Saturday, May 28, 2022

False prophets

From "How to Spot a Wolf":
The Bible commands Christians, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account” (Heb. 13:17, NIV). But God’s Word also tells of times when we shouldn’t trust and submit to leaders. What are the circumstances when honoring God means disobeying, fleeing, or even calling out those who minister in his name?

Paul warned the Ephesians elders of wolves who would come and not spare God’s flock (Acts 20:29). The apostle borrows the image of the wolf directly from Jesus (John 10:12; Matt. 7:15). As patterns of abuse come to light in the church, we urgently need this biblical warning that shows us the difference between a godly shepherd and one who preys upon the sheep.

False teaching—preaching “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6–7)—is a primary way a wolf reveals his true nature, but what are some other ways to tell a true shepherd from a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Identifying wolves is difficult because the marks of a dangerous soul seldom manifest in physical appearance. Even more, false teachers are people made in God’s image. A wolf shows his humanity in his seemingly healthy relationships. His personal charisma and the genuine good his ministry accomplishes can further hide his true nature from others, and even from the wolf himself. ....
  1. Wolves emphasize gifting over character.
  2. Wolves avoid accountability.
  3. Wolves hunger for power.
  4. Wolves lack gentleness. .... (the four marks of a wolf)
Rutledge Etheridge III, "How to Spot a Wolf: Recognize Abusive Church Leadership Before It’s Too Late," TGC, May 27, 2022.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

"A heart to love and dread thee..."

"Should I Pray Someone Else’s Prayers?" is a post at the Canadian TGC site. The author:
.... So why would I—a low church, Baptist—find prayers written by someone else useful? More specifically, why would I find the written prayer in The Book of Common Prayer called The Litany useful? It’s because praying the Litany on a consistent basis reorients me to the fact that I live each moment of my life by the grace of God alone.

I believe that we live, breathe, and have our very being in God’s grace and his grace alone. ....

You can conscientiously “own” a set prayer. This shouldn’t be so hard to believe. Those of us who grew up in settings that were averse to set prayers actually prayed several set prayers each Sunday at church. We just didn’t know what we were doing.

Typically these prayers were projected onto a wall! Each time we sang a worship song written by someone else we were making the songwriter’s prayer our own. We were praying someone else’s written prayers but none of us had a problem with it.

Why? Because we understood that you could merely repeat the words on the screen as a rote exercise or you could take those words as directions for expressing the content of your heart.

I suspect that the latter also occurs when we make set prayers, like The Litany, our own. You can feel free to adopt the words of biblically-based, gospel-centred, Christ-exalting prayers written by someone else as our own. .... (more)
The litany to which he refers is the one found in The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Version (Downers Grove: IVP, 2021). It is pretty comprehensive.
FROM all evil and mischief; from sin, from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From fornication, and all other deadly sin; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By the mystery of thy holy incarnation; by thy holy nativity and circumcision; by thy baptism, fasting, and temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By thine agony and bloody sweat; by thy cross and passion; by thy precious death and burial; by thy glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Ghost,
Good Lord, deliver us.
In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgement,
Good Lord, deliver us.
WE sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God, and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy church universal in the right way,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to rule the heart of thy servant, and all others in authority, that under them we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to be their defender and keeper,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to endue the legislature, and the ministers of state, with grace, wisdom, and understanding,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bless and keep the judges and magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice and to maintain truth,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to illuminate all bishops, priests, and deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth and show it accordingly,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and dread thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace, to hear meekly thy word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred and are deceived,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand, and to comfort and help the weak-hearted, and to raise up those who fall, and finally to beat down Satan under our feet,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to preserve all who travel by land, by water, or by air; all women labouring with child, all sick persons, and young children, and to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to defend and provide for the fatherless children, and widows, and all who are desolate and oppressed,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, so that in due time we may enjoy them,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, to amend our lives according to thy holy word,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Chris Woznicki, "Should I Pray Someone Else’s Prayers?" TGC Canadian Edition, May 24, 2022. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Version (Downers Grove: IVP, 2021)

Monday, May 23, 2022

A person of no account

Alan Jacobs has been reading Right Ho, Jeeves. At Snakes & Ladders today he quotes W.H. Auden on Bertie Wooster:
If [Bertie] has no vices it is because his desires are too vague and too fleeting for him to settle down to one. Hardly a week passes without Bertie Wooster thinking he has at last met The Girl; for a week he imagines he is her Tristan, but the next week he has forgotten her as completely as Don Giovanni forgets; besides, nothing ever happens. It is nowhere suggested that he owned a watch or that, if he did, he could tell the time by it. By any worldly moral standard he is a footler whose existence is of no importance to anybody. Yet it is Bertie Wooster who has the incomparable Jeeves for his servant. Jeeves could any day find a richer master or a place with less arduous duties, yet it is Bertie Wooster whom he chooses to serve. […]

The Quest Hero often encounters an old beggar or an animal who offers him advice: if, too proud to imagine that such an apparently inferior creature could have anything to tell him, he ignores the advice, it has fatal consequences; if he is humble enough to listen and obey, then, thanks to their help, he achieves his goal. But, however humble he may be, he still has the dream of becoming a hero; he may be humble enough to take advice from what seem to be his inferiors, but he is convinced that, potentially, he is a superior person, a prince-to-be. Bertie Wooster, on the other hand, not only knows that he is a person of no account, but also never expects to become anything else; till his dying day he will remain, he knows, a footler who requires a nanny; yet, at the same time, he is totally without envy of others who are or may become of some account. He has, in fact, that rarest of virtues, humility, and so he is blessed: it is he and no other who has for his servant the godlike Jeeves.
— All the other great men of the age are simply in the crowd, watching you go by.
— Thank you very much, sir. I endeavor to give satisfaction.
So speaks comically – and in what other mode than the comic could it on earth truthfully speak? – the voice of Agape, of Holy Love.
Alan Jacobs, "Getting Back to Business," Snakes & Ladders, May 23, 2022.

Do not be true to yourself

Kevin DeYoung delivered the 1922 Commencement address at Geneva College. Excerpts:
.... Do not follow your dreams... Do not march to the beat of your own drummer... and whatever you do, esteemed class of 2022, do not be true to yourself.

You say, ‘that needs a little qualification;’ or, ‘that’s perhaps hyperbole[?].’ It is a little hyperbole. And I will give some nuance at the end. But I believe it’s important to state the matter somewhat provocatively. Because if you pay attention (or even if you do not), our world tells us in a thousand commercials, television shows, movies, and songs, that the best way to live—in fact, the only ‘authentic’ way to live—is for you to be you. For you to live out your truth. For you to find your true self and then have the courage to live accordingly. ....

The world tells us that our identity is to be found in what we desire. To deny the fulfillment of what you desire is not just to tell you that you can’t do something; it is to strike a death knell in your truest identity. We are awash in what Carl Truman calls expressive individualism. You are, what you feel, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Perhaps you’ve come across this theological nugget before. It’s time to see what I can do to test the limits and break through – No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free. Let it go. Let it go. ....

There’s a classic paragraph from G.K. Chesterton written over 100 years ago. He says that Jones shall worship the God within turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon anything rather than the inner light. Let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any, but not the God within. Christianity came into the world, firstly, in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm, a divine company and a divine captain, the only fun of being a Christian, was that a man was not left alone with the inner light, but definitely recognized an outer light fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners. ....

The world says, “You are what you feel.” The world says, “Is equals ought.” The world says, “You must find yourself, be true to yourself, and above all, express yourself.” Let me end with the words of Jesus, who points out us in a different direction and gives us a much better way to live. “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life will lose it. Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” God bless. (more)
Kevin DeYoung, "Whatever You Do, Do Not Be True to Yourself," May 20, 2022.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

"They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. ...."

I read the book long ago, but bought a DVD of the 1934 film just recently. Sarah Schutte at NRO:
"They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven? Or is he in Hell? That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.” Thrilling words, aren’t they? My 14-year-old self thought so, and honestly, I’ve never stopped thinking it. That enigmatic character, the Scarlet Pimpernel, has captured many an imagination for over a century now and has worked his way into mainstream cultural references. Daring rescues and clever escapes are now described in Scarlet Pimpernel-esque terms. ....

If you’ve never read the story, I’ll give just a brief taste to whet your appetite, but don’t go looking for spoilers, I beg you. It is the year of our Lord, 1792. The French Revolution scythes its bloody way through the country, abhorred but unchecked by neighboring lands. Noble men, women, and children are cruelly put to death. Will no one come to their aid? Enter the Scarlet Pimpernel. Never seen, but somehow always present, this master of disguise uses his clever wits and immense courage to spirit away those doomed to die. What is known about him? That he is an Englishman. That he is followed and implicitly obeyed by twelve unfalteringly loyal men. That he is a pestilence, according to Chauvelin, and must be destroyed. ....

.... While much of the tale may seem quaint to audiences of today, oversaturated as they are with modern cinema’s twists, turns, and explosions, Baroness Orczy’s classic story retains a certain sense of intrigue and chivalry now rarely found.

Emmuska Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy was born in 1865 to noble Hungarian parents. Local unrest led her family to flee to Budapest when Orczy was quite young. She then spent much of her early life in various parts of Europe and England. First performed as a stage play, The Scarlet Pimpernel opened in 1903 and gained acclaim by 1905 — enough to merit a book version. .... (more)

"It's not dark yet, but it's getting there"

Bob Dylan's 81st birhtday is on Tuesday, May 24. Today, Scott Johnson at Power Line, in recognition of the event, has posted some of his favorite covers of Dylan compositions. Here are a few of them, but there are many more at the site.

Scott Johnson, "Not Dark Yet," Powerline, May 22, 2022.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

"A smile and words of hope..."

A friend found a copy of this inside her father's Bible: 

The Inevitable
I like the man who faces what he must
With step triumphant and a heart of cheer;
Who fights the daily battle without fear;
Sees his hopes fail, yet keeps unfaltering trust
That God is God; That somehow, true and just,
His plans work out for mortals; not a tear
Is shed when fortune, which the world holds dear,
Falls from his grasp; better, with love, a crust
Than living is dishonor; envies it,
Nor loses faith in man; but does his best,
Nor even murmurs at his humbler lot;
But with a smile and words of hope, gives zest
To every toiler; he alone is great
Who by a life heroic conquers fate.
Sarah Knowles Bolton (c. 1895)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

A place for reverence and reflection

"Why Our Churches Should Be Beautiful" is very much worth reading, especially if you are considering a change in your place of worship.
...[I]t’s important to remember that God does not dwell in temples made with human hands (Acts 7:48), and that Jesus is present with his people despite the shape or style of the space they worship in. And though attractiveness shouldn’t be the sole or most important focus of a church, the most important focus is not the only focus.

In trying to spend as little money on a worship space as possible or making it nondescript as to make it unassuming or inoffensive, we risk forgetting three things: one, that we worship God in physical bodies in physical spaces; two, that these physical spaces are a place of spiritual formation; and three, that all beauty comes from God and is just a taste of his perfection and majesty.

American evangelicalism has long walked a tightrope between gnosticism and pragmatism about our time on earth. After all, the thinking goes, if God’s chosen will be spending eternity in heaven, does our fleeting time in this world really matter? And on this, Scripture is clear—yes! God created a physical, living and breathing world for his people and filled it with not just the bare minimum to survive, but also with richly-flavored foods, jaw-dropping landscapes, and stunning flora and fauna. And though our world has been corrupted with sin, we are assured that one day all of creation will be redeemed and made new through Christ (Romans 8:18-22). God cares about the physical world, and so we should care about the physical spaces we worship him in.

But these physical spaces of worship can also shape us. “Our faith in Christ and obedience to Christ is always embodied,” says Rev. Duke Kwon, lead pastor at Grace Meridian Hill and co-author of Reparations, “We have never worshiped our Lord in anything but physical bodies and anywhere but in a physical space. Thus, the architecture and aesthetics of our houses of worship—what we see, hear, feel, even smell—invariably shape our communion with Christ and one another week after week.”

Spaces often give us cues of how we are to act in them—a library or a museum inspire peace and quiet, while a music venue or a playground invites noise and celebration. In the same way, we should be careful that our places of worship are created to encourage space for reverence and reflection, and not only for loud praise music or electric guitars. Our churches should be designed in light of the fact that their aesthetics are a tool for spiritual formation. .... (much more)
Rabekah Henderson, "Why Our Churches Should Be Beautiful," Mere Orthodoxy, May 18, 2022.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Hard times

Mavis Staples sings Stephen Foster:

God, Jefferson, and the Declaration

Thomas Kidd​, Jefferson biographer, Christian historian, on religious influence on the Declaration of Independence:
.... For secularists, the American founding was a pure Enlightenment and non-religious affair driven by deists (or perhaps closet atheists) such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Christian America partisans counter that the Founding Fathers were mostly devout believers. ....

...[T]he declaration’s author was already skeptical in 1776 about basic Christian doctrines such as the trinity, and the divinity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, he was not writing [the declaration’s lines about the creator God] because he was some kind of born-again predecessor to the Christian right.

Throughout his career, Jefferson tried to keep his doubts about biblical revelation quiet. His opponents made a great ruckus about even the slightest hints of his heterodox beliefs. An 1800 Federalist editorial proclaimed that a vote for Jefferson was a vote for “NO GOD!” ....

And yet, the declaration’s argument utterly depended on God himself. Jefferson and Congress fundamentally based the document on the concept of God’s common creation of humankind. Without a creator God, there is no Declaration of Independence. Why would a skeptic like Jefferson make such a profoundly theological statement? Jefferson was a bundle of contradictions on many issues. Most obviously, he was a slaveowner who declared that all men were created equal. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that his uses of religion were complicated, too.

But we can start to unpack the enigma of Jefferson, the declaration, and religion by remembering that the declaration was, first and foremost, a political document….

Calling on people to sacrifice lives and treasure in war almost always generates God-talk. Such civil-religious rhetoric might be sincere or cynical, depending on the occasion. Jefferson’s religious sentiments definitely appeared to be heartfelt. Appealing to the “Supreme Judge of the world,” Congress defended the rightness of their cause, pledging to defend independence on their sacred honor. Jefferson understood that independence could not be justified only as a matter of the colonists’ self-interest, or their disinclination to pay taxes. He undoubtedly believed it was a struggle in which the patriots needed God’s blessing, or they would lose.

We may also forget that Jefferson, for all his doubts about basic Christianity, did believe in a creator God. Unlike more rigid deists, he also believed that God sometimes acted in human history, by God’s providence. Jefferson lived in a pre-Darwinian world in which few could imagine human life as anything but the pinnacle of a divinely created order. Perhaps, to Jefferson, humans were not created exactly like the book of Genesis said. But where else could life have come from, aside from God? Naturalistic evolution was barely on the horizon in 1776. If God created people, then God also endowed people with rights, ones which were not justly alienable by any human authority.

In this sense, Jefferson was no traditional Christian, but he was a traditional theist. .... (more)
Thomas Kidd, "Is the Declaration of Independence a Christian Document?" TGC, May 18, 2022.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Don't look back

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Monday, May 16, 2022

Sacrifice to Cronus

Child sacrifice:
A large bronze image of the god Cronus stood in the Tophet of Carthage. His hands extended with palms facing up and arms sloped gently toward the ground so that children placed in his arms could be rolled down into a pit of fire.

During the sacrifice, loud drums pounded to drown out the sound of the children’s screams as the fire melted their flesh. Children were sacrificed whenever desperation struck the Carthaginians. In the year 310 BC, Agathocles, the tyrant of Greece, invaded Africa. The people alleged that Cronus had turned against them. So, “in their zeal to make amends for their omission, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly” (Library of History, 20.14).

Throughout history, children have been the victims of sacrifice. But does this relate to the modern debate over abortion? Yes! Children may no longer be sacrificed to bronze statues, but they’re sacrificed in staggering numbers to the living god of self. Convenience has replaced superstition, but the crime is the same. ....
The post continues with "'the church fathers’ convincing arguments that unborn life is worth protecting."

B. Arnold, "The Early Christians and Abortion," Intentional Faith, May 10,2022.



Sunday, May 15, 2022

The American project

I like this statement (the signers can be found at the link):
.... The American project, as such, is under assault. Our history is the subject of a revisionist critique that is all-encompassing, unsparing, and very often flatly inaccurate. Our traditional heroes are under threat of being run out of the national pantheon. Our institutions, from elections to the job market to law enforcement, stand accused of perpetuating a systemic racism that is impossible to eradicate. Our educational system, from kindergarten through graduate school, is increasingly a forum for crude propagandizing. Our system of government is attacked as archaic, unfair, and racially biased. Our traditional values of fair play, free speech, and religious liberty are trampled by inflamed ideologues determined to impose their will by force and fear.

The national mood resembles those of the 1930s and 1970s, when radical critiques of America got considerable traction and our national self-confidence often seemed to hang by a thread.

It is in this context that we reclaim what once was a consensus view of America that has now become bitterly contested.

No matter the fashion of the moment, we believe that America is a fundamentally fair society with bountiful opportunity; that its Founding was a world-historical event of the utmost importance and established governing institutions of enduring value; that its original sins have been honorably, if belatedly, repudiated; that it came to be wealthy and powerful primarily through its own internal strengths, not via expropriation and conquest; that its model of ordered liberty is a boon to human flourishing; that its people are a marvel and its greatest resource; that its best days needn’t be behind it, and that it remains a beacon to mankind.

To the extent that these notions are falling out of favor, it is the responsibility of those who love America to revivify them. .... (more)
"America’s Crisis of Self-Doubt," National Review, May 30, 2022, pp. 11-12.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Riddled with factual errors

When your work is reviewed by someone who is a scholar on the subject. From Churchill biographer, Andrew Roberts, "What the Marxist Tariq Ali gets wrong about Winston Churchill":
Tariq Ali, the Marxist writer and activist, believes that a ‘Churchill cult’ is ‘drowning all serious debate’ about the wartime leader, and that ‘an alternative was badly needed’. He has therefore written a book that parrots every earlier revisionist slur about Churchill – war criminal, evil imperialist, mass murderer, pro-fascist....

There’s a general rule in biography, as in journalism, that knocking copy ought to be better researched than ordinary writing, but it is not one that Ali observes. He makes so many basic factual errors that Churchill’s reputation emerges unscathed from this onslaught.

The book claims that Churchill ‘had been little more than a clever politician engaged in career building’ before he became prime minister in 1940. Not so. He had already helped create the welfare state, readied the Royal Navy for the Great War and warned the world about the rise of the Nazis, among many other significant achievements. Explaining Churchill’s supposed unpopularity during the second world war, Ali claims it was because ‘the men fleeing Dunkirk knew how unprepared and badly armed they were’. Yet Churchill had been demanding higher defence spending throughout his wilderness years.

Ali further claims that in 1943, a Gallup Poll ‘revealed that only one third of the population expressed satisfaction with the war cabinet, i.e. Churchill’. Yet Churchill was not the war cabinet, and Gallup actually recorded Churchill’s personal popularity remaining above 80 per cent throughout his wartime premiership – dipping briefly for a single month to 78 per cent – and on three occasions reaching 93 per cent. The statement that the Conservatives lost the 1945 election due to ‘anti-Churchill feeling’ is similarly wrong. The Tories would have done much worse if he had not been their leader. They lost because the electorate, while admiring Churchill personally, wanted the welfare state, nationalisation and the ‘New Jerusalem’ offered by Clement Attlee (whose name is consistently misspelt in this book). .... (and much more)
Andrew Roberts, "What the Marxist Tariq Ali gets wrong about Winston Churchill," The Spectator, May 14, 2022.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

An independent judiciary

Quoted in The Dispatch, President, and future Chief Justice, William Howard Taft provided a civics lesson about the role of courts in our Constitutional system:
The executive and legislative branches are representative of the majority of the people which elected them in guiding the course of the Government within the limits of the Constitution. They must act for the whole people, of course; but they may properly follow, and usually ought to follow, the views of the majority which elected them in respect to the governmental policy best adapted to secure the welfare of the whole people. But the judicial branch of the government is not representative of a majority of the people in any such sense, even if the mode of selecting judges is by popular election ...[J]udges are servants of the people; that is, they are doing work which must be done for the Government and in the interest of all the people, but it is not work in the doing of which they are to follow the will of the majority except as that is embodied in statutes lawfully enacted according to constitutional limitations. They are not popular representatives. On the contrary, to fill their office properly, they must be independent. They must decide every question which comes before them according to law and justice. ....

[J]udges to fulfill their functions properly in our popular Government must be more independent than in any other form of government.... We cannot be blind to the fact that often an intelligent and respectable electorate may be so roused upon an issue that it will visit with condemnation the decision of a just judge, though exactly in accord with the law governing the case, merely because it affects unfavorably their [interests]. ....
Quoted in Jacob Becker, "History Shows Why We Need an Independent Judiciary," The Dispatch, May 12, 2022.


Does Putin qualify as a tyrant? According to Aristotle:
  • First, ...the tyrant stamped on anyone exhibiting the slightest independence of mind, since “the man who rivals the tyrant’s pride and spirit of freedom robs the tyrant of his position of mastery, undermining his authority.”
  • Second, because tyrannies were ended “when people come to trust each other, command confidence among themselves and others, and do not inform against one another,” he must “make war on decent, upright citizens” and “set them against each other,” creating a culture of fear, suspicion and mistrust.
  • Third, he must ensure the destruction of any power bases that might challenge his authority: so “clubs and societies must be closed down together with all places where men pursue learning together,” for they are the “breeding-grounds of independence and courage.” As for the people, “their attention must be diverted from plotting”: so they must be kept “poor and fully occupied in making a living or else in fighting wars, to be successful in which requires them to look to their leader.”
  • Finally, the tyrant had “no public interest except what is conducive to his private ends” and that was acquiring the riches that would enable him to stay in power. As a result, the tyrant was wary of honest, candid friends “on the grounds that they more than anyone have the power to do what his enemies merely wish.” So only “toadies and flatterers” had access to him. ....
Peter Jones, "Does Putin pass Aristotle’s tyrant test?" The Spectator, May 2022.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022


Worth reading: Tim Alberta, "How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church." Some excerpts:
.... I’ve spent my life watching evangelicalism morph from a spiritual disposition into a political identity. It’s heartbreaking. So many people who love the Lord, who give their time and money to the poor and the mourning and the persecuted, have been reduced to a caricature. But I understand why. Evangelicals—including my own father—became compulsively political, allowing specific ethical arguments to snowball into full-blown partisan advocacy, often in ways that distracted from their mission of evangelizing for Christ. To his credit, even when my dad would lean hard into a political debate, he was careful to remind his church of the appropriate Christian perspective. “God doesn’t bite his fingernails over any of this,” he would say around election time. “Neither should you.” ....

The first piece of scripture I memorized as a child—the verse that continues to guide my own imperfect walk—is from Paul’s second letter to the early Church in Corinth, Greece. As with most of his letters, the apostle was addressing dysfunction and breakage in the community of believers. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,” Paul wrote. “Since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Paul’s admonishment of the early Church contains no real ambiguity. Followers of Jesus are to orient themselves toward his enduring promise of salvation, and away from the fleeting troubles of humanity. ....

.... When we finally met, in the spring of 2021, Brown told me his alarm had only grown. “The crisis for the Church is a crisis of discernment,” he said over lunch. “Discernment”—one’s basic ability to separate truth from untruth—“is a core biblical discipline. And many Christians are not practicing it.” A stocky man with steely blue eyes and a subdued, matter-of-fact tone, Brown struck me as thoroughly disheartened. The pastor said his concern was not simply for his congregation of 300, but for the millions of American evangelicals who had come to value power over integrity, the ephemeral over the eternal, moral relativism over bright lines of right and wrong. .... (more)
Tim Alberta, "How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church," The Atlantic, May 10, 2022.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Nazgul were the good guys?

About a Ukrainian translation of Lord of the Rings:
.... Feschowetz, once a professor at Ivan Franko National University, is on a “mission to return Ukraine to the Western civilization.” In the wake of Russia’s designs on Ukraine, culminating in its recent invasion, Feschowetz’s effort has taken on a wartime urgency. Tolkien is not the only author Astrolabe has published in Ukrainian: There’s also Dante, Chaucer, Catallus, and more.

But Tolkien’s work has a special resonance in Ukraine’s present predicament, as an underdog nation resists a malevolent would-be conqueror. Ukrainians have apparently begun caricaturing invading Russian soldiers as “orcs.” And in an unsettling development, there is some evidence that aspects of Russian culture have embraced this caricature:
Feschowetz pointed to alternative Tolkien fan-fiction from Russian sources, such as Kirill Eskov’s The Last Ringbearer and Maxim Kalashnikov’s The Wrath of the Orc, to argue that Russian forces have embraced the term in defiance of what they regard as a pro-Western story.
(The Last Ringbearer is an unauthorized abomination that rewrites The Lord of the Rings as though the story we know is fake, and actually Sauron and the Nazgul were the good guys, fighting to bring technology and civilization to a Middle-earth still dominated by a mysticism-ridden tyranny enforced by elves and wizards.....)
Jack Butler, "Ukrainian Publisher Deals in Military Manuals, Lord of the Rings Translations," National Review, May 10, 2022.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

An ecumenical statement

Reviewing posts related to Tim Keller I came across this (November 20, 2009), still solid:

"The Manhattan Declaration" is a statement published today with remarkably broad ecumenical support identifying three of the crucial points where faith and public policy intersect in America right now. First Things has published the entire statement here. From the "Declaration" website:
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family. We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty
Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Once again the entire statement with the list of original signatories is here. Touchstone provided a summary of those who signed.

Manhattan Declaration

Too accommodating

Reflecting on Tim Keller's ministry, James R. Wood writes "Keller was the right man for a moment. To many, like me, it appears that moment has passed." And why?:
.... There was a “neutral world” roughly between 1994–2014 in which traditional Christianity was neither broadly supported nor opposed by the surrounding culture, but rather was viewed as an eccentric lifestyle option among many. However, that time is over. Now we live in the “negative world,” in which, according to Renn, Christian morality is expressly repudiated and traditional Christian views are perceived as undermining the social good. As I observed the attitude of our surrounding culture change, I was no longer so confident that the evangelistic framework I had gleaned from Keller would provide sufficient guidance for the cultural and political moment. ....

If we assume that winsomeness will gain a favorable hearing, when Christians consistently receive heated pushback, we will be tempted to think our convictions are the problem. If winsomeness is met with hostility, it is easy to wonder, “Are we in the wrong?” Thus the slide toward secular culture’s reasoning is greased. A “secular-friendly” politics has problems similar to “seeker-friendly” worship. An excessive concern to appeal to the unchurched is plagued by the accommodationist temptation. This is all the more a problem in the “negative world.”

Keller's “third way” philosophy has serious limitations as a framework for moral reasoning as well. Too often it encourages in its adherents a pietistic impulse to keep one’s hands clean, stay above the fray, and at a distance from imperfect options for addressing complex social and political issues. It can also produce conflict-aversion, and thus it is instinctively accommodating. ....

Keller was extremely effective as a minister and public theologian in the neutral world. .... (more)
I just reviewed the many posts related to Tim Keller on this blog, invariably favorable.

James R. Wood, "How I Evolved on Tim Keller," First Things, May 6, 2022.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

"God bless you all, both great and small/And send you a joyful May"

It's a dreary and chilly May Day here this year. Spring seems late. But it is May.

We've been a-rambling all this night,
And sometime of this day;
And now returning back again
We bring a branch of May.

A branch of May we bring you here,
And at your door it stands;
It is a sprout well budded out,
The work of the Lord's hands.

The hedges and trees they are so green,
As green as any leek;
Our Heavenly Father, He watered them
With His heavenly dew so sweet.

The heavenly gates are open wide,
Our paths are beaten plain;
And if a man be not too far gone,
He may return again.

So dear, so dear as Christ loved us,
And for our sins was slain,
Christ bids us turn from wickedness
Back to the Lord again.

The moon shines bright, the stars give a light,
A little before it is day,
So God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a joyful May.

The Mayers' Song
Once upon a time May Day had nothing to do with any political cause, much less Communism, but with things like May Poles and May Baskets and the celebration of the coming of Spring.

Happy May Day!

The verse and the illustration are from The Children's Book of Rhymes, by Cicely Mary Barker