Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Importance of the Epistle to the Hebrews

The following paragraphs were adapted from the last of six lessons I recently completed for my parish's Sunday School:

I chose Hebrews for this study because I believe it is the most important book in the NT. For me, it is the key to interpreting the Person and Work of our Savior as found in the Gospels. The Gospels are chronological histories of Jesus’ life on earth. When taking them at face value, it is easy to be lulled into the impression they are just stories about Jesus’ miracles and records of his parables and sayings cobbled haphazardly together. Until we get to Hebrews, we don’t really know that Jesus is the ultimate Priest as well as the perfect Sacrifice. We don’t really know he is a Priest as well as a King in Heaven, or that these offices are combined in the single inheritance he rightfully received as the only begotten Son of God.[1]

The Epistle’s Place in the NT

Along with the Gospels, Hebrews stands as the Christological[2] foundation of the NT. The great epistles that expound the doctrine of Justification (Romans, Galatians and Ephesians) all presuppose the past, present and on-going mediatorial work of the Son. The other epistles, excepting perhaps I John, are all primarily devoted to pastoral or other secondary matters. Acts is, of course, a history of the early Church, a history of the activity of the Holy Spirit sent forth from Christ’s heavenly throne. Revelation is a series of visions of the liturgy of Heaven, of royal judgments and priestly intercessions. Hebrews forms a bridge between the Gospels and Revelation by moving us from cross to throne, from altar to sanctuary, from sacrifice to blessing, and from suffering to glory. It accomplishes this by explaining the logic behind Jesus' filial obedience, humiliation, and subsequent exaltation as the glorified Christ.

The Themes of Hebrews

Furthermore, Hebrews provides the key for understanding how the Christian interpretation of the OT works. The Gospels give many examples of fulfilled prophecy, but Hebrews combines many OT passages together to show not only that but how Jesus fulfills the whole OT history: which includes but is not limited to the sonship of Adam[3], the sonship of Israel (Israel was God’s chosen “son”)[4], the royal sonship of David[5], the Sabbath[6], the ancient priesthoods[7], the covenants[8], the sacrifices[9], and the faith of all preceding generations[10]. Hebrews contains the interpretive key to unlocking all Scripture’s mysteries.

A Spiritual Journey

Finally, to read Hebrews as it is meant to be read is to embark on a spiritual journey, an encounter with God's living word. This journey begins when we realize Jesus is the complete and final revelation of God’s word and the ultimate meaning behind creation (vv. 1:1-2, 10-12). With this understanding we are prepared to perceive the divine Son at the center of God’s Heaven, attended and served by angelic beings (vv. 1:5-2:9). We see also that he shares our human nature with us in order to be a merciful and faithful High Priest on our behalf (1:10-18).

As God’s faithful and obedient Son, Jesus acquired the Sabbath inheritance, the final rest that even such saints as Moses and Joshua were unable to achieve, since they had been mere servants (3:1-4:10). At 4:11ff., the epistle encourages us to “strive to enter the rest” by passing through the double-edged sword (the word of God) that guards the way to Paradise. For, as it says earlier, “those who believe are in the process of entering the rest.”[11]

In the Anglican communion liturgy (1662) after the Absolution and Comfortable Words and before the Proper Preface, we recite the Sursum Corda: “Lift up your hearts! We lift them up to the Lord!” By faith, we ascend to join the angels and archangels to “laud and magnify” the glorious Name. And then, all the prayers are offered to prepare and sanctify the elements of the Eucharistic feast. Spiritually, we are in the heavenly Temple eating the meat of the sacrifices as the priests did long ago in Solomon’s Temple and in Moses’ Tabernacle before that.

Our great High Priest, Jesus, is with us. As Priest after the order of Melchizedek, his priesthood is founded on better promises (than the Levitical order)[12], confirmed with a divine oath[13], and perpetuated in a single immortal life.[14] This new Royal High Priesthood entails a change of covenant (or law), the establishment of the better covenant anticipated by the prophets, the New Covenant.[15] After Jesus offered his all-sufficient and unrepeatable sacrifice, he entered the true Tabernacle of which the earthly Tabernacle was a copy.[16] By contemplating Jesus’ priestly ministry we come to the true meaning of sacrifice. We learn that the Lord is not interested in the blood of bulls and goats, but in faithful obedience to his will. This is the obedience that Christ rendered—complete obedience unto death.[17] In reading the epistle we come to the understanding that the obedience of faith (final perseverance) is required of his followers also.[18] It is only by pursuing the path of faith (for without it, it is impossible to please God[19]) that we will be able to take our place among the cloud of witnesses surrounding the throne of God.

The Epistle to the Hebrews presents a magnificent vision of the divine-human Son and the liturgy of Heaven of which he is the center, exhorting us to press on in faith and obedience in order that we too may inherit the blessing appointed for God's sons.

[1] Cf. Zech. 6:12-13.
[2] I.e., pertaining to the doctrine of Christ
[3] 1:3; 2:5-18; cf. Gen. 1:26; Lk. 3:23-38.
[4] 3:1-5; cf. Ex. 4:21-23, Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15.
[5] 1:5; cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 2:7ff.
[6] 3:7-4:16.
[7] 5:1-10; 7:1-28.
[8] 7:12; 8:6-13; 9:15-17.
[9] 9:23-10:18.
[10] 2:13; 3:6; 5:7; 10:5-9; 12:2.
[11] 4:3.
[12] 6:13-18.
[13] 7:20-22.
[14] 7:23-25.
[15] 7:12; 8:6-13; 9:15-17; cf. Jer. 31:31-37; Ezek. 11:17-20; 36:23-38; 37:21-28.
[16] 10:14-18; 8:2,5; 9:23-25.
[17] 10:5-9; cf. Phil. 2:5-8.
[18] 6:11-12; 10:35-39; 11:6; 12:3-17.
[19] 11:6.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Employer and Employee" a Perversion of Natural Society

Tribunus at Roman Christendom had this to say:

Just as the Father serves so does a Christian father and, indeed, a Christian king or master.

Indeed, the relationship between the Father and the Son and between God and His people is the model for the relationship between every master and every servant.

The Christian master is a father to his servant. They obey him and he protects and cares for them. Their bond is a bond of mutual charity, loyalty and fidelity. It is a quasi-familial, paternal relationship, just as the relationship of priest and people is a paternal relationship.

Such was the model of the master-servant relationship that obtained in old Christendom. Think of good King St Wenceslaus fetching food for the poor and warming the feet of his servant or of King St Louis of France or of any of the saintly kings of Christendom.

Nowadays, this relationship - based upon the divine - is mocked, derided and scorned to ridicule and falsely caricatured as a relationship of exploitation, venal peculation and cruelty by the master and of craven, stupid subserviance on the part of the servant.

What a shameless lie!

This, indeed, is what the relationship became when it ceased to be based upon the divine charity and instead became the pedestrian, mundane and loveless relationship of "employer" and employee".

No longer was the relationship familial but merely a cold, sordid relationship of money, exchange, trade and mutual exploitation...

Read the rest of this hard-hitting post which also features many great pictures. I think Tribunus' post should be made into a tract for widespread distribution!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quote of the Day: Loyalty

"If loyalty is treated as a personal taste or a means to an end, which is what count as rational motivation in political modernity, it’s just not loyalty."

-Jim Kalb

Who Should be King of the U.S.?

The monarch should be American. However, there ought to be continuity with our original (British) sovereign, if possible. Therefore, here are two suggestions:

a) the American nearest in blood relation to the House of Hanover. This option has the dual benefit of having one of our own and repairing the breach of the past. Also, such a person might be an "average Joe" who happened to win the lottery of life by merely being related to the Hanovers. This might appeal to the American preference for the long-shot, the under-dog, and the "big chance."

b) a prominent and distinguished American male who will marry the most eligible princess from the houses of either Hanover or Windsor, for the good of the country. (I'd be happy to oblige if absolutely necessary. ;)) Seriously, though, this option has the dual benefit of providing an excellent individual most capable of achieving success and establishing a tie with existing royals.

The "chosen one" (not Obama) needs to be a Christian committed to his religion, Judeo-Christian ethics, classical western virtues, and traditional American liberties rightly construed (freedom of religion, equality before the law, representative government, free markets, etc.).

Finally, there should be a state church that solemnizes official government assemblies in a standard way. The king should be a member of this church and have a function in it appropriate to his national responsibilities. The currently emerging American Anglican Province would be my choice.

What do ya'll think?

Friday, November 07, 2008

From a letter to a dispensationalist friend

Dear _____,

I think it's great your pastor is taking you through the different end-times views. It shows a mature approach that is willing to open the scripture and allow other believers to challenge us with insights they may have that we never thought of. Basically, my rejection of dispensationalism can be reduced to three main objections:

1) With the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there can no longer be animal sacrifices. Furthermore, the whole levitical priesthood and ministry has been replaced by Christ's priesthood and ministry (see Heb. 7-10). Therefore, there can never be a revival of the OT system during a future millennium.

2) Jews and Gentiles have been brought into "one new man", which is the Church or the Body of Christ, through Christ's work of redemption. There is now no more enmity between the two (see Eph. 2:11-22). Therefore, the dispensationalists wrongly teach that there are still (or can ever be again) two peoples of God. Only a reversal of Christ's cross-work could make such a situation thinkable.

3) No matter how many "dispensations" different dispensational writers think there are, the pre-determined pattern is always the same: man is given responsibility, he fails, and judgment must inevitably follow. However, Jesus Christ did not fail. He broke the cycle of human failure and made possible true obedience. This is the promise of the new covenant (Jer. 31 and other passages), that God will pour out his Spirit and give his people hearts of flesh so they will be empowered to render obedience to him. Contrary to Scripture, dispensationalists teach that the new covenant has not been established (Matt. 26:28) and that the gates of hell do in fact prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18)!

Now, I don't know the future. Sin will always be a fact of the human condition until Christ returns. However, it is a lack of faith that says the conversion of culture is impossible. It is also unhistorical. We have already had over a 1000 years of Christendom. The "Dark Ages" is simply propaganda devised by Enlightenment historians. During that period, western Europe outpaced all other civilizations in cultural, scientific, moral, and spiritual development. The problem was, as I see it, that we had so much success that later generations took it for granted and forgot Who's blessing made it all possible. So the last 200 years or so of apostasy, and the last 100 years of the worst bloodshed in human history, may be bringing us back to the realization that the nations must repent if they expect to prosper with God's blessing (Ps.2).

I am hopeful but not certain of what the future may bring. From the human perspective, we must strive to obedient to God's word regardless of the outcome. This means that society as a whole, and not just individuals, are obliged to bow the knee to Jesus, who has been enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords (Phil. 2:8-11).

One last thought, _____. There is no biblical promise anywhere that Christians will avoid suffering in this world. In fact, we have been told to expect persecution. As far as the judgments that God will pour out on the world, the Israelites were not raptured out of Egypt during the plague judgments. God was able to preserve his people while visiting wrath upon the Egyptians. Similarly, the rapture is not a necessary prerequisite for the Great Tribulation to occur. Of course, I do not deny the future resurrection; I merely differ with my dispensational brethren on the proper sequential arrangment of events. Much more serious are the differences I've outlined [above].

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Synergy of Grace and Congruent Merit

It is… necessary to establish all virtues, not only chastity and temperance, but also patience, gentleness, charity, humility, and all others. This is not effected in one particular way but in many ways, which differ according to individual disposition. It is sometimes fostered by prayer, meditation, and good works, while a person may sometimes prove himself by enduring hunger, cold, shame, disgrace, and other troubles for love of virtue and truth…

One reason for this fact may be that our Lord Jesus Himself is the supreme Master of this craft and the supreme healer of spiritual sickness, without whom we can do nothing. It is therefore reasonable to require that a man should follow and practice what He teaches and inspires. But a master who can only teach his pupil one lesson has little knowledge to impart, and a doctor who prescribes one medicine for all ailments has little learning. So our Lord Jesus, who is wise and good, reveals His wisdom and goodness to His disciples in different ways, and gives to each soul the particular remedy best suited to its need. A further reason is that if there were one particular way by which a person might come to the perfect love of God, a man might imagine that he could attain it by his own efforts, in the same way that a merchant makes his profit by his own effort. But the love of God cannot be attained in this way, for one who wishes to serve God wisely and love him perfectly must desire God as his sole reward.

But no creature can deserve to possess God through its own unaided efforts, for even if the physical and spiritual exertions of a single man were to equal those of all creation, he would not on that account deserve God as his reward. For God is supreme bliss and infinite goodness, and immeasurably transcends everything that mankind can merit, so that He cannot be won by man’s own efforts, like some material reward.

God is free, and gives Himself to whom He wills and when He wills, and not for any particular achievement or at any particular time. For though a person may do his utmost throughout his life, he can never attain the perfect love of Jesus until the Lord Jesus Himself freely gives it. On the other hand, He gives this love only to those who exert themselves to the utmost, and would do even more if they could.

It seems clear, then, that neither grace alone without full support from the soul, nor a soul’s individual efforts unsupported by grace, can bring it to reformation in feeling—a reformation grounded in perfect love and charity.

But God’s grace allied to man’s efforts fosters the blessed fervor of perfect love in a soul, a grace only granted in its fullness to a soul that is truly humble, and stands in awe of God.

Consequently one who is not humble and zealous cannot attain this reformation in feeling, since one who is not completely humble cannot see himself as he is. For instance, he may do all the good deeds that he can, and he may fast, watch, wear a hair shirt, and practice all kinds of bodily penance; he may perform all the outward works of mercy for his neighbor, or all the inward duties of prayer, contrition, and meditation; but if he rests content with these and relies on them, regarding them so highly that he presumes on his own merits and thinks himself good, gracious, holy, and virtuous, he still lacks humility. Even though he says and thinks that all that he does is due to God’s grace and not to himself, he still lacks humility, because he will not yet renounce all credit for his good deeds, nor make himself truly poor in spirit and know himself to be nothing. And until grace enables a soul to recognize its own nothingness, and, having seen the truth in Jesus, to drop all pretence of personal merit for its good actions, it is not perfectly humble.

What is humility but truthfulness? There is no real difference. For grace enables a humble soul to see that Jesus does everything, and that the soul itself does nothing but allow Jesus to work through it as He wills. But one who is guided solely by human reason and is unaware of any alternative form of guidance finds it very hard—indeed, almost impossible and unreasonable—to do good actions and then to ascribe all merit for them to Jesus and discount his own part. Nevertheless, one who has a spiritual perception of truth knows this to be wholly true and completely reasonable. Indeed, anyone having this perception will never do less good on this account, but will be spurred to a greater and wholehearted activity, both in body and soul. This may be one reason why some people strain and torture their unhappy bodies with harsh penance all their lives, and are constantly reciting prayers, psalms, and other devotions, but never come to feel the love of God in their souls, while others seem to do so in a short time and with less strain. The reason is that the former lack this humility of which I speak.

On the other hand, a person who takes no action at all cannot experience this grace. The idle man thinks to himself, ‘Why should I bother? Why should I pray or meditate, watch or fast? Why should I undertake bodily penance in order to win this grace when it cannot be obtained except by the free gift of grace? I shall continue as I am, a man of the world, and I shall not adopt any of these bodily or spiritual exercises until God gives it. For if He is willing to give it, He does not require me to do anything; and however much or little I do, He will give it me. And if He does not will to give it, I shall never obtain it however hard I try.’

But anyone who adopts this attitude can never be fully reformed, because he deliberately chooses worldly idleness, and renders himself incapable of receiving the gift of grace. He refuses to rouse himself either spiritually to a lasting desire and longing for Jesus, or physically to perform his exterior duties. So he cannot receive this grace.

Therefore one who has no real humility and will not bestir himself either inwardly alone, through deep fervour, lasting desire, and regular prayer and meditation, or else through both inward and outward activities, cannot be spiritually reformed to the likeness of God.

-Walter Hilton, The Ladder of Perfection, ii.21, (Late 14th century spiritual teacher)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Broad Way of Destruction Contrasted with the Narrow Way Leading to Life

"The herdist instinct is furthermore not only personal, in the sense that it clamors for a personal collectivism; it creates also a longing and desire for the visual or acoustic contemplation of identitarian or uniformistic phenomena. The true herdist, the man truly dominated by that inferior instinct, will not only rejoice in marching amongst twenty thousand uniformly clad soldiers, all stepping rhythmically in one direction, but he will find an almost equal gratification in contemplating the show from a balcony. He will not only be happy in sitting amidst two hundred other bespectacled businessmen, drinking beer and humming one chant in unison, but the aspect of a skyscraper with a thousand identical windows will probably impress him more than a picture by Botticelli or Zurbarán.

"The herdist is the born enemy of all personal hierarchies as well as of most hierarchies of value. The modern political philosophies and the Industrial Revolution have strengthened the herdist element in all civilized countries; a Parteitag in Nuremberg, the beach of Brighton during a bank holiday, a military parade on the Red Square in Moscow or a subway train during the rush hours in New York afford voluntary or involuntary manifestations of the herdist spirit or the herdist order of our days. It is needless to emphasize that the herdist is a convinced egalitarian, that he has an inveterate suspicion regarding everything original or unique, a hatred for everything beyond his comprehension, a hostile uneasiness for things which are "low" or organically natural. The peasant with his strong personality is no less a target for his contempt and scorn than the "stuffed shirt," the "high-hatted" aristocrat, or the "high-brow" intellectual.

"The ideal dwelling place for the herdist is the city, the megalopolis with its apartment houses, clubs, cinemas, theaters, offices, factories, and restaurants. Here the herdist has ample opportunity to live the life of the masses, to lead an impersonal and lonely existence in a truly dehumanized ant heap, to love and like nobody but himself and perhaps those similar to him.

"This loneliness, this solitude amongst the many, is usually not even mitigated by an awareness of the presence of God. The herdist who tends in the political sphere to be a Leftist — i.e., a national or an international collectivist — feels little attracted by the idea of God's existence who after all is "different" and represents the top of the pyramid of a hierarchic system which the herdist, disbelieving in souls, is unable to accept. The herdist is truly the homme mediocre whom Ernest Hello has described so aptly; he is simply forced to stand for mediocrity because it has as the "medium" (the "fifty-fifty"), the best chance to become the rallying point and the focus for the mass movement, the mass sentiment, or the mass norm...

"The great achievements — sanctity, heroism, holy wisdom, the beatific vision — are not eagerly sought for by the herdist who like the beasts of the field longs to be a "secure" animal (to use an expression of Peter Wust) instead of being proud to remain an "insecure" animal, which man is by nature and in the order of things. Hostile to adventure, which after all was one of the great magnetic powers of the Middle Ages, the herdist moves cautiously in the broad stream of the mediocre masses avoiding all extremes except those in a frenzied mass hysteria. Yet Christianity is an extreme. The yoke of Christ is not a lesser menace to his meager and miserable personality than the iron postulates of the Cross...

["Irving Babbitt in his Rousseau and Romanticism speaks of the high inner qualities of imitation. Yet he speaks distinctly of the imitation of "superiors" (the Imitatio Christi, for instance) and not of the imitation of "equals," which alone fosters the coming into existence of the uniform herd.]

"...of the same Cross which is a flat denial of his shining rule of the "fiftyfifty," and disturbing to all his cautious calculations and plannings. Only the select can be closely confronted with the Absolute without takingflight. Only the saints, but not the "commonsensical" herd, can and will surrender to the "Holy Folly of the Cross." For this reason we have such hatred on the part of the mediocre man, who hates any sort of hierarchy, whether of the saints or of sanctity itself. Sanctity is not only an extraordinary condition but also an adventure. And adventure belongs to the domain of the "Romantic." Adventure is a solitary enterprise, like sanctity, and therefore not congenial to the herd and the herdist."

-Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd (1943), pp. 16-19.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"All Truth is God's Truth" & Catholic Tradition

The notion of a yawning, unbridgeable, antithetical chasm between all things non-Christian and all things Christian is a serious exaggeration of the truth. On the other hand, the idea that even after the Fall man’s rational powers remain able to discern, explain, and preserve really substantial outlines of truth such that perhaps only by changing a few words and phrases Plato or Aristotle might be thought of as Christians-in-disguise is a serious exaggeration of the truth. Yet, like all great myths, both of these exaggerations have a kergyma of the truth buried deep inside. The pessimistic antithesis idea retains the truth that whatever prisca theologia might actually exist, it always has to be subject to ongoing dialogue with and correction by the final theology, the revelation of God in Christ. The optimistic continuity idea retains the truth that at the end of the day God’s creation does actually reveal something and men are actually able to understand it in more than a trivial manner.

(From Tim Enloe's excellent post "Prisca Theologia and Pia Philosophia" at Evangelical Catholicity, emphasis added.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Not All Sins are Equal

ORIGINAL SIN. We therefore acknowledge that there is original sin in all men.

ACTUAL SINS. We acknowledge that all other sins which arise from it are called and truly are sins, no matter by what name they may be called, whether mortal, venial or that which is said to be the sin against the Holy Spirit which is never forgiven (Mark 3:29; I John 5:16). We also confess that sins are not equal; although they arise from the same fountain of corruption and unbelief, some are more serious than others. As the Lord said, it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for the city that rejects the word of the Gospel (Matt. 10:14 f.; 11:20 ff.).

THE SECTS. We therefore condemn all who have taught contrary to this, especially Pelagius and all Pelagians, together with the Jovinians who, with the Stoics, regard all sins as equal. In this whole matter we agree with St. Augustine who derived and defended his view from Holy Scriptures. Moreover, we condemn Florinus and Blastus, against whom Irenaeus wrote, and all who make God the author of sin.

-from The Second Helvetic Confession (1564), Chapter 8

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jim Kalb has a new book

Interview with James Kalb, author of
The Tyranny of Liberalism

What's this book about?

Liberalism and what to do about it.

What's the message?

Liberalism has won overwhelmingly. It dominates all public discussion and all respectable institutions. Rejecting liberalism today is rejecting what counts as rationality and moral decency. There seems to be no place else to go. That means that conservatism has no idea what it is or what to do. It also means that liberalism—which is basically oppositional—has run through its possibilities.

Sounds a bit like the end of history. What's the problem?

The problem is that liberalism taken straight doesn't work and destroys what does work. It's not possible to maintain social order if you make freedom and equality the highest principles. Their demands increase without limit and they wipe out other things that are needed for a tolerable or even minimally functional way of life. The more dominant liberalism becomes the less possible it is to mitigate the consequences of its basic contradictions. The only serious political question today is how to get beyond it. We all have to rethink, and this book is intended to advance the process.

What do you mean by liberalism? Conservatism?

Liberalism is the belief that equal satisfaction of preferences is the highest social good, and the purpose of politics and morality is converting the world into a sort of machine that brings about that good. Conservatism is resistance to that view for the sake of other goods traditionally recognized:—God, country, family, traditional social relations and morality. Modern thought has no good way to make sense of those goods so insisting on them has come to seem irrational, obstinate, retrograde, and probably malicious.

If liberalism goes, what replaces it?

Recognition that government can't be based directly on clear concepts that apply always and everywhere. Acceptance that people differ in ways that matter and choices must be made. Recognition that some particular understanding of the nature of man and the good life is basic to every social and political order.

And that means ...

Recognition that choices must be made means abandonment of freedom and equality as supreme principles. Acceptance of diversity means decentralization, local initiatives, and fewer attempts to do away with discrimination. Downplaying clear universal concepts means reliance on prudence, established practice, particular negotiated settlements, and general principles we don't fully grasp. And recognition that government is always based on a particular concept of the good means recognizing that government can't be neutral on basic moral and religious issues.

So you reject freedom, equality and tolerance?

No. They're often very good things. Where they work and people like them people should have them. The point is that they can't be supreme principles. Freedom only makes sense, for example, when you know what it's for. That requires some idea of what's good in human life.

How about justice and reason?

Justice and reason aren't found pure. They always have a setting. If you try to make them abstract and content-free, so they're equally acceptable to everyone no matter what his outlook and way of life, they go mad. We need tradition to know what things are and what they mean, so that we can reason about them and deal with them justly.

What's special about this book?

It ignores partisan disputes and deals with basic issues like tradition and scientism and the nature of knowledge and reason. It takes liberalism seriously and asks what it is, why it's so powerful, and what's really wrong with it. And it's willing to reject liberal pieties fundamentally.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bible 101: Proportional Justice in the Afterlife

This blog entry is written out of exasperation with the general state of Bible knowledge among Christians who ought to know better.

On punishment:

Luke 12:47-48: "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows."

Matthew 11:21-24: "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

On reward:

Matthew 5:17-19: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the LAW or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Luke 19:11-26: "While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: 'A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'

"But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'

"'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'

"The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.'

"His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'

"His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.'

"'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!'

"He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."

1 Corinthians 3:10-15: "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

Gradations of reward and punishment are clearly taught by our Lord and the Apostle Paul. Such gradations also make sense according to reason: God would be unjust to punish a garden-variety sinner the same as someone who tortured babies. This is simple, simple stuff, yet so many people, for whatever reason, can't seem to grasp the basic concept of proportional justice.

People were saved under the Old Covenant the same way they are now, through justification by faith. Justification by faith must not be construed to contradict the biblical teaching of the necessity of works and proportional justice. If a teacher of Christianity presumes to subvert these clear biblical truths, he is a false teacher.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For Fun: A Message from the Queen!!!

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour', 'favour', 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise'. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as 'like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let M*crosoft know on your behalf. The M*crosoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then, you're not ready to shoot grouse.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables.

Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

11. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

12. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try rugby - the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

13. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

16. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Perils of Superpowerdom

America wants to keep Russia isolated by supporting Ukrainian and Georgian autonomy. If Russian power can be hemmed in by converting former Soviet republics into client states of the U.S. under the aegis of NATO, Russia's ability to exert influence over Europe through manipulation of natural gas and oil supplies will be greatly diminished. Russia isn't going to just let that happen. Now there's war in Georgia. Read about it here. Keep your eye on the ball!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Possibly the most important piece you'll read on Solzhenitsyn this week:

Solzhenitsyn and the Struggle for Russia's Soul

by George Friedman

"There are many people who write history. There are very few who make history through their writings. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died this week at the age of 89, was one of them. In many ways, Solzhenitsyn laid the intellectual foundations for the fall of Soviet communism. That is well known. But Solzhenitsyn also laid the intellectual foundation for the Russia that is now emerging. That is less well known, and in some ways more important...

"...In the West, he was seen as a hero by all parties. Conservatives saw him as an enemy of communism. Liberals saw him as a champion of human rights. Each invented Solzhenitsyn in their own image. He was given the Nobel Prize for Literature, which immunized him against arrest and certified him as a great writer. Instead of arresting him, the Soviets expelled him, sending him into exile in the United States.

"When he reached Vermont, the reality of who Solzhenitsyn was slowly sank in. Conservatives realized that while he certainly was an enemy of communism and despised Western liberals who made apologies for the Soviets, he also despised Western capitalism just as much. Liberals realized that Solzhenitsyn hated Soviet oppression, but that he also despised their obsession with individual rights, such as the right to unlimited free expression. Solzhenitsyn was nothing like anyone had thought, and he went from being the heroic intellectual to a tiresome crank in no time. Solzhenitsyn attacked the idea that the alternative to communism had to be secular, individualist humanism. He had a much different alternative in mind..."

Read the rest of Friedman's excellent article.

What is Libertarian Paternalism?

Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein "are the authors of a new book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale University Press), in which they articulate an approach to designing social and economic policies that incorporates an understanding of people's cognitive limitations.

"They call this governing philosophy "libertarian paternalism." That is not an oxymoron, they insist in their book. Rather it is a corrective to the longstanding assumption of policy makers that the average person is capable of thinking like Albert Einstein, storing as much memory as IBM's Big Blue, and exercising the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi. That is simply not how people are, they say. In reality human beings are lazy, busy, impulsive, inert, and irrational creatures highly susceptible to predictable biases and errors. That's why they can be nudged in socially desirable directions.

"A nudge is thus any noncoercive alteration in the context in which people make decisions. The libertarian paternalism behind it is rooted in Thaler's lifelong fascination with the power of small, seemingly innocuous details — the arrangement of food in a cafeteria, the drawing of a small fly in the bowl of a urinal, a pattern of lines on the road — to influence people's behavior. David Laibson, a professor of economics at Harvard University, says that Thaler's ideas, once a cry in the wilderness, are so influential that "about half of the profession now believes that psychology has a useful role to play in economic modeling, and that number is growing."

"...Take two examples in their book. Studies show that placing fruit at eye level in school cafeterias enhances its popularity by as much as 25 percent. Or consider this stroke of creativity by an economist in Amsterdam charged with cleaning up the restrooms at the Schiphol Airport: He had a fly etched into the wells of urinals, giving male patrons something to aim at. Spillage was reduced by 80 percent. The problems of childhood obesity and foul restrooms are remedied with very little inconvenience to people — or cost. Children remain free to grab that piece of chocolate cake, and there is nothing preventing visitors to Schiphol's restrooms from ignoring the fly and aiming elsewhere. It is merely less likely that either group will do so."

Read the Chronicle of Higher Education's review of their book.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Great Film

Jim Kalb asks "Why Radical Traditionalism in Politics?"

Because conservatism as normally understood is not possible in America today. Conservatism stands for loyalty to what is settled. It presumes that one belongs to a culture and civilization that is basically well-founded and coherent, so that it will return to type if a few errors are debunked and excesses suppressed.

None of that makes sense today. All authoritative American institutions are left-liberal in their principles. As such, they are profoundly at odds with the implicit habitual goods fostered by tradition and with any orientation toward the transcendent...

the principles needed today must be radical, because they must be in sharp opposition to the leading principles of public life.

What we need are principles that go deeper and say more than simply announcing that they are "conservative" in some generic sense. They must catch hold of something that is sufficiently fundamental and all-encompassing to ground and provide a standard for social and political life. They must therefore be religious. It is the lack of such principles that has made it impossible for conservatives effectively to contest liberalism.

Further, the principles we need must be sufficiently concrete to give answers, and sufficiently anchored in experience to avoid utopian fanaticism. That means they must be principles supported by some particular political and religious tradition...

Read the rest of his post here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The family as model of the state

The family as a model for the organization of the state is a theory of political philosophy. It either explains the structure of certain kinds of state in terms of the structure of the family (as a model or as a claim about the historical growth of the state), or it attempts to justify certain types of state by appeal to the structure of the family. The first writer to use it (certainly in any clear and developed way) was Aristotle, who argued that the natural progression of human beings was from the family via small communities to the polis. Read the rest of the Wikipedia article.

From a letter on Christian political involvement

Thanks for your thoughts, _____. I'm more and more seeing the rationale for non-participation in the political process. Good men can differ on how best to represent Christ in the political sphere.

However, at what point will such an approach cease protesting worldly power and work to improve life as it actually is in this fallen world? No system is perfect because of sin, so should Christians perpetually relegate themselves to non-political action? In fact, not even ecclesiastical institutions can be free of taint, so should we disband all organized religion?

Now if the author is saying that non-involvement is the most effective strategy in this moment and place, I'd like to hear his reasons. Maybe you could outline his main points for me. For instance, what does "true involvement" mean?

As for hastening (or anticipating) the Kingdom, I guess in the ultimate sense we'd agree only Christ can bring the kingdom to its historical consummation/perfection/fullness. However, in principle the Kingdom is already perfect, redemption being fully accomplished in Christ and in (at least) some of his saints. Kingdom resurrection power is already immanent in the world, vivifying it, and raising the dead to life. So, are we acting in faith in this reality, or do we put limits on what God can do?

Christ transformed the playing rules by pursuing a path of total submission to the Father. This involved putting himself at the mercy of the established political powers, i.e., he was no revolutionary in the ordinary sense of the term. In other words, he transformed political society from the inside out through self-sacrificial love. Christ didn't avoid political influence, but he didn't seek it either. I guess that's the delicate balance for which we all should strive.

Does this mean that Christianity doesn't offer concrete proposals for political action and even how governmental authority should be arranged? I don't think so. Grace doesn't contradict nature; rather, grace calls men back to their true nature while at the same time redeeming that nature. There is a natural order. Christian political thinkers should identify what it consists of, and point the way to its recovery and renewal.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book Recommendation: In Praise of Prejudice

Today, the word prejudice has come to seem synonymous with bigotry; therefore the only way a person can establish freedom from bigotry is by claiming to have wiped his mind free from prejudice. English psychiatrist and writer Theodore Dalrymple shows that freeing the mind from prejudice is not only impossible, but entails intellectual, moral and emotional dishonesty. The attempt to eradicate prejudice has several dire consequences for the individual and society as a whole. (information blurb from Google Book Search)

From the Wikipedia entry on Anthony Daniels, a.k.a., "Theodore Dalrymple":

Anthony (A.M.) Daniels (born 1949) is a British writer and retired physician (prison doctor and psychiatrist), who generally uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple. He has also used three other pen names. In writing under the pseudonym Theodore Dalrymple, Daniels says he "chose a name that sounded suitably dyspeptic, that of a gouty old man looking out of the window of his London club, port in hand, lamenting the degenerating state of the world."

Daniels has written extensively on culture, art, politics, education and medicine drawing upon his experience as a doctor and psychiatrist in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, and more recently at a prison and a public hospital in Birmingham, in central England. He has travelled in many countries in Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

Daniels has revealed in his writing that his father was a Communist businessman, while his Jewish mother was born in Germany and came to the United Kingdom as a refugee from the Nazi regime. In 2005 he retired from England to move (with his wife) to France, where he plans to continue writing. His columns frequently appear in The Spectator as well as in City Journal, a magazine published by the Manhattan Institute.

In his commentary, Daniels frequently argues that the so-called "progressive" views prevalent within Western intellectual circles minimize the responsibility of individuals for their own actions and undermine traditional mores, contributing to the formation within rich countries of an underclass afflicted by endemic violence, criminality, sexual promiscuity, welfare dependency, and drug abuse.

He contends that the middle class abandonment of traditional cultural and behavioural aspirations has, by example, fostered routine incivility and ignorance among members of the working class. Occasionally accused of being a pessimist and misanthrope, his defenders praise his persistently conservative philosophy, which they describe as being anti-ideological, sceptical, rational and empiricist.

Here's a choice quotation:

The combination of relativism and antipathy to traditional culture has played a large part in creating the underclass, thus turning Britain from a class into a caste society. The poorest people were deprived both of a sense of cultural hierarchy and of the moral imperative to conform their conduct to any standard whatever. Henceforth what they had and what they did was as good as anything, because all cultures and all cultural artifacts are equal. Aspiration was therefore pointless: and thus they have been as immobilized in their poverty - material, mental, and spiritual - as completely as the damned in Dante's Inferno.

(From the essay, "Uncouth Chic", in "Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes The Underclass", Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2001.)


This is the third book by Daniels I've read. One of the best cultural critics I know of, Daniels has produced a short book that argues for a kind of cultural conservativism I've been coming to for a while. There are certain pre-rational commitments, prejudices, if you will, which are absolutely necessary for a healthy society that should rarely, if ever, be questioned.

Daniels shows that prejudices are inescapable, that a prejudice against prejudice is socially harmful, and that some predjudices are necessary preconditions for virtuous living.

He closes his well-written essay with the following paragraph:

It takes judgment to know when prejudice should be maintained and when abandoned. Predjudices are like friendships: they should be kept in good repair, Friends sometimes grow apart, and so sometimes should men from their prejudices; but friendship often grows deeper with age and experience, and so should some prejudices. They are what give men character and hold them together. We cannot do without them.

A Request for UO's Readers

Dear Readers of this blog,

A while back, Blogger updated its system, and I've just made the switch to a new template. I recommend to all Blogger users that they do the same. The features are much better!

Unfortunately, Blogger only transferred the links I had in place when the whole system changed over (I don't know how many months ago). So, I've got to manually go through all the links, deleting obsolete and adding new ones. This is going to be a laborious process over the next week or so.

While I'm doing this, I'd like to add new links to blogs and sites that you, my faithful readers, think would be worthwhile to add. Please copy your recommended links in the comments section of this post.

Faithfully Yours,


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Response to Jack: The Necessity of Historical Generalization

I am grateful for your response, my friend. I’m sure you appreciate the difficulty of handling such a complex subject as this. Thousands of volumes have been written on the subject, and if the Lord leaves us, tens of thousands remain to be written still. I plead your forbearance while I attempt a good faith effort (however limited by my lack of ability) to meet your demands for biblical arguments and concrete historical examples.

As for “high level generalizations”, Russ, it’s hard for me to understand why you don’t want me to state the theoretical presuppositions I’m working with. Historical facts abstracted from a historiographical approach are meaningless. Generalizations are not only inescapable but absolutely essential to the acquisition of knowledge. Otherwise, all that’s left is an undifferentiated mass of uncoordinated data.

Being perfectly willing to submit my presuppositions to analysis, I’m interested in hearing from you how they make sense—or not—of the broad sweep of historical events. Biblical grounds are also important because the divine interpretations of events have been revealed. Since we both recognize Scripture’s authority in these matters we will in time be able to discuss what can be validly inferred from revelation.

What I want from you, Russ, is the biblical rationale for why the ideal of self rule in personal affairs derogates from the ideal of a hierarchically ordered society. Also, why does the sin involved in Israel’s desire for a king take priority over the sanctification of kingship in Christ’s messianic office, a kingship, I emphasize, that is not reserved to Christ alone but shared with his people.


What are you trying to say or imply, Russ, when you argue about the historical context for Constantine’s reign? It’s all very well to point out that Diocletian reorganized the empire and that Constantine didn’t forge a completely new order. I never said nor implied differently. What was new about Constantine’s reign was his reliance on the Christian God’s favor for the establishing of his office and the peace of his realm.

So, Constantine didn’t make Christianity the official religion of Rome. So what? Forty years after his death Theodosius did. What benefit can you gain by denying that Constantine accomplished much foundational to the establishment of Christianity in the empire, not to mention ignoring what he accomplished for the Church merely by calling the first ecumenical council?

Roman History

The facts of Roman History can, I believe, be best incorporated into a historical account that compares the relative stability under monarchical rule with the confusion that obtained under popular rule. Allow me to quote the great Robert Filmer to this effect:

A little to manifest the imperfection of popular government, let us but examine the most flourishing democracy that the world hath ever known — I mean that of Rome. First, for the durability: at the most it lasted but four hundred and eighty years; for so long it was from the expulsion of Tarquin to Julius Caesar, whereas both the Assyrian monarchy lasted without interruption at the least twelve hundred years, and the empire of the East continued one thousand four hundred and ninety-five years.

Secondly, For the order of it, during these four hundred and eighty years, there was not any one settled form of government in Rome; for after they had once lost the natural power of kings, they could not find upon what form of government to rest. Their fickleness is an evidence that they found things amiss in every change. At the first they chose two annual consuls instead of kings. Secondly, those did not please them long, but they must have tribunes of the people to defend their liberty. Thirdly, they leave tribunes and consuls, and choose them ten men to make them laws. Fourthly, they call for consuls and tribunes again, sometimes they choose dictators, which were temporary kings, and sometimes military tribunes, who had consular power. All these shiftings caused such notable alteration in the government, as it passeth historians to find out any perfect form of regimen in so much confusion; one while the Senate made laws, another while the people. The dissensions which were daily between the Nobles and the Commons bred those memorable seditions about usury, about marriages, and about magistracy. Also the Grecian, the Apulian, and the Drusian seditions filled the market places, the temples, and the Capitol itself, with blood of the citizens; the Social War was plainly civil; the wars of the slaves, and the other of the fencers; the civil wars of Marius and Sylla, of Cataline, of Cæsar, and Pompey the Triumvirate, of Augustus, Lepidus, and Antonius — all these shed an ocean of blood within Italy and the streets of Rome…

But you will say, yet the Roman empire grew all up under this kind of popular government, and the city became mistress of the world. It is not so; for Rome began her empire under kings, and did perfect it under emperors; it did only increase under that popularity. Her greatest exaltation was under Trajan, as her longest peace had been under Augustus. Even at those times when the Roman victories abroad did amaze the world, then the tragical slaughter of citizens at home deserved commiseration from their vanquished enemies. What though in that age of her popularity she bred many admired captains and commanders — each of which was able to lead an army, though many of them were but ill requited by the people — yet all of them were not able to support her in times of danger; but she was forced in her greatest troubles to create a dictator, who was a king for a time, thereby giving this honourable testimony of monarchy that the last refuge in perils of states is to fly to regal authority. And though Rome's popular estate for a while was miraculously upheld in glory by a greater prudence than her own, yet in a short time, after manifold alterations, she was ruined by her own hands: suis et ipsa Roma viribus mil; for the arms she had prepared to conquer other nations were turned upon herself, and civil contentions at last settled the government again into a monarchy.

(From Patriarcha, 2.11-12)

Please note, Russ, that this quotation from Filmer summarizes a response I would make to your argument that the empire was predicated on the republic's accomplishments, which is itself a generalization. On the contrary, I argue, the peace and longevity of her rule was obtained through the leadership of her emperors. If Rome had remained a republic she would have fallen prey to inward strife and foreign invasion during perilous times sooner rather than later.

What we have here is a contest between two theoretical systems. I regard royal sovereignty as a summum bonum. Alternatively, Russ, you offer popular sovereignty as the ideal. Fine. Let's compare our theories by examining first principles in light of Scripture. Along the way, we can indulge in some historical speculation and have fun while we're at it.

(To be continued…)

Monday, July 14, 2008

From Sir Robert Filmer's PATRIARCHA


3. I come now to examine that argument which is used by Bellarmine, and is the one and only argument I can find produced by my author for the proof of the natural liberty of the people. It is thus framed: "That God hath given or ordained power, is evident by Scripture; but God hath given it to no particular person, because by nature all men are equal, therefore he hath given power to the people or multitude."

To answer this reason, drawn from the equality of mankind by nature, I will first use the help of Bellarmine himself, whose very words are these: "If many men had been together created out of the earth, they all ought to have been princes over their posterity." In these words we have an evident confession that creation made man prince of his posterity. And indeed not only Adam, but the succeeding patriarchs had, by right of fatherhood, royal authority over their children. Nor dares Bellarmine deny this also. That the patriarchs, saith he, were endowed with kingly power, their deeds do testify; for as Adam was lord of his children, so his children under him had a command and power over their own children, but still with subordination to the first parent, who is lord-paramount over his children's children to all generations, as being the grandfather of his people.

4. I see not then how the children of Adam, or of any man else, can be free from subjection to their parents. And this subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows that civil power not only in general is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it specifically to the eldest parents, which quite takes away that new and common distinction which refers only power universal and absolute to God, but power respective in regard of the special form of government to the choice of the people.

This lordship which Adam by command had over the whole world, and by right descending from him the patriarchs did enjoy, was as large and ample as the absolutest dominion of any monarch which hath been since the creation. For dominion of life and death we find that Judah, the father, pronounced sentence of death against Thamar, his daughter-in-law, for playing the harlot. "Bring her forth," saith he, "that she may be burnt." Touching war, we see that Abraham commanded an army of three hundred and eighteen soldiers of his own family. And Esau met his brother Jacob with four hundred men at arms. For matter of peace, Abraham made a league with Abimelech, and ratified the articles with an oath. These acts of judging in capital crimes, of making war, and concluding peace, are the chiefest marks of "sovereignty" that are found in any monarch.

5. Not only until the Flood, but after it, this patriarchal power did continue, as the very name patriarch doth in part prove. The three sons of Noah had the whole world divided amongst them by their father; for of them was the whole world overspread, according to the benediction given to him and his sons: "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth." Most of the civilest nations of the earth labour to fetch their original from some one of the sons or nephews of Noah, which were scattered abroad after the confusion of Babel. In this dispersion we must certainly find the establishment of regal power throughout the kingdoms of the world.

It is a common opinion that at the confusion of tongues there were seventy-two distinct nations erected, all which were not confused multitudes, without heads or governors, and at liberty to choose what governors or government they pleased, but they were distinct families, which had fathers for rulers over them, whereby it appears that even in the confusion God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority by distributing the diversity of languages according to the diversity of families, for so plainly it appears by the text. First, after the enumeration of the sons of Japhet, the conclusion is: "By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations." So it is said: "These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations." The like we read: "These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations. These are the families of the sons of Noah after their generations in their nations, and by these were these nations divided in the earth after the Flood."

In this division of the world, some are of opinion that Noah used lots for the distribution of it; others affirm he sailed about the Mediterranean Sea in ten years and, as he went about, appointed to each son his part, and so made the division of the then known world into Asia, Africa, and Europe, according to the number of his sons, the limits of which three parts are all found in that Midland Sea.

6. But howsoever the manner of this division be uncertain, yet it is most certain the division itself was by families from Noah and his children, over which the parents were heads and princes.

Amongst these was Nimrod who, no doubt, as Sir Walter Raleigh affirms, was by good right lord or king over his family; yet against right did he enlarge his empire by seizing violently on the rights of other lords of families; and in this sense he may be said to be the author and first founder of monarchy. And all those that do attribute unto him the original regal power do hold he got it by tyranny or usurpation, and not by any due election of the people or multitude, or by any faction with them.

As this patriarchal power continued in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even until the Egyptian bondage, so we find it amongst the sons of Ishmael and Esau. It is said, "These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their castles and towns, twelve princes of their tribes and families. And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families and their places by their nations."

7. Some, perhaps, may think that these princes and dukes of families were but some petty lords under some greater kings, because the number of them are so many that their particular territories could be but small and not worthy the title of kingdoms; but they must consider that at first kings had no such large dominions as they have nowadays. We find in the tune of Abraham, which was about three hundred years after the Flood, that in a little corner of Asia nine kings at once met in battle, most of which were but kings of cities apiece, with the adjacent territories, as of Sodom, Gomorrha, Shinar, etc. In the same chapter is mention of Melchisedek, king of Salem, which was but the city of Jerusalem. And in the catalogue of the kings of Edom, the names of each king's city is recorded, as the only mark to distinguish their dominions. In the land of Canaan, which was but a small circuit, Joshua destroyed thirty-one kings, and about the same time Adonibesek had seventy kings whose hands and toes he had cut off, and made them feed under his table.[1] A few years after this, thirty-two kings came to Benhadad, king of Syria, and about seventy kings of Greece went to the wars of Troy. Cæsar found more kings in France than there be now princes there, and at his sailing over into this island he found four kings in our county of Kent. These heaps of kings in each nation are an argument their territories were but small, and strongly confirms our assertion that erection of kingdoms came at first only by distinction of families.

By manifest footsteps we may trace this paternal government unto the Israelites coming into Egypt, where the exercise of supreme patriarchal jurisdiction was intermitted because they were in subjection to a stronger prince. After the return of these Israelites out of bondage, God, out of a special care of them, chose Moses and Joshua successively to govern as princes in the place and stead of the supreme fathers; and after them likewise for a time He raised up judges to defend His people in tune of peril. But when God gave the Israelites kings, He re-established the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government And whensoever He made choice of any special person to be king, He intended that the issue also should have benefit thereof, as being comprehended sufficiently in the person of the father, although the father only was named in the grant.

8. It may seem absurd to maintain that kings now are the fathers of their people, since experience shows the contrary. It is true, all kings be not the natural parents of their subjects, yet they all either are, or are to be reputed, the next heirs to those first progenitors who were at first the natural parents of the whole people, and in their right succeed to the exercise of supreme jurisdiction; and such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren, and all others that were subject to their fathers. And therefore we find that God told Cain of his brother Abel, "His desires shall be subject unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him." Accordingly, when Jacob bought his brother's birthright, Isaac blessed him thus: "Be lord over thy brethren, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee." [Gen. 4:7]

As long as the first fathers of families lived, the name of patriarchs did aptly belong unto them; but after a few descents, when the true fatherhood itself was extinct, and only the right of the father descends to the true heir, then the title of prince or king was more significant to express the power of him who succeeds only to the right of that fatherhood which his ancestors did naturally enjoy. By this means it comes to pass that many a child, by succeeding a king, hath the right of a father over many a greyheaded multitude, and hath the title of Pater Patriae...

From Bishop Overall's Convocation Book


To him that shall duly read the Scriptures, it will be plain and evident that the Son of God, having created our first parents, and purposing to multiply their seed into many generations, for the replenishing of the world with their posterity, did give to Adam for his time, and to the rest of the patriarchs and chief fathers successively before the flood, authority, power, and dominion over their children and offspring, to rule and govern them; ordaining by the law of nature, that their said children and offspring (begotten and brought up by them) should fear, reverence, and obey them. Which power and authority before the flood, resting in the patriarchs, and the chief fathers, because it had a very large extent, not only for the education of their said children and offspring, whilst they were young, but likewise for the ordering, ruling, and governing of them afterwards, when they came to men's estate. And for that also, it hath no superior [authority, or power, over, or above] it on earth, appearing in the Scriptures, although it be called neither patriarchal, regal, and imperial, and that we only term it potestas patria; yet, being well considered how far it did reach, we may truly say that it was in a sort potestas regia; as now, in a right and true construction, potestas regia may justly be called potestas patria.


If any man shall therefore affirm that men at the first, without all good education, or civility, ran up and down in woods, and fields, as wild creatures, resting themselves in caves, and dens, and acknowledging no superiority one over another, until they were taught by experience the necessity of government; and that thereupon they chose some amongst themselves to order and rule the rest, giving them power and authority so to do; and that consequently all civil power, jurisdiction, and authority was first derived from the people, and disordered multitude; or either is originally still in them, or else is deduced by their consents naturally from them; and is not God's ordinance originally descending from Him, and depending upon Him, he doth greatly err.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Ministry of Law

Over at Theopolitical, Davey Henreckson offers some provocative thoughts on the eschatological role of civil government:

If the civil realm, like the “law,” fills an eschatological role, it doesn’t have to be the antithesis of the spiritual realm. It can serve as the taskmaster to lead us to the beginning and end of all things: Jesus. Paul says in Galatians 3:21, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” The law, therefore, was not meant to give life in itself, but rather to point to the faith of Jesus, our true salvation. But further, abiding by the law directs us toward Christ. The law, and by extension the civil realm, was “sent by [God] to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good,” (pre-)schooling us in the ways of grace.

I have wondered for some time now whether king as God's minister (Rom. 13), should be thought of as the chief deputy of God's Law on the earth. If this is correct, then a case could be made that since the priest is the primary minister of redemptive grace that church and state perform distinct but complementary roles within the New Covenant economy.

St Paul says to Timothy:

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Tim. 1:8-11)

The proper use of the Law is in punishing and restraining sin. During the present age this power has been entrusted to the king, who acts as the agent of God's wrath (Rom. 13:4).

Here perhaps is a hint of the main thrust behind St. Paul's critique of the Law: that the Law in its civil character punishes and condemns, but cannot redeem. Earthly government is insufficiently equipped to produce righteousness and peace. The eternal city cannot be established through political efforts, as demonstrated by Israel's manifest failure, but has to be built "without hands" (Dan. 2:34ff.; cf. Heb. 11:10).

Earthly government can "make nothing perfect," though it can as a harsh taskmaster drive us to Christ. There is a proper use for government, but we must make sure we clearly delimit its role in light of the fact that the principalities and powers were put to shame at the cross (Col. 2:15).

Here, then, is the biblical basis for the institutional separation between church and state.

I challenge all who seek to uphold the Gospel and guard the prerogatives entrusted to the Church to likewise acknowledge and defend the proper role of the king as the supreme deputy of God's Law on earth till Christ returns, when all [earthly] dominion, authority and power will be abolished (1 Cor. 15:24).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Response to the Jack of Clubs: Political Order and Christian Faithfulness, Part 2

Russ, I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.

Getting back to your original point about solid data being necessary at the beginning of our investigations into truth, I wanted to list a few of the facts I’ve been working with:

· Christian monarchy is an old and venerable tradition, dating from Constantine, and was intrinsic to the first Christendom.

· Social order was preserved in Christian monarchical societies past the Reformation period.

· The modern era, notable for its egalitarian ethos, is simultaneously characterized by iconoclasm, antisacerdotalism, and the decline of religious faith and practice.

· Democracy, civil rights, and free markets have as yet failed to produce a devout citizenry that elects righteous leaders, frames laws to codify divine law, or produce an economy that cultivates the earth for God’s glory.

· Furthermore, there seems to be spiritual, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic decline in each succeeding generation (in both the ruling and working classes).

· Social order has declined to such a degree that less than half of our countrymen recognize the sanctity of human life (created in God’s Image), the fixed nature of human sexuality, the natural order of marriage, or even the existence of good and evil. All these things were taken for granted for nearly two-thousand years in Christian monarchical societies.

· This social disorder is historically linked to the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and the Romantic ideal of individual autonomy which are in turn developments of radical Protestant Gnosticism (the rejection of fixed natural order and structure).

Now, back to the meat of your comment:

1. (cont’d.)

Just a quick remark here. I prefer vice-regency to the term vice-gerancy for obvious reasons. Such highlights the biblical idea that man was created to not only “manage” creation as God’s steward, but also to eventually inherit dominion over all created things as God’s king crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:4-8).

2. (cont’d.)

a) I do not grant that Authority (the lawful structure of command and obedience) is infinitely malleable; it has a certain form. It was originally granted in the form of Adam’s fatherly headship. And we neglect or subvert this form at great peril.

Tribes, being essentially extended families, have familial authority structures. Ideally, familial heads should exercise their covenant headship and swear fealty to a prominent familial head on behalf of their constituent families.

Aristocracies and oligarchies are basically democratic confederacies of powerful men. I say this because they are arrangements of compromise that fail to realize unified, coherent rule.

Republics attempt to balance the Rule of the Many with the Rule of the One. Such may provide a stable government for a temporary period, as in our United States, but ultimate policy commitments will be made either by presidents (for example, Lincoln and FDR) or judges (a Supreme Court majority) overstepping their constitutional authority and imposing their wills at opportune moments.

A nation must be impelled by the lucidity of One or the confusion of Many. Just as God is not ultimately one and three in an oppositional sense (the Son and Spirit submit to the Father’s will), so unified society has a basic identity and purpose articulated and interpreted by a ruling head. This ruling head being both biologically and spiritually dependent on his predecessors is under natural obligation to honor and preserve the heritage bequeathed to him. There is no more fitting figure for such a role than the Son-Father-King.

[Note: I'm prepending the formula "Father-King" with "Son" here to highlight the related facts that Adam was the original Son of God, that every human father is the son of his father, and that all the baptized are sons of God in Christ, who is the eternal Son of God.]

b) I agree, Russ, that kings can and have been unfaithful. But I do not thereby concede there are four (or more) categories of rulers. Authority is a kind of law; indeed it is the fundamental law. A change in office implies a change in law (cf. Heb. 7:12) God is not worshipped because he commanded it; he is worshipped because he’s God. The force of any law issued is derived from the status of the lawgiver.

Certainly, only one Man can be wholly identified with God, so only the commands of Christ Jesus are perfectly just and wise. Yet, the attempt to divide the form and content of authority is a terrible mistake. Lesser kings who administer Christ’s authority on earth must be respectfully obeyed until their actions wholly subvert the reason for their being.

To reiterate, there are only two categories of rulers: those who govern by imitating the form and manner of God’s rule and those who govern in the form and manner of their own devising, of which there can be infinite variation (oligarchy, aristocracy, democracy, etc.).

Well, Russ, I’m going to have to break off for now. I look forward to any thoughts you have on what I've presented thus far.

Vatican expresses regret over Church of England vote for women bishops

From Times Online
July 8, 2008

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The Vatican expressed “regret” today at the Church of England's move to consecrate women bishops, which threatens to drive traditionalists into the arms of Rome.

Dozens of Anglo-Catholics are now expected to seek refuge in the Roman Catholic Church but most will remain within the Anglican fold and attempt to defeat women bishops at the final vote in about five years.

The Vatican statement, which mirrored that put out when the Synod voted to ordain women priests in 1992, said that last night's move presented a “new obstacle” to reconciliation between the Holy See and the Anglican Communion.

Read the rest of the Times Online article.

Introducing Iron Ink

Pastor Bret, a minister in the CRC, has done some great work on the errors of W2K, or, what he calls the Radical Two Kingdoms Theology (R2Kt). I hope to be interacting with Pastor Bret on this topic in the near future.

Here's a sample of Pastor Bret's analysis:

The dualism incipient in R2Kt viral thinking creates two different kinds of knowledge. One kind of knowledge is anchored in right reason. A second kind of knowledge anchored in revelation and faith. But in keeping with classical dualism R2Kt viral thinking offers no answer as to how these two kinds of knowledge can be reconciled. When such a situation obtains resolution must be arrived at in one way or another, if even only in an unofficial or pragmatic sense. The possible resolutions, it seems to me, reduce to two. The first possible option was seen in history when the Church was in the ascendancy. Here the ’spiritual’ truths triumphed over the truth of reason. When the state has been in the ascendancy the option has been for the truths of reason to triumph over ’spiritual’ truths.

Note: Radical Two Kingdoms theology (R2Kt) is an older and broader tradition than the specific ideology associated with Westminster Seminary California I refer to as W2K.

Thanks Misty!

Misty Irons writes from California to let us know her marriage is doing fine, despite the state's legalization of gay marriage. We're relieved. Truly.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Should the Response of the Church be to Gay Marriage?

Check out my post and the ensuing discussion over at Evangelical Catholicity.

Interesting Speculation

Check out Steven Wedgeworth's fascinating thoughts about city spirits. I've just got to get over to his blog more often!

Meditation on the Resurrection

Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death.
Acts 2:24

Oh, empty tomb of Jesus!
This holds a glory bright
That fills death's shadowed valley
With resurrection light;
Oh mighty love of Jesus!
His feet alone have trod
Earth's heights and depths of sorrow
And made a way to God.

-Author Unknown

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

David Horowitz on the Party of Treason

Last night I was riveted by this lecture given by Horowitz in Santa Barbara, CA, earlier this year. The lecture is on the real rationale behind the war in Iraq, the radicalization of the Democrat party, and the ineptitude of the Bush White House's handling of the public case for the war.

In the period between our rapid military conquest of Iraq and the consolidation of order, a time of intense insurgent violence, many liberal media pundits argued for an analogy between Iraq and Vietnam. In the sense of Vietnam being an unwinnable war, I demur. However, in the sense that liberalism undermined the public American will to complete the mission, I concur.

Horowitz explodes several myths about the war: Bill Clinton actually established our foreign policy to remove Saddam. The original rationale for deposing him was based in the fact that he remained in obstinate violation of seventeen UN sanctions. Iraq was not then a sovereign nation; it was on probation since the first Gulf War, under obligation to keep the terms imposed upon it by the victorious coalition forces.

Colin Powell made his overstated WMD case to the UN, after the U.S. congress had already approved the use of force to depose Saddam based on his violations of UN sanctions. The Democrat leadership initially largely supported the war, and only reneged after it became apparent that Howard Dean was the party front runner in early 2003.

Horowitz sharply criticizes the Bush Administration's selling of the war. He contends the rationale should have always been Saddam's demonstrated intent to neither live at peace nor to abide by international law. The WMD and democratization arguments could only be supplemental to the essential reasons for going into Iraq in the first place.

Amazingly, it appears that even now with things going well many conservatives are eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory out of the fantasy that America can return to its isolationist foreign policy of the early nineteenth century.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Homosexual Marriage Legal in California

How can we deny happiness to loving committed couples? Anyway, it'll be good for the economy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

O GOD, the protector of all who trust in thee, without
whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and
multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and
guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we
finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly
Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"Things temporal in their justly insignificant proportion to things eternal are brought before today, in the Collect, Epistle and Gospel. In the Epistle, we are taught that all created things or the whole creation - for such is the meaning of "the creature" - are now, like Joseph, in bondage, waiting for the day when the sons of God shall be glorified.

Even things temporal, after the earth and all that is in it shall have been burned up, are to be reproduced in higher forms, fitted to our glorified nature, in "the new heavens and the new earth," which are promised to the faithful. As we wait for the resurrection of the body, so we wait for the glorious mansions which are to be fitted for the immortal forms in which we shall be clothed for all eternity.

Now, in the Gospel, we find certain rules for passing through things temporal, which are not the rules of our natural characters; but if by grace we mortify the works of the flesh, in keeping these precepts, we shall pass safely through time, and be infinitely recompensed in eternity. How did our Savior live on earth? What was His portion here? "The disciple is not above his Master," and we must take poverty and contempt, if need be, as our Master took them. In proportion as we become "perfect through sufferings," we become more and more like our Master: and we shall be like Him in glory, if we are like Him in humility and submission."

(--from THOUGHTS ON THE SERVICES by Bishop A. Cleveland Coxe, 1860)

(From this week's ACTS OF ST. LUKE'S)