Monday, 31 December 2018

NZ's "Assisted Death" Bill

Check the Detail

Maggie Barry
National Party MP

As deputy chairwoman of the justice select committee, I've been listening to some very well considered submissions on the controversial euthanasia and assisted suicide bill before Parliament.
There were 36,000 individuals and groups who wrote to Parliament with their views on the End of Life Choice Bill. Ten per cent have indicated that they would like to be heard in person, which the committee has promised to do.

So we have extended the reporting deadline from September to next March. While I will listen attentively and respectfully to everyone's viewpoint, I remain concerned at the lack of adequate safeguards to protect our most vulnerable.

A troubling aspect emerging from the public discussions is the large number of people who say they are in favour of the bill but who admit that they have not actually read it, claiming they don't care about the detail, they just want to have the option.

Have you ever heard of anyone who did not want to die with dignity or be treated with compassion? Rather than being lulled by the wording around this poorly drafted bill, I've been urging people to delve deeper - it's vital to know the details when stakes are so high and protections for the vulnerable so low.

Many incorrectly assume the law only applies to the terminally ill, but it would actually licence doctors to end the life of anyone with a "grievous, irremediable condition".

Daily Meditation

The Glorious Return of Christ

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (v. 11).
Acts 1:6–11
Eschatology, the category of systematic theology under which we study the last things, continues to be the subject of much discussion and debate in our day. Much of the discussion is related to such topics as the timing of the millennium, the identity of the Antichrist, the place of the modern state of Israel in prophecy, and other subjects. These arguments might lead us to think that there is no consensus on eschatological matters in the Christian church. However, that would be a wrong conclusion. As evident in the ecumenical creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, believers from many different theological traditions agree on core eschatological elements. One of these areas of agreement concerns the return of Christ in glory.
When examining the Bible’s teaching on the return of Christ to consummate His kingdom, we must take care to study only those passages that actually deal with the subject. We say this because some of the texts often referenced on the final return of our Savior may not actually address it. For example, it is likely that most, if not all, of the Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 20 has to do with Jesus’ judgment on Jerusalem for rejecting Him, which occurred in the Roman destruction of the city and its temple in AD 70. Those texts, therefore, are not the best places to go, at least at first, when we are studying the final return of Christ.
One of the clearest texts on the subject at hand is Acts 1:6–11, which describes the ascension of Christ. This passage gives us three important facts about the second advent. First, the return of Christ will be personal. The angels note that “this Jesus” will return (v. 11). The very same person whom the disciples saw depart that day will come back.
Second, the return of Christ will be visible. Jesus, the angels say, “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (v. 11). The disciples saw the incarnate Jesus ascend into heaven, so if He is coming in the same manner to consummate His kingdom, we will actually see the God-man in the flesh at the time of His final advent.
Finally, the return of Christ will be in glory. We read in verse 9 that a cloud took Jesus out of their sight. That is significant because in the Old Testament, God’s glorious presence often appeared as a cloud (for example, Ex. 40:34). When Jesus comes back to bring the new heaven and earth, He will come in the glory of God.

Coram Deo

We do not know exactly when Jesus will return, but we do know that it could be at any moment. Every breath we take could possibly be the last one we breathe before Jesus returns. Knowing the imminence of Christ’s return should spur us to serve the church and engage, as we are able, in the work of making disciples. We do not want to be found idle when Jesus comes back (Matt. 25).

Acting Out Of Infantile Fear and Ignorance

China Charges Pastor with ‘Subversion’ After Church Raids

John Hayward
Breitbart News

Chinese authorities announced on Thursday that they are holding Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church on suspicion of “subversion” despite an international outcry from religious freedom advocates and human rights organizations.

Chinese police raided numerous Early Rain churches last weekend and arrested dozens of congregants along with Pastor Wang and his wife. The church was targeted under new regulations that require all Protestant churches to be sanctioned by the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee. Even churches with Three-Self approval have been subjected to harassment as the Communist government cracks down on religion.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the immediate release of Wang and the scores of imprisoned Early Rain Covenant Church members on Thursday and demanded the government allow them to resume worship services.

“The shutdown of a Protestant church in Chengdu epitomizes the Xi Jinping government’s relentless assault on religious freedom in China. It makes a mockery of the government’s claim that it respects religious beliefs,” HRW China researcher Yaqiu Wang said.

“Everyone who supports religious freedom should stand with Wang Yi and speak out against the Chinese government’s repression of religion,” HRW’s Wang added.

HRW noted that Chinese police seized church property and abused congregants without due process and some of the church members released from custody have said police beat them and deprived them of food and water.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Daily Meditation

The Millennial Reign of Christ

“I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (v. 4)
Revelation 20:1–6
Of all the aspects of eschatology, the doctrine of the last things, perhaps none is more controversial than the millennium. Even in an era when many people do not devote much effort to studying theology, much time is spent trying to figure out the teaching on the millennium in Revelation 20:1–6.
The different millennial positions can be attributed in part to the highly symbolic nature of the language in Revelation. It can be difficult to know when to take the book figuratively and when to take it literally. Furthermore, Revelation 20:1–6 is the only passage in Scripture that deals with the millennial reign of Christ explicitly. Because the data is sparse, there is a greater propensity for divergence in interpretation because there is little else to directly confirm one’s view.
In the history of Christian theology, three major millennial views have been advocated. First is the premillennial view. This position holds that the one thousand years in Revelation should be read as an actual time designation, that when Christ returns He will reign over an earthly kingdom that will last for a literal one thousand years, after which the new heavens and earth will arrive.
The amillennial interpretation of Revelation 20 affirms a figurative view of the millennium. The entire period between the ascension and return of Christ is the millennium, which means that it is much longer than an actual one thousand years. Christ is ruling now over a spiritual kingdom that will be immediately consummated at His return, and the new heavens and earth will then be in place.
Finally, the postmillennial position agrees with amillennialism  that the millennium will take place before the return of Jesus. However, postmillennialism holds that there will be a time of widespread peace and prosperity before Christ’s return that will result from the preaching of the gospel. Great numbers of people will be converted and society will be transformed, and then Jesus will return. This is different from amillennialism, which says things will mostly continue as they are until Christ returns, with the gospel spreading widely in some places and being resisted in others.
Good and godly Christians have differed over this matter, so it is difficult to hold any of these views too strongly. Whatever view one holds, what we must affirm is that Christ is ruling and reigning over the cosmos now. For He has been exalted to God’s right hand and must reign until all things are put under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25).

Coram Deo

Given the disagreements over the millennium in church history, it is wise to hold our millennial views with humility. We should not divide with others who affirm the present reign of Christ over His kingdom if they differ with us on their millennial view. Instead, we should work together to proclaim the present reign of Christ and His command for all people to repent and bow to His lordship.

Passages for Further Study

Gems From Jonathan Edwards: The Dispersion of the Jews

Orthodox Biblical Judaism is Now an Impossibility

Edwards argues that the dispersion of the Jews through many nations prior to the coming of Christ served to prepare the world for His advent.  

Firstly, the presence of Jews throughout much of the known world served to increase an expectation of a coming Messiah.  This expectation was found not just amongst the people of the synagogues, but it actually spread to the non-Jewish populations as well.
. . . the birth of such a glorious person in Judea about that time began to be the general expectation of the nations of the world, as appears by the writings of the leaned men of the heathen who lived about that time; which are still extant; particularly Virgil, the famous poet who lived in Italy a little before Christ was born, has a poem about the expectation of a great prince who was to be born, and the happy times of righteousness and peace that he was to introduce; some of it very like the language of the prophet Isaiah.  [Jonathan Edwards, The History of Redemption, Comprising a Summary of the History of the Jews Up To The Destruction of Jerusalem (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1836), p. 155].
Another effect of the Dispersion was that it effectively undermined some of the key institutions of the Old Covenant church in such a way that it prepared believers for the universal, global Church of Christ.

Edwards writes:

Holy Satire

Transgender Baptisms

Church Of England’s Transgender Baptisms Blaze Trail For 3 More Blasphemous Rites

Hans Fiene
The Federalist

Note: Ever the ecumenical fellow, throughout my life, I have made a multitude of friends from a variety of faith traditions. After learning that the Church of England has offered congregations some guidelines for affirming transgender identities, I was flummoxed. So I sought my progressive Anglican priest friend, Victoria Vivian Jambutter, hoping she might explain what’s happening across the pond. What follows are the thoughts and predictions of Rev. Jambutter, who is a totally real person.

Wonderful news, lads, ladies, and gender-nonconforming sentient organisms! As Helena Horton put in a recent article for The Telegraph, “the Church of England has encouraged its clergy to create baptism-style ceremonies for transgender people to welcome them into the Anglican faith.” Or, to state things a bit more thoroughly, the Church of England has released some guidelines for using a ceremony known as the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith to indicate God’s, and the church’s, acceptance of those identifying as transgender.

If a man declares that he is actually a woman, the guidelines essentially say, let’s augment the Affirmation of Baptismal faith in such a way as to include her new name and pronouns as an indication that both God and the Church of England accept her new identity.

“Now, wait a second,” you might be asking yourself if you’re one of those stuffy traditionalists who falls somewhere on the “actually Christian” spectrum of Christendom, “if the Church of England accepts Reginald’s claim that he is now a she known as Regina, isn’t this a gnostic rejection of the Triune God who created Reginald as a male, redeemed him as a male, and will resurrect him as a male?”

Why, yes! Yes, it is!

“Why, then,” you may respond, “are Church of England progressives placing social justice inclusivity above biblical faithfulness?”

The answer is quite simple: Because that’s how we resolve our religious anxiety.

Divided Christendom

Divided Christendom is a stressful thing, forcing all who dwell within it to ask themselves “How do I know that my group is right instead of one of the other ones?” There are many ways to answer this question. Catholics resolve this anxiety by pointing to the pope and saying, “The Catholic Church is the true church because it’s the only church that has him.” Baptists point to the Bible and say, “the Baptist Church is the right one because we teach what the Bible really teaches.”

For progressive Christians like me, however, the purpose of Christianity is not so much to find God in his supposed representative on earth or in his unchanging word but by moving beyond the bigotry of the apostles. Christianity, you see, is not about faithfulness. It’s about evolution. For progressives, the best way to convince ourselves that we are the most evolved Christians is to embrace every sin that’s condemned by the fundamentalist fuddy-duddies around us.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Incompetence or Arrogance

Minister Out of Control

Mike Hoskings
NZ Herald

Do you think it says something about the mentality, outlook, and perhaps even sheer arrogance of Phil Twyford, that he decided on our behalf, without the permission or knowledge of Cabinet or the Prime Minister, to simply change the rules on KiwiBuild?

The original deal was, if you were lucky enough to be drawn from the ballot you would appreciate the Government's help in getting you into a first home 0 and therefore wouldn't flip it, or flick it, for profit.  But unbeknown to just about anyone, apart from Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, Twyford decided that wasn't a good rule. He decided you could change it.  Instead of 100 per cent of the profits being taken off you, if you were caught, you had to give back just 30 per cent.  In other words you got to keep 70 per cent of the profits.

In what person's right mind is that fair, sensible, logical - or even sane? And what moron would think they can do that with other people's money? And what grandiose clown thinks he can do that without even getting the boss' sign off?  If you don't think that's as good an example as you will ever get that this whole KiwiBuild thing is a snake oil scam, then you are as mad as Twyford.

By the way, if you don't want to flip the house you can rent it out as well. Oh, you're not really allowed to, but if they catch you, you will only be pinged for part of your windfall.

So what do we have so far?

Daily Meditation

The Resurrection of Our Bodies

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Romans 8:11
Death was not an original part of God’s creation; rather, it came into the created order when Adam fell into sin (Rom. 5:12). It is the last enemy of God’s people that will be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). Having already been defeated through the resurrection of Christ, it will be destroyed on the last day when Christ comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Man brought sin into the world, and death was conquered by a man—the God-man Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:13–21). He brings life to His people, both new spiritual life and the new physical life that our bodies will enjoy at the resurrection. A connection exists between Christ’s resurrection and ours. As Paul says in today’s passage, the very same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will do the same for our mortal bodies (8:11). There is a continuity between the resurrection of Jesus and ours. He is the firstfruits; we are the harvest (1 Cor. 15:20–23). His resurrection was the guarantee of our own resurrection. In fact, we have already been raised with Christ in principle; we wait only for the experience of physical resurrection (Rom. 6:1–5). But the resurrection of God’s people unto new, embodied, glorified life is as good as done, having been secured by Christ’s resurrection in glory.
Since we will be united with Christ “in a resurrection like his” (v. 5), our resurrection will likely be similar to His. When we look at the postresurrection accounts of Jesus, we see that there was both continuity and discontinuity between what He was like before death and what He was like after His death and resurrection. Jesus’ postresurrection body was enough like His preresurrection body that Mary Magdalene finally recognized Him when He appeared to her, but His postresurrection body was also different enough from His preresurrection body that she could not recognize Him at first (John 20:11–18). Perhaps something like that will be true of our resurrection bodies as well.
Paul explains this for us in 1 Corinthians 15:42–57, where he tells us that the natural body sown in death will be raised as a spiritual body. He does not mean a nonphysical body, for spiritual is not set in opposition to the physical in this text. A spiritual body, instead, is one that has been permeated with the Holy Spirit and granted immortality. The new bodies that we will receive at the resurrection will be forever guarded from death by the power and love of God. We will be imperishable, and all of the weaknesses introduced by sin will be no more.

Coram Deo

People may claim that death is just part of the natural order, but their endeavors to delay or even prevent their own deaths prove otherwise. Sinners are looking to escape death, but the only way to do so is through resurrection unto eternal life, which is available only in Christ. The hatred of death is a point of contact with the unbeliever that we can use as a springboard to declare the promise of resurrection in the gospel.

Passages for Further Study

The Pagan's Christmas Wishes

Die, You Fool, Die!

The following quotation comes from a NYT essay, written by a lecturer in philosophy at Clemson University.  The extract below was re-published in Kiwiblog by David Farrar.

Unless we believe there is such a profound moral gap between the status of human and nonhuman animals, whatever reasonable answer we come up with will be well surpassed by the harm and suffering we inflict upon animals. There is just too much torment wreaked upon too many animals and too certain a prospect that this is going to continue and probably increase; it would overwhelm anything we might place on the other side of the ledger. Moreover, those among us who believe that there is such a gap should perhaps become more familiar with the richness of lives of many of our conscious fellow creatures. Our own science is revealing that richness to us, ironically giving us a reason to eliminate it along with our own continued existence.

One might ask here whether, given this view, it would also be a good thing for those of us who are currently here to end our lives in order to prevent further animal suffering. Although I do not have a final answer to this question, we should recognize that the case of future humans is very different from the case of currently existing humans. To demand of currently existing humans that they should end their lives would introduce significant suffering among those who have much to lose by dying. In contrast, preventing future humans from existing does not introduce such suffering, since those human beings will not exist and therefore not have lives to sacrifice.  [Todd May, lecturer in philosophy, Clemson University]
Professor May neatly skirts around a practical problem with the enforced extermination of all humanity: who would do the exterminating?

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Weird and Incoherent

Mattis and Syria: Get a Grip on the Hysteria!

By Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

While it would have been wiser to leave the 2,000 American troops in Syria longer, both to ensure ISIS’s demise and to protect the Kurds, and while the administration benefited greatly from Secretary James Mattis’s restoration of deterrence, which merited him a much longer tenure, the hysteria over the withdrawal of troops and the unfortunate resignation of Mattis as something end-of-the-world devastating and historically unprecedented is as weird as it is incoherent.

First, we should remember that earlier General Mattis did not resign from the Obama administration; he was summarily and without much cause fired — reportedly without a phone call, causing outrage in January 2013 from many who now see his resignation as unprecedented.

Two, defense secretaries, given the nature of the job, have historically sometimes had short tenures. Harry Truman and Barack Obama each had four different secretaries, many of whom were controversial and at odds with their bosses. At some point, policy differences outnumber agreements, and secretaries resign or are forced to resign. The list of defense secretaries who departed either in less than harmonious scenarios, or for a variety of reasons after only a few months, includes a pantheon of American luminaries, from George Marshall to Donald Rumsfeld, Leon Panetta, and Elliot Richardson.

Three, earlier this year Mattis was the subject of a lot of curious stories quoting appraisals of him as “bulletproof,” given that despite his numerous disagreements with Trump (reportedly on getting out of the Paris climate accord, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, quitting the Iran deal, transgender soldiers, etc. ), he still was seen as invaluable to the president, who had given him, according to Washington conventional wisdom, unusual latitude and exemption to focus on rebuilding the military and reestablishing deterrent policies.

Four, earlier this year Trump had promised to put troops into Syria to finish up destroying ISIS for “six months.” So his deadline was not really much of a surprise, although most had thought, given the success of the mission, that a continued presence would be in the country’s and the administration’s interests. And now we will see what happens, and pray that the Kurds and free Syrians can survive, while Russians, the Assad regime, the Turks, ISIS remnants, and the Iranians and their terrorist surrogates all fight over the carcass of Syria.

Fifth, on matters of entering or leaving the Middle East, U.S. strategists in the cases of Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq must develop a more coherent rationale to justify long-term occupations — to convince Americans that these increasingly numerous and optional interventions (whether six months or 18 years) enhance U.S. strategic advantages, and in cost/benefit analyses are worth the human and material costs of maintaining them. So far, we rarely receive any real information on what the actual ends are, and whether the means to obtain them are sufficient or justifiable, at a time of $21 trillion in national debt and a seeming absence of gratitude from those we seek to help.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

Daily Meditation

Death and the Intermediate State

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
Philippians 1:21–23
On this side of glory, we see God only by faith. A day is coming, however, when we will see our Creator face-to-face, when we will enjoy the beatific vision (1 Cor. 13:121 John 3:2). The teaching that we will see God’s face in glory falls under the doctrinal heading of eschatology. Eschatology, or the study of last things, addresses that which still lies ahead in our experience of redemption. To help us understand the doctrine of last things better, we will base the next few days of studies on volume 8 of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Foundations.
Eschatology, we have said, covers those things that lie ahead of us, and for all believers except those who are alive when Jesus returns, that will include the experience of physical death. But physical death is not unique to Christians, for death comes to every person regardless of whether they believe in Jesus. Christians, however, approach death from a different perspective from that of those around us. Unlike the materialists—those who believe the physical world is all there is—we know that death is not a part of the natural order. It is an intruder that came in with sin (Rom. 5:12). Thus, we rightly hate death and prefer life.
Accordingly, we often speak of death in tragic terms. When someone dies, we lose them to our experience. People give words of sympathy such as “I am sorry for your loss.” And it is true that when someone we love dies, it is a loss for us. Yet if the person who died was a Christian, it is great gain for him. That is what Paul tells us in today’s passage, asserting that for him to die and be with Christ would be far better than to remain alive (Phil. 1:21–23).
This text from Philippians is one of the most important biblical passages on the intermediate state. We can distinguish among our current state, the intermediate state, and the final state. The final state is the best—it is our final, eternal phase of existence as resurrected persons with glorified souls and glorified physical bodies (Dan. 12:2Rom. 6:58:23). As Christians, we can describe our current state as good, for we have been rescued from sin and are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 6). In between the good and the best we have the better—the intermediate state. Before Christ returns, when Christians die they do not lose consciousness; rather, they are in the presence of Christ. Their spirits dwell in perfect holiness in heaven as they await the resurrection.

Coram Deo

Orthodox Christian doctrine has never embraced the doctrine of soul sleep, which says death puts us in a state of unconsciousness. When people die, their consciousness continues, either in blessedness or condemnation as we wait for the final resurrection. That should spur us to take death more seriously and to call people to trust in Christ so that they might escape eternal conscious punishment.

Unable to See the Wood for the Trees

Monty Python's Flying Circus in Full Swing

An "immigration case" recently hit the headlines in New Zealand.  It is the kind of case that makes people's blood boil.  It reflects the potential of bureaucratic madness breaking out at any time.  

The case is as follows:
Nilani Suhinthan couldn't conjure the words to explain to her daughter Bumikka why she wasn't granted a visa to live in New Zealand, but the rest of her family were.  "Bumikka has Down syndrome, she doesn't understand. I couldn't explain to her. She's just been asking 'where my mummy is?'" Nilani says.  "My younger girl broke into tears, she was very disappointed."

The Irish mother of three has been living and working in Auckland since September 6, after being recruited as a IT consultant for a multinational US tech company.  The plan was to relocate her entire family here from Dublin, including her husband, Nagarajah, her eldest daughter Tanya, 19, her youngest daughter Saumia, 14, and Bumikka, 15.  Up until November 2 that plan was on track, after Nilani's husband - a computer engineer with decades of experience - was granted a New Zealand work visa, and her youngest daughter a student visa.  Her eldest daughter Tanya intended to continue studying medicine in Bulgaria, but eventually settle in New Zealand. 
Then the news arrived on November 7 that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) had declined Bumikka's student visa because she did not have an "acceptable standard of health".  INZ's medical waiver assessment for Bumikka's stated because she had Down syndrome she was "likely to impose significant costs on New Zealand's special education services".  Specifically, the issue was that Bumikka would require the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) special-ed service to undertake schooling in New Zealand.  [NZ Herald]
 Here is a family that will likely generate far more income taxation dollars for the State than the average New Zealand family.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

"A Determined Quest For the Warm Hand of God"

‘Men Have Forgotten God’

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address

By Aleksandr  Solzhenitsyn
Reprinted in National Review Online

[This is a longer-then-usual piece.  However, Solzhenitsyn remains such a dominant figure of the Twentieth Century, the antithesis of Stalin and Lenin--and of all atheistic regimes that have been and will be--that his work demands our ongoing attention.]

Remembering Solzhenitsyn’s profound speech on the centenary of his birth.

Editor’s Note: This article, which originally ran in the July 22, 1983, issue of National Review, is adapted from the address Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave on the occasion of his acceptance, in London on May 10, 1983, of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In announcing the 1983 award, the Templeton Foundation described Mr. Solzhenitsyn as “a pioneer in the renaissance of religion in atheist nations.” Mr. Solzhenitsyn ’s introductory remarks were made at the awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace, with Prince Philip presiding. The address proper was delivered later the same day at the London Guildhall. Today, December 11, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s birth.

I. The Response

Your Royal Highness: Permit me to express my appreciation to you for taking part in this ceremony. Your participation lends special dignity to these proceedings.

This is the first time that the Templeton Prize has been awarded to an Orthodox Christian. With gratitude that our share in the religious life of the world has now been accorded notice, I remain acutely conscious of my personal unworthiness to receive this award as I look back upon the venerable line of outstanding Orthodox churchmen and of Orthodox thinkers from Aleksey Khomyakov to Sergei Bulgakov. And I am very much aware that Eastern Slavic Orthodoxy, which, during the 65 years of Communist rule, has been subjected to persecution even fiercer and more extensive than that of early Christian times, has had—and still has today—many hands worthier than mine to accept it. Beginning with Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, metropolitan of Kiev, shot by the Communists before the walls of the Kievo-Pechersky Monastery at the dawn of the Lenin era, the list would extend to the intrepid priest Gleb Yakunin, who is enduring torments today, under Andropov: Forcibly deprived of all outward symbols of his priesthood, and even of the right to have the Gospels, Father Yakunin has for months at a time been held in a freezing stone cubicle, without bed, clothes, or food.

In this persecution-filled age, it is appropriate that my own very first memory should be of Chekists in pointed caps entering St. Panteleimon’s Church in Kislovodsk, interrupting the service, and crashing their way into the sanctuary in order to loot. And later, when I started going to school in Rostov-on-Don — passing on my way a kilometer-long compound of the Cheka-GPU and a glittering sign of the League of Militant Atheists — schoolchildren egged on by Komsomol members taunted me for accompanying my mother to the last remaining church in town and tore the cross from around my neck.

Orthodox churches were stripped of their valuables in 1922 at the instigation of Lenin and Trotsky. In subsequent years, including both the Stalin and the Khrushchev periods, tens of thousands of churches were torn down or desecrated, leaving behind a disfigured wasteland that bore no resemblance to Russia such as it had stood for centuries. Entire districts and cities of half a million inhabitants were left without a single church. Our people were condemned to live in this dark and mute wilderness for decades, groping their way to God and keeping to this course by trial and error. The grip of oppression that we have lived under, and continue to live under, has been so great that religion, instead of leading to a free blossoming of the spirit, has been manifested in asserting the faith on the brink of destruction, or else on the seductive frontiers of Marxist rhetoric, where so many souls have come to grief.

The statement of the Templeton Foundation shows an understanding of how the Orthodox spiritual tradition has maintained its vitality in our land despite the forcible promotion of atheism. If even a fraction of those words should find their way to my motherland past the jamming devices, this will bolster the spirits of our believers, assuring them that they have not been forgotten, and that their steadfastness inspires courage even here.

The centralized atheism before whose armed might the whole world trembles still hates and fears this unarmed faith as much today as it did 60 years ago. Yes! All the savage persecutions loosed upon our people by a murderous state atheism, coupled with the corroding effect of its lies, and an avalanche of stultifying propaganda — all of these together have proven weaker than the thousand-year-old faith of our nation. This faith has not been destroyed; it remains the most sublime, the most cherished gift to which our lives and consciousness can attain.

II. The Templeton Address

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened."

Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”