Daily Meditation

Limited By The Saviour

This sickness is not unto death.  John 11:4

Charles H. Spurgeon

From our Lord’s words we learn that there is a limit to sickness. Here is an “unto” within which its ultimate end is restrained, and beyond which it cannot go. Lazarus might pass through death, but death was not to be the ultimatum of his sickness. In all sickness, the Lord saith to the waves of pain, “Hitherto shall ye go, but no further.” His fixed purpose is not the destruction, but the instruction of his people. Wisdom hangs up the thermometer at the furnace mouth, and regulates the heat.

1. The limit is encouragingly comprehensive. The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestinated, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of him who numbers the hairs of our head.

2. This limit is wisely adjusted to our strength, to the end designed, and to the grace apportioned. Affliction comes not at haphazard–the weight of every stroke of the rod is accurately measured. He who made no mistakes in balancing the clouds and meting out the heavens, commits no errors in measuring out the ingredients which compose the medicine of souls. We cannot suffer too much nor be relieved too late.

3. The limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” A mother’s heart cries, “Spare my child;” but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hard-mouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of consolation, that he who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation.
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Going Way, Way Back To The Present

Humanitarianism, Open Borders, And Slavery

In a modern country in 2017, how would you define slavery?  The definition would surely include someone being forced to work against their will–in other words, someone who does not have the option or opportunity to resign or quit and walk away.  It would apply to a person who has no access to the protection of the country’s labour laws.  It would include those over whose heads dire consequences hang if they refuse to work or neglect to do what they are told.  It would cover those who are held against their will and forced to work.

Do such things exist in the OECD countries today?  You bet they do.  It’s not just that they exist: in truth such things have multiplied to the point where, we are told, they are now endemic.  We have incidents reported occasionally in New Zealand.  People seeking work or student visas pay large sums of money to “agents” who process them through the system.  Then they turn upon their “clients” and demand services and work against their will, until they pay off their debts.  But their “remuneration” is little more than a meagre sum of money to keep them physically moving.

In New Zealand, when such circumstances come to light and are reported to the authorities, interdiction and state vengeance follow, provided the abuse can be proven.  But whilst such things remain underground they continue.  In the UK, we are now told, slavery operates in every large town and city in Britain.  Europe has become one of the fastest growing regions for slavery in the world.

How? and Why? are the relevant questions.  Porous, uncontrolled, non-policed borders are a fundamental cause.  This is a crisis is an unintended consequence of the open-borders regime that has operated for years throughout the European Community.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) warned slavery in the UK is “far more prevalent than previously thought”, as analysts revealed that mass migration has driven Europe to record the largest increase in slavery of any world region in 2017.  Reporting that the organisation is currently assisting 300 policing operations targeting modern slavery, the NCA said the crime was affecting “every large town and city” in Britain, with victims as young as 12 trafficked in from Europe.

NCA vulnerabilities director Will Kerr said the number of people trafficked and enslaved in the UK is far higher than previously thought, the agency estimating the number of victims lies “likely in the tens of thousands.  The more we look for modern slavery the more we find evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable. The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought,” he said.  [Breitbart London]

The report identifies the slaves as coming predominantly from Nigeria, Vietnam, and Eastern Europe.  They are working not just in the “traditional” activities such as prostitution, but in a whole range of “mainline” industries such as construction, agriculture, and food processing.

According to The Times:

Slavery is increasing faster within the European Union than in any other region as traffickers force migrants into work to repay their debts.  Countries with key entry points for migrants and refugees such as Italy, Greece and Cyprus were found by researchers to have the most forced labour within the bloc. Twenty of its 28 member states recorded a lower performance in tackling slavery compared with last year, according to a global index published today by Verisk Maplecroft, a British analytics company.

Smugglers and agents demand huge fees for passage across the Mediterranean, leaving people vulnerable to exploitation. Slavery is becoming increasingly prevalent in farming, raising the risk of forced labour tainting food supply chains across Europe.  “Many illegal migrants entering the EU are so in debt to a trafficking gang or unscrupulous agents that they have no hope of paying that cost,” Alexandra Channer, a human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  [Emphasis, ours]

If your blood has risen to boiling point, dear reader it would be useful to re-state a hard, cold fact: this evil has recrudesced in our modern world because of the unintended consequence of open borders migration.  That credulous ignorant policy, promulgated by those who believe that evil is environmental only and not residing in the human heart, has given opportunity to the predators, who are legion.  Open borders allow the slavers to slip their “property” into a country, without detection or notice.

Strict, secure boarder control is essential to prevent human traffickers.  Those that are allowed to migrate need to be educated about their rights in law in the new country, including access to anonymous dob-in hotlines.  The provenance of every holder of an entry visa needs to be thoroughly checked and verified.  The penalty regime for the traffickers and slavers needs to change to conform more to lex talonis–an “eye for an eye”.

The adage is this: if we truly care for the poor and the vulnerable we will maintain strict border controls.  We will also commit serious resource into detecting people traffickers and, once convicted, will apply condign punishment.

If we were to do this, we hazard a guess that within five years there would be no slavery in the United Kingdom, or in any other country presently found in similar circumstances, provided it recovers control of its borders.  Europe, however, is a lost cause, precisely because it is borderless.  It has already surrendered to the slavers.  That is one of the unintended consequences of humanitarianism–that hopeless doctrine which assumes all evil to be external in origin, never in the motives, thoughts, and intentions of the depraved, fallen human soul.

Apparently our modern slavers, intelligent exploiters of a business opportunity, picked up their depravity by breathing in air, or some such nonsense.
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denying the mirror image

marmsky devotions pics (of Hamilton NZ) August 2017 (21)

devotional post # 2115

Hosea 7:8-10

Hos 7:8 Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a half-baked cake.
Hos 7:9 Foreigners devour his strength, and he does not get it; gray hairs are sprouting on him, and he does not get it.
Hos 7:10 The arrogance of Israel testifies against his own face; yet they do not return to Yahveh their God, nor seek him, in spite of all this.

denying the mirror image

Israel’s commission from God was to keep covenant with him, and testify to his grace and goodness to the nations around them. But they spent too much time blending in with those nations, and not enough time being God’s particular possession. As a result, you could see the result by looking at their faces. But, instead of repenting of their idolatry and syncretism, the nation was in denial. They testified against their own mirror image.

LORD, we have spent too much time identifying with this world you called us to change. Change us, before we share its fate.


hot hearts

marmsky devotions pics (of Hamilton NZ) August 2017 (20)

devotional post # 2114

Hosea 7:4-11

Hos 7:4 They are all cheaters; they are like a heated oven whose baker can stop stirring the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened.
Hos 7:5 On the day of our king, the princes became sick with heat from wine; he extended his hand to rebels.
Hos 7:6 Because with hearts like an oven they approach their ambush; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.
Hos 7:7 All of them grow hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen, and none of them asks for my guidance.

hot hearts

I consulted Lange’s commentary, and it said that this passage has to do with literal adultery, because of the fire and heat imagery signifying lust. But I don’t think so. I use the word cheaters here, because the LORD is talking about people who conspire to overthrow their king, without even bothering to ask for his guidance. The prophet is talking about violence uncontrolled by reason, an oven so hot it no longer needs to be stirred. Their hearts are hot like an oven.

LORD, slow us down, cool us off. Return reason to our minds, and devotion to peace to our hearts.


Not the Only Thugs On the Block

The Rise of Antifa

The United States is appalled at the re-appearance of neo-Nazi groups and sentiment in their country.  So they should be.  But they were not the only thugs which came out from under a rock at Charlottesville the other day.  It turns out one group of thugs is fashionable.

The conflict between fascists and anti-fascists has been burbling along in the United States for decades.  We ought never to forget that there were two totalitarian powers engaged in the Second World War–Nazis and Communists.  In the end, they fought to the death.  Below is the first of two pieces reflecting upon the rise of two demons from the pit.  D. C. McAllister traces the rise of neo-Nazis and neo-communists in the United States–and their deadly hatred.

White Supremacists Were Not The Only Thugs Tearing Up Charlottesville

D. C. McAllister
The Federalist

The violence in Charlottesville reveals not who we are as Americans, but who we might become if we allow radicalism and totalitarianism to become normalized. In America today, that possibility is most likely to come, not from the radical Right, but from the Left.

To understand this trajectory, we need to know who the players were in this weekend’s violence. Those behind the protest and the counter-protest were not average Americans, but two extremist groups: anti-fascists (Antifas) on the Left (the counter-protestors) and white supremacist nationalists on the Right (the protesters).

These groups did not suddenly appear with the inauguration of Donald Trump. They’ve been around for a very long time. As Peter Beinart explains at The Atlantic:

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.

In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism. According to Mark Bray, the author of the forthcoming Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, these activists toured with popular alternative bands in the ’90s, trying to ensure that neo-Nazis did not recruit their fans. In 2002, they disrupted a speech by the head of the World Church of the Creator, a white-supremacist group in Pennsylvania; 25 people were arrested in the resulting brawl.

By the 2000s, as the internet facilitated more transatlantic dialogue, some American activists had adopted the name antifa. But even on the militant left, the movement didn’t occupy the spotlight. To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.

As Beinart mentioned, in 2002, these two groups violently clashed in York, Pennsylvania, with a street brawl that led to the arrest of 25 people, all of them Antifa except two. “The scene was right out of the former East Germany, perhaps, or any of the hundreds of other European venues where ‘antifas’ (anti-fascists) and neo-Nazis have battled it out with clubs, knives and Molotov cocktails,” one report stated. Afterward, the city of 40,000 residents was “left in shock.”

The Yin and Yang of Political Street Brawls

The conflict between anti-fascists and fascists has been simmering for decades as they’ve been firing shots at each other and gathering recruits or engaging in a war of words on the Internet. The rise of Barack Obama pacified the radical Left to some degree, as much of the conflict during his presidency involved Occupy Wall Street and the anti-capitalist gang. But Antifa remained in waiting, finding cover under the broader progressive ideology of the Democratic Party that indirectly supports its totalitarian agenda and tolerates its violence.

With the contentious campaign and election of Donald Trump, Antifa exploded onto the scene, along with its counterpart, the neo-Nazis. The radical Right—a tiny but despicable group—saw in Trump’s America First agenda an opportunity for legitimization.

Despite Trump and his supporters condemning racism, the Left characterized everyone who supported him as “the radical Right.” Loose and even unwanted associations were seen as blood alliances. Never mind that grandma, who wants better border control and loves Trump because he stands for American interests, has nothing to do with a neo-Nazi thug. She and everyone wearing a MAGA red hat have been deemed white supremacists and racists by the Left.

The result of Trump’s rise has been a flood of anarcho-activists joining the secret ranks of Antifa to silence these legions of so-called neo-Nazis who showed up at Trump rallies. “On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer,” Beinart writes. “In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart.com editor. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.”

A brawl broke out in New York City on May Day when Antifas clashed with Trump supporters in Times Square. Antifa also participated in the violence at a Trump rally in San Jose, California. The pro-Antifa journal It’s Going Down celebrated the attacks on Trump supporters as “righteous beatings.”

An antifa member is reported saying violence is justified because “resistance is not always safe and pretty, but it is immaculate compared to our monstrous government.” Anyone they determine to be “a fascist, Alt Right, White Nationalist, etc., based on which groups they are a part of and endorse” is targeted.

“Nazis, fascists, white nationalists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes are specific categories, even if they overlap or are subsets or each other. Our main focus is on groups and individuals which endorse, or work directly in alliance with, white supremacists and white separatists. We try to be very clear and precise with how we use these terms.”

Using ‘Racist’ As A Weapon

Antifa’s violence is closely connected to leftist labeling of Republicans—an important point politicians, thought leaders, and the media need to take seriously. Going back to the 1960s when conservatives were called Nazis for supporting law and order, the label of racist has been a club Democrats have used to beat Republicans into submission. If you’re for border control, you’re a racist. If you oppose affirmative action, you’re a racist. If you want greater opposition to radical Islam, you’re a racist. If you don’t believe there’s institutionalized racism in America, you’re a racist. Basically, if you don’t agree with Democrats, you’re a racist.

This is the climate into which Trump stepped when he ran for president. He pushed against it. He was labeled a racist. His supporters were labeled racists. Of course, lurking there in the shadows were the real racists—the white supremacists—who were happy to have anyone speaking out for national interests and cultural protectionism. They glommed onto Trump and claimed him as their own. Trump, however, denounced the Klu Klux Klan and has rejected racism in all its forms. Mostly, he has ignored the radical right, much as Hillary Clinton ignored the radical leftists who supported her. But the label of racist has stuck.

The narrative that Trump and his supporters are racists has been perpetuated by Democrats—and they’re good at it because they were writing that narrative long before Trump came onto the scene. It has been pushed on social media by leftists and repeated by politicians who stoke the flames of perceived racial inequality, labeling everyone who disagrees with them a racist. Worst, NeverTrump Republicans have indirectly joined with these groups by parroting them in their labeling of Trump and his supporters.

This narrative has been amplified with the Charlottesville clash. Now, everywhere you turn someone on the Right is being accused of racism. Those who don’t characterize the violence the Charlottesville according to the Left’s narrative are racists. All groups who stand for constitutional principles are racists. The National Rifle Association is racist. The entire GOP is racist. Any writer who criticizes Black Lives Matter for its violence is racist. The impression is that racists are everywhere; whites are oppressing blacks; Trump is a danger!

What About the Other Side of the Mob?

Yet we’ve been hearing very little about the violent anti-fascists the Left has tolerated and even encouraged. We hear complaints about Trump giving a nod to the radical Right, but we hear precious little about Democrats, liberals, and the mainstream Left giving not only a nod but a nudge to the violent radical Left.

Violence against Republicans and anyone deemed a ‘racist’ by the Left has gone mainstream.
“When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of ‘kinetic beauty,’ Beinart wrote.

“Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, ‘I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.’”

Violence against Republicans and anyone deemed a “racist” by the Left has gone mainstream. Now, with actual racists showing up and violence ensuing, Antifa and its supporters in the Democratic Party feel even more justified attacking everyone they’ve judged as a fascist, and many in America are tolerating it or at least deflecting blame onto Republicans.

Fueling this are liberals who have been infecting America with the idea that our country is intrinsically racist—a notion Obama perpetuated. It’s in our DNA, he said. We are racist even if we don’t know we’re racist. We’re not judged by our actions or personal guilt, but by those who have determined our collective guilt because of past injustices, our conservative beliefs, politics, and associations. We are the real danger, not anti-fascists who are actually engaging in violence in their ongoing war with the radical Right.

Will the Real Racist Please Stand Up?

After decades of labeling anyone who disagrees with the Democratic Party as racist or fascist, many Americans no longer know what real racism looks like. What happens when you think anyone who supports the president and his policies is a racist? What happens when racists are now being seen as a “domestic threat”?

America’s leaders are giving legitimacy to Antifa by downplaying or dismissing its role in the violence.  Sen. Ted Cruz announced that the Justice Department should investigate the violence in Charlottesville as domestic terrorism. He mentioned the neo-Nazis, but nothing about the anti-fascists. Only the racists are considered a threat. But “racists” are now anyone who simply wants to build a wall and put America first on the global stage. Isn’t it possible that in this hostile climate, these common, everyday Americans could be branded a domestic threat while the real danger is being purposely ignored? This might not happen today, but it’s possible if a politician who believes the rhetoric of the Left comes into power.

America’s leaders are giving legitimacy to Antifa by downplaying or dismissing its role in the violence. Republicans who ignore the anti-fascists and the labeling they and liberals employ are once again playing the useful idiots because they want to distance themselves from actual racists and escape the label themselves.

Democrats are ignoring them because they fundamentally agree with Antifa’s ideology, if not their tactics. They want to see conservatives, Republicans, and our nation’s principles of liberty destroyed. If that means unleashing the demons of the radical Left or at least downplaying their violence, then so be it.

Denise C. McAllister is a journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a senior contributor to The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @McAllisterDen.
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Daily Meditation

God Forgives and Is Still Fair

The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die. (2 Samuel 12:13–14)

John Piper

This is outrageous. Uriah is dead. Bathsheba is raped. The baby will die. And Nathan says, “The Lord has put away your sin.”  Just like that? David committed adultery. He ordered murder. He lied. He “despised the word of the Lord.” He “scorned God.” And the Lord “put away [his] sin.”

What kind of a righteous judge is God? You don’t just pass over rape and murder and lying. Righteous judges don’t do that.

Here is what Paul said in Romans 3:25–26:

God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In other words, the outrage that we feel when God seems to simply pass over David’s sin would be good outrage if God were simply sweeping David’s sin under the rug. He is not.

God sees from the time of David down the centuries to the death of his Son, Jesus Christ, who would die in David’s place, so that David’s faith in God’s mercy and God’s future redeeming work unites David with Christ. And in God’s all-knowing mind, David’s sins are counted as Christ’s sins and Christ’s righteousness is counted as his righteousness, and God justly passes over David’s sin.

The death of the Son of God is outrageous enough, and the glory of God that it upholds is great enough, that God is vindicated in passing over David’s adultery and murder and lying.  And so God maintains his perfect righteousness and justice while at the same time showing mercy to those who have faith in Jesus, no matter how many or how monstrous their sins.

This is good news.
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Some Social History

The Age of the “Rings” and Their Influence
We have been working our way through David Kynaston’s magisterial Family Britain, 1951–1957 (New York: Walker and Co, 2009.)  On page 404, dealing with events in the summer of 1954, we came across the following curio:

George Allen & Unwin published The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Naomi Mitchison, along with Tolkien’s friend C. S. Lewis, had already contributed praise to the dust jacket, and now they wrote appropriately laudatory reviews.  “Like lighting from a clear sky,” declared Lewis in Time & Tide, while Mitchison in the New Statesman called it “a story magnificently told, with every kind of colour and movement and graveness.”

Most reviews were positive, though not uncritically so.  “Whimsical drivel with a message?” asked J. “W. Lambert in the Sunday Times.  “No,” he answered.  “It sweeps along with a narrative and pictorial force which lifts it above that level.”  He did, however, note that it had “no religious spirit of any kind, and to all intents and purposes, no women”.  The Daily Telegraph‘s Peter Green claimed that the prose style “veers from pre-Raphaelite to Boy’s Own Paper”, albeit conceding that the novel had “an undeniable fascination”.  And in Punch, where under Anthony Powell’s literary editorship it received the briefest of reviews, Peter Dickinson frankly stated: “I can think of nothing in the book to account for the fact that I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating, despite some of the most infuriating writing.”

The most heavyweight critique came from a major literary figure, the Scottish poet and critic Edwin Muir.  “To read it is to be thrown in astonishment,” he gladly conceded in the Observer, but insisted that in terms of “human discrimination and depth” there was a fatal shortfall: “Mr Tolkien describes a tremendous conflict between good and evil, on which hangs the future of life upon earth.  But his good people are consistently good, his evil figures immutably evil; and he has no room in his world for a Satan both evil and tragic.”

Commercially, the book flourished, being reprinted after six weeks, ahead of the publication in mid-November of The Two Towers, second in the sequence.  It was not yet a cult, though, nor–away from the public prints–was it everyone’s cup of tea.  “Don’s whimsy” was the private verdict of Angus Wilson, to whom in his own mind the future belonged.  [Op cit, p. 404f.]

It is interesting to look back after over half a century of the trilogy being in print and see the enormous impact it has had on millions of millions of readers (and, latterly, movie goers).
 What is also singular is to recall the long struggle Tolkien went through to find a publisher willing to undertake the risk of publishing a work that had no specific recognisable genre, and to that extent was sui generis.  The commercial risks the publisher was undertaking were deemed considerable.  But Tolkien was proved right: every age needed its peculiar, special myths that enabled it to see itself in the light of eternity.  The rising tide of atheism and secularism was gnawing out a chasm in the human heart and Western culture bigger than what lay beneath Isengard.  The hunger for Middle Earth and all that has subsequently swirled around it was clearly not anticipated by the critics, generally positive though their remarks had been.

In Tolkien Christians had found a literary voice that was truly revolutionary in its own way.  In an age of ignorance in which so many houses no longer have books on shelves, or available to be communally read, we were gratified to meet a year ten student recently whose face glowed as she described her excitement and pleasure at reading The Lord of the Rings.  She was interested to know how many times we had read the trilogy.  She had already consumed it twice, and was anticipating her  third reading.
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today’s entertainment

marmsky devotions pics (of Hamilton NZ) August 2017 (19)

devotional post # 2113

Hosea 7:1-3

Hos 7:1 I just start to heal Israel, and the crookedness of Ephraim is revealed, and the crimes of Samaria; because they deal falsely; the thief breaks in indoors, and the bandits raid outdoors.
Hos 7:2 But they do not even think that I remember all their evil. Now their crimes surround them; they happen right in my presence.
Hos 7:3 By their evil they amuse the king, and the princes by their lies.

today’s entertainment

God’s complaint is that his people are so full of wrongdoing that he is too busy punishing them for their crimes to bring about revival among them. The lying and stealing and murdering is happening everywhere. The kings and princes entertain themselves by talking about the day’s crimes.

LORD, we need you to break the cycle. We need holiness and righteousness to return to those nations which have lost it.


The New Testament: Copies (Clarity of the Bible VII)

‘I will give a lolly,’ said Graeme, our lecturer, ‘to the person who copies out the most verses in three minutes.’

For the next 180 seconds, I frantically wrote out most of 1 Peter 1 by hand. Some of my classmates copied out more, so I did not get the lollipop.

Then we took the two longest copies and copied them out. (I didn’t win the lolly in that round either.)

Finally, we checked the printed Bible and marked all the mistakes.

‘If your handwritten copies were our only copies of 1 Peter 1,’ said Graeme, ‘How could we decide which variations were correct?’

It was pretty clear. We would prioritise older copies. We would think of what mistakes were likely to happen while the copies were being made (like writing a wrong word that looks similar to the right one, or repeating a word accidentally). It would help that we had several copies to check against each other. We also noticed that, in any place where there were two equally convincing alternatives for what the original said, it hardly mattered. The differences were extremely trivial, and made no difference to doctrine.

This was the process of working out what the original said – an area of study called textual criticism (criticism in the sense of evaluation, not just objections).

Textual criticism is not only for the Bible, but for many other books, including Shakespeare’s plays. Textual criticism can achieve more with some books than with others. It depends on what copies can be found.

The original text of the Old Testament is remarkably well represented by the translations we have today. Perhaps the most spectacular event to confirm this was the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. Among these scrolls were copies of most of the Old Testament close to 1,000 years older than the copies that had been available so far. These older manuscripts and the later ones agreed with stunning accuracy, bearing witness to the famous carefulness of the scribes who made copies.

The New Testament is even better off when it comes to textual criticism. For most books from the New Testament times, if they have survived at all, the earliest manuscripts available a good several centuries (sometimes over a millennium) after the time of writing, and we are lucky if they number over a dozen. Yet copying by hand is not such a transmission nightmare as some people imagine; textual critics and historians generally accept that what these authors said has successfully reached us.

But the New Testament is represented by literally thousands of manuscripts. The most important ones come from the fourth to sixth centuries A. D., very close to the time of original writing in the first century. Such a wealth of manuscripts really helps the process of checking variations to deduce the original words. The reasonable confidence of past Christians that the New Testament is being passed on intact through copies has been bolstered by a mountain of evidence – all we need and many times over!

And what we found with our copying activity in our class is also true for the Bible: when copies give us two equally convincing alternatives for what the original said, the differences are trivial, and make no difference to doctrine. God has truly provided us with exceptional clarity in the Bible.

Besides Graeme Fleming’s lecture at Lake Learning (a Christian training camp), I have drawn on F. F. Bruce’s classic The Books and the Parchments for this post.

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The Fall and Rise of the Liberal Arts College

Out of the Ashes

Anthony Esolen in His Own Words: ‘Why I Left Providence College for Thomas More’

The acclaimed Catholic translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy shares with the National Catholic Register his reasons for leaving a tenured professorship to join the Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts.

Peter Jesserer Smith
NC Register

PROVIDENCE — Professor Anthony Esolen has thought deeply about the connections between excellence in literature and the cultural renewal of America. For a long time, he has fought a battle on the campus of Providence College, where he holds a tenure as an English professor, for a Catholic worldview that values cultural diversity anchored in truth and virtue, against a politically-inspired moral diversity that he believes homogenizes culture by celebrating mediocrity to the exclusion of Christian civilization’s wide patrimony of letters and learning.

In this interview with the National Catholic Register, Esolen explains in his own words why he decided to leave Providence College behind. The esteemed translator of The Divine Comedy, and recent author of Out of the Ashes: Restoring American Culture, will soon commence a new chapter at the Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, where he will have a hand in establishing its new Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture.

Why are you leaving a tenured position as a literature professor at Providence College for a faculty position at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts?

First, because Thomas More College is a sound and sweet and wise place that deserves the prayers, the attention, and the support, financial and otherwise, of every Catholic who wishes to see culture — the real thing, not its mass-produced counterfeit — restored in America; culture in general, and a vibrant Catholic life in particular. I came home recently from a day at Thomas More College, full of good cheer and energy, and for somebody who isn’t getting younger, those can take you a long way. They can add many years to your life as a teacher, whereas discouragement and disappointment lead to exhaustion.

Second, it is a great opportunity, because of the center for cultural renewal that the college has begun; it is as if they had read my mind, or I had read their minds, when I wrote my book, Out of the Ashes: Restoring American Culture.
That’s not just for me but for my family too. A large and necessarily bureaucratic institution, run by lawyers, is no easy place for your spouse and your children to enter into a real community and to offer their gifts for the college and the common good. A small but telling example: my son is a student of the pipe organ, and we’d asked if he could come to Providence with me sometimes to practice at the big organ in the chapel, when it is not being used. Permission denied. My daughter would very much like to introduce young people to classic films, especially those that are Christian in spirit; the works of John Ford and Frank Capra, for example. Doing so at a large institution run by lawyers would be like tunneling through Mount Everest. We are eager to begin that educational enterprise at Thomas More College, in the new center.

Third, I find that being around people filled with the faith strengthens me in my own faith, and there is the considerable advantage of having daily Mass being offered at a time when no classes are scheduled, followed by lunch, when you have a chance of sitting with anybody and everybody.

You had a long-running battle within Providence College regarding its direction as a Catholic institution. What was the decisive turning point that led you to set that battle aside, and pursue this new course?

I could live with a somewhat Catholic school that was really committed to the humanities, such as we were for many years. I could live with an unreservedly Catholic school where the humanities needed shoring up. But to live at a used-to-be-Catholic school no longer committed to the humanities, where all the big decisions are basically secular in their inspiration and their aim, on a campus that is highly politicized and therefore treacherous — no, that’s not for someone of my years.  I wrote, 10 years ago, that we had never really lost our identity, and what we had lost we were well on the way to recover. I could not write those words now. That is not to say that Providence College is lost. There are still many excellent people there, Catholics and others who are friendly to the faith even when they do not share it, and friendly to the humanities. But saving the school is no longer my battle.

The turning point came when the president refused to meet with a small group of Catholic professors, and persuaded the Dominican provincial not to meet with us either.  And what can you do against slander and detraction?  Stand on a stump and shout your innocence to all passersby?

In your new book Out of the Ashes, you state that new colleges and universities have an opportunity to rebuild American culture. How exactly do you see Thomas More College playing a role in building a new American society? 

At Thomas More College, students are meant to be surrounded by beauty and sanity; the whole human being, not disembodied chunks of him, is the focus of the education. Therefore, they rejoice when young men and young women do what they used to do, what in all healthy cultures they have done: to fall in love and to marry. There will be none of the rat poison of the Sexual Revolution — the Lonely Revolution — there.

Gabriel Marcel [the French Christian philosopher and playwright] said long ago that it was the duty of the sane man, the Christian man, to set himself apart from the mass society and against it, because the mass society bids fair to devour humanity itself. Thomas More College lives out Marcel’s wisdom. Every family you raise against that mass society is a castle of sanity and health in an age of confusion and disease. And from out of those sane graduates, there may arise some who will actually be what the mass-educators claim to produce: leaders in thought, art, public affairs, and the Church.

What do you hope to bring as a professor to Thomas More College’s academics and common life? When do you start and what classes will you be teaching? 

I’ll be starting in the fall, with the regular course of study they have for all students. I imagine I’ll be assisting in introducing freshmen to the ancient world, and how to write like human beings and not machines. Most of all I’ll be learning again from my colleagues! What I bring [is] what I’ve brought here at Providence: a love for art and poetry and the best of human wisdom, and the trust that such things can bring us into the precincts of the divine; not into the sanctuary itself, but into the neighborhood. And that is no small thing that they can do.

Thank you so much, Professor Esolen. While you make this transition to Thomas More College, are there any upcoming projects that you could tell us about? 

Yes. The poet and professor Dana Gioia, former head of the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts], has written that Christians need to reclaim their rightful heritage in the arts. So I’ve turned my hand again to poetry — what, other than translation, I’d mostly set aside for twenty five years. It’s a very large project, extremely intricate, and nearly done. So far, I’ve considered the title to be Centuries of Grace. I may change my mind about that. I won’t say anything more specific about it yet, except that there will be no free verse! And there will be forms of verse, many and various, that have pretty much lain unregarded for too long.
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