Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

August 01

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

The nature of meekness

[Meekness] is not a natural quality. It is not a matter of a natural disposition, because all Christians are meant to be like this. It is not only some Christians. Every Christian, whatever his natural temperament or psychology may be, is meant to be like this. Now we can prove that very easily. Take these various characters whom I have mentioned, apart from our Lord Himself, and I think you will find that in every case we have a man who was not hake this by nature. Think of the powerful, extraordinary nature of a man hake David, and yet observe his meekness. Jeremiah similarly lets us into the secret. He says he was almost like a boiling cauldron, and yet he was still meek. Look at a man like the Apostle Paul, a master mind, an extraordinary personality, a strong character; yet consider his utter humility and meekness. No, it is not a matter of natural disposition; it is something that is produced by the Spirit of God….

Meekness does not mean indolence. There are people who appear to be meek in a natural sense; but they are not meek at all, they are indolent. That is not the quality of which the Bible is speaking. Nor does it mean flabbiness…. There are people who are easy-going, and you tend to say how meek they are. But it is not meekness; it is flabbiness. Nor does it mean niceness. There are people who seem to be born naturally nice…. Nor does it mean weakness in personality or character. Still less does it mean a spirit of compromise or ‘peace at any price’…. Meekness is compatible with great strength … with great authority and power … God forbid that we should ever confuse this noble quality … with something merely animal or physical or natural.
… meekness is not merely a matter of outward manner, but … of inward spirit…. You cannot spend time with a verse like this [Matthew 5:5] without its humbling you. It is true Christianity; it is the thing for which we are called and for which we are meant.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, i, pp. 67–8

“Text reproduced from ‘A First Book of Daily Readings’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published by Epworth Press 1970 & 1977 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.”
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A Good News Story

 Progress At Last

Separation and divorce is painful enough for adults, many of whom remain permanently scarred.  In hindsight not a few come to regret their decision to split apart and look back at the conflict and circumstances that led them to that fateful decision, concluding (now) that it was all small change in the grand scheme of things. They regret their immature decisions and hasty actions.  But we have learned that the children of such divorces often are damaged for their entire lives. 

This bad situation is made ten times worse if the divorce is acrimonious.  Far too many divorces have ended up that way, even if the decision to separate initially was reasonably amicable and mutual, due to the involvement of the Family Court.  Courts require lawyers, and lawyers’ stock-in-trade is disputation and argumentation, getting the best-deal-no-matter-what for their client.  The resulting anger and bitterness can last decades, inflicting yet far more needless damage upon children. And, not a few lawyers have preferred a long drawn out process because of the higher fee payoff. 

Finally, the NZ government has introduced some reforms which are deconstructing the hostilities.  The Minister of Justice, Judith Collins has announced:

More parents are resolving their disputes outside of court only months after the Government’s family justice reforms came into effect, Justice Minister Judith Collins announced today.  “Progress to date confirms our reforms are empowering people to resolve their parenting disputes outside of court, minimising the stress children often face when their parents separate,” Ms Collins says.

Since the Government’s reforms came into effect on 31 March this year, 562 assessments for the New Family Disputes Resolution (FDR) mediation service have been completed and another 530 are in progress.  Of the 122 mediations completed, 87 (71 per cent) have resolved all matters in dispute between parties, without going to court. Urgent matters, such as those involving family violence, still go straight to court.

The number of Guardianship applications to the Family Court has also dropped from 481 per week to 231 per week.

Collins concludes:

“This is an encouraging trend and shows parents are taking responsibility for their actions and putting the welfare of their children first,” Ms Collins says.   The Ministry of Justice has also provided 40,000 parenting plans and booklets to a range of agencies for distribution. A further 1700 have been downloaded from the new family justice website (http://www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice).  The website has had around 1.7 million page views since its launch on March 31 – more than double that of the old Family Court site.

“It’s fantastic to see parents making a real effort to work their problems out themselves. As a result, they avoid the unnecessary conflict, delays and expense the court process may involve, and the Family Court remains free to focus on the most serious and urgent matters.”

One absolute travesty of the previous approach, racked with terrible unintended consequences, was the Family Court almost always favouring the mother in the allocation of parental cares and duties.  This was due to a strong feminist bias throughout the system, the primitive ignorant belief that young children needed a mother whilst a father was an unnecessary optional extra, and the poisonous criticism and character assassination of the father by the wife and her lawyer in order to bolster the case for maternal custody.  The residual anger and bitterness has lasted for years and years in many cases.  Legions of disaffected and disillusioned fathers departed for Australia and other places, concluding they had lost everything worth living for in New Zealand, leaving the state to pick up their child-support payments.

Having argued successfully before the court, former wives all too readily concluded that their former husbands were useless appendages, of no value to their children or to them, and useful only for the provision of money.  The former husbands began to live the role ascribed to them by society and the court, disappearing forever into the great Western migration, along with their child support payments. 

We are sure that, whilst not solving all the issues and problems, having a mutually negotiated settlement by parents working issues out themselves, not contending and fighting in court, will be far, far better in most cases.  It will be exponentially better for the innocents–the children.  This is a very positive, good-news development. 

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Letter From the UK (About the Left’s Anti-Semitism)

Is the Left anti-Semitic? 

Sadly, it is heading that way 

Brendan O’Neill
The Telegraph
29 July, 2014

Brendan O’Neill is editor of the online magazine spiked and is a columnist for the Big Issue in London and The Australian in, er, Australia. His satire on environmentalism, Can I Recycle My Granny and 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas, is published by Hodder & Stoughton. He doesn’t tweet.

There has been a lot of talk over the past two weeks about whether it is anti-Semitic to oppose Israel’s attack on Gaza. Radical Leftists and liberal commentators have insisted (perhaps a bit too much?) that there is nothing remotely anti-Semitic about their anger with Israel or their fury on behalf of battered, bruised and bombed Palestinians. And of course they are right that it is entirely possible to oppose Israel’s militarism without harbouring so much as a smidgen of dislike for the Jewish people. Some will oppose the war in Gaza simply because they are against wars in general, especially ones that impact on civilians.

However, it seems pretty clear to me that much of the left in Europe and America is becoming more anti-Semitic, or at least risks falling into the trap of anti-Semitism, sometimes quite thoughtlessly. In the language it uses, in the ideas it promotes, in the way in which it talks about the modern world, including Israel, much of the Left has adopted a style of politics that has anti-Semitic undertones, and sometimes overtones.

This is a recurring theme in anti-Israel sentiment today: the idea that a powerful, sinister lobby of Israel lovers has warped our otherwise respectable leaders here in the West, basically winning control of Western foreign policy.

The key problem has been the Left’s embrace of conspiratorial thinking, its growing conviction that the world is governed by what it views as uncaring “cabals”, “networks”, self-serving lobbyists and gangs of bankers, all of which has tempted it to sometimes turn its attentions towards those people who historically were so often the object and the target of conspiratorial thinking – the Jews.

Yes, one can hate Israel’s attack on Gaza without hating the Jews. But there’s no denying that the hatred being expressed for Israel’s attack on Gaza is different to the opposition to all other acts of militarism in recent times.
Just compare the huge 2003 Hyde Park demo against the Iraq War with the recent London demos against Israel’s attack on Gaza. The former had an air of resignation; it expressed a mild, middle-class sense of disappointment with Tony Blair, through safe, soft slogans like “Not In My Name”. The latter, by contrast, have been fiery and furious, with screeching about murder and mayhem and demands that the Israeli ambassador to the UK be booted out. Some attendees have held up placards claiming that Zionists control the British media while others have accused both London and Washington of “grovelling” before an apparently awesomely powerful Israeli Lobby.

The Left has increasingly embraced a conspiracy-theory view of the world. It is now very common to hear Leftists talk about the “cabals of neocons” who control world affairs, or the “cult of bankers” who wreak havoc on our economies

This is a recurring theme in anti-Israel sentiment today: the idea that a powerful, sinister lobby of Israel lovers has warped our otherwise respectable leaders here in the West, basically winning control of Western foreign policy. You see it in cartoons depicting Israeli leaders as the puppet masters of politicians like William Hague and Tony Blair. You can hear it in Alexi Sayle’s much-tweeted claim that the “Western powers” kowtow to Israel because they are “frightened of it… frightened of the power that it wields”. You can see it in the arguments of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their popular book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, which holds an apparently super-powerful pro-Israel lobby in the heart of Washington responsible for the Iraq War and all other kinds of disasters. The claim is often made that Israel has corrupted Western officials, commanding them to carry out its dirty work.

Sound familiar? Yes, this has terrible echoes of the old racist idea that Jewish groups controlled Western politics and frequently propelled the world into chaos – an idea that was especially popular in the early to mid-20th-century Europe. Very often, anti-Israel protesters treat Israel not just as a nation at war – like Britain, America or France, which also frequently launch wars that kill huge numbers of civilians – but also as the warper of policy and morality in the West, as a source of poison in global affairs, as the architect of instability across the globe. Indeed, a few years ago a poll of Europeans found that a majority of them view Israel as “the biggest threat to world peace”. So Israel is undoubtedly singled out by Leftists and others, and even more significantly it is singled out in a way that the Jews used to be singled out – that is, as a sinister, self-serving corrupter of nations and causer of chaos.

Much of today’s anti-Israel protesting has a conspiracy-theory feel to it, with its talk about powerful lobby groups designing wars behind closed doors in order to isolate Israel’s enemies and boost Israel’s fortunes. And this is in keeping with Left-wing politics generally, today. The Left has increasingly embraced a conspiracy-theory view of the world. It is now very common to hear Leftists talk about the “cabals of neocons” who control world affairs, or the “cult of bankers” who wreak havoc on our economies, or the Murdoch Empire that “orchestrates public life from the shadows” (to quote Labour MP Tom Watson). All seriously analytical and nuanced readings of international trends and political dynamics have been elbowed aside by contemporary Leftists, who prefer instead to argue that dark, hidden, mysterious forces are ruining politics, plotting wars, and enriching themselves at the expense of the poor. And, as history shows us, there is a thin line between railing against wicked cabals and cults and wondering out loud whether the Jews are secretly running world affairs, or at least wielding a disproportionate influence.

Indeed, some of the most influential trends in Left-wing politics over the past five years – including the Occupy movement and the Wikileaks movement – were both given to conspiracy-theorising and both also had a bit of a problem with anti-Semitism. So Occupy was kickstarted by Adbusters, a magazine convinced that powerful corporations control the masses’ fickle minds. In 2004, Adbusters published a disgustingly anti-Semitic article titled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?”, which listed the neocons in the Bush administration and put a black mark next to the names of those who are Jewish. Not surprisingly, Occupy itself, which was obsessed with the baleful influence of small cliques of bankers and other faceless, evil people, often crossed the line into anti-Semitism, as the Washington Post reported. And Wikileaks, too, which is also a borderline conspiracy-theory outfit, what with its obsession with the “conspiratorial interactions among the political elite”, has had issues with anti-Semitism: one of its key researchers, Israel Shamir, was exposed by the Guardian as being “notorious for [his] Holocaust denial and publishing a string of anti-Semitic articles”.

It is not an accident that the three key planks of the Left-wing outlook today – the anti-Israel anti-war sentiment, the shallow anti-capitalism of Occupy, and the worship of those who leak info from within the citadels of power – should all have had issues with anti-Semitism. It is because the left, feeling isolated from the public and bereft of any serious means for understanding modern political and economic affairs, has bought into a super-simplistic, black-and-white, borderline David Icke view of the world as a place overrun and ruled by cabals and cults and sinister lobby groups. And who has always, without fail, been the final cabal, the last cult, to find themselves shouldering the ultimate blame for the warped, hidden workings of politics, the economy and foreign turmoil? You got it – the Jews.


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Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

July 31

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

Be still, and know that I am God

… we worry about things. If only we realized God’s loving concern for us, that He knows everything about us, and is concerned about the smallest detail of our lives! The man who believes that can no longer worry.
Then think about His power and ability. ‘Our God’, ‘my God’. Who is my God who takes such a personal interest in me? He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He is the Sustainer of everything that is. Read again Psalm 46 to remind yourself of this: ‘He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder’. He controls everything. He can smash the heathen and every enemy; His power is illimitable. And as we contemplate all that, we must agree with the deduction of the Psalmist when, addressing the heathen, he said, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. [‘Be still”] means, ‘Give up (or ‘Give in’) and admit that I am God’. God is addressing people who are opposed to Him and He says: This is My power; therefore give up and give in, keep silent and know that I am God.

We must remember that this power is working for us. We have seen it in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians: ‘The exceeding greatness of his power’ (1:19). He ‘that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us’ (3:20). In the light of such statements is not worry ridiculous? Is it not utterly foohsh? It just means that we do not think; we do not read our Scriptures, or, if we do, we do so in a perfunctory manner, or are so controlled by prejudices that we do not take them at their face value. We must face these things and draw out our mighty conclusions.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, ii, pp. 133–4

“Text reproduced from ‘A First Book of Daily Readings’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published by Epworth Press 1970 & 1977 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.”
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Auckland Events: Conferences with Zack Eswine and Richard Bauckham

This August, there are a couple of events in Auckland with visiting speakers Zack Eswine and Professor Richard Bauckham. Here are the details:

The Questions Jesus Asks

A key part of Jesus’ ministry on earth was his teaching and a key part of his teaching was the way he asked questions.

Join pastor and popular author Zack Eswine as he explains and applies several of the questions Jesus is still asking today such as:

-”What do you want me to do for you?”
-”Why are you afraid?”
-”Why do you doubt?”

By exploring these questions we’ll see how the call to follow Jesus is a call to a more profoundly human experience. Visit the Facebook page for the conference schedule and more details.

When: Friday (1 Aug) 7.30-9pm and Saturday (2 Aug) 9.30-12 noon.
Where: City Pres Church, 283 K’rd Road.
Cost: Free

Dr. Zack Eswine is pastor of Riverside Evangelical Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO, USA. Zack has served in pastoral roles for nearly twenty years. He served as Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Director for Doctor of Ministry for six years at Covenant Theological Seminary. Zack’s books include, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes, Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons that Connect with our Culture and Kindled Fire: How the Methods of C.H. Spurgeon can help your Preaching. His forthcoming books include Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Handling the Painful Sides of Life and Ministry.

An Afternoon with Professor Richard Bauckham

On Thursday 7 August, Professor Richard Bauckham will be at Laidlaw’s Henderson Campus, teaching the following two (free) lectures (50 minute presentation followed by 25 minutes for questions):

1.00pm – 2.15pm: The Authenticity of the Apostolic Eyewitness in the New Testament
2.15pm – 2.45pm: Afternoon tea (provided)
2.45pm – 4.00pm: Mark’s Geography and the Origin of Mark’s Gospel

All are welcome. Please RSVP to events@laidlaw.ac.nz

Jesus in Context: Conference with Professor Richard Bauckham, Professor Chris Marshall and others

When: From 9.00am on Friday 8 August to 12.40pm on Saturday 9 August
Where: Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose
Cost: $40 (waged) | $20 (unwaged); includes lunch and morning tea
Registration: Register online at www.carey.ac.nz/events

The Case of the Historical Jesus: Free Public Lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham

When: Friday 8 August, 7.30pm
Where: Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose
RSVP: Please RSVP to events@carey.ac.nz by Wednesday 6 August

Jesus and the Wild: Free Public Lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham

Laidlaw Graduate School, in partnership with A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand, invite you to a free public lecture with Professor Richard Bauckham, exploring the fascinating topic of ‘Jesus and the Wild’.

Wilderness is a term that elicits both fear and delight. It is in the wilderness that we recognise our vulnerability as humans and yet also our interconnectedness with non-human life. Yet, we live in an age where wilderness is rapidly disappearing. Ancient forests are cut-down, mountain-tops levelled, and surging rivers are tamed, as human civilisation spreads across the globe. Does Jesus, whose earthly ministry begins in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13), care about this loss of wild areas? What would Jesus do about climate-change, acidifying oceans, habitat destruction and species extinction?

When: Saturday 9 August, 7.00pm
Where: Laidlaw College’s Henderson Campus,
80 Central Park Drive, Henderson
RSVP: Please RSVP to events@laidlaw.ac.nz by Thursday 7 August

Richard Bauckham is professor of New Testament studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. A fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he has also written Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World.

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Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Douglas Wilson
July 30, 2014
The Dems are talking up the prospect of impeachment for the president right now because they know what a loser issue that would be for the Republicans, and the Democrats desperately need for the Republicans to obtain for themselves a loser issue that can be wrapped around their necks. They are able to talk it up because even though the Republican leadership is (wisely) dismissing such talk with contempt, there is a high level of frustration with the president’s behavior in the Republican base. The leadership is attempting to vent this frustration with their lawsuit, seeking to head off any talk of impeachment. The last go round with all this, when Clinton was impeached, was disastrous for the Republicans, because they treated ordinary politics as though it were something else. When you start killing ants with a baseball bat, the rest of the story will not go well for you.

For our foreign readers, in our system a president is impeached when the House of Representatives brings articles of impeachment. It is like being indicted — the trial is yet to happen. The House prosecutes the case, and the Senate serves as the jury. Thus when a president is impeached by the House, he will then be convicted (or not) by the Senate.

As St. Augustine once succinctly put it in his treatise on just war, don’t start what you can’t finish.

Up to this point in our history, impeachment has only been on the table three times.
The first was when Andrew Johnson was impeached, and barely escaped being removed from office. But this was in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, when something like impeachment was comparatively small beer. The second time was when Richard Nixon saw the handwriting on the wall, and resigned rather than face removal from office. He knew that if his case went before the Senate, there was a high likelihood that he would be convicted. The third time happened with Bill Clinton. He was impeached, but not convicted, and the Republicans had to deal with significant blowback for making the attempt.

In the modern era, the only way impeachment could possibly obtain a conviction would be if the entire country were overwhelmingly united behind the effort. This would have to include both the House and Senate being ready to convict, and it would also be necessary to have the mainstream media — The Washington Post, The New York Times, the major networks, etc. — all calling for the president’s head as well. And let us be honest, you and I. The only way the mainstream media would be at all behind the impeachment of President Obama would be if, at the State of the Union address, the president pulled off his rubber mask and announced that he was an alien creepizoid from the Planet Kenya. And even then, it would be touch and go.

So the reason Republicans (whether in the leadership or in the base) ought not to be talking about impeachment right now is that they don’t have the resources (Luke 14:31). As St. Augustine once succinctly put it in his treatise on just war, don’t start what you can’t finish.

This is quite a separate issue from whether the president deserves to be impeached. Of course he does. And if he actually does what he is now considering — amnesty for millions of illegals via executive order — it would be an example of the very kind of high lawlessness that the provision for impeachment in the Constitution seeks to address. It really would be high crimes and misdemeanors. But the fact that the president is acting lawlessly does not mean that his opposition has the resources — moral, intellectual, or electoral — to deal with it. His behavior is simply a kind of high profile lawlessness that Congress has been complicit in themselves for decades. Obama is only doing in broad daylight what the ruling elite from both parties have been skulking around in — soft despotism — for many years.

This is quite a separate issue from whether the president deserves to be impeached. Of course he does.

In the meantime, unless there is a bloodbath in the midterms that goes against the president in both the House and Senate races, such that conviction if impeached would be a foregone conclusion, the whole discussion ought to be tabled. To eke out articles of impeachment would be disastrous. Lawful indignation over the president’s exercises in the royal prerogative needs to be channeled into the elections 96 days from now. If you cannot succesfully muster your troops, you are unlikely to be successful in the war itself. Failing an election that goes down in history as the Sheet of Flame Midterms, all this talk in Washington about reining Obama in via impeachment is summed up nicely by that apt Polish proverb: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
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The Justification of Knowledge and Truth, Part I

Knowing a Lot About Nothing Much

Ever since Wittgenstein and Foucault burst onto the scene, the justification of knowledge has been a big issue.  To Wittgenstein and the post-modernists that emerged in his wake, all knowledge is the product of perspectives and the sub-set of language which reflects and reinforces each particular perspective.  The  meaning of “linguistic signs” came from the processes of learning the language of each respective perspective, or world-view.  Thus post-modernism was born: all human knowledge is circular, conditioned, and relative.  The assertion, “This is the truth” becomes “This is my perspective”–a far less significant claim. 

One consequence has been the growing focus upon the basis for knowledge, and how knowledge itself can be justified or regarded as authoritative.  Historically, there have been three basic tendencies offered in the non-Christian world to justify knowledge.  The first tendency is rationalism.  The second is empiricism.  The third is subjectivism which is where post-modernism would probably be anchored.  John Frame argues that these three should be regarded as tendencies, rather than schools, since advocates of one of these perspectives inevitably mixes in doses of the other two.  [John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1987), 9.109]

We can illustrate this by considering rationalism.
  The rationalist, or the idealist, wants a certain ground for knowledge that is not dependent upon human senses or human subjectivity.  He would ground certainty in criteria:

For example, we have experienced a great many “circular” objects, one of which, however, is perfectly circular.  In all of them there are defects, tiny in some, more obvious in others.  Thus we have never experienced a more perfect circle.  Yet somehow, mysteriously, we know what a perfect circle is.  We can test circles to see how close or how far removed from perfection they are, because somehow we have in our minds a criterion of circularity.  [Frame, op cit., p. 111.]

These criteria form certain and infallible premises, from which we can deduce truth logically.  For example, the classic rationalist might reason:

A circle is perfectly round
That shape has corners
Therefore, it is not a circle.

But the notion that we can deduce all knowledge from infallible, self-evident, and certain criteria quickly collapses upon examination.  As Frame argues:

We can, however, deduce very little from such a priori ideas.  Certainly, we cannot deduce the whole fabric of human knowledge from them or even enough knowledge to constitute a meaningful philosophy.  Nothing follows from the laws of logic, taken alone, except possible more laws of logic.  From propositions about our own mental states, nothing follows except further propositions about our own mental states. . . .

Thus, if knowledge is limited to the sorts of propositions we have just examined, we will know only about our own minds and not about the real world.  We cannot reason from our mental states to the real world because our mental states often deceive us.  Thus rationalism leaves us know with the body of certainties that Plato and Descartes dreamed of but with no knowledge at all of the real world.  [Ibid., p. 113]

Which is to say that rationalism can provide only the certain knowledge of tautologies–that which is true by definition.  It may be most certainly true that the red barn is red, and the knowledge expressed my be genuine, but we have discovered nothing significant or meaningful at all.

The rationalist seeks certainty outside of God and His Word of revelation to us.  Consequently, certainty and the criteria for thought are grounded in man’s own innate ideas and his reasoning from them.  But the quest for meaningful certainty becomes hopelessly lost.  Abstract truth cannot move out to the real world.  Faced with being locked up in Plato’s cave, cut off from the real world, the rationalist inevitably resorts to empiricism, to data from the senses, in order to escape the prison of generalised, abstract innate ideas.  But it does so only by means of contradicting the fundamental precepts of rationalism itself.  Inescapably, rationalism elides into an irrationalism of internal contradiction.

But rationalism also leads to scepticism and ignorance.

Rationalism seeks the most abstract knowledge possible, but in doing that it finds it can make no specific claims about the world.  The idolatrous quest for exhaustive human knowledge always leads to emptiness, skepticism, and ignorance. [Ibid., p.114]

As a justification for human knowledge, rationalism is a blind alley.  

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Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

The Crawling Snake of Envy

Douglas Wilson
July 25, 2014
I said recently that envy is the great invisible driver in our modern political conflicts. On what basis can I say this, and is this not a case of trying to read hearts?

First, we see the simple statements of Scripture as treating envy as public, visible, identifiable. But first, hold your horses. A bit further down, I will conclude by reconciling my point that envy is “visible,” and yet is the “great invisible driver.”

So then, where does Scripture describe envy as a public kind of sin? Pilate knew why Jesus was on trial before him, and it had nothing to do with the actual charges.

“For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy” (Mark 15:10).

Stephen, narrating the story of Joseph and his brothers, interpreted their hostility toward Joseph as driven by envy, even though the Genesis account doesn’t mention the envy by name (Gen. 37:4). The writer of Genesis says that the brothers saw that Jacob loved Joseph more, and they hated him — which is an instance of envy.

“And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him” (Acts 7:9).

Luke records the fact of mobs forming, but he is also able to tell (at a glance) why they were forming.

“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).
“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people” (Acts 17:5).

Failure to see envy is therefore not an instance of nobly refraining from reading hearts. It is actually a refusal to read the story. So then, do not try to read hearts, which only God can do, but feel free to read the story. Envy has public manifestations, and if you have those manifestations, then you have envy. That is what you are reading.

In addition to the fact that envy results in very public behavior that is readily identifiable, the Scriptures also teach us to see envy as a driving element of all conflicts. So to ask whether or not envy is present in our politics can be answered by asking whether conflict is present in our politics. Conflict is the smoke, but envy the fire.

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not . . . Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:1-2, 5).

What does envy travel cheek by jowl with? Who are its traveling companions? Well . . . “envy and strife” (Phil. 1:15), “envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings” (1 Tim. 6:4), and “malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Let me ask a simple question — in our political contests, do we have strife, railings, evil surmising, malice, and hatred? Sins are like grapes — they come in bunches, and with this variety of grape, envy is chief among them. In our modern political discourse, envy is like a rancid cluster from Eshcol, with two socialists carrying their economic agenda on a pole between them (Num. 13:23). It is not at all hard to identify — I mean, the grapes are the size of baseballs.

This just in. Michael Moore, champion of the working guy, is the owner of nine houses, including a Manhattan condo. Am I revealing an envious heart along with these details? Not a bit of it! I don’t want to take away any of his houses, and in fact, I am willing to wish that he acquire a couple more. What I wish he would lose is the Everyman Shtick. And the baseball hat.

Envy is the purloined letter of vices. It is hidden in plain sight. For those who have eyes to see, it is everywhere. For those who have a vested interest in not seeing it, things are quite different. Vested interests are quite an interesting phenomenon. As Upton Sinclair put it once, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” And it is impossible to get a man to see something when his entire notion of a self-identity and respect depends upon his not seeing it. Men can take perverse pride in a lot of vices — drunkenness, fornication, anger, pride, casino heists — but no one wants to acknowledge the crawling snake of envy, however big it is — that dark impulse to hurt anyone who seems to have a superior capacity for happiness. It is almost impossible to see that snake without feeling like a snake, and so we have whole industries and political movements dedicated to helping us not see what we in fact are.

So what I mean is that envy is visible in principle, for those who have the vantage to see it, but that it is invisible whenever it is pridefully unacknowledged — which is virtually all the time.

We are in fact an envy-ridden people, and to see that fact straight on would be indistinguishable from repentance. And so we don’t look at it straight on.
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Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

July 30

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

For I am myself my own fever and pain

Let us … consider what this man discovered about himself in detail. [Psalm 73:21–2]. The first thing … was that he had very largely been producing his own troubles and his own unhappiness … his trouble was not really the ungodly at all; it was himself. He found that he had … ‘worked himself up’ into this condition … What he is saying [in v. 21] is that he has done something to himself. He is saying, ‘I have soured my heart… I was preparing for myself a piercing pain’. He had been doing it himself. He had been stimulating his own heart, he had been exacerbating his own trouble, he had been souring his own feelings. He himself had really been producing his own troubles and giving rise to this piercing pain which he had been enduring until he went into the sanctuary of God.

This is clearly a very important and vital principle. The fact is … that we tend to produce and exacerbate our own troubles.
We, of course, tend to say… that it is that thing outside us that produced all the trouble. But it is not that thing at all; it is ourselves … [what matters is] you and I and the way we face it, the way we react, our behaviour with respect to it…. You may see two persons living exactly the same sort of life, facing precisely the same conditions. And yet they are very different. One is bitter and sour and grumbling and complaining; the other is calm and quiet, happy and composed. Where is the difference? It is not in the conditions; it is not in what is happening to them. It is something in them; the difference is in the two persons themselves …
Two men looked out from prison bars. The one saw mud, the other stars.

One, you see, looked down; the other looked up. It is not life, it is not the circumstances, it is not the ungodly … it is us.

Faith on Trial, pp. 76–7

“Text reproduced from ‘A First Book of Daily Readings’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published by Epworth Press 1970 & 1977 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.”
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True Colours

Out of the Abundance of the Heart, the Mouth Speaks

One of the reasons we have such little respect for politicians is their lack of integrity.  It’s an easy indictment to make and no doubt there are politicians who maintain high personal and professional ethical standards as they go about their tasks and duties.  But far too many slide into misleading and deceptive behaviour if they think it will be to their advantage in the polls.

One manifestation is the practice of “gotcha politics”.  Commentator John Armstrong explains:

“Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.  It is personality-based politics, not issue-driven politics. It is all about wrecking your opponents’ campaign by landing major hits on their credibility.  At its worst, gotcha politics can be an old-fashioned witch-hunt dressed up in modern-day notions of accountability. None of this new, [sic] of course.  What has changed is the extent and intensity of gotcha politics.

A basic rule of thumb is whenever a politician sanctimoniously promises to focus upon the “issues” and to run a principled campaign one can be sure that they will do the exact opposite.  Thus it has proved to be the case with the Greens, whose sanctimony has become noisome and their integrity now at an invisible vanishing point.

Even the Greens are not immune. Last Friday, that party joined others in stressing its campaign would focus on the issues, rather than the sideshows.  Was this the same Green Party whose co-leader Metiria Turei had spent much of the week demanding a prime ministerial apology for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs blunder regarding the granting of diplomatic immunity to a defence attache at the Malaysian High Commission charged with sexual assault?

No matter that various apologies had already been forthcoming. No matter that the State Sector Act and the Cabinet Manual set clear boundaries to prevent ministers interfering in operational matters – thereby begging the question of exactly what John Key was supposed to be apologising for. No matter that the Greens had politicised the whole affair to the point of jeopardising the prosecution of the Malaysian official.

But Armstrong goes on to point out that “gotcha politics” only work when the media also play the game.

The other major factor is conflict-driven news media. The seemingly insatiable 24-hours-a-day appetite of internet news sites means quality has to be sacrificed for quantity when it comes to investigations and analysis.  In these circumstances, it is temptingly easier to manufacture the news through the media playing their own version of gotcha politics by trying to catch politicians out.

“Mr Politician, can you tell the people of New Zealand exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

“No, I am afraid I cannot.”

“So, then Mr Politician, you admit you are ignorant.”

One of the most egregious and deceitful examples of “gotcha politics” we have ever seen occurred in the United States  when comedienne, Tina Fey satirised Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.  Imitating Palin she drawled that she could see Russia from her front porch in Alaska.  The media and Palin’s political opponents seized upon this as an actual example of Palin’s ignorance of international affairs, mocking Palin for being so fundamentally ignorant that she thought she could actually see Russia from her home in Alaska.  It was gotcha politics at its worst–in this case, the “mistake” was never actually made, but the  Chattering Classes imputed it to Palin forever after.

The Scriptures tell us that a man speaks out of the abundance of his heart.  What is inside comes out.  When politicians play the “gotcha politics” game they demonstrate the larcency and deceit that lies within.  It’s why we have little respect for politicians. 

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