Every Person is Precious and Special
Every Person is Precious and Special
What We Were Made For
Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
The gospel is the enjoyment of fellowship with God himself. This is made explicit here in 1 Peter 3:18 in the phrase “that he might bring us to God.”
All the other gifts of the gospel exist to make this one possible.
Test your heart. Why do you want forgiveness? Why do you want to be justified? Why do you want eternal life? Is the decisive answer: “because I want to enjoy God”?
The gospel-love God gives is ultimately the gift of himself. This is what we were made for. This is what we lost in our sin. This is what Christ came to restore.
“In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Christians: The world’s most persecuted people
One woman, at least, is safe. Throughout much of her pregnancy, she had been in prison in Khartoum, capital of the Republic Sudan, living with the dread expectation that she would be hanged once her baby was born. Her crime was that she had married a Christian and been accused by the authorities of apostasy, renouncing her faith, even though she maintained she had never been a Muslim in the first place. On Thursday, Meriam Ibrahim’s eight-month ordeal finally ended when she was flown out of the country to Rome where she, and her new baby daughter, met the Pope in the Vatican.
But it has been a different story for the 3,000 Christians of Mosul who were driven from their homes in northern Iraq by Islamist fanatics who broadcast a fatwa from the loudspeakers of the city’s mosques ordering them to convert to Islam, submit to its rule and pay a religious levy, or be put to death if they stayed. The last to leave was a disabled woman who could not travel. The fanatics arrived at her home and told her they would cut off her head with a sword.. . . 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.
Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.
The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.
All this seems counter-intuitive here in the West where the history of Christianity has been one of cultural dominance and control ever since the Emperor Constantine converted and made the Roman Empire Christian in the 4th century AD. Yet the plain fact is that Christians are languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.
A few voices have been raised in the West about all this. The religious historian Rupert Shortt has written a book called Christianophobia. America’s most prominent religious journalist, John L Allen Jnr, has just published The Global War on Christians. The former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks told the House of Lords recently that the suffering of Middle East Christians is “one of the crimes against humanity of our time”. He compared it with Jewish pogroms in Europe and said he was “appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked”.. . . the world’s Christians fall through the cracks of the left-right divide – they are too religious for liberals and too foreign for conservatives.
Why is this in a culture that is happy to make public protest against the ferocity of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza or the behaviour of Russia in Ukraine? In part, it is because our intelligentsia are locked into old ways of thinking about Christianity as the dominant force in Western historic hegemony. The church has not helped in this, with its fixation on pious religiosity and on cultural issues that it falsely regards as totemic – issues such as gay marriage and women bishops.
A bogus dichotomy between religion and equality has been set up, resulting in a succession of comparatively trivial new (sic) stories about receptionists being banned from wearing religious jewellery or nurses being suspended for offering to pray for patients’ recovery. Adopting the rhetoric of persecution on such matters obscures the very real persecution of Christians being killed or driven from their homes elsewhere in the globe.
Most of the world’s Christians are not engaged in stand-offs with intolerant secularists over such small matters. In the West, Christianity may have increasingly become embraced by the middle class and abandoned by the working class. But elsewhere the vast majority of Christians are poor, many of them struggling against antagonistic majority cultures, and have different priorities in life.
The paradox this produces is that, as Allen points out, the world’s Christians fall through the cracks of the left-right divide – they are too religious for liberals and too foreign for conservatives.
In the UK, it is socially respectable among the secular elite to regard Christianity as weird and permissible to bully its followers a little. This produces the surreal political reality in which President Obama visits Saudi Arabia and “does not get the time” to raise the suppression of Christianity in the oil-rich nation; and in which Prime Minister Cameron gets a broadside from illiberal secularists for the historically unquestionable assertion that Britain’s culture is formed by Christian values.
The reality of being a Christian in most of the world today is very different. It only adds to their tragedy that the West fails to understand that – or to heed the plea of men such as the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal when he asks: “Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?”
Paul Vallely is visiting professor of public ethics at Chester Univeristy
Vallely’s article is right on the money when he calls attention to the general pogrom that is being unleashed upon Christians around the world today. He is also right when he highlights the silence of the West on the matter and the double standards at work. But, in our view, he completely misses the mark when trying to explain this lapse of moral judgment.
Firstly, he trivialises the oppression of Christians in the West, writing, that Christians have made far too much fuss “on cultural issues that it falsely regards as totemic – issues such as gay marriage and women bishops.” In so opining, he betrays the root of this problem in the West, on the one hand, and that he himself becomes an implicit advocate or apologist for the West’s loathing of Christianity, on the other.
For the secular West in general, religious faith, including Christianity, is a curious relic of the pre-secular primitive past. The fact that Christians still remain in the secular West is testimony to their particular ignorance, superstition, and primitive thought patterns. Christians resist homosexual “marriage” because they have made totems–like all primitive religions–clinging to these archaisms because they are unable to move with the tide of secular enlightenment. A similar condescending paternalism applies to Vallely’s criticism about Christians resisting the ordination of women. He fails to grasp that Christians resist these defalcations because of their fidelity to the Lord of the heavens and the earth. They believe and understand that His law binds–way beyond the pretensions of secularist ethics and fads.
Of course, Vallely would protest that such totems are minor matters in the global scheme of things, but in doing so fails to realise that it is secularism which is informing his judgment about what he judges is really important and what he considers unimportant.
The fact that secularists abuse Christians for such faith and fidelity to the Christ is in principle no different from the abuse of Christians by Hindu extremists in India or Islamists in Iraq. In both cases fidelity to Christ is being excoriated and punished. The only difference is that in the West there is enough of a Christian legal tradition still remaining that the law restrains the hatred and anger towards Christians that is expressed whenever it has opportunity–on websites, twitter, and other media not subject to anti-defamation laws.
Christians are thankful that such mercies still apply in the West and that the pogrom here is restrained. But we are in no doubt that secular humanism is an aggressive, minatory religion that will oppress and punish all who stand in its way–given half a chance. Vallely lacks epistemological self-consciousness about his own position (he is not a neutral observer, after all), and he also lacks awareness of the epistemology of secularism.
Finally, Vallely implies that Christians are significantly to blame for the silence of the West over the global persecution of Christians. Christians have distracted the West by majoring on minors, and adopting “the rhetoric of persecution” on such matters. Christians have lost perspective, he implies, failing to understand that that the secularist ethic of equality enforced upon Christians is not persecution, whereas real persecution exists when you lose your home or your life.
His article cites John L. Allen, referring to his recent book, The Global War on Christians, who claims “. . . the world’s Christians fall through the cracks of the left-right divide – they are too religious for liberals and too foreign for conservatives”. That about gets it right, for Western liberals and conservatives are both alike secularist,–although arguably secular conservatives, because of the desire to preserve what they deem acceptable from their heritage, are generally more tolerant of Christians than secular liberals.
We Christians do not despise the help and assistance of Unbelievers and secularists. We are thankful for it. It was Julius Caesar, for all his monstrous ambitions and lawlessness, who respected and protected the Jewish enclaves in Rome. Such things are not uncommon in the history of the Kingdom. Whilst we pray for the “king” and seek the good of all men, we have low expectations of a mutual response, albeit very thankful to God when it happens as in ancient Rome. For our hope is not in fallen man, but in God, our Lord and Saviour. For we know that the heart of the king (and authorities of every kind) is in the hand of the Lord. He turns it wherever He will. (Proverbs 21:1)
We are thus thankful to Vallely for calling attention to the global pogrom against Christians and being a latter day type of Julius Caesar for the Lord’s people.
Here’s a sample:
The audacity of the falsehoods in Mann’s court pleadings is breathtaking. For example, on page 19 of his brief below dated January 18, 2013, he cites the international panel chaired by the eminent scientist Lord Oxburgh, FRS as one of the bodies that “exonerated” him, whereas on page 235 of Mann’s own book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, he states explicitly that “our own work did not fall within the remit of the committee and the hockey stick was not mentioned in the report.” It is deeply disturbing that a plaintiff should make such fraudulent claims in his legal pleadings. It is even more disturbing that the first such fraudulent claim – to be a Nobel Laureate and thus in the same pantheon as Banting, Einstein, and the Curies – should have led to the amended complaint and the procedural delays that then followed. It would be even more profoundly damaging were his other transparently false claims to be entertained for another two years before trial.
It is clear from the ease with which Mann lies about things that would not withstand ten minutes of scrutiny in a courtroom that he has no intention of proceeding to trial.”
For the full background to the case, read this. But all you really need to know is that Michael Mann is exploiting the flaws in the US legal system to try to draw out proceedings as long as possible in order to exhaust – or bankrupt – Steyn into submission.
Unfortunately for Mann he picked the wrong victim.
Steyn is a fighter who knows his way round the courts having battled a similarly vexatious and vindictive case in Canada when he was accused of Islamophobia – or some similar nonsense – by something called the Ontario Human Rights Committee. Plus, Steyn is astute enough to appreciate exactly what’s at stake here.
This isn’t about hurt feelings or a damaged professional reputation, let alone an ill-chosen and imprecise turn of phrase. It’s about the very principle of freedom of speech.
And not just about freedom of speech either, important though that is.
This, if Steyn is successful, could be the moment the dam bursts: the one where the global establishment is finally forced to acknowledge the fraudulence, the corruption, the mendacity, the trickery, the deception, the junk science, the big money and the official complicity which for the last two or three decades have been underpinning the Great Climate Change Scam.
Up till now the response of the climate alarmist establishment (and that would include everyone from the Obama administration to the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia to the Royal Society and NASA GISS to the IPCC to the Prince of Wales to Vice and Grist to John Podesta, Tom Steyer and Michael Mann) in the face of criticism has been to deny, rebuff, bully, insist, conceal, bluster, misrepresent and sue.
They have got away with it not least because they are backed by such vast sums of money – far in excess of anything climate sceptical scientists receive, not just from governments and the United Nations and the European Union but also through various rich and powerful foundations which left-wing billionaire donors use as a political laundering process. (It’s all there in this Senate Minority Report).
They have also got away with it because of the complicity of the scientific, political and media establishment.
This was especially noticeable in the wake of Climategate. To any objective observer there was no mistaking the malfeasance and dishonesty revealed among the private emails of the “scientists” at the heart of the global warming scam. (These are the guys who write the IPCC reports which our governments use to justify hiking our taxes, driving up our energy prices and carpeting our countryside with wind turbines). Yet they got away with it by rigging at least four inquiries into the affair – either by deliberately not asking the right questions or stuffing the investigation panels or both.
Hence Steyn’s point in his brief. Mann and his supporters are forever claiming they were exonerated. But they simply never were – for reasons which become perfectly clear when you read the detailed report compiled by Andrew Montford for the Global Warming Policy Foundation and which any court of law, were it to do its job, would fairly swiftly establish.
This is what I’ve always found so thoroughly enjoyable about the global warming debate. It’s not one of those issues where there’s right and wrong on both sides and it’s really a matter of opinion which one you favour. Quite simply it’s a very straightforward battle between, on the one hand a bunch of lying, greedy shysters, fanatical, misanthropic, anti-capitalist eco-loons, bent, grant-troughing scientists, grubby politicians and despicable, rent-seeking millionaires and billionaires; and on the other a handful of brave, honest, rigorous, seekers-after-truth.
Under full disclosure in a US court system all this stuff would come out. It would have to because otherwise – so far as I understand US judicial process – the trial would be prejudiced and invalid. And if and when it does come out only one side can emerge as the winner because only one side is telling the truth or has facts to support its argument.
No wonder Mann (and his anonymous – but evidently very rich – backers) are fighting so hard to delay the process for as long as possible.
If this ever goes to trial they’re all toast.
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Last year I had an article Is Ethical Naturalism more plausible than Supernaturalism: A reply to Walter Sinnott Armstrong published in the journal Philo. In the comments section a reader asked me to comment on a response to that article published by classical historian Richard Carrier. This post will be the first of several where I do so.
In, Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism, I did two things. Firstly, I briefly explicated a conditional that has recently been proposed explicitly by William Lane Craig but which is also defended by several others, and secondly I rebutted several arguments raised against this conditional by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Carrier argues my rebuttals fail, but before he does so he offers three preliminary arguments against the positive thesis I was defending against Armstrong. It is these that I will address in this post.
The conditional I explicated as follows:
Craig’s contention is that if theism is true then we can plausibly explain the nature of moral obligation by identifying obligations with God’s commands, analogous to the way “we explain the nature of water by identifying it with H2O, or explain the nature of heat by identifying it with molecular motion.” By “God” Craig means a necessarily existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and just, immaterial person who created and providentially orders the universe.
Note three things.
First, this is a conditional, if affirms that if theism is true then then we can plausibly explain the nature of moral obligation by identifying obligations with God’s commands.
Second, I define the concept of God used in this conditional as a necessarily existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and just, immaterial person who created and providentially orders the universe.
Third, this conditional specifies the kind of grounding relationship I am addressing, one where the relationship between God’s commands and moral obligations is one of identity. It’s the same kind of relationship as H20 has to water. It does not affirm a thesis about moral motivation: that we are motivated to do what is right by God’s say so, nor does it affirm a thesis about moral epistemology: that we need to believe in God or his commands to recognise moral obligations.
Fourth, I don’t in the article offer any positive argument for this conditional. I explicate what the conditional is and defend it against a series of objections.
These three points are important because much of Carrier’s argument proceeds by ignoring them, beginning with his preliminary objections.
Carrier’s Preliminary Objections
Objection 1: There is no evidence for God’s existence.
Carrier’s first objection is that “we have no evidence that there even is the requisite God”. This objection misses its target. I emphasized repeatedly in my paper that I was rebutting objections to a conditional proposition. The contention is that: If God exists then a divine command theory is plausible account of the nature of moral obligation. Conditional statements of form “if P then Q” have what logicians call an “antecedent” and a “consequent”. P is the antecedent; in my paper the antecedent is the claim, “God exists”. In a conditional statement one talks about what occurs if the antecedent is true. Q is the consequent; in the example above the consequent is the proposition “it’s plausible to identify moral obligations commands with God’s commands”. The consequent is what is said to be true if the antecedent is correct.
It’s a basic point in the logic of conditionals that the truth of the conditional does not presuppose or depend on the truth of the antecedent. What matters is whether the consequent would be the case if the antecedent were. Let me illustrate this with an example. Take the claim, “If I was shot in the head yesterday I would not be here today”. That’s a true conditional: I don’t need to prove I was actually shot in the head or that I am not here today to show it is true. All I have to know is that if people are shot in the head they aren’t around the next day. Similarly, consider the conditional: “If it is raining then the grass will be wet”. This conditional remains true even on a hot day with no rain in sight. Even on such a day it will be true that if it rains the grass will get wet.
So contrary to what Carrier suggests here I don’t need to prove that God exists or provide evidence for God’s existence to defend this conditional. Lack of evidence for its antecedent does nothing to show that the conditional is false. Carrier’s first objection therefore is simply fallacious.
Suppose, however, I hadn’t defended a conditional, but simply affirmed the consequent. Carrier’s argument would still fail for two reasons:
First, contrary to what Carrier assumes a DCT is compatible with atheism and agnosticism. As I pointed out in my paper an “agnostic could accept a divine command theory is the most plausible account of the nature of moral obligation, deny God exists; and conclude, therefore, that moral obligations do not really exist and embrace an error theory.” In, fact one of the leading philosophical defenders of atheism in the 20th century, J L Mackie, arguably did this. A DCT entails theism only if it’s conjoined with moral realism: the claim that moral obligations exist.
Second, if we accept moral realism, as Carrier does, the objection that “we have no evidence that there even is the requisite God” is circular. “One of the most generally accepted reasons for believing in the existence of anything is that its existence is implied by the theory that seems to account most adequately for some subject matter”. If the best account of the nature of moral obligations is that those obligations are God’s commands, then the existence of moral obligations provides evidence for the existence of God. We will have a straightforward argument from the best explanation for theism. Consequently, one can only claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence if one has already ruled the divine command theory out as the most plausible account of the nature of moral obligations. To appeal to the lack of evidence for God’s existence as grounds for rejecting a divine command theory is to reason in a circle.
Objection 2: Circular Argument
Carrier’s use of a circular argument is ironic given that the second major objection he raises is that my explication of this conditional involves a circular argument:
Flannagan’s thesis imagines that, in effect, if God is a “necessarily existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and just, immaterial person who created and providentially orders the universe,” then what he concludes is morally right would indeed be morally right. That may be sound, but it’s circular, because it presumes (without argument) that “loving and just” decisions are morally right
I think Carrier here subtly misconstrues the conditional I was defending. But not only does Carrier misconstrue my position, his claim that it is circular reasoning is false. To propose a circular argument one has to offer an argument for a conclusion where the conclusion is tacitly assumed in the premises. But as I stated in my article, I was defending a contention against various objections. The contention I defended is not an argument: it was a single conditional proposition. Seeing as it’s not an argument and has no premises it can’t possibly be a circular argument, and can’t assume anything in the premises.
However, even if my contention did express an argument, which it didn’t, Carrier’s objection fails to show it is circular. As Carrier construes the argument, the conclusion of my argument is that what “[God] concludes is morally right would indeed be morally right”, yet the premise I apparently assume is “that loving and just actions are morally right”. An astute reader will note that this premise is not the same as the conclusion. Consequently, the argument Carrier mistakenly attributes to me is in fact not circular at all. Hence, even if I had offered the argument he says, and I didn’t, it would not be a circular argument because the argument he attributes to me isn’t circular.
Objection 3: The Bible is immoral.
This brings me to Carrier’s last preliminary objection that: “within the Bible there is a vast plethora of not only contradictory moral advice, but many moral commandments that we now all deem fundamentally immoral.” While I disagree with Carrier’s take on the Bible, even if one granted it, this argument again misses its target. The conditional stated above asserts that if God exists then it is plausible to identify our moral obligations with his commands. This is compatible with the Bible containing immoral commands. The fact that the Bible records God commanding something immoral does not entail that God did command something immoral, unless one also accepts the further premise that whatever the Bible teaches is true. While some divine command theorists do believe this, that position is not part of or entailed by a divine command theory itself, and one could consistently be a divine command theorist without holding this further premise. So as a critique of divine command theory per se, Carrier’s argument fails.
Carrier’s claim does create a problem if the acceptance of a divine command theory is combined with a commitment to biblical inerrancy. But the problem would be with biblical inerrancy, not with DCT. Carrier’s third objection therefore changes the subject.
My conclusion, then, is that none of Carrier’s preliminary objections are successful, in that not only do they not provide any reason for rejecting Craig’s conditional, in fact they don’t address the conditional at all. The first tells us Carrier’s opinions about arguments for God’s existence, but tells us nothing about whether if God exists a divine command theory is plausible, and as a criticism of DCT simply assumes the issue at hand. The second addresses an argument I never made, and even then seems to misunderstand what a circular argument is, and the third changes the subject to the question of biblical inerrancy, again ignoring the question of whether if God exists a divine command theory is plausible.
 Matthew Flannagan, “Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Super- naturalism? A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong,” Philo 15, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2012), 19.
 Richard Carrier, “On the Facts as we Know them, Ethical Naturalism is all there is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan” Philo 15, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2012), 201
 J L Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. (New York: Penguin Books, 1977) 229-231
 See Robert Adam’s “Moral Arguments For Theistic Belief”
 Richard Carrier, “On the Facts as we Know them, Ethical Naturalism is all there is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan” Philo 15, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2012), 201-202
by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm
Browning … defined faith…. ‘With me, faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet, like the snake ‘neath Michael’s foot’. Here is Michael and there is the snake beneath his foot and he just keeps it quiet under the pressure of his foot…. Faith is unbelief kept quiet, kept down. That is what these men [in the boat on LakeGalilee} (Luke 8:22-5) did not do, they allowed this situation to grip them, they became panicky. Faith, however, is a refusal to allow that. It says: T am not going to be controlled by these circumstances —I am in control.’ So you take charge of yourself, and pull yourself up…. You do not let go, you assert yourself….
That is the first thing, but…. That is not enough, because that may be nothing but resignation. That is not the whole of faith.
Having taken that first step, having pulled yourself up, you then remind yourself of what you believe and what you know…. If only they had stopped a moment and said: ‘Now then what about it? Is it possible that we are going to drown with Him in the boat? Is there anything He cannot do? We have seen His miracles, He turned the water into wine, He can heal the blind and the lame, He can even raise the dead, is it likely that He is going to allow us and Himself to be drowned in this way? Impossible! In any case He loves us, He cares for us, He has told us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered!’ That is the way in which faith reasons. It says: ‘All right, I see the waves and the billows but’—it always puts up this ‘but’. That is faith, it holds on to truth and reasons from what it knows to be fact.
Spiritual Depression, pp. 143–4
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Economic Literacy in Oz, Ignorance in NZ
New Zealand appears to have a strong streak of xenophobia. It also can be characterised as excelling in economic and commercial ignorance. These things tend to come out especially during election campaigns, but they are always there, simmering away just beneath the surface, waiting to break out like a bad case of acne.
One traditional cause célébré is residential housing and whether New Zealanders can afford it. Prices are rocketing up in some locations (Auckland, Christchurch) bringing forth pronouncements of doom.
But attitudes across the ditch appear to be very different. House prices have ratcheted up in that country as well, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. And, more to the point, the presence of strong Chinese demand is having a significant impact. In New Zealand, a similar phenomenon has produced xenophobic reactions against Chinese immigration and house-buying. Not so in Oz–at least not in the Sydney Morning Herald, which is hardly a denizen of right wing, pro-business, free market economics.
House hunters may complain, but the “phenomenal” influx of Chinese money into the local residential property market may be the best thing that happened to the local economy as it struggles to make its difficult transition from an unprecedented mining boom.
The demand from foreign investors for Aussie bricks and mortar is set to intensify for at least three years, driving a boom in apartment construction activity and boosting the bottom lines of listed companies such as Lend Lease, Mirvac and Goodman Group, according to exhaustive new research by broking group CLSA. And while there have been plenty of warnings about foreign investors pushing property prices beyond the reach of a generation of local prospective homeowners, Chinese investment may be the catalyst for growth in a non-mining corner of the economy – building and construction – that traditionally is a strong generator of employment. . . .
China is already the number one source of source of foreign money in the local real estate market, and anecdotal evidence suggests that that position has only strengthened this year. Sydney and Melbourne have overwhelmingly been the destinations of choice. . . .
Existing regulation, administered via the Foreign Investment Review Board, restricts non-residents to new properties. There is anecdotal evidence that these rules are circumvented to illegally allow foreign capital into established properties, but the extent of that is hard to estimate, says CLSA senior analyst Andrew Johnston. But Johnston concedes that “there will be some Australian residents that are homebuyers that get displaced from buying a new apartment due to price, such that second-hand apartments become relatively more attractive”. While the news is mixed for some home buyers, it’s great news for the bottom lines of the country’s biggest listed property developers – and potentially their shareholders.
Remember what European Monetary Union was supposed to do? It was going to add zillions to Europe’s GDP, they said. According to the Lisbon development plan, by 2010, the EU was going to be “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable”.
The truth is that Europe is failing badly. At a time when the rest of the world is growing, data out today shows France stagnating. Shockingly, Italy’s output is lower today than it was fourteen years ago. Even Germany is going into reverse.
Economic Europe is paying the price of ever more political Europe. Introducing layer upon layer of rules, regulations and directive is starting to ossify. Europe’s economy has consistently performed worse than expected as a result of decades of dirigisme.
Here in Britain we have nothing to be complacent about. To be sure, cheap credit is stimulating output. Combined with welfare reforms, this is driving a spectacular jobs boom. But beware. We might be outside the euro – and therefore free to engage in our own monetary stimulus. We are not outside the single market regulatory sclerosis. The deadweight of all those directives presses down on us every bit as much as on the Eurozone. Strip away the easy money stimulus, and we’re not that much better off.
For years, politicos have told us we need to be inside the European single market to prosper. So why is wealth now being created almost everywhere but inside the highly regulated single market? Those parts of the world that are flourishing somehow don’t seem to struggle to sell either inside or outside Europe.
It is not only European monetary union we ought to steer clear from.
Now that we know we need to consider the nature of God to discover the nature of love, let’s see where that takes us.
As many theologians have noted, love requires a subject (the lover) and an object (the loved). I don’t aim to show here that the subject and the object cannot be the same (ie, that one person can’t love himself); but merely that in God, they are not the same. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit, who in turn love him and each other.
This strongly affects our understanding of what love is, because the love within a triune God has characteristics which self-oriented love does not.
Let me list some of these characteristics which seem most essential to the nature of God as love. These might not always be features of any love, since love can be expressed in different ways depending on the subject and the object—but they do seem to be essential to “ultimate” love. Other types of love will only be love inasmuch as they reflect what God himself is; so while they won’t all involve every one of these characteristics, the more they do, the more “true” they will be.
I mention this first because it is the feature most strikingly absent from typical definitions of biblical love. They tend to make love a purely intellectual operation, which I think is because they are built on the notion that love can’t be “real” unless we can choose to avoid it (more on that later). Since we very often have no choice in how we feel, love therefore cannot be primarily about feeling.
Now, I don’t think God is subject to emotion in the same way we are. I don’t think God finds himself spontaneously feeling anything he didn’t intend to feel. Nothing can cause a change in God, so he is what theologians call impassible—he does not have passions in the sense of being emotionally volatile, or having emotions imposed upon him by another. Passions, in the theological sense, are those feelings which are caused from without. God has no feelings caused from without—but that isn’t to say he has no feelings at all. On the contrary, although human emotions are no doubt only analagous to divine emotions, it seems very clear from the Bible that these divine emotions do exist.
Love must surely be chief among these: the Father has an infinite, ineffable affection for the Son and the Spirit; and they for him and each other. It is something greater and deeper and more inexpressible than the affection a human father has for his son, or a human child for his parents; but it is nonetheless like that affection. Our human affection is derived from, or modeled on, God’s affection within the Trinity. So triune love is affectionate.
The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all God. They are in nature equal. Yet within their relationship exists a hierarchy of authority and submission. A hierarchy of roles. The Father has a right of governance, and the Son and Spirit have a duty of obedience. The Father plans and the Son and Spirit carry out. It is through these roles that triune love is expressed.
Notice how often love involves a hierarchy in human relationships. We submit to God. Wives submit to husbands; children to parents. The basic model of love God instituted in creation is the family unit. Even love among friends frequently involves a hierarchy, subtle as it may be. Some people are good leaders, and their friends defer to them when they make decisions together. Some people are wise, and their friends seek their counsel. And so on. Indeed, failing to accommodate this is one of the ways in which modern Christians, influenced by egalitarianism and individualism, are often lousy at loving one another.
God is love, but he does not love everything. Triune love is holy; it stems from each member of the Godhead being infinitely worthy of love. But holiness is an all-consuming goodness—where goodness is understood not in a fuzzy, muffins-and-puppies way, but in the “unapproachable light” way. It not only illuminates and empowers the good, but it consumes and destroys the wrong.
To put it another way, God’s triune love is one and the same thing as God’s hatred for that which opposes his character.
I mention this because it has deep ramifications for human love. Love is not indiscriminate. Human love which is not holy is a perversion of what love should be. This is something the world would have us lose sight of—that we cannot love everything, and that God does not love everything. To love the world is to hate God. To love God is to hate the world. So for example, a gay Christian who believes God approves of his homosexuality because “God is love” is in fact utterly missing the point. He does not understand love at all. His own love for another man is a perversion of what love is supposed to be (just as a heterosexual man’s love for a married woman is); and God does not love perversions of his nature which exalt a corrupt caricature of who he is.
This is particularly important to understand if you’re a Christian who believes, or is sympathetic to, the idea that libertarian free will is the price of genuine love. Many Christians strongly believe this, though you won’t find it anywhere in the Bible. It is one of the key pillars in the colonnade of freewill theism: that if God had not given us the ability to rebel against him, we would also not have had the ability to truly love him, because love by nature must be libertarianly freely chosen.
The obvious problem with this view is that, in fact, love by nature cannot fail to exist. God cannot fail to exist; God is love; therefore, love cannot fail to exist. The Father cannot fail to love the Son, etc.
This is not to say that the Father does not choose to love the Son. But it does mean that the Father is unable to choose not to love the Son. I think love is obviously volitional; it is something that requires an act of will. Yet in God’s case—the paradigm case—the act of will is necessitated. God cannot choose otherwise. The most real kind of love is the least libertarianly free.
Augustine suggested that the Spirit is the love itself existing between Father and Son. Whether this is true or not, the ultimate nature of love is completely reciprocal. More than reciprocal, it is such a closeness of being that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father (John 10:38; 14:10 etc); and the Godhead is three and the Godhead is one (John 10:30; 17:11 etc).
I have left this for last because it strikes me as being the very ground of love. Fundamentally, love is a relationship that makes one “unit” out of distinct persons. The characteristics I’ve described above explain how love does that; but this concept of unity explains what love ultimately is; what it is aimed at; what it achieves.
I once saw someone describe biblical love as “one-togetherness”. I think this is apt, and I will explore it further in the final part of this series.
“Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.”
Very admirable was his occupation. If those who spend so many hours in idle company, light reading, and useless pastimes, could learn wisdom, they would find more profitable society and more interesting engagements in meditation than in the vanities which now have such charms for them. We should all know more, live nearer to God, and grow in grace, if we were more alone. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere. When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebecca while engaged in private musings; many others have found their best beloved there.
Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have a study hung round with texts for thought.
From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle down to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching, and when the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes upon the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, or so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean, but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed.
Very admirable was the season. The season of sunset as it draws a veil over the day, befits that repose of the soul when earthborn cares yield to the joys of heavenly communion. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of this day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field at eventide, but if not, the Lord is in the town too, and will meet with thee in thy chamber or in the crowded street. Let thy heart go forth to meet him.
Sourced from BibleGateway