Archives For April 2018

There’s no real need to give you a one thousand word commentary on the following lectures because the content in each speaks for itself. I’ve watched all three; each of them reflect what I’ve written about or questioned here and on my other social media platforms.

When it comes to anything posted by or about Jordan Peterson, I am a cautious and curious listener. He has a grasp of the major issues that few, including most theologians and pastors, do. That’s a sad indictment, but the reality is most theologians and pastors show up as left-leaning and thus refuse to break with the modern liberal ideological radicalism perverting politics. My best guess is that this is due to the fear of public ridicule or a reluctance with having to deal with internal conflict caused by presenting an honest theological critique of the socio-political situation we are currently in.

My problem with Peterson is that he skirts around his own faith and steers clear of clarifying how his theology, or Christian theology in general, speaks into the political milieu of our age. This is amplified by his consistently ambiguous acknowledgement that the success of Western civilisation, especially after, through and despite so much human induced disaster, is due in large part to the Judeo-Christian faith and Western society’s Judeo-Christian foundations. However, given that Peterson is not a theologian, perhaps my problem with Peterson is too hasty; too harsh; too soon.

In regards to Alister McGrath, I’m a lot more receptive and less guarded. McGrath is a lot less political and a lot more consistent in his theological arguments, which are openly supported by his open confession of faith in Jesus Christ. This said, as a true blue student of Karl Barth, when it comes to McGrath overall, I’m drawn to hold some of McGrath’s thoughts on Natural Theology in question. Nevertheless, what Alister McGrath presents in the lecture below is outstanding and worth the effort spent absorbing.

Third and lastly, I’m not all that well acquainted with Peter Hitchens. I am less inclined to listen to him because his brother was a celebrity in the new atheist movement, and more inclined to listen to him because Peter Hitchens is a man of the radical Left, now a man-in-revolt against the radical Left.

Like Peterson, Hitchens is not a theologian, but speaks theological truths into a world happy to deny a Christian voice at the table unless it is a) supportive of the modern liberal ideological radicalism perverting politics or b) supportive of the unforgiving caricature of Christians in mainstream media.

Hitchens is careful with his words, considerate, relational and sober minded. Three qualities that Peterson and McGrath also possess; three qualities which make a great case for taking seriously what each individual has to say.

Peterson: ‘Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism‘ 

Alister McGrath: ‘Why God Won’t Go Away

Peter Hitchens: ‘The Abolition of Britain’ and other topics

 

 ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ (Matthew 11:15)

 

Jaded.

Silence and emergency,

In bludgeoning contrast, clang in discordant unity.

The murderous, winsome sin of vain words

Like a hammer into a child’s birthday cake,

Crushes the crisp dew.

Fresh condensation from heaven

Poluted by shattering humiliation,

Breathes hopelessness.

The abyss yawns;

And with the crushing of this child,

its monstrous smile,

Gets ready to feed off of this child’s broken heart.

Silenced, yet emerging,

God responds,

Hope breathes, and pain retreats,

At light breaking through broken glass.

Inner screams, through sigh and powerless frustration,

Answered by prayer and Spirit-filled consolation.

Though there,

I was unaware,

That the shadows of angels were always obscured by the dark.


©RL2018

25th April 2016 007Anzac Day comes with a caveat.

Absent of any understanding about what causes war and the case for just-peace. Absent of the moral restraints of the message about Christ’s act and command to love God and love one another as we love and care for ourselves, Anzac day becomes a celebration of chaos, not life; a day of hero-worship, not sincere remembrance and gratitude.

We surely remember the sacrifice of our ancestors, but with it we remember God’s summons to hear the importance of His commandments that empower us to stand against the continuing brutality of war. It’s because God comes to humanity that this word can be received as true word. A word we did not speak ourselves. A word that we’re encouraged to test and try out, because God is not insecure about who He is or anxious about what He has planned.

Anzac day is for humanity to stand before the past, under God, towards the future. It’s a time to mourn, a time to recollect, a time to reconsider and lament the effect of war.  Not only on those who didn’t return, but on those who did.

Traditionally, on this day Australia and New Zealand commemorate, not war, or the sins of it, but engrave, through Christian prayer, a deep gratitude and remembrance, of and for, the freedom and life given by those who sacrificed their lives to give it.

But, Anzac day comes with a caveat.

If we jettison Jesus Christ from Anzac day, our remembrance spirals into the worship of chaos, hatred of our enemies and as it deteriorates into the empty worship of our ancestors. Without the Prince of Peace and those He represents, Anzac day has no real message of peace or hope, only war, the hype and devastation of it.

This is exemplified by the words of Anti-Nazi German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in 1932 preached to a solemn gathering of Germans,

‘when the church observes Memorial Day, it must have something special to say. It cannot be one voice in the chorus of others who loudly raise the cry of mourning for the lost sons of the nation across the land, and by such cries of mourning call us to new deeds and great courage. It cannot, like the ancient singers of great heroic deeds, wander about and sing the song of praise of battle and the death of the heroes to the listening ears of enthralled young people. On this day the church stands here so strangely without ceremony, so little proud, so little heroic. The Church is like the seer of ancient times who when all are gathered… is wholeheartedly present but suffers because he sees something that others do not see and must speak of what he sees, although no one wants to hear it…the one who loves most is the one who sees deepest, sees the greatest danger. A seer has never been popular. That is why the church will also not be popular, least of all on days like this.’[i]

“Jesus is victor.”

Any real human victory begins in Him.

In no other way and by no other name can Anzac day be what it should be, a time and place when our hearts are directed, not towards human ideological constructs of peace, but towards the Prince of peace and therefore towards just-peace. Our memory and treatment of those who gave up their very lives for us is only enriched by this. Our mourning turns into hope, as we hear from chaplains, pastors and Christians, throughout both nations, at most remembrance services, we are asked to carry away with us the challenge of the message of just-peace.

‘Memorial day in the Church! What does it mean? It means holding up the one great hope from which we all live, the preaching of the kingdom of God. It means seeing that which is past, and which we remember today, with all its terrors and all its godlessness, and yet not being afraid, but hearing the preaching of peace […] Now pass on the message of peace, for the sake of which their death had to be, and preach it all the more loudly.’ [ii]

The one whose own broken body was laid in a tomb guarded and then, against, and to the shame of the chaos and all that stood in proud victory over Him, was resurrected from the dead.

Any real human victory begins in Him; all just-peace follows the Prince of peace who was judged become judge.

‘Where the power of darkness wants to overpower the light of God, there God triumphs and judges the darkness.’ [iii]

Any real peace follows from the one who is peace, not the one who through media, machine or human, only gives lip service to it. Or who through a mask of peace seeks through a will to dominate, only to expand a human empire.

The importance of Christian participation in Anzac Day is the reminder that peace comes to humanity from outside itself; from outside our ability to save ourselves. Through conviction, through just-justice, through covenant, through commandment the chaos is answered with purpose. It’s lifeless ‘mass, rebellion and tumult against true life is conquered, transformed as the One who ‘hovers over it speaks [and because He does, decisively acts].’[iv]

Jesus the Christ doesn’t seem to be. He is, was and will be.

That is our starting place and EVERY Anzac day what was once their march, but is now ours, must begin and end here.

For as Bonhoeffer noted:

‘wherever the word of Christ is truly spoken, the world sense that it is either ruinous madness or ruinous truth, which endangers it’s very life. Where peace is really spoken, war must rage twice as hard, for it senses that it is about to be driven out. Christ intends to be its death […] Memorial Day in the church means knowing that Christ alone wins the victory! Amen.’ [v]

Sources:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D 1932 National Memorial Day, Berlin, Reminiscere, Feb. 21,. In Best, I. 2012 The Collected Sermons of Deitrich Bonhoeffer,  Fortress Press

[ii] ibid, (p.21)

[iii] ibid, (p.17)

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW:3 Creation and Fall: A theological exposition of Genesis 1-3, (p.41) [parenthesis mine]

[v] Bonhoeffer, D 1932 National Memorial Day, Berlin, Reminiscere, Feb. 21,. In Best, I. 2012 The Collected Sermons of Deitrich Bonhoeffer,  Fortress Press (pp.20 & 21)

(Originally published, 25th April 2016)

This YouTube post from Lindsay Shepherd is captioned, “I’ve come to the realisation that I am no longer a leftist. Here’s why.” It’s worth sharing because, as one commentator suggested, “it’s not so much that you’ve moved away from the Left; the Left has moved away from you.” I’m not certain that I agree, but the sentiment in that statement describes something that I think is happening to a lot of people who traditionally associated themselves as ideologically progressive.

You might remember that Lindsay was at the epicentre of outrage, when she used a video of Jordan Peterson disagreeing with transgender-ism. Lindsay, a teaching assistant, was attempting to present the opposing side of gender theory in order to open up a broader discussion of the issues.

In true, cult of modern liberalism fashion, Lindsay was brought before a tribunal and punished for doing so. What the University didn’t know at the time, was that Lindsay had secretly recorded the socialist people’s court and their charge of blasphemy against her. The rest is now well documented internet history.

Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. and the professor directly involved have since apologised. This was after Lindsay had been hit with a wave of the all too predictable harassment and abuse, from many who proudly wave Leftist flag/s.

Has the Left moved away from people who have traditionally associated themselves with the Left? It’s a fair question, and if allowed, it’s a question that needs to be asked by those who’ve invested so much into holding the front-line against enemies of the Left, both real and imagined. An offshoot of this question would be, in light of Lindsay’s experience, how much of those enemies of the Left are in fact, real and how much are in fact the product of an overly sensitive imagination.

The coming great awakening may not be as abrupt as Lindsey’s has been. If anything it’s a classic case of Plato’s Cave. The one who is set free, returns to say to those remaining, that life exists outside the chains and the cave; life isn’t the shadows they see bouncing off the walls. Life isn’t lived in the imagination; life exists in the wonder and the investigation into what (and Who) inspires the imagination. The cave dwellers are being called to a fullness of humanity; freedom from the very thing that chains them. Attempting to silence the truth of the freedman, the remaining cave dwellers reject the summons and address. They see the freedman as foolish and refuse to leave because they’ve found the truth that encounters them from outside the cave to be offensive. They are happy in their ignorance.

Sometimes waking up to the slow boiling of the pot, in which some get stuck, takes time. Sadly, more often than not, it doesn’t happen at all.

In Lindsay’s case, I’m not suggesting that she is a prophet or that she’s now a republican, conservative, “christian traditionalist” (whatever that means), who is ready to live out all the negative stereotypes applied to all three groups.

What I am saying is that the significance of this event, and the many that parallel it, such as  recent attack on Chik-Fil-A’s, ‘Christian traditionalist” (whatever that means)  ”creepy invasion of New York“, is that the genuine prophets of our age, who’ve long been lovingly calling out the tragic trajectory of the Left, in it’s post-modern manifestation, are constantly being justified.

Kudos, Lindsay:


References:

Kierkegaard, S: ‘There is a view of life which holds that where the crowd is, the truth is also, that it is a need in truth itself, that it must have the crowd on its side.There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that “the crowd” received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in.’

‘The Crowd is Untruth’ 

What people think matters; how people see us matters. We anchor ourselves to the opinions and values of others. Men and women latch their value to the people we see as giving us value. Our worth is then neatly packaged into the confined space of that other person’s thoughts and whims. This is all okay up to a point. Humans were built for community, we need good government and organisation; men and women, living in fellowship, not in isolation, are human together.[i]

That people tether themselves to the thoughts of others without caution is, however, a potential disaster. For example, when we get down to bottom line of Social Media, unless a person is selling something, the heartbeat of those platforms is either genuine sharing or sharing because of a fear of loneliness and isolation. What makes these platforms thrive is the role they play in anchoring one person to a community, whereby that person gains some form of self-worth, validation and completeness as a human. If none of this were true, there would be no rhyme of reason for social media.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the foundation of that self-worth, validation and completeness is at its core faulty and dysfunctional.  If a person gets the feeling that they are accepted and wanted, that’s all that matters. Questions like, “What if that anchor isn’t locked in the right place? What if that anchor only has the appearance of providing safety and isn’t actually safe?” aren’t considered.

What doesn’t seem to matter is whether or not the opinions and values of others are valid, just or holy. These factors seem to be rarely considered. Questioning those who cross-examine us in such a way, is something very few are brave enough to do.

Few want to be a source of healthy conflict. Few want to cut loose an anchor for fear of getting tossed on to rocks and being carried away by violent seas.  Even when deep down they know that the anchor is dragging them down into the abyss, most don’t see it, or want to see it, for fear of losing the very thing that they think grounds them to a sense of worth, purpose, community and inclusion. Oblivious to the false security the unsecured anchor provides, when the storm hits, the ship goes down or gets carried away regardless of how they or others feel.

The reality is that people set standards and draw opinions about us behind our backs. People talk. We are looked at, measured, weighed, judged and then valued. Our position in any community is just as good as our appearance, and our last great performance.  Our worth in those communities is just as good as our silence, compliance and applause for those in positions of power. Sometimes this is done willingly because we want to appease those in power because they have the ability to thrust us into power.

The reality is this: the ambitious, conform. The covetous, charm. The selfish, betray. The prideful play power games; the greedy, lie, and the jealous, manipulate in order to gain. Social media platforms can be just another tool for anyone like this to gain superiority over others. If you can be used as a pawn in this process, you will be.

As stated by Jeremiah, the “weeping” prophet, who had a firsthand experience with rejection and abuse from within his community, the heart is deceitful above all things…who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9)

In a recent post to their Facebook wall, Sanctuary International Matrix posted the question:

“Dear Pastor Bob: I’m tired of trying to be a good Christian. As hard as I try, I still get criticized for what I do wrong. My Christian friends keep reminding me that I’m not a very good example. I’m considering leaving the faith. I’m just too miserable.”

I agree with Beeman’s response:

“Sometimes the best examples to me, have been the people who fight the hardest. That fall down the most and get up every time. Because I identify with them, and I want the hope that they have. That’s what the Bible says: First Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

It’s worth stopping to think about what anchors us. It’s worth asking what our anchor is secured to; investigating to see whether or not our anchor is secure, or if our anchor only has the appearance of being secured. [ii] If it doesn’t, pull the anchor up and relocate it.

If I measured, or tethered my membership criteria in the Church by the standards of others, and not by what God had set for us all, in Jesus Christ, I’d have quit a long, long time ago.

The struggles are real, but keep both eyes on the prize because inhaled grace ignites.[iii]

‘…Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.’ (Hebrews 6:18-19)


References:

[i] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1 p.294)

[ii] “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:21, ESV)

[iii] ‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
(Karl Barth C.D. IV.4:28).

Photo credit:  Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Capitalism may be plagued by the sin of greed, a greed that hinders the free market through hoarding and monopolies, but ultimately capitalism creates room for compassion. Laws exist to fortify the free market, so as to protect the free market from the death blows of a greed-is-good culture. Through the referee of small government the free market is nurtured. Through capitalism doors are opened for freedom; for people to be free to be compassionate; free to give out of the abundance of what they have earned; out of the abundance of what they are free to own.

Socialism on the other hand has no checks and balances against greed. Socialism therefore cannot produce a people who are free to be compassionate. Although socialism is viewed as compassion, it doesn’t allow room for compassionate giving because by definition, under a socialist system, there shouldn’t be any need for anyone to have to give compassionately. However, the theory that all needs should be met, does not meet with the reality.

Socialism presupposes that the poor worker will never get rich or rise above his or her poverty. Socialism has to keep people poor in order to justify its own existence. This is because there can be no proletariat, no cause for class war, without keeping the working poor where they are.[i]

Socialism strips the individual of their right to own private property. The individual is left with no amount of abundance to give. Anything given outside the absolute rule of the socialist regime is frowned upon as suspiciously capitalist imperialism. In an exaggerated form, compassionate giving, at least without the state taking its cut, is a crime against the state. To give freely is treasonous because, in theory, under socialism there is no need for people to be compassionate. Every want and need is fulfilled even if the collective has to work for the time being in order to eradicate work entirely. The socialist holds fast to the paradoxical dream of a work-less society.

Unlike compassionate capitalism, compassionate socialism cannot exist. It’s an oxymoron because socialism as absolute economic law only has what it’s taken from the people; it has no capital outside what socialism has taken without compassion; creating no real margin of abundance for individuals to give compassionately from. Therefore the people themselves aren’t free to be compassionate in their giving towards one another.

People are to believe in strict equality, but not fairness. By concessions, the individual under socialism may have the freedom to earn or how they earn it, but they don’t have the freedom to be compassionate with what they earn. They couldn’t, even if they wanted to, because there is no abundance in socialism unless it is awarded to them by the state. The people have what the socialist government gives and nothing more. By default the socialist ruler becomes god, employer, mother and father; in essence the Führer is raised up as savior, because it is believed that he, through the socialist system he controls, knows what’s best for the people of the fatherland.

The Bible does not preach or foster socialism as an absolute economic law or morality. What the Bible does preach is that greed is a sin, that God loves a fair weight; fair trade; that He is a compassionate judge who wills to govern for His people, not govern at the whim and will of His people. The biblical witness as a whole holds fast to fairness and justice within the bounds of a life lived in freedom, under grace, in His Word; Jesus Christ. It is Father God, not führer-as-father who should rule out hearts and guide our minds.

As Paul noted to the Church in Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 8:8-24: give earnestly; give from abundance; give from that which is left over to those in need. Give what you can, when you can, where you can. Trade in fairness, do acts of grace, and do so freely [complete the work you started]. Do so with joy, for this will encourage reciprocal giving. Provide out of abundance in order to bring relief for those experiencing affliction.

Without compassion, capitalism fails. That is why checks and balances exist in order to keep the capitalist system from gorging itself to death with gluttony. Socialism, however, has no room and sees no need for compassion once it holds power. The socialist only sees the capitalist as his or her enemy, upholding socialism religiously, without opposition. Socialism is seen as true compassion and therefore the only compassion anyone truly needs. All who disagree or refuse to fall in line with this are labelled, without compassion, an enemy of it.

Socialism as a paragon of virtue lost its shine a long time ago.The socialist and capitalist can both operate under a “I will take from you to benefit me” rule.

It is, however, the necessary function of compassion that capitalism not only allows, but empowers, that sets capitalism apart from socialism. From this empowerment the individual under capitalism can and is empowered to say, “what can I give you in order to benefit you” as opposed to “what can I take from you to benefit me”.

Compassionate capitalism empowers compassion because it provides enough for people to choose to be compassionate. Socialism doesn’t allow this kind of freedom because it ultimately denies individuals the freedom to give. Whilst allowing the potential for greed, capitalism must eventually give a firm “no” to it, for its own sake. If not, the free market falls victim to the similar kind of totalitarian rule as that of socialism, only in this case, it’s a corporation, not a government left holding the throne without opposition.

‘No constitution or ethic can prevent power from becoming totalitarian. It must discover outside itself, a radical negation. [such as grace; the Divine compassion exhibited in, through and by Jesus Christ].’ (Jacques Ellul, Jesus & Marx. 1988 p.174)

References:

[i] ‘In Marxist dialectic, the oppressed must become the oppressor – the poor person becomes the absolute, a kind of priest – only through him can we meet Jesus and God; through serving him we are sanctified – this horizontal theology [or version of natural theology] returns quite simply to the project of excluding God’ (Jacques Ellul. Jesus & Marx, 1988. pp.42 & 48 parenthesise mine)

Margaret Thatcher: “any set of social and economic arrangements which is not founded on the acceptance of individual responsibility will do nothing but harm.”

(Speech to General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 21st May, 1988).

Photo credit: Milada Vigerova  ‘Hand, closeup, prayer’ on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on an XYZ Google hangouts panel, which included XYZ’s editor-in-chief David Hiscox, & Matt from Matty’s Modern Life.

A few things worth mentioning: this was a first for me, though I don’t think this factor took too much away from the overall discussion. It was great to sit down with David and Matt to discuss, in brief, the finer points of homeschooling, Resurrection, freedom in Christ and cultural Christianity.

The panel was live streamed to YouTube and the link can be found here: