Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama's Pro-abortion Agenda in the First 100 Days

Barack Obama's pro-abortion agenda plowed ahead in the first 100 days of his administration. Despite a recession and two wars, abortion issues were front and center of his priorities. A December report from over 50 pro-abortion agencies outlining the abortion industry's priorities for the new administration lists 15 major priorities for the first 100 days. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life feminist organization issued a press release that details how 10 of these 15 priorities have been accomplished by the Obama administration. The press release says:

“President Barack Obama spoke of finding ‘common ground’ on abortion policy, but abortion advocates groups clearly have an open door,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “It’s only been 100 days, but President Obama has managed to check off ten of the fifteen demands of the abortion industry. This is the most aggressive, pro-abortion administration in decades."

She should have said "the most agressive, pro-abortion administration ever." Those Evangelicals and Catholics who voted for him because they bought the line that he was an abortion moderate seeking common ground were deceived and used and now the evidence is in to demonstrate that fact. Not one measure has been proposed by Obama to reduce the number of abortions, while ten have been introduced to increase the number of abortions.

Those who voted for Obama because they disagreed with Bush's war in Iraq can see that absolutely nothing has changed on that front. The war in Afghanistan is being expanded by Obama and the timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq is dependent on circumstances beyond the control of the administration, whether it is Republican or Democratic. So nothing changes on the war front, but the promotion of abortion in the US and around the world gets ramped up. this is, unfortunately, exactly what I predicted would happen. I am unhappy to be right in this case.

The net result is an increase in violence and more unnecessary bloodshed. Those who claimed to be voting for Obama for moral reasons are now revealed to be dupes. There were no perfect choices in the last election and there will be none in the next election. But we have taken a giant step backward on the most pivotal moral issue of our day: the issue of legalized private killing in the name of choice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Evangelical Swearing = Living on the Edge (for an Evangelical)

I have often wondered why so many Evangelicals of my generation or younger seem to think that swearing is cool. They weren't brought up that way; it was not part of Evangelical culture a generation ago. Apparently it is new, exciting and "transgressive" to a certain sub-culture of people who apparently are trying to prove that they are not to be associated with Evangelicalism, even though, truth be told, they really are Evangelicals down deep. Shhh!

If they were really wanting to be "transgressive" wouldn't they have tatoos and HIV, be involved in a homosexual relationship and refuse to use a condom - or something like that? But swearing? I mean that's it? That is your great "transgression?" A couple of cuss words here and there and the occasional F bomb? That is all that distances you from Jerry Falwell and James Dobson? That is the only difference between you and a Navigator staff worker? I can hear it now: under torture you yell out "Yes, I admit I have an NIV Study Bible. I confess, I go to church more than once a week. OK, I even admit that I have memorized the Romans Road. But - I can cuss up a storm. Please let me go!"

I think an anthroplogist would view it as an identity marker, that is, as a way of saying I'm not in that group, I'm in this other group over here. It is kind of like circumcision for a Jew or rosary beads for a Catholic or being in favor of abortion for an East Coast Liberal. It is a way of differentiating oneself from certain stereotypes and cultivating a certain image. It is also, perhaps, part of the growing up process.

Or maybe you are a pacifist and you want to act tough. I understand why Stanley Hauerwas has to cuss like a drunken sailor. He is a pacifist from Texas so what else can he do?

Personally, I find it boring and boorish, but that's just me. Maybe it is because I was brought up in a home where every third word was a swear word and high school and my first few jobs were all exactly the same. The novelty wore off a long, long time ago. In fact, I still find it novel and interesting to hear someone who can express himself with a larger vocabulary than those who use one of 10 English swear words 20% of the time, (which is why I find reading David Bentley Hart with my dictionary open is so much fun!)

Socialism versus Christianity

A socialist is a man who implores the Government to take money from people richer than he is and give it to people poorer than he is and who thinks he is virtuous because he asks for nothing for himself. This fact is allowed to overshadow the inconvenient truth that he also demands nothing of himself. All his virtue is external; all he must do is write a few letters, vote for the right party and receive the congratulations of his enlightened friends for having fulfilled his Christian duty to society. Such a man, of course, deceives himself and does not understand the meaning of Christianity at all.

The Bible talks a lot about the poor and the needy and commands believers (Israel in the OT and the Church in the NT) to give alms and work to improve the conditions in which poor people live. The Bible says nothing about the Christian demanding that the Government do it for us. The role of Government in passages like Rom. 13 is to enforce justice. The Government must prevent or punish crime, establish a level playing field and eliminate oppression of the weak by the strong (insofar as that is possible in a fallen world). Of course, any Government which does these things will help poor people immensely, primarily by giving all poor people a chance to escape poverty, or at least to see their children do so. But none of this, take note, has anything to do with socialism.

The Church is called to take care of widows, orphans, the weak, the poor, and the disabled and Acts 2 gives us a snapshot of the early Church doing exactly that. Christians are to give sacrificially of their time and money to help those in need. Socialism is a political doctrine designed to eliminate the need to do that. Moreover, socialism today is opposed to caring for the weakest among us and in fact sanctions their murder if they are inconvenient.

Yet, for most Christians who have obtained higher education the idea that of course a Christian must be a socialist in politics is so obvious and self-evident that anyone who questions it must be ignorant, selfish or mad. Yet, millions of Eastern Europeans and Russians rejoiced to be set free from the chains of the most thoroughly-implemented, large-scale socialist experiment so far in history. Perhaps, instead of the USSR crumbling, it would have been better if the oppressed masses of the Soviet Empire could have simply changed places with the Western intelligentsia that so openly admired socialism. Then everyone would be happy.

Since it is primarily university-educated Christians who accept socialism as self-evident and others who do not, many observers of culture come to the conclusion that all smart people understand that socialism is good and that stupid or ignorant people fail to get it. This theory is premised on the assumption that people who attend universities are smarter than those who don't, which I think is a rather dubious assumption, as one who grades papers in university. Could there be another theory? Could it be that the liberal culture of universities, which is in the air one breathes and the water one drinks in those social settings, is the source of the socialist ideas that liberals love to flaunt as "daring violations of the conventions of liberalism?" In other words, is socialism simply the "group think" of a certain class, part of the radical image that (particularly young) social conformists so love to cultivate? Could it actually be a character flaw? Is not a character that asks others to implement justice and asks nothing of himself a flawed character? Be that as it may, it certainly is not Christianity applied to social life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Gospel and the Consequences of the Gospel

In my Adult Sunday School class at Westney Heights Baptist Church last Sunday I expounded John 21:1-14, the miraculous catch of fish, which is, of course, about evangelization. John 20-21 depicts the risen, but not yet ascended, Lord Jesus Christ organizing, empowering, instructing and preparing His Church for her mission in the world. Central to the work of the Church in the time between the Ascension and the Return of Christ is evangelization. My plea was that we would keep our eye firmly fixed on the ball and not allow the world to squeeze us into the mold of making social action and social justice central to the mission of the Church. They are good in their place, but they are not the Gospel. Only the Church has the Gospel; if we don't preach it no one else will. Others may feed the hungry physically, but no one else can feed them spiritually.

It seems to me that we may well be in the middle of a Second (or is it the Third?) Great Defection from Evangelical Protestantism into liberal apostasy. A previous defection took place in the late 19th century and led eventually to the expulsion or withdrawal of many Evangelical and orthodox believers from the mainline Protestant denominations during the Fundamentalist-Modernist conflicts of the 1920's and 30's. Those events sowed the seeds for the current on-going decline of the old Protestant denominations, which is so evident today. Their decline is doctrinal, moral and numerical and the very survival (in any form) of denominations like The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Canada is in question. Certainly their gospel witness has evaporated.

Yet, incredible as it may seem, many Evangelicals are once again falling for the siren song of "relevance" by embracing the same doctrinal deviations as late 19th century Evangelicals did, including a denial of moral guilt produced by sin, the need for a substitutionary atonement, the divinity of Christ, the need for personal conversion and the need for separation from worldliness (while remaining, of course, in the world). Along with this eviserating of the the heart of the Gospel (Christ died for our sins) there must be, and always is, a new replacement "gospel" of moralism and good works. Concern for the poor, "peaceandjustice" and environmentalism come to stand in the center of the Christian proclamation instead of sin and atonement.

In a recent editorial in Themelios, D. A. Carson addresses the question of "What is the gospel?" [My comments in bold in square brackets]

"In blogs, journal essays, and books, there has been quite a lot written recently about what “the gospel” is. In the hands of some, the question of what “the gospel” is may be tied to the question of what “evangelicalism” is, since “gospel” = εὐαγγέλιον = evangel, which lies at the heart of evangelicalism. . . .[In David Bebbington's widely-accepted four-fold definition of Evangelicalism as an historic movement, the centrality of the cross is one of the four distingishing marks. This is indisputable and Carson is about to unpack it.] . . . one must distinguish between, on the one hand, the gospel as what God has done and what is the message to be announced and, on the other, what is demanded by God or effected by the gospel in assorted human responses. [This is a crucial distinction. If not made, it results in the distortion of the gospel and the failure to preach the gospel.] If the gospel is the (good) news about what God has done in Christ Jesus, there is ample place for including under “the gospel” the ways in which the kingdom has dawned and is coming, for tying this kingdom to Jesus’ death and resurrection, for demonstrating that the purpose of what God has done is to reconcile sinners to himself and finally to bring under one head a renovated and transformed new heaven and new earth, for talking about God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, consequent upon Christ’s resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and above all for focusing attention on what Paul (and others—though the language I’m using here reflects Paul) sees as the matter “of first importance”: Christ crucified. All of this is what God has done; it is what we proclaim; it is the news, the great news, the good news. [The gospel is not everything that the Church has to say, but rather a proclamation (heralding) of what God has done. The Church will, of course, have other things to say on the basis of the Gospel, i.e. "teaching them to obey all things I have commanded you," once the Gospel has been proclaimed and a local congregation of believers formed. ]

By contrast, the first two greatest commands—to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves—do not constitute the gospel, or any part of it. [This must be said and it must be said this bluntly. If you find yourself resisting this truth, you may well need to examine your conscience and your understanding of the basis of your salvation.] We may well argue that when the gospel is faithfully declared and rightly received, it will result in human beings more closely aligned to these two commands. [Of course.] But they are not the gospel. Similarly, the gospel is not receiving Christ or believing in him, or being converted, or joining a church; it is not the practice of discipleship. [Here is where many Evangelicals make the same mistake with regard to piety as Liberals make with regard to social service and it explains why some Evangelicals are already half-way to Liberalism even though they look and sound orthodox. I want to stress that this insight is not a uniquely Reformed insight, as people like Brian McLaren would like you to believe (although many Reformed preachers express it very well). But John Wesley would concur with Carson here, as would Benedict XVI.] Once again, the gospel faithfully declared and rightly received will result in people receiving Christ, believing in Christ, being converted, and joining a local church; but such steps are not the gospel. The Bible can exhort those who trust the living God to be concerned with issues of social justice (Isa 2; Amos); it can tell new covenant believers to do good to all human beings, especially to those of the household of faith (Gal 6); it exhorts us to remember the poor and to ask, not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whom am I serving as neighbor?” We may even argue that some such list of moral commitments is a necessary consequence of the gospel. [Theologians will argue about the precise definition of "necessary" here.] But it is not the gospel. We may preach through the list, reminding people that the Bible is concerned to tell us not only what to believe but how to live. But we may not preach through that list and claim it encapsulates the gospel. The gospel is what God has done, supremely in Christ, and especially focused on his cross and resurrection.

Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning. [Right. This is the main problem of liberalism - moralism instead of the good news of salvation. And moralism is bad news - who can live up to the Divine standard?]

Clearly, Don Carson and I are on the same page here. It is a good editorial about a pressing contemporary issue.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fundraising Dinners for Rev. Stephen Boission Legal Defence Fund

On Apr. 30, May 1 and May 2 legal defence fund-raising dinners will be held in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton for the Rev. Stephen Boission, the pastor who is being persecuted for his faith by the Alberta Human Rights Commission (with the help of the supposedly Conservative Alberta government).

Here is a handy summary of what happened to him for sending a letter to his local newspaper criticizing the introduction of pro-homosexual propoganda into the public school system. Ezra Levant will be the speaker at all three dinners. For more information, including how to donate to the cause, go here.

Ezra Levant explains the nature of the ruling here. Rather than me trying to outline what happened to him, please read Ezra's wonderful rant. It has all kinds of links and his style is inimitable. This blog post is from last year, before Mark Steyn and MacLean's had their hearing. But the fight for free speech in Canada goes on.

If you are one of my American readers, you may not believe what you are going to read, but you need to understand that this is your future. This is what the battle to normalize homosexual behaviour and make it equivalent to marriage is all about. Homosexuality is already tolerated and has been for some time. Tolerance is so '90's. The point is not tolerance - either for homosexuality or for Christians who oppose it. The goal is a secular police state in which heretical/dissenting opinions cannot even be voiced.

Barack Obama Superstar: Do you think you're who they say you are?

"This is a picture of a painting that will be unveiled in Union Square New York on Wednesday. It’s called (ironically one hopes) The Truth, and is the work of Michael D’Antuono, who says in a statement:"The 30" x 54" acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross: atop his head, a crown of thorns; behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal." (Times Online - Faith Central - Bess Twiston-Davies)

This sort of messianic fervor has been attaching itself to Obama since the primaries and seems not to be abating now that he is president. What I want to point out is the irony of the fact that the so-called secular, scientific, intellectual class of properly left-wing views are deathly afraid (so they claim, anyway) of James Dobson and Pat Robertson, who they view as deluded, fanatical, poorly-educated wingnuts out to impose a religious theocracy on America.

Huh? They think what . . . They offer instead . . . this?

Mary Ann Glendon Declines Nortre Dame

Mary Ann Glendon, who was scheduled to receive a medal at the Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony next month, while Barack Obama was receiving an honorary degree, has released a letter to President Jenkins to the media. She writes:

"First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it."

It can be read in its entirety here. Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard School and former US ambassador to the Vatican, has rendered noble service to the prolife cause and her action will heap further embarrassment on Father Jenkins and Notre Shame, embarrassment which is richly deserved and completely unnecessary but for their ill-conceived decision to honour the most prominant suppoter of abortion in the world today.

Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights

This is the title of a new bestseller by Ezra Levant published by McClelland and Stewart.

For years, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and its provincial counterparts have been acting as "thought police" persecuting ordinary Canadians without regard for the basic principles of Canadian law for their politically incorrect speech. But when they went after Ezra Levant for publishing the Mohammed cartoons in the Western Standard and then took on MacLean's Magazine for daring to publish exerpts of Mark Steyn's book, America Alone, they found they had overstepped their boundaries and the pushback they received was something they were not used to receiving. The resulting media coverage was a fire storm and brought these commissions under the spotlight for the first time. Eventually, the controversy has made this book a Canadian bestseller.

Here is a clip from the Michael Coren Show that gives you an idea of why the AHRC is now sorry they messed with Ezra Levant.

Both Steyn and Levant eventually had their cases dropped, which is not to say they won exactly. Both had to pay legal costs to defend themselves and neither received any compensation for having been drawn through a wringer. Their cases were atypical because in 91% of these kangaroo court complaints, the target cannot afford a lawyer and the HRC does not provide legal aid. Murderers fare better in our legal system because if they cannot afford a lawyer the court appoints one for them free of charge. This is why most people settle "out of court" even though they are innocent. Its the same reason small business owners pay protection money to the mob. It's not fair, but under an unjust system it is the path of least resistance.

This is exemplified by the contrast between the case of the Calgary pastor, Rev. Stephen Boisson, who was convicted by the Alberta Commission for daring to express an anti-homosexual activity position in a letter to the Red Deer Advocate. He was fined and told never to speak against homosexuality again for the rest of his life. Ezra Levant re-published Boisson's original letter to the editor, in support of Boisson, and literally dared the HRC to charge him. They refused. Levant, who is Jewish, by the way, comments:

"That's a double standard. It's a violation of the rule of law: I shouldn't be above the law, and Reverand Boisson shouldn't be beneath it. If he's guilty, I am too. If I'm free to publish his words, he should be too. That's why this case was the perfect lab experiment: All the factors were 'controlled' except one variable - the political power of the defendant. . . 'There is only one reason for [the discrepancy in treatment]: the CHRC is anti-Christian, and thus you excuse in me what you condemn in Rev. Boisson . . . I note that the CHRC has never once prosecuted a 'hate speech' complaint against any non-Christian, though there is plenty of non-Christian bigotry in Canada. . . . But you'd rather pick on a seventy-something Catholic priest for publishing a newsletter. That's why you're letting me go - I'm not a weak, penniless Christian clergyman.'" (Shakedown, 215-6)

Thankfully, Levant and Steyn have been stirring the pot to the point where some real heat is being put on these obscene parodies of "human rights" commissions. In particular, Section 13 of the legislation on the basis of which they exist, the famous "hate speech" clause, has come in for particular concern, since it has become the basis for prosecuting thought crime.

The mentality of these folks is revealed by a statement made by Dean Steacy, the senior Section 13 hate speech investigator for the CHRC, who said "freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value . . . It's not my job to give value to an American concept." (Shakedown, 201) Perhaps Dean Steacy has never heard of Section 2.b. of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads in context as follows:

"2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

These kangaroo courts are being investigated by the RCMP, the Privacy Commission and Parliament. We are still far from their abolition, but progress is being made. Details are in the book. Buy it. Read it. Make the abolition of these commissions an issue in the next Federal or Provincial election.

Here is Ezra Levant's blog:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

If Irony Makes You Vomit . . .

Then you might want to get a bag before you read this quote from a recent speech by Barack (I can't wait to sign the Freedom of Choice Act) Obama:

"It is the grimmest of ironies that one of the most savage, barbaric acts of evil in history began in one of the most modernized societies of its time, where so many markers of human progress became tools of human depravity: science that can heal, used to kill; education that can enlighten, used to rationalize away basic moral impulses; the bureaucracy that sustains modern life, used as the machinery of mass death, a ruthless, chillingly efficient system where many were responsible for the killing, but few got actual blood on their hands."

Gagggggg . . . . . . . Here is some context.

Chastity and Resentment

In chapter 3 of Love and Responsibility Wojtyla says that chastity is a virtue in need of rehabilitation and explains why by referring to Max Scheler's concept of "resentment""

"Scheler saw a need for the rehabilitation of virtue because he discerned in modern man a characteristic spiritual attitude which is inimical to sincere respect for it. He has called this attitude 'resentment.'"

"Resentment arises from an erroneous and distorted sense of values. It is a lack of objectivity is judgment and evaluation, and it has its origin in weakness of will. The fact is that attaining or realizing a higher value demands a greater effort of will. So in order to spare ourselves the effort, to excuse our failure to obtain this value, we minimize its significance, deny it the respect which it deserves, even see it as in some way evil, although objectivity requires us to recognize that it is a good. Resentment possesses, as you can see, the distinctive characteriatics of the cardinal sin called sloth. St. Thomas defines sloth (aceida) as 'a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult. . . Resentment, however, does not stop at this: it not only distorts the features of the good but devalues that which rightly deserves respect, so that man need not struggle to raise himself to the level of the true good, but can 'light-heartedly' recognize as good only what suits him. . .

Chastity, more than any other, seems to be the virtue which resentment has tended to outlaw from the soul, the will and the heart of man. A systematic case has been built up against it, which seeks to show that it is not beneficial but harmful to human beings. . . But chastity and continence are seen above all as dangerous enemies of love . . . Christianity regards this tendency as one of the results of original sin." (143-4)

It was interesting to read in yesterday's The Toronto Star a perfect example of resentment, as described in 1960 by this "out of touch old cleric." An article "How 'Virginity' is a Dangerous Idea: The Author of a New Book Argues Against Purity Cults." The article begins: [My comments in black within square brackets]

"There is a moral panic in America over young women's sexuality – and it's entirely misplaced. [Panic? What panic? This is an imaginary crisis. Let's see what her purpose is in inventing such a panic.] Girls "going wild" aren't damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. [So the porn industry is the friend of women; does anyone outside that multi-billion dollar industry believe that? And sexual purity is dangerous? No one ever died of virginity but plenty die every year of promiscuity.] The lie of virginity – the idea that such a thing even exists – [interesting, she is claiming that no such thing as verginity exists! What planet is she just in from? And why would she expect us to believe that existing things are unreal just because she says so?] is ensuring that young women's perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. [The 2nd century church father Irenaeus would say: "Ah, Gnosticism, are you still having trouble with that old heresy?] It's time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they're sexually active." [So being sexually active is the new euphemism for fornication and adultery! And sexual immorality isn't immoral because I say so. Got it.]

One's first reaction, upon reading this article, (purportedly written by a woman), is to wonder if it is a scam. Is it a commissioned piece for the pornography industry disguised as a news story? Is it what passes for "feminism" today in the Toronto Star? If so, it sounds more like advertising copy for Penthouse magazine model recruitment campaigns or for the "Girls Gone Wild" conglomerate that makes (a lot of) money by convincing intoxicated young women to expose themselves on camera. Very empowering, that. At the end of the article it is time for "True Confessions."

"My reasons for wanting to write this book weren't entirely altruistic, however. I was once that teenage girl struggling with the meaning behind my sexuality and how my own virginity, or lack thereof, reflected whether or not I was a good person. I was the cruelly labelled slut, the burgeoning feminist [So feminism = being sexually loose?] who knew that something was wrong with a world that could peg me as a bad person for sleeping with a high school boyfriend while ignoring my good heart, sense of humour and intelligence. [So she committed fornication and feels that society (or perhaps the Church?) is cruel to view her as morally guilty. I suppose that God and the moral law should just change to please her? Does it get any more pathetic than this?] Didn't the intricacies of my character count for anything? The answer, unfortunately, was no, they didn't. [The intricacies of my character - ah yes; isn't everyone allowed one pet sin? Who is God to condemn me!] It was a hard lesson to learn, and one that too many young women are dealing with nationwide."

What a perfect example of modern resentment against the virtue of chastity. It reminds me of Chesterton's comment that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but found difficult and not tried. Interestingly, just as Wojtyla predicted, the sinner who finds virtue too strenuous tends to blame the Church, the Law, the moral standard, (anything!), except him or herself. Through a curious moral inversion, the Church and the Bible become the problem. There is nothing wrong with me. If God just wasn't so strict, it would be easy to be good. Resentment against traditional sexual morality has been building over the past forty years and is now reaching the point of active persecution of those who refuse to abandon biblical morality.

Update: For another take on the spiritual blindness of Jessica Valenti, the author of this article, see Dawn Eden's thoughtful post here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Procreation and the Sexual Revolution

In his book, Love and Responsibility, published in Polish in 1960, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, provided a critique of the main ideas of the sexual revolution and re-stated in modern, philosophical terms, the rationale for the Christian vision of love and marriage. I will try to re-state it as clearly as possible.

In Chapter 1 of this great work, he does some rather technical work that establishes a terminology with which he can undertake his constructive work later in the book. First, he distinguishes between two usages of the verb "to use." The first meaning of "to use" is the straightforward case in which one person employs another person as a means to an end. Wojtyla agrees with Kant that to a person must always be an end and never merely a means. Persons must always be subjects and never be reduced to the level of objects. So when a man seduces a woman gains sexual pleasure from the use of her body only to drop her as soon as the conquest is over, he is using her. This is what often happens in the casual sexual encounters of today's "hook-up culture."

The second meaning of the vert "to use" is more complicated. It occurs when two people decide it is in their mutual interest to allow the other use of their bodies for the purpose of each individual gaining sexual pleasure from the other. In such a case, each uses the other as a means to his or her own end. The fact that there is consent and reciprocity does not change the fact that the relationship is based on a utilitarian ethic and so never rises to the level of a personal act. The two persons do not treat each other as persons for each is merely a means to the other's end. The relationship is based on what each gets out of it; it is ultimately selfish and inherently unstable. As soon as one decides that his or her "needs" are no longer being met, the relationship is in danger of being ended.

Another reason why the relationship is not really personal is that the two persons give themselves to the other with reservation and are not really ontollogically changed by the giving and receiving of the gift of the self. The fact that the focus is on what I get out of it means that I remain in charge of myself even though I give my body to the other person. This kind of relationship is what we call "affectionate sex" as opposed to "casual sex" and characterizes the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship in which people mistake mutual use for real love. But many marriages never rise above this level either.

For Wojtyla, the truely conjugal act is a personal act when it occurs in a relationship ordered by the "personalistic norm." For this to occur the two people must treat each other as persons, rather than as mere means to selfish ends. How can this happen? To get at Wojtyla's answer, I find it helpful to think about Aristotle's definition of friendship. Friends have common objects of love and interest. To be a friend is to share a common goal or concern or value. In such a case, one is not using the other for one's own selfish interest; rather, both share the same goal and work toward it. St. Augustine uses this idea of "common objects of love" to define the difference between the city of man and the city of God.

Wojtyla suggests that a man and a woman enter into marriage with the common goal of procreation and this is what draws them together into a common work. Procreation here must be understood broadly as the conception, birth, raising, educating and nurturing of children in a Christian home so that they eventually embrace a personal and mature Christian faith and themselves establish Christian families of their own. Such a work is inter-generational, life-long work and involves being immersed into a web of relationships that henceforth define one's identity; one becomes not only wife or husband, but also father or mother, uncle or aunt, grand father or grandmother etc. One's vocation is deterimined in large measure by this common goal and one's life is lost in the pursuit of it.

When a husband and wife make procreation in this sense their common goal, certain occasions require that one of them submit him or herself to the other, while other occasions demand that both submit themselves to the common goal. But even when the husband is called upon to submit himself to his wife it is for the sake of their common goal, and the same is true when she is called to submit herself to him. Neither uses the other for his or her own selfish ends; rather the two are joined together in working for a common end. Ironically, this kind of relationship is far more "egalitarian" than relationships that remain stuck at the second level. (Jesus apparently was right that it is only by losing our lives that we really find them, which is a paradox those stuck at the level of utilitarianism can never grasp.)

In order for the standards of the personalistic norm to be met, the common goal must be (1) objective, (2) good and (3) freely chosen. Procreation, the transmission of life, is an objective good and it is freely chosen when people enter into the covenant of marriage. Procreation, therefore, is the common goal that raises the marriage relationship to the personal level. It is what allows the husband and wife to engage in sexual relations without using one another and so it is what allows them to relate to each other as persons. It is only when this happens that Wojtyla is willing to call the relationship love. To reduce love to the level of the utilitarian use of another's body for the fleeting pleasures of physical and emotional intimacy is to reduce love to a sub-personal level and love must be personal to be itself.

This is why procreation must be integral to and central in the marriage relationship. True love is fruitful and open, not sterile and closed in upon itself. True love is not pleasure; pleasure can never be more than a by-product of true love. The sexual revolution is the attempt to de-couple sex from reproduction, love from procreation, pleasure from the context of a personal relationship. Fornication, cohabitation, adultery, divorce, "same sex marriage," "trial marriage, "open marriage," serial monogamy, polyamory, and prostitution are all ways of separating procreation from sex and none of them makes sense except in the context of the contraceptive mentality.

Contraception, it seems, is the crucial factor in training us to conceive of sex as non-procreative and therfore the point at which we begin to conceptualize sub-personal sex as a good, rather than a temptation. It is, of course, only an illusion of the good and not a real good. But the fact that people today conceptualize sub-personal sex as a good goes a long way toward explaining why chastity and the Christian vision for marriage are so hated - and why modern society is so enamoured with artificial contraception.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Singleness and the Christian Vision of Marriage and Family

A question was raised by my post on the Chastity Ethic versus the Promiscuity Ethic. What about singleness? Is celibacy not an important part of the Christian witness? Does not an ethic that exalts marriage inevitably denigrate singleness? (I think this captures the spirit of the question.)

First, single people are part of families. Everyone has a mother and a father and, hopefully, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents etc. Everyone has been raised in some sort of family and has personally benefited from that family (or in many cases, of course, been harmed). Everyone a single person knows and is in community with is also a product of a family. And single people inevitably will know more married people than single people (unless they live in a monastery or convent). The average local congregation will have many families in it. So, the point is that single people, just like everyone else in society, have a serious interest in the well-being of the family as an institution and how it is doing in contemporary society. (Strong families improve everything from the crime rate to the amount of mental illness in a given society.) And single people will very often have an impact on families as friends, mentors, teachers of children, uncles or aunts etc. We must never think that singles are somehow indifferent to families and the influence (for good or ill) flows both ways. (This is similar to argument that everyone should pay taxes to support public schools, rather than only the parents of children in the schools.)

Second, Luther was wrong to urge the destruction of the monasteries and convents. I believe it was a political move and endeared his version of the Reformation to land greedy princes. Apart from the shoddy politics, however, it was a theological mistake. He thought that most people should marry and that no one should be forced into a life of celibacy. Both points are undoubtedly true, but they do not justify the denigration of the celibate life or the positive contribution celibates have made to the Church down through the centuries. At times, the secular clergy have been so abysmally corrupted and the Church so weak and in need of reform that the Church was literally saved by celibate monks being appointed bishops and sometimes wearing their hair shirts under their colorful robes in the execution of their duties. (Study the history of the island monastery of Lerins, which at one point provided most of the bishops of Gaul.)

Luther was also wrong because the celibate is a living rebuke to the calumny that all must inevitably succumb to the temptation to sin sexually. Of course some celibates have fallen into to sexual temptation, but that many have not is the thing that should cause wonder. And indeed, the world is always gleeful when a priest or monk falls because that provides a rationalization for its sins. But when a celibate lives a chaste life, that is in itself a rebuke to licentiousness.

Luther was also wrong because humans created in the image of God are rational, moral creatures with the power of moral choice. We can, through repeated sinful acts, fall into vice and become sexually addicted. But we can also, with the help of grace, through repeated resistance to temptation, develop the virtue of chastity. Protestantism has, I believe, offered such feeble resistance to the sexual revolution in part because it does not have a monastic movement helping to hold up the virtue of chastity for the Church as a whole.

Third, much of the Christian Tradition, building on Paul's words in I Cor. 7 has viewed the celibate state as the superior one. This is going too far; a balanced view sees both the celibate and the married state as good and virtuous (both being founded alike on the virtue of chastity) but different in the goods that each one embodies. The most important good of the celibate state is not the functional one - i.e. the ability to serve Christ and the world in ways that a married person could not. This is a good, but not the highest good. The highest good of the celibate state is that single persons bear a witness to future eschatological state of the kingdom in which, as Jesus said, there will be no more marrying or giving in marriage. Just as Christian marriage witnesses to the goodness of God's creation and the continuities between creation and redemption (continuities relating to the central importance of love), so Christian celibacy witnesses to the goodness of God's plan of redemption and the goodness of the coming Kingdom (a goodness that has love at its core.)

Love is central both to the married and the celibate state. In both cases there is a need for the mortification (in the sense of the disciplining) of the flesh and the gift of self to the other. The celibate life enables a different (non-sexual but real) gift of the self to others; think of pioneer missionaries who took the Gospel to remote places of the earth and often suffered martyrdom. Celibacy enabled this costly witness. Celibacy can also enable less dramatic, but nevertheless significant ways of giving of the self in ministry and service.

To summarize, then, celibacy is a vocation within the Church and a witness to the Kingdom of God. It is not to be despised, but rather embraced by the Church as a necessary component of the Church's mission in the world. In the Kingdom, we will all be celibate. Yet, in that state, the virtues of marriage will not be left behind, but taken up and transfigured along with the resurrection body and the life in God. And this will be true both for those of us called to marriage in this life and also for those of us called to celibacy in this life. Both celibates and married people are one in the body of Christ. All of us are finally the bride and he is the groom.

Am I a Baptist?

I happened to be on the website of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship the other day and read this statement of Baptist Principles. I almost recoiled in horror as I read them and thought "Well, if that is what a Baptist is, then I haven't been a Baptist for a long time!"

I had read such statements before, but always connected them with the liberal fringe of Baptist denominational life. (I suppose that makes sense since the CBF is the now-separated liberal fringe of the Southern Baptist Convention.) Here is what they have in place of a creed or confession, four "freedoms:"

"Baptist Principles:

1. Soul Freedom – We believe in the priesthood of all believers. We affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or the control of clergy or government.

2. Bible Freedom – We believe in the authority of Scripture. We believe the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, is central to the life of the individual and the church. We affirm the freedom and right of every Christian to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

3. Church Freedom – We believe in the autonomy of every local church. We believe Baptist churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whomever they perceive as gifted for ministry, and to participate as they deem appropriate in the larger Body of Christ.

4. Religious Freedom – We believe in freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion. We support the separation of church and state."

There are deep and serious problems with all four principles. Number 1 is a declaration of independence from the creedal tradition of the Church and is therefore cultic in chararacter. It means that one does not have to believe the Nicene Creed in order to be a Baptist, which means that it is possible to be an unbeliever and a good Baptist at the same time - an absurdity. Enlightenment individualism would seem to be the driving ideology here. Number 2 accepts interpretive chaos. Jehovah's Witnesses interpret the Bible, John Spong interprets the Bible, and Dispensationalists interpret the Bible. This principle throws up its hands and says "Who is to say who is right?" Number three appears to make autonomy, rather than organic unity, the postive principle of ecclesiology. No mourning lost Christian unity here. Number four is outrageous in joining with the extreme secularists in proclaiming freedom from religion. The New Atheists would be pleased with their Baptist/Enlightenment allies.

Are these people Baptists or extreme Modernists? Fortunately, not all Baptists are like this. The Southern Baptists at least try to balance the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers with an agreed upon interpretation of Scripture (a confession). They have a statement of Faith called The Baptist Faith and Message. It may not be perfect, but at least it is something more substantive than Oprah meets Harnack.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Promiscuity Ethic versus the Chastity Ethic

The battle today over the shape of marriage and family in the Western world is not really between pro- and anti-same sex marriage. It is actually between advocates of two mutually exclusive and competing versions of sexual ethics: the promiscuity ethic and the chastity ethic.

The chastity ethic is the traditional and Christian view that holds that sex is for marriage and marriage is an inter-generational institution for the raising of children and the disciplining of immature and selfish individuals toward the goals of maturity and mutual service. As such this vision of marriage forms the foundation for a society of free people who do not require support, indoctrination and heavy-handed direction in the details of life from the government and a class of professional planners and social engineers.

The promiscuity ethic is a 20th century phenomenon that holds that people should have sexual relations freely with anyone at all as desire dictates, rather than being constrained by the limits imposed by life-long, exclusive marriage relationships. The promiscuity ethic views all requirements for sexual self-discipline as "repression," which is basically the myth that you will die without sex. This ethic produces people who live in a perpetual state of adolescence and who are incapable of restraining their appetites and governing themselves. So accompanying the extreme hedonistic individualism of this ethic is an openness to the "nanny state" or "welfare state," which encroaches on the natural rights and responsibilities of the family in order to bring order into the chaos produced by permissiveness and personal irresponsibility. So the state begins to support children financially, determine how they will be educated, lay down detailed rules for how they will be entertained, indoctrinated and disciplined (or more likely not disciplined).

Now, there have been times in Western civilization when family life and sexual morality have broken down in ways similar to the present time, as for example in 18th century England or revolutionary France. But the novelty of our time is that such family breakdown, increased petty vices and crime, high suicide rates, public indecency and indolence is heralded by the deep thinkers of our intellectual and chattering classes as "progressivism in action."

The promiscuity ethic is seen in two main effects: no-fault, casual divorce and same sex marriage. Behind these two major social revolutions lie a view of sexuality as a trivial thing that we share in common with the animals. Young people are assumed to become sexually active at puberty and remain sexually active throughout their lives regardless of marital status. Sex is seen as being "like taking a drink of water," that is, as a natural function no more personal than eating or defecating.

It always was Christianity that has held a high view of sexuality, viewing it as something personal and human, something not reducible to a mere bodily function. Christians believe that sex reveals something of the nature of God when it is practiced with chastity and self-control. The total giving of the self to another and the union of two persons in matrimony is seen as imaging the Triune God, as Genesis 1 teaches. Any society that holds a high view of marriage will attain a level of humanistic values that other societies never can attain. The Christian influence on society in this regard is extremely valuable.

The chastity ethic holds that sexual self-control is possible because persons are created in God's image as rational and moral creatures capable of making choices. The virtue of chastity allows the person to make a gift of the self to the other in such a way as to join the other in a joint pursuit of a common good, that is, children and family. The virtue of chastity is necessary all through life because to be committed to one's husband or wife in the project of marriage, including child-rearing, will mean giving up sexual gratification for varying periods of time due to the exingencies of life.

The virtue of chastity makes sexual union a personal union, rather than a mutual use of one another's bodies for gratification. Such a personal union is not closed in upon itself, but is open to the transmission of life, which means more than we usually think of as procreation. It means the raising, education and nurture of children in the faith so that they come to a personal, mature, Christian faith of their own and eventually marry and establish Christian families of their own. This is a life-long, inter-generational project and not something fleeting, temporary or reversible. Immersion in such a project is a school of character and an aid to sanctification. It is also a witness to the reality and nature of God.

Divorce destroys the permanence necessary to marriage as an inter-generational project. Same sex marriage is inherently non-procreative. Both are ordered to the fulfillment of the desires of the individual, rather than to procreation. Therefore both ultimately destroy marriage in the traditional sense and trivialize sexuality. Promiscuity is essentially the trivialization of sex. The sexual revolution of the last 40 years is doomed to self-destruct eventually, just as certainly as was the Soviet Union, and for similar reasons; both are built on a flawed anthropology. Human beings were made for better and the human spirit will eventually rebel against trivialization and de-personalization.

Christianity has few gifts more precious, beneficial and profoundly humanizing to offer the wider society. For the Church to conform to the increasingly nihilistic, hedonistic, individualism of the late modern West, instead of maintaining this counter-cultural witness, is tragic. It is nothing less than a failure to be salt and light in the world and a failure to seek the peace of the city in which we are exiled. The task of the Church is conservative insofar as we are speaking about conserving the family as the bedrock of society and the institution that civilizes citizens and humanizes life in the world. For those who pay close attention to the witness of the Church in this area, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will appear clearly as Christians live the Christian life out in the context of sex, marriage, children, and family. "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5:14)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More on "Brave New Britain"

Here is a story from the Washington Times on the recent decision by the British government to respond to higher rates of teen pregnancies by allowing condom and abortion advertisements on TV 24 hours per day. (HT to the ProWomanProLife blog) This policy is bound to increase the teen pregnancy rate, but that does not appear to bother the government as long as those extra pregnancies are teminated and the public is further desensitized to sexual promiscuity, contraception and abortion.

Pope Benedict XVI is being screamed at and called ugly names by the angry left because he dared to suggest that the problems of HIV/AIDS (along with other STD's, crisis pregnancies and abortion) have a moral dimension that cannot be resolved by mere technology alone (i.e. condoms). This action by the left-wing, British, Labour government, which has already proven itself to be morally and intellectually bankrupt in so many ways, is the policy best suited to accomplish the opposite of what the government purports to be concerned about.

As the Washington Times article points out, even some who are not opposed to contraception think that the policy is misguided:

"Pat Murdoch, who leads a branch of Cats Protection, was more dismissive. "Promoting contraception is great within a larger context," she said, "but just to bang on about contraception without any reference to self-control, I believe, is the road to disaster."

"Just promoting condoms and such," Mrs. Murdoch added, "is not addressing the fundamental problem of generations growing up lacking self-respect, self-control and respect for others.""

I would go much further and say that isolating a technological solution to the problem of unplanned pregnany from a moral context is ultimately self-defeating and that all moves to de-couple sex from reproduction are immoral. But, clearly, all reasonable people can all agree that the issue is more complicated than just getting more condoms into the hands of teenagers without a broader discussion of the purpose and nature of sexuality.

Gordon Brown and his government have forfeited its credibility with its extreme and unthinking worship of technology. It is time to go, Mr. Brown. Past time.

Here is a good article from First Things by British journalist Peter C. Glover on the same topic. He claims that:

"The problem is that the government and media of Great Britain have put in place over the last few decades a determined program to abolish the influence of Christianity. It’s a little late now for believers to pretend surprise that such a program exists and has consequences . . ."

Read it all here.

Blair's Britain: Soft Totalitarianism

Via Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism blog, I came across this excellent article by Hal G. P. Colebatch, entitled "Thought Police Muscle Up in Britain." It is very disconserting that the country of the mother of parliaments has degenerated after 14 years of Labour rule to this level. Things are not much better here in Canada and under Obama the US is teetering on the edge of following the path of political correctness into tyranny. Colepatch writes:

"BRITAIN appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state. As a sometime teacher of political science and international law, I do not use the term totalitarian loosely. There are no concentration camps or gulags but there are thought police with unprecedented powers to dictate ways of thinking and sniff out heresy, and there can be harsh punishments for dissent.

Nikolai Bukharin claimed one of the Bolshevik Revolution's principal tasks was "to alter people's actual psychology". Britain is not Bolshevik, but a campaign to alter people's psychology and create a new Homo britannicus is under way without even a fig leaf of disguise.

The Government is pushing ahead with legislation that will criminalise politically incorrect jokes, with a maximum punishment of up to seven years' prison. The House of Lords tried to insert a free-speech amendment, but Justice Secretary Jack Straw knocked it out. It was Straw who previously called for a redefinition of Englishness and suggested the "global baggage of empire" was linked to soccer violence by "racist and xenophobic white males". He claimed the English "propensity for violence" was used to subjugate Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and that the English as a race were "potentially very aggressive".

In the past 10 years I have collected reports of many instances of draconian punishments, including the arrest and criminal prosecution of children, for thought-crimes and offences against political correctness.

- snip -

There have been innumerable cases in recent months of people in schools, hospitals and other institutions losing their jobs because of various religious scruples, often, as in the East Germany of yore, not shouted fanatically from the rooftops but betrayed in private conversations and reported to authorities. The crime of one nurse was to offer to pray for a patient, who did not complain but merely mentioned the matter to another nurse. A primary school receptionist, Jennie Cain, whose five-year-old daughter was told off for talking about Jesus in class, faces the sack for seeking support from her church. A private email from her to other members of the church asking for prayers fell into the hands of school authorities.

To read the rest, go here.

The UN's Racist "Anti-Racism" Conference Blows Up

As I predicted, the UN conference (Durban II) currently going on in Switzerland has become a farce. Canada, Australia, the US, Italy, and five other countries boycotted the conference because it was being set up as a way of isolating Israel and focussing on Israel's so-called "racism" (meaning that they dare to want a homeland like everyone else). Nothing is to be said about Muslim slavers in Africa or anti-Semitism around the world or the plight of Christians who have no freedom of religion in Islamic states. No, it was just a focus on the "crimes" of Israel. So basically the UN creates a mechanism and provides a forum for anti-Semites like the presdent of Iran to attack Israel with impunity under the guise of battling global racism. George Orwell, himself, could not have made this up.

On the first day, Iran's Holocaust denier in chief, the only head of state to attend the conference, made a speech attacking Israel. It was, fittingly, the 120th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. It was only surprising that they omitted to sing the Horst Wessel song before and after the speech.

But the most amazing thing happened. When he got into his holocaust denial spiel, the delegates from the rest of the European Union got up and walked out. That is right - they walked out. And they didn't even ask permission from anyone. They just did it. How long has it been since the Europeans actually let the Muslim world know that they disapprove of their anti-Semitic nonsense? It was a miracle. It certainly was a dramatic and effective way for the world to be made aware of the hateful, disgusting, anti-Jewish views of the head of a thugish and repressive regime.

But it was a sad day for the UN and has created good reason for all people of good will everywhere to question its legitimacy and efficacy. The US has been criticized for witholding funding from the UN. In the wake of this debacle, they should simply declare that they will not fund the UN at all in future until it reforms itself and ceases to be a platform for racist dictators who wish to use it to further their genocidal policies. The world needs a UN, but it would be better off without the current one. Rather than trying to clean up the world, it is time for the UN to clean itself up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

St. Anselm of Canterbury

Today is the 900th anniversary of the death of St. Anselm of Canterbury. He was a great saint, scholar, bishop and spiritual author. His teachings on the atonement have shaped the Western Church and have formed the basis for a Christian worldview in which evil is recognized as what it is: an offence against a holy God and God is recognized as what he is: a God of law rather than an arbitrary and capricious tyrant. His classic Cur Deus Homo? continues to enrich all serious theology today, even though the fashions of our secular, liberal society run against any recognition of the seriousness of human sin and the reality of Divine wrath against sin. We give thanks to God for this, his servant.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Pope Benedict XVI

On this day in 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the 264th successor to St. Peter as Bishop of Rome. It was a vindication of the ministry of John Paul the Great and a triumph for orthodoxy and truth within the Roman Catholic Church and for all Christians worldwide. How wonderful it is to have the one man who speaks for Christianity, to the extent that anyone can, be a man who proclaims without fear or hesitation that Jesus has been raised from the dead. "The resurrection is not a theory," his Easter homily proclaimed, "but a historical reality." A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 82nd birthday. May he live to be 100!

The aging, baby-boomer, hippies turned capitalist sell-outs, who still cling to the delusions of Woodstock, and who constitute the loony left of the Roman Catholic Church, are still waiting for the pope to die and some creed-denying, left-wing, pro-abortion, homosexualism-promoting, advocate of the Millennium Developmment Goals to be made pope through the machinations of the shrinking battalions of Western liberals. They imagined that some such thing was going to happen when John Paul the Great went on to the house of his father. But they got instead a man with the same theology, the same heart, the same spirituality, and the same morality as both St. Peter and John Paul the Great. And this pope is smarter and more learned than any living liberal theologian by a country mile to boot. How sweet it is!

The sexually-licentious, pantheistic, politically-correct, nature worshippers who like to pose as Catholics are no doubt in mourning today, which makes it a great day for everyone else! One week after the Resurrection we celebrate the on-going presence of the living Lord in the world today. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia! And we can celebrate that the most famous Christian in the world is a believer in the risen Christ. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The One at Georgetown U.

Rod Dreher's take on the Obama at Georgetown University story is as good as anyone's. Amy Welborn has links to the evidence (before and after photos).

For those with better things to do than to follow breaking news on Obama's attempt to undermine the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in the US (see the post on Notre Shame), what happened was this: Obama wanted to use a room at Georgetown to make a speech. Some eagle eye noted that the letters IHS (the first letters of Latin words for "Jesus, Saviour of Men), which is the official seal of the Jesuit order (Georgetown is a Jesuit university), were missing during Obama's speech. Turned out that the Obama team asked that they be covered up as it was their policy that Obama would always give speeches with no other symbols in view - just American flags. So the damning evidence of Christianity was duely covered.

Secular messianism is more dangerous in the US than in most nations and some of its recent manifestations are downright creepy. Americans are incurably religious and will be long after Christianity has disappeared from its shores. Secular Americans who reject Christianity just can't help projecting a religious aura onto liberal progressivism and its messiah. Well, fine. Do it. Just leave the Church out of it.

But he wanted to speak at a Catholic university. And yet he wanted to have symbols of Catholic identity covered up. It is kind of like saying "I'd like to come over to your home for dinner next Thursday; do you suppose you could take down that ugly picture of Jesus from the hall?" Not very good manners, one would have thought.

It is hard to know who looks the worst here: Obama the secular messianic pretender, his handlers for their harsh and heavy-handed secularism or Georgetown's administration for its gutless fawning over Caesar. I'm pretty sure that when Jesus said "Render unto Caeaser what is Caesar's," he didn't mean for the Church to throw its own identity into the bargain.

On the other hand, reports are completely unfounded that when Obama walked into the room he put his hands on his hips, assumed his best John Wayne stance and growled: "There's only room for one Messiah in this a-here town!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle: Foretaste of Heaven in an Odd Setting

Susan Boyle is a 47 year old spinster from a small town in Scotland who has never been on a date and is currently out of work. She was bullied as a child and had a learning disability. She still lives in the council house she shared with her parents, whom she looked after until they died. She sings in her church and has always wanted to perform in front of a large audience. She never had the opportunity until she appeared on the talent show "Britain's Got Talent."

Everything about modern mass media and mass culture was, for one incandescent moment, turned upside down as light shone in somehow through a crack in the facade of the glamorous, the superficial and the emphasis on looks and style. Think of Britney Spears and then think the complete opposite and you've got Susan Boyle.

I can picture heaven as a succession of moments like this one in which those who were rich and famous on earth form the audience and people like Susan Boyle, who were scorned here on earth, have their true worth and value drawn out for all to see by her Creator who knew all along. Susan came, looked frumpy, and conquered. Boy did she conquer! See if you can watch her sing "I Had a Dream" from Les Miserables without losing it. I've posted the lyrics below.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Jean Valjean was 47 when he was released from prison and the suffering he had endured up to that point in his life prepared him for the work he was to accomplish during the next twenty years. How will God use this remarkable woman in the next twenty years?

Real Conservativism versus Neo-Conservativism

In party politics in the US, Canada and Europe, conservativism is as dead as a door nail. Neo-conservativism is a watered down, compromised version of conservatism and is not really conservative. Neo-conservativism is really a form of liberalism that tries to mitigate the logic of liberalism on certain issues, usually ones connected with marriage, family and the sanctity of life. But neo-conservatives, by accepting the dominance of the market and the ubiquity of the state, as well as hedonistic individualism, have surrendered so much ground to liberalism that they have been reduced to denying theory in the name of common sense rather than challenging what is wrong about liberal theory in the first place. So conservatives have taken to calling themselves Traditionalists or Paleo-conservatives in order to distinguish themselves from neo-conservatives (which would be better named conservative liberals).

Real conservativism views what Alasdair MacIntrye referred in After Virtue to as "the Enlightenment project" to be a total and unmitigated disaster. Few people have the intellectual courage and sheer nerve today to assume such an uncompromising stance toward the reigning religion of the modern world, so conservatives are few in number and often cowed into silence.

The Enlightenment project is about remaking the world according to the dictates of technological reason and individual choice in order to establish a utopian mass culture by overcoming the restrictions on individual choice created by tradition (especially religious tradition) and local conditions (including geography, history and heredity). When the evils of modernity are pointed out, such as environmental destruction, the breakdown of the family, the decline of mass culture to a lowest common denominator and increasing state tyranny, the reply of liberal defenders of modernity amounts essentially to a bribe and a threat. The bribe is longer life and better health because of medical breakthroughs, more and more consumer goods, ease of travel, luxuries etc. The threat is that if you criticize the goose that lays the golden egg (technological reason) you make yourself an enemy of the people and expose yourself to being marginalized or worse. You see, everyone else has taken the bribe and if you don't go along, then you will be seen as a threat to their enjoyment of the "good life" of fornicating, vegetating and prevaricating.

Neo-conservatives are a nervous, deferential and eager to please lot. They are modest in their demands, lavish in their praise of their political masters and always ready to cut a deal. They merely respectfully request that a few of the worst excesses of individualistic hedonism be curbed slightly so that some old-fashioned values can be preserved for those who - wait for it - prefer them. Neo-conservatives can easily be tolerated by liberalism until they die out or until liberalism becomes strong enough to crush them. They are an annoyance, but not really a threat.

Real conservatives, on the other hand, are prone to grumpy jeremiads and surgical strikes against the heart of the ruling ideology of liberal modernity (think Solzhenitsyn and Khruschev) and so they arouse the wrath of our political rulers and require "dealing with." Neo-conservatives "disagree" with abortion on demand; real conservatives regard it with horror and loathing as child sacrifice to demons. Neo-conservatives serve on the Sodom Town Planning Commission in hopes of getting the brothels out of residential neighbourhoods; real conservatives keep an eye on the sky and intend to make sure they are out of town when the Divine fire begins to pour down. Neo-conservatives want less government regulation of business; real conservatives want government that is not run by big business. Neo-conservatives are against same-sex marriage; real conservatives want to make it illegal and expensive for men to act like immature jerks by deserting their wives and children and taking up with some other woman merely because of boredom or lust. Neo-conservatives often consider themselves to be good, loyal Republicans; real conservatives view the Republican Party as a blunt instrument that is only good for really rough work and could never consider themselves as loyal party members under any circumstances. Neo-conservatives tolerate and make use of the socially conservative Evangelicals and Catholics for their own political purposes; real conservativism itself arises out of, and is an expression of, a deeply traditional Christian faith.

Give me real conservativism any day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Social Goals of Those Promoting Same Sex Marriage

The website,, has a vision statement crafted by leftist social activists, which serves as a strategy piece for those promoting same sex marriage today, a manifesto for heating up the culture wars. (The names of the signatories are given on the site and they include many well-known academics, lawyers, activists etc.)

The document is called "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision" and I reproduce here the Executive Summary with my comments. The quotes are in regular text; my comments are in [bold and square brackets].

"The time has come to reframe the narrow terms of the marriage debate in the United States.
Conservatives are seeking to enshrine discrimination in the U.S. Constitution through the Federal Marriage Amendment. [Note, the website name itself makes it clear that the issue for these people is not including same sex couples in the existing institution called "marriage," but rather moving beyond marriage altogether. This will become clear as we go along.] But their opposition to same-sex marriage is only one part of a broader pro-marriage, “family values” agenda that includes abstinence-only sex education, stringent divorce laws, coercive marriage promotion policies directed toward women on welfare, and attacks on reproductive freedom. [The concern of this movment is not merely with a single issue, SSM, but with the whole family values agenda, which they oppose.] Moreover, a thirty-year political assault on the social safety net has left households with more burdens and constraints and fewer resources. [Integral to their vision is the expansion of the welfare state, which is needed to replace the family in supporting children.]

Meanwhile, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement has recently
focused on marriage equality as a stand-alone issue. While this strategy may secure rights and
benefits for some LGBT families, it has left us isolated and vulnerable to a virulent backlash. We
must respond to the full scope of the conservative marriage agenda by building alliances across
issues and constituencies. Our strategies must be visionary, creative, and practical to
counter the right's powerful and effective use of marriage as a “wedge” issue that pits one
group against another. The struggle for marriage rights should be part of a larger effort to
strengthen the stability and security of diverse households and families. [Note how this document seeks to place the current political issue in the context of the broader agenda. When conservatives talk about this broader agenda, the friends of this leftist agenda in the main-stream media always accuse the conservatives of "alarmism" and of using "slippery slope arguments." But here we get the real story.] To that end, we advocate:

Ø Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless
of kinship or conjugal status. [Not just SSM, but presumeably polygamy, incestuous relationships, group marriage etc. No limits are specified.]

Ø Access for all, regardless of marital or citizenship status, to vital government support
programs including but not limited to health care, housing, Social Security and pension
plans, disaster recovery assistance, unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.

Ø Separation of church and state in all matters, including regulation and recognition of
relationships, households and families. [This is code for overturning morality which religious people advocate for and atheists do not. Atheist morality, however, may be imposed without any problem. Strictly speaking, marriage law is not about religion. Marriage existed before Christianity started.]

Ø Freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and
expression. [Interestingly, no conflict is perceived between saying the government should fund my sexual preferences but have no say in my sexual choices whatsoever, even if a compelling state intrests exists, eg. children.]
Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and
economically privileged above all others. [Here we come to the heart of the matter. All the laws privileging and encouraging marriage have their roots in precisely this conviction: that marriage is the best institution for raising children and unique becaue it is rooted not in social convention or law, but in nature, and thus precedes the state.] A majority of people – whatever their sexual and gender identities – do not live in traditional nuclear families. [This statement was not true 50 years ago, but it is today. Here we see that SSM is just another step in the degneration of marriage and family in the late modern West. First there had to be widespread acceptance for contraception, abortion, companionate marriage, no-fault divorce, extending the benefits of marriage to cohabiting couples, and child-less marriage. Then and only then SSM makes sense as the next logical step in the destruction of marriage altogether.] They stand to gain from alternative forms of household recognition beyond one-size-fits-all marriage. [These trends toward individualism and the separation of reproduction from sex are accepted as unquestionable goods and as inevitable. Of course, there is another option. Rather than continuing further down this road, we could instead try to reverse the negative trends of the sexual revolution, strengthen marriages and acknowledge the natural goodness of the link between procreation and mutuality in marriage. But this would mean calling into question the hedonism and individualism of contemporary consumerist culture.] For example:

· Single parent households
· Senior citizens living together and serving as each other’s caregivers (think Golden Girls)
· Blended and extended families
· Children being raised in multiple households or by unmarried parents
· Adult children living with and caring for their parents
· Senior citizens who are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren or other relatives
· Close friends or siblings living in non-conjugal relationships and serving as each other’s
primary support and caregivers
· Households in which there is more than one conjugal partner
· Care-giving relationships that provide support to those living with extended illness such
as HIV/AIDS. [I guess this list covers just about everybody except those living alone. So the ultimate goal here is that marriage means anybody living with anybody, even in non-congugal relationships. Under this scenario, the singling out of marriage, i.e. parents raising their natural children together, for special protection and support, would have ended. This is the end goal of this movement.]

The current debate over marriage, same-sex and otherwise, ignores the needs and desires of so many in a nation where household diversity is the demographic norm. We seek to reframe this debate. Our call speaks to the widespread hunger for authentic and just community in ways that are both pragmatic and visionary. It follows in the best tradition of the progressive LGBT movement, which invented alternative legal statuses such as domestic partnership and reciprocal beneficiary. We seek to build on these historic accomplishments by continuing to diversify and democratize partnership and household recognition. We advocate the expansion of existing legal statuses, social services and benefits to support the needs of all our households." [In the end, it the vague notion of "households" that replace marriages. It is good to know the enemy and his plans. But make no mistake, the SSM debate is not about same sex couples wanting "into" marriage, it is about moving beyond marriage.]

Monday, April 13, 2009

You Either Have to Laugh or Cry at the University of Notre Shame!

I have refrained so far from commenting on the University of Notre Dame decision to award an honourary doctor of laws degree on President Barack Obama next month. The blogosphere has been aflame and the number of American bishops condemning the decision stands, at last count, at about 31 or so. Some of the letters have referred to UND as a "formerly" Catholic university, some have expressed concern for President Jenkins' soul and others have assured the university administration that it should expect no support in future from the undersigned. The University is clearly in violation of the directives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that Catholic universities should not give honours to those who contradict fundamental teachings of the Church.

But my personal favorite letter so far is from Bishop Bruskewitz, who rightly connects this scandal to the lax approach to sexual promiscuity on campus and who is so insulted that he even finds Jenkins' past association with Nebraska painful! (Jenkins had the termerity to be born in Omaha.) And the good Bishop's conciseness and clarity warms the heart of this college professor immensely.

"Reverend and dear Father Jenkins,
Permit me to add my name as well to the long list of Bishops of the Catholic Church who are utterly appalled at your dedication to immorality and wrong-doing represented by your support for the obscenity called “The Vagina Monologues” and your absolute indifference to the murderous abortion program and beliefs of this President of the United States.

The fact that you have some sort of past connection with the State of Nebraska makes it all the more painful that the Catholic people here have to see your betrayal of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. I can assure you of my prayers for your conversion, and for the conversion of your formerly Catholic University.

I am, Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus,
The Most Reverend Fabian W. Bruskewitz Bishop of Lincoln

Come on, Bishop, tell what you really think! Not much Irish indirectness here, but what can you expect from a guy named "Bruskewitz?"

Notre Dame apparently still is so insecure that it cannot restrain itself from throwing itself at anyone of fame, money or influence, even the most pro-abortion president in history, in order to raise its stock in the eyes of those who hate Catholicism but might be persuaded to like Notre Dame if it is compliant and ingratiating enough. We all knew girls like this in high school; you know, the ones known as "easy" and other terms that are not allowed on this blog.

But the recent explanation of Fr. Jenkins to his board of how the invitation does not really violate the bishops guidelines, since Obama is not a Catholic and the Guidelines were not meant to prohibit Catholic institutions from honouring non-Catholics (and some canon lawyer said so), is just over the top funny! (I choose to laugh rather than cry, since to be a Christian is to know that life is a comedy not a tragedy.) Really, since Jenkins is not a Jesuit, I think we should all withdraw all the "Jesuitical causistry" jokes; to call Fr. Jenkins' comments "Jesuitcal" is an insult to Jesuits everywhere. Maybe we should now refer to "Holy Cross-istry" or "Holy Cross-ical Causistry" when we want to mock someone's insincere, evasive, bad faith attempts to skirt the rules in the name of permissiveness.

To suppose that the bishops intended that honouring bad Catholics is forbidden but honouring non-Catholics, no matter if they are racist, war-mongering, adulterous, thieving, lying, law-breaking, profane Nazis, is just fine by them, is to cross the line from scandal into farce.

Fr. Jenkins' sophistries are dissected here and mocked here.

Stop the Press!
Wait a minute; perhaps the Jesuits are not off the hook after all. I just found out that Fr. Jenkins earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from - wait for it - the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in 1988! It is nice to see someone applying their education in real life!

Postmodernism as the Logical Completion and Collapse of the Enlightenment

David Bentley Hart, in The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, writes:

". . . as much as it preserves the assumptions of modernity regarding the punctiliar individual, the inalienable power of will, and freedom as the lifting of constraint from the will, this school of the postmodern [i.e. the Deleuze - Foucault school] reveals itself as a completion of the project of the Enlightenment, but insofar as it has dispensed with Kant's uprepresentable but necessary moral analogy between the transcendental subject and God, it has also brought that project to its inevitable collapse. 'Nietzschean' moralism is a sad absurdity." (70)

"A philosophy whose concept of affirmation is merely the result of a reaction against dialectical negation (thus retaining the narrative of ontological violence that dialectic presumes) cannot ultimately make a morally credible distinction between hospices and death camps (Nietzsche's distaste for both would be virtually identical), between the hymenal bed and rape, or between peace and war, except through a willful and ever more hpyerbolic insistence on certain political preferences no longer susceptible of justification, nor even particularly compelling." (72)

My Comment:
Nietzsche could be sad about the Third Reich and he could be repulsed by its activities, but he could not say the Nazis were morally evil and call on all people who love the Good to resist them. This makes him complicit; whether he wants to be complicit or not is irrelevant. To realize this is to become conscious of the fact that the whole postmodern project flowing from Nietzsche, whatever it thinks about itself, is nevertheless objectively and irremedially evil.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

In honour of Easter, here are the words from the end of Part II and all of Part III from the greatest Easter music ever written, Handel's Messiah. Note how biblical this work is.

Chorus: Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19 : 6) The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.(Revelation 11 : 15) King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19 : 16) Hallelujah!

PART THREE : A Hymn of Thanksgiving for the final overthrow of Death

Air (Soprano): I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19 : 25-26) For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep. (I Corinthians 15 : 20)

Chorus: Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Corinthians 15 : 21-22)

Accompagnato (Bass): Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.(I Corinthians 15 : 51-52)

Air (Bass): The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.(I Corinthians 15 : 52-53)

Recitative (Alto): Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15 : 54)

Duet (Alto/Tenor): O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (I Corinthians 15 : 55-56)

Chorus: But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.(I Corinthians 15 : 57)

Air (Soprano): If God be for us, who can be against us?(Romans 8 : 31) Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us. (Romans 8 : 33-34)

Chorus: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 5 : 12-13)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Reasonable Definition of Reason

From Nouvelle Theologie, comes an excellent article on the role of reason in Biblical study.

"In a previous post, I noted that Catholic art and music, liturgy, prayer, theology, ethics, and canon law have a tremendous Scriptural depth to them — everything in Catholic culture has been profoundly formed by Scripture even if this reality too often remains implicit.

At the explicit level, however, there are problems. That is, when Catholics deliberately study the Bible, they run up against difficulties. In my experience, these difficulties stem from the traditional Catholic teaching that faith is reasonable combined with the uncritical acceptance of an untraditonal notion of reason that is rationalistic and scientistic.

Fr. Giussani expresses the traditional approach to reason succinctly: "the capacity to become aware of reality according to the totality of its factors. The term reasonableness, then, represents a mode of action that expresses and realizes reason, the capacity to become aware of reality" (The Religious Sense, 12). By contrast, reason in its novel and commonplace sense of the word refers narrowly to one or another of the roads (methods) that the human capacity of reason takes in order to come to an awareness of reality.

To confuse this or that method with reason itself is an unreasonable position."

I wonder if, using this definition of "reason," it would be correct to understand the common approach to the academic study of the Bible using the historical critical method exclusively (as occurs, for example, in most university and seminary classrooms) as being unreasonable. I would think so. This post goes on to say:

"The problem I have seen in years of adult education, Catholic Bible study, and in university theology classes is the dominance of one or another of these narrow methods. In my undergrad "Christ in Scriptures" class, we studied three Gospels using the historical-critical method alone.

We learned a great deal about the cultural context of the Gospels and about their philological texture, but any other way of understanding the Gospels was outside the scope of the class. We were left with a pastiche of hypotheses and opinions, and I asked my professor: "where is Christ?" As a professor, she did not want to impose faith on her students, not all of whom were Catholic. She did not seem too interested in proposing Christ to them either. This was not a reasonable approach . . ."

Exactly. This problem, of course, is not limited to Catholic institutions of higher learning nor to the liberal ones from which it came; Evangelical institutions struggle with this sort of unreasonable teaching in a bid for "respectablility" and "approval" from secular liberals. What a waste of time and effort that is. At Tyndale University College we struggle with being academic and faithful, but I think we get it right to a greater degree than most. Students regularly come out of class having been challenged by an encounter with Christ mediated by the text. That is education worth sacrificing for and education that makes a difference. And that seems reasonable.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Sermon - 2009

Here are the sermon notes I provided for the congregation from the sermon I preached today at the Good Friday Service. I have been wrestling with issues surrounding the doctrine of penal substitution since I taught a 4000 level seminar course "God, Violence and the Atonement" a couple of years ago. I have sought to listen carefully to criticism of the penal substitutionary view of the atonement from feminist, liberal, emergent and non-Christian sources. After reading a dozen books or so books and thinking about it for about three years, I have come to a position of peace with regard to the whole issue. Penal substitution does not say everything there is to say about the meaning of the cross and it does not exhaust the teaching of the NT on the cross, but it is an indispensable element of an orthodox doctrine of the atonement. The Church must not follow the culture into oblivion, but be a sign of contradiction on this matter. Sin, judgment and atonement are of central importance in the preaching of the Gospel.

The Doctrine of the Atonement as the Basis of Christian Worship
Dr. Craig Carter - Westney Heights Baptist Church - Good Friday, 2009

Introduction - Is it possible to be “too atonement-centered?”

I. Is the Atonement Out-dated?
There are a number of Evangelicals who are wavering on the importance of the atoning death of Christ as the basis for forgiveness of the sin that separates us from God. (eg. Alan Mann, Atonement for a ‘Sinless Society’).

He argues that the post-modern self of the modern world has constructed a narrative to explain the nature of reality in which the concept of sin as breaking God’s law & thus incurring moral guilt no longer makes sense.

Mann quotes another author who says that Christians have allowed the biblical concept of sin as broken relationships to be reduced to sins, that is, to guilty thoughts, words and deeds, especially of the sexual variety. Sin has been reduced to what could be termed a “petty moralizing.” He says that we need to stop talking about: “sinners,” “guilt,” “forgiveness,” “separation,” & “judgment, and talk instead about “persons,” “relationships,” “acceptance,” & “openness to the other.”

II. Two Explanations of the Meaning of the Cross
There are two main explanations of the meaning of the cross:
1. Traditional Evangelical preaching on the cross emphasized Jesus dying in our place bearing our sins and making possible our forgiveness. (Rom. 3:22b-26)
2. Traditional liberal preaching on the cross emphasized the death of Christ as God demonstrating His love for us. (Rom. 5:8)

Now, what is confusing here is that both ways of preaching the cross are true unless the second way chooses to deny the truth inherent in the first way. And this is exactly what is happening in certain circles of the Church today.
To say that we are sinners under God's wrath does not in any way diminish God's love for us. The whole point is that it is guilty, condemned sinners that God loves, not pretty good people who deserve to be loved - or at least tolerated. The wonder of the cross is how God's wrath and love come together and how love emerges triumphant, but only because God has taken his own wrath upon himself.

III. The Rejection of the Penal-Substitutionary Doctrine of the Atonement
Many Evangelicals and many popular authors who are being read by Evangelicals today are attacking what is known as the penal-substitutionary doctrine of the atonement, eg. Steve Chalke:
“The cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse – a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith.” (The Lost Message of Jesus)

“Though the sheer bluntness of my imagery shocked some, I contend that, in truth, it represents nothing more than a stark unmasking of what I understand to be the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind the popular theory of penal substitutionary atonement.” (The Atonement Debate, 34)

Three things hang together in this debate: sin as law-breaking, moral guilt as a result of sin, and penal substitution. If you deny any one of the three, you deny them all implicitly.

IV. The Gospel is A Call to Repentance and Faith
There is mystery in the cross. We can never hope to understand it totally. But the NT does make it clear that we are sinners lost without God and without hope in the world.

The liberal, heretical version of the Gospel, as taught in Liberal Protestantism, is the so-called “gospel of inclusion.” It starts with the idea that God loves everyone as they are and so preaching the gospel means calling everyone into one big inclusive tent where they do not have to repent or change. All they have to do is celebrate their diversity, accept each other unconditionally and pat themselves on the back for being so open-minded.

· Forget sin - that is just old-fashioned mythological baggage
· Forget about guilt – there is no such thing as guilt, just guilt feelings that can gotten rid of in therapy
· Forget about repentance – that is just Fundamentalism

But the true Gospel is all about confessing our sin, repenting & believing in Christ’s atoning death as our hope.

Conclusion - The Fathers of the Church, in meditating on John 19:35, understood the water and the blood as symbols of Baptism and Eucharist. As we come to the Eucharist, (the word means "thanksgiving") we come as sinners saved by grace, as those who have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Christ shed for us. Let us truly be thankful.