Friday, December 23, 2016

Heading into 2017, this might help understand what will happen

The thing about 2016 and its tumults is they are of the kind which imply 2017 will be worse, not better. 2016 looks like it will be not an aberration but the deepening of a growing global crisis.

For which crisis we might have a better understanding if we read this.

It might be worth remembering that Jesus was born into the world not to found a civilisation to be later defended from the encroachment of other civilisations but to save the world, everyone in it.

32 comments:

Andrei said...

"For which crisis we might have a better understanding if we read this."

Then again maybe not - that is a progressive, post Christian perspective written using the axioms of that world view

The real issue lies within the West itself and the argument over its own soul - arguments over Russia or Islam are just distractions as the Western culture descends into depravity and decays

Christchurch Cathedral stands as a metaphor, it fell over in an earthquake nearly six years ago now and still nobody has decided what to do about that, still bickering over its future

And how many of those engaged in the bickering actually attended Church last Sunday - I wonder?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
Absolutely there is more to be said in analysis of the decline and fall of Western civilisation.
But if in 2017 (say) the US divides in its approach to Russia; or the US sides with Russia against (say) China ... or ..., then this article helps mortals such as me to understand better the currents of thoughts passing through the American mind!

Shawn Herles said...

It might be worth remembering that our ancestors lived, worked, fought, and died to bequeath to us a Christian civilization that we now take for granted and are bent on destroying in the name of post-Christian and anti-Western political correctness.

12 people are dead in Germany because a post-Christian nutter called Merkel forgot that.

The world tends towards entropy. Civilizations are precious things. A Christian civilization more so. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. Our Western civilization was a result of that mandate.

Along with "we are all immigrants" you are trotting out some remarkably superficial slogans that would not be out of place in those universities that teach their students to believe that the Christian West is irredeemably evil and that it must commit suicide for it's supposed sins.

Our ancestors are whispering to us Peter. And they are asking us to have a little more care and concern for the gift they gave us.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
Believe it or not, I value Western civilisation and I do not want to see it die.
But I also want to take care that I do not slip into the trap of a simple equation between "Christianity" and "Western civilisation."
Yes, am guilty of superficialities!
Wait till you see my wisdom for Christmas Eve tomorrow :)

Shawn Herles said...

"But I also want to take care that I do not slip into the trap of a simple equation between "Christianity" and "Western civilisation."

No it's not a simple equation of one equaling the other, but neither can they be easily separated, anymore than Russia can be easily separated from Orthodox Christianity. They are entwined like a rope. Pull on one strand, and the other begins unraveling as well. It is not an accident that the more post-Christian the West becomes, the more suicidal and self-destructive it's political policies become. Merkel is one of the most extreme examples, as is Obama, but they are the tip of a much larger iceberg the whole West, NZ included, is racing towards.

Those of us who are, as the Atlantic article calls us, cultural conservatives, are not equating the West with the Kingdom, but we do see them as entwined together. Not uniquely so, as other civilizations are also entwined with the Kingdom.

But in God's providence, I am a Westerner, as well as a citizen of the Kingdom, and thus part of the task I have in these times is to stand against the unraveling. That is what all cultural conservatives are doing.

Glen Young said...


This entity which we refer to as Western Civilization consists of four God given mandates; two of which are the Church (Priesthood) and Government (Judges). God was and remains the legitimate KING of the whole of His creation.But the people rejected God as King and demanded of Samuel an earthly King. God's revelation to Samuel, as to the nature and character of earthly Kings remains as a very relevant and timely reminder to us today.

The mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and to administer His Holy Sacraments. The duty of the State is to maintain society is such order, as not to inhibit the COMING OF CHRIST AMONGST US.

By promulgating neo-Darwinism and cultural Marxism as the basis of Post Modern society, secular governments have not only stolen God's legitimate Kingship but they also rewritten His Revelation as to the origin of matter and life. They have tried to do the impossible, of giving man a new origin,purpose and conclusion, which in reality is only the Satanic lie of the Garden of Eden wrap in new paper with a fancy bow.

Due to the Enlightenment,the Church sold out to this new gospel and instead of remaining true to Her mission,conformed the Church to the secular standards.They fell into the trap of simply equating the Church to the new Western civilization.The problem facing the ACANZP sat the moment is due to preferring this flawed version of Western civilization to the AUTHORITY OF GOD'S REVELATION.

I to,look forward to the Church being prepared to stand in the market place proclaiming the true WORD OF GOD. In the meantime,may I wish you all a merry Christmas before doing so, is banned by the thought police because the Muslims may be offended.

Andrei said...

Peter the USA and the West in general are morally, spiritually and financially bankrupt

Neither Russia nor China at this point trust the West - all trust was lost with the wanton destruction of Libya

In its dying days the Obama administration is trying to sabotage any thaw in relations between Russia and the incoming Trump administration - its no coincidence that fighting has flared up in Eastern Ukraine or that more troops have been placed in Eastern Europe by the Americans and the British in the past few days

And I don't believe Andrei Karpov's assassination was a coincidence either and nor do the Russians or the Turks and that is a very big deal indeed

American foreign policy in the ME and Syria in particular is in tatters - the day after Andrei Karpov's assassination there was a big meeting in Moscow over Syria involving Russia, Turkey and Iran with the USA pointedly not invited - that says much

This speaks volumes as well Andrei Karpov's departure from Ankara with the full diplomatic corps in attendance and an honour guard from the Turkish military

Shawn Herles said...

An example of the unraveling, and an example of what cultural conservatives are fighting against.

'A NATIVITY scene has been 'banned' in case it offends one of the FOUR Muslims living in a Belgian town.'

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/745253/Nativity-scene-removed-fears-offend-Muslims-Belgium-Holsbeek-Christmas

And what are two forces contributing to this?

Post-Christian leaders, and imported Muslims.

Sadly, some supposedly "Christian" leaders are not much help.

'A Church of England school has removed the cross symbol from its uniform, over fears that it may offend local Muslims.'

http://www.charismanews.com/world/58195-church-of-england-removes-christ-s-cross-so-muslims-won-t-be-offended

Here's another example.

'Muslims Demand that “Offensive Crosses” be Removed From Catholic University'

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2015/12/muslims-demand-that-offensive-crosses-be-removed-from-catholic-university/

What's the common denominator here? Imported Muslims.

No, the West and the Kingdom are not the same thing. But neither can they be easily separated, and the forces of post-Christian liberal multiculturalism and Islam are the primary threats to both.

Rather then worrying about something that is not true, in this case the claim that cultural conservatives are confusing the West with the Kingdom, we should be worrying about what threatens them both; Liberalism and Muslim immigration.

Glen Young said...


"Muslims demand that 'Offensive Crosses" be removed from Catholic University."
Shawn.

Crosses are offensive to Muslims because they remind them that Islam is a cult of DEATH and the Christian Cross is symbol of life. Muhammad is dead and buried in Mecca while Christ was dead,rose again to life and is seated on the right hand of His Father.1 Cor.15/6.

The Muslims serve the "father of lies"(Satan) by trying to destroy the truth and symbol of CHRIST'S victory over him on the CROSS.No wonder they hate the
cross with such vengeance;it is a sign of their own eternal death.

Andrei said...

Looking a Shawn's links you find that it is not Muslims per se making these demands but rabid secularists making them on Muslims behalf

In my experience Muslims are not troubled by Christian iconography

"The Muslims serve the "father of lies"(Satan)..."

No they don't - there is that rabid sect of Salafism but there are rabid Christian sects as well. If we are truthful we other "Christians" besides.

Four of the five Muslims planning Christmas atrocities in Melbourne were Australian born and raised and the fact they went down the radicalisation path says as much about about the 21st century Australian culture they rejected as Islam IMHO

In the lead up to Christmas I am struck at how shallow and empty modern Western life is, with its rampant materialism and Mall Santa Clauses


Andrei said...

In support of my previous comment - John Walker Blues

This caused great controversy when it was first released but is quite profound and thought provoking

Are you familiar with it Shawn?

Father Ron said...

"But in God's providence, I am a Westerner, as well as a citizen of the Kingdom, and thus part of the task I have in these times is to stand against the unraveling. That is what all cultural conservatives are doing." - S.H.

And in the meantime; "God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year"

I just thank God he doesn't have to depend on rooted conservatives to announce the coming Kingdom Rule. Jesus came to break the bonds of "conservative religion" - in order to introduce the "New Commandment" based on LOVE and JUSTICE for ALL people. Marana tha! Even so, Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Shawn Herles said...

"Jesus came to break the bonds of "conservative religion""

Oh dear.....

No Ron, He came to break the bonds of sin and death. He did not come to destroy 21st century political movements you disagree with.

And I am fairly sure that commandment of love and justice does not require inflicting terrorism on people or inviting persecution of the Church.

Justice was not done to the 12 people who were murdered in Germany by one of our imported Muslims. Or their grieving families. My rooted/cultural conservatism is based on love and justice.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I remember the Thatcher/Reagan years as a shouting match of the deaf, both in the UK and the US. I hope that dialogue in the coming years is more fruitful.

In Washington, gleeful conservatives new to governing seemed to push the civic envelope for the sheer frisson of provocation, but they persuaded few. In the churches, preachers were already divided somewhat more than the country itself was. Some preached a politics so triumphal and providentialist that the mere existence of Democrats was a difficult task of theodicy. Others denounced the previous week's assaults on liberal verities about the welfare state, diplomacy, ecology, etc and summoned the faithful to defend them as good Democrats, so that the explication of scripture was more or less suspended. Suddenly, the religion of them all seemed to be mere social ideology unchecked by anything like faith in a Judge of the nations. Ironically, I was working in partisan politics myself, but was also fast forming friendships and sometimes alliances with Christians on the other side.

From all accounts, the religious dissensus was worse in the UK. Margaret Thatcher's personal vision of governance was more explicitly religious and dismantled a social compact that was both inspired by religion and guarded by the higher clergy of the Church of England. Some of your readers probably experienced the shouting at first hand-- endless skirmishing for moral high ground. From across the pond, it seemed to me then that the two sides knew both more and less about their island than was in fact true. Judging from the aftermath of 2008, they still do, and the most perilous task before the Church of England seems to be that of telling those in power, whoever they are, that politics may reflect cherished ideology but governance is responsible for even unacknowledged reality.

So what indeed are we to make of this moment of Brexit and Trump? How are we even to talk about it? It could be a fleeting moment, of course, but that matters more to secular journalists than it does to followers of the Way. What matters to us-- or should-- is that, for so many, social ideology seems to drive theology more than vice versa. Is that faith? Credible witness?

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

"....and the most perilous task before the Church of England seems to be that of telling those in power, whoever they are, that politics may reflect cherished ideology but governance is responsible for even unacknowledged reality"

- No, the most perilous task before the C of E will be its own survival in a country where it is being supplanted by practical atheism among the indigenous and a bewildered Islam among the newly settled. Will it rise to the task of evangelism? Dare it?

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Brian.

Evangelism poses no perils to the Church of England. The conversion of a soul to the service of Jesus Christ is always and everywhere a good thing temporally enabled and eternally rewarded by God. The Church of England needs more participants.

On the other hand, speaking truth to power without the guidance of an adequate political theology is perilous. If it is neglected, then the Church is failing obvious tests of charity and courage. If it is done, but only as a mere expression of favoured personal temperament, then those of other temperaments form the habit of ignoring or despising it. And where mass evangelism must engage a resident Muslim population, unguided truth-speaking also risks a losing comparison with the crude but explicit political theology of Islamists. Since all of this discredits the witness on which evangelism and pastoral leadership depend, the danger is clear.

Of course, many in England want the Church to demonstrate the credibility of its witness by, not only navigating religious pluralism, but also doing so in a way that will work for a civil society that minimises and privatises religious commitment. Of course, even the navigation is likely to be difficult, the right course cannot be that of secularists, and those with a more than pragmatic commitment to secularism will not like that. Those challenges may be perilous.

Blessings,

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

Happy New Year, Bowman.

"Evangelism poses no perils to the Church of England."

Try being a vicar in Tower Hamlets or Blackburn or parts of Birmingham (where your car will be smashed). Or Southall or East Leicester. There is no 'mass evangelism' to the Muslim population.

Try being a convert from Islam and see if you can live safely in your neighbourhood - or if the pc-police (the result of 13 years of Blair and Brown and then Cameron and May) will listen to you. As for the C of E hierarchy, it is actually terrified of Islam (fearful of what happened in France), as is the UK Government, and keeps hoping a modern domesticated, privatised Islam will arise, as in Kemal's secular Turkey (now falling apart). School textbooks in RE offer a completely fallacious whitewash on Islam. Syria has brought all kinds of latent pathologies to the surface.

As for so-called 'political theology': almost all C of E bishops are reliably left of centre c. 1985 on any political issue you think about and completely bewildered by the way the world is turning.

Anonymous said...

"Blessed are you when men shall persecute you..."

Brian, your comment is rhetorical rather than clear.

If the gospel is true, then persecution is not a peril but a transformative gift that a believing vicar or convert from Islam will accept with gratitude to God, just as the apostles did. And such Spirit-filled gratitude has the intrinsic spiritual authority to renew the Church in our day.

If the gospel is false, then persecution is the momentary victory of one merely earthly power over another one. It has no supernatural meaning. It is just boring "peril" like every other hazard of fragile human life.

I believe that the gospel is true. What do you believe?

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

"I believe that the gospel is true. What do you believe?"

Of course I believe it is true. I also believe that a lot of the C of E is rather pusillanimous, etiolated in liberalism and lacking confidence in the gospel, the Incarnation and Atonement, and the imperative to evangelise. A lot - but not all.
I also believe post-Christian Britain is quite hollowed out as a culture, reflected in its state education, broadcasting and "entertainment" - but I would say the same about the United States as well.
Persecution may be a "gift" but it hasn't helped the formerly Christian lands of Egypt, Syria and most of North Africa. Have you ever asked yourself why Christianity has largely disappeared from these lands? And do you think Coptic Christians *want to live under perpetual menace?
My point is the uncomfortable and unpleasant one that European politicians have been straining hard to ignore and deny: that Islam and secular European culture are *incompatible and violence and conflict are inevitable. If that sounds like a counsel of despair, I'm sorry but I think it's true.

Shawn Herles said...

Persecution is certainly a reality that as Christians we must always be prepared for. But a "transformative gift"?

Would the Coptic father of a girl who has been raped by Muslims, a common occurrence in Egypt, see the rape of his daughter as a gift? I don't think so. Would the daughter? Unlikely.

Calling persecution a gift when you live in the West is easy. To Christians living in Islamic dominated countries, I doubt they see it that way.

Anonymous said...

"Of course I believe it is true."

Brian, if you believe the gospel, then why will you not acknowledge the similarity in Christ of contemporary confessors and martyrs to those of the ancient world, and the apostles' own positive evaluation of their persecution? This evaluation cannot be extricated from the gospel itself, for if the comfort of the flesh were more valuable than the soul's confession, then the crucifixion of the Lord would be a tragedy rather than a victory, and the gospel would be false. If the gospel is true, then it is the light in which we see everything else, if we believe it.

"...a girl who has been raped by Muslims..."

Shawn, I take the traditional Christian evaluation of rape to be that of St Augustine of Hippo, City of God, I.15-19. By definition, the souls of those raped are not compromised by what they experience involuntarily; to the reprobate this means nothing, to those in Christ everything. As you may know, in the aftermath of the fall of Rome, St Augustine was the pastor of many such women, and his view seems more compassionate than that of those who had insisted that women commit suicide rather than permit themselves to be raped. Again, his it cannot be extricated from the gospel itself, for if a soul's union with Christ could be compromised by the forcible action of another, then the gospel would be false. If the gospel is true, then etc.

So far as I can see, I am simply insisting that all other perspectives without any exception be in abject dust-licking submission to the ultimate truth which has been revealed by the only God. Yet, to my great surprise, our brother defenders of Christendom here are uncomfortable acknowledging an undisputed teaching of the religion of Christ that is as scriptural as eg miracles, morals, etc that they would doubtless defend. Has decadent Western pluralism broken out here on the threads of ADU? But I thought...

I cannot seriously think that they are as unbelieving as they appear in their comments to be. On other the topics, they seem to be at least trying to be traditional, orthodox Christians. But then neither can I understand why it is more important to them to scold all here as, say, Church of England liberals or European politicians than to speak to believers as believers on a decidedly Christian blog.

I last had this feeling when TEC clergy so persisted in haranguing the faithful on the evils of Reaganism that it seemed that they had tried (and failed) to instrumentalise the gospel in service to their political sentiments. They had forgotten where they were, what they were for, Who spoke the Word, and Whose those who believe it eternally are.

Bowman Walton




Shawn Herles said...

" the souls of those raped are not compromised by what they experience "

Their souls may not be, but that does not mean it is a gift. We are not just souls who can simply dismiss the physical world, our bodies included. That sounds more like Gnosticism or Greek Platonism than a Biblical view. I am not suggesting that rape can separate a Christian women from Christ, or that any other form of evil can separate Christian men and women from Christ. But as human beings, holistically both bodies and souls, we can and do experience horrific suffering, and this suffering is not willed by God. This is why in part I am not a Calvinist, but that's another issue. God can and does bring good out of our suffering, sometimes, but does not actively will it.

Rape is an evil, not a trans-formative gift. God blesses us because of our persecution, but does not actively will it, and it is not a positive good that we should seek out, or not seek to prevent when possible.

" But then neither can I understand why it is more important to them to scold all here as, say, Church of England liberals or European politicians than to speak to believers as believers on a decidedly Christian blog."

The debate here is often robust, perhaps more than it should be, but that is the nature of debate. There was some pretty fierce debate, to put it mildly, during the early Church councils, and during the Reformation. Paul was not shy about verbally attacking in strong language those whom he thought were compromising the Gospel. Jesus Himself was hardly sweetness and light when debating with the Pharisees. On more than one occasion he used deeply insulting language, such as "whited sepulcher's" which was a seriously insulting bit of name-calling at the time in the culture of the Jews.

Your aversion to conflict may not have anything to do with the Gospel.

Brian Kelly said...

"Brian, if you believe the gospel, then why will you not acknowledge the similarity in Christ of contemporary confessors and martyrs to those of the ancient world, and the apostles' own positive evaluation of their persecution? This evaluation cannot be extricated from the gospel itself, for if the comfort of the flesh were more valuable than the soul's confession, then the crucifixion of the Lord would be a tragedy rather than a victory, and the gospel would be false. If the gospel is true, then it is the light in which we see everything else, if we believe it."

Much confusion here. The point about persecution is that nothing can defeat the sovereignty of God. But those who engage in persecution commit grave sins and may end up in hell for this. Does God really want this? Others who have been persecuted have been driven insane or may have renounced their faith. Does God really want this?
Please think carefully about the reality of Christian experience and the daily nightmare of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan and other hellholes before commenting about "transformative gifts" from the comfort of New England. Go to these places instead and speak up for your persecuted brothers and sisters.

Anonymous said...

Brian and Shawn, if there is something wrong in my explanation of the relation between martyrdom and the gospel then please point it out to Peter's readers. That has great intrinsic interest, both historical and contemporary. But I sense that you are both avoiding the question with ad honinem distractions.

If you persist in groundless speculation about my personal acquaintance with violence, persecution, the Middle East, etc, then Peter's readers will know that you cannot do it. And in that case I hope that they will also consider the possibility that the experience of persecution in Christ has the significance today that it had in the C1 and that we may need to adjust our thinking about pain, suffering, etc to face the reality of our time. That is, if we simply cannot imagine the possibility that early Christians-- and their spiritual children today-- might have responded to unjust suffering differently from their contemporaries because of the Cross, then apostasy has found corners where we would never have expected to find it.

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...

Bowman, Shawn and I have already answered you and shown the error in your talk of a "transformative gift". To me, this kind of talk smacks more of the Middle Ages and the Crusades than it does of the apostolic church of St Stephen, St James, St Peter and St Paul. That God can and does turn evil circumstances to His purpose and his glory is obvious to anyone who believes in divine sovereignty, but that is very far from saying God actively wills such a thing.
Those Christians of an earlier age who actively courted martyrdom did so in the belief that they would gain glory with God. That kind of life-denying asceticism (such as you found among some Syrian monks) was impressive in its own way but loses the biblical balance.
Helen Roseveare died just before Christmas (I used to work with her niece) and we have just heard of the early death of Jill Saward, whose father I met once. I don't think I'd ever want to call their experiences of brutal rape as a 'transformative gift'. A sharing in the sufferings of Christ, yes - but evils that have destroyed other women. Evil is not a gift.

Anonymous said...

Brian, what are you trying to say?

I comment on pluralism, the gospel, and the reinvigoration of churches by persecution. You replies say nothing about these things, but again and again reduce them all to rape, and then sentimentally object to the word "gift," avoiding the discussion actually on the table. In the comment just above, your two sentences on patristic asceticism are misinformed-- have you worked through the Philokalia?-- but since you do not develop an argument from them it hardly matters. Why did you bother?

Returning to the whole topic and ignoring emotional distractions, it appears that you have raised no actual objection to the substance of my comments. That is not itself important-- our views are generally so close that I would have expected us to agree-- but so that this exchange is not a complete waste, Peter's readers should take away four further notes about it.

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

(1) A discussion about Islam's struggle with the West is not yet a Christian one if it offers no theological account of the reality and meaning of the actual suffering in Christ that it occasions. One can do this as St Augustine did it after the fall of Rome, or one can do it in the more contemporary key of, say, John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas, but one must do it. Conversely, sensationalistic claims about rape etc are just as beside the point as they were when the propaganda of St Augustine's pagan adversaries first pointed to the rapes of Christian nuns. The bishop answered those claims pastorally in Book I and then went on to discuss the relation of the city of man to the city of God for several more books. And so must we. As we do, we may consider that just as the experience of unmerited suffering has authenticated the causes and leadership of eg Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu, so it may yet again happen where Christians are a minority in the West.

(2) One cannot be for those who endure unmerited suffering in Christ but against the apocalyptic message of judgment and hope. One does not believe that message if one sees no more significance in unmerited suffering for Christ than the godless do. Seeing more significance than the godless do necessarily changes one's moral and emotional predispositions. Those not acquainted with this thought might find it developed from the popular works of N.T. Wright (esp After You Believe), through the Bible-informed accounts of mind and emotion of Dallas Willard and Robert Roberts, to the most sophisticated treatment of virtue ethics after the Incarnation, Linda Zagzebski (Divine Motivation Theory). Indeed, the task of understanding all this in the light of a more explicit appropriation of apocalyptic is one of the urgent tasks of the early C21.

(3) The West is notoriously divided by identitarian ideologies, yet those in Christ answer to a Lord above all ideologies, and theology is the handle by which we wield the sword of his Word against them. Especially when excited partisans cajole us to agree with them with crude appeals to the emotions, the Body of Christ well to cross our arms, shake our heads, and demand arguments grounded, not in drive-by sentimentality, but in God's self-revelation. No, Alt Right intuitions about immigration, Islam, etc should never have been ignored in the first place, but also no, not all admiration of Christendom is native to the mind of Christ. Yes, the conservative temperament is attuned to some strands of the faith, but yes, the other temperament is likewise attuned to other strands. At some point, we want to see some reflection that is not merely nostalgic or temperamental but engaging the present with the whole mind of Christ.

(4) The verbal pugilism that passes for discussion among the godless is not adequate to the divinely illumined Body of Christ. In many places, the NT writers criticise it. They did this, not because they were averse to clear contrasts of views-- St Paul!?-- but rather because the deliberate inflammation of one's irascibility is counterproductive for theosis, or if you prefer, sanctification. For that matter, it is also counterproductive for illuminating discussion, since polarised partisans, like the rest of us, are simply dumber when they get angry and flame than when their minds are calm and free enough to engage the truth in alternate views. If the most that can be said about a comment is that one would have used other words, then perhaps there is actually nothing to say.

I say all this with genuine puzzlement that a theme of the NT could be debatable here at all. How do others here read its many references to the suffering of those who first believed?

Bowman Walton

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Bowman,

Brian has largely covered the issue well, but here is my two cents worth. First, to lay my theological cards on the table I am a Protestant who believes strongly in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, so while I have respect for tradition it is not uncritical respect.

I can find no Biblical support for the glorification of suffering and martyrdom that grew in the Church over time, and which led to the extreme and life-denying attitudes and practices that became common in the Medieval Roman church. Moreover, this "suffering is good for the soul" view lay at the heart of the abuse scandals that have plagued the Roman church, though to be fair not exclusively as it occurred elsewhere in other churches. The examples of nuns savagely beating the orphans in their care did not occur in a vacuum, but were rooted in this life-denying and body-denying view that suffering is a positive good. That the body is evil in and of itself and only the soul matters.

This is not the view of God's Word. The Bible teaches a healthy, life-affirming self-discipline, not extreme asceticism. Such asceticism came into the Church from Greek and Roman culture, from Platonic ideas that posited a radical separation of body and soul that is contrary to the Biblical holistic view.

God does not will evil. The experience of persecution and suffering is something we are warned to expect, but not to welcome and seek out, except in so far as it pertains to mission and the preaching of the Gospel in hostile places. God certainly blesses us in eternity if we are persecuted but not because the persecution is in itself a good thing.

If we are persecuted, then yes, we are blessed by God. But it is part of our mandate as Christians to lessen evil, suffering and persecution wherever and whenever we can, and that includes the political realm. We are not called to be passive in the face of evil, but to liberate the oppressed, to free the slaves, to feed the poor.

Jesus was not passive in the face of other peoples suffering. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed the poor.

Francis of Assisi starving himself to death is not a model of Biblical spirituality. William Wilberforce fighting slavery is.

Martyrdom is a reality we face, but whenever we can we must try to prevent it's causes, and not passively accept any political policy which may increase it's likelihood.

Your "trans-formative gift" theology may be, to a degree, traditional, but it is not Biblical.

Shawn Herles said...

"One can do this as St Augustine did it after the fall of Rome, or one can do it in the more contemporary key of, say, John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas, but one must do it."

Or we could pick other contemporary theologians who don't advocate pacifism, which is contrary to Scripture.

"Conversely, sensationalistic claims about rape etc are just as beside the point"

This statement comes across as a callous disregard for rape victims. That may not be your intention, but that's how it reads. I think Jesus would have more compassion than this towards the victims of rape, and not dismiss, minimize, or try to spiritualize their suffering. We brought the issue up to point out the real world facts of Christian experience under Islam. That may be inconvenient to you, but it's a valid issue, and not an example of sensationalism.

" The West is notoriously divided by identitarian ideologies, yet those in Christ answer to a Lord above all ideologies,"

Yes, and that Lord asks us to disciple all nations. That inevitably means trying, however imperfectly, to understand the political implications of the Gospel. None of us will do this perfectly, and your assumption that you have the answer grounded in a Gospel centered view is an assumption based on your understanding of first principles. But you are ASSUMING that your Yoder/Hauerwas view is the right one, and that my "Christendom" view is not. It may be true, and it may not be. That is why we discuss and debate. I don't claim to have it all right, I'm just doing the best I can in what is often a confusing world, especially where politics is concerned. But the claim that myself and Brian are not trying to do so, however imperfectly, from a Gospel centered world view, merely because we don't start with the same first principles, the Yoder/Hauerwas view of politics, that you do, is just an opinion. Personally I think the pacifist/Anabaptist view is wrong, unworkable in practice, and contrary to Scripture.

" The verbal pugilism that passes for discussion among the godless is not adequate to the divinely illumined Body of Christ."

Possibly, depending on whether your claims about the debates on this blog are valid in the first place, but the fact is we ALL get pugilistic, yourself included. Your first comment about me, note that, about me not to me, was to label me an extremist that you don't have to take seriously, based on one thing I said. Then you claimed that your self-proclaimed "centrist" position (pacifism is not a centrist position in the Church by the way, it's a fringe one, as is the Anabaptist view of the State) makes you more compassionate than those you labeled extremists. And now you are claiming that our supposedly polarized arguments make us dumber than those, such as yourself, that you claim are not polarized. That all looks like pretty fierce pugilism to me.

So, in what way is your style of debate any different, or any less pugilistic, to mine, or Brain's, or Ron's? I'm not seeing it. You're claiming a special virtue for yourself and your arguments, but the evidence to me does not back your claim up.

And there is another flaw in your claims. Coming from a Yoder/Hauerwas/Anabaptist position IS choosing a pole. As I said, I'm not into using the spectrum argument as they hide more than they reveal, and are too subjectively chosen, but were I inclined to do so then the Yoder/Hauweras/Anabaptist view of pacifism, of the State, and of Christendom would be way out on a polarized fringe, and nowhere near the center.

Shawn Herles said...

My final post on this subject, as I think we are not likely to make much progress on the topic.

ALL political positions, both Christian and secular, whatever they may be, involve taking a stand that is polarizing, both within society, and within the Church. There is no magic centrist position that can exclude being in conflict with others. There is no magic centrist position, theologically or politically, in the Church that can exclude being in conflict with other Christians. The Yoder/Hauweras/Anabaptist position, a fringe position which rejects any notion of Christendom and Just War, is polarizing, and will lead to conflict with those in the Church who disagree. My Christendom/Nationalist position is polarizing. The Christian Marxist Left is polarizing. The Christian Capitalist Right is polarizing. And if it exists, the Christian political center is polarizing.

The second we take ANY theological or political stand, we have chosen a pole, and thus a polarizing position, and will be in conflict with others. This is unavoidable.

Embrace the conflict! Jesus did. :)

"Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle" - Psalm 144:1

Brian Kelly said...

Shawn has largely amplified and explicated by point of view, with better examples than I could think of.

I agree that the Yoder/Hauerwas/Anabaptist model is no way to run a civil and mixed society of believers, half-believers, infidels and wild-eyed jihadis. I like the Bruderhof community down the road from us. But I know who's actually protecting them from the thieves and, yes, rapists in our midst.

St Augustine's reflections on the spiritual dimensions of unmerited suffering must also be read alongside his discussion of the Just War: an intensely practical question when a barbarian army (albeit 'Arian') has rampaged across formerly Roman Christian North Africa and is battering at the gates of your city. Ah yes, Christian North Africa - what became of that, eh? It certainly received a 'transformative gift' in the 7th century: one that transformed it into the hellhole for Christians and others that it is today. I would never tell the Coptic Christians of Cairo forced to live in the rubbish dump of that city or the Christian of Pakistan abused and harried by their Muslim neighbours 'Never mind, you are gaining treasure in heaven' - unless I was first prepared to live among them and endure the same scorn and abuse for the Christ. No, my first words would be to insist on their rights and dignity as equal members of a civil society.

This is something that Islam has never managed to do (because it treats non-Muslims as second-class) - and neither did Medieval Christendom, in its periodic abuse of Jews. But some places - like the Dutch Republic - did better than others in seeking a peaceful, tolerant society - something which is now eluding the post-Christian Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It is no surprise to me that liberal church leaders take a pusillanimous attitude toward Islam in their midst. This is really down to three causes:
1. colonial guilt and self-loathing induced by their moralising (and at the same time historically shallow) liberal "education";
2. terror at being labelled "racist" by the identity politics of the post-Christian west;
3. the flaccid Unitarianism of liberal Protestantism (including most of Tec) which obscures the difference between real catholic Christianity and Islam as simple species of the newly-discovered genus 'Religio Abrahamica'.

This is why they run up the white flag.

Off now to work in the real world. Shalom and Happy Epiphany to all.



Shawn Herles said...

Hi Bowman,

Upon further reflection I realized I may have misunderstood this comment from you;

"The verbal pugilism that passes for discussion among the godless is not adequate to the divinely illumined Body of Christ."

I assumed that you were talking about the debates here on ADU, but I now suspect you were talking about the secular political divisions in the Church. Apologies if that is the case.

Given that, I don't disagree with you. It seems to be a particularly American phenomenon. It is not something I have read about in other countries, nor experienced in New Zealand, certainly not to anywhere near the degree in the USA. Exactly why it is so sharp in the US churches (though not all) is not something I have explored to any great degree, so I don't feel qualified to speak to the issue as far as the root cause goes.

Yes, it IS a problem. Churches need to deal with political issues at times, but not to any degree that leads them to being co-opted by secular politics, liberal or conservative, left or right.

It may be a generational thing. At least among younger evangelicals there seems to be a desire to move beyond the secular political divisions that have characterized churches since the 1970's, a desire to put the focus back on the Kingdom.

Again, my apologies if I mis-understood your point.