Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Post Christian Mind

Tracing the origins and foundation of the departure from the Christian worldview within the Church is essential in understanding the current condition of professing Christendom and sadly, most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Harry Blamires provides some very interesting background in the following quote. We best not dismiss his observations too quickly as the position of "the liberals." In his words I see much more than just "liberals." The mind of the culture around us is in actuality part of us....(Editor.)

"Gradually the fashion and taste for reasoning faded. I can locate the point int time, around 1960, when I became personally aware of how the change was affecting the popular mind. As a teacher, I had always found students responsive when the matter in hand led to some open discussion of philosophical or religious positions. Some topic had arisen with a group of mature students, many of them former officers who had been retired from the armed forces by a national cutback. Interestingly views were being aired when one student suddenly said, "But this is the Age of Aquarius." That was all. And the implication of the words soon became apparent. Reasoning about basic issues of life and death, of truth and falsehood, of goodness and evil, was no longer valid. There were no longer any intellectual landmarks or signposts by which such reasoning could be conducted. Absolutes were nonexistent. The fluidity of experience was irreducible to formulation in concept or premise...

The scientifically based challenge to Christianity infiltrated the Church in the first decades of the [20th] century, and so-called theologians tried to whittle away its supernatural affiliation and to bowdlerize its dogma. The Aquarian drift of popular thinking has now infiltrated the Church. It has led the clergy to an emphasis on the immediate which is neglectful of history and tradition. It has led to an emphasis on emotional togetherness in delight as opposed to controlled obesience in worship. It has produced a generation of clergy who try to please rather than to instruct, to appeal to natural inclination rather than to the sense of duty." (Harry Blamires, The Post Christian Mind, Servant Publications, 1999, pp. 16-18.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Unless Specifically Enabled it May Not Act

"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition."

-- Thomas Jefferson (Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 15 February 1791)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Recovering the Christian Mind III

The Christian Gospel is addressed to men and women whose lives present them with emergencies---with dangers, temptations, demands, threats, and risks. That is only another way of saying that we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. You can test the validity of any sermon, any theological book, by asking: How far is it addressed to men and women in a state of emergency? If it is not so addressed, then 10 to 1 it is a poor sermon, defective theology. It is no use preaching today to those imaginary people who inhabit the advertisement pages of glossy magazines, whose lives are spent between spick-and-span kitchens and gleaming new motor cars. It is no use preaching to that imaginary family group, father, mother, brother, sister, arm in arm, bright and beautiful, fresh and carefree, who gaze at your from your Access booklet in the hope of persuading you to buy the latest thing in designer shirts. It is no good gearing your theological dicta to that shapely young blonde sipping her coffee in a silk dressing-gown in her Moben kitchen, or to that smart-suited young mancaught by the camer midway between the door and the Ford Granada, briefcase in hand. It is no good because plainly none of these people has an aged parent upstairs with Alzheimer's disease or a child in a cot behind the bedroom window with Down's syndrome. None of them just had cancer diagnosed, or even a hole in the heart. We may overlook the fact that the sky suggests California rather than an English suburb. Look at the garden, how trim and colourful it is. Somehow we can swear that there is not even a coal-mine---let alone a nuclear power station---for miles...

The picture of life which overlooks or underplays calamity and tragedy would not be worth taking seriously were it not that there is a theology in the air which addresses imaginary inhabitants instead of addressing real people in a real world. There is a theology which does not speak to human beings in the thick of emergencies, but to human beings moving steadily between birth and death through an equable spring, summer and autumn of life. It is a theology of speculation and exploration which turns us all into seekers after truth with plenty of time to savour this experience and that, weigh this doctrine and that, until we finally conclude that we may as well make do with the Christian faith...True Christianity does not offer us a theology of speculation and exploration. It offers us a theology of revelation and salvation. And a theology of revelation and salvation is needed because we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world." (Harry Blamires, Recovering the Christian Mind, pp. 14-16.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Meat Not Milk

'I have fed you with milk, and not with meat' St. Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians (3:2). He claims to have spoken to them 'as babes in Christ' (I Cor. 3: 1). We think of St. Paul's teaching as being emphatically concerned with the conflicting dualities of flesh and spirit, of the fallen state and the state of grace; yet here he introduces a duality of a different kind, not a duality of conflict, but a duality of progress. There is war between flesh and spirit, but the antithesis between milk and meat is an antithesis between two forms of nourishment, one fit for babes and the other fit for grown men and women.

We cannot make sense of adult life with the mental equipment of the child. We cannot afford to carry into adult life a Christian consciousness so under-nourished and anaemic that we slide into accepting faddish convenience recipes for worldly well-being as our daily diet. The evidence is that when the time comes for getting to grips with the Christian faith as adults and not as children, many of our contemporaries abandon their faith. They were spoon fed on the milk of the word, but in adulthood they discard the nourishment as babyish, and assume that there is no more to be said. Meanwhile, professing believers, mena nd women who perhaps make great steps forward in other spheres of life, all too often succumb to the epidemic of anorexia religiosa which destroys all appetite for progress in Christian understanding and commitment.

This book attempts to confront the realities of the contemporary scene and to show how full-blooded Christian teaching will bring under judgment much that is taken for granted by people reared on a protein-free Gospel or on no Gospel at all. We have to learn to set life's manifestations of evil and suffering, as well as of goodness and joy, in the context of the divine and human drama which is Christianity's account of what we men and women are here involved in. The Christian worldview is the only integrative counterpoise to a secularism that is decomposing our civilisation. No thoughtful Christian can contemplate and analyse the tensions all about us in both public and private life without sensing the eternal momentousness of the current struggle for the human mind between Christian teaching and materialistic secularism. (Harry Blamires, Recovering the Christian Mind, pp. 9-10, Intervarsity Press, 1988.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Recovering the Christian Mind II

"The question is, will the Christians of the next fifty years, over against a strengthened secularism, deepen and clarify their Christian commitment in a withdrawn cultivation of personal morality and spirituality, thereby achieving the kind of uneasy coexistence which Church and State appear to have arrived at in Russia? Or will the Christians of the next fifty years deepen and clarify their Christian commitment at the intellectual and social levels too, meeting and challenging not only secularism's assault upon personal morality and the life of the soul, but also secularism's truncated and perverted view of the meaning of life and the purpose of the social order? . . . [O]ne fears that by sheer tactical error Christians in the West may be gradually maneuvered into the position of Christians in Russia, content to say the best that can be said of a social system wholly and professedly committed to godless materialism, and meanwhile sincerely keeping alive the flames of faith and piety and moral virtue among a remnant that is tolerated so long as it holds back from any comprehensive criticism of the established system." (Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant, 1963), 189--90.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Recovering the Christian Mind

"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." —Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lex Rex or Divine Right of Kings?

Samuel Rutherford

For the lawfulness of resistance in the matter of the king's unjust invasion of life and religion, we offer these arguments.

Arg. 1: That power which is obliged to command and rule justly and religiously for the good of the subjects, and is only set over the people on these conditions, and not absolutely, cannot tie the people to subjection without resistance, when the power is abused to the destruction of laws, religion, and the subjects. But all power of the law is thus obliged, (Rom. xiii. 4 ; Deut. xvii. 18-20 ; 2 Chron. xix. 6 ; Ps. cxxxii. 11, 12 ; lxxxix. 30, 31; 2 Sam. vii. 12 ; Jer. xvii. 24, 25,) and hath, and may be, abused by kings, to the destruction of laws, religion, and subjects. The proposition is clear. 1. For the powers that tie us to subjection only are of God. 2. Because to resist them, is to resist the ordinance of God. 3. Because they are not a terror to good works, but to evil. 4. Because they are God's ministers for our good, but abused powers are not of God, but of men, or not ordinances of God ; they are a terror to good works, not to evil ; they are not God's ministers for our good.

Arg. 2: That power which is contrary to law, and is evil and tyrannical, can tie none to subjection, but is a mere tyrannical power and unlawful; and if it tie not to subjection, it may lawfully be resisted. But the power of the king, abused to the destruction of laws, religion, and subjects, is a power contrary to law, evil, and tyrannical, and tyeth no man to subjection : wickedness by no imaginable reason can oblige any man. Obligation to suffer of wicked men falleth under no commandment of God, except in our Saviour. A passion, as such, is not formally commanded, I mean a physical passion, such as to be killed. God hath not said to me in any moral law, Be thou killed, tortured, beheaded ; but only, Be thou patient, if God deliver thee to wicked men's hands, to suffer these things.

Arg. 3: There is not a stricter obligation moral betwixt king and people than betwixt parents and children, master and servant, patron and clients, husband and wife, the lord and the vassal, between the pilot of a ship and the passengers, the physician and the sick, the doctor and the scholars, but the law granteth, (l. Minime 35, de Relig. et sumpt. funer,) if these betray their trust commited to them, they may be resisted: if the father turn distracted, and arise to kill his sons may violently apprehend him, and bind his hands, and spoil him of his weapons; for in that he is not a father......The servant may resist the master if he attempts unjustly kill him, so may the wife do to the husband; if the pilot should wilfully run the ship on a rock to destroy himself and his passengers, they might violently thrust him from the helm. Every tyrant is a furious man, and is morally distracted, as Althusius said, Polit. c. 28, n. 30, and seq.

Arg. 4: That which is given as a blessing, and a favour, and a screen, between the people's liberty and their bondage, cannot be a given of God as a bondage and slavery to the people. But the power of king is given as a blessing and favour God to defend the poor and needy, to preserve both tables of the law, and to keep the people in their liberties from oppressing and treading one upon another. But so it is, that if such a power be given of God to a king, by which, actu primo, he is invested of God to do acts of tyranny, and so to do them, that to resist him in the most innocent way, which is self-defence, must be a resisting of God, and rebellion against the king, his deputy ; then hath God given a royal power as uncontrollable by mortal men, by any violence, as if God himself were immediately and personally resisted, when the king is resisted, and so this power shall be a power to waste and deatroy irresistibly, and so in itself a plague and a curse; for it cannot be ordained both according to the intention and genuine formal effect and intrinsical operation of the power, to preserve the tables of the law, religion and liberty, subjects and laws, and also to destroy the same. But it is taught by royalists that this power is for tyranny, as well as for peaceable government; because to resist this royal power put forth in acts either ways, either in acts of tyranny or just government, is to resist the ordinance of God, as royalists say, from Rom. xiii. 1-3. And we know, to resist God's ordinances and God's deputy, formaliter, as his deputy, is to resist God himself,(1 Sam. viii. 7; Matt.x. 40,) as if God were doing personally these acts that the king is doing; and it importeth as much as the King of kings doth these acts in and through the tyrant. Now, it is blasphemy to think or say, that when a king is drinking the blood of innocents, and wasting the church of God, that God, if he were personally present, would commit these same acts of tyranny, (God avert such blasphemy !) and that God in and through the king, as his lawful deputy and vicegerent in these acts of tyranny, is wasting the poor church of God. If it be said, in these sinful acts of tyranny, he is not God's formal vicegerent, but only in good and lawful acts of government, yet he is not to be resisted in these acts, not because the acts are just and good, but because of the dignity of his royal person. Yet this must prove that those who resiet the king in these acts of tyranny, must resist no ordinance of God, but only resist him who is the Lord's deputy, though not as the Lord's deputy. What absurdity is there in that more than to disobey him, refusing active obedience to him who is tha Lord's deputy, not as the, Lord's deputy, but as a man commanding besides his master's warrant?

Arg. 5: That which is inconsistent with the care and providence of God in giving a king to his church is not to be taught. Now God's end in giving a king to his church, as the feeding, safety, preservation, and the peaceable and quiet life of his church. (1 Tim. ii. 2 ; Isa. xlix. 23 ; Psal. lxxix. 71). But God should cross his own end in the same act of giving a king, if he should provide a king, who, by office, were to suppress robbers, murderers, and all oppressors and wasters in his holy mount, and yet should give an irresistible power to one crowned lion, a king, who may kill ten hundred thousand protestants for their religion, in an ordinary providence; and they are by an ordinary law of God to give their throats to his emissaries and bloody executioners. If any say the king will not be so cruel, - I believe it; because, actu secundo, it is not possibly in his power to be so cruel. We owe thanks to his good will that he killeth not so many, but no thanks to the nature and genuine intrinsical end of a king, who hath power from God to kill all these, and that without resistance made by any mortal man. Yea, no thanks (God avert blasphemy!) to God's ordinary providence, which (if royalists may be believed) putteth no bar upon the unlimited power of a man inclined to sin, and abuse his power to so much cruelty. Some may say, the same absurdity doth follow if the king should turn papist, and the parlisment all were papists. In that case there might be so many martyrs for the truth put to death, and God should put no bar of providence upon this power, then more than now; and yet, in that case, the king and parliament should be judges given of God, actu primo, and by virtue of their office obliged to preserve the people in peace and godliness. But I answer, If God gave a lawful official power to king and parliament to work the same cruelty upon millions of martyrs, and it should be unlawful for them by arms to defend themselves, I should then think that king and parliament were both ex officio, by virtue of their office, and actu primo, judges and fathers, and also by that same office, murderers and butchers,- which were a grievous aspersion to the unspotted providence of God.

Arg. 6: If the estates of a kingdom give the power to a king, it is their own power in the fountain ; and if they give it for their own good, they have power to judge when it is used against themselves, and for their evil, and so power to limit and resist the power that they gave. Now, that they may take away this power, is clear in Athaliah's case. It is true she was a tyrant without a title, and had not the right of heaven to the crown, yet she had, in men's court, a title. For supposing all the royal seed to be killed, and the people consent, we cannot say that, for these six years or thereabout, she was no magistrate: that there were none on the throne of David at this time: that she was not to be obeyed as God's deputy. But grant that she was no magistrate; yet when Jehoash is brought forth to be crowned, it was a controversy to the states to whom the crown should belong. 1. Athaliah was in possession. 2. Jehoash himself being but seven years old, could not be judge. 3. It might be doubted if Joash was the true son of Ahaziah, and if he was not killed with the rest of the blood royal. Two great adversaries say with us ; Hugo Grotius.....saith he dare not condemn this, if the lesser part of the people, and every one of them indifferently, should defend themselves against a tyrant, ultimo necessitatis proesidio. The case of Scotland, when we were blocked up by sea and land with armies: the case of England, when the king, induced by prelates, first attempted to bring an army to cut off parliament, and then gather an army, and fortified York and invaded Hull, to make the militia his own, sure is considerable. Barclay saith, the people hath....a power to defend themselves against prodigious cruelty. The case of England and Ireland, now invaded by bloody rebels of Ireland, is also worthy of consideration. I could cite hosts more.