Tuesday, 2 November 2021

When secularists feel their hegemony is threatened - does it bother us that this doesn't happen very often?


This attempt at investigative journalism is alternately so bad and so sad that you won't know whether to laugh or cry.

A secular journalist encounters a church whose members don't believe they're meant to accept secularism as the goal and glory of human history. And, it frightens him. Really frightens him. The article is written in the tone of someone peeping out from under the blankets and hyper-ventilating, not often very coherently.

But whether it really should frighten us or not, the reader will never learn. Because, all we get in the article is a few sentences of vague and unclarified insinuation on one topic, before the journalist then moves onto the next topic and a new set of ambiguous insinuations, for paragraph after paragraph.

This, of course,is quite a common style today. After all, if 100 insinuations are made, then you only need 1% accuracy for there to be a problem, right? If we can blow enough smoke, then there must be fire, and it must have been someone else who started it (pay no attention to that matchbox in my other hand, focus on the thing I'm pointing to please!).

My point in making this post is not to defend Christ Church, Idaho, or any of its leaders. Because to make a defence of something, you have to have heard a case made against it. Biblically, that means something that is in a real sense analogous to, if not being, the "two or three witnesses" concept of Scripture. But vaguely suggesting that there is something weird or odd if a church member has a successful business, or if church elders are also involved in setting up other institutions that reflect their beliefs, or if people who work together in church also work together in other settings, or if a significant number of people in the town are Christians, or if other Christians admire it and some of them move there, etcetera, etcetera, or if Christians believe that the world was created in six days (that's six days, my friend, not seven, this is not a hard point to grasp, this is where the label "six-day creationist" comes from, and if ever you feel in danger of getting confused, you can refresh yourself by reading page 1 of the Bible, or just get to number 4 of the ten commandments, which a good number of journalists at least used to have heard of....), and people quoted who insinuate other vague things on the condition that they're not named (imagine how brave you have to be to say things like "the church already had a disproportionate presence in the downtown area" under condition of anonymity!), throwing together ill-defined terms and then moving on before asking any questions or any level of nuance - these are not "charges" or "allegations" in any normal sense. Youtube removed one of his videos recently - surely that settles it? It's just the scatter-gun/mud-throwing attempt to start a fire and then insist that the person you're pointing at must have been involved somehow.

As I say, making a counter-argument is not my point. I draw attention to this piece for another reason entirely. It's much more interesting to look at "in between the lines". What does it pre-suppose, what does it assume, what is the world-view of the person writing it?

Clearly, the writer is terrified of the idea that somewhere out there, there are people who are not doctrinaire secularists - or at least, not people who are secularists fully in practice, no matter what they are in theory. (Though as it is common to observe, it's odd that these sorts of articles are much rarer to find written about other religions. "Muslims believe that Islam is good and should be put into practice" somehow doesn't seem to be the sort of article they're interested in - but "Christians believe in Christianity and want to live it out beyond their own front doors" does get written and published in all seriousness as something concerning). The idea that anyone except secular government should establish or run institutions is one that he finds bizarre and horrifying, and worthy of an "investigation". Now, that doesn't tell me much about churches in Idaho. It does tell me quite a bit about the journalist, the Guardian, and what he assumes its readers find normal or weird- i.e. the sort of theological world that they inhabit. "Basic tenets of US life such as legal abortion," says the author. Right. Every small town American grew up enjoying mum's apple pie, baseball, and cutting the unborn up into small pieces. If anyone else says otherwise, they're probably a Christian Taliban! "Tells" of this kind are revealing far more about him than about his intended targets.

But it also says something about evangelical churches in the UK, doesn't it? I mean, why did he have to go so far in order to write such an article?

It's surely not Douglas Wilson's in-my-view unhelpful habit of detailing his every last opinion about all the minutae of governmental response to Covid (though, let us note that John MacArthur turned out to be right in his stance according to the law in his state, and the state paid his church damages...) that has aroused the reporter's ire. It's the fact that his church simply doesn't believe that Christianity is a 10.30-12.00 Sunday-only affair. This fact is apparently thought worthy of a detailed shock-and-awe-tone investigation, even though the reporter hasn't managed to find anything that his leading article shows he felt any personal confidence in making stick (and so he went for the scatter-gun "let me raise three dozen different issues and give each three lines' consideration each" approach instead). Yes, I think Pastor Wilson, especially for those of us more used to the culture of South-East England, can be an easier target for a Guardian journalist to attempt this with. People in that part of the world certainly do the American Gung-Ho style which grates with us Brits a lot more. But observing that people from Idaho aren't like us (surely superior, what ho!) Brits is far too easy an observation to make and then stick with, isn't it? Because as I say, the article says something about us. The chances of the Guardian writing a "we're shocked, Christians actually think that Christianity should influence society, that God is God over the world, that Jesus has authority on earth as well as in heaven, and that this makes a difference to how one should educate children, organise society, etc." article about us are very low, aren't they? How would you rate them?

Rather than thinking, as the Internet often pushes us to "what is my opinion about this or that church, thousands of miles away, in a place I've never been to, based upon lines I've read here or there at second or third hand?", shouldn't we be thinking "doesn't it sound a bit like, whatever else there is, there's something they must be doing right, which we're doing wrong?" The Bible doesn't have a verse "isn't it marvellous when the world doesn't hate you, even though it insists on point after point that good is evil and evil is good, and in theory you disagree with them". It has one that says "do not marvel that the world hates you". As I perceive it, the world, in general, hates UK evangelical churches in the abstract, only. In the specifics, it doesn't really mind us very much and leaves us alone, because we don't give the secular hegemonists any actual trouble. We leave their hegemony alone, and they leave us alone - how lovely! They survey the lie of the land, and basically, it's theirs, and their peace is largely undisturbed. So whilst there are the secular fanatics who can't live with the fact that somewhere out there there are pesky Christians who privately disagree with them, by and large, all's not too bad for them. But if journalist Jason Wilson finds that, somewhere thousands of miles away, there's a church that thinks that Christianity is actually meant to make a difference to things like children's education - then this is quite different, and he's so breathless that you wonder if you ought to start looking around for breathing equipment before he turns an even deeper shade of blue.

So, what we should take away from this article isn't "hey, I'm glad I'm a polite Englishman, and would never be so vulgar as to turn up in this sort of article." It's "why aren't the secular fundamentalists who write this sort of article in the Guardian remotely bothered about the things we're up to? Why did they have to look so far to find people whom doctrinaire secularists find troubling?" That really should worry us.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Nothing more than survival adaptations?

Some Internet atheists are found of Carl Sagan's dictum, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", which they then apply within a framework in which atheism is accepted as a default belief, and anything which is not atheism is a priori deemed to be extraordinary.

There are many problems with this approach. Who got to decide that an ultimately uncaused universe was deemed a default, and a caused universe was extraordinary? Arguably, the idea that anything at all can result from nothing is extraordinary. It's also a naked assertion that there needs to be a "default" at all. Again arguably, a claim should be accepted on the basis of the strength of the evidence for its truthfulness, independently of any (likely value-laden) prior assessment of how extraordinary it is or isn't supposed to be.

But in any case, let's run with the idea. According to the atheist, with his belief in the evolutionary myth, all human faculties - all human faculties (please think about that for a moment) - are explainable as beneficial survival adaptations. Or stated the other way round, there are precisely zero human faculties or abilities which are anything other than an adaptation to allow individual humans to be more successful, not just at any activity in general, but at breeding in particular, and breeding only.

That's quite an extraordinary claim, isn't it?

Monday, 30 August 2021

How's that Christ-less "nation building" thing going for y'all?

Let's talk about Afghanistan, and the West's "nation building" program that's been carried out there for the last two decades there since the West established control over the territory. How's it going?

All the wisdom, technology, finances, material resources, etc., of the contemporary Western world. Enough military might to enforce their will, enough financial resources (a few trillion dollars invested) to do whatever they like, and 20 years to do it in. The task: to carry out the West's view of "nation building".

That view is essentially that, given those time, money, resources and technical expertise, a country can be turned into a peaceful modern democracy. Whatever issues of culture, whatever other issues exist - we have the power and the intelligence to build a working nation!

So, how's that turning out? We all know, as indeed many have known (and been saying) for years (think of Rory Stewart MP - I believe for at least a decade since he stopped being the governor of a province, he's been proclaiming that we have really not the slightest idea what we've been doing there, or how to go about it).

Is it a surprise? Not to anyone with a Bible. Not to anyone who reads what's written there.

The West has still-mostly functioning societies (for how much longer?) not because of its resources of expertise, but because of the grace of God working through a sufficiently Christian understanding of the cosmos - mediated through respect for the Bible as the word of God, to be the ultimate basis for life and society in general - and enough will to actually see that implemented; and implemented in a Biblical way (which means that the implementation depends on vast amounts of bottom-up spade work, seeing individual lives changed by Jesus Christ, not simply top-down force, in the style of, say, political Islam). Yes, mixed up with lots of bad things, other motives, and other things (everything's a work in progress, with plenty of room for version 2.0 to supersede 1.0, until Jesus returns). But there was, by the grace of God, enough of it, mixed with grace in its implementation, to see something quite remarkable: societies based on the rule of law, care for the weakest, universal human dignity, etc. The good done to the world has been immense.

We have been busy for some time throwing all of that away. And the current mythology to justify throwing it away is that Christianity has little to do with the historical success of Western societies. (And they have been successful - freedom, peace, human dignity respected across society - these are historically astonishing anomalies, not the norm). The belief promulgated by those desirous to rid their own societies of Christianity is that secular government, with its wise technocratic leaders, can just achieve these things with the right policies. But this is a myth. It's the same sort of myth promoted by the new Lord of the Manor, grandson of the original Lord whose sweat and toil built the place, and son of the second Lord who was taught and trained by him and managed to maintain it. It's the mythology of the know-nothing self-indulgent dilettante who has his own hair-brained scheme which will remove the foundations, whilst proclaiming to the world that this is simply a fresh new take on the original vision, with clever modifications just suited to a new time (c.f. David Cameron, proclaiming that the reason he was in favour of radical redefinition of marriage was because he was a conservative!). They don't want to believe that the Cross of Christ ultimately built the good things in the modern West (with some notable exceptions, even amongst non-believers, such as the historian Tom Holland). The implications of accepting that are too uncomfortable. So they have to proclaim that whilst jettisoning the Cross of Christ, they have preserved the bits that were essential to making the world still work.

Well, Afghanistan is the ultimate putting to the test of that set of beliefs. The modern secular (read: atheism with marketing) technocratic mindset with all the resources you could want, has now met reality. And reality, as it always does, has won handily.

If you want to build a real nation, you'd do better to just give free visas and invites to orthodox evangelical missionaries who are ready to suffer for the sake of serving Jesus and teaching his word. It's less politically correct. It's less pleasing to the egos those who think they are the masters of the global-acronym-organisation universe and just need a large enough stage to demonstrate their brilliance to us on. But 2000 years of history all proclaim that it builds the sort of nations in which people learn how to live together, beat their swords into ploughshares, and learn how to serve people instead of killing them. Christ has conquered, and carries out his conquest, by shedding his own blood. And until the world learns that ultimately you do it *that* way, rather than by shedding other people's blood, we're going to have a lot more hard lessons to learn, if we are listening at all.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Expose big porn

"Over the past 20 years, a vast, global pornography industry has sprung up online. This commercial behemoth dwarfs its print predecessor in every way - in scale, profitability and extremity - making old fashioned porn mags seem almost quaint by comparison. However, unlike other global industries, online pornography has avoided virtually all regulation, scrutiny and accountability, which has allowed it to pursue profit without restraint.

Make no mistake, the online porn industry is neither naive nor neutral. Free from oversight, it has monetised videos of rape, abuse and other non-consensual sex acts, failing victims and survivors who call for help. Always at the forefront of tech advancement, the porn industry has designed its sites to ensure that vast numbers of visitors stay for as long as possible and return again and again - even if they are child"

Did you know that one big, powerful company that you've probably never heard of (but which receives more web traffic than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Zoom, Pinterest, and LinkedIn combined) has a virtual monopoly on the billions of pounds of profit being generated from 24/7 exploitation?

Read the full report and what can be done here: https://cease.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/210607_CEASE_Expose_Big_Porn_Report.pdf

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Caleb Saunderson, with Christ

Caleb was a genuine and kind friend and brother in the Lord to me for as long as I can remember him (we have been part of the same church - with various periods in which we have been elsewhere - since 1986). Caleb is somewhere in the region of 6,7, 8 years older than me, but when I was an awkward adolescent and he was an adult, this didn't stop him in the slightest from taking a genuine interest in me, catching up on how I was doing and encouraging me in the Lord - which is what he kept on doing ever since.

You can read some of Caleb's more recent history on his blog, "Meso Far So What", here. The title is a reference to Mesothelioma, a major factor in his life the last 5 years (he outlived the average life expectancy of a diagnosee by around 4). But not the major factor. If you head over, you can see what all those who knew him experienced - not just in this cancer (which was his third, the first coming in teenage years), but throughout his life, his testimony was that to live was Christ, and to die would be gain. As a believer, a husband, a father, an elder and just general all-round good bloke, Caleb kept on through the years pointing us to Jesus and serving him. Much more could be said, but it'd be better to head over to his blog and read him directly.

Monday, 24 May 2021

Rod Dreher: Creating monsters, summoning demons

When even vendors of breakfast cereals are going all-in on promoting the idea that your child might need to mutilate their body in order to express their true self, then it really is time for Christians to think about what living their lives in exile from mainstream society and its institutions, and for churches to be well into the process of creating their own institutions for their children, isn't it?


Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Liberty redefined - families, individuals and liberty

This is very clear and timely, and sadly something a lot of Christians are very muddled (or have never really thought) about: https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/liberty-redefined.html

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

David French on Ravi Zacharias (and John MacArthur)


"The inside story of how Ravi Zacharias’s ministry concealed and enabled his abuse."

To anyone who has personally witnessed the inside of a situation in which one man holds too much power without genuine accountability (but instead has a sufficient number of personal friends or relations or economic or career dependants in key positions, protecting him for a variety of reasons and motives), this account will be harrowingly familiar.

It's a pattern that has played out again and again, causing deep pain to the victims, to those caught up in various ways, to those seeking the truth, etc.

A word to the wise. Never enter into partnership with a ministry that is, whether in name, or in effect, the personal vehicle of one man. You might think it will turn out well. You might think that the man is a Christian hero, and there may be people who praise him from Dan to Beersheba. Just hear this: putting your head in a crocodile's mouth might also turn out OK. But if it didn't, don't let anyone tell you that the severity of the outcome was surprising.

Note that in the Ravi Zacharias scandal, secular investigators had to be called in to root out the truth. They - like the FBI, the crime squad, etc. - are often people who (through real-world experience) really believe in original sin and not accepting the first, smooth, answer that mentions grace and innocent mistakes, etc., - an answer that too many Christians who've been entrusted with enforcing real accountability accept in the false belief that doing so is the gracious thing to do. Isn't that tragic?

And whilst we're in this area, the material now coming out about John MacArthur looks very bad. I expect many Christians might respond to this sort of material by saying "but Christians should't wash their dirty linen in public." That's a dangerous half-truth. There is gossip and innuendo, that should be avoided, as a sin. But the apostle Paul was not indulging in that when he warned people about Alexander and Hymenaeus; he was testifying to truths verified by proper witnesses - he appealed to publicly verifiable facts. These are not gossip, and neither are the facts being documented in MacArthur's case. It's also true that we are not called upon to be busy-bodies, obsessing over things far from our field - we surely all have our own work which the Lord has commanded us to be busy with. But when one brother takes a position as a public leader and representative of Christians beyond the confines of his own church, and his own church fails to hold him accountable or to demonstrate that it has done so, it is perfectly reasonable and right for those who have before been targeted by that public ministry to raise public questions. You can't have your cake and eat it. Start a public ministry that goes around the world, and be accountable for it - or don't. This particular story looks like it's got further to run.

Lastly: may the Lord have mercy upon us, and help us to finish the race world. Whether it's sex, money or power, far better believers than you or I have succumbed in the most horrible ways. What can keep us? Only the daily grace and power of Jesus the crucified. Lord, hear our prayers.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Still CS Lewis

The fact that C S Lewis - https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/15/quiet-cs-lewis-is-on-why-subject-of-new-film-could-be-right-for-now
<https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/15/quiet-cs-lewis-is-on-why-subject-of-new-film-could-be-right-for-now> - can still win a sympathetic article in the Guardian in 2021 relating to his role as a Christian apologist and convert from atheism is a testimony to the scale of what God accomplished through him.

The fact that, in 2021, Lewis might still be Western Christianity's foremost public apologist, despite having been dead for over half a century, is less encouraging - and is a telling testimony to the drift of evangelicalism at large during that time into anti-intellectualism or superficiality.

N T Wright could have taken the role, but has sadly with great consistency proved unable to restrict his desire to curry favour with society's gate-keepers by regularly taking any opportunity to sneer disdain at anyone to the right of him, and his silly desire to try to stake out a position as the first person ever to be correct about important topics - desires encouraged him in propagating unnecessary and significant theological errors. This was a great loss, as his combination of intellectual gifts, energy and ability to speak to different audiences were a match to Lewis's. The way he combined top-class scholarship and orthodoxy of "The Resurrection of the Son of God" in particular was thrilling (one of the best-argued and ground-breaking theological books I have ever read - and it stands well alone, so if you don't have a particular desire to plough through reams of "New Perspective" advocacy in the other large tomes in the series, you can easily read it on its own).