a little passion and enthusiasm about mining--which is one of the lifeblood industries of the region.

We have no doubt that the best way to honour the memory of the fallen miners is to overcome the hazards which proved fatal to them so that those who come after them will not suffer the same fate.

We also spare a thought for the shareholders who put up the capital to develop the Pike River mine. There will be some who have lost a great deal. These people are the financial equivalent of the miners themselves. Both are needed to make a mine exist and work. Such entrepreneurs who are willing to put so much at risk are also heroic in their own way. They can only be admired.

We have also appreciated Andrew Little's contribution. Here is a union leader who is not fixated by the antediluvian dogma of class warfare, it would seem, and who has publicly supported both management and miners during the disaster.

Not so long ago we took great offence at a Prime Minister who disgraced her office by her gratuitous slur of people of the West Coast, calling them "feral"--as she hounded and persecuted one of their number, Kit Richards who had dared to stand up to her. Thankfully we have not seen a repeat of such shameful, ill mannered behaviour during this recent disaster.

D H Lawrence, in his Whales Weep Not!, tells us
They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

Similarly, they say the earth is hot, but yet hotter still is the blood of miners.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Quip of the Day

The Value of Teamwork

We posted recently on the embarrassment of NATO paying large amounts of money to someone claiming to be a Taliban leader who purported to negotiate a peace settlement between the Taliban and Afghanistan. He was a fraud. But in the meantime NATO had trumpeted the progress and likely positive outcome of the negotiations. 

Al Jazeera is reporting that the way for the impostor was smoothed by British foreign intelligence, MI6 which promoted his worth and value and introduced him to the "right people".  But a sardonic American was not about to let the blame rest entirely upon the shoulders of MI6.

Bill Harris, the former US representative in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, told the Times on Thursday that it was not British intelligence officers alone who were responsible for the error.  "Something this stupid generally requires teamwork," he was quoted as saying. 

National Showing the Arrogance of Power

Bring Back the Honest Thieves

The National Government has demonstrated yet again that it is Helen Clark's Labour Party in drag. It has capitulated to Labour's machinations to restrict free speech during elections. A recent Herald editorial cuts right to the quick.
Three years after the outcry at financial restrictions on independent electoral advertising, the Labour Party has got its way. National has folded on an issue it fought from Opposition, agreeing to restrictions that differ only by degree with the spending limits legislated by the Labour Government. . . .

National has surrendered to the left's fear of money, which is just one possible influence among many in an election. Its bipartisan fix will leave our politics poorer and preserve elections largely for the parties who have conspired to produce this disgraceful discouraging law.

Get this. John Key and the National Party promised that it would repeal the draconian Electoral Finance Law promulgated by the Labour Party and the Greens which effectively placed political parties in control of elections, excluding all others. Key promised a new electoral law that would be the product of multi-party talks and reflect a genuine consensus across all political parties. He delivered on the first part of his promise. He repealed the hated law. Then, in seeking consensus, he has effectively re-instated Labour's law. Is this duplicity or what?

If National believed in Labour's draconian anti-free speech, anti-democratic law to begin with it should have said so. If consensus represented agreeing with Labour's traducing basic freedoms it should have said so. But it put a devious face to the electorate, decrying Labour's electoral law, agreeing with us that it was a very nasty piece of work. Even Labour, after its trouncing at the last election, publicly stated that it had been wrong.

Self-interest now rules the hearts and minds of the National government. We might as well support Labour next election. At least there we got the nastiness and the damage up front. We knew where we stood. With National it greases the knife with rancid butter before it slips through the ribs to eviscerate the vital organs of the body politic. Key was once known as the "Smiling Assassin"; so he has proved to be, but the victim of his oleaginous knife is us--we, the people.

Helen Clark in contrast proved to be refreshingly up-front, candid, and honest as she grimly went about destroying the country to feather her own nest. An honest thief is preferable to an unctuous one. Key has played us as fools, and proven himself, in the process, to be a deceptive and misleading man.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Thanksgiving 2010 

Liturgy and Worship - Church Year
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, November 25, 2010

We begin by thanking God for who He is, and what He has done for us through His gospel of glory. He is the triune God, which means that He is love. Love is not an afterthought, not an add-on. From all eternity, the Father has loved the Son, and the Son the Father. The Spirit of their mutual love has been poured out upon us, now that Jesus showed us the love of the Father by dying on the cross for us, and who has come back from the dead for our justification.

We also thank God for the creational emblems of His goodness and grace, emblems that surround us on every hand. The overflowing goodness of God is seen in marital companionship, friendship, breath, light, beer, sex, sleep, hot water, pie, turkey, potatoes and gravy, sunlight, grass, snow, children, grandchildren, electricity, shelter, fire, electronic gadgets, cars, books, and music. We serve and worship a God who gives to us with prodigality and abandon.

So God in His grace has given us yet another celebration of Thanksgiving. On the one hand we should just do it -- bow our heads and thank Him -- and on the other we need to give ourselves to the study of thanksgiving. Were we to do that, we would come to understand how crucial this is. Our lack of understanding this point is why we are losing the culture war.

Whenever someone declares his gratitude for all the goodness that God showers us with, it is not long before someone says (or thinks), "But what about the people who don't have these things?" Shouldn't we feel guilty until everybody has some? No -- because misdirected envy and muddled guilt are a principal cause of misery and poverty.

The first Thanksgiving was in 1623, and it was a time of abundance. It also marked a fundamental deliverance from the experiment of the two previous years, in which the Puritans had a go at collectivism, and almost starved to death. Didn't work. Never has, never will. God hates that kind of sharing.

The kind of sharing He loves is based on private ownership, hard work, covenant blessing, all appropriate thanksgiving rendered to Him, and with the recipient of the glorious largesse going on to imitate God Himself in the resultant overflow. Refusal to give thanks cuts off the taproot of this kind of gospel blessing.

The enemy of thanksgiving is ingratitude, and therefore the enemy of the gospel is ingratitude. But the serpent is crafty, and so Paul wants Christians to be on their toes (2 Cor. 11:3). As Christians we all know that we are to render thanks to God for the good things. And so what we have done is become hypercritical, and we have convinced ourselves over time that our milk and honey is not the same as milk and honey in Bible times. Ours has cholesterol in it, and residue from pesticides, and fat probably, and the bees gathered pollen from land we stole from the Indians.

We should have none of this. Unless we know how to thank God for Cool Whip in a plastic container with a plastic lid, applied to pumpkin pie, in its turn made from the processed ingredients purchased in a can, it remains no wonder that the secularists are winning. Gratitude is simple. Food wowserism is complicated, and full of grumbles.

The lessons for us are basic:

"For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving" (1 Tim. 4:4).

"Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Neh. 8:10).

"And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee" (Dt. 28:11).

And why did the Deuteronomic curses come upon them? Because they despised the Cool Whip. And the marshmallow jello.

" . . . because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things" (Dt. 28:47).

As I write this, Nancy -- may her name be honored in our family for generations -- is baking pies that some would like to claim are not good for my heart. On the contrary, before taking a bite, my heart is full of their mediated goodness.

Dear, Oh Dear

 Making a Quick Buck in Afghanistan

The war is not going well in Afghanistan. OK, so this latest report comes from the New York Times, not a cheerleader for US military in general, and sceptical of the rectitude of the war in Afghanistan, in particular. Nevertheless, if the report is true it makes for very sober reading. Yet, from another perspective it is funny.

We have heard for some time how the Taliban are getting war weary. There have been reports of very high level Taliban sitting down to negotiate with Nato and the Afghan government. They appeared to be looking for a face-saving way out.

Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor

KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.” (Emphasis, ours)

Some very resourceful con-man whipped across the Pakistan border and presented himself as a senior Taliban leader.  He met with the Americans three times.  He even met with Hamid Karzai, having been flown there on a NATO aircraft.  In just those three meetings the Americans managed to pay him a lot of money. 
The Western diplomat said the Afghan man was initially given a sizable sum of money to take part in the talks — and to help persuade him to return.
Now he has been confirmed to be an impostor--a considerably more wealthy one than before his trips across the border it would seem. There is speculation as to whether he was acting on his own, or was sent over by the Taliban leadership to gain insight into the mind of the enemy, or whether he was sent by the Pakistani Intelligence Service which has not-so-secretly supported the Taliban for years.

Because of these talks, the Americans came to believe that they had been successful in putting the Taliban under serious pressure and that a negotiated end to the war was likely. 
As recently as last month, American and Afghan officials held high hopes for the talks. Senior American officials, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the talks indicated that Taliban leaders, whose rank-and-file fighters are under extraordinary pressure from the American-led offensive, were at least willing to discuss an end to the war.
Apparently the US had been pleasantly surprised about the reasonableness of the fake Taliban negotiator.
Whatever the Afghan man’s identity, the talks that unfolded between the Americans and the man claiming to be Mr. Mansour seemed substantive, the Afghan leader said. The man claiming to be representing the Taliban laid down several surprisingly moderate conditions for a peace settlement: that the Taliban leadership be allowed to safely return to Afghanistan, that Taliban soldiers be offered jobs, and that prisoners be released.The Afghan man did not demand, as the Taliban have in the past, a withdrawal of foreign forces or a Taliban share of the government.
You don't say!  No wonder the US commander, General Petraeus was persuaded that they were winning and wearing the Taliban out.  The "reasonableness" of the impostor would imply the Taliban were under great pressure.  But another ex-Taliban commander has a very different view. 

Sayed Amir Muhammad Agha, a onetime Taliban commander who says he has left the Taliban but who acted as a go-between with the movement in the past, said in an interview that he did not know the tale of the impostor. But he said the Taliban leadership had given no indications of a willingness to enter talks.  “Someone like me could come forward and say, ‘I am a Talib and a powerful person,’ ” he said. “But I can tell you, nothing is going on.” “Whenever I talk to the Taliban, they never accept peace and they want to keep on fighting,” he said. “They are not tired.”
We continue to wonder just how long it will be before the US government faces reality and admits defeat.  Politically, of course, it is a very hard thing to do--and Obama now has too much capital invested in his war.  yet it is inevitable.  Meanwhile from the "part" of Afghanistan that is willingly submitting itself to US "nation building" we read this: 

Sayed Mossa is a new believer in Afghanistan who is in jail in Afghanistan because he decided, of his own free choice, to follow Jesus. In this letter he managed to smuggle out through the hands of a Westerner, he describes daily beatings, torture, and sexual molestation. He stands to be executed for his decision to follow Jesus next week.He has a wife and 6 children, one of whom is disabled.

Part of me flushes with anger when I consider the price America has paid to help Afghanistan escape from the Taliban, and think that this is how the new government treats its own people. Is this what we sacrificed to produce? Is freedom of conscience and freedom of speech not a fundamental right of human beings everywhere?  (H/T: Justin Taylor)
How's that hopey changey nation building working out for y'all?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Absolute Freedom of Speech

Dangerous Roads

Absolute freedom of speech is an oxymoron. Even the most free civil societies restrain public speech and discourse in some way, shape, or form. The only constructive debate is not whether speech should be restrained but what speech must be interdicted and punished.

Those societies that are more free are those which have a very clear notion of what kinds of speech and thought and action are destructive of the fundamentals of the society itself. All other speech, however irksome, is tolerated. Less free societies care not about distinguishing sharply between the vitals and fundamentals of a society, on the one hand, and everything else, on the other--and under the rubric of free speech work aggressively to restrict the free speech of citizens. Either restricted speech is limited and clearly proscribed, or the restrictions expand like a cancer.

In the West restrictions upon speech are expanding rapidly, as the freedoms of classic liberalism die. This is not surprising. Every society built upon the sovereignty of man becomes first authoritarian, then totalitarian, in the end. Man is a mere creature. His shoulders are simply not broad enough to bear the thick complexity of the created world. As he arrogates power and the garb of deity, he inevitably tries to reduce the complexity of the world down to more manageable nostrums--which means more and more restrictions upon human activity, including speech.

Therefore it is not surprising that freedoms of speech are being aggressively attacked in the West--particularly in those segments of society which are more "liberal" and and "progressive". Brendan O'Neill catalogues the rise of book burning in the United States as a new illiberal fundamentalism arises--and we are not talking of the Tea Party!
Students are supposed to read books, not burn them
A leading US defender of free speech on campus says things are so bad that some students are now destroying words that offend them.

Brendan O’Neill

If you thought it was only uneducated Muslims in dusty towns ‘over there’ who burnt things that upset them, think again.

In 2006, The Dartmouth, the student newspaper of Dartmouth College, a liberal arts college in New Hampshire, published a cartoon showing Nietzsche conversing with a male student. The student was with a very drunk girl after a night of boozing and schmoozing and was wondering whether or not he should have sex with her. ‘Will to power’, Nietzsche tells him. The cartoonist said it was intended as a pisstake of Nietzsche, and more broadly of his rehabilitation in liberal academic circles, but some Dartmouth students saw things differently – in their eyes the cartoon was effectively okaying date rape. So they did what any well-educated, privileged students at a liberal arts college would do – gathered outside the offices of The Dartmouth and publicly burned copies of the offending newspaper. Like fascists.

Greg Lukianoff’s mouth is agape as he recounts the incident four years on, clearly still shocked by the demented censoriousness and humourlessness of the Dartmouth book-burners. Lukianoff is president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, ironically), which was founded in 1999 to defend ‘freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience’ on American campuses, those ‘essential qualities of liberty and dignity’. ‘There was a time when people believed free speech on campus should be as wild and freewheeling as possible’, he tells me in his garden in the Italian part of Brooklyn, New York City. ‘Not anymore. Today students are apparently too sensitive to be able to deal with hard ideas or outrageous humour.’
Students and their university administrations are now at the forefront of an expanding move to restrict speech and deny freedom of thought--on campuses all over the US.  

FIRE’s president, Greg Lukianoff,
in his garden in Brooklyn

At Brown University in Rhode Island a mob of students stormed the offices of the student newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald, and seized and ran off with its entire print run. Why? Because the Herald ran an advert paid for by a right-wing politician who denounced the idea of reparations for slavery. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst a group of students stole copies of the conservative campus newspaper The Minuteman after it published an article mocking one of Amherst’s student union officials. The student union demanded that the The Minuteman publicly apologise to the student official or else face ‘loss of recognition’, which would have meant the Minuteman group being shut down and its newspaper being consigned to Torquemada’s dustbin of history. The Minutemen refused and called FIRE instead, the Ghostbusters of campus free-speech controversies.
The article goes on to describe why these liberal, progressive universities are at the forefront of restricting speech.  Students have rights, don't you know.  They have a right not to be discriminated against--which rapidly extends to a right not to be offended by the actions and speech of others.  In other words, the necessarily attendant by-product of free speech--that of others being irked--has been exalted into an uber-restrictor of free speech.  

 Lukianoff says it is a consequence of the broader academic culture that students find themselves in today – an academic culture which instead of highly prizing combative debate and the unfettered freedom to scuffle over ideas and knowledge increasingly demonises such things as potentially hurtful and damaging. An academic culture, in short, which is destroying its own raison d’être – to foster thought, discussion, enlightenment – through its acceptance of the idea that actually, after all, words and ideas can be quite dangerous and thus should be subject to policing.
How widespread is the problem.  Seventy-one percent of American universities, we are told, now have speech codes--that's right, speech codes!

Lukianoff points out that the idea of ‘hate speech’ – the notion that thoughts and words are too potentially toxic and harmful to others to be allowed to exist independently of official monitoring – was supported as much by so-called liberals, ‘by feminists like Catharine MacKinnon’, as it was by traditionally censorious Victorian-style prudes. The end result is that 71 per cent of American universities now have speech codes governing what their students can say and even what they can think. Lukianoff says the culture of word-watching and thought-monitoring has two depressing consequences: first, it makes students more likely to play the ‘offence card’ if anyone upsets them; and second, it ‘really has a hobbling effect on the rigour of the academy, affecting what people learn and what people teach’.
The next step will be public criticism sessions--as occurred during the Cultural Revolution in China--where infractors are publicly named, shamed, humiliated, then "re-trained" and indoctrinated more perfectly.  Oh, it's already happening.

Lukianoff tells me about one of the more extreme examples of the speech-code ethos, ‘probably the best and most nightmarish example of what we call “thought reform”’. The University of Delaware had a mandatory programme for all 7,000 of its students who lived in dorms, which it actually explicitly referred to as a ‘treatment’. The students were expected to attend floor meetings so that they could be told what was acceptable speech on campus and what was not, where the idea, says Lukianoff, ‘was effectively to cure them of any obvious racist, sexist or homophobic beliefs’.

In an exercise at one of these institutionalised meetings, students were told to stand by a certain wall depending on where they stood on matters such as gay marriage, affirmative action, welfare and other hot-button issues in the US. And if they had the ‘wrong’ views on these issues, then they were seen as potentially intolerant and in need of being reminded about the university’s speech and ethics codes. ‘It was flatly political’, says Lukianoff. ‘It was actually a public shaming, really going back to our Puritan roots. This kind of thing treats young people as socially unenlightened and in need of a kind of indoctrination.’
Of course this is a generation of students who have been schooled from infancy in the notion that education is a process of exploration, discovery, self-affirmation.  Correcting, challenging, debating, refuting, rejecting--these activities are all harmful to the being of the student.  As such students move on to adult educational institutions they are taking what they have learned and, like adults, insisting upon it for themselves.  "Don't you dare criticise or offend or challenge me."
In such an academic climate, or fundamentally anti-academic climate, it is not surprising, says Lukianoff, that some students feel empowered to demand the squishing and even burning of words and images they don’t like – after all, they have been educated from day one to believe that their self-esteem is sacrosanct and must be defended from other people’s brute thoughts and speech. ‘There’s a very predictable result, which is that if you allow the ultimate trump card against free speech to be a claim that “I’m offended”, then people learn very quickly to say they are offended.’
O'Neill focuses upon the "shrinking violet" driver of this aggressive censoriousness.
The new censoriousness on campus – which, for the record, is as profound a problem in Britain as it is in the US – highlights some worrying new trends in today’s war on freedom of thought and speech. It shows that it is not only the state or even sections of the authorities that demand censorship today – all sorts of advocacy groups, educators and youthful organisations now crusade like modern-day Torquemadas for the silencing of their opponents. And it demonstrates the extent to which censorship today both springs from and reinforces a new degraded view of human subjectivity, a view of individuals as fundamentally psychologically fragile and thus in need of protection from allegedly dangerous ideas. In such circumstances, censorship can even be re-presented as a public good, designed not necessarily to police morality in any old-fashioned way but rather to manage relations between the various fragile sections of society.
But is is more serious than that.  It has long ago moved out of the realms of educational theory and practice to the realms of law, justice, and constitutional imperatives.  And at that point, it transforms into force, oppression, and repression.  To be discriminated against is a violation of rights--we are told.  It is fundamentally unjust.  To be criticised for one's beliefs is tantamount to being discriminated against for one's race or gender.  In each case, one's personhood is under attack.  One's rights are being truncated.  Thus, a truly just society will move aggressively to restrain and restrict speech. 

As the West moves from soft-despotism to increasingly hard-despotism, let us not forget that it was the strong preference of communist totalitarian states in the previous century to call themselves democratic.  As the state oppressed, spied upon, imprisoned, and tortured people it remained democratic oppression, democratic imprisonment, and democratic torture--the people's totalitarianism from beginning to end.  The West is now well along that dangerous road. 

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Read his personal website here.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Phil Jones and Climategate One Year On

It Ain't Over Yet

Climategate is Still the Issue

James Corbett
The Corbett Report

19 November, 2010

This week marks the one year anniversary of the release of emails and documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that we now know as Climategate.

Sitting here now, one year later, it’s becoming difficult to remember the importance of that release of information, or even what information was actually released. Many were only introduced to the scandal through commentary in the blogosphere and many more came to know about it only weeks later, after the establishment media had a chance to assess the damage and fine tune the spin that would help allay their audience’s concern that something important had just happened. Very few have actually bothered to read the emails and documents for themselves.

Few have browsed the “Harry Read Me” file, the electronic notes of a harried programmer trying to make sense of the CRU’s databases. They have never read for themselves how temperatures in the database were “artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures” or the “hundreds if not thousands of dummy stations” which somehow ended up in the database, or how the exasperated programmer resorts to expletives before admitting he made up key data on weather stations because it was impossible to tell what data was coming from what sources.

Few have read the 2005 email from Climategate ringleader and CRU head Phil Jones to John Christy where he states “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.” Or where he concludes: “As you know, I’m not political. If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish.”
Or the email where he broke the law by asking Michael Mann of “hockey stick” fame to delete a series of emails related to a Freedom of Information request he had just received.

Or the email where he wrote: “If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.”
Or the other emails where these men of science say they will re-define the peer review process itself in order to keep differing view points out of the scientific literature, or where they discuss ousting a suspected skeptic out of his editorial position in a key scientific journal, or where they fret about how to hide the divergence in temperature proxy records from observed temperatures, or where they openly discuss the complete lack of warming over the last decade or any of the thousands of other emails and documents exposing a laundry list of gross scientific and academic abuses.

Of course, the alarmists continue to argue—as they have ever since they first began to acknowledge the scandal—that climategate is insignificant. Without addressing any of the issues or specific emails, they simply point to the “independent investigations” that they say have vindicated the climategate scientists.
Like the UK parliamentary committee, which issued a report claiming that Phil Jones and the CRU’s scientific credibility remained intact after a rigorous one day hearing which featured no testimony from any skeptic or dissenting voice. After the release of the report, the committee stressed that the report did not address all of the issues raised by climategate and Phil Willis, the committee chairman admitted that the committee had rushed to put out a report before the British election.

Or the Oxburgh inquiry, chaired by Lord Ron Oxburgh, the UK Vice Chair of Globe International, an NGO-funded climate change legislation lobby group. The Oxburgh inquiry released a five page report after having reviewed 11 scientific papers unrelated to the climategate scandal that had been hand-picked by Phil Jones himself. It heard no testimony or evidence from anyone critical of the CRU. Unsurprisingly, it found the climategaters not guilty of academic misconduct.

Regardless of what one thinks of the veracity or independence of these so-called investigations into the climategate scandal itself, what has followed has been a catastrophic meltdown of the supposedly united front of scientific opinion that manmade CO2 is causing catastrophic global warming.

In late November of 2009, just days after the initial release of the climategate emails, the University of East Anglia was in the hotseat again. The CRU was forced to admit they had thrown away most of the raw data that their global temperature calculations were based upon, meaning their work was not reproducible by any outside scientists.

In December of that year, the UN’s Copenhagen climate talks broke down when a negotiating document was leaked showing that–contrary to all prÑit would be the third world nations bearing the brunt of a new international climate treaty, with punishing restrictions on carbon emissions that would prevent them from ever industrializing. The document, written by industrialized nations, allowed the first world to emit twice as much carbon per person as the third world, and was widely seen as an implementation of a eugenical austerity program under a “green” cover. This agenda was further exposed by the influential Optimum Population Trust in the UK, which began arguing that same month that rich westerners offset their carbon footprints by funding programs to stop black people from breeding.

In January 2010, the United Nations’ much-lauded Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change began to fall apart as error after error began to emerge in this supposedly unassailable peer-reviewed, scientific document asserting human causation of catastrophic climate change. That month it was revealed that a passing comment to a journalist from an Indian climatologist that the Himalayan glaciers could melt within 40 years found its way into the much-touted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth report on climate change via a World Wildlife Fund fundraising pamphlet. When IPCC defenders tried to pass the universally derided prediction off as a legitimate mistake, the coordinating lead author of that section of the report admitted that the IPCC knew that the report was based on baseless speculation in a non-peer reviewed work, but included it because “We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.”

Later that month, doubt was cast on another claim in the IPCC report, this one that 40% of the Amazon rainforest was in danger of disappearing due to manmade global warming. These doubts were confirmed in July when the claim was sourced back to pure, unverified speculation on the now-defunct website of a Brazilian environmental advocacy group. Just this month, the exact opposite of the original claim was shown to be the case when a new study appeared in Science demonstrating that forests in past warming periods were not decimated but in fact blooming with life, experiencing a “rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates.”

Also in January, the UK Information Commissioner ruled that researchers at the CRU had broken the law by refusing to comply with Freedom of Information requests, but that no criminal prosecution would follow because of a statute of limitations on prosecuting the illegal activity.

In February, the UK Guardian revealed that a key study co-authored by Phil Jones that purported to show there was no such thing as the well-researched Urban Heat Island effect was found to have relied on seriously flawed data. This, according to the Guardian, led to “apparent attempts to cover up problems with [the] temperature data.”

In September, John Holdren, the man who had previously advocated adding sterilizing agents to the water supply to combat the overpopulation problem which he thought would ravage the Earth by the year 2000, and who currently is the Science czar in the Obama White House, advocated a name change for global warming to “climate disruption,” further affirming the theory’s non-scientific status as an unfalsifiable prediction that anything that ever is due to manmade carbon dioxide.

Later that month, Britain’s prestigious Royal Society rewrote its climate change summary to admit that the science was infused with uncertainties and that “It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future…”

In October, a carbon reduction advocacy group called 10:10 released a video to promote its campaign in which those skeptical about participating in the program are literally blown up.

And just this month, Scientific American, a publication that has been noted for publishing increasingly alarmist reports about the reality and the dangers of manmade-2 induced global warming, a poll of its own readers that found over 77 believe natural processes to be the cause of climate change and almost 80 responded that they would not be willing to pay a single penny on schemes to “forestall” the supposed effects of supposedly-manmade global warming (warming that even climategate scientist Phil Jones now admits is no longer taking place).

And this is only the briefest of overviews of the range of information that Climategate.tv has been tracking over the past year. The reports undermine the data, its sources, the scientific processes used, the scientists themselves, and their conclusions. It shows that the main temperature records that are used to determine the highly-problematic concept of the global mean temperature are in fact in the hands of scientists like Phil Jones and James Hansen with a direct stake in the continuation of the alarmist scare. When these scientists are questioned on the sources of their data they advocate deleting emails and even deleting data itself. They admit that key data underlying their calculations has already been deleted.

And yet, with all of this, they have the audacity to continue to suggest that there is overwhelming concensus on the “science” of global warming. They call for public debates with skeptics who they invariably accuse of being funded by Big Oil, and then, when those debates are actually organized, they then back out of those debates. They then continue to call for the imprisonment of anyone who dares to question this supposed iron-clad .
And now, they are preparing to meet once again.
Next month, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will descend on Cancun, Mexico, to once again try to hammer out a globally-binding agreement on the restriction of carbon emissions. They will once again act as if carbon dioxide is a vile poison and not one of the essential ingredients of life on this planet. They will once again pretend that a causal link between carbon dioxide and catastrophic or unprecedented warming has been established. They will once again pretend that inflicting severe austerity on the third world in the name of greening the earth is anything other than eugenics by another name.
This year, though, there will be a difference. The public at large is another year older, another year wiser, and less prepared than ever to accept unquestioned the dire assertions of grandstanding politicians and the scientists they fund that the world is on the brink of imminent destruction. When they say the science is certain and settled, we will know better. When they say that this is humanity’s last chance, we will see them for the Chicken Little’s they have always been.

This is not a call for complacency. In fact, now that the public is more skeptical than ever about the climategaters and others of their ilk, the danger of binding international agreements enacted by unelected institutions and empowering global taxation is at an all-time high. They are hoping to ram through an agreement that will put the final nail in the coffin of climate realism before the corpse of the global warming hoax even has the chance to rot.

We have to speak out against this fraud now, and more loudly than ever. We must make our voices heard when we assert that science is about honesty, about openness, about the search for the truth, and that those who reject those principles will no longer be heeded by a public that has been stretched long past the point of credulity.

Once again the UN-funded scientists and politicians are telling us that the hour is nigh, and perhaps, for once, they are right. The end is almost here for those who are trying to establish their global governance in the name of a scientific fraud. If we continue to speak out on this issue, perhaps there will be no UNFCCC conference next year after all.
For if climategate has taught us anything, it is that just one year can make all the difference

Troubled . . .

And Ashamed

We are not engineers.   Nor are we experts in rescue.  We are armchair critics.  Please read the comments below in the light in these disclaimers. 

We continue to have a sense of disquiet about the rescue effort at the Pike River coal mine.  Three images come to mind.  The first is a man lying on a floor in South Auckland, having been shot by intruders.  Outside police wait--not wanting to enter the building until they are sure no danger will present.  The wounded man is left to bleed out--to his death. 

The second enduring mental image is of the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9-11.  We can still hear the New York fire chief telling a watching world that none of his officers were going to enter those imploding towers until he was sure that they would be entirely safe.  His top priority was the safety of the rescuers.  That's what happened, right?  NY firemen did not race up those stairs trying to save lives, right? They were ordered to hold back, right? No firemen lost their lives, right?  They waited until both towers fell down to rubble, then they were stood down, because although safe for them, no-one was left to rescue, right?

The third image is of one Corporal Willie Apiata who quite rightly hunkered down in a firefight and refused to risk his life in an attempt to save his fallen comrade until he was sure it was safe.  That's why he was awarded the VC, right?

What ever happened to the respect and honour we once had for men and women willing to lay down their lives in the attempt to save others?  The Occupational Safety and Health regime--that's what has happened.  It makes us ashamed to be New Zealanders. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Excitement is Vital in Teaching

Teachers are Contagious--for Good or Ill

From middle school onwards, a vital ingredient in all successful teaching is the excitement and enthusiasm of the teacher for his or her subject. When a teacher loves the subject being taught, the excitement is contagious and students end up, more often than not, enthralled.

On the other hand, the detached, dry, desiccated pedagogue kills the subject for most students. Think career teachers who long ago lost an interest in their subject and are now grooved to time and motion role plays. And the next union extorted pay increases.

D J Carson applies this verity to teachers of the Bible. If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.
HT: Justin Taylor

The Inevitability of Evolutionism's Demise

Only the Fit Survive

OK, so we know that evolutionism is a religion--in fact, the established religion of our day. Being an established religion, with universalist pretensions, it seeks to pre-interpret all reality according to its precepts. Often times this degenerates into downright idiocy--but there you go.

Phillip Longman is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and Schwartz Senior Fellow at the Washington Monthly has recently provided us with a classic of the genre. He argues that evolution explains why the godliest survive! Yes he does. We kid you not.

Longman has understood that religious people reproduce after their own kind, and their reproduction is abundant, on the one hand, and powerfully conforming of their children to grow up and live according to the tenets of their parent's religion, on the other. This, says Longman, is explained by evolutionism: religion is enabling people to survive. (He gracefully elides over the chasm in his argument: these same religious people believe [rightly] that evolutionism is a false religion and an idolatrous fantasy, so the survival of the godliest is going to result in the rejection of evolutionism as a false religion and an unscientific crock of roughly the same hue as alchemy.)

To be sure, in countries rich and poor, under all forms of government, birth rates are declining across the globe. But they are declining least among those adhering to strict religious codes and literal belief in the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran. Indeed, the pattern of human fertility now fits this pattern: the least likely to procreate are those who profess no believe in God; those who describe themselves as agnostic or simply spiritual are only somewhat slightly less likely to be childless. Moving up the spectrum, family size increases among practicing Unitarians, Reform Jews, mainline Protestants and “cafeteria” Catholics, but the birthrates found in these populations are still far below replacement levels. Only as we approach the realm of religious belief and practice marked by an intensity we might call, for lack of a better word, “fundamentalism,” do we find pockets of high fertility and consequent rapid population growth.
The online article publishes this rather neat photo, entitled "Quiverful":

Not only do the faithful bear more children, their offspring are more likely to continue in the faith of their fathers.
When confronted with the fact that they are being outbred, secularists often respond that many if not most children born into highly religious families will grow up to reject the faith of their fathers — such is the assumed allure of freedom and individuality. This thought comports with the life experience of the many members of the Baby Boom generation, who shook off the bonds of traditional authority in the 1960s and 1970s, and who cannot imagine why the rest of humanity will not eventually catch on and catch up.

Arguing against this proposition, however, are some stubborn demographic facts. Among fundamentalist families, it turns out, the apple does not fall far from the tree. And the more demanding the faith, the more this rule applies.

Only five percent of children born to the most conservative Amish, for example, move on to other faiths or lifestyles. The defection rate is higher among New Order Amish, Mormons and other comparatively less demanding fundamentalist communities, yet they still hold on to the majority of their children. Moreover, what defections they may experience are more than offset by converts, with the net flow favoring conservative faiths, according to poll data gathered by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Thus we see 21 percent of converts leaving liberal and moderate denominations for more fundamentalist ones, and only 15 percent going the other way. There are many swirls and currents that affect us all as individuals, but between higher fertility and more successful indoctrination, the main demographic tide of history is clearly flowing in favor of fundamentalism.

This dynamic sets us a demographic time bomb for the current established religion of secularist evolutionism.
. . . even if religiously fundamentalist families only have a few more children than secular or religiously moderate counterparts, and they can keep those children holding on to fundamentalist faith and values (especially related to child-bearing), the passage of generations will greatly magnify their numbers and influence. Similarly, secularists and others who choose to have only one or two children, and who pass those values on to their children, will, over time, see their population decline precipitously.

But don't worry, the demise of secularist evolutionism as a result of a demographic time bomb only serves to "prove" the validity of evolutionism itself. We, however, have another explanation: those who hate Me, love death says the Lord (Proverbs 8:36).

It is precisely at this point that we are faced with one of the greatest ironies of modern human history. Evolutionism asserts the world has by chance hard-wired its own survival into the DNA of life. This secularist man-worshipping faith has achieved dominant pre-eminence over our world. It is partly right. The entire creation is indeed hard-wired, not just for survival but for a teleological glory that is so great and glorious, it yet remains indescribable. But the wiring comes from the will, purpose, and gracious plan of God. Those unfit for such glory are passed by and perish from the earth. They do not survive. But those fit for the glory that is to be revealed succeed and prosper and multiply and expand. They do not merely survive, they triumph.

But the fit and the unfit are marked not by genes--although as this article points out, genes are not unaffected by unfitness and fitness--but by faith or unbelief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of the world. Those who repent and believe are made part of the regenerated and redeemed human race with Christ at its head. They not only survive, but prosper and inherit the entire earth. This is the ultimate survival of the fittest: but it is Christ Who makes fit, not "Nature".

Evolutionism distorts a fundamental teaching of Scripture. When unbelievers accept its teachings and embrace its idolatry they consign themselves to non-survival, to death. They are excised from the glorious end that all human history is irrevocably heading towards.

Evolution is therefore true, but not as evolutionists know it, Jim.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Populism and Common Sense 

Culture and Politics - Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Populism is a fascinating political phenomenon. In the conservative intellectual tradition -- in which I have been bobbing about for some decades -- there is a deep suspicion of populism. Of course, in the populist tradition, there is a deep suspicion of pointy-headed elites, and so I suppose we're even.

The Founders were certainly concerned about the power of the mob, and for them, to have an unchecked unicameral legislative body, for example, was high folly. At the same time, they firmly believed that the people needed a voice, and not just as a pressure valve either. There will be times, they thought, when the establishment elites would be wrong and way too cozy in their wrongness, and the people would be right, and perhaps hopping mad about it, which would be a good thing. Then there are other times when three lonely aristocrats are right, and the people are down in the street, waiting for them with the tumbrils. Right? Wrong? These are interesting concepts. Let us speak of this further.

In the streets of Europe, the forces of populism are now demanding a continuation of bread, circuses, free lunches, and chocolate milk for everybody. In the streets of America the forces of populism are demanding and end to all that. In the corridors of power over in Europe, the boys in accounting have finally obtained the attention of the politicos, and they are actually trying the austerity thing. In the corridors of power here in America, the boys in accounting have all drawn themselves a warm bath, have written a note to the emperor, and have slit their wrists. Right? Wrong? These are interesting words.

The words of the wise are wise. Anything that cannot continue indefinitely won't. The president can't walk on water, regardless of how many poor people would have been helped as a result. But some people persist in talking and writing as though the economic decisions we are now facing are a simple matter of doing this thing or that, as though the "doing" were possible either way. Impossibilities can be papered over with professed good intentions. The word professed is italicized for a reason.

George Bernard Shaw once observed that the one who robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul. But eventually the wisdom of Lady Thatcher comes to bear -- the problem with socialism is that sooner or later, you run out of other people's money. In this case, while robbing Peter to pay Paul, we have come to discover that Peter's wallet does not contain an endless supply of happy times for others. He is approaching a state called broke, and Paul is somewhat peevish about it. "What about the children?" he askes plaintively. In case you haven't met him, Paul runs the Largesse for the Children Program, and his staff is starting to look wan and pale . . . worried almost.

If anyone is disposed to be dismissive of this line of argument, I would simply encourage him to make the whole debate moot.

"Why don't you just write us a check for the national debt?" I wonder. "Then we can start over."

"I don't have the money," he might reply.

"Oh," I would say. "I didn't know that was necessary. What do you mean by 'having the money'?  I am running across lots of interesting concepts today."

The Idols Lie Broken in the Temple of Baal

The Ben Bernank

We posted recently on the folly of quantitative easing, as now being carried out by the Federal Reserve in the US. It is an example of how we move from folly to folly, endless booms to busts. It is part of God's judgement and discipline upon Western society because it lives to vaunt itself against God.

A hilarious animation has been produced which holds the entire modern monetary system and the current Fed policy up to ridicule. Enjoy. Some things are just so stupid that laughter is the best medicine.

It is the fool who has said in his heart, there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Our modern Western culture has become the parody of an asylum run by inmates. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. Deliver us from our folly and return us to You. If You do not come to us, we are without hope. Our leaders are idolaters, and our wise are as serpents. Our teachers are false prophets, and the people lie in great darkness. In Your justice, remember mercy.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Ultimate Truth Has Hair on His Arms

Books in the Making - Chrestomathy
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Another common objection to the early creeds is their supposed 'Hellenism.' The early church was limited by its Greek cultural surroundings, so the argument goes, and so of course it is understandable that they unwittingly imported Hellenistic concepts into the Hebrew world of Scripture. This objection is tiresome because of the ignorance manifested by it, but it is also kind of fun to answer. The early creeds, foremost among them Nicaea and Chalcedon, were to Hellenism what Waterloo was to Napoloeon. It is quite true that the early centuries were a time of pitched battle between Hebraism and Hellenism in the church. It is quite true that this is what was at stake during these councils. But it was the heretics who wanted to make an accommodation with Hellenism, and it was men like Athanasius who maintained that the Eternal Word had ten fingers and ten toes -- something unspeakably offensive to the philosophical Greek mind" ("Sola Scriptura, Creeds, and Ecclesiastical Authority" in When Shall These Things Be? pp. 280-281).

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

Rigorous Audits as Far as the Eye Can See

Does New Zealand suffer from corruption? That's like asking whether the sun will rise tomorrow. Of course we suffer from corruption.

New Zealand has an army of organizations and "service providers" dependant upon government grants and largesse. It has another army of bureaucrats aspiring to regulate everything, including even the rear end of cows. Large dollops of unworked for cash, just waiting to be appropriated, for innumerable causes and concerns, is far too big a temptation for some. State appropriation easily becomes a personal expropriation. Corruption is inevitable under such conditions.

What is becoming more evident, however, is that the corruption appears increasingly systemic. We mean by this that it is becoming institutionalised. Personnel "flit" from bureaucracy to service provider, from gamekeeper to poacher. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours--all on the taxpayer's dollar. This is the lesson emerging from the Taeaomanino Trust scandal.

Now, at first glance, it appeared that the TT scandal was of the garden variety kind--that is, a few Trust executives skimming off a bit of government money to line their own pockets, coupled with a smelly dose of nepotism. This, according to the Dom Post:
A taxpayer-funded trust – awarded Government contracts worth up to $1.5 million – is being investigated by police after more than $100,000 went missing. Taeaomanino Trust, based at Porirua, faces allegations about over-inflated expense claims and senior managers employing relatives and then pocketing their salaries. . . .

Ifopo So'o, who founded the trust with his wife, Paula Masoe, was dismissed in March last year after $107,000 went missing.

The Ministry of Social Development, upon hearing the smelly rumours, commissioned an audit by Deloittes. It was damning.
The Deloitte report investigated 10 allegations about the trust and its staff. It found:

Two relatives of Mr So'o and Ms Masoe were employed as cleaners but did not clean at the trust. Their wages were diverted into accounts held in Ms Masoe and Mr So'o's name.

Ms Masoe claimed expenses of $3500 for a carpet but there was no evidence it was laid.

$5058 was claimed for accommodation and training – but no receipts provided.

The trust's New World card was used to buy baby wipes, lamb chops, salmon fillets, fruit and vegetables.

Expenses were claimed for cigarettes and magazines. Ms Masoe claimed $4500 for use of her personal vehicle.

Ms Masoe was overpaid for 93 days of leave.
Despite this, six months later the good old TT was awarded a government grant of half a million dollars to help poor families. Then, to add insult to injury, the government recently awarded a Whanau Ora grant to TT
Last month Taeaomanino was selected as a provider for the controversial Whanau Ora scheme, in a contract thought to be worth up to $1 million. . . . (A Ministry spokesman) added: "Taeaomanino Trust has recently been awarded Whanau Ora funding. I can assure you that the trust was subject to a robust and rigorous tender process."

(A Trust spokesman) "Since the trust was formed, it has been subject to many audits and reviews as part of the rigorous government and DHB tender and contract awarding procedure."

Do you get the impression there is a bit of mutual butt covering going on here? Now the plot thickens, and corruption appears to be oozing out in yet more places, like a PSA blasted kiwifruit vine.
A Child, Youth and Family worker tasked with investigating a taxpayer-funded trust facing damning allegations is now a senior manager there.

Sandie Hill was a CYF approvals assessor and was asked to conduct an inquiry into Porirua's Taeaomanino Trust in February last year. The review followed the resignation of operations manager Ifopo So'o, who admitted misappropriating more than $100,000.

Four months later, after she had completed her review, Ms Hill left CYF to take a job as the trust's operations manager, replacing Mr So'o.

In a further twist, her CYF supervisor, Matey Galloway, had just completed a year-long study placement with the trust.
Good old Matey. Yup, those audits and reviews were clearly robust and rigorous. "Move along, move along. Nothing to see here."

Friday, 19 November 2010

Theological Rap


If any of us have ever entertained the notion that rap music is "of the devil" and as a musical form it is irredeemable, take a look and listen to the following. It is the first ever rap song about the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the great confessional statements of the Church.

C J Mahoney describes what happened at a recent conference he attended:
On a stage in front of 2,800 attendees at the 2010 NEXT conference, I called out my friend Curtis Allen.

Kevin DeYoung was speaking at the conference, and the focus of his newest book was the Heidelberg Catechism. He called it The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism (Moody, 2010). So at NEXT 2010 I challenged Curtis (aka Voice) to write and record a rap song to promote Kevin's book and the catechism.

Curtis delivered.

On Friday, this is what he sent me: Click on the player, here.


Verse 1

Yeah I'm on a mission like a couple spies, and that guys is the reason why I catechize. The good news we almost forgot I recognize, Heidelberg rediscovering the gospel prize. It's not scripture but the truth in it will mention he, introduction hide and seek the 16th century. Written in a time when your mind was the weaponry, this document is back into the populace shouts to Kevin D. Better than you think not as bad as you remember, purpose driven truth, from Frederick the elector. He would initiate, the 129 questions to illustrate truths like Christ propitiates. All in a document, whose purpose was to teach children, a guide for preachers, and confessions in a church building. And this is all fact The Heidelberg Cat has been around but now it's seem like it is coming back.


We believe in the cross, believe in his life,
We believe in his death, believe he's the Christ.
We believe that he rose from grave yes it is him
And we read the Heidelberg Catechism

We believe in the after life and we believe nothing's after Christ, so we stand our ground, cuz the truth's been around from the word to the Heidelberg.

Verse 2

Year of the Heidelberg resulting in renewed passion, and we could see it in our lives lights camera action. Let's take a gander and address a few questions from Heidelberg document then look at the answers. But before that make sure that, you know how it's broken down, in a Q & A format, a few sections. Suggestions how to read this not to sound promotional, but Kevin put it in his book to make it a devotional. Each question each answer has a bit of commentary, so the application of it is not some involuntary. Mystery, the history screams through rings true but I'll just leave that up to God, cuz that's between you. to believe, but to believe you gotta read you and then you meditate on all the truths that the Heidelberg will illustrate. What's that the catechism homey where you been the good news we almost forgot let's get it in!

Verse 3

From the word to the Heidelberg, we see that what's the comfort of life should come first. And in death that I with, body and soul but belong to the savior, commentary from me man, tell this to your neighbor. Moving on, how many things are necessary for thee, enjoying this comfort, to live and die happily? Three, my sin's misery, deliverance from sin, and gratitude for God is how the answer ends. Let's stretch it out the Lord's day 23 the grandaddy of them all, questions 59 and 60. What good does it do to believe in all this? In Christ I am right heir to the promise. Paraphrase, anyways I'm kinda limited I'm just trying to say a couple things my man Kevin did. On the Heidelberg, go and get you one, and by the way CJ homey this was fun.

Of Iron Bars and Foolish Men

 "Helicopter Ben" Provides an Object Lesson for the Wise

Ah, the foolish pride of fallen man.  Civil government is a vital institution, appointed by God, for the good of man.  But when cultures and governments seek to cast off the restraints of God and make a name for themselves instead, bad consequences always follow.  God carries an iron bar, with which He smashes arrogant nations (Psalm 2:9).  Therefore, God says that kings and magistrates are to be warned, and they must show discernment.  They must tremble.  They must bow before the Son.  They must take refuge in Him, not vaunt themselves beyond their duties and stations. 

Now, we know full well that any government in our modern world which proclaims its limitedness and inability and incompetence to fix every problem does not last long at the ballot box.  The people need a god, and government is the deity of the age.  So, responsibility for the minatory divine iron bar hovering over our soon-to-be-smashed pots rests not just with our governors, but with us, the governed, who slavishly genuflect before that which we have taken as our deity.

When governments breach their God-ordained boundaries and go beyond, bad consequences always follow.  These bad consequences are God's iron bar at work.  God is laughing at us and mocking us for our arrogance and pride (Psalm 2:4)--we who have proudly boasted that we will cast of God's fetters and cut His cords.

Here is a case study--at which all of God's people will join our Heavenly Father and grimly laugh at the idiocy of Unbelieving man. When governments manipulate currency, speculative bubbles, which subsequently burst to the pain of many are the result.  So, we in the Western world are in the midst of working through the consequences of a burst residential housing bubble which threatened to bring the entire global monetary system down.  While the causes of the international housing bubble were multilateral, without doubt one of the most damaging drivers was the US Federal Reserve, which, in an attempt to recover from the tech crash of 2002, kept interest rates low through easy monetary policies for years.  The result: another bubble rapidly formed--cheap money flowed into residential housing, pushing up prices and encouraging speculative activity--until that bubble burst in 2008.

Pain everywhere.  Bankruptcies, foreclosures, unemployment, businesses going bust, shattered lives, vast extensions of crushing national debt.  God's iron bar has been busy amongst the broken pots.  But do they learn?  No.  Government and its agencies are competent.  They are to be trusted.  They know what they are doing.  Everyone desperately wants to believe this because they have put their faith in government as their god.

Now the Federal Reserve is doubling down.  Having caused the latest crash with its easy money policies throughout the decade, it is now creating more easy money than ever before in a vain attempt to climb out of the recession it had indirectly caused in the first place.  The result: easy money is flooding into new speculative bubbles.  More crashes, more ruination, more smashed potsherds on the way.  A recent article in Bloomberg tells the story. As a result of the actions of the Fed, the US and the rest of the world has started the mother-of-all carry trades. A "carry trade" is essentially buying something where it is cheap and "carrying it" to where you can sell it for a higher price.

Smart corporations around the world have worked out that it is now ridiculously cheap to borrow money in the US (thanks to Ben Bernanke) and invest it in higher growth areas. They are rushing to get some of Ben's freshly printed money, with virtually zero interest rates attached, then returning to their home jurisdictions, selling the American dollars for local currency (thereby pushing down the value of the US dollar still further), investing it, getting a reasonable return, then eventually paying back the US in depreciated US dollars. The trade is a no-brainer.

Foreign companies also are tapping U.S. markets for cheap cash, selling $605.9 billion in debt through Nov. 15 compared with $371.8 billion for all of 2007, before the Fed cut the overnight bank-lending rate to a range of zero to 0.25 percent.

Sinochem Group, the Beijing-based petroleum, fertilizer and chemicals producer, sold $2 billion of 10- and 30-year bonds on Nov. 4. Two days earlier, state-owned Korea National Oil Corp., based south of Seoul in Gyeonggi, sold $700 million of five-year senior unsecured notes, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Corporate cash sloshing across U.S. borders is an unavoidable consequence of the Fed’s low-rate strategy, Wood said. Export Development Canada, the government agency that provides financing help for Canadian exporters, last month tapped the U.S. market for $1 billion in 1.25 percent notes. Those funds also will be available to support companies’ domestic activities, following a two-year expansion of the agency’s mission in 2009 to help businesses navigate the credit crunch.
Then follows the understatement of the week:
“I have begun to wonder if the monetary accommodation we have already engineered might even be working in the wrong places,” Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said in an Oct. 19 speech.
Yuh thunk?

And the same carry trade is now well underway amongst American companies with offshore business interests.
U.S. corporations’ overseas investment in the first half of 2010 exceeded the amount that foreign firms spent in the U.S. on factories and acquisitions at an annual rate of almost $220 billion, according to the Commerce Department. In the first half of 2006, the last year before the financial crisis, the net flow favored the U.S. at an annual rate of about $30 billion.

More than half of outbound investment this year landed in Europe, Commerce data show. In April, Valmont Industries Inc., which manufactures light poles and communication towers, issued $300 million in 10-year notes. The Omaha-based company said it would use the proceeds to help fund its $439 million acquisition of Delta PLC, a London-based maker of similar products. . . .
There’s no mystery behind corporations’ interest in foreign markets. As the U.S. struggles to recover from the deepest recession since World War II, business prospects in other countries are brighter. The International Monetary Fund predicts the U.S. economy will grow at an annual rate of 2.3 percent next year, compared with 9.6 percent in China, 8.4 percent in India and 6 percent in Chile.
 So, an iron bar has just smashed into Ben Bernanke's money helicopter.  He launched it to help the US economy recover--in particular, to reduce unemployment, so as to help prevent all those housing foreclosures.  Instead, the money is rapidly moving offshore because carry trades appear to offer good, low-risk returns.  Meanwhile, bubbles begin to form and grow.  We already have one in commodities and raw materials well underway.  US corporations will inevitably over-invest offshore (the carry trade obscures the risks and makes speculative investment appear relatively secure).  That bubble will burst eventually as well, leading to billions being wiped off US corporate balance sheets yet again, causing yet more stress--including to banks, who will have been risking their balance sheets to help fund US corporate offshore expansions. 

Lingering stagflation is now the most likely outcome in the US.  Year of low, dribbling domestic economic growth, coupled with rising prices due to higher commodity prices and higher imported goods costs. 

God's iron bar at work amongst the potsherds. 

The antidote, we hear you ask?  There is none--as long as Unbelief continues to deny God, and looks to government instead.  Well, actually the antidote is simple.  Don't create money out of nothing.  Let the market set the price of money (interest rates).  Invigilate over fraud, false representation, incomplete disclosure, conflicts of interest, and acting in bad faith.  Let business failures fall where they may. 

We are, however, absolutely certain that this antidote will not be considered for a moment--any more than a heroin addict will give up simply because he is asked to stop using.  The people will not let their government apply the antidote--until the day comes when what is printed on US currency is true--that indeed, the nation overwhelmingly actually does place its trust in the Living God, and not in government. 

Until that time, God's bar will continue to lay devastation down.