“The Madness of Crowds”

Book of the Month/December 2019

Douglas Wilson
Blog & Mablog

We live in demented times, and proofs of this assertion can be found by pointing in pretty much any and every direction. One of those proofs is the fact that I am able to select as my book of the month a book written by an open homosexual, and with the topic of the book being certain issues surrounding gender and identity. This book, The Madness of Crowds [by Douglas Murray] is that book. I recommend it highly.

The Christian reader has to discount for the fact that Murray has obviously carved out a space in his worldview for his own sin. And if we believe the Bible, we don’t get to go along with him in this. But at the same time, even when he is talking about homosexuality, he does a remarkable job of not politicizing it. He asks hard and pointed questions about how our culture at large is responding to a sexual revolution that has turned itself into a mindless and moralistic crusade. Murray is dealing with the thoughtlessness of that. As the title indicates, he is dealing with the madness of crowds—and this is quite a timely book because we are certainly in the middle of an epic fit right now.

When it comes to sexual topics, a certain party line is being imposed on all of us, and is being imposed with a ferocity that is scarcely to be believed. And Murray is challenging all of that. He is not offended by those of us who believe that he is sinning in his sexual choices, but he is insulted by those who have turned all sexual choices into an all-consuming ideology. He uses the example of how Peter Thiel, another open homosexual, was excommunicated from the “church of gay” when he endorsed Trump. It turns out that sexual perversion is not enough—you have to be homosexual and a hard leftist. Having sex with other men is not enough to make you gay. You have to do that and toe the party line. He uses another example of how Germaine Greer was excommunicated from the “church of feminism” because of her questioning of the transsexual foolishness.

The sexual revolution, like all revolutions, devours its own.

Murray is asking hard questions about how we know what we are claiming to have discovered. The sexual revolutionaries are simply dogmatists, and just because somebody in charge of the propaganda bureau flipped a switch does not mean that we all suddenly “know” that transsexuality is healthy and normal and okay, and what’s wrong with you red state troglodytes? 

What about the epistemic effects of sin? Yeah, that is curious. When it comes to the sexual revolution, Murray’s questions and reasoning are so consistently good throughout this book (with certain exceptions, as noted above), and the reactions of our Christian leaders have been so lame and piecemeal, one is tempted to start looking around for the epistemic effects of sin in places other than the enclaves of sinners and tax collectors. Yeah, there is an epistemic effect of sodomy. But maybe we need to start asking if there is an epistemic effect that comes from an evangelical seminary education also.

Regardless of how you answer that question, this book is worth a read.


Mary: A woman of faith and courage (Luke 1:26-38,46-56)

once again a reworked message from many years ago… But new to HopeWhanagrei and also on the internet as an audiofile as well…  here is the audio link 

When I was growing up we always knew Christmas was near when my mum would go to the hall cupboard and open it. She would get a chair so she could reach the top shelf. She’d search through the impossible amount of boxes and stuff stored up there. She would slowly shuffle and lift down one box after another till she found the one she wanted. A ragged batted box with a blue lid that had a plastic window in it. The box would then be taken into the lounge and opened and the nativity scene inside would be lifted out dusted off and carefully positioned in pride of place on the mantle above the fire. This would happen even before the Christmas tree growing in a pot out on the veranda was bought in from its near year round exile and neglect and adorned with all the baubles and treasured decorations. It was our family tradition, so amidst the tinsel and food, presents and festivities, hustle and bustle we would be reminded of ‘the reason for the season’, the birth of Jesus. God in person coming, as it says in John’s gospel, and tabernacling with us in a very New Zealand Christmas Holiday way pitching his tent in our neighbourhood.

When my mum died we cleaned out her house and there in a different cupboard still impossibly packed with boxes and boxes of precious memories was the batted blue box. Its plastic window ripped and some of the figures looking somewhat worse for wear, I think Mary had lost her head!  The nativity scene was beyond repair. It hurt to throw it out. But kris bought us a nativity scene for our family, that we unpack every year, that has pride of place on our coffee table at Christmas time… this year it even got taken out to the lawn at Hope Tikipunga for a photoshoot for the poster for ‘carols on the grass’

Leading into Christmas this year I want to invite you to join in my family tradition of unpacking the nativity scene and placing it at the center of our thoughts. Unpacking it not simply by taking the figures from out of a box and arranging them in a certain way. But unpacking them on a theological level. In the sense that we look again and afresh at each of the figures from that scene and look past the way they have become very much stylised caricatures, more at home in children’s paintings and the nostalgia of hallmark cards  that being real people in real life.  Unpacking them to see what they have to say to us as people of faith as we too allow the one born at the stable to have a central role in our lives as he did in theirs.

This week I want to invite us to reflect on Mary, a woman of faith and courage. Maybe she is the hardest figure for us to unpack because she has become a figure of deep religious devotion and adoration. The cover story of a ‘Time’ magazine in march 2005 reported on the way that Mary was growing in importance even in protestant circles. Despite this how she should be honoured has been a focus for division and argument between various Christian traditions.  This perhaps hides a lot of what she has for us today.

The best sermon I ever heard about Mary was from a 16 year old girl from our youth group at St John’s in the City, Rotorua. Leslie was a gifted speaker and when I had asked here to speak on Mary all I had given her as a starter for the talk was well Mary would be a girl about your age, and Leslie really related to it. You see Mary was a young woman possibly no more than in her mid-teens. Leslie talked of the feelings of fear and uncertainty, at the angels message and the great amount of trust and faith it took to answer” I am the LORD’s Servant. May your word to me be fulfilled”.

Mary came from a lowly place. She lived in a small town in a small unimportant province in occupied Israel. In her society she had little importance, position or status. In fact even Luke, who of the gospel writers is most prepared to use women’s remembrances and perspectives, starts not by naming her but referring to the name, lineage and occupation of the man she is betrothed to. She would have been a virtuous Jewish girl and we can see from her song recorded in Luke that she had a deep faith. Like most Jewish men and women of her time she would have been praying for the coming of the messiah to deliver Israel.

In Phillip Yancy’s book “the Jesus I never Knew” he reflects  that in religious art Mary is always shown as accepting the angels visitation like it was a benediction but this does not reflect the gospel narrative. It tells us that she was troubled by the angel’s message.

She is troubled at the angels affirmation that God is with her and that he has blessed her greatly. The angel goes on to tell her that she will become pregnant and have a son and name him Yeshua or as we know him by the Greek equivalent Jesus. The angel tells her that this child will be the messiah taking on David’s throne and reigning forever. This does nothing to alleviate her troubled mind and she asks how it is possible for her to have a son, as she is a virgin. We only think that it is our skeptical age of science that would see such a thing as impossible, but Mary grasp on human biology is sufficient that she knows what the angel is saying is not possible.

The angel says that this will happen by a miracle, God’s power would rest on her. The angel then points to another pending miraculous birth, Mary’s relative Elizabeth who was barren and deemed too old to have a child is now six months pregnant and the angel concludes ‘there is nothing that God cannot do’: Which is by the way a good definition of a miracle. This is a unique God moment where like the resurrection God steps in and exerts his creative power, it is the seed of new creation, that will fall to the ground and die and produce an abundant harvest.

Mary’s reply shows her faith she says, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said”. AS her relative Elizabeth will say to her how blessed you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true. Mary continues to show her faith in her song, known as ‘The Magnificat’ that points to the profound effects that this child will have and God’s goodness to his people. She has been described, as being the first disciple, declaring the Kingdom of God her son would usher in. Her song sets the tone of an Upside down kingdom which is good news for the poor and recovery of sight of the blind, release to the captives and a declaration of the acceptable year of the LORD.

But we see that Mary not only had faith she also has courage. For Elizabeth there was great rejoicing and praising God for her pregnancy and the birth of her son. Luke tells us her neighbours and relatives rejoiced with her and celebrated the baby’s birth. In Jewish custom the Village choir would gather and sing for the birth of a baby boy, as this maybe was the coming of God’s promised messiah. But for Mary it was a troubling time. She was a young girl only betrothed to Joseph and her she was pregnant. Maybe the impact of that has been lost in our society today where there are many teenage pregnancies but it was a great scandal. Her husband Joseph could have easily publically rejected her, and she would have been stoned for adultery. Matthew tells us he was going to give her a quite divorce until the same angel visited him.

We are never told how the grandparents reacted to this situation but perhaps from friend and family dealing with similar situations you may guess some of the anguish they went through. Despite all this Mary faces the situation with faith, trusting in God. It may have been wise for Joseph to take Mary away from her home village for the birth of the child, as she would not have to put up with the shame of not having the rejoicing and support of everyone. It is rather ironic that the village choir would not have come to sing for this particular birth because of the stigma of the child’s possible illegitimacy. How could this be the messiah! It fell to the angels to herald this child’s birth.  She would have had the child without the comfort of relatives, as a mere male it’s interesting to note that when each of my children was born my mother in law appeared, God bless her, and that was of great comfort to Kris. It took courage for Mary to face all  this alone, with Joseph, away from her support structures.

Malcolm Muggeridge questions whether it would have been much different today, with family planning clinics offering convenient ways to fix mistakes that may bring embarrassment to families. He says  “it is point of fact, extremely improbable, under existing conditions, that Jesus would have been permitted to be born at all. Mary’s pregnancy, in poor circumstances, and with the father unknown, would have been an obvious case for an abortion; and her talk of having conceived as a result of the intervention of the Holy Spirit would have pointed to the need for psychiatric treatment, and made the case for terminating her pregnancy even stronger. Thus our generation, needing a saviour more, perhaps, than any that has ever existed would be too humane to allow one to be born.” Maybe the thing that would stop that is Mary’s faith and her courage.

Courage and faith exemplify Mary throughout the gospel accounts. When she goes to the temple a week after Jesus birth Simeon the one person in the Christmas story who seems to be able to look beyond the child to see the shadow of the cross tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul she stores even these things in her heart. In John’s gospel we see her prepared to approach Jesus about the wine problem at the wedding in Canna, looking to her son to do something, even though his time had not come. Maybe in a moment of doubt and confusion in Marks gospel it tells us that she and Jesus brothers came to bring him home fearing that he had become deranged, it took courage to question what she had stored in her heart. She is a widow and had come to cope with the sorrow and pain of her husband dying young… She is there at the cross, as her son is brutally and unjustly crucified. She receives his kindness as Jesus asks his much beloved friend to care for his most beloved mother. She is also there in the upper room at Pentecost, knowing her son has risen from the dead and faithfully standing with his disciples. In her old age she shares her story and what she had known and experienced with Luke and it was included in the Gospel, along with a song that would have become more and more poignant as time had gone on. This is the woman of faith and courage that God chose to carry and nurture his only begotten son.

For us today there is there are two things I want to draw from Mary.

Firstly, that we need both faith in God and the courage to live that faith out. Seeing the kingdom of God being born into the world today not only takes convictions it takes the courage of our convictions. Our faith needs to be put into action. Mary’s words “ I am your servant may it happen to me as you said” are not words of passive resignation to fate they are an active embrace of God’s will and purposes, despite the challenges and dangers. Allowing a new reality a new hope to have birth and life through her… that is God’s call to us as well.

It takes courage and faith to allow God’s kingdom to be our priority. For example in Mary’s song it tells us the good news of Jesus Christ will mean that the poor receive their fill and the rich go away empty handed. We tend to want to think that the rich are blessed, that we are blessed in this country with what we have, but the gospel call on people who have much, is that much is expected. Jesus calls us to side with the poor and the powerless in our world and it takes courage to go against the flow of consumerism and materialism. It takes courage to speak up and say that we follow a different set of values and truths when the situation demands it. To sing Mary’s song, It takes faith and courage to be prepared to act and live in a way that reflects Jesus, knowing the resistance we will face, the possible scorn and being written off.

Secondly, we need to realize that God is able to use the humble and lowly to achieve great things for him in our world and place. I once said in a sermon that Mary was just like us, and boy did I get a tongue lashing from a fiery South American women with a Catholic background, she had been taught that Mary was special and unique, she had been exalted to her self being somehow the product of an immaculate conception. But scripture does not substantiate that. It does affirm and acknowledge that she is favoured amoungst all women, and I did and have said today her faith and courage are amazing. However the fact that a young Jewish girl of faith could be chosen to bear the son of God shows that we too who ever we are, how lowly we are, can be used to achieve God’s plans and purposes in the world if we will be prepared to respond with faith and courage to his call on us, to follow and witness to Mary’s Son Jesus Christ, crucified and raised to life again. We know that it is not an easy road, it is meet with suspicion and disdain, it leads down a road where our hearts as well will be pierced, it is the road that needs us to have the faith and the courage of Mary.


helping those who are not yet strong

high angle photo of woman on ladder

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helping those who are not yet strong

Deuteronomy 5:25-27

Deuteronomy 5:25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us and we will die if we hear the voice of Yahveh our God any longer.

Deuteronomy 5:26 For who out of everyone in skin1 has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the fire, as we have, and stayed alive?

Deuteronomy 5:27 Go near and listen to everything Yahveh our God says. Then you can tell us everything Yahveh our God tells you; we will listen and obey.’

helping those who are not yet strong

The Israelites were afraid to approach God, and they were right to be afraid. Moses could not understand their fear, but God did. He planned for Moses to intercede for them all along.

It is only right for those who are stronger in the faith to help along those who are not yet strong. By helping others with their relationship with God, we are bringing them to their source of strength and growth.

Lord, show us who we can help today.



“As Crooked As a Dog’s Hind Leg”

Shane Jones and Corrupt Mates

When we read the following, we find ourselves developing a long, slow burn.  There are people and political parties active in New Zealand who are self-revealing as crooks.  

New information released to RNZ reveals that Shane Jones’ office was sent documents about a forestry company’s bid for $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund multiple times and many months before he declared a conflict of interest because of links between the company and the New Zealand First Party.

As Guyon Espiner explains, it has now emerged that Mr Jones only declared a conflict of interest over the NZ Future Forest Products bid on the day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request asking for details of his involvement.  [Checkpoint, RadioNZ]

David Farrar writes: 

In any Government of good standing, this would be a sackable offence.  The company’s directors were his party’s legal advisor, his son, and later the leader’s partner. The ultimate beneficiaries are hidden foreign investors.

Jones should have declared an interest the first time he was informed of the bid. You declare a conflict at the start of the process, not the end. And it seems he never even intended to declare a conflict – it was only media inquiries that led to it.

UPDATE: Hilariously Jones is claiming it was pure coincidence that he declared the conflict of interest on the same day that Radio NZ lodged an OIA about it.


China Losing Face

It’s Been a Horrible Week for China

President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party Exposed

By: Gavin Fernando
NZ Herald

It’s been a rough week for Chinese leader Xi Jinping, with a series of events putting a dent in his strongman image and that of the Chinese Government.  In Australia, one of Beijing’s own purported spies who had allegedly been working to influence elections in Hong Kong and Taiwan, has defected.

In China itself, a series of new documents exposed the extent of mass internment and torture of over a million Uighur Muslims in northwest Xinjiang.  And of course, there’s Hong Kong, where the anti-Beijing camp won a stunning victory in the district elections, sending a powerful message to Xi’s Government and the rest of the world.  They’ve since received some reassuring backup from the United States, with President Donald Trump signing a human rights bill to protect them.


Earlier this week, China was dealt a humiliating blow following Hong Kong’s district elections.

These local elections came six consecutive months into ongoing protests against the Chinese Government’s increasing political presence in the semi-autonomous territory.  Of all of Beijing’s headaches this week, these results were arguably the worst. Beijing was banking on a “silent majority” of Hong Kong residents turning out in droves to vote for pro-Beijing parties and put an end to the protests, which have grown increasingly chaotic.

But pro-democracy candidates emerged victorious in 347 of the 452 district council seats up for grabs, while a number of high-profile pro-Beijing candidates lost their seats.  It was the strongest “official” rejection of mainland China by the southern territory to date, and one they’ve struggled to keep under wraps.

At the onset of the protests in June, China’s state media stayed quiet, pretending they weren’t taking place. When they could ignore them no longer, they pushed a narrative of the protesters as disruptive young antagonists.

When the election results came out, China’s media was initially silent. State media agency Xinhua refused to detail the results, instead reporting that “rioters harassed patriotic candidates” and that the “most pressing task for Hong Kong at present is still to bring the violence and chaos to an end and restore order”.

The China Daily later put out an editorial claiming the pro-democracy camp engaged in “sabotage” and “intimidation”, but refused to detail the actual results.  “The result of Sunday’s district council election marks a setback for Hong Kong’s democratic development, as the results were skewed by the illegal activities of the opposition camp to the benefit of their candidates,” it said.

“In the run-up to Sunday’s voting, members of the opposition camp, particularly their young agitators, engaged in an all-out campaign to sabotage the campaign activities of pro-establishment candidates and intimidate their supporters from going to the ballot box,” the English-language newspaper went on. 

The hawkish Global Times newspaper accused the west of interfering in the election and helping the pro-democracy camp.

The embattled Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed chief executive, said her Government would “seriously reflect” after local elections gave massive gains to pro-democracy candidates.  Lam said many felt the results reflected “people’s dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society”.  The Government would “listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect”, she said.


Over the past year, China has faced increasing scrutiny over the suspected detainment, re-education and forced labour of over a million Uighur Muslims in its northwest.  Beijing has long denied this — initially denying the existence of the facilities, and later claiming they were voluntary “vocational training” centres.

Earlier this week, a leaked cache of highly classified Chinese Government documents exposed the extent of mass surveillance and detention under the chilling system.  The documents, which date back to 2017, were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with 17 international media partners.

While the Xinjiang camps are no secret by this point, the documents are still a big deal. They provided concrete proof China has been lying about the detainment camps, and more detail of the lengths to which Beijing has gone to stamp out the Uighurs’ identities.  This proof puts greater international pressure on other countries to condemn Beijing for their human rights violations; many countries have been accused of not adequately doing so due to their financial ties to China.

The confidential documents lay out the Chinese Government’s deliberate strategy to lock up minorities, most of whom are Muslims, to rewire their thoughts and even the language they speak. The documents stipulate watch towers, double-locked doors and blanket video surveillance “to prevent escapes”.

They describe an elaborate scoring system that grades detainees on how well they speak the dominant Mandarin language, memorise ideology and adhere to strict rules on everything down to bathing and using the toilet.  Australia was among 23 countries that joined forces to condemn China at the United Nations over the camps earlier this month, adding to a growing rift between Canberra and Beijing.


On Sunday, Nine’s 60 Minutes aired an extraordinary documentary claiming that Melbourne luxury car dealer Nick Zhao, 32, was cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate.  Citing sources with knowledge of the alleged plot, the programme revealed that Zhao reported the plot to Australia’s spy agency ASIO.  He was then reportedly found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March and investigators have been unable to conclude how he died.

It also aired the claims of self-proclaimed Chinese spy Wang “William” Liqiang, who provided ASIO with details of how China’s senior military intelligence officers fund and conduct political interference operations in Australia, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The 27-year-old is currently hiding out in Sydney with his wife and 2-year-old son, saying he lives in constant fear of being watched, followed or attacked.  He claimed his loyalty to the Chinese Government faltered after he received a fake South Korean passport and was made to travel to Taiwan to interfere in the upcoming election there.

“This time I was requested to change my name and whole identity to go to Taiwan and be a spy there,” Wang told 60 Minutes.  “This is the main reason why I came to Australia to seek asylum. As Taiwan’s ability of anti-infiltration is very strong, once I was found out, then my safety would be at stake. What would my family, my young son do? Who could protect me?”


On Wednesday, the US President signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, which passed both houses of Congress almost unanimously.  One bill called for sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials judged to have abused human rights in the southern territory.  The other banned exports of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, tasers and other “non-lethal” weapons often used in riot control, including by Hong Kong police.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement.  “These laws are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all.”

China reacted furiously to the signing of the bills, summoning the US ambassador to protest and warning the move would undermine co-operation with Washington.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told US Ambassador Terry Branstad that the move constituted “serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious violation of international law,” a foreign ministry statement said.  Le called it a “nakedly hegemonic act”, and urged the US not to implement the bills to prevent greater damage to US-China relations, the ministry said.


he added nothing to them

person holding white ipad

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he added nothing to them

Deuteronomy 5:22 “Yahveh spoke these commands in a loud voice to your entire collected assembly from the fire, cloud, and total darkness on the mountain; he added nothing to them. He wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

Deuteronomy 5:23 All of you approached me with your tribal leaders and elders when you heard the voice from the darkness and while the mountain was blazing with fire.

Deuteronomy 5:24 You said, ‘Notice,1 Yahveh our God has shown us his impressive appearance2 and greatness, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that God can speak with a human, and he stays alive.

he added nothing to them

After God spoke the covenant commands to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai, he added nothing to them. These ten words summarized his desire for them, so they included all of the specific, prescriptions, rules, and prohibitions.

They are simple words which are not hard to understand, yet they challenged each one who heard them. They lay bare the people’s selfish hearts and impure motives.

These words summarize the sanctification plan under the Mosaic covenant, and following them was essential for the Mosaic mission: witnessing to God’s righteousness among the nations.

Lord, thank you for giving us words we can live by in the teachings of Christ.




These Are Not “Ordinary” Criminals

Punishment for Convicted Terrorists in the UK

Boris Johnson has said that he will deal with the soft sentencing laws in the UK.  The specific occasion which has promoted the issue of criminal sentencing has been the unlawful killing of innocent people by a convicted felon who was released early.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says 74 convicted terrorists released early from prison in the United Kingdom will have their license conditions reviewed.  The UK Ministry of Justice confirmed the figure, launching a review after convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two people in a knife attack at the London Bridge on Friday, following an early release from prison, according to the BBC. The 28-year-old died in the attack. He had previously been jailed after attempting to bomb the London Stock Exchange in 2012.

Johnson says that eliminating early release would have prevented the deadly stabbing.  “I opposed [automatic release] both in 2003 and 2008, and now that I am prime minister I’m going to take steps to make sure that people are not released early when they commit… serious sexual, violent or terrorist offenses,” he told the BBC. “I absolutely deplore that fact that this man was out on the streets… and we are going to take action against it.” [Breitbart News]

Britain, of course, has experience in these matters.  For decades it had to confront war waged agaisnt it by Irish extremists.
  The crimes and punishment regimes necessarily put the war waged by the Provos against the UK into a special category.  We suspect that the hundreds of terrorists being held in UK prisons need to be placed in a similar special category.  Terrorism is effectively war is being waged “by other means” as the saying goes.

Putting these guerrilla fighters into the same category as run of the mill violent offenders will not do.  They must be categorized differently and held permanently until they are able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they have truly cast off their political ideology.  In other words, they must be held under preventive detention, until they can demonstrate a genuine rejection of being at war with the UK.

By all the runes Boris Johnson will be elected as UK Prime Minister in a few weeks time.  This is one area in which he needs to move decisively.  His recent reaction to the deaths caused by “convicted terrorist Usman Khan” does not go nearly far enough.  All such terrorists need to be convicted for life without parole, until they can credibly demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that they have come to abhor terrorism in all its manifestations.

[Postscript: The time is approaching in New Zealand when we will face exactly the same issues.  An alleged murderer will face charges of  killing and wounding numerous innocents in the name of a political ideology.  If convicted, it will be interesting to see the punishment regime the accused will face.  Here is a clear case of what the UK is also facing–although further down the track than NZ.  Once again, “murder” will be inadequate.]


It Aint True–And Never Has Been

Alarmists Propose Rebranding ‘Climate Change’

Seek Greater “Shock Value” While Truth Flies Out the Window

Thomas Williams
Breitbart News

Climate change alarmists are pushing for a change in vocabulary to scare people into taking global warming more seriously, starting with terms like “global meltdown” and “climate collapse.”
Writing for AdAge this week, Aaron Hall argues that in order to get people to “take action” against climate change, “rebranding” is crucial, since people have gotten too used to the idea that climate is changing and need to be shocked into the notion that the world as we know it is ending.

“Is there a better way to convey the urgency of the situation, while also encouraging folks to take action? Could the tools of branding and brand naming create a more resonant, powerful name?” Mr. Hall asks.  What he and his marketing team came up with was a series of much more frightening labels to stick on climate change in the hope of jolting people into meaningful engagement.

The terms “Global Meltdown” or “Global Melting,” for instance, deliver a more negative image than mere “Global Warming,” he contends. “The names signal that ice caps are melting, but also create a more visceral image in the mind — that real feeling of ‘melting’ when it’s too hot outside. A meltdown is a disastrous event that draws from the ultimate terror of a nuclear meltdown, an apt metaphor for global destruction.”

“Climate Collapse” and “Climate Chaos,” on the other hand, “instill a clear message or even a direct call to action,” Hall notes, adding that “there’s nothing neutral about collapse or chaos.”  To up the rhetoric even more, Hall proposes the weaponized term “Scorched Earth.”

“Sometimes a brand name needs to be hyperbolic to truly capture hearts and minds. If we don’t take massive action now, Earth will be uninhabitable — an irreversible barren wasteland,” he insists. “‘Scorched Earth’ paints the direst picture of what’s to come and what we must avoid and is likely the edgiest brand name from our exploration.”

“Whatever we call it, impending climate doom is upon us if we don’t act quickly,” Hall concludes. “Perhaps a new name will shift the needle, even if just a little.”

Mr. Hall’s contention that it does not matter if what is said is true as long as it elicits the necessary response is reminiscent of similar assertions by leaders of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement. 
Spokespersons of the movement have acknowledged that their claims that billions of people are going to die from climate change have no basis whatsoever in scientific fact but are necessary to provoke the kind of response that is needed to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

Pressed last month on what the basis was for predictions of mass deaths, XR spokesperson Zion Lights acknowledged there is no real ground for these predictions, but contended that such incendiary language is necessary to motivate people, confessing that “alarmist language works.”

While it is clearly true that “alarmist language works” in some cases, it is also true that people tend to resent being lied to and manipulated.  Like Aesop’s fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, climate alarmists may wake up one fine day to find that nobody believes them anymore.

Such is the price of lying.


psalm 150… an open door to a life of worship

This is an updated version of a sermon I preached way back when. It was new to HopeWhangarei and had some changes as i reread and wrestled with  Psalm 150 .

here is the script… 

We have been looking at the Psalms for the past three months here at Hope Whangarei, at all three sites in all four services, we’ve only just scratched the surface, we’ve only done about twenty of them. The series was called Psalms in the key of life: Songs of Hope amidst real life

 Today we are finishing off that series in an appropriate way by looking at how the Psalms themselves finish, by looking at Psalm 150. The last of the Psalms… we end at the end…The last five psalms in the book 146-150 form a doxology and conclusion to the whole collection, they are a series of psalms that start and finish with hallelujah, that call people to praise the Lord… Praise the Lord for creation, his sovereignty, providence and his salvation… five calls to praise the Lord at the end of five books, which started in Psalm 1 with a call to live life seeing the torah, God’s word,  as the only reliable water source, as living water. And maybe you’d expect that this great book of prayers and songs would finish with some deeply profound statement about God but ‘To Attempt to say something final about God would inevitably be anticlimactic’. Psalm 150 rather continues to summons and call us to worship. The book finishes with a call to worship… It builds into a crescendo of invites , like wave after wave crashing on the shore, praise him praise him praise him and in that crescendo is an open invitation for all to come and hallelujah… for all to come and live a life of praise to God.

In the end the Psalms have to be open ended because how can we put a full stop to the worship and praise of God. To do justice to the mighty acts of God and his surpassing greatness,  is a never ending call on our lives, a never ending task a never ending joy. It’s going to take all of us, all we’ve got and all of time, in fact all of eternity.  Psalm 150 acts as an open door for us to that ongoing life task and privilege of Praising God.… Bible commentator James Mays, not to be confused with James May of top gear fame puts it like this “The book that began with a commendation of Torah of the LORD as the way of life ends here with an invitation to praise of the LORD as the use of that life.”

Psalm 150 opens up that life of worship for us by providing some answers to some open ended questions. Open ended questions are those designed to get conversations going … the Psalm opens us up to the where, why, how, who and when of praising God.

Where should we praise God?…verse 1 invites us to see that we should praise God in his sanctuary… it invites us to praise God in the highest heaven. For the Jews the place to worship God was the temple in Jerusalem.  They saw the temple as the place where God dwelt with his people. But they were also aware that God was so much greater than that and the temple really was just a glimpse into the reality that God was enthroned in heaven… beyond the boundary of the physical world. Perhaps the connection between those two are best seen in Isaiah’s call to ministry in Isaiah chapter six where he is in the temple and suddenly it is as if the curtains between Heaven and Earth are pulled aside he finds himself in the throne room of God. But while for the Jews the temple was the focal point of praise, a life of praise invites us to worship and give thanks to God in all of life in the whole of creation. To the theological question of where should we worship God that the women at the well asked Jesus his response was that there was coming a time when would worship God in truth and in spirit. At the crucifixion the curtain in the temple is torn a way of saying that God no longer simply is contained there but will dwell with humanity, through the reconciliation in Jesus death and resurrection, through indwelling us by the Holy Spirit.

 There is a move today to place gathering for worship low on the list of priorities, to simply say I can do it on my own, it’s all about my alone time with God. But Psalm 150 tells us that praise is polyphonic, symphonic and it starts in gathering together. As 1st Peter says we are the living stones being built into the temple of God. There is something that reflects the worship of heaven as we gather together to worship God, and we have the assurance that God is in our midst.

Verse two gives us the why we should praise God? it gathers up all the reasons that have gone before  in the psalms, God’s creation, God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God’s bringing his people out of Egypt, settling them in the promised land, his provision, his goodness to individual and to the community, his answers to prayer, his presence in times of lament and trouble, individual and corporate, his keeping his word even when it meant taking them into exile and his bring them back from exile and re-establishing them in the land… Psalm 150 sums that all up in “his saving acts of power”. But it does not stop there it leaves the door open for that continuing story, the coming of Jesus Christ, his life death and resurrection, the sending of the Holy Spirit, how the gospel has been passed on and worked out in the lives of individuals and communities, amidst the churn and blur of history, our stories joining the story, our voices joining the choir, our joys and our laments, as we have come to know and experience God’s saving acts of power. All those great acts of power, reflecting the very character and greatness of God, the surpassing greatness of God shown in his love and grace.

It is an open ended invitation to praise because it is not just about God’s past dealing with humanity, The final Psalms invite us to look forward to the coming of the kingdom of God a time when God’s with reign and set things right. Many of the early psalms are laments, wrestling with the brokenness of people and the world, but as we progress through the psalms there is more an emphasis on songs of praise. Not that we forget the pain and suffering in the world but to praise God is a prophetic activity it is to proclaim God’s sovereign rule, God’s kingdom until it comes in its fullness. We live in the tension between the already, that the kingdom of God has been started in Jesus life death and resurrection and we share in the life through Christ, and the not yet, that we wait a future fulfilment. To Praise God is to proclaim his ultimate victory. What it does is allow us to then see and work with God at what that might look like as we live out our life of praise in our everyday life, praying ‘thy kingdom come.’

Then in verse 3-5 we have a list of how we are to worship the LORD. This is a song for human singers but the focus is on what accompanies those voices. Some people have tried to use this passage to quantify what is in and what is out when it comes to worshiping God. But we need to realise that in these verses is a comprehensive list of musical instruments, the whole orchestra is here. In the ancient near east you only had stringed instruments, wind instruments and percussion. The list is wider now and maybe more wired than stringed but the call is still open, all should praise the LORD.

One of the saddest chapters in the modern church is what is called the worship wars, churches split and divide about what is appropriate music for worship, and Psalm 150’s answer to that is simple, bring it all, bring it on. When I was preparing this message I went looking for musical expressions of Psalm 150.. I googled it and I was amazed at the depth and variety of hits I got. The Hits just kept coming…  Gregorian chants by Romanian orthodox monks, the Episcopalian choir from New York, various hymns, the soft rock of Hillsong and Vineyard churches, soulful black gospel choirs, rocky upbeat bands, even a Hip Hop version complete with amazing choreography. Which just captured the joyousness of worshipping God with timbre and dance.

But this is not a Cacophony of competing sounds; each instrument plays a part in the worship of God. This is an open ended summons but it is both structured to give it solemnity and gravitas and also bubbling with joy and spontaneity.  The trumpet that is mentioned in verse three is a Ram’s horn, used to summons people to worship. The lyre and harp were instrument used by the Levites and professional musicians to accompany professional choirs. The tumbrel and dance and strings and pipe are the instruments of the congregation in response to that. There is place for both the formal and informal, outstanding professional musicianship and out of tune amateur exuberance, the great performance pieces and the sing-a-longs. The happy clappy tap your feet move about and the soaring stilling reflective artistry. And the two lines about the cymbals is not that percussion takes precedence that it is all with a driving beat. Cymbals were used in two ways in worship. To let people know that they needed to listen this next part was important, kind of like the gong at a dinner party or polite clinking of glasses to get everyone’s attention. So they could hear what’s coming next, in this case the word of God. But also to let people know when it was time to respond with a festive shout, which the second cymbal does in the psalm coming right before the call for everything that has breath to praise the Lord.

There are echoes in the structure of psalm 150 of our reformed tradition, of gathering confessing and worshipping to prepare us to hear the word, then hearing the word read and preached, then responding to the word with praise and mission. My hope is that within that here in our morning service that in our worship we would develop what is called a blended worship style, where we can take the best of our traditions, that great treasure Trobe of ritual and meaning and depth, and the best of the new and the now and together use it to Hallelujah Praise the Lord, opening us up to the presence of God as the Spirit speaks through his word read and preached…

Everything that has breath leads nicely into looking at the who of worship?  We may simply see instruments here and I’ve often heard this called the musicians psalm. But that is not the case, behind the instruments it is a summons to all people to come and worship. The ram’s horn was blown by the priests they are to come and to lead and direct, the lyre and harp were used by the Levites, so yes the musicians were called to come and worship. But the other instruments are the everyday instruments of the people, all of us are called to come and join our joy and creativity in worship.  The timbrel and dance were used by women in festivals and times of celebration. So it is inclusive of men and women to bring who we are to add to the worship. Music and Dance are also an expression of culture and it is an invitation to bring that as well to worship.  In Thailand the church has flourished away from western influences in many of the tribal areas because the main theologians and bible teachers in those areas are choreographers who use traditional dance to teach and preach. The Tokelauan’s similarly have dances that tell bible stories, it’s how they communicate. Sadly they won’t use them in church because the western missionaries said it wasn’t appropriate to dance in church. In the end it is an invitation to all people all that has breath to come and join us in praising the God who they have come to know… It’s a missional call.

It goes beyond that the whole of creation is called to come together and to acknowledge and praise its creator.

Finally it opens up the question of the when of a life of worship?

Maybe for some of us that might be a closed question and the answer is 9:30am on a Sunday morning, and it might be a bit longer than an hour if Howard goes on. That’s great because the psalm is in the context of gathered public worship. However I is also placed at the end of the book, it is as I said an open door into a life lived in praise to the LORD.  

May you accept and respond to this open invitation to a life of worship, in song, in word in deed, may you step through the open door of psalm 150.

My you continue to affirm the importance of gathering and worshiping together, structuring worship into our busy lives, but may you also find praising God something that is reflected in everything you do. 

May you be attentive to the rams horn, above the blaring traffic horns, inviting you to see and to know and to acknowledge God’s saving acts and his surprising greatness as you experience them. Now I happened to be day dreaming at the lights the other day and I needed a horn blast from the car behind me to wake me up to the fact that the lights had changed. I did resist returning the traditional hand signal… but we often need the horn blast to wake us up to seeing God’s great saving acts and surpassing goodness. write down somewhere five things you want to praise God for.

May you find your feet dancing in tune to the praise of God as you delight in God’s word and are aware of god guiding your steps in times of lament or joy, as you weave your way through daily life.

May you hear the cymbals calling you to be quite this is important and to listen as God speaks. That you may hear the cymbals of the spirit call you to festive shout, or at least to voice God’s goodness to those around you.  

May find your life being a psalm a song to God, as Adrian Aldrich says in lifestyle evangelism, our words are the gospel and our lives and love are the wonderful tune that makes it catchy.

May your song be an open ended invitation for everything that has breath to come know and praise the Lord.


preying pagans

belief bible book business

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preying pagans

Deuteronomy 5:19-21

Deuteronomy 5:19 Do not steal.

Deuteronomy 5:20 Do not give dishonest testimony against your neighbor.

Deuteronomy 5:21 Do not crave1 your neighbor’s wife or desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

preying pagans

The Mosaic mission was designed to create a community which glorified God by caring for one another. The pagan nations around it were steeped in selfishness, which led to rampant theft, fraud and greed. They preyed on each other instead of praying for each other. These commands envision a different community in which the individual put other people’s needs and wants ahead of his own.

Lord, get us out of the preying business, and into the caring and praying business.