Sunday, 30 April 2017

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 30th April

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Alvin Plantinga wins Templeton Prize

Crux: Scholar who revitalized Christian philosophy wins Templeton prize

PHILADELPHIA - Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has won the prestigious Templeton Award for once again making belief in God “a serious option within academic philosophy,” the Templeton Foundation has said.

“The field of philosophy has transformed over the course of my career,” Plantinga said in response to the honor. “If my work played a role in this transformation, I would be very pleased.

“I hope the news of the Prize will encourage young philosophers, especially those who bring Christian and theistic perspectives to bear on their work, towards greater creativity, integrity, and boldness,” he said April 25.

The Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation awards the prize to a living individual who has made “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works.”

“Alvin Plantinga recognized that not only did religious belief not conflict with serious philosophical work, but that it could make crucial contributions to addressing perennial problems in philosophy,” said the foundation’s president Heather Templeton Dill.

I've read God, Freedom and Evil and Warranted Christian Belief. I've known of his works since I was a sixth frm student. I think Plantinga has made some very helpful contributions.

Headcoverings, by Jeremy Gardiner

It has been my conviction since I was at college that according to 1 Corinthians 11, a Christian woman should wear a fabric headcovering in worship, if not every day. This seems to me a very certain conclusion of what St. Paul was instructing in 1 Corinthians 11. Yet I spent most of my life attending evangelical churches in which no women cover their heads. Now I attend Catholic churches in which no women cover, apart from perhaps a few African ladies. It is disturbing how a straight forward command in Scripture has become so neglected.

Thankfully, on the Evangelical side of the fence, Jeremy Gardiner has made a valiant proclamation of the truth of Christian headcovering both through The Headcovering Movement and in this book. As can be expected from an Evangelical, Gardiner makes his case primarily from Scripture. However, early in the book, he demonstrates through an extensive set of quotations, that women's fabric headcovering had been the universal practice of Christians until the Twentieth century. His exegesis is likewise simply communicated, but very effective, demonstrating that headcovering is rooted not in contemporary customs, but in the creation order. He demolishes the absurd 'long hair is the covering view' and the common notion that the 1 Corinthians 11 has something to do with prostitution (advocates of this idea can never agree on exactly what). He acknowledges that verse 10 i obscure, with its reference to angels, however, he argues that the passage as a whole is not difficult or obscure, but very plain in it's meanings and implications. In the later chapters, he offers some practical advice about what styles of covering are appropriate, when women should cover and at what age girls should start covering. He encourages women not to be fearful of what others might think, but to take the courage to wear an headcovering, even if they are the only lady in the congregation doing so.

Gardiner argues that 1 Corinthians 11 clearly implies that men should not wear their hair long, on the basis of verses 14-15. I am not completely convinced. When I came to the view that the women's headcovering (and the man's lack of headcovering) in 1 Corinthians 11 was mandatory, it was not long before I had my very long hair cut short. I was not convinced that long hair on men was forbidden, but it seemed more appropriate given my new convictions. There is enough doubt for me not to encourage men to wear their hair long, but I am not so sure about it being an absolute rule. What does Gardiner make of the Nazarites in the Old Testament. St. Paul himself had taken a Nazarite vow for a time, according to Acts and St. John the Baptist was probably a Nazarite. Surely long hair was not a disgrace for Nazarites. Gardiner might say they were exceptions, but that surely only proves there is a certain amount of relativism here. Is Paul's argument aesthetic rather than moral? Gardiner points out that the word 'disgrace' is used for immoral sexual lusts in Romans 1:26. However, a word can be used differently in different contexts. I am sure even he does not see a moral equivalency between sexual immorality and hairlength. We might ask if he is prepared to condemn women who wear their hair short, which might be a losing battle. Even in many churches that frown on long-haired men, there are lots of women with pretty short hair. I have worn my hair short since I was 21, so I am prepared to be wrong on that issue. Our blogging friend, Fr Anthony Chadwick, would no doubt disagree rather more strongly.

What about Catholics? There are thankfully some traditionalist Catholics who wear a mantilla at mass, but sadly this is all too rare. The current code of canon law does not require the woman's headcovering. This means that it cannot be a great sin for a woman not to cover. However, I would suggest that if a woman has read 1 Corinthians 11 and understands why she should cover and also understands the uniformity of Christian tradition in demanding headcovering, it would be a sin for her not to cover.

The Month of May

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Catholic Herald: New law to protect the homeless is a ‘major victory’, says Catholic charity

Catholic Herald: New law to protect the homeless is a ‘major victory’, says Catholic charity

"New legislation to help the homeless in England and Wales has been welcomed as “a major victory” by a Catholic homelessness charity.

The Homelessness Reduction Act was granted Royal Assent yesterday. It requires local authorities to provide advice to all those seeking housing help, rather than only those assessed as a priority, and imposes on councils a new prevention duty towards those at risk of becoming homeless within 56 days.

Linda Maytum-Wilson, acting chief executive of Caritas Anchor House, said: “I am delighted to see that the Bill has been passed. It is the most significant reform to homelessness legislation in England for 40 years and its passage means that those experiencing or at risk of homelessness will finally receive the support they need."

ConservativeHome: Carswell. Energetic, honest – and with no idea of how the world actually works

ConservativeHome: Carswell. Energetic, honest – and with no idea of how the world actually works

by Andrew Gimson

"He never gets to grips with the perennial question of how democracy is to be saved from degenerating into mob rule. The answer lies in the defence and adaptation of traditional institutions, including traditional political parties,so that no one part of the oligarchy can dominate and tyrannise the others. But that is a conservative answer, and Carswell is determined to be a rebel."


Independent: Front National leader replacing Marine Le Pen quits days after nomination over Nazi gas chamber row

Independent: Front National leader replacing Marine Le Pen quits days after nomination over Nazi gas chamber row

The man appointed to replace Marine Le Pen as leader of the far-right Front National party has quit the job after just three days over accusations he denied the existence of gas chambers in the Second World War.

Ms Le Pen stepped down temporarily as chairwoman of her party on Monday night, claiming it would allow her to represent better the interests of "all French people" in the presidential race.

But Jean-Francois Jalkh, the party's vice president and an MEP who was named interim leader at least until the end of the campaign, has decided to turn down the role, Ms Le Pen's partner and spokesman Louis Aliot told French radio station RMC on Friday.

The U-turn comes after an interview dating back to April 2000 resurfaced, in which Mr Jalkh allegedly made comments denying the use of Zyklon B gas in Nazi gas chambers, Le Monde reports.

The Daily Signal: Groups Urge Carson to Spike Gender Identity Rule for HUD Shelters

The Daily Signal: Groups Urge Carson to Spike Gender Identity Rule for HUD Shelters

Citing safety for women, 40 leaders of groups across the country have signed a letter asking Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to rescind and revise a gender identity rule adopted by the Obama administration for government shelters.

The rule, published in September 2016, allows all individuals to use HUD men’s and women’s shelters based on their gender identity, regardless of whether they were born male or female.

“Dear Mr. Secretary,” the letter to Carson reads, “We write to urge you to … protect the safety and privacy of women in need of shelter due to homelessness or violence.”

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna

O God, who set Saint Catherine of Siena on fire with divine love in her contemplation of the Lord's Passion and her service or your Church, grant, through her intercession, that your people, participating in the mystery of Christ, may ever exult in the revelation of his glory. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.

O great St. Catherine of Siena, glory of the Dominican Order, who served the sick and suffering in time of plague and brought back the exiled popes from Avignon to Rome, pray for us that we may have some measure of your courage and self sacrifice. Amen

Blessed be the name of God!

Litany of Saint Catherine of Sienna

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, our mother,
pray for us.
St. Dominic, glorious Patriarch, etc.
St. Catherine of Siena,
St. Catherine benevolent mother of the poor,
St. Catherine, kind mother of the suffering,
St. Catherine, merciful mother of the sick,
St. Catherine, refuge of the sorrowful,
St. Catherine, intercessor for sinners,
St. Catherine, rose pf patience,
St. Catherine, model of humility,
St. Catherine, lily of chastity,
St. Catherine, vessel of graces,
St. Catherine, zealous promoter of the honor of God,
St. Catherine, luster of holiness,
St. Catherine, example of mildness,
St. Catherine, glory of the Order of Preachers,
St. Catherine, fruitful mother of spiritual children,
St. Catherine, promoter of peace,
St. Catherine, terror of the evil spirits,
St. Catherine, follower of Jesus,
St. Catherine, who didst give the blossoms of thy innocent youth
to the service of thy Heavenly Spouse,
St. Catherine, who didst lead an angelic life in human flesh,
St. Catherine, who didst tear thy virginal flesh with scourges,
St. Catherine, whom Jesus, Himself, did feed with His Body and Blood,
St. Catherine, who didst exchange thy heart with the Heart of Jesus,
St. Catherine, who was blest with His Holy Wounds,
St. Catherine, who was taken to Heaven to the celestial nuptials,
St. Catherine, who didst receive a hundredfold, reward for all thy labors and merits,

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins
of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of
the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins
of the world, have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O glorious Virgin, St. Catherine
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us Pray.
O God, who didst enable Blessed Catherine, graced with the special privilege of virginity,
and patience, to overcome the assault of evil spirits, and to stand unshaken in the love of
Thy Name, grant we beseech Thee, that after her example treading under foot the wickedness
of the world, and overcoming the wiles of all enemies, we may safely pass onward to Thy glory.
Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Saint Catherine of Sienna, pray for us, for Italy, for all Dominicans and for Pope Francis.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Feast of Saint Louis De Montfort

O God, who willed to direct the steps of the Priest Saint Louis along the way of salvation and of the love of Christ, in the company of the Blessed Virgin, grant us, by his example, that, meditating on the mysteries of your love, we may strive tirelessly for the building up of your Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

A Litany to St. Louis De Montfort

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary
pray for us!
Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort
pray for us!
Ardent disciple of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Wisdom,
pray for us!
Eloquent preacher of the Cross,
pray for us!
Singer of the praises of the Sacred Heart,
pray for us!
Loving slave of Jesus in Mary,
pray for us!
Faithful son of the handmaid of the Lord,
pray for us!
Apostle of the Most Holy Rosary,
pray for us!
Preacher of the Mother of the Redeemer,
pray for us!
Servant of the poor and the afflicted,
pray for us!
Man of solitude and prayer,
pray for us!
Wonder of mortification,
pray for us!
Model of priests and missionaries,
pray for us!
Fervent minister of the Holy Eucharist,
pray for us!
Fearless champion of truth,
pray for us!
Restorer of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament,
pray for us!
Marvel of poverty and abandonment to Divine Providence,
pray for us!
Teacher of the people of God,
pray for us!
Founder of Religious congregations,
pray for us!
Apostle of the end times,
pray for us!
Obedient collaborator with the Pope and Bishops,
pray for us!

Thou seest the Face of God:
obtain for us perseverance in the faith.
Thou shinest within Infinite Charity:
obtain for us the gift of pure love.
Thou livest in the New Jerusalem:
obtain for us the spirit of prayer.
Thou standst before the throne of the Lamb:
obtain for us the wisdom of the Cross.
Thou contemplate the Mother of the Lord:
obtain for us true devotion to Mary.
Thou dwellst with the Apostles of Christ:
obtain for us missionary zeal.
Thou sharest in the communion of Saints:
obtain for us love for the Church.
Thou art seated at the Table of the Kingdom:
obtain for us the crown of glory.
Thou art a powerful intercessor before the Throne of God:
hear our prayers.

(Here make your intentions in silence).

Let us pray.

O God, Who in the power of the Holy Spirit hast made Saint Louis-Marie an ardent apostle of Christ Crucified and a faithful son of the Virgin Mary; Grant that through his example and intercession we may be renewed in the spirit of our baptism and be always faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit. One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Saint Louis De Montfort, pray for us, that we may be more devoted to the Blessed Virgin.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Summer Shield

Father Ed's Blog: Christians need not apply

Father Ed's Blog: Christians need not apply

"This week the ugly face of modern British bigotry was exposed. And again the intolerance came, not from Christian quarters as we are led to believe, but was aimed squarely at them. How the media gunned for Tim Farron over his personal views on sex. He was hounded aggressively until cornered then given a clear ultimatum: publicly endorse the moral values of the sexual revolution/gay lobby or face the consequences and be damned.

The witch hunt was the more alarming given that Farron’s voting record proves he is no threat to LGBT causes. This was not about his being problematic but a test of his orthodoxy; when push came to shove would he side with the teaching of the faith, that sex has a procreative purpose and belongs in marriage, or concede to the secular consensus that sex is for gratification with no questions asked? The message is crystal clear; a luke warm faith that bends to secular will is, just about, acceptable but a strong Christian faith is now anathema and will not be tolerated."

It's a bit surreal that it's the leader of the Liberal Democrats who has been the victim of a LGBT witch hunt. What saddens me is that many Tories have joined with the LGBT thought police in using the issue to attack Farron. Conservatives ought to be respectful of religious convictions.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

CapX: Don’t bet on a Tory landslide quite yet

CapX: Don’t bet on a Tory landslide quite yet

by George Trefgarne

"There are, in my view, five reasons to be cautious about a total rout.

The first is the localised nature of our Parliamentary system. It is all very well citing the Tories’ 25 per cent poll lead, but the ultimate result will depend on where those votes are. Many of them will be piled up, somewhat uselessly, in existing Tory safe seats or in ultra-safe Labour or SNP ones.

By contrast, there are many seats, especially in the West country, in university and spa towns, which were held by the Lib Dems only two years ago and might not be so safe. The polls suggest that a Lib Dem recovery is underway, membership is rocketing, and a leaked memo from the Tory guru Lynton Crosby only three weeks ago suggested the Lib Dems could take 27 seats from the Conservatives.

In addition to which, the use of new technology, such as social media, hyper-localised digital advertising, targeted polling and individually customised mail shots actually mean local factors are more important in General Elections than they used to be. Just look at the rise and fall of figures such as Zac Goldsmith and Douglas Carswell, both of whom relied heavily on social media in their campaigns."

The Secret Barrister: UKIP’s “Integration Agenda” is a masterclass in legal ignorance and shameless racism

The Secret Barrister: UKIP’s “Integration Agenda” is a masterclass in legal ignorance and shameless racism

"By “face covering”, UKIP plainly intends to target the “niqab” (or, as Kippers inaccurately often refer to it, the burkha), in an emulation of the ban enacted in France in 2010. The problem with such laws, as France has discovered, is that in order to maintain the façade that this is not an attack on a particular group of people, rather a general principle, you have to ban all face coverings. Which means prima facie outlawing balaclavas, motorcycle helmets, Halloween masks, gimp suits, zentais (those all-in-one spandex body suits beloved of stag parties abroad) and football mascots, and then working backwards to create exemptions to avoid the law being utterly unworkable. UKIP has today spent significant effort responding to questions as to whether large, face-obscuring hats as worn on Ladies Day will be criminalised, and whether the ban would include beekeepers. Whatever your position on the liberal principles at play, the practical flaws with such laws are obvious."

New Atlanticist: Making the Case for Multilateralism

New Atlanticist: Making the Case for Multilateralism

World leaders must reaffirm the importance of a cooperative international system and the tangible benefits to all stakeholders, Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), said at the Atlantic Council on April 21.

While the surge of populism throughout Europe—in response to terrorism and economic stagnation—means that “renationalization is visible,” particularly in France during an election year, Hoyer insisted that when “the cooperative approach and the multilateral approach is being put into question in an irresponsible way… it is important to explain again the values of international cooperation.”

The Guardian| The doom-mongers got it wrong: the centre is holding in Europe

The Guardian| The doom-mongers got it wrong: the centre is holding in Europe

by Joris Luyendijk

"How many more European elections before Brits and Americans stop projecting Brexit and Trump on to Europe? Ever since British voters stunned the country, the world and – probably – themselves by voting to leave the EU, the British press has all but reduced politics in Europe to the “who’s next?” question. After Donald Trump’s election those parts of the American media still interested in the EU joined the fray: surely if America and Britain can bring populists to power, this must now be a trend that the rest of the west will follow?

But then Europeans started to vote. First Austria chose a Green president over a nationalist one. Then the populist PVV party of Geert Wilders received a paltry 15% of the vote in the Dutch general elections. And now the unapologetically Europhile Emmanuel Macron has come out on top in the first round of the French elections, setting him on course for victory against Marine Le Pen next month. The next European elections are in Germany, where all traditional parties are solidly pro-EU. The new Eurosceptic party Alternative für Deutschland is mired in divisions, infighting and confusion."

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Feast of Saint Mark

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly
doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark; Give us grace that. being not like
children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established
in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Mark, pray for us, for the city of Venice and for the Christians of Egypt.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Feast of Saint George

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr George with the virtue of constancy in faith and truth: Grant us in like manner for love of thee to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint George, pray for us, for England, for Georgia and for all soldiers.

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 23rd September

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

National Review: Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Policy Is Dangerous Nonsense

National Review: Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Policy Is Dangerous Nonsense

by David Harsanyi

"Moreover, it seems telling that many of those who are concerned about illegal immigration also seem intent on lowering numbers of legal and potentially high-achieving immigrants from entering the country. The underlying message is that there is a cultural problem, not merely an economic one. “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think . . . ,” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said not long ago in a jumbled explanation of economic nationalism, “a country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

The second part of the order cuts down on waivers and exemptions to President Herbert Hoover’s Buy American law. It instructs agencies to use American-made goods and services rather than saving taxpayer dollars or searching out the best deals they can. This is how we incentivize rent-seeking and cronyism. Until a couple of months ago, this is what Republicans used to call “picking winners and losers.” If you thought General Motors shouldn’t be bailed out because it couldn’t compete in a global marketplace, why would you support a state-impelled “Buy American, Hire American” when it comes to steel, for example?"

Campaigning in Stevenage Town Centre

Yours truly in the middle wearing a bomber jacket.

I was campaigning yesterday with Stevenage Conservatives and Stephen McPartland MP. I've criticised Theresa May and Brexit an awful lot, but I'm too dyed in the wool Tory not to campaign. Strangely, I become a really enthusiastic Tory as soon as I get out and start campaigning.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Baltic Fire Support

Returning to Reality, by Paul Tyson

Paul Tyson, Returning to Reality: Christian Platonism for our Times, 2015 The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge

Paul Tyson makes a case for a revival of Christian Platonism. I think I agree with Tyson that a Christianized form of Platonism is a good thing, though in a number of ways, I found this a frustrating book. I think it would have been helpful for readers for Tyson to have made some more direct comparison between Christian Platonism and other forms of Christian metaphysics, such as Thomism. Tyson spends a good deal of the book critiquing modernity. That is a worthy task, but well read Christians are likely to have read a number of books attacking both modernity and postmodernity, so it felt somewhat tedious.

Tyson makes reference a view times to John Milbank, but otherwise he does not make any mention of Radical Orthodoxy. This is somewhat disingenuous, as it is very clear that Tyson has been influenced by the Radical Orthodoxy school of theology. This is seen most clearly in his identification of Blessed Duns Scotus as the originator of modern thought with his advocacy of the univocity of being. Personally, I am not convinced of the univocity of being, but I am very uncomfortable with the way Radical Orthodoxy has turned Blesed Duns Scotus into a theological Darth Vader. Scotus made many wonderful contributions to theology. Might one not alternatively blame St. Thomas Aquinas' empiricism (and Tyson does hint at this as a root cause later in the book). Tyson does acknowledge that some scholars have questioned the approach he takes to Scotus, but it might have been better if he had avoided that whole avenue of controversial historiography.

What was most frustrating was the way our author connects adopting Christian Platonism with a left-wing anti-capitalist stance. I find it puzzling that he makes the connection between Christian Platonism and radical politics, as the Patristic Fathers did not share his politicized approach to the faith. Many of the anti-Nicene Fathers were positive in their views of the Roman empire and had no interest in political change. The post-Nicene Fathers were even more accepting of the Christianized empire.

I think Tyson is mostly on the right lines, but this book could have been better.

Ukraine Crisis: More than 90% of citizens consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians – survey results

Ukraine Crisis: More than 90% of citizens consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians – survey results

92% of citizens of Ukraine consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians, according to the Razumkov Center survey. 6% of the respondents consider themselves ethnic Russians, 1.5% account for other ethnic groups. It has been the highest recorded rate concerning Ukrainian self-determination since Ukraine gained independence. Russian annexation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas accelerated the self- identification process, say sociologists.

According to 2001 census, 78.8% citizens called themselves Ukrainian, in 2015 (according to Razumkov Center) it was 86%, and today it is 92%. According to the survey, the percentage of those who consider themselves Ukrainian is higher among the youngest audience – from 18 to 22 years old (96.2%). Among those over 60 it is less than 90%.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Feast of Saint Anselm

O GOD, who hast enlightened thy Church by the teaching of thy servant Anselm: Enrich us evermore, we beseech thee, with thy heavenly grace, and raise up faithful witnesses who by their life and doctrine will set forth the truth of thy salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Anselm pray for us, and for England.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bloomberg: May's Latest Brexit Gambit Is Clever But Not Smart

Bloomberg: May's Latest Brexit Gambit Is Clever But Not Smart

by Therese Raphael

"Third, there is something troubling about the way May framed her decision in a Tuesday speech -- something that sounds too close to an attempt to stifle debate.

In defending her decision, the prime minister pointed a finger at the opposition parties (and by extension, those in her own party who are dragging their feet on Brexit). She said division jeopardized the chances of getting a good Brexit deal and accused her detractors, as she has in the past, of playing political games.

In fact, the entire case for new elections was couched in terms reminiscent of the way Winston Churchill rallied the country for a war of survival.

"There should be unity here in Westminster," May said. "Instead there is division. The country should be coming together, but Westminster is not." The upshot: Those who aren't with me are against me, and those who are against me are against the country.

Brexit is historic and complicated and consequential. But it isn't an existential battle against an external foe. It isn't disloyal to question the government's strategy or oppose it. The furniture in the House of Commons is arranged in two facing rows precisely because debate and challenge are central to democracy."

I'm really conflicted by this election. If I'm asked to help campaign with the local Conservatives I will, but it will be with a sense of weariness.

Helicopter Exercises

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Daily Signal: Dignity and Fairness Matter for Every Child in the Locker Room

The Daily Signal: Dignity and Fairness Matter for Every Child in the Locker Room

by Kelly Fiedorek

"But substantially missing from this national conversation are the indispensable voices of the vast majority of children, and particularly girls. Ignoring their voices results in a failure to advance true equality and justice and violates children’s fundamental rights. Indeed, not one child’s privacy should be compromised.

And yet, young girls across the country—including in Illinois and Ohio, as just two examples—have been subjected to anxiety and humiliation when their school administrators secretly decided to open the schools’ locker rooms, restrooms, or showers to the opposite sex.

In Texas, 10-year-old Shiloh Satterfield recently described to the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee how uncomfortable and anxious she feels now that her school has changed its policies to let boys into the school’s intimate facilities."

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Blaze: Christian parents, your kids aren’t equipped to be public school missionaries

The Blaze: Christian parents, your kids aren’t equipped to be public school missionaries

by Matt Walsh

Fifth, related to the last point, your child is not ready to be a missionary. He cannot be a “witness” to others until he himself has been properly formed in the faith. It’s no surprise that most of the young “missionaries” we commission and send forth to minister to the lost souls in public schools quickly become one of the lost souls. We don’t need to sit around theorizing about whether the missionary approach to education is wise or effective. We already know that it isn’t. The vast majority of the parents who think their kids are being “salt and light” to their peers in school are simply oblivious to the fact that their little Bible warriors have long since defected and joined the heathens. You can hardly blame the kids for this. They’re just kids, after all. They aren’t warriors. Warriors are trained and disciplined. Children are neither of those things. I imagine this is why St. Paul didn’t travel to Athens and Corinth recruiting toddlers to help him carry the Gospel into pagan lands.

Education is supposed to prepare a child to carry the torch of truth. That is, he’s supposed to be ready to carry it once his education has been completed. This should not be a “throw them into the deep end to see if they can swim” strategy. They can’t swim. You and I can barely swim, morally and spiritually speaking, and we’re adults. Do you expect your child to be more spiritually mature and morally courageous than you?

I have always said the same thing. The idea that Christian children can evangelize their peers in secular schools is one of the worst myths in Evangelicalism. I am so glad my parents sent me to an independent Evangelical school which grounded me in the absolute truth of the Bible.

Secular education poisons children.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Cosmic Christ, by Alex Terego

This book offers a useful biographical sketch on the life of Pierre Teilard de Chardin, followed by a summary of his key theological ideas. There is something of an overemphasis on the conflict between Teilard de Chardin and the Church authorities. It seems to see his challenge to contemporary Church teaching as being a virtue in itself. No sympathy is shown to the legitimate concerns of the Church in preventing heresy.

No mention is made in this book of Teilhard de Chardin's support for eugenics. It's funny how books celebrating Teilhard de Chardin seem to avoid engaging with the darker side of his work. I think he had some great things to say, but at times, with his rather authoritarian ideas about human progress, comes across a bit like the NICE men in CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Judaism is not Jewish, by Baruch Maoz

Baruch Maoz, Judaism is not Jewish: A Friendly Critique of the Messianic Movement, 2003 Christian Focus

That really is a poor choice of title. Questioning the identity of an oppressed people is crassly insensitive. This is not at all what Maoz is trying to do, but the title of the book implies it. I suspect this provocative (and tasteless) title was chosen by the publisher rather than Maoz. Title aside, this book provides what the author, Jewish Christian Baruch Maoz describes as a 'friendly critique' of the Messianic Jewish movement. I would suggest this is actually a harsh criticism, rather than a friendly critique. Maoz believes that the Messianic Jewish movement has fallen short in it's obsession with maintaining a Jewish identity and has lost sight of its Christian identity. He believes that the emphasis of the Messianic movement on the Torah, the law of the Old Testament has led to a return of the Galatian error. He does clarify at the beginning that his critique does not apply to most Messianic congregations in Israel (where the author has ministered). This is unsurprising as being in a thoroughly Jewish culture, Messianic Jews in Israel have no insecurity about their Jewishness. However, he warns that the aberrations of American Messianic Judaism are being imported to Israel.

As well as critiquing the theology of the Messianic movement, our author also makes some practical observations about the reality of its congregations. He points out that they are overwhelmingly attended by Gentile Christians. The Messianic movement, he says, has been hugely unsuccessful at evangelizing Jews and most Jewish converts to Christianity have nothing to do with it. He suggests this is in large part down to Messianic congregations offering a bizarre, mutilated and inauthentic for of Jewish worship. He observes that the dancing and flag waving in Messianic assemblies would be unheard of in a Jewish synagogue. He makes the interesting observation that Messianic Judaism often attracts Gentiles with a tenuous claim to Jewish ancestry. I met somebody like that once. He claimed that his family were descended from Jews in Scotland who had converted to Christianity. He thus began calling himself a Messianic Jew. Later he renounced Jesus Christ and decided he wanted to convert to Orthodox Judaism.

Baruch Maoz's writing style is rather irritating. He tends to repeat himself a lot and labour each point with as many words as possible. In general he writes as though he were preaching a sermon, which is probably not the right tone for such a book as this. I think he makes many good points. Much of the Messianic Jewish movement is very problematic in it's emphasis on the Torah and it's emphasis on Jewishness at the expense of a trans-cultural Christian identity. Yet his critique is very much grounded in the traditional Reformed reading of Paul. This interpretation reads Paul and Judaism in the light of the Augustinian-Pelagian controversy. Maoz makes no reference to alternative readings of Paul or Judaism, such as NT Wright's 'New Perspective' and EP Sanders work on Palestianian Judaism. While those ideas have their only problems, treating Paul and ancient Judaism as if their message is uncontested is somewhat disingenuous. It is interesting to consider whether Messianic Judaism and it's use of the Torah might be seen differently in the light of contemporary readings of Paul.

Baruch Maoz says at one point that the Gospel will be victorious and triumphant. While he does not state his eschatological views, his optimism suggests that he is Postmillennial. That is a viewpoint I would very much commend.

I must admit, thinking about the rather naive, romantic Judeophilia and Pro-Israelism of the Messianic Movement rather makes me feel a bit nostalgic for upbringing in the Charismatic movement which tended to like all that stuff.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Spirit of Teamwork

Euromaidan Press| Making Ukraine mono-ethnic – Putin’s greatest achievement and most fateful failure

Euromaidan Press| Making Ukraine mono-ethnic – Putin’s greatest achievement and most fateful failure

"Ninety-two percent of Ukrainian citizens now consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians, an unprecedented figure that is the product of Vladimir Putin’s aggression against their country and one that highlights the fundamental weakness of ethnic Russian national identities not only there but elsewhere — including in the Russian Federation.

According to a new poll by Kyiv’s Razumkov Center, 92 percent of Ukrainian citizens now consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians, six percent say they are ethnic Russians, and 1.5 percent identify as members of other ethnic groups.

Among young people in Ukraine, the share identifying as ethnic Ukrainians approaches 100 percent, the pollsters said, while among those over the age of 60, the figure was less than 90 percent but still far higher than at any point in the past."

Friday, 14 April 2017

ConservativeHome: The triumph of the Cross

ConservativeHome: The triumph of the Cross

by Andrew Gimson

"In Europe, numbers of Christians are falling. In many other places, they are growing. Between 1960 and 2000, evangelical Protestantism grew at three times the world’s population rate, and twice as fast as Islam.

Pew expects Muslims to catch up with Christians in total numbers in the coming decades. But fertility rates between the two religions are converging.

China, which before 1949 had four million Christians, in 2010 had 67 million, a number which is growing at seven per cent a year. Africa, which had 8.7 million Christians in 1900, now has 390 million, a number which is expected to grow to 633 million in 2025.

South Korea, which was two per cent Christian in 1945, is now 29.3 per cent Christian.

And sizeable numbers of conversions from Islam to Christianity have taken place in many countries, including Morocco, Nigeria and Indonesia.

The story is one of vitality, not of enfeeblement and petering out. Nigeria contains perhaps 19 million Roman Catholics and 18 million Anglicans. In Iran, there are now between 100,000 and 500,000 Christians, most of whom are evangelical Protestants."

Christ defeated the power of Satan on the cross and is ascended to His Father's throne. He is the Lord of History and we can expect the Christian faith to grown and conquer everywhere.

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 14th April

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Nick Tyrone: I’m not a huge fan of Boris, but the latest criticism of him is just weird

Nick Tyrone: I’m not a huge fan of Boris, but the latest criticism of him is just weird

"Tim Farron came out in suppport of the US airstrikes inn Syria. Yet when Boris, the UK foreign secretary lest we forget, backed this up by walking away from talks with Lavrov, Farron said that Boris had made a mistake; even been played for a fool. I don’t understand this position at all."

It's all about scoring points without thinking hard about foreign policy questions.

Third Collect for Good Friday

O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live: Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer 1662

Postmillennialism Today: EASTER AND VICTORY

Postmillennialism Today: EASTER AND VICTORY

"A mighty transformation takes place in Christ’s ministry as a direct result of his resurrection. The outpouring of the Spirit (Ac 2:34–36) powerfully exhibits his regal authority. This celebrates his coronation by distributing gifts to his subjects, in the manner of a warrior-king returning triumphantly to his capital city upon his victory over the enemy (Ac 2:33; Eph 4:7–12; Cf. Ge 14; 1Sa 30:26–31; Jdg 5:30. See: Isa 53:12). It promises his royal assistance to his people (Ro 8:34).

Since his ascension Christ’s enthronement is an accomplished fact. The New Testament is replete with the confident refrain of his coronation and enthronement. We are not awaiting his future kingship: He is now already enthroned. Indeed, in the New Testament the most quoted or alluded to Old Testament passage is Psalm 110. That passage records God the Father’s word to Christ the Son: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” In various forms it appears sixteen times in the New Testament (Mt 22:44; 26:64; Mk 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Lk 20:42–43; 22:69; Ac 2:34–35; Ro 8:34; 1Co 15:25; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12)."

The Litany of the Passion

Lord, Have mercy on us.
Christ, Have mercy on us.
Lord, Have mercy on us.
Christ, Hear us.
Christ, Graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.

Jesus, brought before Annas and Caiphas,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, struck in the face by a servant,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, accused by false witnesses,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, declared guilty of death,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, spat upon,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, blindfolded,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, smitten on the cheek,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, thrice denied by Peter,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, delivered up to Pilate,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, despised and mocked by Herod,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, clothed in a white garment,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, rejected for Barabbas,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, torn with scourges,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, bruised for our sin,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, esteemed a leper,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, covered with a purple robe,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, crowned with thorns,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, struck with a reed upon the head,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, demanded for crucifixion by the Jews,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, condemned to an ignominious death,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, given up to the will of Thine enemies,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, loaded with the heavy weight of the Cross,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, led like a sheep to the slaughter,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, stripped of Thy garments,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, fastened with nails to the cross,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, reviled by the malefactors,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, promising Paradise to the penitent thief,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, commending St. John to Thy Mother as her son,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, declaring Thyself forsaken by Thy Father,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, in Thy thirst given gall and vinegar to drink,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, testifying that all things written concerning
Thee were accomplished,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, commending Thy Spirit into the hand of Thy Father,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, obedient even to the death of the Cross,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, pierced with a lance,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, made a propitiation for us,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, taken down from the Cross,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, laid in the sepulcher,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, rising gloriously from the dead,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, ascending into Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, our advocate with the Father, Have mercy on us.
Jesus, sending down on Thy disciples the Holy Ghost,
the Paraclete, Have mercy on us.
Jesus, exalting Thy Mother above the choirs of Angels,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Who shalt come to judge the living and the dead,
Have mercy on us.
Be merciful, Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, Graciously hear us, O Lord.

From all evil, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
From all sin, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
From anger, hatred, and every evil will, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
From war, famine, and pestilence, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
From all dangers of mind and body, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
From everlasting death, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy most pure Conception, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy miraculous Nativity, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy humble Circumcision, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy Baptism and holy fasting, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy labors and watchings, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy cruel scourging and crowning, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy thirst, and tears, and nakedness, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy precious death and Cross, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension,Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
Through Thy sending forth the Holy Ghost,
the Paraclete, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
In the day of judgment, Lord Jesus,
Deliver us.
We sinners beseech Thee, hear us.

That Thou would spare us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would pardon us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to bring us to true penance,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe mercifully to pour
into our hearts the grace of the Holy Spirit,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to defend and propagate Thy holy Church,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to preserve and increase
all societies assembled in Thy Holy Name,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to bestow upon us true peace,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to give us perseverance
in grace and in Thy holy service,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to deliver us from unclean thoughts,
the temptations of the devil, and everlasting damnation,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe to unite us to the company of Thy Saints,
We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou would vouchsafe graciously to hear us,

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us, O Lord.
Christ, hear us; Christ, graciously hear us.

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R . Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Let Us Pray.

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast appointed Thine only-begotten
Son the Savior of the world, and hast willed to be appeased with
His blood, grant that we may so venerate this price of our salvation,
and by its might be so defended upon earth from the evils of this
present life, that in Heaven we may rejoice in its everlasting fruit.
Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tell me the Old, Old Story

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.


Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.


Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.


Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”


A. Katharine Hankey

I first encountered this hymn at a small Reformed Baptist church that I used to attend when I was at college. When I sign it, I always feel nostalgic for a good old Evangelical Gospel proclamation.

The Invaluable Blessings of Liberty: In Transgender Politics, Women are the Real Losers

The Invaluable Blessings of Liberty: In Transgender Politics, Women are the Real Losers

"Unfortunately, bathrooms are not the only area in which the transgender political agenda and the rights of women are in direct conflict. This also occurs in the area of sports. I am 47. I have seen the rise of women’s sports in my own lifetime. Title IX opened the door to women's sports programs in 1972 and required gender equality by the 1978-79 school year. I was in 4th grade that year. I have never been an athlete, but I understand and appreciate the hard fought ground that was gained by female athletes in the 70s and 80s. Fast forward to just a few short years ago. The London Olympics in 2012 were the very first Olympic games in which every participating country had female athletes and the first Olympics in which female athletes competed in every available Olympic sport. Let that sink in for a moment. 2012. Women have had to fight hard to have some semblance of respect and equality in athletics. Yet now in 2017, that ground is being chipped away.

This is where the difference in sex and gender must be recognized as a reality that cannot be denied or assuaged. Gender is a social construct, not a scientific or biological one. The construct of gender is the prescribed behavior within any given culture, be it dress, mannerisms, or other actions that are gender specific. Sex is the biological genetic material that defines and separates the physiology of male and female beyond genitalia. It is scientific and ultimately unchangeable.

Yet, biologically male athletes are now competing against biologically female athletes in women’s sports. Whether it is Fallon Fox shattering eye sockets in the MMA, or the more recent news of Laurel Hubbard shattering national women’s weightlifting records in New Zealand, the stories abound. With everything in me, I do not understand why this is allowed. When a person is born male, he is male at a genetic level. No amount of surgery or artificial hormone usage can change that. Men and women have different bone and muscle masses, different lung capacities, different heart sizes and different amounts of blood circulating through their bodies. During organ transplant surgery of hearts and livers, there is a greater risk of rejection with "cross gender" transplantation. Our bodies naturally recognize the fundamental differences between male and female. Those things are not altered during sex reassignment. So, how are girls supposed to fairly compete for titles and scholarships in high school against genetically male students? How are women’s sports records supposed to be taken seriously if they are set by athletes who are genetically and biologically male? How are female athletes supposed to compete against biologically male athletes without risking serious injury?"

Monday, 10 April 2017

Exercise Ridge Runner 2017

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Vladimir Soloviev: A Russian Newman, by Michel D'Herbigny

This is the classic biography on Vladimir Soloviev, at least from a Catholic perspective. D'Herbigny was the first to make the comparison between the great Russian convert to Catholicism and the famous convert from Anglicanism. Our author acknowledges that there are significant differences between Soloviev and Newman, most especially in that Newman was a clergyman, while Soloviev was a layman. However, they were akin in their deep attachment to the traditions from which they had come. It may also be said that they are alike in the influence they have had on their respective traditions; Newman greatly influenced Anglicanism, while Soloviev had his influence on Orthodoxy, especially in the theology of Sergius Bulgakov.

This book provides some useful background to Russian thought in the 19th century and explains how Soloviev engaged with contemporary debates between Westernizers and Slavophiles, as well as Tolstoy and Soloviev's views on his ideas. It provides a good sketch of Soloviev's intellectual career, looking at his philosophy and ethical views, before dealing with his theology over the course of three chapters. The last of these theological chapters deals with his master work, Russia and the Universal Church, which should be on the reading list of every Catholic. The book ends with a chapter about the ascetic character and personal qualities of the man.

My only significant complaint about this is that it never brings up Soloviev's Sophiology, his ideas about divine wisdom. Nor does it mention his strange mystical encounters with 'Lady Wisdom,' both as a child and as an adult. Sophiology was a key part of his thought and proved to be one of his main influences.

The Palm Sunday Problem: Liturgy vs Theology

One aspect of the western liturgy that I find problematic as theologian is the heavy emphasis on Palm Sunday on the Passion of Christ at the expense of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. If a solemn procession takes place at the beginning of the mass, there are plenty of appropriate Biblical texts used. However, in many churches, there will be just a simple procession, with the waving of palm crosses and that is about it. The rest of the mass switches focus to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of our Lord. The Liturgy of the Hours is better, with morning prayer placing an heavy emphasis on the triumphal entry. However, daytime prayer and evening prayer are Passion-centred. The Anglican liturgy is even worse, with texts in both the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship focusing on the Passion.

Theologians and Biblical exegetes will inevitably see the significance of the triumphal entry, seeing in it the setting up of the cross as the enthronement of Christ in glory. Christ demonstrates His kingship by coming in humility and accepting suffering and death, finding victory in weakness. By placing so little emphasis on the triumphal entry, the western liturgy risks divorcing the cross from the Kingdom of God. A potential danger of the liturgical emphasis is to make the triumphal entry look like a cruel joke, focusing on the irony of the fickle crowds switching from adoration to calling for Christ's execution.

I completely understand why the Palm Sunday liturgy is the way it is. It makes perfect liturgical sense to focus on the Passion on the Sunday before Easter. Otherwise, no Sunday in Lent would cover the theme of the cross in Lent. To go from the triumphal entry to the resurrection would be awkward if one were to skip the Good Friday liturgy. This is thus a case of liturgy coming into conflict with theology. An important theological theme is played down for liturgical convenience. I can't see an easy way to revise the texts to avoid this dilemma.

Independent: Theresa May's comments on EU migration have freed her from the Eurosceptic right wing of her party

Independent: Theresa May's comments on EU migration have freed her from the Eurosceptic right wing of her party

"It is often argued that Theresa May, whatever her personal beliefs, is the prisoner of the Conservative Party’s right-wing Brexiteers. For Jeremy Corbyn, the aim of the opposition is to fight a “Tory Brexit” in the name of a softer, gentler version, while for Tony Blair the “hard-Brexit Conservative Party” is the reason for trying to stop Britain leaving the EU altogether.

But this week something important didn’t happen. This week the Prime Minister, in comments to journalists on her trip to the Middle East and in talks with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, hinted that free movement of people between Britain and the EU could continue for a transitional period after Britain leaves in 2019. And what you’d expect to happen – that the Eurosceptic faction of Tory MPs would go bananas – never did."

Arabs and Slavs

CNN| Haley: No political solution in Syria with Assad in power

CNN| Haley: No political solution in Syria with Assad in power

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in an interview airing Sunday on CNN that until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is out of power, she doesn't see a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
"There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," Haley told "State of the Union" anchor Jake Tapper. "It just -- if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad."

Haley's remarks come just a day after she warned that the United States was prepared to take further actions in Syria during a special session at the UN following a US military strike against a Syrian air base.

It's excellent to see the US government taking a firm stand against Assad's tyranny and seeking an end to the Syrian civil war.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report April 8th

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Liberation Theology after the End of History, by Daniel Bell

Daniel M. Bell, Liberation Theology after the End of History: The refusal to cease suffering, 2001 Routledge

I don't care for Radical Orthodoxy. They mostly seem to combine a rather fey Anglo-Catholicism with a romantic Champagne drinking socialism and tend to write with a rather arrogant tone. They are also very nostalgic and I hate nostalgia almost as much as I hate socialism. Nevertheless, they sometimes have interesting things to say, so I read this Radical Orthodox critique of Liberation Theology. Given that I substantially disagree with both the author and the theologians he critiques, it felt rather like watching a Jehovah's Witness debate a Mormon.

Bell starts from a position of hostility to capitalism. In this he is at one with his Liberation Theology opponents. However, he argues that the Liberation Theology movement has some significant flaws. He argues that it falls short in seeing politics as 'statecraft,' thus leaving the political sphere as a religious neutral zone, to which the Church does not participate. He believes that a truly Christian politics should be instantiated in the Church. In Liberation Theology, the Church is left as a sort of supportive cheerleader for liberation, leaving actual political change to secular movements. Our author traces back this shortcoming to the ideas of 'New Christendom' in social Catholic thought in the early Twentieth century. He goes on to look at Liberationist thinking on the concept of justice and finds them problematic. Finally, he argues that Liberation Theology has a problem in the area of forgiveness and the concept of suffering with Christ. Perhaps the discussion on the subject of forgiveness might have benefited from considering the more straightforward question of whether one is bound to forgive an unrepentant person, which seems rather pertinent to the question of forgiving oppressors.

Bell's nostalgia for Medieval Christendom might suggest he is advocating some sort of ecclesiastical theocracy, but it seems more like he is in favour of something like Rod Dreher's 'Benedict Option.' However, rather than St. Benedict, he looks to the St. Bernard and the Cistercians for a model. I'm a bit sceptical for how useful this is. The Cistercians were people comitted to the strictures of a religious life. Can Christian lay people use such a lifestyle as a model for their communities? What is more, the Cistercians co-existed with the Medieval lay rulers of their day. Bell provides no clues as to how the Church can engage with the machinery of the state.

Our author views capitalism as an abominable evil akin to Sauron the Dark Lord. He does not engage with literature which offers a more positive evaluation of capitalism. He references Novak's critique of Liberation Theology, but does not offer any engagement with Novak's Christian defence of capitalism in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Bell wants to destroy capitalism, but he offers us no clues as to what economic arrangement would replace it. Thus, he wants to see society torn apart and re-shaped without any kind of plan or vision. This is a kind of nihilism and suggests a somewhat juvenile mindset. He has no liking for 'welfare-state capitalism' and he suggests that Liberation Theologians are rather too willing to accept such a compromise. If so, I am closer in my views to the Liberationists, which is a little scary.

Most of this book seems utterly irrelevant to real world politics. The author is clearly a creature of academia. I always feel frustrated by theologians talking about politics. They have big ideas, but they show little understanding of economics, they have no experience of the world of business and commerce and they have seldom been involved in campaigning for a political party and canvassing ordinary voters.

The Mad Monarchist: The Strong Man or the Monarch?

The Mad Monarchist: The Strong Man or the Monarch?

"It was recently asked of me what I thought of the “strong men” of the right who rose up in the last century, several of which were named, and I thought it worth answering in some detail and adding some names to the list I was given to hopefully present a better picture of my thoughts on the subject. These are those who have come to power in a country with no traditional monarch but who nonetheless remain admired by many on the right end of the political spectrum. As a proponent of “traditional authority”, which is very much out of fashion these days, it can be necessary to support someone who is less than ideal in order to move the needle in a more favorable direction. Some may be good, some may be unsavory but necessary and others may represent no more than a movement of that needle. Sometimes the best that can be said is that they are preferable to the most likely alternative. Of course, it should be obvious to all but I shall say at the outset nonetheless that my first preference is always for the legitimate monarch and nothing or no one can ever justly take their place."

An interesting post from the Mad Monarchist on leaders who today are generally considered unsavoury. I think he is a little bit hard on Horthy. Horthy didn't restore the Hungarian monarchy, but Franco didn't restore the monarchy until after his death either.

I think these dictators were necessary in the days of Bolshevism, before liberal capitalism had got it's act together to mobilize against Communism. I don't think I'd like to see such strong men coming to power today.

I tend to disagree with the Mad Monarchist on most political subjects, but I'm glad he retains his critical stance towards Putin. Too many monarchists fall into the temptation of becoming Putin apologists.

God is a Warrior, by Tremper Longman and Daniel Reid

Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid, Studies in Old Testament Theology: God is a Warrior, 1995 Paternoster Press

This book introduces the reader to the theme of divine warfare in Scripture. In the first chapters, Longman and Reid look at the holy wars fought by Israel in the Old Testament. They do not offer any comment on the ethical implications of the genocidal passages, though Longman dealt with these in the 'four views' book Show No Mercy. They then go on to talk about the tables being turned and God fighting against Israel through her hostile neighbours as an act of judgment. They then look at the use of the imagery of cosmic warfare in Scripture, with Yahweh battling hostile floodwaters and sea monsters. I was very familiar with such imagery, having read Greg Boyd's God at War, which uses such themes to argue for Open Theism, though in a novel manner, combining them with the Gap Theory of creation, which is more associated with Dispensationalist fundamentalism. Unlike Boyd, Longman and Reid do not draw any definite theological implications from those texts.

In the New Testament, our authors look at our Lord's conflict with Satan through both demonic warfare and through His triumph through His death and resurrection. They go on to look at Saint Paul's epistles and how he uses the themes of conflict with cosmic powers and the victory of the believer in Christ. The book concludes with a look at the Apocalypse. The authors do not advocate any one school of interpretation (I think Longman is a Preterist), but they explore the themes of battle and victory in the book.

A lot of readers may feel frustrated that Longman and Reid never actually spell out what theological and pastoral conclusions can be drawn from the texts they study. I understand this is a work of biblical theology and not systematic theology. However, many readers may feel that without being put into some sort of contemporary context, the book is a bit irrelevant to their lives. They could have given us some hints. At times, I couldn't help feeling like Longman and Reid were telling me a lot of Bible stories I had learned at Sunday school!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Backbench: In defence of George Osborne

Backbench: In defence of George Osborne

by Megan McGowan

"George Osborne has never been the nation's sweetheart. For many, he is the ruthless budget-cutter of the Cameron years, a man entirely without empathy who delighted in harping on about his beloved ‘long-term economic plan’.

For liberal Conservatives such as myself, however, he is a bearer of hope.

The news that Osborne is to become Editor of the London Evening Standard inspired shock in both Westminster and beyond, but I find myself comparatively cheerful. The compassionate Conservative agenda came under threat the moment David Cameron resigned in July last year. By taking up the editor’s chair, Osborne now has a platform big enough and influential enough to lead the fight against an obviously imperfect government confused over Brexit and increasingly in thrall to its right-wing."

Great article on the importance of George Osborne providing a voice for moderate compassionate Conservatism.