Hymnus Deo

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Jane Roe" endorses Ron Paul

For those who have not yet heard... This past Tuesday, which was the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court Case that in effect legalized abortion in the United States, Norma McCorvey, who was the "Jane Roe" in that case, officially endorsed Ron Paul for President of the United States. McCorvey, who once was a Pro-abortion advocate, became a Pro-Life advocate a few years ago, and repented of her own involvement in the original court case of which she was a part. The endosement is an amazing development, and should be taken very seriously by those who believe the best defender of Pro-Life values to be one of the other candidates.

If you're interested in reading an official report about the endorsement, here's the one at the Ron Paul 2008 website, or you can simply Google "Jane Roe" "Ron Paul" and find other reports along the same lines.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Idolatry takes many forms, #7: Politics, Our Saviour

I’ve had a couple of friends over the past few years tell me that I should go into politics. I find this to be rather humorous. While I have been blogging a fair bit more on politics in recent months, the subject matter is one which I have generally despised the better part of my life. I have faint memories of my late father sitting down in front of the six o’clock news every evening without failure, and the experience left a sense which I still carry in my subconsciousness that politics are much ado about nothing. No doubt my reaction to it was partially because of the disinterest that a young child would be expected to have. And in spite of that lingering sense, I now recognize this attitude as wrong. It is a common truism that you shouldn’t mix religion and politics; it just so happens, however, that this truism is actually a falsism. It wasn’t until I came to recognize the inseparable link between theology and politics, or maybe better, between God and politics, that politics became at all interesting.

I find it telling that many Christians will strive to know the ins and outs of the current political climate, and yet despise the suggestion that they should strive to know the deep things of Scripture at least as well. Broadening the idea of Christianity beyond Scripture itself to include culture and history, I am also amazed at how many Christians will read long biographies of American presidents and the histories of wars, and yet would eschew any biography of the great pastors and theologians of the church and any history of Christianity at all. I believe this has been fostered by the concept of Statism that I have been critiquing here, and it has been encouraged by the overpowering Messianic State that we live with in the U. S. today. The idea of Statism is a Modernistic one, and one of its earliest and clearest expressions in the Modern era was in the French Revolution, where a religious state was specifically cast off in exchange for an explicitly secular one. And so the controversy carries on to this day on the place of religion in relation to the State. Yet what seems to be assumed at a deeper level by both sides is that it is the State that determines the issue. I would suggest, rather, on the basis of Scripture, that it is God who determines the issue.

Dealing with the prominence of politics in the Modern mind, Jedediah Purdy, in his book For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment In America Today, writes:

For more than two hundred years, politics has been among the great sources of inspiration and purpose, giving shape to many lives. From the radical period of the French Revolution onward there has stood the promise that politics can change the human predicament in elemental ways. Politics, on this promise, could erase all the foolish, cruel, maddening accretions of history and replace them with fair and humane arrangements where for the first time people would live as free as they are born. For both the revolutionaries whose ambitions convulsed the world and the crusading reformers of Britain and America, politics was the fulcrum on which women and men could move the lever of history. They need only a firm place to stand to take up Archimedes; old boast and move the world.

This extraordinary promise attracted the people with the greatest capacity and need for hope, the ones with the keenest sensitivity to suffering and cruelty and the strongest impulse to work against them. Politics was the means by which those who were most keenly aware of what should be could turn that moral truth into historical reality. Politics in effect took over the role of religion for many people in both this century and the last. It gave purpose to individual lives. Its aim of remaking the world carried the promise of redemption, both of whole societies and of the long labors of the individuals who worked to change them. Politics was the way to service, to heroism, and to sainthood.

Because its ambitions ran so far and so deep, politics posed questions that were inescapable for serious people. The questions of what sort of country to live in, what kind of men and women to be, how to work, and sometimes even how to love were all ones that politics promised – or threatened – to resolve. The German author Thomas Mann expressed a widely shared perception, which was sometimes reluctant and sometimes enthusiastic, when he wrote, “In our time, the question of man’s destiny presents itself in political terms.” Not acknowledging that truth meant avoiding the leading drama of the time.

I haven’t had opportunity to read Purdy’s book much beyond this point. In the next paragraph, he says that this idea of politics has largely vanished from the popular mind, as the general public has come to regard politics, and specifically politicians, with suspicion and doubt. Purdy’s book is a few years old now (written in 1999), and I wonder what he would say today. The current obsession over the coming presidential election would seem to indicate that whereas there is a great measure of distrust shown towards politicians, this distrust isn’t universal, and it is expressed toward the politicians, rather than toward politics more abstractly. This is especially true in Evangelical circles. The question for them doesn’t seem to be whether or not politics is trustworthy, but rather which politicians are trustworthy. Since the Reagan era, if not the Carter era, Evangelicals have spoken and acted as if all would be well if they could only get the right man in office, especially the Oval Office. This belies an implicit distrust in everything related to more directly to Christianity. Prayer is impotent, preaching the Word is ineffective, corporate worship is irrelevant. And don’t even ask about the Sacraments. Essentially, their behaviour communicates the fact that they don’t believe that God has control over anything. God, as it would seem, is either impotent, or doesn’t care. But since most American Christians believe Jesus is returning any minute now, one would understand why they think this way. “Things are growing worse and worse,” they say, misapplying the text. Why they continue to fight in the political realm so vehemently, then, is the question. One would think they would recognize how inconsistent this is with their end times philosophy. But they usually don’t, and I would suggest it is, once again, Statism at work that causes this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Idolatry takes many forms, #6: Theological Agendas

Why one should assume that scholars are not interested in holiness I do not know, but it sometimes appears to be the case, just as pietists are not always interested in what the text actually says.

-- N. T. Wright, commenting on the variety of interpretations of Romans 7

Monday, January 07, 2008

Occasional Riddle #6

Why is it that in Protestant jokes Saint Peter is always the one standing at the gate of Heaven?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Idolatry takes many forms, #5: It Ain’t Always Been This Way

Speaking of the state of the Scottish church in the fifth century, John Howie, in his book The Scots Worthies, wrote the following:

The Pelagian heresy had now gained considerable ground in Britain; it is so called from Pelagius, a Monk at Rome: its chief articles are – (1.) That original sin is not inherent; (2.) That faith is a thing natural; (3.) That good works done by our own strength, of our own free-will, are agreeable to the law of God, and worthy of heaven. Whether all, or only part of these errors, then infected the Scottish church, is uncertain; but Celestine, then Bishop of Rome, embraced this opportunity to send Palladius among them, who, joining with the orthodox of South Britain, restored peace to that part of the church, by suppressing the heresy. King Eugenius the Second, being desirous that this church should likewise be purged of the impure leaven, invited Palladius hither, who obtained liberty from Celestine, and being enjoined to introduce the hierarchy as opportunity should offer, came into Scotland, and succeeded so effectually in his commission, as both to confute Pelagianism and new-model the government of the church.

The church of Scotland as yet knew no officers vested with pre-eminence above their brethren, nor had anything to do with the Roman Pontiff, until the year 450. Bede says, that “Palladius was sent unto the Scots, who believed in Christ as their first bishop.” (Bede’s Eccles. His. Lib. i. ch. 13. Buchanan His. Book v.). Boetius likewise says, “that Palladius was the first of all who did bear holy magistracy among the Scots, being made bishop by the great Pope.” Fordun, in his Chronicle, tells us – “that before the coming of Palladius, the Scots had, for teachers of the faith, and ministers of the sacraments, Presbyters only, of monks, following the customs of the primitive church (Book iii. cap. 8).

But we are not to fix the era of diocesan bishops even so early as this, for there were no such office-bearers in the church of Scotland, until the reign of Malcolm II in the eleventh century. During the first thousand years after Christ, there were no divided dioceses, nor superiorities over others, but they governed in the church in common with Presbyters; so that they were no more than nominal bishops, possessing little or nothing of that lordly dignity which they now do, and for a long time past have enjoyed. Spottiswoode himself testifies (His History, page 29), that the Scottish bishops, before the eleventh century, exercised their functions indifferently in every place to which they came. Palladius may be said to have rather laid the foundation of the after degeneracy of the church of Scotland, than to have built that superstructure of corruption and idolatry which afterwards prevailed, because she continued for nearly two hundred years in a state comparatively pure and unspotted, when we cast our eyes on the following times. (pg. 3-4)

For more on bishops, see this quote.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Iowa Caucus

So Huckabee and Obama each came in first in their respective parties in the Iowa caucus. It’s exactly what I expected, though it remains disappointing. Both are socialists at heart, which brings up the statement Doug Wilson made a few years ago, that if the Democrats were to propose a bill to blow up the Capitol Building, the Republicans would counter with a proposal to phase it in over three years.

On the Huckabee side, he’s exactly what Americans generally want in a president. He smiles a lot, makes clever jokes, speaks in a very soft, effeminate sort of way, and promises that your country will continue to take care of you. And the fact that he’s a Southern Baptist minister is just par for the course, for the smiley, soft sort of fellow is the ideal male as portrayed by Southern Baptist culture. In essence, what America generally wants in the White House is an effete Southern gentleman. That was G. W., and his father, and the possibly-soon-to-be First Husband and former President Bill Clinton.

Then there’s Obama. He road to victory in Iowa, as Huckabee did, on the strength of his sweet, gentle smiles. But much credit is to be given to Oprah. Thanks to millions of shallow women everywhere, who know nothing of political theory because learning it would take, like, work and stuff, and who are naïve enough to follow their sinful feelings wherever they take them, Obama has a great chance of being our next president. Oprah has yet to promise a free refrigerator to everyone who votes for Obama, but she will certainly be glad to get you excited over him, for no apparent reason whatsoever, in order to manipulate you and a nation full of other willing slaves to vote for her candidate. Ladies, you can’t just trust somebody because they come across on TV as having a “great personality” or because some celebrity tells you to vote for him. Even celebrities have agendas, and those agendas don’t necessarily include your well-being.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Idolatry takes many forms, #4: The Religion of Scientism

Paul clearly believed that there had been a single first pair, whose male, Adam, had been given a commandment and had broken it.... Our knowledge of early anthropology is of course sketchy, to put it mildly. Each time another very early skull is dug up the newspapers exclaim over the discovery of the first human beings; we have consigned Adam and Eve entirely to the world of mythology, but we are still looking for their replacements.... The general popular belief that the early stories of Genesis were straightforwardly disproved by Charles Darwin is of course nonsense, however many times it is reinforced in contemporary mythmaking. Things are just not that simple, in biblical theology or science.

-- N. T. Wright, commenting on Romans 5:12