Archives For March 2018

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. True freedom, and being able to live out that freedom freely, implies self-restraint and consistency. Blaming guns is shifting the focus onto the object. This blame game takes away from the actions and lack of self-restraint of the subject/s.

When riding a bike, it’s childish to blame and hate that bike, when you hurt yourself or someone else because you weren’t paying close enough attention to where you were going. This blame takes away from the fact that without individuals taking responsibility for their freedom, they will lose their freedom. Beware the untruth of the crowd & beware of the auctioneers who lead them.

More of my thoughts on the gun control debate, can be found here: Gun Ownership, Responsible Border Control, Abortion & Sinless Spheres.

I’ve found that one of the best times to listen to Mozart’s Requiem in D-minor is during a rainstorm. There’s no other accompaniment better suited to the epic melancholic composition, than that of heavy rain hitting the roof. Water spilling out over flooded gutters and raindrops bouncing off fences.

Sometime between now, up until the close of Lent, take a few minutes to listen through one of the most significant pieces of music ever written by human hands. Since a sigh turned towards heaven is translated into a prayer by the Holy Spirit, it’s possible that the heart prays through music. If the latter is indeed as true as the former, may it be so:

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Rex tremendae majestatis,

Qui salvandos salvas gratis,

Salve me, fons pietatis.

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Recommended performance of the complete Requiem in D-Minor, courtesy of Arsys Bourgogne, YouTube.

Link to the complete English translation of Requiem in D-Minor, courtesy of the Manly Warringah Choir.

And the provocative quote of the week goes to, Charles Spurgeon: “Be a good hater”.

The statement, “be a good hater” is a challenge to resist evil (James[i]). To resist the morality of the tyrant or the ‘crowd which has no hands’ (Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth [ii])

In context it means: to abhor evil: to regard it with extreme repugnance. [In Latin, “abhor” is Odium: with hostility; “repugnance”: resist, be an adversary of evil.]

Our present age has an almost absolute fear of hate, yet most would agree that “let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good“, is an admirable thing. One clear example which proves this is the often irrational hatred shown towards Donald Trump.

When discussing hating evil, clinging to the good, Calvin prefers to use the term “turning away”, saying it ‘corresponds better with the opposite clause, where Paul bids us to exercise kindness’ (Commentary on Romans 12:9)

This is displayed in the actions of real social justice advocates [by which I don’t mean the average internet variety, Social Justice Warriors]. Social justice advocates lay their claims against injustice on the very premise that an evil; an injustice; something to be abhorred; something repugnant has taken place.

The problem arises when the basis for those claims are centred on the ever shifting sands of subjective relativism. Akin to the great violation in the garden, which sought to jettison God; removing the Creator from His rightful place, putting the creature at the centre of where, what and how that creature derives its definitions, and subsequent redefinitions, of what good and evil is.

Once fluidity of truth is proclaimed and accepted. Competing “truths” seek dominance. Humanity becomes the primary source and decider of what is good and evil.

From there lies can hide hatred, and power can be gained by it.

“whoever hates disguises himself with his lips, and harbours deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart though his hatred be covered with deception.”  (Proverbs, 26:24-26)

Hate is hidden and fuelled by subjectivism. Tolerance must be given to the “truth” of the Marxists, the White Power Neo-Nazis or the Islamist, even though they force compliance to their ideas of good and evil, through fear, hatred and bloodshed. The “truth” is to be respected, even though it hides a love for hatred, and a hatred of truth.

The ultimate conclusion is a clash of competing untruths, long paraded as truth. The consequences being, that lies and falsehood come to rule, where truth and facts once did.

On the other hand when accompanied by God’s Word on what good and evil is, along with honesty, humility, mercy and justice, hate can be a positive. Hate in this sense is restrained pathos or righteous anger. This is pathos seeking to end the cause of pathayma (suffering), which is held within the limits of both ethos and logos.

To hate evil is to cling to that which is good. Any hate which doesn’t cleave to that which is good, leads us towards that which is evil. Thus hating evil is not a sin because the act has a just cause, grounded in God’s, and not man’s definition of what good and evil is. It is grounded in the precedent, criteria and command of God.

Morality drawn straight from the whims of the human heart is the subjective morality of the tyrant. Subjective morality becomes immorality the further it disconnects itself from the external Word and Spirit of God. This is because morality is held captive to the subjective truth of a tyrannical ungodly king, who acting on the mood of the moment bans all unauthorised morality from his or her kingdom. This unauthorised morality is anything other than the one he or she seeks to own, in order to grow their grip on power. One Biblical example of this is King Saul’s eventual hatred of David. Saul disconnects himself from God, and issues his rule from his own subjective sense of good and evil.

It’s true, as C.S Lewis wrote, that ‘hatred obscures all distinctions.’[iii]  But what I think C.S Lewis is getting at here is any hatred that exists by itself and of itself, obscures all distinctions.

One way to speak of this could be to say that we need to be open to being challenged about the things we intensely dislike, otherwise we’re just lying to ourselves and others. Again we take Solomon’s words and apply them, ‘the one who conceals hatred has lying lips’ (Proverbs 10:18)

For the Christian, the ultimate grounding for hating evil, isn’t hate, it is love. Love motivates the Christian to speak out and proclaim the salvation brought to both the oppressed and oppressor alike.

This means continuing to act on the gifts that God gives, such as good government, the ability to teach, discern and speak in a gracious way to world hellbent on worshiping insanity. To achieve this we need to gain a better understanding about the close relationship between hating evil and being a “hater”.

Hating hate, and not evil, is the great twisted and misleading double negative of our age.

Nowhere in the bible does God command His people to hate, hate. What we read is the imperative to abhor evil and cling to what is good. All of this raises questions:

1. How do we hate evil in a world that hates both hate, and haters?

2. How can we keep the imperative to ‘hate what is evil’ from being misused and abused?

When we apply being a “good hater” to the Nazis, what is meant is that we hate the ideology of Nazism, not the German people who identified as Nazis. What is hated is the evil in the ideology that rules over the person and in the person, as if it were a lord without a Lord. The distinction between the German and the Nazi, if measured by Lewis’ criteria isn’t distorted.

Therefore, Charles Spurgeon’s ‘’be a good hater’’ is someone who acts in Christian love. Since love speaks both a “yes” and a “no”, to hate evil is to cling to the good; standing with, and in, God’s “no” to evil.

‘When you hate the man’s sins, you are not to hate him, but to love the sinner, even as Christ loved sinners and came to seek and save them. When you hate a man’s false doctrine, you are still to love the man and hate his doctrine even out of love to his soul, with an earnest desire that he may be reclaimed from his error and brought into the way of truth.’ (Spurgeon, 1858 Righteous Hatred)

It’s right then to conclude, that any Christian who falls in with the ‘untruth of the crowd’ when it comes to Donald Trump, may find themselves falling into hate that is absent of the rule of Christian love.  The Christian in this context fails to see that ‘the sinner hasn’t stopped being God’s creature’ (Karl Barth CD 3:2, p.31)

Grace finds the distinction between the love for the sinner and hatred of the sin, and moves in love towards the sinner with this particular order in mind. Barth again brings home the point, ‘if it does not spring from grace, it does not lead to grace.’ (ibid, p.36)

Grace governs the outcome and reorders, hate the sin, love the sinner[iv]. Love for the sinner becomes the primary. Hatred of sin, secondary[v].

Just as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:

“Although we are not Christ, if we want to be Christians we must participate in Christ’s own courageous heart by engaging in responsible action that seizes the hour in complete freedom, facing the danger’ (Meditations On The Cross, p.26)

None of this means being slothful in our response to injustice, what it means is letting authentic Christian love, not the untruth of the crowd, govern that response. So it is that we return to the imperative, let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good.

In this sense, “be a good hater”.


References:

[i] James 4:7

[ii] Kierkegaard S. 1847 The Crowd is Untruth sourced from CCEL.org

[iii] C.S Lewis, 1955 On Science Fiction in Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy & Short Stories

[iv] See Bonhoeffer, D. 1954 Life Together p.111

[v] see Barth, K. 1960  Man as a Problem of Dogmatics, CD. 3:2 p.32 Hendrickson Publishers here Barth discusses the primacy of grace and the secondary place of sin in God’s attitude towards man.

Photo Credits: ‘Love Again’ by Kayle Kaupanger & ‘Old Vandalised Building – Vietnam’ by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Humility Wins?

March 15, 2018 — Leave a comment

Richard Foster once made three profound observations about humility. He stated:

‘…it soon becomes apparent that:

1. Study demands humility. Study simply cannot happen until we are willing to subject to the subject matter…we must come as a student, not teacher.
2. Not only is study directly dependent upon humility, but it is conducive to it.
3. Arrogance and humility are mutually exclusive’ (2008:82)

Here Foster is concerned with the polarised disconnect between arrogance and humility in the context of study, viewed as being one of four inward spiritual disciplines.

The process involves having a loving conscience, and being open to the possibility that other Christians may stumble. Over the years I have learnt the importance of humility. Primarily due to my own under-developed theological and socio-political understandings. (1. Cor.8:11). In the field of academia friends, including “brothers-in-Christ” can quickly become an enemy.

The reason why is pinpointed by Liberation theologian James Cone.

The reality is that ‘most theologies [and other academic disciplines] are in fact an, [advantaged class] bourgeois exercise in intellectual masturbation’ (1975:43, parenthesis mine)

The issue of pride in the academy is bluntly summed by Cone. By this damning metaphorical indictment, Cone issues forth a caveat, that I am in cautious agreement with. Only as far as this statement critiques pride and ‘disturbs the sinner in his or her sin’ (Karl Barth).

Paul illustrates this in 1 Cor.8-10 when he invites the Church to identify its idols because:

‘Idolatry exposes people to serious danger…the strenuous self-denial of the athlete…is a rebuke to half-hearted, flabby Christian service. The athlete denies themselves many lawful pleasures and the Christian must similarly avoid not only definite sin, but anything that hinders spiritual progress…however God is not simply a spectator of the affairs of life in this; he is concerned and active. He will always provide a way out…therefore our trust is in the faithfulness of God’ (Morris 1996:137, 141 & 142)

Zeal (whether it be labelled liberal, conservative, red-pill, blue-pill, extreme or otherwise) must not become arrogant, conceited, and over-empowering whereby it puffs up one person to dominate over another unjustly.

In other words, ‘do not become the dragon  you are fighting against’ (Nietzsche paraphrased by Phillip Yancey, 1997:232)[1].

Pride is, and can only ever be an enemy of grace –  pride is like a tool for the ‘nothing’ (Barth’s term for absolute evil) to corrupt God’s blessing and work. As a consequence pride becomes an enemy to freedom, and a threat to community, worship, marriage, family – progress.

For me this means that my response to pride must become ‘reflective instead of instinctive’ (Karl Barth C.D IV.4:182); putting off well-engrained, survival mechanisms that help me hide in bitter pride rather than heal in humility.

It may be too simple to suggest that humility wins. After all, rejecting pride is not an easy task and mantra’s themselves can become tired, meaningless ambiguity of phrases like ‘love wins’. Suggesting that humility wins, however, is not the same as saying ‘love wins’ because it is more specific. Humility doesn’t have the baggage attached to it in the way that love does.

Nor does it not mean allowing ourselves to become doormats or subjugating ourselves to indentured, unjust servitude. Humility drives us forward. Unifying us in our agreements and disagreements; forcing us to graciously acknowledge our own limitations. This promotes respectful dialogue and round-table discussion.

One area where this can be applied is identified in Paul’s call to work towards preventing the wounding of other Christians in areas of their lives where they are either exhausted or under-developed (1 Cor. 8:11). To this task the Church in its various expressions and forms, ‘works towards the glory of God’ (1 Cor. 10:31) rather than the glory of self.

The side point here is that when Paul talks about restraining from or eating forbidden food, he doesn’t then apply, this freedom under grace, to sexual immorality. The body, as John Calvin so brilliantly points out, ‘was made for food, not for sexual immorality’ (Commentary on First Corinthians).

By choosing to give room for the under-developed thought and limitations of others we practice humility. Humility in action involves the loving ‘act of consideration for limitations ’ (Morris, 1996:124-123, italics mine). The superiority of humility over pride is grounded in the fact that humility strengthens, pride tears down. In working towards humility those brighter than the rest, offer to build those under up, providing them with the light of even greater insight and participation in the community.


References:

Cone, J.1975, God of the oppressed  Orbis Books NY

Forster, R. 2008 Celebration of discipline (1980) Hodder & Stoughton UK

Morris, L. 1996 Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Corinthians Intervarsity Press Wm. B Eerdmans publishing

Yancey, P. 1997, What’s so amazing about Grace? Zondervan Publishing House

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash


[1] The actual quote reads ‘the man who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you’ (Beyond good and evil, p.63) – This is not an endorsement of Nietzsche or his philosophy, it is a critical application of a controversial statement used in order to illustrate a point.

Notes from my recent brief exegetical summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. May it be of some encouragement for you today:

Not all affliction is of God, but God, in His freedom, through His love, works His salvation out through all affliction; in such a way as to remind us that we are to rely on Him. 

By affliction what is meant is, burden, trouble, pressure, oppression. Also connected here is the word suffering; pathayma. Pathayma [i] means feeling, inward torment, or to be affected, or vexed. In verse 10, Paul infers pathayma to mean ‘deadly peril’, ‘ utterly burdened beyond Timothy and his own strength’, ‘despairing of life itself, feeling that he was faced with a death sentence’ (vv. 8 & 9).

In this affliction God brought paraklesis: comfort; consolation, solace, nearness, stirring motivation, encouragement, (loosely: teaching, to urge on). My favourites from this list are nearness and consolation. God ‘draws near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18).

How does He does this? In Jesus Christ, through paraklesis.

The Greek word paraklesis is also linked with the Holy Spirit [paraklete] . What we can then say is that God brings Himself into the trouble, oppression and works His salvation out through it. Comfort does not translate to mean a life of wealth, ease and prosperity. It means that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm, 46:1, ESV)

God ‘rules the raging of the sea; when it’s waves rise, He stills them. He crushed Egypt (Rahab) like a carcass; scattered His enemies with His mighty arm.’ (Psalm 89:9-10, ESV)

According to Romans 8:26-28 ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness.The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God  all things work together for good, for those who are called [those in Christ Jesus] according to His purpose.’

Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, the most unlikely of all Apostles, Paul, once again testifies to the decisive willingness, presence and power of God:

‘He delivered us…from deadly peril; He will deliver us…; He will deliver us again…(v.10)

‘On Him we have set our hope!’.

On Who is it that we set our hope? On Who is it that we rely upon?

‘On God who raises the dead (v.9); is ‘the Father of mercies’; ‘Father of Jesus Christ’; and ‘God of all comfort/consolation’ (v.3)


Notes:

[i] Goodrick. E.W & Kohlenberger III, J.R 1990 NIV Strongs’s Exhaustive Concordance Zondervan Publishers

Artwork by John Martin, 1840. ‘The Destruction of Tyre‘, which is said to have been destroyed by Alexander the Great and be part of biblical prophecy.

Political correctness in its excessive form is the secular equivalent of Shari’a law. It might not have the full judicial weight of Western law behind it yet, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t trying to manipulate the system so as to implement it.

I used to think that the only thing wrong with political correctness was the excesses that went along with it. Take the good, reject the bad. However, the more I learn from those who practice and enforce the ideals of political correctness, the more I arrive at the conclusion that political correctness is the secular version of Shari’a Law. The power base for this is the cult of modern liberalism which currently rules the Left side of politics.

Adherence to political correctness is fanatical. It’s designed to control what and how you think, making sure you comply with the laws outlined by modern liberal overseers. These overseers are most often professionals who say that they don’t believe in absolutes, but issue orders in absolute terms: “You are what we say you are, you will speak and think as we tell you to or else!” Professionals, who have, as we’ve witnessed since Trump was elected, sought to wage a jihad against conservatives and those allied with the concerns of conservatives.

Throughout the years I’ve had three personal encounters with professionals along these lines. Each encounter has given me an insight into how excessive political correctness is having a negative effect on society, trust and relationships as a whole.

The first involved a co-worker. He assumed that I was being racist when I used the phrase “these kinds of people’’, in response to being hammered by telemarketers from India. Though it was clear I was voicing frustration at telemarketers taking up work hours, (an actual thing called time theft), this didn’t stop my co-worker from trying to find some hidden racism in my quick reply. He was more concerned about my phrasing and what possibly laid behind it, than he was with the complaint that wages were being spent answering unsolicited phone calls unrelated to customer service.

Over the process of an hour and a few email exchanges with management, who had gotten involved, things were clarified. Even though my phrasing of “those people” meant unsolicited calls from telemarketers, and not a racist remark towards Indian people, I was, through the event, forced to be anxious about, and super-careful with my words.

The second incident involved a foreign-born medical professional on a routine visit. He took a disliking to the fact my wife and I homeschooled. He had no grounds for this, but took it upon himself to hound me for forty minutes about socialisation, ignorance and yes, racism. He proceeded to tell me that kids teach kids, they learn and should learn from one another. He argued that they can only learn about differences between cultures, and religions from being in the education industrial complex.

I was uncomfortably put on the defensive. Although I informed him that we have a NSW board of studies representative and are registered with NESA, he was determined to be right; adamant that I was wrong. Although I made every effort to help him understand that our curriculum was in line with the Australian Curriculum standards, this medical professional assumed that because I was white, and a Christian, we were being prejudiced; teaching our children to not only be ignorant of the world, but to hate those who are different.

The third, most recent incident was when another medical professional lightly scolded me for using the politically incorrect term, “colour blindness”, instead of the politically correct term, “colour vision deficiency”. This professional made a point of telling me, with conviction, that the term “colour blindness” wasn’t “kosher”. Despite the terminology being widely used, it is considered offensive, and insensitive to not apply the “authorised version”; the “correct” or allowable terminology.

If this is so wrong, why does Google return 29.6 million hits under the term “colour blindness”? Why is a website, which says its aim is to raise awareness about “colour vision deficiency”, actually called “Colour Blind Awareness”?

My position here isn’t reactionary. It’s an attempt at a well-considered expositional brief about a reactionary position forced on society. I say forced, because it hasn’t arrived by way of democratic consensus, nor has it arrived by scientific reasoning and rigorous debate. It has arrived by way of emotionalism, where feelings come before facts and seeming to be doing is the only thing necessary to prove whether someone is guilty or innocent. Appearances trump substance.

All of this suggests to me that people are making political correctness up as they go. They acquire a form of consensus from like-minded individuals who then punish, or ridicule into submission, those who aren’t aware of the rules. They create blasphemy laws. This isn’t science or logic, its law by whim of the ruler; in other words, it’s a regression back into absolute monarchy. The only difference is that the absolute divine right of kings becomes the absolute divine right of the individual, through which the individual is either deified or deifies themselves.[i]

It’s a lot like school. The law of the playground applies. One minute the sports shoe trend is Nike, the next it’s Reebok. After that it’s this band. The next day, it’s another band. Any and all who disagree are ostracised or treated as ignorant and irrelevant for not being up to date on the latest and greatest.

In other words, political correctness isn’t something that has been freely accepted and rationally agreed upon. It’s not in line with common law [ii]. The politically correct are a law unto themselves. As such, the politically correct impose new cultural laws on society, based on the whim of those created them. Everyone is assumed to have been acquainted with these new cultural laws. Anyone found to be unaware of them pays the price by being reeducated, or embarrassed in front of others. They face unnecessary hostility, or abuse, condescension, and some times, harassment.

Political correctness in its excessive form is the secular equivalent of shari’a law. To be outside political correctness is to be outside the religion. Those outside the cult of modern liberalism, that currently rules the Left, is to considered “deporable”.  These “deplorables” are insensitively accused of insensitivity. With abuse and disrespect, they are abused and disrespected.

If one is not politically correct, (by politically correct, I mean, living in line with whatever Leftist activists say it is)[ii], then that person isn’t trendy enough to be friends with, to be included in, accepted, respected, tolerated or loved.

In fact, as has been seen since Trump was elected to the presidency in the United States, it’s considered acceptable by the politically correct to hate anyone outside of their religion. “Deplorables” are infidels. The only choices are convert, keep quiet and pay a tax, or die.

Actions speak louder than words. Those dividing society are those who seek to benefit from doing so. For example: for as long as the politically correct preach from the political narrative of “love trumps hate”, yet continue to unreasonably hate on Trump, responsible Trump voters[iii] and anything they perceive as being a threat to their power; the lip service the politically correct give to love, will remain a confusing enigma, fused with dissonance, exclusion, prejudice, deification of self, partisan politics, manipulative propaganda and logical fallacies.

I’m left agreeing with Roger Scruton:

“A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.”
(Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey 1994) [iv]

Notes:

[i] For more on this I recommend Jean Bethke Elsthtain’s 2008 publication, ‘Sovereignty: God, State and Self’.

[ii] ‘The goal of the common law is not social engineering but justice in the proper sense of the term, namely the punishment or rectification of unjust actions.’ (Roger Scruton summing up a point made by Friedrich Hayek. Fools, Frauds & Firebrands, 2015)

[iii] This isn’t saying that the far-right don’t do this. Historically we know they do and have done so. However, in the current socio-political climate, the Left dominate this arena with their own vile version of tyranny masked as good intentions. Such as libertarians who believe people should have the freedom to drink and drive.

[iii] By responsible Trump voters I mean those who think before they vote; the average citizen, not the far-right or alt-right.

[iv] Scruton, R. 1994 Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey Bloomsbury Publishing

Photo Credits:

Abuse of Power...’  Samantha Sophia.

Razor Wire‘, Robert Hickerson