Tuesday, 24 February 2009

A plea to Federal Vision supporters: Please say what you really mean

David Field's stimulating blog has an endorsement for a new magazine being launched by supporters of the Federal Vision in the UK. I know lots of the names on this website, because many of them were my contemporaries at various places, mostly university. Talented chaps!

I definitely experienced some Jeremy Paxman moments whilst browsing its website. By that, I mean that you ought to conjure up an image of the intrepid interviewer hearing something maybe not quite straightforward from the politician in front of him, rolling his eyes and saying "Oh come on..."

By which I mean... the advertising blurb for the magazine tells us that its purpose is to promote historic Reformed theology, and mentions no other distinctives - the "best of British Reformed thinking". And yet...

  • All four of the editorial board are convinced Federal Visionists, as a quick look over their blogs will show.

  • The synopsis of the first issue also gives it away very quickly... Jim Jordan's hermeneutics, the place of children in the New Covenant....

  • As does the list of book reviews and book reviewers. Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Alastair Roberts... "oh come on" ! (And of those not so well known there is more than one FV advocate). Books on the nature of the New Covenant and the church, infant baptism... this all seems very familiar to this particular FV critic...

  • The editorial for issue 1 lists some things that ought to be allowed points of difference within the Reformed community. And... it's pretty much a shopping list of the key questions raised by the Federal Vision controversy or viewpoints espoused by FV advocates. And predictably (since these are FVers) absent... infant baptism, of course, is not an allowed point of controversy, despite the majority of real-life Reformed believers in the UK being baptists!

  • Do a blog search to see who's recommending this new magazine - yup, it's a list of FV advocates. (Update: Even Doug Wilson's himself has been posting to promote it!) The blurb many of them reproduce again, though, tells us that the magazine's distinctive is to be presenting "Reformed Theology", rather than that it's distinctive is to promote the FV...
All this, and not one mention of the "Federal Vision" on the website. No mention that the editorial board are - despite the blurb about representing British Reformed theology - all from one single college: Oak Hill (Anglican), and that three of them were (as were some of the book reviewers), whilst there, taught the Federal Vision by the fourth (David Field). Nope - all we're told is that the stated aim is promoting Reformed theology. Ho hum. I'm not someone who believes that it's a sin unless you tell everyone everything about yourself and your aims; but really, "oh come on"!

  1. The real purpose of this new magazine is to promote the "Federal Vision" theology of Douglas Wilson / Peter Leithart / Credenda/Agenda / Auburn Avenue etcetera in the UK.

  2. Yet for some reason the magazine's backers have decided to hide this fact.

  3. Not only have they decided it's best strategy to hide their real aim, they've also decided to present the "Federal Vision" as if it were mainstream British Reformed theology, which it is certainly not: not historically and absolutely not in the last 200 years or at the present day.

Come on guys... nobody's doubting your right to promote what you believe. It's great to be launching new ventures to promote sound Biblical scholarship. But please, be up-front about your agenda - there's nothing commendable about misleading your readers. If, as it clearly is, the aim of your new magazine is to promote the Federal Vision and change the face of the British Reformed scene, then say so. Are you hiding it in order to mislead the unknowing - or is there another reason? To anyone familiar with the FV, the agenda is not subtle. So presumably such already-familiar people are not the target - the target is those who won't spot the switcheroo?

Thursday, 19 February 2009

More running...

Well, I haven't yet cracked 79 minutes for 10 miles yet (see here) - I've had one attempt and shaved off 16 seconds, last week. It was a lot hotter and I didn't have to bust both guts like the previous one so I think it's a reasonable improvement!

Another long-distance running inspired thought on the similarities between the Christian life and running marathons...

What determines the final result? Is it this stride here, or that stride there? Is it this particular half-mile, or that downhill bit? Answer: no, it's the whole run, every single stride. It all adds up to make it what it is (which today was very painful, thank you for asking). Your Christian progress, your Christian character, is not determined by that astoundingly faithful day then, or this particular time of prayer there. Yes - some parts will be memorable and make a more notable contribution. But Christian character is progressive, cumulative. It's the result of putting one foot in front of the other, with determined self-discipline, day in and day out - plod, plod, plod. There's no quick fix - if you want to run from A to B there's no alternative but to run through all the locations in between. We are not holy people, but full of selfishness and lacking love to both God and man. To get from here to where Christ wants us to be is the result of self-denial and seeking his face hour by hour.

Original sin and the grace of Jesus

This was sent round once by one of the people at a place I did some work. Where does the grace of Jesus show itself in our lives? Here, amongst other places. Where does the fact of original sin show itself, and show up the falseness of the idea that because we are "modern man" with so much education, wealth, opportunities, etcetera, therefore heaven on earth is just round the corner? Here - in the everyday humdrum. No doubt this could be repeated across a squillion offices all over the land...

Dear All,
I am going to be running a training session on the following:
Throwing away left over food from your plate rather than leaving it to rot and stink out the kitchen
How to put the milk back in the fridge when you have finished with it

How to throw your used tea bags in the bins provided rather than leaving them in the sink or throwing them randomly at the wall
How to stack the dishwasher correctly
How to refill the toilet roll and hand towel holders
How to throw used  hand towels in the bin, and not on the floor or work surface (I will find out who you are!)
How to wipe up after yourself.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Poetry and Science

Here's something that, time-permitting, I hope to get my teeth into...


Two letters in the Telegraph

There was recently an exchange of letters in the Daily Telegraph about Darwinism:

One, Two

Update: Fixed the second link -sorry.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The phenomena of false knowledge

Lately I've been a little bit interested in the phenomena of the false body of knowledge. This is to do with things that are commonly accepted by those who are accepted by society, endlessly repeated and generally thought to be true... but in fact totally false.

An example of this kind of thing would be what perhaps you were taught in school about Columbus. I'm fairly sure I remember being taught in all seriousness that many people of his day warned him against trying to sail round the world westwards ... because he'd come to the edge of the earth and fall off it. Total tosh; the spherical nature of the world had been known for centuries. His detractors advised him against trying to reach India by going west because they said he'd not have enough resources to make it. They were right; and as it turned out he got no further than the Americas (which neither he nor they knew were there).

With all the "Darwin Day" propaganda in the West in recent weeks, there's been plenty to think about on this topic. I recently read an article in a Christian journal about the body of false knowledge to do with the "science versus religion" conflict. It is widely believed that the rise of modern of science was opposed by Christianity, because it threatened the Christian church's authority. As the world was progressively explained by science, the magical explanations of Christianity would lose their power to convince intelligent people.

Absolute drivel. In fact, modern science was an endeavour that grew out of the Christian world-view of Europe and particularly Britain, and a great number of its pioneers were very committed evangelical Christians. The Bible has never taught that the processes going on in the world are inexplicable magic, and the investigation of the second causes involved, through science, is in total harmony with the Bible's teaching that God's "ordinary" works in the world go forward in an orderly way - he is a God of order. The doctrine of Christian theism (as opposed to pantheism, or atheism) provides a basis for believing in order in the universe: that's why science grew in the world where and when it did.

The article I was reading was explaining just how the "science versus religion" conflict myth arose. Interestingly, it did not come up until the scientific revolution was over a century old. It arose after the publication of Darwin's theory of evolution, which campaigning atheists of his time took as the perfect propaganda tool. (I think they were misguided; in my opinion Darwin's theory fits better with deism than with atheism, though I agree it fits better with atheism than traditional Christian theism). In order to advance their cause, these propagandists invented the "church versus science" myth, and very zealously propagated it. Soon, a body of false knowledge had been constructed. Scholars referred to each other round in a circle, instead of to the evidence. One book claims the learned opinions of the author of another book of the same mind; round and round it goes. The endless repeating, without proof, of the themes and claims involved elevated them to the status of received wisdom. And so the myth has persisted down to this day, and is a favourite dog's-breakfast-of-nonsense that you'll find cooked up by your local friendly village atheist.

Darwin week has brought out a good deal of false knowledge, especially from the BBC. In each such case, only a little consulting of the evidence would get rid of some of this nonsense. But on this particular subject, each expert likes to assure us that nobody sane disagrees with them, and it's beneath their contempt to discuss the question. So, consulting each other and not the evidence, the false knowledge goes round. For the record, and for those whose goal is to think instead of mindlessly repeat atheist propaganda...
  • Every expert says so, but in fact creationists do not and have not (in the last century and a half at least) believed in the fixity of species. That is, no creationist I know of has ever taught that the Genesis chapter 1 "kinds" are identical with species in the modern classification system, so that there is no variation of any kind from one generation to another. Exactly where the limits of evolution (by which I mean modification-with-descent) lie is a matter of debate; but that the limit does not lie at the species level is totally uncontested. This despite every last expert and his dog in the secular BBC and press repeating this falsehood ad nauseum over recent weeks.

  • The "intelligent design" movement is not a sophisticated "God of the gaps" argument. No ID theorist I know of argues that "we don't understand this stuff, therefore it's God". "ID" is an attempt to positively, not negatively, identify the signatures of intelligence. That is, what does the characteristic work of intelligent agents look like? Yet, the "experts" endlessly tell us that ID theorists claim that the simple lack of knowledge of a mechanism in itself means we've identified intelligence... they don't.

  • Mainstream creationists do not teach that Genesis and the whole Bible should be interpreted "literally", where "literally" means anything akin to "without respect to literary genre, metaphor, poetic elements, etcetera". Creationists teach that Genesis in particular and the Bible in general should be interpreted according to the original author's intention, which is discerned using grammatico-historical exegesis as guided by the rules of interpretation supplied in the Bible itself. We believe that the Bible teaches a supernatural creation in six days when rightly interpreted, not when interpreted by a dunce whose mental circuits with the ability to detect different types of literature have been knocked out.

  • The oft-repeated statement that there are no scientists in relevant fields who don't accept Darwinism is a straight untruth. Check out the 700+ PhD scientists who've signed the Discovery Institute's statement expressing their skepticism of the claims made for Darwinism. Often the person making this claim, when pressed, ends up in the "no true Scotsman" fallacy... no scientist who they respect doubts Darwinism... and the Darwin-doubters automatically lost their respect..

  • Creationism as a theological position is not a recent novelty imported from America, not did it originate with the Seventh Day Adventists. (This claim is mostly repeated with the unspoken implication that the Seventh Day Adventists are a heterodox group (for the most part, they are), and so it's a guilt-by-association argument). No. Spend twenty minutes in your local theological library and check out the works of mainstream Protestants from the Reformation onwards. "Young Earth Creationism" as it's come to be called, is the position from the recovery of a Bible-centred Christianity at the Reformation downwards. Go on, check it out for yourself - don't just absorb and repeat the so-called experts' circular talking points.
Glad I got that off my chest! :-)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Darwin 200

Charles Darwin visited the Santa Cruz river valley in 1834. He interpreted the valley as having been formed over millions of years. In a new 10-minute video, geologist Steve Austin shows that the landscape that Darwin saw was formed rapidly by a giant flood. Two hundred years after Darwin's birth, he asks: what else was Darwin wrong about?


For more information, see also Steve Austin's article, Darwin's First Wrong Turn: http://www.icr.org/article/4346/

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Global Jihad

This article defending Patrick Sookhdeo's book "Global Jihad" is an interesting insight on the attempts by Western liberals to turn a blind eye to important aspects of Islamist ideology.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Silly Reductionism

Swapping sensible argument for silly slogans is cute, but you can't do it consistently.

Smacking like electric fence, says NI lawyer
Smacking a child is the equivalent of using an electric fence to control an animal, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Great. And presumably imprisoning people is like keeping cows penned in with a cattle fence. Or curfews for young offenders are like keeping battery hens.

Bogus "moral equivalence" arguments are one that liberals have been using, quite effectively, over recent decades in their attempts to undermine the Christian foundations of Western society. "This" is equivalent to "that", and we all know "that" is evil, therefore "this" has got to go. This is silly reductionism. Smacking might be vaguely like using an electric fence, if you never explain to the child why it's being smacked, or explain what it should have done instead, if you never adjust or withhold the punishment appropriate to the circumstances, and if there are no other reasons why the child should know its behaviour was less than was expected of it, etcetera, etcetera. Otherwise, not. This lawyer's argument essentially would outlaw all kinds of punishment whatsoever and lead to moral anarchy.

The thing about reductionism is that people do then go on to the next stage. We've been told ad nauseum that people who want to have homosexual relationships are pursuing something that is the equivalent of marriage, and that thus the definition of marriage should be changed. If you allow the principle that governments can arbitrarily alter the definition of marriage for this cause, why not for that? If the government isn't allowed "in the bedroom" in cases of homosexuality, why not also in cases of polygamy, bestiality, or paedophilia? And hence on to the next news story:

Canada gay marriage law used to defend polygamy
A man being charged with polygamy in Canada will argue that since the law there permits gay marriage, his multiple marriages should also be allowed.

If marriage is just what people who declare they're "in love" want it to be, there's no consistent stopping place until you reach sexual anarchy.

Live baby thrown out with the rubbish in Florida

"Abortion Shock: Baby Born Alive Then Thrown Out"

Thankfully the idea of dumping a new-born baby in the trash still shocks people. But please, why would it have been legal to do exactly the same had the same woman in question not gone into labour at that moment and the same baby had still been in the womb?

Whatever labels people decide to apply to it, it's still murder. And the failure to speak out and speak clearly about that is a guilty silence.