Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Jehu Chronicles

Flake News

Douglas Wilson
Blog&Mablog

INTRODUCTION

So let us talk for a moment about the term “fake news.” Why are we talking about this all of a sudden? Why is this a thing now?

During the campaign there were various stories that circulated on the Internet, made up of whole cloth, some of which were not flattering to Hillary. In the aftermath of the election, when her people were flailing around in search of someone or something to blame besides Her Majesty, one of the things they tried out was the idea that it was “fake news” that had hurt her in the final days of the election. Let’s run that one up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes.

Not only did no one salute, but something else entirely happened.

QUALIFICATIONS

But before proceeding further, let me acknowledge fully and sincerely that there were stories out there about Hillary that, when it came to the falsitudinous quotient, ranked pretty high. I also acknowledge that Nigerian princes who are stranded in Manila with a suitcase full of gold bullion are also not, shall we say, legit. Do not send them your bank account number. And further, I cheerfully note that purveyors of clickbait techniques love to tell us that what Ted Cruz said next went BOOM, and that Kellyanne Conway DESTROYED Anderson Cooper, and that when you see what Bo Derek looks like now it will BLOW YOUR MIND. So Hillary had to deal with that foolishness, as well all the rest of us. Welcome to earth, kid.

And here is another qualification. Donald Trump is a wrecking ball. It is possible to applaud the fact of some of the wreckage without applauding, um, the entire project.

Daily Meditation

The Hour of Unusual Threat

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)

John Piper


Many Christians in the world today do not know the life-threatening danger that comes with believing in Christ. We have gotten used to being free from such persecution. It seems like the way things must be.

So our first reaction to the threat that things might be otherwise is often anger. But that anger may be a sign that we have lost our sense of being aliens and exiles (“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles . . .” 1 Peter 2:11).

Perhaps we have settled in too much to this world. We don’t feel as homesick for Christ as Paul did: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).  Many of us need the reminder, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Have you ever wondered how you will do in the hour of final trial? The gunman has you in his sights and asks, “Are you a Christian?” Here is a strong word to give you hope that you may do better than you think.
“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). 
This encouragement from Peter says that in the hour of unusual threat (whether insult or death) there will be “a Spirit of glory and of God resting on us.” Doesn't that mean that God gives special help in the hour of crisis to those who suffer because they are Christians?

I don’t mean he is absent from our other sufferings. I just mean that Peter went out of his way to say to those who suffer “for the name of Christ” will experience a special “resting” on them of “the Spirit of glory and of God.”

Mandarins, Oligarchs, and the Deep State

A Few Heads on a Platter Would Do the Trick


Several stories and speculations are starting to surface about "Deep State" forces working to control the new US President.  In general terms, Deep State is a loose term referring to the Federal bureaucracy--or members thereof--who are opposed to the President and are working either to undermine him, neuter him, or control him.  

It remains to be seen how successful Trump will be in doing battle against these forces.  Up front right now are the leaks to the media over confidential, recorded conversations--leading eventually to the resignation of Michael Flynn, a Trump appointee.  Investigations are focusing on the leaks as coming from the US Justice Department.

Now, another alleged Deep State perfidy has come to light.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Letter From America (More About the "Deep State")

The Deep State Targets Trump

Patrick J. Buchanan
The American Conservative



When Gen. Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national-security advisor, Bill Kristol purred his satisfaction, “If it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”  To Kristol, the permanent regime, not the elected president and his government, is the real defender and rightful repository of our liberties.  Yet it was this regime, the deep state, that carried out what Eli Lake of Bloomberg calls “The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn.”

And what were Flynn’s offenses?

In December, when Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador. He apparently counseled the envoy not to overreact, saying a new team would be in place in a few weeks and would review U.S.-Russian relations.  “That’s neither illegal nor improper,” writes Lake.

Vladimir Putin swiftly declared that there would be no reciprocal expulsions and U.S. diplomats and their families would be welcome at the Kremlin’s Christmas and New Year’s parties.  Diplomatic crisis averted. “Great move … (by V. Putin),” tweeted Trump, “I always knew he was very smart.”

But apparently, this did not sit well with the deep state.

"I See Nothing . . . "

Moscow Sees Its Coldest Christmas in 120 Years

Australia and South America also had cold-weather records. Why is nobody talking about it?


Jon Basil Utley
The American Conservative

Novoandreevsky bridge in the Moscow winter. (Igor Zhilyakov / Shutterstock)
With all the talk about Fake News, little is mentioned about No-News.

Moscow has had a record-busting winter, including the coldest Christmas in 120 years according to Russian reports. Yet there is nothing on CNN. Poland and much of Eastern Europe also are having a record cold winter. It is not reported. Also in the Southern Hemisphere were record cold winters in 2016 and cool following summers in Perth, Australia and New Zealand, which had the coldest winter in a hundred years. Similarly, in 2016 Brazil had the coldest winter in 22 years.

Although everyone can agree that there is “climate change,” the measures most visible for modifying it are all those promoted by the partisans of global warming—namely cutting back carbon dioxide emissions, particularly burning fossil fuels. But should we copy Germany with measures that raised electricity bills to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, nearly three times what it costs in America?

Daily Meditation

Returning to the Father's House

TO MARY NEYLAN, who had told Lewis she was going to resume the prac- tice of her faith after years of alienation and theological struggle: On acting on the light one has; on the unreliability of religious emotion; on confession of sins to a spiritual director; and on daily spiritual and Bible reading.

C. S. Lewis


4 January 1941

Congratulations . . . on your own decision. I don’t think this decision comes either too late or too soon. One can’t go on thinking it over for ever; and one can begin to try to be a disciple before one is a professed theologian. In fact they tell us, don’t they, that in these matters to act on the light one has is almost the only way to more light. Don’t be worried about feeling that, or about feeling at all. As to what to do, I suppose the normal next step, after self-examination repentance and restitution, is to make your Communion; and then to continue as well as you can, praying as well as you can . . . and fulfilling your daily duties as well as you can. And remember always that religious emotion is only a servant. . . . This, I say, would be the obvious course.

If you want anything more e.g. Confession and Absolution which our church enjoins on no-one but leaves free to all—let me know and I’ll find you a directeur. If you choose this way, remember it’s not the psychoanalyst over again: the confessor is the representative of Our Lord and declares His forgiveness—his advice or ‘understanding’ though of real, is of secondary importance.

For daily reading I suggest (in small doses) Thomas à Kempis’ ‘Imitation of Christ’ and the ‘Theologia Germanica’...and of course the Psalms and New Testament. Don’t worry if your heart won’t respond: do the best you can. You are certainly under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, or you wouldn’t have come where you now are: and the love that matters is His for you—yours for Him may at present exist only in the form of obedience. He will see to the rest.

This has been great news for me I need hardly say. You have all my prayers (not that mine are worth much).

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Yours, Jack The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II: Family Letters 1905-1931. Copyright © 2004 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Benedict Option, Part II

Avoiding the Hard Thinking Required

Further to yesterday's post on Rod Dreher and the Benedict Option, we reproduce a recent post by Dreher at The American Conservative to give a sample of his advocacy of the Benedict Option.

The Last Evangelical Citadel

Rod Dreher
The American Conservative

To defend the citadel, soldiers need new strategies — ones that are actually quite old (Alexlukin/Shutterstock)
David Goodwin, head of the Association of Classical Christian Schools, writes that Evangelicals (of which he is one) regard the Bible as their “citadel,” but now find themselves struggling to defend it in post-Christianity. The problem, it seems to me, is fideism. Excerpts:

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Damning EU Report

‘Rescuing’ Mediterranean Migrants Encourages Smugglers, Increases Drownings

[Most state actions have the opposite unintended consequences.  Here is yet another example. Ed.]

Jack Montgomery
Breitbart London



smugglers


Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has admitted that search-and-rescue (SAR) missions in the Mediterranean Sea are strengthening criminal migrant smugglers’ business model and increasing total drowning deaths.

The Frontex Risk Analysis for 2017 admits that:

…Both border surveillance and SAR missions close to, or within, the 12-mile territorial waters of Libya have unintended consequences.

Namely, they influence smugglers’ planning and act as a pull … Dangerous crossings on unseaworthy and overloaded vessels were organised with the main purpose of being detected by EUNAVFOR Med/Frontex and NGO vessels.

Apparently, all parties involved in SAR operations in the Central Mediterranean unintentionally help criminals achieve their objectives at minimum cost, strengthen their business model by increasing the chances of success.

Migrants and refugees – encouraged by the stories of those who had successfully made it in the past – attempt the dangerous crossing since they are aware of and rely on humanitarian assistance to reach the EU.  The end result is that crossings to Italy reached an all-time high of 182,000 in 2016, with an attendant rise in drowning deaths: 5,083, as compared with 3,777 in 2015 and 3,279 in 2014.

Frontex acknowledges “the scope of the problem is alarming”, with SAR missions forming an essential component of the people smugglers’ operations and providing them with a “distinct tactical advantage”.  Even so, the EU agency concludes that “SAR efforts will continue as long as the migratory crisis persists in the Central Mediterranean not only because they relate to international legal obligations, but also because they stem from European values.”

Australia drew the opposite conclusion from its own migrant crisis, which also saw people-smugglers sending unseaworthy vessels towards their destination with inadequate fuel, radioing ahead for them to be picked up and escorted to their target country by the authorities.

These crossings reached a high of 403 boats and 25,173 migrants in 2012-13 before former prime minister Tony Abbott launched Operation Sovereign Borders. This military-led mission sees smuggler boats either turned back to their port of origin or escorted to a third country, with migrants’ asylum applications processed off-shore. Genuine refugees are homed outside Australia at the commonwealth’s expense.

The Australian approach is unlike the European policy in that it is designed to reduce drowning deaths by strongly disincentivising illegal sea-crossings. It appears to have been successful, with the government recently reporting that it has been 900 days since the last smuggler boat reached Australia.  Tony Abbott has advised EU leaders that “If you want to stop the deaths [and] you want to stop the drownings, you have got to stop the boats”.

Speaking in Prague in late 2016, the London-born conservative said “Effective border protection is not for the squeamish, but it is absolutely necessary to save lives and to preserve nations. The truly compassionate thing to do is: stop the boats and stop the deaths.”  Abbott has also warned that “Many of those taking to boats across the Mediterranean or clamouring at Europe’s gates look set to join an angry underclass”, and the migrant crisis could, therefore, represent an “existential threat” to European societies.

“Too many are coming not with gratitude but with grievance, and with the insistence that Europe should make way for them. Some of Turkey’s leaders have even urged Muslims to take back parts of Europe, and among the would-be migrants are soldiers of the caliphate bent on mayhem.”

Daily Devotional

Becoming a Follower of the Crucified

"Take up the cross, and follow me."  Mark 10:21

Charles H. Spurgeon


You have not the making of your own cross, although unbelief is a master carpenter at cross-making; neither are you permitted to choose your own cross, although self-will would fain be lord and master; but your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love, and you are cheerfully to accept it; you are to take up the cross as your chosen badge and burden, and not to stand cavilling at it. This night Jesus bids you submit your shoulder to his easy yoke. Do not kick at it in petulance, or trample on it in vain-glory, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear, but take it up like a true follower of Jesus. Jesus was a cross-bearer; he leads the way in the path of sorrow. Surely you could not desire a better guide! And if he carried a cross, what nobler burden would you desire? The Via Crucis is the way of safety; fear not to tread its thorny paths.

Beloved, the cross is not made of feathers, or lined with velvet, it is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders; but it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colours, it is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows tried the load. Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt. Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly; remember that it will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble. The Lord help you to bow your spirit in submission to the divine will ere you fall asleep this night, that waking with to-morrow's sun, you may go forth to the day's cross with the holy and submissive spirit which becomes a follower of the Crucified.

The Beginning of the End of the House of Lords?

Living in Interesting Times

The following piece appeared in one of our local blogs, Your New Zealand.  It was written by a guest correspondent ("Missey") in the UK.  

Before reading we would "set the stage" as it were by reminding readers that the history of English (and Great Britain's) constitutional development from the time of the Bloodless Revolution of 1688 has had at least two general (albeit related) themes.  The first was the development of the primacy of the Parliament over the Crown.  The second, was the growing primacy of the Commons over the House of Lords.

It has been blithely assumed by all and sundry that this gradual development has ceased.  The constitutional tectonic plates were no longer colliding or shearing off against each other, but had settled into a perpetual somnolent state.

Suddenly a taiaha has been thrown into the ground.  The Commons have overwhelmingly passed the Brexit Bill.  Now the Lords (or at least a goodly number of that chamber) are threatening to pass lots and lots of amendments, the upshot of which will be to stymie Brexit, and keep Britain within the EU.  In reaction, open conversations about removing the House of Lords have broken out--something which has not happened for a long, long time.
Today the House of Lords began their first two days of debate on the Article 50  [Brexit] Bill before it goes to committee stage.

Over the weekend a number of Lords said that it would not get through unscathed, and they were open about wanting to do everything to either water down the legislation, or stop it completely, this has put the Lords on a collision course with both the people and the House of Commons.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Theresa May On Song

Britain Will Not ‘Cherry Pick’ Bits of EU Membership

Nick Hallett
Breitbart London

Britain will leave the European Single Market and will not “cherry pick” parts of European Union membership to keep after Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.  In an article for French newspaper Le Figaro, Mrs. May said it was important to maintain economic links with the EU, including “access” to the single market, but she added Britain cannot accept a continuation of freedom of movement.
“As we leave the EU, we will seek the greatest possible access to the European single market through a new, comprehensive, bold, ambitious free trade agreement,” Mrs. May wrote.  “This cannot, however, mean retaining membership of the single market.  President Hollande [of France] and other European leaders have been very clear that this would mean accepting the ‘four freedoms’ of goods, capital, services, and people and I respect their position.

Britain understands that EU leaders want to continue with the process of integration. We do not, to borrow the phrase, seek to cherry-pick which bits of membership we desire.”

She also warned in the article against giving Britain a bad Brexit deal as the UK is France’s fifth largest export market.  “UK companies are responsible for an estimated 230,000 jobs in France, and French companies for about 370,000 jobs in the UK,” she said, pointing out that the two countries have bilateral trade of €50 billion per year."

The article comes as Mrs. May meets French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve for talks in Downing Street.  Earlier this week, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said Britain should not be “punished” for leaving the EU.

“What is the point in punishing a country?” she said. “It is senseless, unless you think the EU is a prison, and you are condemned if you escape. I want to rebuild our damaged relations with the United Kingdom.  A people decides its own destiny. You cannot force a country to do something that is against its own interests, or against the democratic process,” Ms. Le Pen added.

Daily Devotional

Confessing Sin As a Child

"Father, I have sinned."  Luke 15:18

Charles H. Spurgeon


It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character?

Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon. For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence?

If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father. But if, with a child's sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord.

There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father's bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.

The Benedict Option, Part I

The Western Church Enters the Long Dark of Moria

Rod Dreher has written a book to prepare Western Christians for the coming Dark Age.  It is entitled The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.  Whilst its particular focus is the United States, it is applicable to the West as a whole.  

A fundamental assertion made by Dreher is that the present post-Christian, pagan world views now gaining not just currency, but regnancy throughout the West, are not a short-term, temporary phenomenon.  Rather, paganism will dominant the West for a thousand years or more.  His concern is to prepare the Western Church for this new, semi-permanent reality

It is refreshing to find someone speaking and thinking in such long time frames.  Most evangelicals in the Western world believe that the Lord is about to return any minute.  Their operating time frame spans little more than a generation in most cases.  Dreher, a professing Roman Catholic--more Catholic than Roman--operates in the biblical time frame, which not infrequently speaks of thousands of generations.

Here is a summary of Dreher's thesis, provided by the publisher, Barnes and Noble:

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The US Version of the Star Chamber

Washington’s Supreme Court Imposes Its Progressive Faith on a Christian Florist

The ruling in Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers should chill First Amendment advocates everywhere.



John French
National Review Online

[A few days ago, we published a piece on how the state in the UK is taking steps in the direction of persecuting those who speak to others about the Christian faith.  Persecution is taking a different form in the United States, but the end result is same.  In the US, some courts are overtly insisting upon submission to the state religion and are beginning to punish non-conformity.  Ed.]  

If you care about the Bill of Rights, the rights of conscience, or even the English language, there’s a chance that this morning you felt a disturbance in the Force — as if the Founders cried out in rage and were suddenly silenced. That disturbance was the Washington Supreme Court’s oppressive ruling in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, a case holding that a florist was bound by state law to use her artistic talents to design floral arrangements to celebrate what she viewed as an immoral event: a gay wedding.

The pretext for overriding the florist’s rights to free speech and religious liberty was Washington’s so-called “public accommodations law,” which required the owner, Barronelle Stutzman, to provide goods and services to customers “regardless” of their sexual orientation.

Let’s be clear, according to the plain language of the law and the undisputed facts of the case, Stutzman did nothing illegal. She had always consistently and joyfully served gay clients, including the man who ultimately decided to bring potentially ruinous legal claims against her. On each of those prior occasions, however, she was not using her artistic talents to help her clients celebrate an occasion she considered immoral.

In other words, she was not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Daily Meditation

On Comfort

C. S. Lewis


Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

From A Grief Observed
Compiled in Words to Live By A Grief Observed. Copyright © 1961 by N. W. Clerk, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Preface by Douglas H. Gresham copyright © 1994 by Douglas H. Gresham. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers

Fragrant Grease

Far Greater Risks Than "Buyer Beware"

China, over many generations, has believed deeply in the pragmatic virtues of  "fragrant grease".  The bribe facilitates all.

When Taiwanese visit the mainland they often report about the role of the bribe in mainland China.
They noted that mainlanders are not conscientious in their work, that officials live well and demand bribes from the poor, that anything including admission to schools may be had for a bribe, and that "lack of sincerity", cheating, and extortion are prevalent.  They noted that "many long-haired jobless youth loiter about, and some rob people" and that there has been a general decline in traditional Chinese virtues.  It takes no special sophistication for a traveler to see that everything is for sale, from immunity for one's self to the ruin of one's enemies.  [Angelo M. Codevilla, The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family and Civility (New York: Basic Books, 1997),  p.143.]
Let anyone doing business in China beware.  It's not just that the payment of fragrant grease is expected by local officials in order for them to facilitate and permit one's company to operate.  It's also the reality that one's  "enemies"--commercial competitors--can bribe in the opposite direction, leading not just to one's own commercial loss, but to one's company managers and directors being hauled into prison.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

The Hot Politics of the Moment

Douglas Wilson
Blog&Mablog

So now would be a good time for all of us to listen to Rand Paul on big data security concerns. And here is why.

Michael Flynn has just stepped down as the president’s National Security Advisor. My concern is not whether he was wise or foolish in his interaction with the Russians, or whether he completely misrepresented himself to the vice-president or not, or whether the president was right to seek his resignation or not. My concern is not with the decisions that have been made, but how it came about that a decision had to be made.

Before he was part of the government, before he was sworn in, his phone conversations with foreigners were recorded. Those conversations were then subsequently leaked and the controversy ensued.

What this means is that someone in the intelligence community, with access to the surveillance data that is routinely collected, released some of that data in the interests of a political agenda. It does not matter for my purposes if that political agenda is wise or foolish. It is simply that this information was released for political purposes, and the person who released it is not in jail. This is all we really need to know.

Daily Meditation

The Kind of Cold That Kills

He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. (Psalm 147:15)

John Piper


Tonight it will be 40 degrees warmer in our kitchen freezer than it is outside here in Minneapolis. The high temperature tomorrow will be five degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). We receive this from the Lord’s hand.
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
(Psalm 147:15–18)

This is the kind of cold you do not play with. It kills.

Tears Dropping Upon the Bowl of Morning Porridge

It's All Over, Rover

Doomsday has arrived for the Doomsday Clock.  We at Contra Celsum are enjoying hearty chuckles over the dissipation of angst that will now attend the Doom Ticker.

Columnist Bob Brockie described the history of Doomageddon's clock, and how it has morphed into meaninglessness.
The Doomsday Clock is not what it used to be. In its early days, the clock simply measured the threat of nuclear war but this year is quite different. The atomic scientists have widened the range of world threats to include climate change, genetically engineered alien flu strains, transgenic plants that could be malignly used to produce toxic proteins, potential paramilitary robots with a license to kill, hackers crashing the grid, giant asteroids, fake news but, above all, that horseman of the apocalypse, Donald Trump, whose strident nationalism, inflammatory rhetoric and his dismissal of scientific expertise threatens us all.  Scary stuff. No wonder that they've moved the clock 2.5 minutes closer to midnight.  [Stuff]
The multitudinous Apocalypse du Jour crowd have taken over the Doomsday Clock.  It seems that folk cannot live without the chill winds of fear cooling down their morning porridge into a tepid slurry of multi-variate, competing dooms.  The problem with this is twofold.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Douglas Wilson Writes to the Vice-President

An Open Letter to the Vice-President of the United States

Douglas Wilson
Blog&Mablog

Mr. Vice-President,

I am writing you as one who has appreciated your work, and as one who has been most grateful for your presence and influence in the new administration. Your impact has not gone unnoticed, and we thank God for you. I am extraordinarily mindful of what you did in appearing to speak at the pro-life march. I have thanked God for you. We have prayed for you.

At the same time, there has also been obvious influence in the other direction, and so I wanted to take this opportunity address you in my capacity as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that you are a believer, and that you respect the authority of the holy Scriptures. I am appealing to those Scriptures, and come to you as a fellow servant of those Scriptures. I know, in fact, that we agree on
this common ground.



I saw that you recently defended the president’s approach to LGBTQ issues, in his extension of President Obama’s executive order on LGBT rights. In the past you have said that you are a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third, in that order. In the past you have recognized that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” But just recently, in this interview with George Stephanopoulos, you said that you applauded the president’s continued inclusion of the “LGBT community” in this way.  You further said that there is no room in a patriot’s heart for prejudice. This is problematic in many ways, which I would like to take a moment to explain.

In the first place, as you well know, no responsible Christian leader advocates queer-bashing.

Daily Meditation

Christ As Means and End

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20)

John Piper


Why did God create the universe, and why is he governing it the way he is? What is God achieving? Is Jesus Christ a means to this achievement or the end of the achievement?

Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God. He is God in human form. As such, he is the end, not a means.

The manifestation of the glory of God is the meaning of the universe. This is what God is achieving. The heavens and the history of the world are “telling the glory of God.”  But Jesus Christ was sent to accomplish something that needed doing. He came to remedy the fall. He came to rescue sinners from inevitable destruction because of their sin. These rescued ones will see and savor and display the glory of God with everlasting joy.

Others will continue to heap scorn on the glory of God. So Jesus Christ is the means to what God meant to achieve in the manifestation of his glory for the enjoyment of his people.  But in that accomplishment on the cross, as he died for sinners, Christ revealed the love and righteousness of the Father supremely. This was the apex of the revelation of the glory of God — the glory of his grace.

Therefore, in the very moment of his perfect act as the means of God’s purpose, Jesus became the end of that purpose. He became, in his dying in the place of sinners and his resurrection for their life, the central and supreme revelation of the glory of God.

Christ crucified is therefore both the means and the end of God’s purpose in the universe.  Without his work, that end to reveal the fullness of the glory of God for the enjoyment of God’s people would not have happened.

And in that very means-work he became the end — the one who forever and ever will be the focus of our worship as we spend eternity seeing and savoring more and more of what he revealed of God when he became a curse for us.

Jesus is the end for which the universe was made, and the means that makes that end possible to enjoy.

A New Tune, Or An Old Dirge

The Turning of the Tide?

At this year's Waitangi Day, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English gave a couple of speeches which asserted that a quiet revolution is underway in New Zealand.  One person covering the speeches claimed that what English said was "extraordinary".  
English chose not to go to Waitangi, preferring to attend a breakfast hosted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. When it came his turn to speak during the powhiri, which was held inside the wharenui, he began with a short mihi and then he said, “I want to tell you why I’ve come here, to this marae.”

He said it was because of what had been achieved by Ngāti Whātua and the manner of its achievement. He spoke directly to Joe Hawke, the much-loved Uncle Joe, the man who in 1976-78 led a 506-day protest “occupation” of the very land they were on that day. Hawke sat front and centre across from English, flanked by other kaumātua, many of whom were also protest veterans. He soaked it up.

Hawke is silver haired now, a thin man with the sad eyes of age, but what draws you is the whispery smile that keeps flitting over his face, creasing the skin, puckering the lips, lighting those eyes. He leaves it to others to do the talking, and none of them leaves you in any doubt of their pride at their achievements.  English understood it very well.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Lessons From US Agriculture

 A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture

Current farming methodologies aren't just bad for land, community, and ecology—they're increasingly bad for business. Something's gotta give.

[This piece profiles the crisis of American agriculture.  The operating paradigm of "bigger is better" is in the process of falling apart.  We suspect that the same realities will be faced eventually in New Zealand because of the large scale industrialization of dairy farming in this country.  Ed.]

Gracy Olmstead
The Federalist

The Wall Street Journal is predicting a farm bust on the horizon, as America’s role in the global grain market shrinks, and the price for corn continues to drop. Reporters Jesse Newman and Patrick McGroarty write
The Farm Belt is hurtling toward a milestone: Soon there will be fewer than two million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase.  This number definitely reflects a growing decline in farming. But what the Wall Street Journal doesn’t note is that the nation’s largest farms are only growing more powerful and large. We have fewer farms, yes, but largely because we have a greater share of larger, industrialized farms.
The WSJ interviewed a specific type of farmer for this article: the commodity crop farmer. Yes, they represent the greatest portion of farms in the American heartland. But many are also beginning to realize that government subsidies and cushy crop insurance premiums can’t save them forever: when their supply is abundantly overstepping demand, eventually reality is going to hit. And if this WSJ piece is any indication, reality is indeed about to strike.

Daily Devotional

The Weakest, Smallest Faith

"She was healed immediately."  Luke 8:47

Charles H. Spurgeon


One of the most touching and teaching of the Saviour's miracles is before us. The woman was very ignorant. She imagined that virtue came out of Christ by a law of necessity, without his knowledge or direct will. Moreover, she was a stranger to the generosity of Jesus' character, or she would not have gone behind to steal the cure which he was so ready to bestow. Misery should always place itself right in the face of mercy.

Had she known the love of Jesus' heart, she would have said, "I have but to put myself where he can see me--his omniscience will teach him my case, and his love at once will work my cure." We admire her faith, but we marvel at her ignorance. After she had obtained the cure, she rejoiced with trembling: glad was she that the divine virtue had wrought a marvel in her; but she feared lest Christ should retract the blessing, and put a negative upon the grant of his grace: little did she comprehend the fulness of his love!

We have not so clear a view of him as we could wish; we know not the heights and depths of his love; but we know of a surety that he is too good to withdraw from a trembling soul the gift which it has been able to obtain.

But here is the marvel of it: little as was her knowledge, her faith, because it was real faith, saved her, and saved her at once. There was no tedious delay--faith's miracle was instantaneous. If we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, salvation is our present and eternal possession. If in the list of the Lord's children we are written as the feeblest of the family, yet, being heirs through faith, no power, human or devilish, can eject us from salvation. If we dare not lean our heads upon his bosom with John, yet if we can venture in the press behind him, and touch the hem of his garment, we are made whole.

Courage, timid one! thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God."

Shameless

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

The old saw asserting there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics" will afflict us until educational and schooling standards rise once more.  For the present we see commentators and reporters and government officials and politicians misusing statistics frequently.  Largely, they get away with it.

To this imbroglio we must add the recent phenomenon of the main stream media being captured by political animus against conservatives in general, and the Trump administration, in particular.  The sobriquet "fake news" has been deployed to characterise how en masse the media are framing everything they can find to ridicule and undermine the new US federal administration.  As Churchill used to say, by the time a lie is corrected, it has gone around the world, before the truth gets out of bed and puts its pants on.  Never was this more the case than in our days, where the animus of the media is so extreme.

Here is one "little exchange" to illustrate the point.  The topic: immigration to the US.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

It's Not OK to Punch Fascists

Even if they deserve the term


Liam Hehir
Stuff

Not long ago, disreputable Right-winger Richard Spencer was attacked on live television. Spencer is often accused of being a Nazi though he disputes that label.

A man attacks Richard Spencer during the ABC's live interview.
A man attacks Richard Spencer during the ABC's live interview.

He is undoubtedly a purveyor of white identity politics, however, and is notable for coining the term "alt-right". At the time he was attacked he was being interviewed on the street during the Trump presidential inauguration. A man came up, smashed him in the side of the face and ran off.

A punch directly to the head is serious business. A blow to the cranium – even a relatively restrained one – can cause lasting damage. Spencer could have been seriously hurt or even killed.

Nevertheless, for many "liberals" in the United States and elsewhere, the sight of such a villainous personage being clocked caused much glee. The offender was compared to Indiana Jones, Captain America, the Blues Brothers and other pop-culture icons who were famous for their (fictional) assaults on Nazis.  Videos of the incident set to music went viral, with a former Obama administration speechwriter tweeting that, "I don't care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I'll laugh at every one."

Since then, it has become clear that the idea of using violence against alleged fascists has gained some respectability.

Daily Meditation

On Comfort

C. S. Lewis


God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies.

Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way. . . .

Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay.

In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in Words to Live By Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Desperate Artifices

The Bible is Not a Wax Nose To Be Twisted At Will

When consciences become seared one of the outcomes is folk attempting to "explain away" the Bible's clear teaching.  When the Bible commands, "Thou shalt not . . . " the man with a seared conscience responds with a couple of common subterfuges.

The first (and probably the most intellectually honest, albeit erroneous) is to agree that, yes, the Bible does indeed condemn "x", but the Bible has no standing in human life and society.  The Bible is mistaken, irrelevant, tells lies, etc.  This response does not deny that the Messenger says that "x" is wrong, forbidden, and condemned.  Rather, it attacks the Messenger as having no relevance, authority, or standing in the matter.

The second subterfuge is to agree that yes, the Bible condemns "x" and forbids the practice of "x" but "x" has a narrow or technical meaning.  It does not apply to every instance of "x".  In this way, one can still maintain some vestiges of credibility as a believer, but only by perverting the teaching of the Bible, making it say what it does not.

Thus it has come to pass with respect to the Bible's teaching on homosexuality.  There are plenty of scholars in subterfuge number one.  Such folk are knowledgeable on the widespread practice of homosexuality amongst the Greeks and Romans (that is, in New Testament times).

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America (About Killers)

When Seared Consciences Lust for Power

The president caused a stir the other day when he told Bill O’Reilly that there are lots of killers out there, and that America is “not so innocent.” This was in response to a question about how Trump could work with Putin, in that, as O’Reilly objected, “he’s a killer.” This is quite true. He is a killer, thug, and kleptocrat. Defenders of Putin have a moral compass that, instead of pointing true north, has a needle sticking out the side in order to point to Sheol.

That answer from Trump was taken by some as mightily offensive, as though he were flattening all differences between Russia and the United States, making the two morally equivalent. This is something liberals used to do all the time in the Cold War, where they would say things like “well, sure, the Soviets have the Gulag but we must never forget that the all-you-can-eat buffet at Ruby Tuesday is out of the reach of our working poor.” Stuff like that.

But the offense that was taken to Trump’s remark had a curious religiously indignant feel to it, as though the president had just heaved a dead polecat at the high altar.  How dare he compare us in any way to the lousy Russians?

There are just a couple of points to make here, and it shouldn’t take long.

Daily Meditation

Lincoln’s Providence

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

John Piper


Abraham Lincoln, who was born on this day in 1809, remained skeptical, and at times even cynical, about religion into his forties. So it is a most striking thing how personal and national suffering drew Lincoln into the reality of God, rather than pushing him away.

In 1862, when Lincoln was 53 years old, his 11-year-old son Willie died. Lincoln’s wife “tried to deal with her grief by searching out New Age mediums.” Lincoln turned to Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington.  Several long talks led to what Gurley described as “a conversion to Christ.” Lincoln confided that he was “driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.”

Similarly, the horrors of the dead and wounded soldiers assaulted him daily. There were fifty hospitals for the wounded in Washington. The rotunda of the Capitol held 2,000 cots for wounded soldiers.  Typically, fifty soldiers a day died in these temporary hospitals. All of this drove Lincoln deeper into the providence of God. “We cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

His most famous statement about the providence of God in relation to the Civil War was his Second Inaugural Address, given a month before he was assassinated. It is remarkable for not making God a simple supporter for the Union or Confederate cause. He has his own purposes and does not excuse sin on either side.
Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war might speedily pass away . . . .

Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid with another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.
I pray for all of you who suffer loss and injury and great sorrow that it will awaken for you, as it did for Lincoln, not an empty nihilism, but a deeper reliance on the infinite wisdom and love of God’s inscrutable providence.