Friday, 30 June 2017

Bias Beyond Credulity

Sorry Ladies, You’re the Wrong Kind of Muslims

The latest in profiles in cowardice from Senate Democrats.

Thomas J. Craughwell
The American Spectator

The two women invited to the Dirksen Senate Office Building a couple of  weeks ago seemed like the kind of expert witnesses any Democrat, especially a female Democrat, would love. Both have become respected academics, authors, and activists for women’s rights. Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism. Both are Muslims, and both are critical of Muslim extremism, but for way too many Democrats that point of view is not legitimate.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia to a Muslim family. As a young girl she suffered genital mutilation. Her family and friends followed such an intense form of Islam that in her teens she cheerfully looked forward to the day when the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie would be carried out at last. When her family tried to force her into marriage, she fled Africa for the Netherlands.

There she met director Theo Van Gogh; together they made a film critical of extreme interpretations of Islam which sanction the abuse, degradation, even the killing of Muslim women. After the film was released, Van Gogh was murdered on a city street by a terrorist. Pinned to his clothes was a note declaring that Hirsi Ali would be next. Today, Ali is in the United States. She is a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of two best-sellers, Heretic and Infidel. And she has renounced her Muslim faith. Because of all these factors, her life is in constant danger.

The other witness was Asra Nomani, a writer and activist for equal rights for women in Islam.

Daily Meditation

Burnt Black With Bigoted Zeal

Ephraim is a cake not turned.  Hosea 7:8

Charles H. Spurgeon

A cake not turned is uncooked on one side; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace: though there was some partial obedience, there was very much rebellion left. My soul, I charge thee, see whether this be thy case. Art thou thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone through the very centre of thy being so as to be felt in its divine operations in all thy powers, thy actions, thy words, and thy thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be thine aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be perfect in thee anywhere in degree, yet it must be universal in its action; there must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, else thou, too, wilt be a cake not turned.

A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the fire, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic ostentation of those religious performances which suit their humour. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.

If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of thy love and let it feel the sacred glow, and let my burnt side cool a little while I learn my own weakness and want of heat when I am removed from thy heavenly flame. Let me not be found a double-minded man, but one entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace; for well I know if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of thy grace, I must be consumed forever amid everlasting burnings.

Oracles of Life and Death

Either The Delphic Oracle or Jesus Christ

One has to have a big dose of sympathy for Stephen Hawking.  He has worn the robes of global High Priest for decades now.  He is the guy one goes to when one wants to hear about our sins and what needs be done to atone for them.  He has also worn the garb of a Prophet, declaiming evil and charging us with obedience to a higher, true law.  Moreover, he carries the aura of the divine about him: he is cerebral and brilliant--the kind of human being that, if we are honest is believed to be a demi-god.

These things are heavy indeed.  They carry enormous responsibility.  When folk come and ask for utterance which they regard as the effusions of a modern Delphic Oracle, the duty is onerous, to say the least.  And even more so when the Oracle has become so discouraged at the prospects for humanity that he is counselling escape from the earth and setting up somewhere in the galaxy, or beyond, on another planet.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Politics of Contempt

It's Entertaining, To Say the Least

Bret Stephens has written a piece in the NY Times entitled, Democrats and the Losing Politics of Contempt.  He was reflecting upon the recent by-election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.  The former incumbent, Tom Price had joined the Trump Administration.  The vacant seat needed to be filled: hence, the fresh election.

The Great White Hope for the Democrats lost to the Republican.  True, this was a strong Republican district.  It was mainly white and gentrified.  But the hope was that folk would be so off-put by the discombobulation of Trumpism that an electoral upset might be likely.  The Democrats certainly threw all but the kitchen sink at the challenge.  No dice.  Republican Karen Handel was duly elected.
Stephens' analysis included a breath of cold caution to the Democratic Party.  Included was this:

Daily Meditation

Faith Honors Him Whom It Trusts

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. (Romans 4:20)

John Piper

I long for God to be glorified in our pursuit of holiness and love. But God is not glorified unless our pursuit is empowered by faith in his promises.

And the God who revealed himself most fully in Jesus Christ, who was crucified for our sins and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25), is most glorified when we embrace his promises with joyful firmness because they are bought by the blood of his Son.

God is honored when we are humbled for our feebleness and failure, and when he is trusted for future grace (Romans 4:20). So unless we learn how to live by faith in future grace, we may perform remarkable religious rigors, but not for God’s glory.

He is glorified when the power to be holy comes from humble faith in future grace.  Martin Luther said, “[Faith] honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard, since it considers him truthful and trustworthy.” The trusted Giver gets the glory.

My great desire is that we learn how to live for God’s honor. And that means living by faith in future grace, which, in turn, means battling unbelief in all the ways it rears its head

Burke Vs Paine Part 6: Ticky-Tacky Houses That All Look Just the Same

Abstract Principles and The Tyrannies They Produce

In the matter of government and governing Thomas Paine had a simplistic, rationalistic approach.  He took hold of some core philosophical principles (for example, the equality of all human beings) and insisted that a government reflect that abstract principle in all its operations.  The consequence was a concentration of power in the hands of a governing elite.  In other words, the paradox of Paine's simplistic nostrums was that government, ostensibly subject to the rights of all men, inevitably became a Leviathan subjugating all men to its will.

Burke's approach was far more moderate.  Things came to be the way they were over a long time.  Overnight, sudden change would inevitably destroy conventions, habits, practices--and the beliefs upon which they were based.  An example of the difference between the two was the debate between Paine and Burke over the intent of the revolutionary assembly in France to divide that country into perfectly square districts, rather than govern according to Frances traditional, messy regions.
The eradication of traditional attachments and practices that would follow such a move . . . would not eliminate prejudices and attach people to their national identity, as the revolutionaries hoped.  Instead, Burke argues, it would crush all attachment to community and leave an unrestrained Paris government in charge of a greatly weakened nation.  [Yuval Levin, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left (New York: Basic Books, 2014), p.132.]
The ancient Assyrians understood the implications of this basic idea.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Hard Men Taking the Paths of the Dead

The Boniface Option

Andrew Isker
Kuyperian Commentary

Nearly thirteen centuries ago, my ancestors, the people east of the Rhine, were tribal, pagan savages. They were not nice people.  They worshipped the Norse gods like Thor and Odin and had tattoos all over their bodies marking their devotion to him and their devotion to their tribe. Like most tribal societies, anyone who was not part of the tribe was more or less subhuman and fit for being robbed, murdered, and/or raped. They practiced human sacrifice. They weren’t all that different from ISIS today.

Into this world went a humble Benedictine monk named Winfrid. He left the cloister to become a missionary. Pope Gregory II appointed this missionary monk as bishop of then-pagan Germania and gave him a new name: Boniface. Boniface went through Germania preaching the gospel and destroying pagan idols and shrines and leaving churches in their place. The pagans he converted were my ancestors.

And to their great shrine venerated by these people Boniface went: to the Oak of Thor, where my ancestors sacrificed to their god of thunder.

Daily Meditation

Keep Keeping On

TO EDWARD LOFSTROM: A letter of great encouragement for someone who had been struggling with excessive self-awareness.

C. S. Lewis

10 June 1962

You are of course perfectly right in defining your problem (which is also mine and everyone’s) as ‘excessive selfness’. But perhaps you don’t fully realise how far you have got by so defining it. All have this disease; fortunate are the minority who know they have it. To know that one is dreaming is to be already nearly awake, even if, for the present, one can’t wake up fully. And you have actually got further than that. You have got beyond the illusion (very common) that to recognise a chasm is the same thing as building a bridge over it.

Your danger now is that of being hypnotised by the mere sight of the charm, of constantly looking at this excessive selfness. The important thing now is to go steadily on acting, so far as you can—and you certainly can to some extent, however small—as if it wasn’t there. You can, and I expect you daily do—behave with some degree of unselfishness. You can and do make some attempt at prayer. The continual voice which tells you that your best actions are secretly filled with subtle self-regards, and your best prayers still wholly egocentric—must for the most part be simply disregarded—as one disregards the impulse to keep on looking under the bandage to see whether the cut is healing. If you are always fidgeting with the bandage, it never will.

A text you should keep much is mind is I John iii, 20: ‘If our heart condemns us God is greater than our heart.’ I sometimes pray ‘Lord give me no more and no less self-knowledge than I can at this moment make a good use of.’ Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted—i.e., keep on fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk—don’t keep on looking at it.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers

The Rising Religious Fervour of Political Discourse

We Cannot Serve Both God and Baal

All people worship someone or something.  In Christian terms we would say, all human beings either worship God and His Messiah, or they worship the Devil.  There is no neutral ground. Now, of course, the Satan has a bunch of "front organisations", but all, ultimately, are fronts for his grand rebellion against the Almighty.

For example, agnosticism is not a neutral place: it is a "soft" declaration that God does not exist.  Atheism is a "hard" declaration of the same.  In both cases, the agnostic and the atheist are serving the only other alternative: the one whom Christ's spokesman, Paul "outed" by calling him the god of this world.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  [II Corinthians 4:4]
As atheism and agnosticism spread across the Western world the secularist's god manifests himself through the institution of the secular state.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Judicial Rebellion Quashed

Radical Lower-Court Justices Body Slammed

The US Supreme Court has handed down a momentous decision.  Yes, said the justices, the President of the United States can stop visitors and migrants from entering the United States when national security is at stake.

This case is momentous for a number of reasons.  At the top of the list is the Supreme Court's body slam of judicial overreach where the un-elected judicial branch of government was arrogating to itself more and more powers over the legislative and executive branches of government.

David French reviews the case and decision:

Daily Meditation

Worth Far More Than a Ton of Gold

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said ... Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods.  Daniel 3:16-18

Charles H. Spurgeon

The narrative of the manly courage and marvellous deliverance of the three holy children, or rather champions, is well calculated to excite in the minds of believers firmness and steadfastness in upholding the truth in the teeth of tyranny and in the very jaws of death. Let young Christians especially learn from their example, both in matters of faith in religion, and matters of uprightness in business, never to sacrifice their consciences.

Lose all rather than lose your integrity, and when all else is gone, still hold fast a clear conscience as the rarest jewel which can adorn the bosom of a mortal. Be not guided by the will-o'-the-wisp of policy, but by the pole-star of divine authority. Follow the right at all hazards. When you see no present advantage, walk by faith and not by sight. Do God the honour to trust him when it comes to matters of loss for the sake of principle. See whether he will be your debtor! See if he doth not even in this life prove his word that "Godliness, with contentment, is great gain," and that they who "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, shall have all these things added unto them."

Should it happen that, in the providence of God, you are a loser by conscience, you shall find that if the Lord pays you not back in the silver of earthly prosperity, he will discharge his promise in the gold of spiritual joy. Remember that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of that which he possesseth.

To wear a guileless spirit, to have a heart void of offence, to have the favour and smile of God, is greater riches than the mines of Ophir could yield, or the traffic of Tyre could win. "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and inward contention therewith." An ounce of heart's-ease is worth a ton of gold.

Progress In An Ideological And Bloody War

Abortion in New Zealand

Abortion is becoming less common in New Zealand.  We at this blog believe that a single abortion is one too many, in that abortion is an act of wilfully killing another, defenseless human being.  That said, it is encouraging that the practice is reducing in this country.

Here are the highlights from Statistics New Zealand.

In the year ended December 2016:

12,823 abortions were performed in New Zealand, 332 (3 percent) fewer than in 2015 (13,155).

The general abortion rate was 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, down from 14.2 per 1,000 in 2015.

Women aged 20–24 years had the highest abortion rate (21 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 years), down from a high of 41 in 2003.

Most abortions (64 percent) were a woman's first abortion.

57 percent of abortions were performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy.

18 percent of known pregnancies (live births, stillbirths, and abortions) ended in an abortion.
Doubtless the causes of the decline of abortions are various.  But the progress made should stimulate us all to redouble our efforts.  Let's remember that one abortion per year is one too many.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Why is the FBI Being Deliberately Obtuse?

Bizarre FBI Briefing On The GOP Baseball Shooting Case

The FBI tried to claim that the shooting at the baseball field was spontaneous and had no target, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Mollie Hemingway
The Federalist

The FBI gave an utterly bizarre update on its investigation into an attempt to assassinate Republican members of Congress. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) remains in the hospital from the attempt on his life in which two police officers and a congressional staffer were also shot. The hospital upgraded his condition to “fair” and said he faces a long recovery.

Americans may know, thanks to public social media profiles, that attempted murderer James Hodgkinson was an active Democratic activist and Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who hated Republican members of Congress. He held membership in multiple social media groups strongly opposed to Republicans, such as “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Join the Resistance Worldwide,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “Terminate the Republican Party,” “Boycott the Republican Party,” and “Expose Republican Fraud,” among dozens of other groups. He was a voracious consumer of liberal media and believed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to secure the White House.

The FBI admits that Hodgkinson:

Daily Meditation

I Can Be Content in All Things

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

John Piper

God’s provision of day-by-day future grace enables Paul to be filled or to be hungry, to prosper or suffer, to have abundance or go wanting.  “I can do all things” really means “all things,” not just easy things. “All things” means, “Through Christ I can hunger and suffer and be in want.” This puts the stunning promise of verse 19 in its proper light: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

What does “every need of yours” mean in view of Philippians 4:19? It means “all that you need for God-glorifying contentment.” Paul’s love for the Philippians flowed from his contentment in God, and his contentment flowed from his faith in the future grace of God’s infallible provision.

It’s obvious then that covetousness is exactly the opposite of faith. It’s the loss of contentment in Christ so that we start to crave other things to satisfy the longings of our hearts. And there’s no mistaking that the battle against covetousness is a battle against unbelief and a battle for faith in future grace.

Whenever we sense the slightest rise of covetousness in our hearts, we must turn on it and fight it with all our might using the weapons of faith.

Burke Vs Paine, Part V--The Triumph of Thomas Paine

How Thomas Paine Lost the Battle, but Won the War

One of the abiding failures of Thomas Paine has to do with his ardent support for the French Revolution.  This was not the first revolution he championed.  That sobriquet falls upon the American War for Independence or the American Revolution.  But being on "the right side" of history with respect to America shaking off English imperialism was due to a deep sense of mistrust of government on the American side and the the need to keep a measure of  control over those who rule.  Hence the development of the "American system" of limited government, its division of powers, and being bound to a constitution.

When it came to the French Revolution a few years later, Tom Paine was, once again, in boots'n all.  Human rights, human freedom--and the power of a just state to command both at will, justified by appealing to a "higher law", namely, "the will of the people".   But without the checks and balances of American colonial society, the whole enterprise soon turned bloody.

Tom Paine was consequently discredited.  Yet, now we find him resurrected and the ideological victor in our day.  The West has largely followed in Paine's train.  We do not mean that the West has descended into an orgy of totalitarian bloodletting, abortion notwithstanding; rather, we refer to Paine's latter day view of the state as a welfare institution.  In later life, Paine developed the idea of a state with vastly expanded powers, existing to satisfy the "demand rights" of humans.

His old debating foe, Edmund Burke had a much more cautious position.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Case That Screams Out for Appeal

The Philando Castile Verdict Was a Miscarriage of Justice

David French

. . .  a Minnesota jury acquitted St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez of second-degree manslaughter charges in the shooting of Philando Castile. In considering the rightness of the verdict, pay close attention to the transcript of the fatal encounter. 

Here it is, via CNN: 

9:05:00 p.m. — Castile’s vehicle came to a complete stop. 

9:05:15 – 9:05:22 p.m. — Yanez approached Castile’s car on the driver’s side. 

9:05:22 – 9:05:38 p.m. — Yanez exchanged greetings with Castile and told him of the brake light problem. 

9:05:33 p.m. — St. Anthony Police Officer Joseph Kauser, who had arrived as backup, approached Castile’s car on the passenger’s side. 

9:05:38 p.m. — Yanez asked for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance. 

9:05:48 p.m. — Castile provided Yanez with his proof of insurance card. 

9:05:49 – 9:05:52 p.m. — Yanez looked at Castile’s insurance information and then tucked the card in his pocket. 

9:05:52 – 9:05:55 p.m. — Castile told Yanez: “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.” Before Castile completed the sentence, Yanez interrupted and replied, “Okay” and placed his right hand on the holster of his gun. 

9:05:55 – 9:06:02 p.m. — Yanez said “Okay, don’t reach for it, then.” Castile responded: “I’m… I’m … [inaudible] reaching…,” before being again interrupted by Yanez, who said “Don’t pull it out.” Castile responded, “I’m not pulling it out,” and Reynolds said, “He’s not pulling it out.” Yanez screamed: “Don’t pull it out,” and pulled his gun with his right hand. 

Yanez fired seven shots in the direction of Castile in rapid succession. The seventh shot was fired at 9:06:02 p.m. Kauser did not touch or remove his gun. 

9:06:03 – 9:06:04 p.m. — Reynolds yelled, “You just killed my boyfriend!” 

9:06:04 – 9:06:05 p.m. — Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it.” These were his last words. 

9:06:05 – 9:06:09 p.m. — Reynolds said “He wasn’t reaching for it.” Before she completed her sentence, Yanez screamed “Don’t pull it out!” Reynolds responded. “He wasn’t.” Yanez yelled, “Don’t move! F***!” 

If you read carefully, you’ll note that it appears that the officer shot Castile for doing exactly what the officer told him to do.

Daily Meditation

Lest We Forget

TO JULIE HALVORSON, possibly the daughter of a correspondent

C. S. Lewis

March 1956

Thank you for the most charming letter I have received in a long time. It made me very happy.

I am also glad that your class has been enjoying the Narnian stories. But especially am I happy that you know who Aslan is. Never forget Him.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

A Lone-Wolf Killer Is Never Alone

Vigilantism and Lawlessness

A lawless society is one where, ironically, people take the law into their own hands.  We have seen yet another example, in this case from the United Kingdom.  A man from Wales, father of four, decided to be judge, jury, and executioner on his own account, and used his van as a weapon, running down an entirely innocent person.  He committed murder.  The great, eternal indictment of God now stands against him: "Thou shalt not kill".

It's early days, and we don't yet know enough about the individual involved.  Initial reports indicate that he was a troubled individual, estranged from family and friends, acting bizarrely at times.  It is possible that he was becoming progressively unhinged and manic.  For whatever reason, he determined that he would kill some Muslim people, despite having Muslim acquaintances with whom he was on friendly terms.

Somewhere along the line he decided to take the law into his own hands.  He would "set things to right".  He would help relieve Britain of the lawless, murderous terrorist attacks inflicted upon it almost daily by Islamic insurgents.  He would exact vengeance and murder some Muslims on his own account.

Why do people take the law into their own hands?

Friday, 23 June 2017

Letter From America: At Last--Some Sanity From the Left

Let’s Not Get Carried Away

David Brooks
New York Times

I was the op-ed editor at The Wall Street Journal at the peak of the Whitewater scandal. We ran a series of investigative pieces “raising serious questions” (as we say in the scandal business) about the nefarious things the Clintons were thought to have done back in Arkansas.

Now I confess I couldn’t follow all the actual allegations made in those essays. They were six jungles deep in the weeds. But I do remember the intense atmosphere that the scandal created. A series of bombshell revelations came out in the media, which seemed monumental at the time. A special prosecutor was appointed and indictments were expected. Speculation became the national sport.

In retrospect Whitewater seems overblown. And yet it has to be confessed that, at least so far, the Whitewater scandal was far more substantive than the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington.

There may be a giant revelation still to come. But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred — that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians. Everything seems to be leaking out of this administration, but so far the leaks about actual collusion are meager.

Daily Meditation

Grace Is Pardon — and Power!

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God which is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

John Piper

Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.  This is plain, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:10. Paul describes grace as the enabling power of his work. It is not simply the pardon of his sins, it is the power to press on in obedience.

Therefore the effort we make to obey God is not an effort done in our own strength, but “in the strength which God supplies, that in everything God may get the glory” (1 Peter 4:11). It is the obedience of faith.  Paul confirms this in 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 by calling our acts of goodness “works of faith” and by saying that the glory this brings to Jesus is “according to the grace of God” because it happens “by [his] power”:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by [his] power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The obedience that gives God pleasure is produced by the power of God’s grace through faith. The same dynamic is at work at every stage of the Christian life. The power of God’s grace that saves through faith (Ephesians 2:8) is the same power of God’s grace that sanctifies through faith.

Follow Up

Anti-Semitic Echoes Fade Away

We published recently upon an incident in Wellington City Council, (New Zealand) which implied latent anti-semitism was at work.  The piece can be read here.  

The matter has had two downstream consequences.  The first was a press release from the Jewish Council to The Wellington City Council.

Don’t close the door on kids’ singing by censoring Jewish history

The Wellington Regional Jewish Council has asked Artsplash Co-ordinator Mary Prichard to (in her words) “keep life simple” by reinstating three songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat into its programme for the September festival, using the correct words.

An apology for changing one word without permission has been made to the librettist, Sir Tim Rice, and he has accepted the apology, so there is no reason why the performance of the song with the correct words shouldn’t go ahead, Zwartz said.  “As we see it, the ‘trouble’ Mary Prichard refers to is an attempt to censor without explanation an event in Jewish history that took place about three-and-a-half thousand years ago.

“It is wrong to indicate to primary school children that something in the Jewish Torah – also included in the Christian Old Testament, and the Koran – needs to be altered, or avoided altogether,” Zwartz stated.  “It also undermines a strong move in New Zealand society for better understanding of every religion, as shown by the National Statement on Religious Diversity and the work of the Human Rights Commission.

Thursday, 22 June 2017


The Aftermath of Grenfell Tower

Monument to Our Cheapskate Society

Let This Blackened, Tragic Tower Stand 

Peter Hitchens
The Daily Mail

They should leave the burned-out Grenfell Tower where it is, as a lasting monument to the needlessly dead and as a warning to our complacent, self-satisfied society.  Shore it up, fence it off, and set a great stone slab next to it with a list of the names of those who died. Write on it in deeply incised, enormous letters ‘They Did Not Need To Die’.

Hold an annual service of remembrance at it, to which the great and the good feel obliged to go. We congratulate ourselves quite enough at such ceremonies – it is time we chastised and humiliated ourselves instead.

They should leave the burned-out Grenfell Tower where it is, as a lasting monument to the needlessly dead and as a warning to our complacent, self-satisfied society

I went to look at this sad sight on Thursday, as it is very close to our offices, and I felt I should see it to fully appreciate what had happened. It is as shocking and as miserable as anything I have seen in a war zone.

Daily Meditation

The Great Pillar of the Christian Hope

"The foundation of God standeth sure."  2 Timothy 2:19

Charles H. Spurgeon

The foundation upon which our faith rests is this, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." The great fact on which genuine faith relies is, that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," and that "Christ also hath suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God"; "Who himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree"; "For the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed."

In one word, the great pillar of the Christian's hope is substitution. The vicarious sacrifice of Christ for the guilty, Christ being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, Christ offering up a true and proper expiatory and substitutionary sacrifice in the room, place, and stead of as many as the Father gave him, who are known to God by name, and are recognized in their own hearts by their trusting in Jesus--this is the cardinal fact of the gospel.

If this foundation were removed, what could we do? But it standeth firm as the throne of God. We know it; we rest on it; we rejoice in it; and our delight is to hold it, to meditate upon it, and to proclaim it, while we desire to be actuated and moved by gratitude for it in every part of our life and conversation.

In these days a direct attack is made upon the doctrine of the atonement. Men cannot bear substitution. They gnash their teeth at the thought of the Lamb of God bearing the sin of man. But we, who know by experience the preciousness of this truth, will proclaim it in defiance of them confidently and unceasingly. We will neither dilute it nor change it, nor fritter it away in any shape or fashion. It shall still be Christ, a positive substitute, bearing human guilt and suffering in the stead of men. We cannot, dare not, give it up, for it is our life, and despite every controversy we feel that "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure."

Flaming Swords East of Eden

A Tortured, Confused Prophet

John Steinbeck is one of the more notable secular prophets of our age.  Consider, then, the following recitation from the "Steinbeck Confession of Faith":
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder.  Humans are caught--in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too--in a net of good and evil.  I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence.  Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners.  There is no other story.  A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil?  Have I done well--or ill?  [John Steinbeck, East of Eden (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1980.  First published in the USA by The Viking Press, 1952), p. 413.]
The first thing which strikes us is that this statement accurately reflects how most unredeemed, fallen sinners think.  It is indeed an apt statement of faith for most men born "East of Eden", driven out of the Garden of God to a wild desert place, and kept from returning by the swords of the flaming angels.

It begins by presupposing the existence of good and evil.  But Steinbeck must know that at the same time he has no standard to determine what is good or evil.  He, like so many, assumes that there is such a standard, a moral measuring stick, but it hangs on skyhooks, grounded in no certain foundation.  Steinbeck would likely not have survived the moral agosticism and radical relativism of the post-modern world in which we now live.

Steinbeck lived in an age of "works-righteousness" where it was believed possible to construct a weighing balance, with good one one side of the balance, and evil on the other.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Letter From the Netherlands (About Wilful Blindness)

Let’s Stop the Cowardice

Tell The Truth About Islam, Say Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

This week, a documentary called “Wilders” premiered at DocFest, a film festival for documentaries in the British town of Sheffield.  The documentary is made by American film director Stephen Robert Morse. Although he does not agree with my political views, he at least tried to bring a balanced story, which is more than I can say of many Dutch journalists.

I allowed Morse and his team to follow me around for a few months. The documentary shows how, due to Islamic death threats, I have to live under 24/7 police protection, am being driven around in armoured cars, am obliged to wear a bulletproof vest whenever I have to speak in public, etc.

Some live in almost similar situations, such as Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his Swedish colleague Lars Vilks, British author Salman Rushie, Danish historian Lars Hedegaard, and others. In that sense, this documentary is also a tribute to them. What we all have in common is that we are on Islam’s death list.   But what always strikes me is that I am the only elected politician on the list.

Daily Meditation

On God Speaking to Us

C. S. Lewis

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

From The Problem of Pain
Compiled in Words to Live By The Problem of Pain. Copyright © 1940, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Avoiding Trouble . . .

Latent Anti-Semitism?

The intellectual chattering classes throughout Europe and the English speaking world have moved over recent decades towards anti-semitism.  There are a number of reasons or causes--all of them either specious or evil.

One cannot help but wonder what was really going on amongst the bureaucrats at the Wellington City Council.  It's actions and words imply, either latent anti-semitism, or a fear of retribution from (unknown) anti-semites.  Here is the story:

Israel Spat for Wellington's Children's Festival Artsplash

NZ Herald
Wellington City Council has been forced to apologise to multi-award winning lyricist Sir Tim Rice, after the word "Israel" was removed from his work being used for a children's festival.  Lyrics from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were being used as part of Wellington's annual children's festival, Artsplash.

But the song sheets soon sparked controversy, after the line "Children of Israel" was changed to "Children of Kindness".  Questions were raised on Twitter by Kate Dowling, who asked why it was done.  That tweet prompted a response from Rice himself, who warned he hadn't given permission for any changes.  He described the "totally unauthorised" change of lyrics as "a terribly drippy and meaningless alteration".  Wellington City Council moved quickly to fix the mess, apologising and telling Rice they loved his work.  "A community coordinator made an error in judgement which we will rectify before the schoolkids perform in Sept. Sorry, we love your work."  [Wellington City Council--Artsplash]
So far, so good.  People make mistakes, right?

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Real Integrity With Respect to Islam

Jesuit Scholar: Islamic Extremists Are the True Muslims

Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.

Islamic extremists who carry out acts of terror are simply applying what their faith requires of them, according to Jesuit Father Henri Boulad, an Islamic scholar of the Egyptian Greek Melkite rite.
In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Boulad said that “Islam is an open-ended declaration of war against non-Muslims” and those who carry out violent jihad are true Muslims who are applying exactly what their creed demands.

Those who fail to recognize the real threat posed by Islam are naïve and ignorant of history, he said, and unfortunately many in the Church fall into this category.

Citing a letter he wrote last August to Pope Francis, Father Boulad said that “on the pretext of openness, tolerance and Christian charity — the Catholic Church has fallen into the trap of the liberal left ideology which is destroying the West.”

“Anything that does not espouse this ideology is immediately stigmatized in the name of ‘political correctness,’” he said.  The priest went so far as to chastise Pope Francis himself—a fellow Jesuit—suggesting that he has fallen into this trap as well.

Daily Meditation

What Kind of Prayer Pleases God?

“This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

The first mark of the upright heart is that it trembles at the Word of the Lord.

Isaiah 66 deals with the problem of some who worship in a way that pleases God and some who worship in a way that doesn’t. Verse 3 describes the wicked who bring their sacrifices: “He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man; and he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog’s neck.” Their sacrifices are an abomination to God — on a par with murder. Why?

In verse 4 God explains: “When I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not listen.” Their sacrifices were abominations to God because the people were deaf to his voice. But what about those whose prayers God heard? God says in verse 2, “This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

I conclude from this that the first mark of the upright, whose prayers are a delight to God, is that they tremble at God’s Word. These are the people to whom the Lord will look.

So the prayer of the upright that delights God comes from a heart that at first feels precarious in the presence of God. It trembles at the hearing of God’s Word, because it feels so far from God’s ideal and so vulnerable to his judgment and so helpless and so sorry for its failings.

This is just what David said in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” The first thing that makes a prayer acceptable to God is the brokenness and humility of the one who prays.

The Great Debate: Burke Vs Paine, Part IV

Human Freedom

Every political party, every social organization has a particular view of human nature and what is intrinsic to being human.  Most of us never stop to think what those respective views might be--so we end up accepting a view without thought.  Alternatively, we wander round in a confused haze.

Tom Paine represents the world view of human nature as atomised.  We come into this world without obligations being foisted upon us, or imputed to us.  We come into this world as tabula rasa, a blank slate.  This, according to Paine, represents true human freedom.

Burke, on the other hand, argued that we come into this world as a slate upon which a great deal has already been written and laid down, long before we were born.  Human nature is shaped and controlled by spiritual and societal and natural forces which, in effect, we inherit (for good or evil).
The role of consent in this view of society is secondary at best.  Social relations flow out of natural relations, and consent is assumed where it cannot be expressed, not because the individual chooses to accept his obligations, but because the consent of every rational creature is assumed to be in line with "the predisposed order of things."  This vision of society begins with the family--not the individual--and moves up toward society.  [Yuval Levin, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left (New York: Basic Books, 2014),  p. 103.]
It's worthwhile pausing and addressing a question to you, dear reader: Which view do you believe is right?

Monday, 19 June 2017

Disturbing Trends

Violence Is No Respecter of Persons

Is the Left prone to violence in its propagation of its ideology?  Clearly there are millions of left-wing folk who detest violence and eschew it to the depths of their being.  Clearly there are plenty of left-wing politicians who speak against attempting to promote their ideology by deploying force.  Nonetheless there is now a disturbing trend (it would seem) for some left wing folk to resort to aggressive behaviour, if not outright violence.

The latest example is James ‘Tom’ Hodgkinson, a left-wing protagonist who "shot congressman Steve Scalise during an attack on a Republican congressional baseball practice session on Wednesday, was a leftwing political activist with a record of domestic violence."  [The Guardian]

In this undated file photo, James Hodgkinson holds a sign during a protest outside of a United States Post Office in Belleville, Illinois.
James Hodgkinson

But this is not an isolated occurrence.

Daily Meditation

Blessed Redeemer

"Thy Redeemer."  Isaiah 54:5

Charles H. Spurgeon

Jesus, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours forever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd's staff, the father's rod, the captain's sword, the priest's mitre, the prince's sceptre, the prophet's mantle, all are ours. Jesus hath no dignity which he will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which he will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house.

His manhood also, which he took upon him for us, is ours in all its perfection. To us our gracious Lord communicates the spotless virtue of a stainless character; to us he gives the meritorious efficacy of a devoted life; on us he bestows the reward procured by obedient submission and incessant service. He makes the unsullied garment of his life our covering beauty; the glittering virtues of his character our ornaments and jewels; and the superhuman meekness of his death our boast and glory.

He bequeaths us his manger, from which to learn how God came down to man; and his Cross to teach us how man may go up to God. All his thoughts, emotions, actions, utterances, miracles, and intercessions, were for us. He trod the road of sorrow on our behalf, and hath made over to us as his heavenly legacy the full results of all the labours of his life. He is now as much ours as heretofore; and he blushes not to acknowledge himself "our Lord Jesus Christ," though he is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christ everywhere and every way is our Christ, forever and ever most richly to enjoy. O my soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit! call him "thy Redeemer."

The Problem With Materialism

All Brawn and No Brain

Sometimes the West seems to resemble a plane flying into the Twin Towers.  Western civilisation is crumbling, tearing apart, falling down.  Its centre cannot hold.  It leads many to panic.  Questions like What is going on?  or Why is this happening? are increasingly commonplace.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis began by making a commonplace enough observation about society in his day.  He writes:
Everyone has heard people quarrelling.  Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but, however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important  from listening to the kinds of things they say.  They say things like this: "How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?"-- "That's my seat, I was there first"--"Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm"--"Why should you shove in first?"--"Give me a piece of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine"--"Come on, you promised."  People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown ups.  [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: Fontana Books, 1956), p. 15.]
Despite a radical change in the dominant world-and-life view from what held fast in Lewis's day to our own, we can all identify with the kind of discourse Lewis describes above.  People still think and speak in these kinds of categories.  What are we to make of this?  Lewis continues:

Saturday, 17 June 2017

An Open Letter From Geert Wilders

‘The Bell Tolls for Europe’ 

Europeans Are in Danger of Being Replaced

Geert Wilders

For Western Europe’s ruling elites, protecting the rights of so-called asylum seekers has become more important than protecting their own citizens.  Recently, Germany provided a staggering example of this. An immigrant from Uganda raped a woman, but the German authorities refuse to expel him because the rapist claims to be gay and homosexuals are prosecuted in his home country.

The elites also refuse to defend our own identity, and today’s Dutch newspapers contain an example of that. A Protestant church proposes that the official holiday, which the Dutch enjoy for the Christian feast of Pentecost, be replaced by an official holiday on the Islamic feast of Eid-al-Fitr.

With this proposal, the Christian group says, it wants “to do justice to diversity in religion.” However, if there is one culture on earth which allows no diversity in religion whatsoever, it is Islam. Just look at Saudi-Arabia, where they do not even allow the construction of a single church.

I have picked these two examples because they pertain to the two most important issues Europe is currently facing: Mass immigration and the surge of Islam. If we do not want to be wiped away, our population replaced and our culture annihilated, it is vital that we start acting forcefully and courageously to protect our citizens and our civilisation.

Mass immigration is the first major issue we need to tackle. Those who think that since 2015 the worst is behind us, are wrong.

Daily Meditation

On the return of Joy’s cancer.


C. S. Lewis

18 October 1959

Will you redouble your prayers for us? Apparently the wonderful recovery Joy made in 1957 was only a reprieve, not a pardon. The last X Ray check reveals cancerous spots returning in many of her bones. There seems to be some hope of a few years life still and there are still things the doctors can do. But they are all in the nature of ‘rearguard actions’. We are in retreat. The tide has turned. Of course God can do again what He did before. The sky is not now so dark as it was when I married her in hospital. Her courage is wonderful and she gives me more support than I can give her.

The dreadful thing, as you know, is the waking each morning—the moment at which it all flows back on one.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Great Debate: Burke Versus Paine, Part III

The Enlightenment and Its Tyranny

Most Western political philosophers from the Greeks through to Enlightenment liberals and their successors have a view that the origin of a state or nation is critical.  There is an emphasis upon the founding of a nation: whether it be in the form of a "Declaration of Independence" or a Constitutional Convention producing founding constitutional documents.

This emphasis upon the beginnings of a nation is a reflection of what is found in Scripture.  In the Bible, it becomes apparent that God is a covenant making and a covenant keeping God.  A covenant in Scripture is a solemn, formal agreement between parties which provides the foundation, the "basic law" or "higher law" of how the nation will cohere together.  It sets the goals, the motivation, and the standards which will govern the various parties.

Thus, when God called Abram and his household from Ur of the Chaldees, He made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  [Genesis 17: 1-2]  After God delivered Israel out of Egypt, He re-made His covenant with Abraham's descendants [Exodus 19:5].  Then, again, at the end of the wilderness wanderings over 40 years, He remade the covenant again with Israel, as recorded in the book of Deuteronomy.

Thus, when nations make covenants to define the fundamental structures, processes and laws of their nation, they are reaching back to a biblical construct.  The creation itself and the world of mankind are made to operate within covenantal structures.

Friday, 16 June 2017

The "New" World Order

Reassertion of National Sovereignty 

Globalism Rolled Back


CANBERRA (AFP) – Australia Sunday gave 7,500 boat people until October to file a claim proving they are genuine refugees or be kicked out, declaring the “game is up” for illegal arrivals ripping off taxpayers.

Before the conservatives took power and adopted a tough line on the issue in 2013, an estimated 50,000 asylum-seekers flooded into Australia on more than 800 boats over the previous five years.  Hundreds more, many from war-torn Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, died at sea during the treacherous journey.

Of those arrivals, the old Labor government processed nearly 20,000, leaving 30,500 to the current administration.  Some 7,500 of them have yet to present their cases for asylum or are refusing to answer questions about their identity, while claiming welfare benefits, casting doubt on whether they really need protection.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that if they fail to lodge a claim by October 1, they will be removed from the country and banned from re-entering.  “This is a very serious situation and it’s costing Australian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year,” he said.  “So if people think that they can rip the Australian taxpayer off, if people think they can con the Australian taxpayer, then I’m sorry, the game’s up.   We are prepared to support people who are legitimate refugees, but we aren’t going to support people who are just accessing welfare … and then refusing to provide any information in relation to their protection claim.”

Refugee advocates reacted furiously, saying the government had sunk to “an impossible new low.

Daily Meditation

The Faith That Magnifies Grace

I do not nullify the grace of God. (Galatians 2:21)

John Piper

When I lost my footing as a little boy in the undertow at the beach, I felt as if I were going to be dragged to the middle of the ocean in an instant.

It was a terrifying thing. I tried to get my bearings and figure out which way was up. But I couldn’t get my feet on the ground and the current was too strong to swim. I wasn’t a good swimmer anyway.

In my panic I thought of only one thing: Could someone help me? But I couldn’t even call out from under the water.

When I felt my father’s hand take hold of my upper arm like a mighty vice grip, it was the sweetest feeling in the world. I yielded entirely to being overpowered by his strength. I reveled in being picked up at his will. I did not resist.

The thought did not enter my mind that I should try to show that things aren’t so bad; or that I should add my strength to my dad’s arm. All I thought was, Yes! I need you! I thank you! I love your strength! I love your initiative! I love your grip! You are great!

In that spirit of yielded affection, one cannot boast. I call that yielded affection “faith.” And my father was the embodiment of the future grace that I craved under the water. This is the faith that magnifies grace.

As we ponder how to live the Christian life, the uppermost thought should be: How can I magnify rather than nullify the grace of God? Paul answers this question in Galatians 2:20–21, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God.”

Why does his life not nullify the grace of God? Because he lives by faith in the Son of God. Faith calls all attention to grace and magnifies it, rather than nullifying it.

Self Righteous Arrogance

Extraordinary Chutzpah 

Every so often folk unveil and uncloak themselves.  Green politician, Jan Logie has just done so.  The occasion was a debate over whether the State has a right to demand of single women receiving state payments for their children that they name the biological father.  Under New Zealand law sole mothers have their child support state welfare benefits docked if they refuse to name the father(s) of their children.  

Logie believes this is unjust.  It's none of the State's business to fossick around in someone's private life, requiring them to reveal the identity of the father(s) of their children.
The law requires women to name the father to apply for child support or face sanctions of up to $28 a week per child off their benefit.  [Green MP] Logie said about 15,000 women had their benefits docked for refusing to do so.  "Is it appropriate to deprive women of essential income when the reasons people don't name a father are personal, private and, frankly, none of the state's business?"

Beneficiary groups have called for the clause to be dropped altogether.  [NZ Herald]
So, let's get this right.  Logie asserts that it is the business and responsibility of the State indirectly to support the children of sole parents, by providing weekly funding to their mother.    This income is essential: taxpayers are duty bound and obligated to provide it.  Therefore, it is irrelevant (and none of the State's business) to know the identity of the father of any particular child.

To what higher law or power is Jan Logie appealing to warrant this State obligation, on the one hand, and deny the State's right to know the identity of the father, on the other?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Doomsday Cult

Paris Climate Withdrawal Re-Triggers Global Warming Doomsday Cult

Robert Tracinsci
The Federalist

So what are the consequences of Donald Trump pulling America out of the Paris Agreement on climate change? Bad news: the planet is going to die.

No, really. That’s what the Left is actually claiming. Scientific American tweeted out a photo of the Earth made into a barren wasteland as a result of this one decision. My favorite reply: “You claim to be scientific but imply that increased C02 will kill trees?”  A few others stuck to the formula of the old joke: world to end, women and minorities hardest hit.

A Vice editor warns that “your kids are gonna die from climate change.” Christoper Mims at the Wall Street Journal declares that we have flunked as a species and that “we still have to de-carbonize our civilization or risk actual extinction.” Extinction.

But that seems mild by comparison to others. Trita Parsi says, “Trump just declared war on the very idea of life on earth.” One leftist website claims that “With each passing day, the long-term prospects for life on Earth grow increasingly dim,” and quotes John Kerry: “What’s the worst that happens if they’re wrong? The planet dies.” Both CNN and The Huffington Post summed up the message of the day as “Trump to Planet: Drop Dead.”

Way to keep things in perspective, everybody.

All of this is presumably calculated to impress us with the gravity and urgency of the situation, yet it actually has the opposite effect.

Daily Meditation

Tread All The Powers of Darkness Down

"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Galatians 5:17

Charles H. Spurgeon

In every believer's heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active, and loses no opportunity of plying all the weapons of its deadly armoury against newborn grace; while on the other hand, the new nature is ever on the watch to resist and destroy its enemy. Grace within us will employ prayer, and faith, and hope, and love, to cast out the evil; it takes unto it the "whole armour of God," and wrestles earnestly.

These two opposing natures will never cease to struggle so long as we are in this world. The battle of "Christian" with "Apollyon" lasted three hours, but the battle of Christian with himself lasted all the way from the Wicket Gate to the river Jordan. The enemy is so securely entrenched within us that he can never be driven out while we are in this body: but although we are closely beset, and often in sore conflict, we have an Almighty helper, even Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, who is ever with us, and who assures us that we shall eventually come off more than conquerors through Him. With such assistance the new-born nature is more than a match for its foes.

Are you fighting with the adversary today? Are Satan, the world, and the flesh, all against you? Be not discouraged nor dismayed. Fight on! For God Himself is with you; Jehovah Nissi is your banner, and Jehovah Rophi is the healer of your wounds. Fear not, you shall overcome, for who can defeat Omnipotence? Fight on, "looking unto Jesus;" and though long and stern be the conflict, sweet will be the victory, and glorious the promised reward. "From strength to strength go on; Wrestle, and fight, and pray, Tread all the powers of darkness down, And win the well-fought day."

Dismantling the Administrative State

A Stroll In a Fresh Green Park

It is fairly common these days to hear complaints about the "administrative state".  Most of the complaints emanate out of the United States.  The phrase refers to the burgeoning, ever growing list of rules and regulations ceaselessly promulgated by government agencies with which citizens must comply.

In New Zealand, this is not such a problem.  At least not these days.  It was once the case, however.  There were days, particularly in the 1960's--when our economy and society was more controlled by Wellington than was the case in Eastern Europe Soviet bloc states.  But New Zealand broke all that down when Roger Douglas pronounced that "there had to be a better way".  In addition, there is a wonderful advantage in being in a small country.  Our pollies, rulers, and bureaucrats are never far away.  They are accessible.  When the state does stupid things, or when bureaucracy runs amok, change and correction is possible.  But this is a function more of size and a small population, than our people being wedded to limited government and maximum freedom.

Things are so much worse in the United States.  The image of Jabba the Hutt, that gargantuan slug sitting upon and squashing those in his presence is not an inappropriate metaphor in the case of  "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

The problem goes back to the nineteen sixties.  The US Supreme Court had made a momentous ruling (the Schechter case, 1935) in which it stated that Congress could not delegate legislative and judicial powers to an agency it had created, the National Recovery Agency.  But it subsequently forgot about this ruling, and began to allow Congress to delegate its law-making powers to its own bureaucratic agencies.

The Great Debate: Burke Versus Paine, Part II

Thomas Paine and the Rise of Precious Petals

Thomas Paine was an Enlightenment Rationalist, of an extreme bent.  He really did believe in the autonomy of human reason.  Politics and just government could be sorted out by a bit of good, old-fashioned, hard-headed Reason.  The problem, he argued, with most of the Western European governments of his day (including the United Kingdom) was that they had little rhyme or reason to them--but lots and lots of tradition by which an aristocratic elite oppressed the common man.

Paine was a  believer in radical egalitarianism.  All men were equal--not in silly externalities like looks, height, strength or sizes of the nose, but in the faculty of Reason.  He was in many ways a silly man.  The poorest amongst us could reason just as well as the most educated (or so he argued).

In particular he hated the idea that each generation of mankind was somehow curtailed or bound by what the generation which went before believed and practised.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Worse Than the Slave Trade

Planned Parenthood Jokes About Decapitating Babies in New Video

By Bradford Richardson
The Washington Times

Planned Parenthood executives joked about decapitated fetuses, admitted to altering abortion procedures to preserve fetal organs and said clinics have a financial incentive to sell human tissue in a new undercover video released Thursday.  The three-minute video was recorded at an annual National Abortion Federation meeting by pro-life investigators with the Center for Medical Progress.  The advocacy group said it’s just a preview of never-before-seen content that has been sealed for almost two years due to legal fights.

In the video, Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, admits to altering abortion procedures to preserve fetal organs.  “You know, sometimes she’ll tell me she wants brain, and we’ll, you know, leave the calvarium till last, and then try to basically take it or, actually, you know, catch everything, and even keep it separate from the rest of the tissue so it doesn’t get lost,” Ms. Nucatola says.

Also, Deb VanDerhei, national director of Planned Parenthood’s Consortium of Abortion Providers, admits that some clinics are motivated to sell fetal tissue for profit.

Daily Meditation

The Sudden Jab of Red Hot Memory

Lewis, grieving the death of his wife, Joy:

C. S. Lewis

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.

From A Grief Observed
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed. Copyright © 1961 by N. W. Clerk, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Preface by Douglas H. Gresham copyright © 1994 by Douglas H. Gresham. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Rebellion Against God on Steroids (Both Literally and Metaphorically)

Time for Parents to Resist Transgender Activism

Bob McCoskrie

Gender ideology seemed a ridiculous and improbable threat when I first considered its claims of male brains trapped in female bodies, but its rapid ascendancy in law and public opinion has made the term “transgender” a household word. While some were scoffing at Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, I was engaged in a battle over the meaning of sex and gender at my children’s school. Katherine Kersten’s December contribution to First Things, “Transgender Conformity,” was, in part, my own story: I was a parent at Nova Classical Academy.

Nova, a highly rated public charter school with a classical curriculum, had educated six of my seven children over the years. Nova wasn’t without its problems, but those problems paled in comparison with the bizarre clash that ensued last year. A kindergartener had arrived—or more correctly his parents, Dave and Hannah Edwards, had arrived—carrying the pink-and-blue banner of transgender activism.

Daily Meditation

Who Are the Children of Abraham?

In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)

John Piper

You who hope in Christ and follow him in the obedience of faith are Abraham’s descendants and heirs of his covenant promises.

God said to Abraham in Genesis 17:4, “Behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” But Genesis makes plain that Abraham did not father a multitude of nations in a physical or political sense. Therefore the meaning of God’s promise was probably that a multitude of nations would somehow enjoy the blessings of sonship even though physically unrelated to Abraham.

That’s no doubt what God meant in Genesis 12:3 when he said to Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” From the very beginning, God had in view that Jesus Christ would be the descendant of Abraham and that everyone who trusts in Christ would become an heir of Abraham’s promise.

So it says in Galatians 3:29, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

So when God said to Abraham 4,000 years ago, “Behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations,” he opened the way for anyone of us, no matter what nation we belong to, to become a child of Abraham and an heir of God’s promises. All we have to do is share the faith of Abraham — that is, bank our hope on God’s promises, so much so that if obedience requires it, we could give up our dearest possession like Abraham gave up Isaac.

We don't become heirs of Abraham’s promises by working for God but by being confident that God works for us. “Abraham grew strong in his faith, giving glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20). That’s why Abraham could obey God even when obedience looked like a dead-end street. He trusted God to do the impossible.

Faith in God's promises — or today we would say, faith in Christ, who is the confirmation of God’s promises — is the way to become a child of Abraham; obedience is the evidence that faith is genuine (Genesis 22:12–19). Therefore Jesus says in John 8:39, “If you were Abraham’s children you would do what Abraham did.”

Children of Abraham are people of all nations who put their hope in Christ and, like Abraham on Mount Moriah, therefore don’t let their most precious earthly possession stop their obedience.

You who hope in Jesus Christ and follow him in the obedience of faith are the descendants of Abraham and heirs of his covenant promises.

The Great Debate: Burke Versus Paine, Part I

Victory Does Not Mean The Winner is Right

In our view every civics class in High School should be made familiar with the works of Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke.  Both were actively writing and debating during the time of the American and French Revolutions, in the late eighteenth century.  They took diametrically opposite sides in the debate.

The issues swirled around a just government and the constitution of freedom.  Paine and Burke are intellectual fathers of very modern arguments over the nature, role, and place of the State.  Neither's views were explicitly Christian--more Deist in many ways.  But Paine was the radical democrat; Burke was the conservative.  Their argument has continued down to our present day.

One of the things which immediately confronts the student of this debate is how history and events of the day "disproved" Paine's position.  Yet, ironically, it is Paine's views, positions, and arguments which have held sway over time and are more widely followed today.  Paine argued that the "Rights of Man" trumped all political arrangements, constitutions, laws, and governments.  The European establishments of his day were ruled by elites and vested interests.  Governments were oppressive and stripped freedoms and powers from ordinary citizens.

Paine was, thus, a fierce supporter of the American Revolution.  Ordinary people, exercising fundamental human rights, threw off the yoke of the English crown.  This narrative would be familiar to most Americans.  Paine wanted to see a similar revolution within England itself.  Burke, on the other hand, warned repeatedly that such struggles could (and likely would) lead to the substitution of one form of oppression by a tyranny far worse.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Letter From America (To All Of Us)

Dear Christians in America . . . 

Get Off Your Couch of Languid Ease

Matt Walsh

You don’t expect these sorts of stories to get a lot of attention, but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous when they’re ignored.

A few days ago, 29 Christians were murdered by Islamic terrorists in Egypt.  This follows the Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches that killed almost 40 people, which were themselves just another in a never ending string of brutal assaults on Egyptian Christians, and all Christians throughout North Africa and the Middle East, by Islamists. But the most recent incident was particularly notable for two reasons:

First, the timing. It came just days after the Manchester bombing, and it killed more people, yet it received considerably less than 1/100th of the coverage. There isn’t any acceptable explanation for why the continued eradication of Christians can rarely seem to break into the headlines, yet any terror attack in a European city will be the only thing we talk about for days. I understand why attacks against Americans will obviously receive more attention in America, but why should attacks on the French or the English spark more of our ire than the systematic martyrdom of our Christian brothers and sisters a little further to the east?

There really is no answer to that question that isn’t horrible.

Daily Meditation

Pride Cannot Live Beneath the Cross

"He humbled himself."  Philippians 2:8

Charles H. Spurgeon

Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart. We need daily to learn of him. See the Master taking a towel and washing his disciples' feet! Follower of Christ, wilt thou not humble thyself? See him as the Servant of servants, and surely thou canst not be proud!

Is not this sentence the compendium of his biography, "He humbled himself"? Was he not on earth always stripping off first one robe of honour and then another, till, naked, he was fastened to the cross, and there did he not empty out his inmost self, pouring out his life-blood, giving up for all of us, till they laid him penniless in a borrowed grave? How low was our dear Redeemer brought! How then can we be proud? Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed; see the thorn-crown; mark his scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and his whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in his outward frame; hear the thrilling shriek, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it: if you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know him. You were so lost that nothing could save you but the sacrifice of God's only begotten. Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you, bow yourself in lowliness at his feet. A sense of Christ's amazing love to us has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt. May the Lord bring us in contemplation to Calvary, then our position will no longer be that of the pompous man of pride, but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much because much has been forgiven him.

Pride cannot live beneath the cross. Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.

What Makes an Education "Christian" in Quality and Character?

A Christian Liberal Arts Education

The term "liberal arts" has entered the scrapyard, and  is awaiting the crusher.  It appears to be following the course of the dodo.  But for Christians the matter is urgent, pressing, and thoroughly modern.

The first hurdle in coming to understand why the study of Christian liberal arts is vital is to parse "liberal" correctly.  The common understanding of that particular adjective these days refers to something without bounds, limits, or controls.  In today's parlance, a liberal is someone who confronts controls or limits as something to be smashed.  The social conservative might argue that marriage is a sacred life-long institution between a man and a woman.  The "liberal" would rise up against that notion as an affront to human fulfillment and self-realization.  For the liberal, marriage is whatever you might want it to be--a term referring to a relationship between both genders or between a man and his pigeon, or whatever.

But the meaning of "liberal" in the phrase "Christian liberal arts" is something of another order entirely.  It derives from the classical world and refers not to breaking down order and restraint, but the exact opposite.  According to Wikipedia,
The liberal arts (Latin: artes liberales) are those subjects or skills that in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free person (Latin: liberalis, "worthy of a free person") to know in order to take an active part in civic life, something that (for Ancient Greece) included participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries, and most importantly, military service.  [Emphasis, ours.]
In this usage, "liberal" means to live and act in a disciplined manner, so as to take up the roles and responsibilities of citizenship.

Fast forward to the beginning of the Modern period.  In the sixteen hundreds, Christian liberal arts schools and curricula and education abounded, particularly under the influence of the Puritans in England and New England.  But, at the same time, these institutions and schools were drawing upon Luther and Calvin and the earlier Reformers.

According to Leland Ryken, Luther had written to the councilmen of Germany:
If I have children and could manage it, I would have them study not only languages and history but also singing and music together with the whole of mathematics. . . . The ancient Greeks trained their children in these disciplines; . . . they grew up to be people of wonderous ability, subsequently fit for everything.
To which Ryken adds:   "Fit for everything: this has always been the goal of liberal education, as distinct from vocational training."  [Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Grand Rapids: Academie Books/Zondervan, 1986), p. 164.]

The goal of a Christian liberal arts education was to mould the student into a capable and qualified person, able to fulfill a variety of callings and roles.  Milton said it most succinctly:
I call therefore a complete and generous education that which  fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.  [Cited by Ryken, op cit., p. 169.]
To which Ryken appends: "a liberal education is comprehensive.  It prepares a person  to do well at all that he or she may be called to do in this life. . . . Learning a certain amount of information will not by itself constitute a liberal education.  Such knowledge becomes worthwhile only as it is instrumental in forming a qualified person; . . . .  education influences people in their personal lives, and it makes them productive members of society."  [Ibid.]

As Nehemiah would have said, it's time to start building, folks.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Freeloading on the US Dime

It’s Long Past Time for NATO Allies 

They Need To Meet Their Defense-Spending Commitments

Jerry Hendrix
National Review Online

Chancellor Angela Merkel, campaigning at a Munich beer garden this Memorial Day weekend, certainly delighted American citizens as they paused to remember their sacred war dead, including the 236,000 men who died in Europe’s 20th-century wars. “The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” Merkel said. “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.” Although Merkel meekly attempted to walk her initial statement back in the face of American complaints, she clearly intended it as a forceful response to the tongue-lashing the American president, Donald J. Trump, gave alliance members regarding their low levels of defense spending during their meeting at NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels last week.

Such a statement by the German chancellor would normally be viewed with concern by members of the American foreign-policy and national-security establishments, who view the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a cornerstone of the post-war global order. But coming from Merkel, it was the height of arrogance.

Germany and the other European members of NATO have chronically underfunded the alliance for the past generation,

Daily Meditation

The Gain of Serving God

“They will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” (2 Chronicles 12:8)

John Piper

Serving God is utterly different from serving anyone else.

God is extremely jealous that we understand this — and enjoy it. For example, he commands us, “Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). There is a reason for this gladness. It is given in Acts 17:25, “God is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.”

We serve him with gladness because we do not bear the burden of meeting his needs. Rather we rejoice in a service where he meets our needs. Serving God always means receiving grace from God.

To show how jealous God is for us to get this and glory in it, there is a story in 2 Chronicles 12. Rehoboam, the Son of Solomon, who ruled the southern kingdom after the revolt of the ten tribes, “forsook the law of the Lord” (12:1). He chose against serving the Lord and gave his service to other gods and other kingdoms. As judgment God sent Shishak, the king of Egypt, against Rehoboam with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen (12:3).

In mercy God sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam with this message: “Thus says the Lord, you abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak” (12:5). The happy upshot of that message is that Rehoboam and his princes humbled themselves in repentance and said, “The Lord is righteous” (12:6).

When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, he said, “They have humbled themselves, so I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by means of Shishak” (12:7). But as a discipline to them he says, “They will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (12:8).

The point is plain: serving God is a receiving and a blessing and a joy and a benefit.

This is why I am so jealous to say that the worship of Sunday morning and the worship of daily obedience is not at bottom a burdensome giving to God but a joyful getting from God.