Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

1. I'm speaking at a conference coming up on Mar. 13-14 on the legacy of John Howard Yoder sponsored by some folks in the Stone-Campbell movement. The conference website is here: http://www.englewoodcc.com/yoder/

My topic will be "The Liberal Reading of Yoder: How Not to Read The Politics of Jesus." I'll be asking if and how Protestants can receive Yoder's work without turning him into a liberal pacifist.

2. On Mar. 21, I'll be a workshop leader at the Evolving Church Conference, sponsored by Epiphaneia. The conference website is here: http://epconference.net/

My topic will be "Liberalism and the Culture of Death." Students from my "Christianity and Culture" course at Tyndale will have some awareness of what is coming. But I do want to tie into the conference theme "Amidst the Powers" by talking about what it would mean to think of the culture of death as a "power" or as a result the activities of certain "powers."

3. I'm being interviewed by Michael Horton for the radio show "The White Horse Inn" next week, but I don't know when the interview will be aired. The topic is my book: Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective. I think you will be able to listen to the interview on the show's website. The website is: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/

4. I'll also be speaking at our church's Good Friday service and I'm really looking forward to preaching on the penal substitution aspect of the meaning of the cross. I'll post the title when I get one.

I've done enough theologizing about how penal substitution fits into an overarching doctrine of the atonement and I think I have a grip on how to approach it without falling into some of the traps that can lead us astray in trying to comprehend this mystery. Now it is time to let the rubber hit the road and preach it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Brothers Karamazov and Liberal Modernity

The Brothers Karamazov is (rightly, in my opinion) regarded by many as not only the culmination of Dostoevsky's artistic vision, but also as a genuine work of prophecy. Dostoevsky writes as a Christian to warn, predict, instruct and declare.

In the next few posts, I want to discuss the interpretation of the Grand Inquisitor's vision and how it contrasts to the vision articulated by the Elder Zosima in Book VI, which immediately following Book V, which contains the key chapters (4. Rebellion and 5. The Grand Inquisitor). Page references will be the the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1990).

I will also refer frequently to the stunningly insightful book by P. Travis Kroeker and Bruce K. Ward entitled: Remembering the End: Dostoevsky as Prophet to Modernity (Westview, 2001).
Much of my understanding of Dostoevsky is indebted to their fine work, although I also find that my understanding of Augustine and Yoder also helps to appreciate Dostoevsky's art. I find it astonishing and highly significant that such a high degree of unity exists between the 4th century church father, the 19th century Russian Orthodox and the 20th century Mennonite. I leave the reader to figure out how they fit together; I merely point out the fact.

The Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor has been interpreted, wrongly in my view, as representing Roman Catholicism as a whole over against Orthodoxy. He has also be misinterpreted as standing for the totalitarian movements of National Socialism and Soviet Communism that occured in the 20th century.

The Grand Inquisitor actually represents, not a pathological offshoot of modernity, but modernity itself. The GI represents, ironically, not only political religion (i.e. the church siezing control of the levers of political power and using coercion to enforce its views on an unwilling population), but the GI also represents religious politics (i.e. the State assuming God-like proportions and implementing a soft totalitarianism that not only takes away the freedom of people in the name of equality, but which does so in such a way that the people beg the State to relieve them of the burden of freedom). So Hitler and Stalin were only crude prototypes of the GI, who relied on external coercion to rule. The GI, by contrast, will rule by popular acclamation and will assume the burden of freedom for people so that they can rely on the GI (the State) to meet their material needs and allow them to sin.

To understand how this is so, we must listen to Ivan as he speaks throught the mouth of the GI. In Ivan's poem, the GI has arrested Jesus, who appeared unexpectedly in Seville in the late 16th century on the day after the GI has burnt 100 heretics in a grand auto de fe. The GI has arrested Jesus and is now speaking to him in Jesus' prison cell. Jesus remains silent throughout the poem. The GI says "The dread and intelligent spirit, the spirit of self-destruction and non-being . . . the great spirit spoke with you in the wilderness . . . Was it possible to say anything more true than what he proclaimed to you in his three questions? . . . For in these three questions all subsequent human history is as if brought together in a single whole and foretold." (BK, 252)

The Grand Inquisitor as a Hegelian

Kroeker and Ward point out that the 3 temptations correspond to the 3 stages of world history in Hegel's philosophy of history. The first stage is the temptation to rule the masses by giving them bread and corresponds to what Hegel called the Oriental World. In every civilization prior to Christianity there was a unity of the religous and the political power (along with the economic and judicial and other powers) in the person of the Emperor, who personifies the empire.

The second stage is introduced by Christianity and is the development of individual freedom. The individual comes to understand himself as distinct from the hive, the totality - as more than merely a cog in the State machinery. Jesus is tempted to throw himself down from the Temple, thus calling attention to his unique status as God's son and the miracle which God would do to save him. The GI admits that Jesus reacted magnificently in refusing to tempt God, but asks how many of the common herd could do the same? Here he doubts the feasiblility of freedom for common human beings.

The third stage is the reconciliation of equality (the unified State) and freedom (individual consciousness). Here Jesus is tempted to worship the Devil and refuses. The GI proudly asserts that he and his colleagues have corrected Jesus' mistake at this point: "we are not with you, but with him, that is our secret!" (BK, 257)

Liberal Democracy as the End of History?

Modern liberal democracy claims to be the reconciliation of equality (Rousseau, Marx) and freedom (Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson) in a synthesis that works (American Pragmatism). Francis Fukuyama, a contemporary populizer of Hegel, claims that liberal democracy has triumphed over its foes and so we now stand at the "end of history. But Fukuyama does not admit that contemporary liberal democracy actually is a synthesis of the Marxist impulse toward equality and the Capitalist faith in the wealth-creating Market. "Pure" 19th century Capitalism no longer exists. Since the "New Deal" Capitalism and the Welfare State have been fused together. The Market God and the State God are both worshipped equally for one creates the wealth and the other redistributes it in such a way as to leave incentive for wealth creation without allowing such exptremes of wealth and poverty so as to incite revolution. Liberal modernity has triumphed over Communism precisely by absorbing much of the Marxist emphasis on equality into itself without ceasing to be itself. The Capitalist Welfare State has triumphed, but not because Capitalism has obliterated Marxism, but rather because it has co-opted it. The two party system in liberal Western states (liberal socialist and neo-conservative) is necessary to maintain the delicate balance. Those who call for less government (neo-conservatives) and those who call for more government (liberal) are just emphasizing two sides of the same integrated system.

Dostoevsky's prophecy is of a state in which the many would gladly surrender their freedom to their rulers in exchange for 1) material well-being and 2) sexual freedom. The GI says: "in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us 'Better that you enslave us, but feed us.' They will finally understand that freedom and earthly bread in plenty for everyone are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share among themselves." (BK, 253) In other words, the equality of the first stage of history (the equlity of the hive) will characterize this State. But the GI also says: "We will tell them that every sin wil be redeemed if it is committed with our permission; and that we allow them to sin because we love them." (BK, 259) This tyranny is much more sophisticated than that of Hitler and Stalin because they had to rule by external coercion. People felt dominated and abused by them; this new tyranny will not feel that way. Instead, it will appeal to a real aspect of human nature: the sensuous desire for physical gratification common to all fallen humans. This is what makes it dangerous. Although Dostoevsky does not say it explicitly, we see his vision fulfilled in the sexual revolution. The State changes the law (allows us to sin) because it loves us. So infatuated with this "freedom" we gladly exchange our political freedom for it.

Dostoevsky is drawing a picture of a soft totalitariainism along the lines of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, in which promiscuity and drugs are what keeps the population quiet, while the State has taken over the business of human reproduction. The only ones who are unhappy in the GI's vision of the end of history are the rulers because they must govern on the basis of a lie. What is this lie?

The Grand Inquisitor: A Liar Like His Hero the Devil:

The lie is that freedom and equality have been reconciled and Hegel's synthesis has been achieved, that is, that the end of history is here. In actual fact it is more like a reversion to the pre-Christian Oriental World in which there is plenty of equality but no real freedom. The freedom of the subjects of liberal modernity is 'freedom to gratify one's physical desires here and now" but it pales beside the grandeur of the Augustinian definition of freedom as 'freedom to act toward the good for human nature,' which is true freedom. The freedom of liberal modernity is, from a Christian perspective, slavery to the lusts of the flesh and thus no freedom at all.

Yet, even if this version of history sounds less bad to you than other possibilities (eg. nuclear war that destroys civilization), you need to know that even this version is not feasible, as we shall see in the next post.

Tomorrow's Post: "The Nietzschean Correction of Hegel"
Third Post: "The Alternative Vision of the Elder Zosima"
Concluding Post: "Conservatism as the Rejection of Liberal Modernity"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The American Election: Silver Linings

The election of a hard-edged, liberal ideologue who stands firmly against the culture of life as the leader of a country in Europe is now so common as to be expected, but for it to happen in the United States of America is a shocking event. More pro-abortion even than Bill Clinton or any other Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama is by no means a centrist politican as defined by American politics. But does this mean that the center has shifted left in the US, as it has over the past 40 years in Canada? Was this election "transformational?" Should the pro-euthanasia activists, the re-definition of marriage activists and those advocating such things as cloning humans for spare parts all now stand shoulder to shoulder shouting "Yes we can"?

It has taken me four days to write this post because I wanted to put the election of Obama in the perspective of the election results as a whole. There is a lot of silver in the linings of this election, more in fact than one would expect after the American people had elected a man who stands for legalized private killing after a campaign in which the mainstream media actively campaigned for him to the point of comparing him to Lincoln.

There is no doubt that, in principle, it is a wonderful thing that the first African-American president has been elected. But the real story is that it is not that astonishing that a black man can be elected president. I really don't know how someone can be all that surprised. It speaks well of America that his policies, his abilities and his timing were all more important than his race - and it must be admitted that his race was actually a greater asset than liability in many quarters of America. And I'm not just talking about black America, but about white, liberal America where the eagerness to vote for a black president was extremely high. (I actually heard comments from white voters who were so excited to be able to vote for a black candidate that they were going to do so even though they disagreed with his policies!)

So what can we take from this election as positives for those who are neither Republicans or Democrats, but who are concerned to build a culture of life?

1. Obama Only Managed 52% of the Popular Vote:
In this election we had a Republican president with a 31% approval rating who had led the country into an unpopular war, run up a gigantic deficit, attacked civil liberties and squandered much of the good will in the world in which America has basked after 9/11. The big question the mainstream media will never ask, but which begs to be asked is "Why was the margin of victory so narrow?"

The answer is that the US was and remains a conservative-leaning (center-right) country. The abortion issue dragged Obama down and prevented a run-away win. McCain was nominated as a centrist Republican with a reputation for being a mavrick because the Republicans were trying to distance themselves from George Bush. Therefore, he did not excite the social conservatives within the Republican coalition and it took the choice of Sarah Palin to convince many social conservatives to vote this time. That decision, which was out of character for McCain, demonstrated that the Republican Party ignores the social conservatives at its peril because they represent a large part of the voting public. If McCain had chose Lieberman it likely would have been a blow-out for Obama.

2. Voters in California, Florida and Arizona Reject Same-sex "Marriage:"
Secondly, it is heartening that 30 states now have now enshrined the traditional definition of marriage in their constitutions. Activist federal judges be warned: America will not tolerate a repeat of the abortion scenario where 9 unelected citizens impose their morality (or lack thereof) on the nation.

The vote in California against same sex "marriage" happened despite the Obama landslide. In one of the most liberal states in the union in an election in which a Democrat opposing Proposition 8 is overwhelmingly elected, Proposition 8 should have been toast. Obama himself ran 13% higher than the campaign to support same sex "marriage," which strongly suggests that he was not elected with a moral revisionist mandate.

3. The Democrats Fall Short of the Super-Majority in the Senate:
This was close. If the Democrats (or the pro-abortionists of both parties) had gained 60 seats in the Senate, then the filibuster could have been over-ridden at a signal from Biden and Ried. But it looks right now that the Democrats have fallen just short of this threshold. This means the Republicans have at least one weapon to use to provide an effective opposition.

This development has huge implications for two crucial matters. First, it may mean that the Freedom of Choice Act will not be able to be passed. Or at the least, it may have to be watered down. This will be a major fight during the next 12 months. Second, it may put a little tiny brake on Obama's nominees for the Supreme Court. The good news is that the four anti-Roe votes on the court will likely survive the next four years, just as Ginsberg and Stevens have hung on to the end of the Bush years. Obama will only (we pray) have the opportunity to replace two liberal judges and no conservative ones. And without the Senate super-majority there will actually be a fight. Obama's nominees likely will be as far the left as Robert Bork was to the right and if the outcome is only that a slightly less liberal judge is appointed, that will be good for the country.

4. Obama did not win the Evangelical or Church-Going Catholic Vote:
Obama, for all that he had going for him, did not win the vote among those who actually practice Chrisitanity. He won among nominal Catholics and liberal Protestants, which is to be expected since he stands for what many of them believe in. But he did not win among those who read the Bible, attend worship, pray and try to live a Christian life. Over 70% of white Evangelicals, for example, voted for McCain even though many required a clothespin on their noses in order to do it. As one British newspaper opined recently, Obama is the first secular president.

It would have simplified things if two elections could have been held: one in which everyone could vote for or against George Bush and then another in which everyone could vote on who should lead the country in the future. Many people did not vote for Obama but against Bush. Many Catholics and Evangelicals were as unhappy as the rest of the country with Bush's out of control spending, tax cuts for the rich and his ruinous war. But they couldn't see how electing the most liberal member of the senate was going to fix those problems. And the life and marriage issues were just too fundamental to ignore.

If the Democratic Party had moved to the center on moral issues by upholding traditional marriage and advocating strict limits on abortion, it could have won a thundrous majority. But my sense is that it would rather maintain its extreme left ideology and win 52% of the vote - enough to give it power but not enough to limit its ideology.

5. The Republican Party is Now Out of Power:
This in itself is a very good thing. The party is the only available vehicle for the pro-life and pro-family social conservative coalition to utilize at this stage of American politics and it is badly in need of being overhauled. Opposition is where it needs to be at this moment because it needs to rethink conservatism.

Conservatism does not mean invading countries on wild adventures like Napoleon spreading the ideals of liberty, equality and faternity at the point of a sword. The neo-cons hawks like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bolton and Wolfowitz should walk the plank. They are most responsible for the loss of power and they should be pariahs in the forseeable future.

Conservatism does not mean out of control pork-barrel spending while doling out tax cuts to those who don't need them. I know that many conservatives believe in cutting taxes in order to prevent overall government spending on entitlements to rise forever. But to use this as an excuse not to balance the budget is just reprehensible.

Conservatism does not mean extreme libertarianism. There is no future for the Republican Party if it repudiates its social conservative base in order to pander to a kind of libertarianism that joins forces with the cultural left on moral issues. Instead, Republicans need to give attention to how to strengthen families, appeal to the working class and be a balance to extreme, coastal, left-wing elites.

Being out of power is a good time to rethink these things.

6. Conservative Democrats May Constitute the Real Opposition to Obama:
One last silver lining is that many of the Democrats elected to the House in particular in 2006 and 2008 are well to the right of Obama. They won in parts of the countries that would never vote for the kind of liberal Obama is and yet they are Democrats. We will see how many of them will feel a need to oppose the most extreme aspects of the leftist social agenda that Obama and his inner circle will undoubtedly try to advance over the first two years of his mandate. (The first sign of how radical and determined Obama agenda will be is his choice for chief of staff.) These conservative Democrats in the House and Senate will need to keep an eye on their re-election prospects and they may prove to be something less than automatic votes for the Democratic leadership.

UPDATE: I have just learned that, in fact, 31 pro-life Democrats were elected to the House this time, 5 new ones and 26 re-elected. It was only the second time in 30 years that the number of pro-life Democrats in the House increased. This confirms my suspicion that if the Democratic Party wants to increase its majority it needs to come to terms with the reality that most of America is pro-life. And it confirms the suspicion that the most effective future opposition to the Democratic Party leadership may be the grassroots of the party itself. Such a development is probably a necessary step in the long-term fight against legalized private killing.

As usual in politics it is never as good or as bad as it seems. We pray now for the health and strength of the church in the United States, which is a more important factor than any parties, politicans or platforms. It is the church that constitutes a bulwark against social disintegration into hedonism, individualism and materialism. As weak and imperfect as it is, nevertheless it is the church that is the real vehicle for God's work in history. As the church goes, so goes the country.

Friday, November 7, 2008

First Banks, Now Auto Manufacturers: It's Time to Say No!

First it was the banks lining up to get taxpayers to bail them out on problems caused by their poor business practices, irresponsible profit-taking and short-term thinking. Now GM, Ford and Chrysler, after decades of pocketing profits, now are calling on taxpayers to bail them out of problems caused by their failure to build and market fuel-efficient cars even though peak oil was entirely predictable and their preference for short term profits rather than sustainable business practices. I say don't give them a penny.

The problem here is that there is too much concentration of the market in too few corporations. Huge multi-national corporations constitute virtual cartels and hold customers and employees hostage in order to extort money from the government. They are no better than the drug cartels in Columbia and they deserve to go under.

Capitalism is all about the private sector being more effecient than the public sector, about supply and demand, the laws of the market and business either going bankrupt or flourishing depending on how well they are run. So why not let big business go under? We are told that these business are so big that they have hundreds of thousands of employees who would all be unemployed. The loss of tax revenue, the payments of unemployment insurance etc. make it financially preferable for government to pay out large sums to private companies and thier shareholders. It is just protection money.

The biggest problem with our economic system is that there are too many large corporations and not enough smaller ones. A car company does not have to be worldwide in order to be efficients. That is just a function of a marketplace that is regulated in such a way as to produce that result. What is needed is for governments to make policies that punish companies that take over whole markets and eliminate all competition. Keep companies smaller and owned by as diverse a group of owners as possible. Then, when some fail, it does not destroy the whole industry. The unemployed workers are simply hired by the surviving companies and opportunities are created for new companies. Engtrepreneurship and risk-taking should be encouraged and rewarded.

Just sitting there like a fat cat extorting taxpayers' money from governments because you are too large to be alllowed to fail is not risk-taking entrepreneurship. It is morally no better than running a protection racket. And it works only because we let them get away with it. Our problem is not that we have too much capitalism; we have too little and too much of what we have is of the wrong kind.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Separation of Atheism and State

Given that atheists (and agnostics and liberal Protestants) are so obsessed about and fearful of the possibility of modern, Western, secular, liberal democracies being taken over (at any moment) by churches and turned into Iran-style theocracies, I have been wondering what the right response is to such and idea and where it is actually coming from. The possibility of Canada or the US suddenly turning into a Christian theocracy is probably lower than Richard Dawkins' little green men coming back to check on whatever became of that life they created and left on planet earth billions of years ago.

How does this anti-theocracy rhetoric function? When is it employed? For what purpose? The anti-Morman commercial I commented on in the last post was a last-minute, desparate attempt to sway the voters in California and keep them from standing up for natural marriage in the face of the revisionist attempts to reject natural marriage and create artificial marriage. The liberal forces were afraid of losing so they resorted to bigotry and scare tactics - not to mention emotional manipulation. (You ought to remember this the next time you are confronted with an appeal to theocracy as the reason you must allow secular liberals to have their own way.)

But why is it that every religion is a threat to the public order and those who take religious views that do not fit snugly into the grid of traditional religions have a free pass to impose their views on the rest of us? Why do those who believe a man can marry a man just because the State says it is possible (even though it is metaphysically impossible) have the right to impose their ethical, metaphysical and religious views on us by taking over the education of our children and teaching them their creed? How is that separation of church and state? I call it an "atheistocracy" run by atheist mullahs and I find it oppressive.

Religions come in many forms and the denial of the existence of a theistic god is no barrier to a movement of ideas being called a religion. If Buddhism can be a religion, why not atheism? A strong case can be made from the history of western ideas that atheism in the West is a Christian heresy and, if it is a heresy, what else could it be but a religion?

So here is my proposal: let us launch a campaign for the separation of atheism and state. When people propose public policy and demand changes to laws based on a philosophical belief in atheism, then we have to rule those people out of order and demand that they accept our beliefs as the basis of public policy and law. Then, with the shoe on the other foot, they will get to experience first hand how it feels to be marginalized and vilified while another group implements its agenda over their heads.

Maybe, if the experience is unpleasant enough, they might then be amenable to a rational discussion of how everyone's religious and philosophical views should be allowed into the public square. Maybe then they won't be so quick to try to run Christians (and Mormans and Jews and Muslims) out of the public square just because they are religious. After all, why should atheistic philosophy be allowed to determine marriage laws and theistic philosophy not be allowed to do so? Let the debate be open and fair. But don't tilt the playing field so that religion is ruled out and atheism given a free ride.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Ugly Attack on Any Religious People is an Attack on All of Us

If you want to be shocked, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q28UwAyzUkE

This is an ad produced by the so-called agents of "tolerance" and "liberalism" who are bent on getting their way on same-sex marriage in California. I am not a Morman and I do not consider Morman theology to be Christian. But I have the same reaction to this sickening and vicious attack on religious freedom as I would have had if had been Jews or Catholics or Muslims or anyone else being attacked for daring to speak out in a democratic way.

Mormans are Americans and they have the right to participate in the Democratic process just like anyone else. For someone to suggest, as this ad does, that for Mormans to vote and campaign for Proposition 8 in a thoroughly democratic manner means that the Morman Church is taking over the government is tantamount to saying that Mormans should shut up and stay out of politics because atheists, liberals, secularists and their liberal Protestant fellow-travellers disagree with them.

At what point is the tired old "theocratic" scare tactic just going to get so stale no pays attention to it anymore? Maybe it is time to work up a campaign for the separation of atheism and state. How about an ammendment to the constitition for that?

No religious minority should be attacked this way. No group that actually believed in tolerance, religious freedom and democracy would attack them like this. The mask slips and the true face hiding behind "tolerance" appears for a second.

It will be interesting to see who speaks up for the Mormans now. Tomorrow it may be Orthodox Jews or Roman Catholics. Who will speak for them? Remember, the religious liberty you protect may be your own. Those who attack religious liberty deserve to lose the election - every time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Prayer for the American Election Tomorrow

As a Canadian, whatever happens in the United States has a huge impact on me and those I love. The dominance of the US media in Canada is powerful. When the US economy sneezes, the Canadian economy catches cold. Laws made in the US often decisively affect the making of Canadian laws. And on it goes. Yet I have no vote in the US elections.

Today for the first time in my life I wish I was an American citizen so I could vote against Barrack Obama and for John McCain. I pray that my fellow Evangelicals will not be led astray by the dishonest and illogical campaign that has been waged by Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren in support of the most liberal, most pro-abortion, most anti-marriage candidate for president in the history of the United States.

In many ways, the US stands alone now as the last bastion of Christian influence in Western culture. Europe is on its back. Canada, since the 1960's, has chosen public policies that emulate Europe rather than the US so that the moral fiber of our country has weakened to the point of collapse. The US is far from perfect; I could list its flaws. But the fact that up to half of its citizens are church-going, practicing Christians has meant that secularism has not completely succeeded in taking over all of the cultural institutions. The media, the universities and the military-industrial complex are all but lost to Christian influence. But the heartland of the country still contains large pockets of middle-class, church-going people who run for office, teach school, practice law, become judges, start businesses, raise families and generally create a conservative brake on the secularism, hedonism, individualism and disrespect for human life that fuels the culture of death. And the Evangelical churches are flouishing and growing even as the liberal Protestant churches are shrinking rapidly and descending into self-parody and perversion. In another encouraging sign, the Roman Catholic bishops have found their voice and are speaking out in this election season in support of the Church's moral teaching and the common good of the culture.

We should imagine the Church in the US as engaged in what Galadriel, in the The Lord of the Rings, calls "the long defeat" that she and others have fought down through the ages. If there is no dramatic, supernatural intervention in the form of a great revival of Christian faith in the 21st century, the West will surely fall. It does not matter if the external enemy is Communism or Islam or something else; no external enemy could possibly destroy the West by its own power. Like the Roman Empire, the modern West can only be destroyed by decadence on the inside. The core beliefs about God, human nature and morality have rotted away and no civilization can endure once its core beliefs have rotted. The culture of life created by the influence of the Gospel on Western institutions and thought has gradually been replaced by the culture of death.

The two sins against hope (according to the Baltimore Catechism) are presumption and despair. The proper response to the presumption that has led the West into utiopian schemes for perfecting human nature and society, which will be the occasion of our fall, is not to lose heart and despair. Anything could yet happen. We are not Deists. We believe that the God of Scripture can and does raise up and cast down nations. God's providence is often inscrutable, but His sovereignty is unchallengeable. The West will only fall if that is His will and if it does, then like Abraham Lincoln, we will consider the ways of the Almighty to be just and his judgments righteous altogether.

Many Evangelicals are thinking about not voting in this election. Disgusted by Bush's unjust war, (and rightly so), and unimpressed by the Democratic Party's morphing into the "party of death" they propose to succumb to apathy and say" "A plague on both your houses." But voting is not done for the benefit of one political party or the other. It is done for the sake of the country as a whole. To allow oneself to be reduced to inaction by the drumbeat that tries to discredit all conservatism by virtue of wrong decisions by someone who is not even running in this election is to allow oneself to fall into despair. And despair is a sin against hope.

A Prayer for Election Day in the US 2008
O Lord, who rules and reigns on high, by whose powerful Word the heavens and the earth were brought into being and who preserves and oversees this creation at every moment of every day. We bless your holy Name and we praise You for Your mighty works.

Look down today with compassion on Your people in the United States of America, who look to You for courage, help and comfort. May they experience a welling of up hope within them; may they be preserved from the temptation to despair. Use their willingness to work for the common good and their humble regard for Your laws to benefit the entire nation, including those who scorn Your Word and ignore Your will. Help your people to stand for righteousness with humility, determination and grace. As the democratic process moves on, may all of Your people be found to have been responsible, faithful and obedient to the moral law in the discharge of their duties as citizens.

Lord, send revival to your Church. We ask for revival over all the nations of the Western world, particularly in places where the Church was once strong and vibrant but now is cold and weak. We ask that you would forgive us our many sins and grant to us a spirit of repentance and openness to your chastisement so that the revival might begin with us.

We confess that we do not control history; nor do we rule over this earth. We know our Advasary the Devil overstates his claim to rule, yet his power is not inconsiderable. You alone are God. You alone rule over all. Help us to believe more strongly in what we already know.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Richard Dawkins and the Little Green Men

I watched Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" today (thanks to my daughter and son-in-law's suggestion) and it was much better than I expected. I suppose I had been brainwashed by the review of the "controversy" it had generated. (Sigh . . .) In fact it was very well done.

All the Christians were open to believing in both some form of biological evolution (at least to some extent) and also in design by an intelligent Creator, while the scientests generally held that one must accept naturalism (ancient Epicureanism) and reject Christianity in order to believe in science. Of course, the science establishment doesn't speak for all working scientests, many of whom are believers, but there is not doubt that the crusading atheists hold the high ground when it comes to funding and science education and are not prepared to cede an inch of it.

I find it funny that they constantly talk about "believing" in science. I never hear of anyone talking of "believing" that 2+2=4. They talk of "knowing" it. Many atheistic science educators seem obsessed with polls measuring how many people "believe in Darwinism." This is not healthy. It bespeaks a deepseated insecurity and a mania for a certain religious point of view that they wish to impose dogmatically on all of society in the name of truth and academic freedom. It is totalitarian and inimical to free thought.

Anyway, the most eye-opening moment for me came when Stein was talking to Dawkins and asked him the question of what he would say if in the course of his scientific investigations he came to the conclusion that life could not have gotten started by accident and that it appeared to have required an intelligent designer to get it going. Would that not constitute evidence for design? Dawkins' reply was competely unexpected. Instead of hewing to the party line, he suggested the hypothesis that perhaps a highly advanced race of aliens had visited earth and dropped off some "life" that they had created in their (highly advanced) labs. Now, I think it was clear that he was not joking, although that was my first thought.

Richard Dawkins is so determined to disbelieve in God that he is willing to entertain a hypothesis that space aliens created us? Is that what it has come to? Space aliens? It reminds me of the saying (was it by Chesterton?) that when modern man ceases to believe in God, he does not for long believe in nothing, but rather is willing to believe anything. The recent Baylor study that found that religious believers (including Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians) were less likely to be superstitious than atheists and agnostics is interesting in this regard. Christians were less likely to give credence to spiritism, astrology, etc. than the general population. Religion makes superstition less likely. Atheism does not.

But what can one say about poor Richard Dawkins? He has a hard time posing as a martyr in the train of Galileo. Here he has been given a prestigious chair at Oxford which demands nothing so hard as scientific research - all he has to do is spew out atheist propoganda full time. His books sell in the millions and he is lionized by the elite of Western culture for putting those dastardly Christians in their place. And all he has to offer us intellectually is little green men?

During the first Dark Ages it was the Church that kept the flame of reason and science alive and it appears that the Church had better gear up to do it again. The leading scientests have apparently gone mad en masse and have substituted wish fulfillment and juvenile rebellion for hard thinking and logic. Little green men - but no fairy tales. Really now!