Towards A Second Christendom

Diet of Worms, Part Deux

Self-conscious Protestants celebrate October 31st as Reformation Day.  It was on that day in 1517, an Augustinian friar, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg.  (This was the normal “broadsheet” technique to announce a forthcoming public debate.)  These days, the celebrations of Reformation Day usually consist of conferences, lectures, and sermons remembering and giving thanks to God for the Reformation.

We blogged yesterday on how the Reformation signalled the end to Christendom.  Luther said his conscience must be bound primarily to the Word of God; his opponents said that were this principle to be taken seriously it would mean the end of Christendom.

Historian, Mark Noll, whose essay we were referring to in our piece, concluded that both Luther and the church authorities were right.

The tragedy in 1521 at the Diet of Worms was that both Martin Luther and Johann Eck were correct.  late medieval Catholic Christendom was threatening the gospel and could have led to the evisceration of true Christianity; Protestant individualism harbored the potential to promote spiritual chaos and eventually did lead to weakness in the face of outside cultural forces. [Mark Noll, "Reconsidering Christendom?" The Future of Christian Learning: An Evangelical and Catholic Dialogue, edited by Thomas Howard (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), p. 68.]

Noll argues that as we face the militant progress of secularism, and experience its “tender embrace”, it is time to reconsider the idea of Christendom.  He suggests that there are some key things which Protestants can learn from Roman Catholic traditions.  These are:

  1.  a positive, God-honouring place for matter;
  2.  a positive, God-honouring role for reason;
  3.  a parish ideal of community (all classes, races, dispositions in one common institution);
  4.  a positive acceptance of history and traidtion as gifts from God;
  5.  a well-established record of careful legal casuistry;
  6.  a long-standing commitment to instiutions as capable of connecting present communities with both predecessors and successors.

But evangelicals also bring something to the table which is necessary to further Christendom in society:

  1. a sharp awareness of how religious formalism can mindless tradition can anesthetize thought;
  2. a well-practised demonstration of the virtue of voluntary organization for mobilising groups and initiating change;
  3. an insistence on personal engagement, in faith and in learning, as a key to God-honoring personal and group existence;
  4. and above all, the inestimable value (especially in an environment shaped by democratic individualism) of the priesthood of all believers.  [Noll, ibid., p. 67.]

Noll concludes:

Like the symbol of yin and yang, evangelical and Catholic strengths and weaknesses are aligned with nearly perfect symmetry.  It is not, therefore, surprising that all manner of historical reasons exist for Catholics and evangelicals to remain suspicious of each other.  There are also, however, compelling theological and intellectual reasons to begin to learn from each other.  Why do Catholics need evangelicals? Because evangelicals bring to Christendom personal engagement, personal commitment, and lay mobilization.  Why do evangelicals need Catholics?  Because Catholics bring to evangelicals many of the time-tested virtues of Christendom.  [Ibid., p. 69.]

Long may dialogue and discussions of this ilk continue.   Maybe there is a need for an informal, organic perpetual Diet of Worms to be reconstituted and reconvened, mutatis mutandis–naturally. 
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Wild Exaggerations

The Sheriff of Nottingham Redivivus

While Rome burns, hapless world “leaders” like UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon and US President Barack Obama, drone on about how climate change is the world’s biggest imminent threat.  Never has so much misdirection been attempted by so many, convincing so few.

Meanwhile, more and more heretics are taking to the hustings to deride the whole sordid conspiracy.

Recantation

Britain’s Former Environment Minister: Abandon Carbon Targets and Embrace Shale and Nuclear

15 Oct 2014

LONDON, United Kingdom – Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has called for Britain to abandon is carbon targets, saying that renewable energy cannot help Britain meet its energy needs and only a combination of shale gas, Combined Heat and Power and more, smaller nuclear power plants can provide renewable energy for the foreseeable future in Britain.

Speaking to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, Paterson also derided wind farms, saying that Britain’s wind energy policy is the “single most regressive policy we have seen in this country since the Sheriff of Nottingham,” calling it: “The coerced increase of electricity bills for people on low incomes to pay huge subsidies to wealthy landowners and rich investors.”  He added that it was “immensely costly, regressive and damaging to the environment”, and has had virtually no impact on carbon emissions.

Paterson also said that many of the forecasted effects of climate change have been “widely exaggerated”.

“The stopping of the Gulf Stream, the worsening of hurricanes, the retreat of Antarctic sea ice, the increase of malaria, the claim by UNEP that we would see 50m climate refugees before now – these were all predictions that proved wrong,” he said.  The former minister also slammed all current forms of renewable energy in the UK, saying they will never help Britain achieve “zero carbon” by 2050.

He was particularly scathing of offshore wind turbines, which he criticised for their “gigantic costs” and unreliability, saying: “There is a reason we are the world leader in this technology – no other country is quite so foolish as to plough so much public money into it.”  He also called solar power “an expensive red herring” and criticised biomass for not being zero carbon.

Britain’s wind energy policy is the “single most regressive policy we have seen in this country since the Sheriff of Nottingham

Paterson said that Britain should instead adopt shale gas, which has helped reduce emissions in America by displacing coal-fired generation, and has cut US gas prices to a third of their European level. He said that just 10 percent of shale from the Bowland basin, could meet Britain’s needs for decades.  He added that Combined Heat and Power could be a brilliant way to bring down energy bills, saying that new localised power plants could produce both energy and heat, with results from Massachusetts showing 40 percent of total energy can be from CHP.

The former Environment Secretary also went on to call for more nuclear power in the UK, saying that small nuclear reactors could be integrated with CHP. He said that while nuclear power is incredibly useful, there are simply not enough sites to build enough big reactors. Britain should instead therefore build more, smaller nuclear plants.  He said: “Small factory built nuclear plants, could be located closer, say within 20 to 40 miles, to users and provide a CHP function.  Installed near urban areas, they can deliver electricity and power district heating schemes or, in industrial areas, provide a combination of electricity and process heat.”

Finally, Paterson called for various domestic appliances, including refrigerators, to be fitted with sensors that can switch them off for short periods when they are not in use, which the former minister claimed could save as much as 1.2GW – equivalent to a large nuclear power plant.  Only a combination of these factors, he said, can help Britain “keep the lights on”.

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Daily Devotional

Prayer’s First Priority

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)

John Piper

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches that the first priority in praying is to ask that our heavenly Father’s name be hallowed.

Notice that this is a petition or a request. It is not a declaration (as I thought it was for years). It is a request to God that he would see to it that his own name be hallowed.

It is like another text, Matthew 9:38, where Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would send out laborers into his own harvest. It never ceases to amaze me that we, the laborers, should be instructed to ask the owner of the farm, who knows the harvest better than we do, to add on more farm hands.

But isn’t this the same thing we have here in the Lord’s Prayer — Jesus telling us to ask God, who is infinitely jealous for the honor of his own name, to see to it that his name be hallowed?

Well it may amaze us, but there it is. And it teaches us two things.

  1. One is that prayer does not move God to do things he is disinclined to do. He has every intention to cause his name to be hallowed. Nothing is higher on God’s priority list.
  2. The other is that prayer is God’s way of bringing our priorities into line with his. God wills to make great things the consequence of our prayers when our prayers are the consequence of his great purposes.

Bring your heart into line with the jealousy of God to hallow his name, and you will pray with great effect. Let your first and all-determining prayer be for the hallowing of God’s name, and your prayers will plug into the power of God’s jealousy.

For more about John Piper’s ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.
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Militant Secularism as an Unwitting Ally

Secularist Atheism is Driving Us To a Second Christendom

In 2008, Mark A.Noll–an evangelical historian–penned an interesting essay, entitled “Reconsidering Christendom”.  In its opening paragraphs, Noll pointed out that one of the great watershed moments in Western history occurred at 6.00pm, April 15, 1521 in the “city” of Worms, just south of Mainz.  Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, announced to the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire that his conscience would be held bound by Holy Scripture, as a higher authority than the deliberations of church councils and rulers.

Luther’s stand was rejected by his “adversary”, Johann Eck, the secretary of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.  He asserted that Luther’s argument amounted to a dissolution of the authority of the Church, on the one hand, and a retreat into radical agnosticism, on the other.  In his rejoinder to Luther, Eck stated:

But if it were granted that whoever contradicts the councils and the common understanding of the church must be overcome by Scripture passages, we will have nothing in Christianity that it certain or decided.  [Mark Noll, "Reconsidering Christendom?" The Future of Christian Learning: An Evangelical and Catholic Dialogue, edited by Thomas Howard (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), p. 24. Emphasis, ours.]

Eck was clearly reflecting the mind of Charles V himself, insofar as the very next day, the Emperor stated that Luther would not be allowed to prevail because he held an opinion that was “against all of Christendom”.  In this view, Luther and the Protestant Reformation signified the end of Christendom–the visible reign of Christ upon earth–were they allowed to go forward.  Which, of course, they did.  And in which the fear of Charles proved justified.  Christendom came to an end.  It broke up, and broke down.  Nevertheless, as the old saw has it, “But wait, there’s more!”

Noll’s definition of “Christendom” is loose, but we get the point.

By “Christendom” I mean a society in which the institutions of an inherited and respected visible Christian church provide the main ordering principles for education, culture, and much else; where government defers to the church for matters concerning family, personal morality, culture, and education; and where, in turn, the institutions and personnel of a Christian church provide legitimization for governments that carry out what are considered God-ordained tasks of preserving social stability and perpetuating the favored social position of the visible church. [Ibid., p. 32.]

As the relentless pressure of atheistic secularism has increased, and as Unbelief progressively takes visible shape in our courts, schools, and communities, Christians are finding that they have much more in common than Charles V feared they would.  There is a diminishing number of Christians today who would find Noll’s definition of Christendom offensive or wantonly utopian.  A growing number are realising that if we do not live and strive for such a Christian kingdom, we will be crushed under the imperialistic aggression of militant Unbelief.

For a growing number of Protestants this realisation is not merely a pragmatic response to secularist pressure, but is increasingly theological.   Christians are rethinking the Bible’s teaching and revelation concerning the Kingdom of God and are concluding that this Kingdom is not a gnostic, intangible, pietistic, and invisible realm, though it certainly embraces and includes gnosis, intangibles, piety, and awareness of invisibilities.  Christ’s Kingdom involves and includes bringing every thought captive, seeing every knee willingly bowed, and every square inch of creation reflecting the glory of God truthfully and volitionally. (Noll’s essay gives public, well-known examples of this re-thinking–which, he argues, is taking place both within Western Protestantism and Catholicism.)

Ironically, it is as Protestant consciences are held captive to the Word of God that they come to embrace Christendom or the visible extension of Christ’s reign upon the earth.  Eck and Charles V certainly feared chaotic dissolution and an end to Christendom if Luther’s approach were to succeed.  But these days it seems as if the rumours of the end of Christendom were greatly exaggerated.  It is certainly true that the First Christendom came to an end.  But the next two or three centuries will most likely see the recrudescence of a second Christendom–more global, world-wide, international, and catholic than heretofore imagined possible.

We believe Luther was right.  Whilst consciences bound to the Word of God might appear, at first blush, to threaten a dissolution of the institutions of Christianity and represent a harbinger of chaos, what Eck and others overlooked was the Deep Magic of the Spirit of Christ binding an ever growing number of hearts and minds and consciences to the Messiah and His apostolic Word. 

The Gospel is powerful not because it is some magical talisman.  The Gospel becomes powerful in hearts, minds, and cultures when it comes in the Word and the Spirit.  On this most solid of foundations Christendom will be built.  But not at our command nor our contrivance, for the Spirit, as always, blows where He wills, and none can interdict nor gainsay His hand.  Herein lies the ground and certainty of our hope.
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A Chronicle of Corruption

How the West Was Lost

We blogged yesterday on egalitarianism.  We argued that modern Western democracies are rife with bribery and corruption.  Recently, the son of the Vice-President, Joe Biden was dismissed from the US Navy because of cocaine use.  His father has been using his position to line his son’s pockets for a long, long time.  His son, Hunter has proved no slouch operating on his father’s influence peddling coattails.

Michelle Malkin documents the systemic corruption:


The Hunter Biden Chronicles

His serial nepotistic jobs belie his father’s regular-guy image.  

By Michelle Malkin
October 22, 2014 
National Review Online

Everything you need to know about Beltway nepotism, corporate cronyism, and corruption can be found in the biography of Robert Hunter Biden. Where are the Occupy Wall Street rabble-rousers and enemies of elitist privilege when you need them? Straining their neck muscles to look the other way.

The youngest son of Vice President Joe Biden made news last week after the Wall Street Journal revealed he had been booted from the Navy Reserve for cocaine use. His drug abuse was certainly no surprise to the Navy, which issued him a waiver for a previous drug offense before commissioning him as a public-affairs officer at the age of 43. The Navy also bent over backward a second time with an age waiver so he could secure the cushy part-time job.

Papa Biden loves to tout his middle-class, “Average Joe” credentials. But rest assured, if his son had been Hunter Smith or Hunter Jones or Hunter Brown, the Navy’s extraordinary dispensations would be all but unattainable. Oh, and if he had been Hunter Palin, the New York Times would be on its 50th front-page investigative report by now.

Despite the disgraceful ejection from our military, Hunter’s Connecticut law license won’t be subject to automatic review. Because, well, Biden.  Biden’s bennies are not just one-offs. Skating by, flouting rules, and extracting favors are the story of Hunter’s life.

Hunter’s first job, acquired after Joe Biden won his 1996 Senate reelection bid in Delaware, was with MBNA. That’s the credit-card conglomerate and top campaign donor that forked over nearly $63,000 in bundled primary and general contributions from its employees to Senator Biden. As I’ve reported previously, Daddy Biden secured his custom-built, multimillion-dollar house in Delaware’s ritziest Chateau Country neighborhood with the help of a leading MBNA corporate executive. Average Joe went on to carry legislative water for MBNA in the Senate for years.

Hunter zoomed up to senior vice president by early 1998 and then scored a plum position in the Clinton administration’s Commerce Department, specializing in “electronic commerce,” before returning to MBNA three years later as a high-priced “consultant.” While he collected those “consulting” (translation: nepotistic access-trading) fees, Hunter became a “founding partner” in the lobbying firm of Oldaker, Biden, and Belair in 2002.

William Oldaker was Papa Biden’s former fundraiser, campaign treasurer, and general counsel — a Beltway barnacle whose Democratic-machine days dated back to Teddy Kennedy’s 1980 presidential bid. Under Oldaker’s tutelage, Hunter lobbied for drug companies, universities, and other deep-pocketed clients to the tune of nearly $4 million billed to the company by 2007.  Coincidentally, then–Illinois senator Barack Obama personally requested and secured cozy taxpayer-subsidized earmarks for several of Hunter’s clients.

Hunter got himself appointed to multiple corporate board positions, including a directorship with Eudora Global. It’s an investment firm founded by one Jeffrey Cooper, head of one of the biggest asbestos-litigation firms in the country. SimmonsCooper, based in Madison County, Ill., donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Biden the Elder’s various political campaigns over the past decade — all while the firm poured $6.5 million into lobbying against a key tort-reform bill, which Biden worked hard to defeat. Cooper also contributed to the Delaware attorney-general campaign of Hunter’s older brother, Beau, and paid Beau for legal work on lucrative asbestos-litigation cases.

Hunter also was previously a top official at Paradigm Global Advisors, a hedge-fund holding company founded with Vice President Biden’s brother, James, and marketed by convicted finance fraudster Allen Stanford. As Paradigm chairman, Hunter oversaw half a billion dollars of client money invested in hedge funds while remaining a lobbyist at Oldaker, Biden, and Belair. Cooper chipped in $2 million for the ill-fated venture, which went bust amid nasty fraud lawsuits.

Continually failing upward, Hunter snagged a seat on the board of directors of taxpayer-subsidized, stimulus-inflated Amtrak, where he pretended not to be a lobbyist, but rather an “effective advocate” for the government railroad system serving the 1 percenters’ D.C.–New York City corridor.

So where does a coke-abusing influence peddler go after raking in gobs of Daddy-enabled dough and abusing the U.S. Navy’s ill-considered generosity? Back to Cronyland! Hunter joined Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings — owned by a powerful Russian government sympathizer who fled to Russia in February — this spring. The hypocritical lobbyist-bashers at the White House deny he will be lobbying and deny any conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Just Like You Joe was whipping up class envy in South Carolina last week. “Corporate profits have soared,” he railed, thanks to “these guys running hedge funds in New York,” who are to blame for “income inequality.” You know, like his son and brother and their Beltway back-scratching patrons.  The Bidens: They’re not like us.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies. Her e-mail address is malkinblog@gmail.com. © 2014 Creators.com

The US is an exemplar of a modern secular Western democracy.  It has all the trimmings.
 
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Flowers of Islam

Asia Bibi’s Death Sentence Upheld by Lahore High Court

Supreme Court appeal likely to delay outcome for 3 more years

Morgan Lee
Asia Bibi's Death Sentence Upheld by Lahore High Court
Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi’s death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi, a Roman Catholic mother of five also known as Aasiya Noreen, was sentenced to die in 2010 after she was convicted of blasphemy. Bibi’s Muslim coworkers accused her of drinking the same water as them and verbally challenging their faith.

“I met Asia in prison a month ago. She’s fine and was hoping to hear good news, but, alas, our ordeal is not over yet,” Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Morning Star News after yesterday’s decision.  World Watch Monitor reports that Bibi’s attorney Naeem Shakir challenged the testimony of the women who feuded with Bibi, arguing to the appellate court that their testimony had been hearsay because the complainant in the case had not heards Bibi’s words himself. The judges ignored Sharkir’s critiques, suggesting he should have raised them the trial level.
S. K. Chaudhry, the attorney who represented Bibi at her trial, explained that he had not cross-examined the only two eyewitnesses to the alleged blasphemous words. He told the judges it would violate his Muslim faith to repeat the words. “In the process of administration of justice we need to be ‘secular,’” one judge responded.
“Pakistan being a Muslim majority nation, where Christians and those of other religions are a tiny miniscule minorities, it is all the more incumbent on them (the government) to be vary (sic) of such accusations of blasphemy,” wrote Thomas Dabre, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pune, an Indian diocese. “The Pakistan government there should be very careful in applying such laws and the International community should hold the government of Pakistan accountable. The Pakistan government cannot disown responsibility of this death sentence and should overturn immediately the death sentence of innocent Christian woman Asia Bibi.”
A staff editorial for Pakistan’s The Nation also criticized the law, but stopped short of calling on the government to repeal it:
The flaws in the blasphemy law, the repercussions they have against anyone who has been accused of blasphemy and the amount of cases that have little or no evidence proving that blasphemy was committed, mean that a revision of the laws is due. The law is based on the principal (sic) of innocent until proven guilty, yet in the case of blasphemy charges, the guilt of those that have been charged is accepted as fact, long before the case even goes to court, with the public often stepping in to execute their own brand of vigilante justice.
“This vile attack on a Christian wife and mother cannot stand. Like the case of [Sudanese woman Meriam Ibrahim], who is now a free woman because the world spoke out with one voice, it’s time for the international community to condemn Pakistan’s barbaric violation of Asia Bibi’s human rights,” wrote Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice. “She’s done nothing wrong, and these trumped up charges are merely because she is a Christian.”
David Griffiths of Amnesty International also condemned the attacks against Bibi, the first Pakistani woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy. “Her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row,” Griffiths added.
Morning Star News notes: “Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.”
Bibi’s lawyer Naeem Shakir told MSN that they plan to appeal the decision to Pakistan’s Supreme Court, though because of backlogs, the case will not likely be seen before 2017. After receiving her death sentence, Bibi’s case attracted international attention, including that of Pope Benedict, who personally called for her freedom. In her own country, two Pakistani politicians were assassinated in 2011 after speaking out against anti-blasphemy laws.
In 2013, French journalist Anne Isabelle Tollet and author of Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water told CT that she had little hope that Pakistan would repeal its blasphemy law.
“With the new group (Sharif’s administration) it is impossible. I don’t have any hope,” she said. “The blasphemy law fits the definition of terrorism. It’s a terror law. It’s a way to instill terror. Everybody is scared of this law.”
Earlier this year, Open Doors moved Pakistan up to number eight (from 14), on a list ranking the worst countries in the world for Christians. In 2013, more than 80 Christians lost their lives after bombs went off following a church service at All Saints Church in Peshawar. Previous high-profile attacks against Christians came that same year at Lahore’s Joseph Colony and Gojra in 2009. Last year, four Christians were acquitted of blasphemy charges.

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Dabbling with All Saints Day ( A Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession)

This week in Church we are celebrating All Saints day… yes I do realise that it is also (reformation Sunday). I guess it is a way of countering the influence of Halloween that has crept into the New Zealand psyche over recent years… Due to a combination of American media  and large chain stores and supermarkets in New Zealand seeing the possibility of increased sales. It does focus on glorifying the creepy and the scary. While many Churches run light parties  as a counter to that this year we have decided to run an all saints day service to acknowledge the people who have gone before us and inspired us in our faith… here is my attempt at a prayer of thanks giving and confession for the weekend. Please feel free to use it make comment suggest amendments, or totally ignore it.

Loving God,

We gather as your people to worship you

We come together to affirm our faith In Jesus Christ

We come that we may be strengthened to serve and witness

We come knowing that we are part of your people

We come as a small part of your church universal

Joining with saints round the world and throughout time

 

Merciful God

We come to remember your goodness  and grace

That you created the world and all that is in it

You have made each of us in your image; unique and beloved

That you have lead and guided your people throughout history

That you sent your son Jesus to save us and restore us to yourself

That by your Holy Spirit you dwell with us

 

Faithful God

We remember those who have run the race and kept the faith

Those whose journey with you are told in the scriptures

The Patriarchs, monarchs, prophets and people of the Hebrew Scriptures

Apostles, church leaders, and first generation believers of the New Testament

We remember the Men and women who down through the years have faithful passed on the gospel

Those who by their word and deed, with sacrifice and suffering have made Jesus known

 

Gracious God

We remember the people who have gone before us in this place

In this land: as we celebrate 200 years of the gospel in Aotearoa New Zealand

And Here: In the generations who have faithful served you at this church

And in our lives as we remember all those who shared their faith with us

Grandparents, Parents, pastors, teachers, children and friends

Thank you for this great cloud of witnesses

 

God who holds our times in your hands

We remember and give you thanks for your goodness in the past

For all you have done and those who have gone before  

We acknowledge your grace and goodness to us now

We thank you for the people that you have called to journey with us

We place our trust in you for tomorrow

Your continued grace to us, our children and our children’s children  

 

Mighty God

Forgive us, we have done the things we should not do

Forgive us, we have left undone the good you call us to do

Renew us O Lord; fill us a fresh with your spirit

Enable us to faithfully serve you and one another in love

Empower us to witness to the great hope we have in Jesus Christ

That we might bring glory to you O God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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Daily Devotional

Quantum Change

C. S. Lewis

‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Sourced from BibleGateway.
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The Gods of War

Winning the War, Losing the Faith

One of the more interesting conundrums of recent history is the rapid decline of the Christian faith throughout the West.  Our view is that the time frame is roughly equivalent to the decline from true faith in Israel from King David’s reign down to the invasion and destruction of Israel, first by Assyria (722 BC), then subsequently by Babylon (605 through to 586BC). But these were the final acts.  The scripture records a thorough-going, comprehensive rejection of God and His covenant throughout Israel and Judah, preceding these final (military) denouements.  

While the collapse of Christendom in the United Kingdom and its WASP colonies (Canada, Australia and New Zealand) was precipitous, its gradual precursors were not.  From the time of the Enlightenment, the poison of idolatry had been quietly killing off true faithfulness.  Peter Hitchens argues that the final collapse and capitulation was also due to war, as happened in ancient Israel, together with the nationalistic, jingoistic idolatry that mixed the Christian faith with nationalism.  The West won the war, but lost the Faith.  The “state religion” became perverted to the cause of the nation, not Messiah.

. . . the wars in which they were asked to die do not, once examined, seem as noble and pure as they did when I first learned about them.  And the proper remembering of dead warriors, though right and fitting, is a very different thing from the Christian religion.  The Christian church has been powerfully damaged by letting itself be confused with love of country and the making of great wars.  Wars–which can only ever be won by ruthless violence–are seldom fought for good reasons, even if such reasons are invented for them afterward.

Civilized countries become less civilized when they go to war.  And they hardly ever have good outcomes.  In fact, I think it safe to say that the two great victorious wars of the twentieth century did more damage to Christianity in my own country than any other single force.  The churches were full before 1914, half-empty after 1919, and three quarters empty after 1945.  [Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 79f.]

We may add in passing the general tendency, so evident in American evangelical circles, to conflate Christian faith (undoubtedly genuine in most cases) with the various, multitudinous military misadventures of the United States.  One thinks, for example of the passion for all things military–and all that the US military attempts–reflected in folk like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party generally.  This, we believe, represents a dangerous idolatry that will eventually bear pernicious, rotten fruit.   We admire folk like Palin on many counts.  This is not one of them.  The position of someone like Rand Paul we suspect, on these matters, is much closer to the Bible’s requirement to avoid idolatry in conformity with the First Commandment–“Thou shalt have no other gods in My presence.”

Hitchen’s words are a sober warning:

I would add that, by all but destroying British Christianity, these wars may come to destroy the spirit of the country.  Those who fought so hard to defend Britain against its material enemies did so at a terrible spiritual cost.  The memory of the great slaughter of 1914-18 was carried back into their daily lives by millions who had set out from quiet homes as gentle, innocent, and kind and returned cynical, brutalized, and used to cruelty.  Then it happened again, except that the second time, the mass-murder was inflicted on–and directed against–women and children in their houses.  [Here, Hitchens is referring to the mass bombing of German cities, not military targets.]

Perhaps worse than the deliberate, scientific killing of civilians was the sad, desperate attempt to pretend to ourselves later that it was right and justified.  In this way, the pain and damage were passed on to new generations who had no hand in the killing.

War does terrible harm to civilization, to morals, to families, and to innocence.  It tramples on patience, gentleness, charity, constancy, and honesty.  How strange that we should make it the heart of a national cult. [Ibid., p.80.]

Hitchens argues that this numbing, blighting of the national conscience, the calling evil good, this glorifying the nation, and justifying of wickedness was responsible for the growing general disregard, and even disgust, with the Christian Church, and, therefore, its Head–Jesus Christ. When the Church and the Nation are inseparable, and when the Nation does terrible things, and the Church claps its support, the Church becomes a superfluous irrelevance, a quaint relic from a bye-gone superstitious age.  It no longer appears to have the Lord of Glory at its Head.  (Which, incidentally, is why having the British monarch as head of the Church is such a wretched idolatry.  It is a position which only our Lord in Heaven is entitled to have and hold.  And He does.  And He will tolerate no pretenders upon earth, no stupid rivals.)

In ancient Israel, tolerating a few idols on the side eventually matured into the most horrendous rejections of God by His people ever seen.  Anyone who doubts this should read the first twenty chapters of Jeremiah.  In the UK (and the West in general) a similar tolerance of a few harmless idols has matured into a similar grotesque narcissistic culture evident today.  The great wars of the twentieth century, and their aftermath, precipitated the capture of the Church by formalism, nominalism, and Unbelief.

Of course we know that this is not the end of the story.  He who sits above the heavens laughs at the attempts of men to cast off God.  The Living God has taken an oath–He will see His Son glorified everywhere upon the earth.  In the meantime, our duty is to learn the lessons of the collapse of  the First Christendom. One of those lessons is to eschew and reject utterly the false god of nationalism and its attendant war-mongering priests and devotees.
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Daily Devotional

Love’s Greatest Happiness

No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:29–30)

John Piper

The union between Christ and his bride is so close (“one flesh”) that any good done to her is a good done to himself. The blatant assertion of this text is that this fact motivates the Lord to nourish, cherish, sanctify, and cleanse his bride.

By some definitions, this cannot be love. Love, they say, must be free of self-interest — especially Christlike love, especially Calvary love. I have never seen such a view of love made to square with this passage of Scripture.

Yet what Christ does for his bride, this text plainly calls love: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church . . . ” (5:25). Why not let the text define love for us, instead of bringing our definition from ethics or philosophy? According to this text, love is the pursuit of our joy in the holy joy of the beloved.

There is no way to exclude self-interest from love, for self-interest is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others.  Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life and purity of the beloved.

This is how Christ loved us, and this is how he calls us to love one another.

For more about John Piper’s ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.
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