Archives For Karl Barth

On December 1st, 2018 the state owned Church of Sweden, which claims to have 6.1 million members, boldly proclaimed on Twitter that Greta Thunberg was the appointed successor of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Sweden isn’t alone.

American Comedian, leading anti-Trump figure and Leftist Twitterarti celebrity, Sarah Silverman revived the idea of Greta being a second revelation of God, proclaiming as recently as September this year,

Proclamations like these are dangerous because the world has been down this road once before.

Karl Barth was a reformed Swiss theologian, and opponent of Nazism. In 1934, he helped pen the Barmen Declaration. The declaration was a protest against aggressive policies of the state forcing people into allegiance with its ideology; and a stand against compromising Church authorities, who were keen to maintain a place at the table of power, merging theology with ideology.

The Barmen Declaration was part of a larger revolt among German Confessing Church Pastors, who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the state, unless newly added direct references to Adolf Hitler were removed.

The oath of allegiance had been changed to include “unconditional obedience to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, Supreme commander of the Wehrmacht”, earning the updated oath of allegiance the term, ‘The Fuehrer Oath’ (or Hitler Oath).

As a consequence, Barth was removed from his teaching position at the University of Bonn and forced out of Germany.

Barth’s no to Nazism coincided with his famous “nein” to natural theology. For Barth, the starting point of faith is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Natural theology, which seeks God’s revelation in nature, is a road fraught with peril. This is no more powerfully evidenced than in the spiritual, emotional and psychological vice-grip the Nazis were able to slowly close around the German people, with their consent.

Hitler stood on the podium of natural theology, and was falsely raised up as the second revelation of God.

Leni Riefenstahl’s well known Nazi propaganda film ‘Triumph of the Will’ portrayed him as omnipotent; powerful, transcendent. The film concluding with Hitler declaring the Nazi party to be “unchangeable in its doctrine, hard as steel in its organization, supple and adaptable in its tactics, and in its entity, like that of a religious order…”

Responding in 2018 to the Swedish Church’s proclamation, Danny Bloom of The Times of Israel, said it best: “Jesus Christ is now a 15 year old autistic “climate activist” who speeches are written by her parents and other adults for her?’ Bloom called the proclamation of the Church of Sweden, and the media’s obsession with Greta, ‘child exploitation.’ He then asked, ‘is Greta to be called an “oracle” or a “savior” all of her teenage years, then what? What happens to her in her 20s and 30s?”

Bloom’s point is valid. What are the long term consequences of telling a 16 year old girl, who suffers from mental health issues, that she is a victim of injustices on par with the Versailles Treaty? What are the long term consequences of telling her that she is the answer to those perceived injustices; that she is, like Hitler was before her, the second revelation of God?

As presented to the world last week, the apocalyptic climate change narrative is the mein kampf of activists. Greta’s grief, anxiety, frustration and anger, is induced by an hypothesis turned dogma. All of which is justified, not by science, but by an interpretation of the scientific data.

Bill Muehlenberg’s criticism of Leftist activists exploiting Greta is the same for any church denomination who chooses to surrender Christ to climate change histrionics. Those who, under the dubious banner of natural theology choose to lead that child, and others, to believe that she is the Messiah.

It’s imperative that we say “no” to this surrender. Instead of raising Greta to god-like status, we remind her and the world of the cost and necessity of the Theological Declaration of Barmen, with its “no” to Nazism, and natural theology, in our “no” to child exploitation, and hysterical apocalyptic climate change histrionics:

8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

8.12 We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

Karl Barth wrote that ‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ [i]

Lutheran theologian, Gene Veith brilliantly expands on this stating,

‘Nazism was a calculated crusade to deny the transcendence of God and usurp Christianity’.
Without theology being free and independent of ideology there is nothing to challenge ‘the ideas that led to Auschwitz with special scrutiny. This is especially true when those ideas, often adopted uncritically, are still in vogue today.’ [ii]

Karl Barth’s punishment for not following the party line and refusing to pledge ‘unconditional obedience’ to the state and its Fuhrer, is an eerie precedent, and it’s being repeated in society today.

The Barmen Declaration is still relevant. It’s a source of encouragement for anyone who wants to take a stand against the exploitation of Greta and children like her. It’s a light for theologians and pastors who are still determined to push against the tide of compromise.

Not compromise in a diplomatic sense, where an exchange of understandings is metered out in order to establish mutual respect, but in the perilous decision to abandon discernment and theological critique as unscientific, intolerant, anachronistic and therefore ultimately irrelevant.

In our own “no” to hysteria, and the resurgence of tyranny via natural theology, may we find the strength to graciously echo the stand taken at Barmen, and the “no” of those same Confessing Church pastors, some of whom paid for that “no” with their lives.


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Barth, C.D IV/II p.524

[ii]  Veith Jnr, G.E. 1993 modern fascism: the threat to the Judeo-Christian worldview Kindle for P.C. Ed.

Brave German Pastors Defy Nazi Control: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10953135?fbclid=IwAR3J3hIcZGpBkfl2r5hdx9nAkL-xUdH3FT7Rg99h5dKRvB7Isdyl3RwJ50A

First published on Caldron Pool, 1st October 2019.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Here’s a copy of my recent letter to Melinda Pavey asking for her to consider voting against the abortion bill currently before the NSW parliament.

To the Hon. Melinda Pavey, MP,

I am a member of your Oxley electorate. As such I encourage you to vote “no” to the current abortion bill before the NSW state parliament.

The popular ideology behind abortion leads advocates of abortion to convince society that conceiving a child is the same as contracting a sexually transmitted disease. A “yes” vote would see the dehumanizing of an unborn human child by lending legitimacy to this ideology. Therefore, reducing an unborn child to a treatable ailment.

This bill, will, by all appearances, wrongfully legitimize this vile misconception, and industrialize the violent disruption of an unborn child’s life, denying them their right to life. No amount of ideological arguments from fanatics and the false doctrines spawned from them in favour of abortion, change the biological fact that abortion is the deliberate violent interruption of pregnancy. This is where women (and some men on behalf of women) demand the kind of freedom only God should own; the ability for an expectant mother to judge who is worthy of life and who isn’t. The God-like ability to decide who lives or dies, by encouraging the killing of an unborn child through ”miscarrying on demand”.

Under this shadow, abortion is as a matter of fact, another manifestation of lebensunwertes leben (The Nazi ideology of life [deemed] unworthy of life).
Although advocates of abortion use a healthcare pretence, may I remind you that “the Nazi group in charge of the actual killing in the gas chambers was called the General Welfare Foundation for Institutional Care…’ (Dean Stroud, 2013 ‘Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance’ Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing pp.132 & 136)

As summed up by anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth:

‘he who destroys germinating life kills a man and thus ventures the monstrous thing of decreeing concerning the life and death of a fellow-man whose life is given by God and therefore, like his own, belongs to Him. He desires to discharge a divine office, or, even if not, he accepts responsibility for such discharge, by daring to have the last word on at least the temporal form of the life of his fellow-man. Those directly or indirectly involved cannot escape this responsibility.’ (CD.3:4:416)

Despite the claims of radical activists, particularly extreme feminists, children are not a parasite or a hindrance. Children are a gift. Give them the chance to live and become part of the future of our country.

These are strong, valid reasons for why I reject abortion. I humbly ask that you consider doing the same.

Sincerely,

Mr. Rod Lampard
########, NSW


©Rod Lampard, 2019

“Love is love” is slogan that assuages all sexual sin.

If “love is love” is the new moral standard, then adultery, promiscuity, bestiality, and number of other sexual sins are not only justifiable, they are permissible.

This is because “love is love” falsely elevates sexual sin to a morally superior position, where anyone who stands opposed to the assumed “love is love” standard, is belittled as “unloving and immoral”.

Heterosexuals who spout “love is love” know that in the current climate, “love is love” covers a multitude of sexual sin, so why not jump on the bandwagon? Especially when embracing the slogan, enables them to pursue an anything goes ethos.

In the light of this, it’s easy enough to see how the widespread support and use of the “love is love” slogan, isn’t as altruistic or as selfless as it seems. From this perspective, heterosexual support for SSM, and homosexuality, in general, is pure self-centeredness.*

In the words of psychiatrist Karl Menninger, ‘the lure of profit exceeds the prestige of prophet.’ [i]

Pornography also contributes. Many a breakup and the continuing dysfunction of marriages can be attributed to the mythic, false and distorted view that pornography creates in men, about women and sex.

What’s more, these points uncover just how asinine the “love is love” slogan is.

Love cannot define itself.  Love is defined by God. Love comes from who God is. He cannot be anything, or anyone other than who He is.

The very fact that God is love means we cannot say in reverse that love is God. The noun precedes the verb, not the reverse.

Love is defined by the One who exists outside of humanity. His love enters time and space, and graciously seeks out relationship with us.

Love is defined by the One who comes to humanity from outside itself, as both grace and command. God is love and He presents knowledge about Himself to humanity, through His covenant with Israel, and by His revelation in Jesus Christ.

Love is defined by the One who seeks human response, the One who builds life, and gives order to creation; the One who doesn’t abandon His creation to its own inclinations, or the terror of the abyss. In the words of John, ‘we love because He first loved us.’ (1 John 4:19, ESV).

This is the ‘sovereignty of His love’, which doesn’t ‘exercise mechanical force, to move the immobile from without, [or] to rule over puppets or slaves, but rather to triumph in faithful servants and friends, not in their overthrow, but in their obedience, in their own free decision for Him.’ [i]

The ‘sovereignty of God’s love’ liberates humanity from subjective, abstract and artificial alternatives. We are emancipated from the burden of the oppressor, who defines love by whatever he or she decides it should or could be.

To borrow from G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy, those who seek to define love by itself, seek the moon, and its morbid light. Then in confusion, ponder about why it doesn’t produce life. Leading G.K.C to conclude: hence, ‘the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given them all her name.’

The individual who jettisons the ‘the sovereignty of God’s love’ from love inevitably asserts a definition of love made in their own image and desires.

Under the “love is love” slogan, no one is allowed to challenge this definition. Any reasoned disagreement outside this abstract idea of love, is measured as an act of hatred, betrayal and treachery – anti-love.

Therefore, to assert that God is love is to enter into a revolt against it.

As a revolt it asserts that love is not Lordless. Love is not meaningless or without purpose. Love is defined by what God does, and what God does comes from who God is [ii].

Love cannot define itself any more than the slave or abused child can define freedom. The sin of others has distorted their view of the world. Lies replace truth. They’re been taught to believe the abuse he or she receives at the hands of their oppressor is normal. In this way, “love is love” fails the oppressed and gives legitimacy to the oppressor. Love that defines itself negates itself.

Alternatively, the ‘sovereignty of God’s love’ encompasses both His “yes” and “no”. God’s “yes” to the genuinely oppressed, raises humanity up to challenge the claims of the oppressor. In this way, God’s firm “yes” and loving “no” to the oppressed and the oppressor are an outworking of His sovereignty. Love is not Lordless.

That, God is love, means love cannot be love without God at its center.

Likewise, human freedom grounded in love cannot be true freedom without the One who loves in freedom. It cannot be true freedom without the ‘God who frees man and woman to be free for Him and free for each other.’ [iii]

Without God, love becomes a cheap commodity, whose meaning is traded and swapped for whatever sells best. Love is downgraded to emotion, sex, money and the satisfying of an individual’s selfish desires.

“Love is love” is newspeak; a tool used to uphold human claims to ownership of what love is. Love is then determined to be anything the oppressor wants it to be.

Roger Scruton helps to brings this into clearer focus, noting the Communist practice of controlling language and meaning, under ‘the communist conviction that you could change reality by changing words […]The purpose of communist Newspeak, has been to protect ideology from the malicious attacks of real things.’ [iv]

For example, if the slogan “love is love” is taken to its logical end, aren’t the obscenely wealthy, or the national socialists justified in their love for money, nation or race, and to hell with the consequences?

If “love is love” justifies lifestyle choices, such as its promotion as a legitimate argument for same-sex marriage. Then doesn’t “love is love” justify servitude to a Führer, the State, and his/her ‘ism, and the reign of terror that often follows?

In light of this, aren’t “love is love” advocates, especially those who protest crony capitalists, who love their money, in the end just hypocrites selling something no one should ever want to buy?

Under this shadow, “love is love” is lordless, abstract, confused and empty. “Love is love” is a cover-up, and like all self-justification, “love is love” is proven to be a lie. [v] It cannot sustain a working definition of what love actually is.

The first cause of change in attitudes towards homosexuality and same-sex marriage is the erosion of heterosexual marriage. This erosion includes the downgrade, and dismissal of Biblical theology which asserts that God is love, and that under ‘the sovereignty of His love’, ‘woman is free for man, man is free for woman, and together both are free for God’. This comes by way of the covenant fulfilled in The Gospel, where, in His costly reconciling of humanity to Himself in Jesus Christ, God proves who and what love is.

“Love is love” is no substitute for this. It is no substitute for the One who was, and is, and is to come.

Maranatha.


References:

[i] Menninger, K. 1973. Whatever Became of Sin? Hawthorn Books Inc.

[ii] Barth, K.1942 CD II/II: The Election of Jesus Christ  Hendrickson Publishers p.178

[ii] ibid.

[iii] Barth, K. 1951 CD III.IV The doctrine of creation Hendrickson Publishers pp.170-180

[iv] Scruton, R. 2015. Fools, Frauds & Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left Bloomsbury Publishing, (p.8)

[v] Torrance, T.F. 2008. Incarnation: The Person & Life of Christ, IVP Academic

* I don’t doubt that there are sincere believers in the slogan, the evidence provided by James, however, suggests that such believers might be few and far between.

(Originally published on The Caldron Pool, 12th July, 2019)

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

The opening sentence of Jacques Ellul’s, ‘Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of their commonality’, reads, ‘For nearly a decade, French intellectuals, generally speaking, have been seized with an excessive affection for Islam.’ (p.3)

What follows is a ninety-four page treatise on the reasons for why this excessive affection is not only dangerous, but misguided. Ellul acknowledges the existence of a disproportionate tolerance of Islam. He then compares that to the disdain of how French intellectuals have been interacting with Judeo-Christianity (Biblical Christianity), since the 1960s’.

The reason for this excessive affection is due to Islam’s[1] proximity to Marxism (“scientific” socialism). Roger Scruton, not a novice on both subjects, states: ‘like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction, Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state.’[2] Scruton’s own analysis of Islam, and the West, implies that excessive affection for Islam is connected to how close many academics in the West, are to Marxism.

Commonality between Islamism and Marxism includes the downgrade of Jesus Christ. Under both Marxist and Islamist rule, the Church is eradicated and the State is made god[3].

American (first wave) Feminist and Political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain’s work on Just War theory points in the same direction. Elshtain noted that Quranic Islam ‘condemns all who disagree’.  Quranic Islam is also a ‘militant theocracy that insists there can be no distinction between civil law and the strict, fundamentalist Shari’a law, the ancient Islamic holy law.’[4]

In other worse, even with a distinction between the interpretations of Islamic holy law, Shari’a law (infallible and unchangeable) and Fiqh (fallible and changeable), within Islam, there still is no concept of a separation of Mosque and State. Nor is there any concept of Just War – restrained violence – there is only jihad (War against the unbeliever). Quranic Islam and Marxism both look to violence as the necessary means to an end – total conversion and compliance.

Like Marxism, Islam shows no real affection for Classical Liberalism. Nor do Islamists and Marxists show any genuine acknowledgement that the precious freedoms birthed and nurtured in the West, were born from, and under the Light the Church carries. Even if Christians sometimes have carried that Light awkwardly, or have, from time to time, dropped it entirely.

Although Marxists are happy to borrow from the Bible[5], and the Quran speaks about Jesus and Mary, both the Marxist and Islamist deny the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Marxism and Quranic Islam downgrade Christ’s uniqueness to that of a righteous prophet, or a sage, proletarian rebel.

Marxism and Islam also show complete contempt for Christianity. The reasoning for this usually involves citing the Crusades (without reference to Islamist militant expansionism , or Missionaries and Imperialism, (without reference to Missionaries helping the poor, or preserving the language of many tribal groups).

Differences between Islam and Marxism do exist. Such as, the Islamic practice of female genital mutilation, and the oppression of women[6]. These differences, however don’t appear to dissuade academics from their affection for Islam. What unifies them is stronger than what distinguishes them from each other. Contempt for Jews and Christians, unjust restrictive laws[7], cruel punishment of any opposition, jihad (war against the infidel) and oppression, are the primary means of achieving the goal of each respective utopian ideal.

It’s worth noting that the great and fallible, Winston Churchill, noted similarities between Quranic Islam and Socialism. In a passing comment he made known his view that there are certain parallels to the Quran and Mein Kampf. He called Hitler’s book, the ‘new Koran of faith and war; the granite pillars of Hitler’s policy included, use of the sword, the conversion of Germans into soldiers, anti-Semitism, fanaticism and hysterical passion.’[8]

This partially meets with the observation made by Scottish Theologian, T.F. Torrance:

‘I had been in Palestine, as it was then called, in 1936 when the Grand Mufti came back to Jerusalem from visiting Hitler and spread the terrible poison of anti-Semitism all over the Middle East.’[9]

Swiss, anti-Nazi theologian, Karl Barth’s famous refutation of natural theology, unpacked in tedious detail, within his Gifford Lectures in 1937 and 1938, was in large part a refutation of Nazism. His “nein” to natural theology[10] was built on a keen awareness of man and woman’s rebellion against God, when, like Narcissus, man and woman turn to their own image and build religion on the sand of human imagination, ideas and superstition. For Barth, there is no other revelation of God outside where God has already made Himself known. This meant that the führer could never be Our Father. Hitler was not, and could never be, a second revelation of God. The State could never be God. Deus Dixit: in Jesus Christ, God has already spoken!

This is primarily why Barth saw Quranic Islam as idolatry, stating that ‘the God of Mohammed is an idol like all other idols […]’[11]

It’s with this in mind that we see how Quranic Islam and Marxism are more aligned than we are taught to think. For the Marxist and the Islamist, the command of the state is equal to that of the Supreme Being.   There can be no denying that like Islamists, the Bolsheviks, and later the Soviets, converted by the ‘sword of the revolution for arbitrary use at the regime’s demand’[12].

Simone Weil, herself once an ardent Marxist, criticized Marxism for being

‘a badly constructed religion […]   Marx was an idolater; he idolised the Proletariat and considered himself to be their natural leader’ (p.151); Marx made oppression the central notion of his writings, but never attempted to analyse it.’[13]

Furthermore, György Lukács, the father of modern Marxism stated without reservation that “you cannot just sample Marxism […] you must be converted to it.”[14]

What lies at the heart of this excessive affection from academics for Islam is deconstructionism (or revisionism). Like romanticism, revisionism is essentially built on lies. It builds its own facts out of the very thing it just deconstructed. Facts are distorted and sometimes reversed. Revisionism calls that which is good, evil and that which is evil, good.

Deconstructionism inflicts violence on language through redefinition. It ends up policing speech, undermining reason and civil rights. It reduces all discourse to propaganda[15].  For example, the depraved “logic” of deconstructionism reverses a claim like “the Nazis oppressed the Jews,” showing instead that the Jew cooked in a Nazi oven was really the Nazis’ oppressor…”[16]

Jacques Ellul was no debutante to Marxism or Islam. Not a lot unlike Roger Scruton, Jacques Ellul was part of the early Leftist establishment. His critique of the excessive affection from academics for Islam, is in line with Karl Barth’s rejection of Natural theology.

Such excessive affection is tantamount to believing that the best way to overcome sin is to reject the concept of sin; to ignore it, and treat sin as if it never really existed. According to this view, you can’t be a sinner if sin doesn’t exist.

However, relabelling or denying sin doesn’t make sin disappear. All this does, is allow self-justification for sin. The same goes for the academic establishment’s treatment of Islam. Calling Islam a “religion of peace”, doesn’t make it so.

Quranic Islam and Marxism view violence as a primary means to reach their respective utopian ideals. With its totalitarian: “convert, pay a tax, or die”, Islamism has proven to be much the same as Marxism. This makes them both the ultimate tool for totalitarian oppression.

What seems to explain the excessive affection from academics for Islam is the affection academics have for Marxism. As I’ve said before, those who chose to entertain Marxism, big bureaucracy or crony capitalism, ride the backs of monsters. We have to be ready and willing to ask whether or not Islamism should be added to this list.

Ideology is a good servant, but a cruel task-master. We either submit Christ to Mohammad, or Mohammad to Christ. We either submit Christ to the State or the State and Church to Christ. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), and three’s a crowd.

If we give academics the benefit of the doubt we could conclude that such affection is simply just foolish romanticism.

It, however, isn’t that simple. The policing of speech, the increasing exclusion of conservatives and Christians from academia; the reckless labeling of opposing views as hate and bigotry; and the diagnosing of those who hold to scientific facts as phobic, all lead us to ask, whether such open affection isn’t just an innocent flirtation, but is in fact appeasement, or worse, a calculated naiveté and sinister wishful thinking, where Marxists use Islamists, and Islamists use Marxists for their own ends.

If the latter is true, it must be addressed. Non-critical thinking and appeasement gives Quranic Islam (and we could add the LGBT religion) the same free ride that it gave to Nazism and still does with Marxism. If we are not free to give gracious criticisms about Islamism and Marxism; if we are paralyzed by political correctness, we are dooming our children to fight a war that can still be avoided by honest intellectual engagement and open dialogue.

As David, W. Gill (retired Professor, President of the IJES, ethicist and theologian) noted,

Nothing is gained by cowardice and avoidance. All is lost by arrogance and accusation. As Paul writes, we must “speak truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) […]’  (p.vii)

Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi[17].


References:

[1] Islamism or Islamist Fundamentalism

[2] Sir Roger Scruton, 2002. The West & The Rest: Globalization & The Terrorist Threat, p.6

[3] See Alan Woods’ 2001 essay, Marxism & Religion, where Wood’s offers a dishonest account of Christian belief, but does talk about the atheism of Marxism. He also, rightly, condemns the oppression of women under in Islam. Sourced from Marxist.com 16th June 2019.

[4] Elshtain, B.J, 2003. Just War Theory: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, (p.3) Also see Elshtain’s discussion on Islamic Supremacism and anti-Semitism.

[5] See Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology, 1988.

[6] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2006. Infidel. Free Press

[7] Khan, Muqtedar M.A. 2006. Islamic Democratice Discourse: Theory, Debates, and Philosophical Perspectives, Lexington Books

[8] Churchill, W. 1948. The Gathering Storm Rosetta Books

[9] Torrance, T.G. 1994. P.C.T: The Gospel and scientific thinking (p.28).

[10] Natural theology ejects the need for the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ as the starting point of faith. Barth rejected such dependence because it rejected God’s own decisive action and humanity’s only anchor of hope for salvation. Barth saw this as the main reason for the ease at which even the discerning voter was sucked in by National Socialism.

[11] Barth, K. The Knowledge of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of the Reformation: Recalling the Scottish Confession of 1560 (Gifford Lectures 1937 & 1938) (p. 21). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers

[12] Service, R. 1997. A History of Twentieth Century Russia. Harvard University Press, 1998 (2nd Edition) p. 74

[13] Weil, S. 1955. Oppression and Liberty. 2001. Routledge Classics (p.154)

[14] Lukacs, G.  1971. Record of a Life, The Thetford Press Ltd. 1983 (p.62)

[15] Veith, Gene Edward. 1993. Citing Ward Parks,  Modern Fascism: Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview . Concordia Publishing House

[16] Ibid, 1993

[17] As we pray, so we believe, so we live.

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

(Originally published at The Caldron Pool, 17th June 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Dennis Prager’s interview with Jordan Peterson from March this year has it’s cringe worthy moments. All in all, though, it’s worth hearing. As you know I’m cautious about Peterson. I’d like to hear him be more direct about how faith informs his theological statements.

More often than anything else, Peterson focus’ on the humanity of Christ and comes across as a curious spectator. He sees that there’s more to Jesus Christ, but is bound by the conventions of thought inherited through a revisionist system that is at best, begrudgingly tolerant of Biblical Christianity (Judeo-Christianity), and is at its worst, completely hateful of Biblical Christianity and anything related to it. This is understandable given that Peterson’s academic history and that his field is psychology. The concern is that he skirts around the incarnation of Christ, and more dangerously seems to flirt with an abstract notion of it.

Continue to pray for him. The interview is as close as I’ve heard him get to any acknowledgement of Jesus Christ’s divinity, re: the incarnation of the Word of God. Among others, one accurate takeaway point can be summarised as this: if we cannot understand the shadows of creation, we will fail to appreciate the light. This partially echoes some of Karl Barth’s discussion in CD 3:3 on how sin and nothingness are not part of the shadows of creation, but are an ‘alien element’ that manipulates the shadows in it’s opposition to creation as a whole.

The separation between Church and State is not a divide between secular and sacred. Nor is this separation a divide between public and private. Church and State are spheres of authority within the structure of good government. Simply put: one wields the sword, the other the truth of the Gospel. As such the Gospel balances out the ideology behind who gets to yield the sword, when, why and how.

This is why every totalitarian state either twists theology or purges Christians and the Christian faith[1]. They need to suppress God’s moral standard for His creatures, in order to justify their arbitrary use of the sword in bringing about a perpetual revolution until the “utopia” of the proletarian dictatorship is achieved.

Ergo, within the parameters of good government the Church restrains the state, and sets an example of God’s divine world-governance (Providence). For example: rules of engagement like “fire only when fired upon“, is an outworking of just war theory.

It is restrained violence governed; it is restrained violence judged and measured by the Gospel. We cannot understand, or even reform the primarily Western ideal of the separation of Church and State, without understanding the theology behind it.

With the neglect of history, and malady of theological illiteracy that is so dominate in Western life, it’s no wonder that this unique concept, which is built on biblical Christianity (Judeo-Christianity), is widely misunderstood.

Believing in a false divide between secular and sacred, the majority of the German Church, in both World Wars, surrendered their voice and role to that of the State. Faith was a private affair, something for Sundays, not something relevant to every day in between. In World War One, along with 92 other intellectuals, theologian and historian, Adolf Von Harnack, who partly wrote the Kaiser’s speech announcing war, signed on to the State’s arrogant belligerence.

This unquestioning moral defense for engaging in the march to war compromised the separation between the Gospel and the sword; Church and State. Instead of the Church calling for restraint, it sought to give the State moral credibility for the slaughter and suffering of millions.

The same can be said for the German church in World War Two. After the disaster of WW1, the church underwent a process of introspection, lament and reform. It sought to get ‘back to basics; a rediscovery of the Bible, a reminder of the Reformers protest against corruption of the Church and the over-reach of the state.’[2]

Karl Barth’s diagnosis was that Western Civilization, not just Germany, had

‘failed to confront National Socialism firmly because the realization of the Christian revelation among the civilized people of the West had become dim. Men did not see the inherent atheism of the Hitlerian system. Hence, they could not see the robber state from the legitimate state, the democratic from the dictatorship.’[3]

Faith in Western culture was not enough to stop the blitzkrieg before its bombs began to fall, and its gas chambers, masked as welfare units, began to mass execute European Jews and political opponents. Appeasement failed, as Winston Churchill had warned it would. The lapse of, and apathetic faith, in Christian revelation allowed the State to use the Church as its mouthpiece.

Western civilization without Christian revelation; in other words, the State without the genuine Church, is a State without restraint. Ideology is restrained by genuine theological critique. This is the Gospel’s “yes” and “no”. Without the genuine Church being free to live and proclaim its mandate to love God and love others – without the genuine Church being free to proclaim the Gospel as it has been spoken to, Western Civilization will fall to the tyrannical gods that take its place.

Hannah Arendt, one of the most prominent Agnostic thinkers of the 20th century, revised her definition of the Nazis from ‘radical evil’ down to the ‘banality of evil’, because she was ‘aiming at stripping the Nazis of their god-like standing, taking from them the power to draw us to them as if they, and their storm troopers in gleaming black boots, had poured forth from the perils of hell itself.’[4]

Arendt understood the perils of a compromised separation between the Gospel and the sword; Church and State. Though it was worshipped as a god, the Nazi state was not God. Nazism serves as a prime example of the fact, highlighted by Karl Barth, that Western Civilization, without Jesus Christ, or with a watered down version of Him, is far from civilized.

Add to this the horrendous history of Communism and we can say, with confidence, that the world has been well warned of the catastrophe, should these States who attempted to ditch Jesus Christ, be allowed to manifest themselves again.

The separation of Church and State is a founding principle of Western civilization. This separation isn’t about two competing entities. The separation serves God’s divine world-governance. The principle is a continuous challenge to the concept of the “divine right of kings”, and is as equally challenging to any twisted theology that promotes the idea of the “divine right of the State”.

The Churches’ proclamation of the Gospel restrains the State from abusing its power. This counterpoise to the power of the State, stops the State from operating with what Albert Camus called, an ‘unchecked will-to-power, where men become either a victim or an executioner, [a dehumanized number], within a [machine] cult of efficacy’.[5] In other words, the State, counterpoised by the Church, does not get to arbitrarily position itself as God, and determine the quality and worth of human life.

One only has to look at World War One, Communism, Nazism, The Vietnam War[6], Islamic State, and the tragedy of child sex abuse in the institutional church, to understand that the State without the Church is as tyrannical, as the Church who has forgotten, or watered down Jesus Christ.

In a subtle criticism of all forms of Socialism, Karl Barth noted two dangers:

first, ‘bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind. Second, the limits of all planning and philanthropy, but also all doctrine and instruction’[7], is that we lose sight of the individual created in the image of God. We lose our humanity in worship of efficacy and its assumed “benefit” for the collective.

Abortion and Euthanasia (by stealth) is no less part of this dehumanizing mechanization. An old family friend recently reminded me of how her husband tragically became a victim of this denial of the Gospel’s critique of the State. The health care system failed their family because it favoured the cold clinical ‘cult of efficacy’ and its mechanization of humanity, over against individual care; loving God and others, as we love ourselves.

Many of those who are quick to point out dehumanizing rhetoric are also likely to advocate the dehumanizing practices. Abortion and euthanasia are both part of Nazi eugenics laws. The doctrine, ‘life unworthy of life’ gave the National Socialists unilateral power to determine the quality and value of human life. Humanity was resigned to a number in a mechanized system under the ‘cult of efficacy’. These are the dangers of the State without the Gospel.

The Gospel impacts the State. The historical and present nearness of Jesus Christ categorically denies any State’s violent claim to implement a super-race. From this impact we learn that it is the ‘vulnerable who teach the rest of us what it means to be human’ (Jean Vanier)[8].

The voice and presence of the vulnerable mirror our own humanity. The vulnerable remind us not only of our own human limitations, but that where there is breath there is hope. Not just for the vulnerable, but for the humanity as a whole. As a result, biblical Christian doctrine opposes all pride, right down to Nietzsche’s “ubermench” and the Ayn Rand inspired, “greed is good”.

The Gospel transforms. The Churches’ critique of the State condemns the mechanization of humanity. The Church can do this, because the Church itself is critiqued by its own proclamation of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, the Word of God, freely spoken to humanity in time and space. This critique is God’s voice of freedom, grounded solely in His sovereignty. This critique births within us a renewing of the mind which acknowledges that conformity to the World’ is slavery, not salvation.

This is affirmed by Jesus with these words:

‘For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.’ (John 3:19-21, ESV)

Stopping Western Civilization from joining the dust of its forebears begins with reacquainting people with the Gospel and Civics; a proper understanding of the separation of the Church and State as one of the founding principles of Western civilization.

This separation is about good government dependent on God, not the government becoming a god. The separation of powers is not a divide between secular or sacred, public or private. As though God’s grace and commands only apply to the inner life, not in our deeds.

The separation between Church and State does not create two competing entities. The Gospel impacts the State, restraining the State from abusing its power.

The Gospel isn’t based on a subjective conscience, or consciousness. The Gospel is good news, and objective Word from God spoken to humanity in time and space.

The separation of Church and State is not between the State and Christ. Jesus Christ still has a relationship with the State, as Lord over both it and the Church. Any such forced ejection of Christ from the State is the rejection of God’s grace towards humanity.

Such a rejection creates a void which is filled by nihilism (no morality), false prophets, and superstition. This is what Jordan Peterson has penned the ‘displacement of the Logos from Western Civilization’.

Faith in Western Civilization is not enough. Just as faith in the Logos (Word; Jesus Christ; the Gospel) was central to moral revolution that saw the rise of Western civilization, the dislocation of the Logos (Jesus Christ) from Western civilization will be its downfall.

The 20th century warns us of the perils of this displacement. The State forcing theology into the service of its ideology leads to bloodshed and suffering on an industrial scale, for in ‘hating the light, they brought death upon themselves’[9].

Therefore understanding and upholding the important role of the Churches’ critique of the State, in its proclamation of the Gospel to the State, not as its patron, but its conscience, is the only sure refuge; all else fails by comparison.

Tolstoy’s indictment fits what the State without the Church looks like:

“Bereft of [that] religion [which establishes the relation of man to the All, to God], men possessing enormous power over the forces of nature are like children to whom powder or explosive gas has been given as a plaything.” (Bethink Yourselves!, 1904)

In sum, know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace.


References:

[1] Jean Bethke Elshtain, 2008. Sovereignty: God, State, and Self, Basic Books

[2] Karl Barth, 1942. The Church & The War, The Macmillan Company (p.2)

[3] Ibid, 1942, p.5

[4] Ibid, 1995, p.75

[5] Jean Bethke Elshtain, 1995. Augustine & the Limits of Power, Notre Dame Press (p.71)

[6] J.William Fullbright (Dem.), 1966. The Arrogance of Power, Random House

[7] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics,  3:2 p.252

[8] Jean Vanier, ‘Why The Strong Need the Weak: J.V at the House of Lords’, 30th January 2015. Sourced from Youtube, Together for the Common Good 2nd June 2019

[9] Augustine citing Virgil, City of God, Penguin Classics, (p.29)

Photo by Ken Theimer on Unsplash

(Originally published on The Caldron Pool, under ‘The Separation of Church & State: What it is & What it’s Not‘ 3rd June 2019.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Last month I was a guest on an Ever Vigilant podcast. Joe Prim and I discussed the importance of political theology in regards to Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the historical parallels relevant to us today.

Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are well positioned to be our guide now, and through a very real darkness, should that darkness engulf Western Civilisation entirely.

Links to said podcast:

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