Thursday, 30 November 2017

Bearing Witness Around Laden Tables

Unbelief and Pumpkin Pie

Douglas Wilson

So we have come to Thanksgiving 2017, year of our Lord.

On the one hand, we have an enormous amount to be grateful for. Things are still relatively stable. We were able to buy the turkey at CostCo with little difficulty. On the way home, the traffic lights were all still working. The roads were in decent condition. We are able to provide for our families. Today hundreds of thousands of turkeys will be placed on tables, surrounded by millions of smiles.

But on the other hands, when we consider our culture’s understanding of itself, the contradictory confusions are rampant. When we look at our society’s attitude toward sex, sexual fruitfulness, sexual entitlement, sexual abuse, sexual androgyny, and sexual morality, what we have is a cross between a David Bowie concert gone wrong and a Hieronymus Bosch painting having nightmares. We have an established organization that is selling the parts of its human victims, and not only will Congress not stop it, they won’t even stop subsidizing the ghouls.

In the face of this great incongruity, and many others like it, many Christians wonder about the propriety of celebrating Thanksgiving.

Daily Meditation

Church Hopping

Screwtape expands on developing church participation for evil ends 

 C. S. Lewis

Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.

In the second place, the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise—does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!)

This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul. There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper.

From The Screwtape Letters
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 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.

Without Excuse

Dr David Clark And Youth Suicide

We have a foolish Minister of Health who stupidly criticized his predecessor--a political opponent and former Minister of Health--for his personal failure to prevent more youth suicides.  Naturally, his opponent said he would be delighted to attribute every youth suicide from now on to the ineptitude and lassitude of the new incoming Minister.  After all, what's sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander.

Youth suicide, we are told, is a major problem.  We have been told that the issues are complex, opaque, confused, and often contradictory.  Pity, then, the silly new Minister of Health who implied that the solution was simple and that he would take personal responsibility for putting that solution (whatever that may be) into place.

In some senses it is indeed true that the solution is simple.  If there appears to be one major cause of youth suicide it is the widespread use of smart phones amongst young people appears to rank "up there".  Now before you impute all kinds of failings to us for making such a simplistic, outrageous claim, consider the following.

In the September 2017 issue of The Atlantic an article appeared tying teenage cellphone use to rising rates of youth suicide.  Here are some salient paragraphs:

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Winston's Back . . .

It’s Always A Good Time To Revisit Winston Churchill

‘Darkest Hour’ centers around arguably the most perilous period in Winston Churchill’s lifetime of drama: when Great Britain stood alone against the seemingly unstoppable Nazi Germany.

Jonathan Ehret
The Federalist

With the release of “Darkest Hour” in theaters today, the larger-than-life personality and historical presence of Winston Churchill comes back to the forefront of the public’s imagination. The film perhaps introduces one of the most consequential figures of the twentieth century to a younger generation for the first time.

The film centers around arguably the most dramatic and perilous period in a lifetime of drama and danger: when Great Britain stood alone against the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of Nazi Germany. France had surrendered, the Low Countries had fallen, Scandinavia was occupied or cowed in fear, and Eastern Europe lay pinned under Nazi and Soviet jackboots. To a contemporary observer, resistance to the Nazis seemed hopeless.

More than a few neutrals threw in their lot with the Nazis in hopes of sharing the spoils of conquest, while others, including many in the United Kingdom, believed the only recourse was suing for peace on Adolph Hitler’s terms and praying a few precious scraps of freedom would remain to them. Churchill, almost alone, disagreed.

An anachronism even in his own day, Churchill clung to romantic notions of honor and imperial glory, which caused some of his peers embarrassment and would be mocked by many today.

Daily Meditation

Glorify by Giving Thanks

It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)

John Piper

Gratitude is joy toward God for his grace. But by its very nature, gratitude glorifies the giver. It acknowledges its own need and the beneficence of the giver.

Just like I humble myself and exalt the waitress in the restaurant when I say, “Thank you,” to her, so I humble myself and exalt God when I feel gratitude to him. The difference, of course, is that I really am infinitely in debt to God for his grace, and everything he does for me is free and undeserved.

But the point is that gratitude glorifies the giver. It glorifies God. And this is Paul’s final goal in all his labors: for the sake of the church — yes; but, above and beyond that, for the glory of God.

The wonderful thing about the gospel is that the response it requires from us for God’s glory is also the response which we feel to be most natural and joyful, namely, gratitude for grace. God’s glory and our gladness are not in competition.

A life that gives glory to God for his grace and a life of deepest gladness are always the same life. And what makes them one is gratitude.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Perversely Stupid

Kiwiblog has a telling post, courtesy of The Federalist.  The article is quoting Tom Coburn, a former US Senator from Oklahoma. 

The Federalist reports Tom Coburn:
However, they are probably less inclined to concede that the constant growth of the welfare state produces inversely diminishing returns. “In 1966 when the massive means-tested entitlements to address the poor began, the overall poverty rate in the United States was 14.7 percent,” Coburn notes. “In 2013, and more than $15 trillion later, the poverty rate was measured at 14.5 percent. That could be a statistical error, rather than even this miniscule 0.2 percent decline.”
$15 trillion for 0.2% decline!
A question immediately begged is why this might be the case?  Is it something which is a perverse oddity?  Rather than a statistical aberration, we suggest that this is the perpetual reality.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Wild Wild West

Not a Bad Yarn

'Only known photograph discovered' of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett together

NZ Herald

This photo provided by Frank Abrams shows what historians believe is a photo of outlaw Billy the Kid, second from left, and Pat Garrett, far right, taken in 1880. Photo / via AP
A photograph has emerged of what is believed to be the only image of Billy the Kid and his killer Pat Garrett together - and could be worth millions.

The pair were once friends who gambled and drank together in Lincoln County, New Mexico. However, when Garrett was made sheriff the friendship ended and one of the most famous feuds of the American Old West began.  The photograph was bought for just US$10 ($14.5) at a flea market in 2011 and was hanging for years in a North Carolina home - in a guest room that is rented out on Airbnb.

Daily Meditation

Serve Him With All Your Heart

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Ecclesiastes 9:10

Charles H. Spurgeon

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," refers to works that are possible. There are many things which our heart findeth to do which we never shall do. It is well it is in our heart; but if we would be eminently useful, we must not be content with forming schemes in our heart, and talking of them; we must practically carry out "whatsoever our hand findeth to do."

One good deed is more worth than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we "find to do" day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but time present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavour now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now, but be careful as to the way in which you perform what you find to do--"do it with thy might." Do it promptly; do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do to-morrow as if that could recompense for the idleness of today.

No man ever served God by doing things to-morrow. If we honour Christ and are blessed, it is by the things which we do today. Whatever you do for Christ throw your whole soul into it. Do not give Christ a little slurred labour, done as a matter of course now and then; but when you do serve him, do it with heart, and soul, and strength.

But where is the might of a Christian? It is not in himself, for he is perfect weakness. His might lieth in the Lord of Hosts. Then let us seek his help; let us proceed with prayer and faith, and when we have done what our "hand findeth to do," let us wait upon the Lord for his blessing. What we do thus will be well done, and will not fail in its effect.

New Zealand's NCEA Education System

Cut Off and Adrift

We recently had the experience of reading a recent Level II English exam.  We confess that we were overwhelmed with a sense of pity for the thousands of students that have been subjected to the modalities represented in that exam.

For the record--NCEA Level II is supposed to be roughly equivalent to Form 6 (University Entrance Exams) under the "old" system.  What is so unsatisfactory about NCEA English Level II?  There are three papers (standards): 91099, 91098, and 91100.  So, we would reasonably expect that one paper might deal with the mechanics of the language: style, syntax, grammar, the use and abuse of English, and techniques of writing.  A second might deal with masters of the language: the authoritative corpus of novelists and poets who have shaped, not just the English language, but the world-view of the English speaking West.  The third, we would have expected, might have dealt with literary criticism and the use and abuse of the English language.

How revealing and confronting is the actual situation.  Students studying Level II English these days are being cheated--stolen from.  Instead of our expectations, what modern English students study at Level II is textual analysis at its most basic and boring form.  That's all.  Here are the headings for each of the three standards:

91099  Analyze specified aspects of studies visual or oral texts.
91098  Analyze specified aspects of studied written texts.
91100  Analyze significant aspects of unfamiliar written texts.

The overriding assumption is that students should study English in order to become skillful at techniques of writing.  No, that's too kind.  They are being taught to become skillful at the techniques of analysing writing (or the media of language).  This is akin to the study of food being reduced to an analysis of some of the ingredients of a dish without ever studying or experiencing the dish itself.  It would make one conversant with some the key ingredients in Beef Wellington, for example, without ever eating, let alone enjoying, this classic dish.

A committee of idiots has decided that at Level II English one must be focused upon preparing students for a career in writing.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Tribal Truth

Douglas Wilson


I want to offer a “get yourself oriented” explanation for the lunacy that has apparently descended upon virtually everybody. A fogbank of dunsical folly, stretching the length of the entire East Coast, has worked its way across the nation, and so it is that we hear distant, muffled cries, from out there in the fog somewhere, “Who’s to say what a little boy is?”

Change the metaphor. The degradation and collapse of our civilization proceeds apace, and while millions of Christians in that civilization think that “something is wrong,” few of them have any idea of just how wrong it all is. And we have erstwhile leaders who have assumed the role of reassuring us, trying to make us think that, provided a culture is unbelieving, there is no appreciable difference between its rise and its disintegration. Take a glance to the right in order to check out a recent promo vid on a glossy web site for one of those Big Name Christian Conferences.

And so let’s begin with the theopolitics of this, and then move on to cite a few illustrations of it snatched from today’s headlines. I won’t say what these examples are about exactly, but one of them rhymes with Sal Planken.

Daily Meditation


C.S. Lewis

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool.

But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.

The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old. It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 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.

A Golden Age

What Christianised England "Looked" Like

We live in a secularist society.  It is atheistic, humanistic, statist . . . the adjectives go on.  Consequently, it is difficult for us to imagine a society which is (or was) thoroughly Christian.  We do not imply by that adjective that it is or was completely Christian.  Rather we mean that society was influenced and steered by the Christian faith.  In other words, we refer to a place and time where the Christian faith dominated individual, family and public life.

Has ever such a time existed in the past?  Yes.  It has.  Historian Robert Tombs describes England in the seventeenth century.  In particular, he describes parish life.  Prepare to enter an alien world--that is, a world profoundly different from our own.
The truly serious issue, as it had been for a century, was religion, now the focus of cultural, social, personal and political life to an unparalleled extent.  In the wake of the Reformation and the impact of the English Bible, most people felt more intensely about religion than all but the most fervent minority today.  [Robert Tombs, The English and Their History (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2015), p.214. Emphasis, ours.]
We acknowledge that being fervent Christians (that is, true believers) we indeed are a small minority in our own countries today.  This is pretty much consistent throughout the West.  But we would make a grave error if we believed that it has always been this way.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Evil of the Empire Becomes More Apparent

No Consent to Sell Baby Body Parts

Kate Scanlon

In a new video released Tuesday by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, a former StemExpress (a body parts research company) employee said she witnessed her colleagues working inside Planned Parenthood clinics collect fetal body parts following an abortion without obtaining consent from the patient who underwent the procedure.

In the latest installment in a series of videos featuring Holly O’Donnell, a former StemExpress procurement technician, O’Donnell said that patients looking to donate tissue from their procedures have to sign a consent form — but sometimes that didn’t happen.  “If there was like a high-gestated fetus, I mean, I have witnessed there was no consent signed, and these women didn’t know that it was getting taken,” O’Donnell said. “It’s stealing, it’s stealing baby parts.”

O’Donnell said some women gave consent to make the donation, but others didn’t want to or were “creeped out” by the question.  She added that sometimes the procurement technician performed actions in the clinic that they were not permitted or licensed to do, such as drawing blood or starting an IV.

Is there an investigation into the allegations?

The Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos raised allegations that Planned Parenthood was profiting from the sale of aborted fetal body parts to researchers.

Daily Meditation

His Glory Awaits Us

Fellowship with him.  1 John 1:6

Charles H. Spurgeon

When we were united by faith to Christ, we were brought into such complete fellowship with him, that we were made one with him, and his interests and ours became mutual and identical.

We have fellowship with Christ in his love. What he loves we love. He loves the saints--so do we. He loves sinners--so do we. He loves the poor perishing race of man, and pants to see earth's deserts transformed into the garden of the Lord--so do we. We have fellowship with him in his desires. He desires the glory of God--we also labour for the same. He desires that the saints may be with him where he is--we desire to be with him there too. He desires to drive out sin--behold we fight under his banner. He desires that his Father's name may be loved and adored by all his creatures--we pray daily, "Let thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven." We have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. We are not nailed to the cross, nor do we die a cruel death, but when he is reproached, we are reproached; and a very sweet thing it is to be blamed for his sake, to be despised for following the Master, to have the world against us.

The disciple should not be above his Lord. In our measure we commune with him in his labours, ministering to men by the word of truth and by deeds of love. Our meat and our drink, like his, is to do the will of him who hath sent us and to finish his work. We have also fellowship with Christ in his joys. We are happy in his happiness, we rejoice in his exaltation.

Have you ever tasted that joy, believer? There is no purer or more thrilling delight to be known this side heaven than that of having Christ's joy fulfilled in us, that our joy may be full. His glory awaits us to complete our fellowship, for his Church shall sit with him upon his throne, as his well-beloved bride and queen.

There Is a New Redeemer in Town

Guilt and Pity: The Marxist "Horse and Carriage"

When Dostoevsky penned his famous novel, Crime And Punishment, it seemed to all reasonable folk that, like the horse and carriage which always went together, crime and punishment were but two sides of the one coin.

But Marxism and its step-children have long since departed from this rather obvious position.  Instead, Marxism and its derivatives have created an alternative universe.  In this universe man is fundamentally righteous: sin and evil is not intrinsic to the human condition.  Rather, evil exists only because there is a handful of exploiters at the top of the socio-economic pile.  These "capitalists"--to use the old term--have controlled and rigged the system to exploit the downtrodden, the worker, the powerless.

One by-product of such suffering and exploitation is that the exploited can end up in anti-social behaviour.  The exploited comes to hate the system which is rigged against him.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Viktor Orbán On the Stump

We Old War Horses Recognize Them From Their Smell

Jack Montgomery
Breitbart London

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has launched a stunning denunciation of globalism, declaring that the “true spirit of the age” points to a resurgence of conservative values centred on country, family, and tradition.  The Hungarian premier drew battle lines between a “silent majority” of ordinary people who “provide for their families, love their homelands, and insist on their Christian roots” on the one hand, and the “globalist elites, the bureaucrats who serve them, the politicians in their pay, and the agents of the Soros-type networks that embody their interests” on the other.

“We should realise that the soothing melodies pouring out of the speakers of powerful global corporations and global political organisations – siren voices encouraging breezy irresponsibility, frenzied consumption, and boundless self-indulgence – are not at all the same as the spirit of the age,” he said.

“Under the soft blanket of dreams laid down by the global elite, one finds the cold, hard reality of life.  We see tens of millions of Europeans working hard and struggling day in, day out to keep themselves and their families afloat.  We see how they yearn for security and order.  We see how they cleave ever more firmly to their cultural identity, and fight every day for every square metre of their normal European life,” he said.

 Hungary's prime minister warns ‘United States of Europe’ plotters are using mass immigration to engineer a “post-national, post-Christian” super-state.

Daily Meditation

The Piercing Power of the Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

John Piper

The Word of God is our only hope. The good news of God’s promises and the warnings of his judgment are sharp enough and living enough and active enough to penetrate to the bottom of my heart and show me that the lies of sin are indeed lies.

Abortion will not create a wonderful future for me. Neither will cheating, or dressing provocatively, or throwing away my sexual purity, or keeping quiet about dishonesty at work, or divorce, or vengeance. And what rescues me from this deception is the Word of God.

The Word of God’s promise is like throwing open a great window of bright morning sun on the roaches of sin masquerading as satisfying pleasures in our hearts. God has given you his good news, his promises, his Word to protect you from the deep deceptions of sin that try to harden the heart and lure it away from God and lead it to destruction.

Be of good cheer in your battle to believe. Because the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and it will penetrate deeper than any deception of sin has ever gone and reveal what is truly valuable and what is truly worth trusting.

Clutching At Paper Straws

What Do Soros and Merkel Have in Common With Neville Chamberlain?

"See no evil, hear no evil".  So much of the West's response to Islam falls under this rubric.  Why has a generation appeared which is fixated upon overlooking what is obvious: Islam is a violent religion.  One reason would be that there are few in the West who have bothered to read the Koran--Islam's holy book.  Another is that Islamic violence does not fit in with the myths of humanism.  It is necessary for the maintenance of those myths that Islamic believers be regarded as "just like us" and if treated in a humanitarian, humanist manner they will quickly become both both humanitarian and Western (there is fundamentally no distinction between the two).

Secondly, there is a Marxist overtone that Western elites want to impose.  As part of humanist dogma, national governments are subject to nationalism--which, we are told--plays to ignorant, nativist fears, prejudices, and divisions amongst men.  Internationalism, however, escapes from such prejudices.  It looks with fondness upon mankind as a species, in the abstract.  When a human being is properly supplied with redistributed wealth all of the ignorance, nativist fears, and prejudices will fade away.  Islamic violence, we are told, is a hangover from days of tribalism and nationalist excess.  When properly exposed to humanism, and removed from nationalism, the Islamic believer will thankfully and willingly sign up to Humanist Manifestos I, II, and III.

As a consequence, most Western humanists operate in a cone of naive myopia.  They are like Neville Chamberlain in the run up to World War II.  His pacifism required, not only that he not give due recognition to Nazi nationalism, but that he act towards the Nazi's and Hitler according to the principles of his pacifist beliefs.  He was a significant contributing factor to Hitler's rise and domination of the German armed forcesy.  "Peace in our time" became the absurd myth driving Chamberlain's diplomatic dealings with Hitler.  Angela Merkel and George Soros fall into this kind of folly.  They (along with many others) are the Chamberlains of our age.  When it comes to Islam they are determined neither to see, nor hear, evil. 

Meanwhile, reality is starkly different.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Another Step in the Long March

Down Syndrome May No Longer Be a Death Sentence

Ohio Senate passes bill banning abortion after a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis

Kate Scanlon
The Blaze

Ohio may soon ban abortions after a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis.

What happened?

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Ohio Senate passed the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion based solely on a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis.  The bill was approved Wednesday in a 20-12 vote. Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill.

The state’s House passed its own version of the bill earlier this month, indicating that the bill will eventually make it to the desk of Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio). Kasich has signed other pro-life legislation as governor.

What do supporters say?

Supporters of the legislation cite high Down syndrome termination rates and say that the bill would protect children with the condition.

Daily Meditation

When God Himself Pleads Our Cause

O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul.  Lamentations 3:58

Charles H. Spurgeon

Observe how positively the prophet speaks. He doth not say, "I hope, I trust, I sometimes think, that God hath pleaded the causes of my soul;" but he speaks of it as a matter of fact not to be disputed. "Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul." Let us, by the aid of the gracious Comforter, shake off those doubts and fears which so much mar our peace and comfort.   Be this our prayer, that we may have done with the harsh croaking voice of surmise and suspicion, and may be able to speak with the clear, melodious voice of full assurance.

Notice how gratefully the prophet speaks, ascribing all the glory to God alone! You perceive there is not a word concerning himself or his own pleadings. He doth not ascribe his deliverance in any measure to any man, much less to his own merit; but it is "thou"--"O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life."

A grateful spirit should ever be cultivated by the Christian; and especially after deliverances we should prepare a song for our God. Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a censor smoking with the sweet incense of thanksgiving. How joyful Jeremiah seems to be while he records the Lord's mercy. How triumphantly he lifts up the strain! He has been in the low dungeon, and is even now no other than the weeping prophet; and yet in the very book which is called "Lamentations," clear as the song of Miriam when she dashed her fingers against the tabor, shrill as the note of Deborah when she met Barak with shouts of victory, we hear the voice of Jeremy going up to heaven--"Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life."

 O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord's lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.

Morally Bankrupt Amorality Cannot Do the Heavy Lifting

Few and Far Between

The controversies rocking the United States over sexual immorality in high places has a number of aspects to it.  At the most superficial level it's good to see the beginnings of public rejection of sexual immorality.  Weinsteingate has served well in that regard--prompting a burning spotlight to be trained upon the media and the Hollywood glitterati.  The accusations and confessions have been spewing forth in a paroxysm of projectile vomiting.  

The "system" is rejecting the filth.  But now things have moved on to politicians and those who dance the dervishes of power.  Suddenly, both left and right are caught in the maw of gross, partisan hypocrisy.  When a member of the opposite party is accused of engaging in sexual predatory behaviour the very balefire of Hell is summoned.  But, when the accused is a member of one's own political party, or in-group, undignified silence is the order of the day.  Voices have begun to be heard calling for a removal of the logs out of one's own eye. 

This, from Politico:

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Reverberations From Luther Still at Work

Monk's Rebellion Helped Bring Power to the People

Dr Paul Moon
AUT Professor of History
NZ Herald

In a remarkable act of grace, Pope Francis decided to rename a square near the Colosseum in Rome after Martin Luther. And last year, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household, said Luther "deserves the credit for bringing this truth back when its meaning had been lost over the centuries, at least in Christian preaching, and it is this above all for which Christianity is indebted to the Reformation."

These are hugely symbolic gestures and concessions in anticipation of the 500th anniversary - on 31 October - of a German monk's protest against what he saw as the corruption and doctrinal error of the Catholic Church. Yet, despite the intervening centuries of difficult and torturous (sometimes literally) relations between Catholics and Protestants, the present pontiff has recently acknowledged Luther's intention was not to divide the church but to renew it.

However, while these two major branches of Christianity tentatively inch closer to each other, the revolution Luther triggered half a millennium ago continues to roll well beyond the denominational estrangement he created. Even the fact that you can read this piece in the Herald today is partly due to that revolution.

Luther had faith in people more than popes.

Daily Meditation

We All Need Help

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

John Piper

Every one of us needs help. We are not God. We have needs. We have weaknesses. We have confusion. We have limitations of all kinds. We need help.  But every one of us has something else: we have sins. And therefore at the bottom of our hearts we know that we do not deserve the help we need. And so we feel trapped.

I need help to live my life and to handle death and to cope with eternity — help with my family, my spouse, my children, my loneliness, my job, my health, my finances. I need help. But I don't deserve the help I need.

So what can I do? I can try to deny it all and be a superman who doesn't need any help. Or I can try to drown it all and throw my life into a pool of sensual pleasures. Or I can simply give way to the paralysis of despair.

But God declares over this hopeless conclusion: Jesus Christ became a High Priest to shatter that despair with hope and to humble that superman or superwoman and to rescue that drowning wretch.

Yes, we all need help. Yes, none of us deserves the help we need. But no to despair and pride and lechery. Look at what God says. Because we have a great High Priest, the throne of God is a throne of grace. And the help we get at that throne is mercy and grace to help in time of need. Grace to help! Not deserved help, gracious help.

You are not trapped. Say no to that lie. We need help. We don’t deserve it. But we can have it. You can have it right now and forever. If you will receive and trust in your High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, and draw near to God through him.

Government Spending Hard and Real

That Did Not Take Long

We are watching a political debate occurring in the New Zealand parliament over government spending and the fiscal deficit.  It becomes clearer by the day that the present government, led by the socialist Labour Party, either lied deliberately or ignorantly dissembled over its spending plans. 

The former Minister of Finance, Steven Joyce has been vindicated by the latest wave of forecasts coming from the major trading banks.  Joyce had claimed during the election that Labour's economic plan had a hole--a bunch of spending was not taken into account.  But the Labour Finance Spokesman, Grant Robertson solemnly promised that Labour's figures and projections were accurate, credible, and reliable.  The Commentariat cheered Robertson, and mocked Joyce--who was accused of lying and deliberately misleading the voters.

Now, just little more than a month after the election, Robertson, now Minister of Finance, is rapidly revising his figures and projections.  Funny that.  He--and his party--are exposed either as incompetents or frauds--or both.  Joyce has been vindicated.
Economists See Government Debt Rising Billions More Than Labour's Plan
Hamish Rutherford
Finance Minister Grant Robertson maintains the Government still plans to cut New Zealand's debt levels, as economists warn billions more will be borrowed over the coming years.  In Opposition Labour laid out a fiscal plan which would borrow around $11 billion more than National had proposed, but still cut debt as a share of the total economic output from 24 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

The plan formed a major point of contention during the election campaign, as National finance spokesman Steven Joyce was widely mocked for his claim that Robertson's plan had a major "fiscal hole".

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

His Kingdom Is Forever

Martin Luther’s Shelter Amid the Flood of Depression

Ryan Griffith
The Gospel Coalition

For Martin Luther (1483–1546), there was always a clear connection between Scripture and congregational song. The Psalter was Israel’s songbook, not simply David’s. Paul twice commended singing Scripture as part of the ordinary Christian life (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Jesus and his disciples sang together after the Passover meal (Mark 14:26).

Even (perhaps, especially) in the darkest hours, God’s people coupled prayer and Scripture with singing (Acts 16:25). But, like Scripture, vernacular song had been largely absent among the laity in the late medieval church. While chant survived in German monasteries and choral pieces in the Latin processionals and mystery plays, congregational singing was increasingly rare.

Luther not only thought this was unbiblical, he also recognized it removed a major weapon against the enemy. Music was a grace of God because it linked biblical truth with cordial affection. Luther commented:
Music is a fair and lovely gift of God. . . . Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. I would not exchange what little I know of music for something great. Experience proves that, next to the Word of God, only music deserves to be extolled as the mistress and governess of the feelings of the human heart. We know that to the devils, music is distasteful and insufferable.

At least as early as 1523, Luther had begun the practice of turning his biblical meditations into congregational hymns. Singing was a way to meditate on Scripture, driving it afresh into the cold recesses of the heart.

Daily Meditation

On Sensitiveness

C. S. Lewis

Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be “hurt” in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well…It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called “sensitiveness” is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny.

From Reflections on the Psalms
Compiled in A Mind Awake Reflections on the Psalms. Copyright © 1958 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1968 by Arthur Owen Barfield. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 1968 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

"The Forgotten Ghost of the English Language"

A Legacy That Has Lasted Nearly Five Hundred Years

William Tyndale was martyred, but not before he had translated the Scriptures into common English.  He was born in 1494--two years after Columbus had set sail.  He had relatively humble beginnings, learned the classical languages (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew) at school and then subsequently at Oxford.

He proposed to translate the Bible into English--and was refused permission by the Bishop of London.  He, therefore, left for the Continent and lived in the Netherlands and Germany.  He worked largely alone.  He was often a fugitive.  He had published a tract, The Practyse of Prelates opposing Henry VIII's annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragorn.  That was sufficient to have Tyndale placed on a "capture" list.  Eventually he was betrayed and arrested on the Continent.
He was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and was condemned to be burned to death, despite Thomas Cromwell's intercession on his behalf. Tyndale "was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned".   His final words, spoken "at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice", were reported as "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes."  [Wikipedia]
That might have been expected to be the end of Tyndale's influence upon the world.  How wrong that would have turned out to be.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The War Within

The Enduring Appeal of Creepy Christianity

The desire for certainty in an uncertain world yields terrible results.

By David French
National Review Online

Speaking broadly, there are two great, competing temptations that tug at the Christian Church. Both of them are based on the fear of man.

The first is the one that the theologically orthodox discuss and battle the most: the temptation to forsake Christian doctrine to seek the approval of a hostile culture. This is the old argument that the world would embrace the Church if only the Church were more like the world. It is embraced by much of Mainline Protestantism, and it’s the path to religious extinction. In the effort to appeal to the world, the Church becomes the world, and the logic for its distinct existence disappears. Thus the rapid decline of denomination after denomination that has decided to essentially merge with America’s secular culture.

The second temptation is one that attracts the theologically orthodox: the temptation to run toward a form of hyper-legalism as a firewall to protect your family from the sins of the world. Mothers and fathers are desperate for a way to guarantee that their children will grow up to love the Lord. They want to build high walls against sin, so they seek to create distinct communities that are free of the world’s filth and moral compromise.

This second temptation is pernicious. Theologically, it fundamentally denies a very uncomfortable scriptural truth: that this side of heaven we can’t eliminate uncertainty or temptation. We “see through a glass darkly.” We simply don’t have all the answers — for raising children, for sustaining a successful marriage, for thriving in our careers, or for responding to sickness and adversity.

The scriptural response to this fundamental uncertainty is unsatisfying to some. Faith, hope, and love are vague concepts. The Bible doesn’t have a clear, specific prescription for every life challenge. But rather than seeking God prayerfully and with deep humility and reverence, we want answers, now. And thus we gravitate to those people who purport to offer more than the Bible.

Daily Meditation

A Much More Profitable Service

Avoid foolish questions.  Titus 3:9

Charles H. Spurgeon

Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser, and therefore the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field. Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials, are all foolish, and wise men avoid them.

Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether; and if we observe the apostle's precept (Titus 3:8) to be careful to maintain good works, we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings.

There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind? Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? Am I growing in grace? Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour? Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master? What more can I do for Jesus?

Such enquiries as these urgently demand our attention; and if we have been at all given to cavilling, let us now turn our critical abilities to a service so much more profitable. Let us be peace-makers, and endeavour to lead others both by our precept and example, to "avoid foolish questions."

A Merciless and Unpredictable Tyrant

The Fragile Thinness of Civilization

English history--like most histories--is replete with tyrants and tyrannies.  Henry VIII was one of the worst.  We acknowledge that he was a creature of his times.  The administration of capital justice was so often based upon witnesses whose testimony, in turn, was based upon confessions extracted under torture.

Our times have seen plenty of this kind of evil malice.  Stalin, for example, wanted in some strange way to dress up his infamy and cruelty with show trials.  Testimonies extracted under torture, or the threat thereof, formed a large part of these trials.  Stalin knew all these confessions were garbage, but the formalities had to be adhered to.  Appearances needed to  be maintained.  Why Stalin persisted in such bizarre arrangements is hard to fathom.  Surely he could not have been trying to convince himself.  Was he trying to keep alive the myth of the New Model Man in the minds of the peasantry?

In Henry's case one driver was the need for a legitimate (male) heir; he had a hard time finding the right queen who would produce the goods.  His second queen, Anne was eventually convicted of multiple adulteries and executed.  Was Anne an adulteress?  It seems not.  The testimony against her was probably extracted under torture.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

I Suggest We Not Vote for Dirtier Elections

Douglas Wilson

So I begin these ruminations with a most necessary qualifier, necessary at least in these troubled days of ours. To defend due process is not to defend the dirty deeds that must be prosecuted or rejected under a system of due process. A civilized society, in order to institutionalize a bias against lynchings—against a populace taking what they might call “direct action” based upon what “everybody knows—must insist upon due process.
That said, here is the qualification yet again. I indent it so that certain people can find it more easily. If Roy Moore is guilty of what his accusers say, then he deserves everything he is going to get, good and hard. With a career and reputation in shambles, he would have no complaint against the Almighty over what transpired. As the bluesman Paul Butterfield once put it, trenchantly enough, “Ain’t no one to blame but myself.”

But if he is not guilty of the charges, then the Washington Post and the suborned women who accused him are the guilty ones. Not only are they guilty of false accusation, but they are guilty of something every bit as bad as what they accused Moore of doing. “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you” (Deut. 19:18–19).

We have an accusation of a disqualifying sexual crime; if guilty, Moore ought not to be a senator. We have the counteraccusation that WaPo was offering money to women if they were willing to accuse Moore. This too is disqualifying; people who do this should be run out of the business of journalism. But notice that I am withholding judgment in both cases. I do not know if Moore molested a girl decades ago, and I do not know if the WaPo paid women to lie about Moore.

Daily Meditation

On Goodness

C. S. Lewis

It has sometimes been asked whether God commands certain things because they are right, or whether certain things are right because God commands them. . . I emphatically embrace the first alternative. The second might lead to the abominable conclusion . . . that charity is good only because God arbitrarily commanded it—that He might equally well have commanded us to hate Him and one another and that hatred would then have been right.

I believe, on the contrary, that “they err who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides His will.” God’s will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and His goodness which always embraces, the intrinsically good. But when we have said that God commands things only because they are good, we must add that one of the things intrinsically good is that rational creatures should freely surrender themselves to their Creator in obedience.

The content of our obedience—the thing we are commanded to do—will always be something intrinsically good, something we ought to do even if (by an impossible supposition) God had not commanded it. But in addition to the content, the mere obeying is also intrinsically good, for, in obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam’s dance backward, and returns.

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.

More on Ardern's Flappy Lips

"It's All About Me"

We posted the other day a piece on how New Zealand's new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has mounted a soap box and oozed sanctimony on Australian migrant policy.  The Ozzies don't have enough compassion.  New Zealand apparently has plenty.  Ardern has "offered" to take 150 of these economic refugees from Manus Island--where they are currently being held--but her "offer" has been strangely put.  She has not only made the offer--she has also insisted that Australia take it up, publicly nagging the Australian PM, Michael Turnbull.

Turnbull is reported to be furious with Ardern's flappy lips.

The Aussies are well experienced in playing hardball when it comes to such squabbles.  They have their own version of utu, or revenge.  A well-timed leak was promiscuously sprayed across both countries this week.  Apparently, the "refugees" on Manus Island have been engaging in under-age sexual activity with members of the local population.

Friday, 17 November 2017

A Morally Perverse Myopia

Western Progressives Continue to Romanticise Communism

Liam Hehir

Fifty years after his death, Che Guevera, the Butcher of la Cabana, remains a romantic icon of radical chic.
Fifty years after his death, Che Guevera, the Butcher of la Cabana, remains a romantic icon of radical chic.
 Ever seen an ordinary young person in a T-shirt bearing the visage of Benito Mussolini? Ever dined at a restaurant bedecked with Third Reich propaganda? Ever listened to a new recording of the Horst Wessel song by a popular contemporary folk singer?

It would be unthinkable for the National Party leader to quote Alfred Rosenberg, ideological architect of National Socialism. No prime minister would ever declare a sympathetic treatment of Reinhard Heydrich to be his or her favourite movie. No credible political figure would argue that the problem with fascism is that it has never been tried properly.

Yet on the centenary of The October Revolution – the coup d'etat that saw the creation of the Soviet Union – communism retains a grasp on the imaginations of Western progressives.

I went out to dinner in Wellington recently.

Daily Meditation

Dependence Produces Fruit

The branch cannot bear fruit of itself.  John 15:4

Charles H. Spurgeon

How did you begin to bear fruit? It was when you came to Jesus and cast yourselves on his great atonement, and rested on his finished righteousness. Ah! what fruit you had then! Do you remember those early days? Then indeed the vine flourished, the tender grape appeared, the pomegranates budded forth, and the beds of spices gave forth their smell. Have you declined since then? If you have, we charge you to remember that time of love, and repent, and do thy first works.

Be most in those engagements which you have experimentally proved to draw you nearest to Christ, because it is from him that all your fruits proceed. Any holy exercise which will bring you to him will help you to bear fruit. The sun is, no doubt, a great worker in fruit-creating among the trees of the orchard: and Jesus is still more so among the trees of his garden of grace. When have you been the most fruitless? Has not it been when you have lived farthest from the Lord Jesus Christ, when you have slackened in prayer, when you have departed from the simplicity of your faith, when your graces have engrossed your attention instead of your Lord, when you have said, "My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved"; and have forgotten where your strength dwells--has not it been then that your fruit has ceased?

Some of us have been taught that we have nothing out of Christ, by terrible abasements of heart before the Lord; and when we have seen the utter barrenness and death of all creature power, we have cried in anguish, "From him all my fruit must be found, for no fruit can ever come from me." We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.

Loose Lips Launch Ships

Ardern's Moral Posturing Has Consequences

During the Second World War, in Britain the warning was, "Loose Lips Sink Ships".  As the U-boats hunted for convoys of merchant vessels, sinking hundreds as they made their way to Britain carrying vital supplies, people were made conscious of the need for secrecy.  Given German intelligence operatives were active on radio listening posts, information often deemed to be harmless might have been sufficient for security leaks, leading to focused U-boat efforts on expected convoys. 

Now circumstances have changed.  We need to update the slogan from "Loose Lips Sink Ships" to "Loose Lips Launch Ships".  Several years ago Australian waters were invaded by boats launched out of Indonesia, carrying "refugees".  The Labour government of the day welcomed them into Australia.  At its height, one boat a week was arriving on Australian shores.  Most of these "boat people" were not genuine refugees: they were economic migrants who had paid money for passage to Australia.  They arrived, as the scam requires, with all their documentation mysteriously missing.  No passports, no documents proving provenance.  No UN refugee certification.  Nothing. 

Then Labour lost an election, and the Liberal administration stopped the boats virtually overnight.  They simply deployed the Australian navy to detect the ships and turn them back to Indonesia.  They continue to patrol in this fashion, and they continue to turn boats back.

But those in the business of people-running on the seas are smart, well-informed, cunning, and business savvy.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Diminishing Reservoir of Credibility

Not A Good Sign

What is it about the Left and lies and propaganda working together like a Three Ring Circus?  It defies fundamental standards of a duty of care.  Here is Heather Du Plessis Allan's take on Labour's start in government in New Zealand.  The thing that stands out is the baldness of the propaganda and the lies.  It is inexplicable.  
Well that didn't take long. Two weeks and the paint has started to chip off the new Government. After a couple of moments of questionable truthfulness over the last week, the new mob are starting to look a lot more like the last lot, where truthfulness wasn't a high priority.

The most audacious bout of Labour's truth-bending came on the first day of Parliament this week when the king of all logistical cock-ups played out. The drama probably generated flurries of "WTF" texts between political nerds, but it's pretty esoteric to the rest of us, so I'll just give you bullet points.

Daily Meditation

Do Not Harden Your Heart

So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)

John Piper

Even though the people of Israel saw the waters of the Red Sea divide and they walked over on dry ground, the moment they got thirsty, their hearts were hard against God and they did not trust him to take care of them. They cried out against him and said that life in Egypt was better.

That is what this verse is written to prevent. O how many professing Christians make a start with God. They hear that their sins can be forgiven and that they can escape hell and go to heaven. And they say: “What have I got to lose? I'll believe.”

But then in a week or a month or a year or ten years, the test comes — a season of no water in the wilderness. A weariness with manna, and subtly a growing craving for the fleeting pleasures of Egypt, as Numbers 11:5–6 says, “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

This is a terrifying condition to be in — to find yourself no longer interested in Christ and his Word and prayer and worship and missions and living for the glory of God. And to find all fleeting pleasures of this world more attractive than the things of the Spirit.

If that is your situation, I plead with you to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in this text. Give heed to the Word of God. Do not harden your heart. Wake up to the deceitfulness of sin. Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our great confession, and hold fast to your confidence and hope in him.

And if you have never even made a start with God, then put your hope in him. Turn from sin and from self-reliance and put your confidence in a great Savior. These things are written that you might believe and endure, and have life.

Reflections on The Another, Yet-to-Come Reformation

Another Demi-Millennium

We have been in the midst of the demi-millennial celebrations and remembrances of the Reformation.  It has certainly been a time of reflection.  One factor, often not given due weight in discussions about the topic is the influence of new technology upon the Reformation.  Without that technology it is unlikely that the Reformation would have taken place--at least in the form in which it occurred.

That technology was the printing press.  The reason this was so significant is that the Reformation was critically involved with the recovery of the authority of the Word of God, over men, the Church, and society generally.  Rapid reproduction and publishing of the text of the Bible for the common man was hugely important.
Printing (from the 1430's) and cheaper paper meant that copies of ancient texts and modern translations could be made available outside the clerical and aristocratic elite, even to ordinary literate people--the gentry, merchants, yeomen, artisans.   Printed Bibles appeared in German in 1466, and in Italian, Dutch, French, Spanish and Czech in the 1470's.  Lay readers ceased to be dependent on the clergy to transmit the world of God.  Instead of asking what God meant (which required experts to explain) they began to ask simply what God said, and decide on its meaning themselves. [Robert Tombs, The English and Their History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p.160.]
The significance of this technology ought not be overlooked.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

A Significant Book For Our Times

Who Is Truly Catholic?

Fred Sanders
The Gospel Coalition

I keep a shelf of conversionist and church-proselytizing literature in my office library, but I don’t look at it very often, or like it very much.

Most of the books in that genre contain rather poor writing and weak editing, since they’re often churned out from tiny presses to serve a niche market. What is that niche market? It’s people who for various reasons have come to view differences among churches as an urgently vital thing to read books about.

There are times and places where that’s entirely valid, because the theological and spiritual differences are real, which is why I dutifully keep the books around. But even if you avoid the nasty and bellicose entries, the whole genre suffers from a downward tug, a gravitational pull toward low standards of argument, appeals to base motives, and cloying self-congratulation. Few books in the genre avoid palpable tackiness. More importantly, they usually radiate heat without light; when you read them you risk your mind getting softer as your heart gets harder.

But Ken Collins (professor of historical theology and Wesley studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky) and Jerry Walls (professor of philosophy and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas) have somehow broken the spell. They have teamed up, as a church historian and a philosopher, to write a well-reasoned, informative, and truly helpful book about Roman Catholicism. Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation is a serious and substantive account of what Protestants can’t accept about Roman Catholic theology.

What they can’t accept is simple: they object to the exclusive claims of the Church of Rome to be the one true church, and the only ecclesial entity deserving the title of catholic.

Daily Meditation

Being Pulled Into God

C. S. Lewis

An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him.

You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bed- room where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.

The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life—what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 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.

The Incomparable Playright

The Making of an "English World View"

It is both intriguing and encouraging that Shakespeare seems to be making a revival.  The invention of the pop-up Globe has seen multitudes of people all around the world attending seriously good productions of plays written in (mainly) in the 1590's.  There is no literary figure to compare with Shakespeare on the Continent throughout the early modern period. 

Shakespeare grew up in a time when the biblical world-view was predominant.  This included, amongst other things, a profound belief in human nobility, on the one hand, and total depravity, on the other.  The English Reformation was well underway; it took human faults and failings very seriously.  We do not mean to imply that Shakespeare was a Reformer: on the contrary.  But he could not escape much of the world-and-life view preached and taught by the Reformers--and parts of that world-view he appears to have adopted in all seriousness. 

Consequently, in partial congruence with the Apostle Paul, Shakespeare's view of humanity was that amongst its ranks  "not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth".  [I Corinthians 1: 25f]

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Horrors Of It All

The Gruesome Reality Of Dismemberment Abortion

Abortion providers in Texas don’t think the state should require them to kill a fetus before dismembering it in its mother’s womb.

John Daniel Davidson
The Federalist

Editor’s Note: This article contains descriptions of human dismemberment caused by second-trimester abortions.

A bizarre spectacle unfolded this week in a federal district courtroom in Austin, Texas, where a group of abortion providers argued they shouldn’t have to kill a fetus before dismembering it in its mother’s womb, and the state argued that they should.

At issue is a state law passed earlier this year, Senate Bill 8, that would ban live dismemberment abortions. A live dismemberment abortion is exactly what it sounds like: a doctor uses forceps to tear apart a live fetus, limb by limb, and remove it from the mother’s uterus. This is usually done in the second trimester, when the fetus is too large to be suctioned out.

The law in question wouldn’t ban such a procedure, but it would require abortion doctors in Texas to ensure that a fetus is dead before they dismember it. The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Paxton, hinges on the constitutionality of the Texas law and marks the first time the merits of such a statute have been considered at a trial.

Daily Meditation

The End of History

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:9–10)

John Piper

Paul describes the second coming of Christ as hope and terror.

Jesus Christ is coming back not only to effect the final salvation of his people, but through his salvation “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”

A final comment concerns history’s climax in the book of Revelation: John pictures the new Jerusalem, the glorified church, in 21:23: “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

God the Father and God the Son are the light in which Christians will live their eternity.

This is the consummation of God’s goal in all of history — to display his glory for all to see and praise. The prayer of the Son confirms the final purpose of the Father: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

We may conclude that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. He stands supreme at the center of his own affections. For that very reason, he is a self-sufficient and inexhaustible fountain of grace.

I Will Make Them a Horror

When God Becomes Weary of  Relenting

The Prophet Jeremiah was serving the Lord in the last days of Judea, before the Babylonians came down and destroyed Jerusalem.  He has been called the weeping prophet because of his lamentations and cries over the destruction that he knew was coming.

In Jeremiah 15, the prophet declares God's sentence upon Judah:
I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, declares the Lord: the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. And I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem.  [Jeremiah 15: 3-4]
God declares that He will not relent because of what King Manasseh had done nearly one hundred years previously.  Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, had provoked God in a way so grievous that it "locked and loaded" God's wrath upon Judah.  And this, we may add, in the face of Manasseh's subsequent captivity at the hands of the Assyrians, then release, followed by his repentance and relative faithfulness.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Those Who Do Not Learn From the Past Condemned To Repeat It

Idealising Communism 

Tom Switzer
Centre for Independent Studies

Next week marks the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution. November 7, 1917 was not just one of the most influential events of all time, it ushered in the most terrifying period in human history. In the matter of scale, the Russian revolutionaries and their later successors in China and elsewhere achieved a record of far more deaths than either world war. According to the London-based project to create a Museum of Communist Terror, 15-18 million people died in World War One; 40-80 million died in World War Two; and 80-100 million died under communist regimes.

Yet 100 years later, many young people in the West are ignorant of the ideology that inspired Lenin, Trotsky and millions of their worldwide followers. According to YouGov surveys, only 55% of American millennials think communism was, and still is, a problem. A third of young people believe US president George W. Bush murdered more people than Soviet dictator Josef Stalin did. And about 70 per cent of young British people have never heard of Mao Tse-Tung, the communist revolutionary whose regime murdered tens of millions of Chinese.

The British Labour Opposition’s treasury spokesman, John McDonnell, identifies with the Marxist cause — even once waving Mao’s Little Red Book in parliament.

Daily Mediation

Happy Are Those Who Dwell In His House

The eternal God is thy refuge.  Deuteronomy 33:27

Charles H. Spurgeon

The word refuge may be translated "mansion," or "abiding- place," which gives the thought that God is our abode, our home. There is a fulness and sweetness in the metaphor, for dear to our hearts is our home, although it be the humblest cottage, or the scantiest garret; and dearer far is our blessed God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being.

It is at home that we feel safe: we shut the world out and dwell in quiet security. So when we are with our God we "fear no evil." He is our shelter and retreat, our abiding refuge. At home, we take our rest; it is there we find repose after the fatigue and toil of the day. And so our hearts find rest in God, when, wearied with life's conflict, we turn to him, and our soul dwells at ease. At home, also, we let our hearts loose; we are not afraid of being misunderstood, nor of our words being misconstrued.

So when we are with God we can commune freely with him, laying open all our hidden desires; for if the "secret of the Lord is with them that fear him," the secrets of them that fear him ought to be, and must be, with their Lord. Home, too, is the place of our truest and purest happiness: and it is in God that our hearts find their deepest delight. We have joy in him which far surpasses all other joy. It is also for home that we work and labour. The thought of it gives strength to bear the daily burden, and quickens the fingers to perform the task; and in this sense we may also say that God is our home. Love to him strengthens us. We think of him in the person of his dear Son; and a glimpse of the suffering face of the Redeemer constrains us to labour in his cause.

We feel that we must work, for we have brethren yet to be saved, and we have our Father's heart to make glad by bringing home his wandering sons; we would fill with holy mirth the sacred family among whom we dwell. Happy are those who have thus the God of Jacob for their refuge!

Rotting Foundations

Holy Separation Long Overdue

It is being reported that the secularist paradise of the South Pacific is going to remove all references to Jesus Christ, the King of all kings, from the Parliamentary prayer.  

This would serve to bring the Parliament into line with official truth as it is declared daily in our government run schools.  What should Christians think of this?  Our view is that it is a move long overdue.  Let us be clear why.

We do not mean to suggest that the Lord Jesus Christ ought to have no place of honour, lordship, or kingship over our Parliament.  Quite the contrary.  It is precisely because He is the King of kings that our Parliament and government in general is duty bound to remove all references to Him.  For our governing authorities and our rulers long ago rejected the Christ and entered into a programme of rebellion against Him.  Therefore, to live denying Christ with every breath, whilst praying to Him in a vacuous, mindless way at the commencement of Parliament is the acme of hypocrisy.  It is a perilous course.

If we need reminding what the King thinks of such perversity, let us remind our readers of the seven woes pronounced by our Lord upon the established authorities of Israel.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Europe's Nightmare

Catalonia Isn’t Just Spain’s Problem

Simon Jenkins
The Guardian

With Basques, Bretons, Bavarians and many more eyeing the outcome of events, could this be the moment to formalise various levels of autonomy?

The EU countries may be right that Catalonia is legally a matter of Spanish constitutional law. But they should also be frightened. Catalonia is Europe’s problem.

The imprisonment on remand of eight Catalan politicians, on blatantly political charges, and the Belgian asylum sought by its president, appears to be an engineered confrontation.

Two days ago, the Madrid government reneged on an agreement that it would not suspend the Barcelona government if it did not declare independence and agreed to new local elections next month. Madrid then proceeded with suspension, and Catalonia duly proceeded with declaration – though with no mention of implementation. Madrid immediately arrested those Catalan politicians (and officials) it could find, on charges of rebellion and treason.

So far, so absurd.

Daily Meditation

Is God’s Love Conditional?

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

John Piper

This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit.

It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness.

If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes.

Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”).

But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.


Merrie England

We are accustomed to think of our present and recent centuries as the biggest and the brightest and the best of human civilization.  It behoves the dominant evolutionary world view so to assume and delve for corroboration at every turn.

Robert Tombs, however, produces a picture which would be at substantial variance to this established modern narrative. He writes that in England in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (post Black Plague) was a time of substantial economic growth.  The picture he paints is intriguing, if for no other reason than indirectly to recast our own times as somewhat less singular or exceptional.

Here is the general picture of economic and social progress in England, post Plague, painted by Tombs:

Friday, 10 November 2017

Letter From America (About Murderous Greenists)

The Lynch Mob Targets Scott Pruitt

‘If he has had enough serious death threats, then he shouldn’t have proposed the deep cuts to the EPA budget.’

By Julie Kelly
National Review Online

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s EPA administrator, is the top target of the anti-Trump lynch mob. He’s enduring daily attack pieces in the media and threats of violence against him and his family. It’s hard to think of any cabinet member — current or former — who has been subjected to more vitriol and vilification than Pruitt, and he’s been on the job for less than a year. Suddenly, everything from overlooked Superfund sites to the Flint water crisis to “toxic” pesticides are Pruitt’s fault, which of course means he is poisoning children and destroying the planet.

According to the EPA inspector general’s office, Pruitt has received “four to five times the number of threats” that his predecessor, Gina McCarthy, did. The level of concern for Pruitt’s safety is so deep that agents are being added to his round-the-clock security detail. In a recent Bloomberg News interview, Pruitt said, “The quantity and the volume — as well as the type — of threats are different. What’s really disappointing to me as it’s not just me — it’s family.”

Why are Pruitt and his family in the crosshairs?

Daily Meditation

We Receive No Less Than Christ Himself

As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord . . .   Colossians 2:6

Charles H. Spurgeon

The life of faith is represented as receiving--an act which implies the very opposite of anything like merit. It is simply the acceptance of a gift. As the earth drinks in the rain, as the sea receives the streams, as night accepts light from the stars, so we, giving nothing, partake freely of the grace of God.

The saints are not, by nature, wells, or streams, they are but cisterns into which the living water flows; they are empty vessels into which God pours his salvation. The idea of receiving implies a sense of realization, making the matter a reality. One cannot very well receive a shadow; we receive that which is substantial: so is it in the life of faith, Christ becomes real to us.

While we are without faith, Jesus is a mere name to us--a person who lived a long while ago, so long ago that his life is only a history to us now! By an act of faith Jesus becomes a real person in the consciousness of our heart. But receiving also means grasping or getting possession of. The thing which I receive becomes my own: I appropriate to myself that which is given. When I receive Jesus, he becomes my Saviour, so mine that neither life nor death shall be able to rob me of him. All this is to receive Christ--to take him as God's free gift; to realize him in my heart, and to appropriate him as mine.

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received Christ Jesus himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself.

The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him. What a heartful Jesus must be, for heaven itself cannot contain him!

Politics: The National Sport

Indicative of the Future, or a One Off?

Oh, dear. Never mind.  Press on.  The first day of Parliament after the recent election in New Zealand seems to have been a major shambles.  Poor Jacinda Ardern was left high and dry on the beach as the tide went out.  

This from Stuff:
So far so shambolic. If this is a taste of things to come in the new Parliament, get ready for a wild ride.  Labour has run hard up against the reality of dealing with the biggest single Opposition party ever, and the panicked scenes as it tried to bargain its way out of an embarrassing vote to elect the new Speaker are a memory it will want to bury quick smart.

While Labour was still scrambling to recover from that debacle, Foreign Minister Winston Peters dropped a bombshell, serving legal papers taking broad aim at a bunch of Opposition MPs, political staffers, a government department chief executive, and journalists, before heading overseas.  It's a fair bet that this is not what Labour's strategists and senior ministers wanted day one of the rest of the next three years to look like.

Trevor Mallard eventually got the nod after Labour needed National's support to get him elected.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Having Promised the World . . . .

The Shakeup

Jo Moir

With a 100-day plan to uphold and a long list of things on it, not only are MPs worried they'll be stuck at Parliament until the jolly fat guy in a red suit sets off around the world, but also that their summer holidays look set to be spent in the capital.

The Labour-led government is hitting the ground running on a number of promises, including making the first year of tertiary education or training free from January 1 next year.  New Education Minister Chris Hipkins has a full suite of changes he's already getting under way, including reducing the workload for teachers.  In addition, student allowances and living cost loans will increase by $50 a week as well.

Former education minister Nikki Kaye is ambitious and will be strong in Opposition up against Chris Hipkins.  There's nowhere near enough time between now and the festive season to completely remodel the tertiary funding system, which is why newly appointed Education Minister Chris Hipkins has had to sit down with officials this week to work out an interim solution.

Daily Meditation

On God

C. S. Lewis

He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.

From The Weight of Glory
Compiled in Words to Live By The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 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.