Hier Stehe Ich! (“Here I Stand (I Can Do No Other”) — Martin Luther http://cafe.nfshost.com/?p=9316

Throne, Altar, Liberty

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Monday, January 1, 2024

Hier Stehe Ich! (“Here I Stand (I Can Do No Other”) — Martin Luther

 Every year since I started Throne, Altar, Liberty I have, on the kalends of January which is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ on the Church Kalendar and New Year’s Day on the civil calendar, posted an essay summarizing where I stand on matters political, religious and cultural, the subjects on which I write.  It is a custom I adopted from one of my own favourite writers, the late Charley Reese of the Orlando Sentinel.   I have often used Dr. Luther’s famous “Here I Stand” as the title in one language or another.   This year it is the German original.  Each year it is a challenge to write this anew because, while I hope my views have matured they have remained basically the same.   Each year I have to resist  the temptation to  just point to T. S Eliot’s “Anglo-Catholic in religion, royalist in politics, classicist in literature” and say ditto.   I usually do make reference to Eliot’s famous self-description, which I read as a twentieth-century update of the definition of Tory that Dr. Johnson wrote for his dictionary, because it provides a handy frame on which to organize my thoughts.

Before getting into my views I will provide as usual some basic background information about myself.  I am a patriotic citizen of Commonwealth Realm that is the Dominion of Canada and a loyal subject of His Majesty King Charles III as I was all my life prior to his accession of his mother of Blessed Memory, our late Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth II. I love my country’s traditional institutions, Loyalist history, and basically everything about Canada that the sniveling twit who currently occupies the Prime Minister’s Office either wishes we would forget or is endlessly apologizing for.  I have lived all my life in the province of Manitoba, where I was raised on a farm near the village of Oak River and the town of Rivers, where I studied theology for five years at what is now Providence University College – at the time it was Providence College and Theological Seminary – in Otterbourne which is a small college town south of the provincial capital, Winnipeg, where I have lived for the almost quarter of a century since.

Am I, like T. S. Eliot an “Anglo-Catholic in religion”?  If by Anglo-Catholic you mean holding the theology expressed in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, the admirable collection published by John Henry Parker in the nineteenth century of the writings of the classical Anglican divines of the centuries previous including Lancelot Andrewes, the martyred King Charles I’s martyred Archbishop William  Laud and the other Caroline Divines, the scholarly apologist for Trinitarian orthodoxy Bishop George Bull and the Non-Juror George Hickes, I would say yes.     If you mean embracing the views of the Oxford Movement I would be more hesitant.   I think that the most important thing Keble, Newman, Pusey et al.  got right was that the truest and most important establishment of the Church was that by Christ through His Apostles rather than establishment by the state.   I have far less sympathy for the tendency that  manifested itself in some, not all, of them to look Romeward, to regret the Reformation for reasons other than that all schism that harms the visible unity of the Church is regrettable, and to regard the Anglican formularies with a “this will have to do for now” type attitude.   

The Vincentian Canon, “that which is believed everywhere, at all times, and by all”, and its tests of antiquity (does it go back to the Apostles), universality (is it held throughout the Church in all regions and ages rather than particular to one time and place), and consent (was it affirmed by the Church’s leadership in a way that was subsequently received as authoritative throughout the Church) is in my view the right way of determining what is truly Catholic, not whether it has been declared dogma by the Patriarch of Rome or one of the Councils that his adherents have held since the Great Schism between East and West.   I come from a family in which most of my relatives were either United Church (Presbyterian/Methodist) or Anglican, became a believer with an evangelical conversion when I was 15, was baptized by immersion in a Baptist church while a teenager and confirmed in the Anglican Church as an adult.  As my theology matured I came to realize and respect the Symbols handed down from the ancient Church – the Apostles’ and Nicene (Constantinopolitan) Creeds and the Athanasian Symbol – as the basic definitions of Scriptural orthodoxy, to recognize that episcopalian Church government is not adiaphora but clearly established in the New Testament (the Apostles governed the whole Church, while it was localized in Jerusalem they exercised the authority Christ gave them to establish the order of deacons, after the Church was scattered they appointed presbyters or elders over the local Churches which seems to be something they borrowed from the synagogues, and as their ministries closed they passed on to others, Scriptural examples of which include SS Timothy and Titus  their government over the Church including the power to ordain the lower  orders), and that the ministers of the Church are priests (St. Paul explicitly states this of himself in the Greek of Romans 15:15) charged not with offering new sacrifices but with feeding the people of God with Christ’s One Sacrifice through the Sacramental medium of bread and wine. 

Thus I am basically a High Anglican of the pre-Oxford type, with a  Lutheran soteriology, and a fundamentalist-minus-the-separatism approach to basic orthodoxy who regards every article of the ancient Symbols taken literally as fundamental and the Bible as God’s written Word, by verbal, plenary inspiration, infallible and inerrant, which we are to believe and obey rather than to subject to “criticism” based on the false notion that because God used human writers to write the book of which He is the Author that it is a human book rather than a divine book.   Criticism based on that false notion makes fools out of those who engage in it, whether it be the higher critics who think that the fact that Moses varied which name for God he used means that his books were slapped together by some editor after the Babylonian Captivity from previously separate sources despite the total lack of anything such as examples of these “sources” in a pre-“redaction” state of the type that would logically constitute actual evidence or the lower or textual critics who think that the most authentic text of the New Testament is not to be found in that that has been handed down in the Church as evidenced by the thousands of manuscripts she has used (these are of the Byzantine text type) but either in small handful of old manuscripts that were not in general use and were particular to one region (the Alexandrian text) or in something slapped together by text critics in the last century which can be found in no manuscript whatsoever (the eclectic text).  Someone who makes the false idea that the Bible is a human book rather than God’s book the basis of his study of it will end up drawing unsubstantiated conclusions about it that no competent scholar would similarly draw about actual human books and will end up sounding like a blithering idiot.  So expect me to thump the Authorized (1611) Bible as I tell you that salvation is a free gift that God has given to all us sinners in Jesus Christ, that the only means whereby we can receive it is faith,  that faith is formed in us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel brought to us in the Word and Sacrament ministered to us by the Church whose Scripturally established governors under her Head, Jesus Christ, are the bishops in whose order the ordinary governing office of the Apostles has continued to this day.

That I am a “royalist in politics” should already be evident from the second paragraph if it is not sufficiently evident from the title of my website.   I will add here that I am also a monarchist.   For some that will be a redundancy, the two terms being for them interchangeable.   It is for the sake of others who distinguish between the two that I add that I am both.   I am a much stronger monarchist than those Canadian conservatives are who are basically liberal democrats but who defend our monarchy because it is our tradition and make its non-interference with their real political ideal the sole basis of their argument.   I have been instinctually a monarchist all my life.   While C. S. Lewis famously said that monarchy is an idea easily debunked but those who debunk it impoverish and bring misery upon themselves (I am paraphrasing from  memory, Lewis said it better than that) I have found as I have studied the matter over the years that monarchy is rationally defensible.   Plato and Aristotle argued that the rule of true kings is the best of simple constitutions and I think their arguments still stand, just as I think that in our age the divisiveness, partisanship, and other evils that attend upon democratically elected government make an ironclad case for hereditary monarchy that makes the unifying figure at the head of the state one who does not owe his office to partisan politics.  Thus I would say that we should be arguing that our monarchy is essential not that it is merely acceptable.   The Canadian Tory classic by John Farthing, Freedom Wears a Crown, makes a strong case for monarchy’s essential role in our constitution similar to that frequently made by Eugene Forsey. 

I am grateful to Ron Dart for drawing my attention to these men and their books years ago.   I find little to admire in the Modern ideal of democracy and defend instead the institution of Parliament for while Parliament is, of course, a democratic institution it is also a traditional one, a concrete institution that predates the Modern Age and has long proven its worth, which to me outweighs all the flimsy arguments Moderns make for democracy.   Ultimately, I have found a sure and certain foundation for monarchism in orthodox Christianity.   God is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the absolute Sovereign Ruler of His Creation, i.e., all other than Himself that exists.  In the governance of the universe, we find the ideal form – think Plato here – of government, of which temporal earthly governments are imperfect representations and to which, the greater their conformity, the more their perfection will be.   This is why the most orthodox forms of Christianity – traditional Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, traditional Roman Catholicism, and the better kind of Lutheranism – saw Christian monarchy as the highest form of earthly civilization, and the least orthodox forms that can still be seen as  Christian in some recognizable sense, Puritanism and Anabaptism, are the ones that contradicted the obvious implication of the title “King of Kings” by saying “no king but King Jesus”.   

It is in the sense of someone who holds the views expressed in the previous two paragraphs and not in the common partisan sense of the word that I call myself a Tory.   The words “conservative” and “right-wing” as they are used today, even by most who self-apply them, have had their meaning defined for them by the very liberalism and the Left they purport to oppose.   Liberalism is the spirit of the Modern Age.   It consists of the demand for ever increasing liberty (in the sense of individual autonomy) and equality, despite the fact obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that these two cannot be maximized at the same time.   The universal homogeneity that it demands would if actualized be the ultimate form of totalitarian tyranny in which freedom, the real human good and not liberalism’s false ideal of liberty/individual autonomy, would be eliminated entirely.   The Left also worships liberalism’s false gods and historically has differed from liberalism primarily in its notion of how to achieve their goal.   A century ago the Left was identified primarily with socialism, the idea that all of man’s problems can be traced to economic equality arising out of the private ownership of property and are solvable by eliminating private ownership and replacing it with public ownership.   From the standpoint of orthodox Christianity this is utterly repugnant because it misdiagnoses the human condition (the correct diagnosis is sin), prescribes the wrong medicine (the right medicine is the grace of God freely given to man in Jesus Christ), and is basically the second worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, Envy, disguising itself with the mask of the highest of the Christian virtues, charitable love.   

Today, the Left is identified primarily with an expression  arising out of American racial grievance politics, “wokeness”.   “Wokeness” is like socialism in that it claims (generally falsely) to be the mouthpiece for the oppressed, but differs from socialism in that it it does not divide people into oppressor/oppressed by economic status (Marx’s “haves” and “have nots”) but by a legion of personal identities based on such things as race, sex, gender, etc.   Some, such as Dr. Paul Gottfried, have argued on the basis of specific content that today’s Left is something totally different from the Left of a century ago, from the standpoint of orthodox Christianity there is a discernable continuity in the Left.   Whether it speaks in terms of economics or in the terms of race and sex, the Left is an entirely destructive movement, driven by hatred of civilization as it historically has existed for not living up to the false and self-contradictory ideals of liberalism, that, whenever it has succeeded in tearing something down, has never been able to build anything good let alone better on the ashes of the good if not perfect that it destroyed.   The orthodox Christian must condemn this utterly because it clearly displays the spirit of Satan who operates out of the same hatred directed towards God.   Therefore I describe my orthodox Christian monarchist views as Tory and reactionary (in John Lukacs’ sense of the term, basically someone willing to think outside the Modern box, not by embracing the nihilism of post-Modernism but rather the good in the pre-Modern), preferring these terms over conservative which for the most part denotes a false opposition to liberalism and Left defined entirely by liberalism and the Left.

As for being a “classicist in literature” I think that if we take this to  mean someone who seeks to learn from Matthew Arnold’s “the best that has been thought and said” this is a goal that someone with the views expressed above can recognize as most worthy to pursue with regards not just to literature and reading, but to the other elements of culture such as music and the visual arts as well.   It is also a difficult one to consistently follow as many are the enticements, more so today than ever before, to distract one from the classical heights of the Great Books and the Great Tradition into the murky swamps of corporate, mass-manufactured, pop culture.   I have striven to follow this goal on and off again – it makes an excellent resolution for those who do that sort of thing today – with varying degrees of success at resisting the distractions.   Perversely, I have found stubborn contrariness has often been a great motivator in this regards. 

 I read Mark Twain’s remark that a “classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read” years ago and thought to myself “Sez you, Sam Clemens” and set out to read nothing but classics, persisting in this for several months.   Similarly, Thomas Fleming, the former editor of Chronicles Magazine several times enriched my reading habits with remarks about about books nobody was familiar with today prompting a “Sez you, Tom Fleming” response.   Today, as the Left in its “woke” form as described in the previous paragraph has laid siege to the Great Books and the Great Tradition it is more important than ever to reacquaint ourselves with “the best that has been thought and said”.   This is a far better and ultimately more effective way of resisting wokeness than generating and posting any number of anti-woke internet memes could ever be.   So I resolve today once again to seek to elevate my reading, listening and viewing habits in 2024 and  encourage you to do the same.

Happy New Year!

God Save the King! — Gerry T. Neal

The False Climate Religion

Throne, Altar, Liberty

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The False Climate Religion

Through science, technology, and industry we have achieved a very high standard of living, measured in terms of material prosperity, in Western Civilization since the beginning of the Modern Age and especially the last two centuries.    Prosperity in itself is not a bad thing.   We have a tendency, however, in our fallen sinfulness to respond to prosperity inappropriately.   The inappropriate way to respond to prosperity is to look at it with self-satisfaction, thinking that it is due entirely and only to our own effort and ingenuity, and to forget God, from Whom all blessings flow, as the doxology says.  There is a lot of sin in this attitude, especially the sin of ingratitude.   This sin is an invitation to God to take away His blessings and curse us instead.     It is a sin of which we have been most guilty as a civilization.   That we have been so guilty and have forgotten our God is evident in how we now refer to ourselves as Western Civilization rather than Christendom – Christian Civilization.

The appropriate thing for us to do would be to repent.   These familiar words were spoken by the Lord to King Solomon on the occasion of the completion and consecration of the Temple but the message contained within them is one that we would do well to apply to ourselves today:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

Now, imagine a man who in his prosperity becomes self-satisfied and forgets God.   His conscience keeps nagging at him but unwilling to humble himself, pray, seek God, and repent, he misinterprets his guilty feelings and concludes that his prosperity is the problem and not his ingratitude and his having forgotten God.   In an attempt to assuage this misdirected guilt, he decides to sacrifice his prosperity to an idol.   He does so, however, in such a way, that it is his children more than himself who end up suffering.

What ought we to think of such a man?   Does he deserve commendation for trying to make things right, albeit in an ill-informed and ineffective way?   Or does he deserve rebuke for piling further errors and sins upon his initial sin of forgetting God?

“Thou art the man” as the prophet Nathan said to King David in 2 Samuel 12:7 after telling a story that prompted the king to unknowingly condemn himself in the affair of Bathsheba.   Or rather, we all “art the man”.   For this is precisely what we as a civilization have done or are in the process of doing.

For centuries, ever since the start of the Modern Age, Western Civilization has been turning its back on its heritage from Christendom.   Indeed, the conversion of the Christian civilization of Christendom into the secular civilization of the West could be said to have been the ultimate goal of liberalism, the spirit that drove the Modern Age, all along.   The liberal project and the Modern Age were more or less complete with the end of the Second World War and since that time Westerners have been abandoning the Church and her God in droves.    In the same post-World War II era we have reaped the harvest in material prosperity sown through centuries of scientific discoveries.   These were made possible because at the dawn of Modern science people still believed in the God Who created the world and that therefore there is order in the world He created to be discovered.   This is the basis of all true scientific discovery.

Collectively, we feel guilty for abandoning God, but we have not been willing, at least not yet, to return to Him on a civilizational scale.   Sensing that we have incurred divine displeasure, but not willing to admit to ourselves that our apostasy from Christianity and forgetting the True and Living God is the problem, we have instead blamed our material prosperity and the means by which we attained it.   By means, I don’t mean science, which we have been so far unwilling to blame because we have transferred our faith in God onto it and turned it into an idol, but rather our industry, aided and enhanced by science.    

Just as we have transferred our guilt for having forgotten God in our material prosperity onto the industry that we put into attaining that prosperity, which so laden with transferred guilt we usually call capitalism after the name godless left-wing philosophers and economists gave to human industry when they bogeyfied it in their efforts to promote their Satanic alternative, socialism, the institutionalization of the Deadly Sin of Envy, so we have transferred the sense of impending judgement from God for abandoning Him, onto industry.   We have done this by inventing the crackpot idea that such things as burning fuels to heat our homes in winter, cook our food and get about from place to place, and even raising livestock to feed ourselves, are releasing too much carbon dioxide, methane, etc. into the atmosphere and that this is leading to an impending man-made climate apocalypse in which temperatures rise (or plummet depending on which false prophet of doom is talking), polar ice caps melt, the coasts are inundated from rising sea levels, and extreme weather events increase in frequency and intensity. 

To prevent this climactic apocalypse, we have convinced ourselves, we must appease the pagan nature deities we have offended with sacrifice.   We must sacrifice our efficient gasoline-powered vehicles and agree to drive ridiculously expensive electric vehicles, even when travelling long distance in Canada in the dead of winter.   We must sacrifice heating our homes in winter and grow accustomed to wearing enough layers to make Eskimoes look like Hawaiian hula girls in comparison indoors all winter long.   We must sacrifice the hope of affordable living and watch the cost of everything go up and up and up.   We must sacrifice the future of the generations who will come after us

Those of us who express skepticism towards all this are mocked as “science deniers” even though this new false religion is not scientific in the slightest.   Carbon dioxide, which is to plant life what oxygen is to ours, treated as a pollutant?   The seas rising from all that floating ice melting?   You would have to have failed elementary school science to accept this nonsense.   It is certainly incredible to anyone with a basic knowledge of history and who grasps the concept of cause and effect.   The Little Ice Age ended in the middle of the nineteenth century.   When an Ice Age ends a warming period begins.   This is one of the causes of the boom in human industry at the end of the Modern Age, not its effect.   It is a good thing too, for humans, animals, plants and basically all life on earth, because live thrives more in warmer periods than colder ones.  Anyone who isn’t a total airhead knows this.

Speaking of total airheads, Captain Airhead, whose premiership here in the Dominion of Canada was already too old in the afternoon of his first day in office, has been using that office as a pulpit to preach this false climate religion for the duration of the time he has been in it.   Recently, in response to his popularity having plunged lower than the Judecca, he granted a three year exemption on his carbon tax for those who heat their homes with oil, which, as it turns out, benefits Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada and hardly anyone else.   Faced with demands from across Canada that he grant further exemptions, he has so far resisted, and with the help of the Lower Canadian separatists, defeated the Conservative motion in the House, backed by the socialists, for a general home heating exemption.   Hopefully this will speed his departure and the day we can find a better Prime Minister to lead His Majesty’s government in Ottawa.  The point, of course, is that by granting even that partial exemption, for nakedly political purposes, Captain Airhead by his actions admitted what he still denies with his words, that the world is not facing imminent destruction because of too much carbon dioxide.

Captain Airhead’s climate religion and its doomsday scenario have been proven false let us turn to the words of St. Peter and hearing what the true religion has to say about the coming judgement:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.  (2 Peter 3:7-14)

It may be today, it may be a thousand years from now, we don’t know, but when God has appointed it to happen, it will happen, and there is nothing we can do that will prevent it.   Instead of trying to do the impossible, prevent it, we should rather prepare ourselves for it, by doing what the Apostle recommends in the above passage, the avoidance of which is as we have seen, the source of this false climate religion.   For if we turn back in repentance to the God we have forgotten, we can look forward to His coming again in fiery judgement with faith and hope and peace and sing, in the words of gospel songwriter Jim Hill:

What a day that will be
When my Jesus I shall see
And I look upon his face
The one who saved me by his grace
When he takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land
What a day, glorious day that will be!
Gerry T. Neal

Where the Hatred Comes From


Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, October 27, 2023

Where the Hatred Comes From

Following the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel, in which the terrorist organization not only unleashed the predictable barrage of largely ineffective rockets on the Jewish state, but penetrated the barrier between Gaza and Israel with a large force that killed about 1500 people and took about 150 hostage, we were treated to the disgusting spectacle of progressives gathering en masse in cities and academic campuses around the West, not to protest these despicable acts, but to cheer them on.   This was immediately denounced as a display of anti-Semitism, mostly by neoconservatives many of whom called for such demonstrations to be banned.   While I don’t have much better an opinion of these demonstrators than the neocons have this call to criminalize the demonstrations is extremely foolish.    There is already too much suppression of the expression of thought and opinion, we do not need to add any more.   I don’t agree that this is an expression of anti-Semitism either.   This essay will explain why.

A discussion of this sort requires that we define anti-Semitism at some point so we might as well get that out of the way.   H. L. Mencken said that “an anti-Semite is someone who dislikes the Jews more than is absolutely necessary”.   That is amusing, at least to those who do not have a politically correct pole permanently lodged up their rectums, but not particularly helpful.   Joe Sobran said that “an anti-Semite used to be someone who didn’t like the Jews.   Now he is someone the Jews don’t like”.   This is more helpful as an explanation of the neoconservative use of the term than of what it really means.  

Most people, I suspect, use it to mean any dislike of the Jews for any reason.   The late rabbinical scholar, Jacob Neusner, objected to this promiscuous use of the term.   In an article entitled “Sorting Out Jew-Haters” that appeared in the March 1995 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture he gave this account of anti-Semitism:

According to anti-Semitism, Jews are a separate species within humanity, peculiarly wicked, responsible for the evil of the human condition. A political philosophy formulated in the world of late 19th-century Germany and Austria, anti- Semitism formed the ideological foundation of political parties and served as the basis for public policy. It provided an account of life and how the Jews corrupt it. It offered a history of Western civilization and how the Jews pervert it. It formulated a theory of the world’s future and how the Jews propose to conquer it. People make sense of the world lay appealing to anti-Semitism, and in World War II, millions of Germans willingly gave their lives for the realization of their country’s belief in an anti-Semitic ideal of national life and culture.

The term, he argued, should be reserved for Jew hatred of the type that fully meets this description, and to apply it to lesser prejudices trivializes it.

Now, you might be thinking that what we are seeing meets Neusner’s requirements to be called anti-Semitism.    The rallies that we have been talking about, after all, are not just in support of the Palestinian people, but of Hamas, the terrorist organization dedicated to the elimination of Israel, and of its actions on 7 October.    Why would anyone support such an organization and such behaviour unless their mind was in the grips of the sort of hatred described in the paragraph from Neusner’s article quoted above?

There are a couple of obvious problems with that way of thinking.  

The first is that if these progressives, academic and otherwise, were motivated by anti-Semitic hatred we would expect that their support for violent, murderous, organizations and their behaviour would be limited to Hamas and other similar groups.   This is not the case.   The progressive activist crowd has a long history of supporting violent, murderous, groups.   In the post-World War II era of the last century, for example, they supported every Communist group available from the Stalinists to the Maoists to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.   Communism killed 100 million people in the twentieth century.    Pol Pot’s group murdered about 2 million people, a quarter of the population of Cambodia.  Yet Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguistics professor who became the guru of the student activist wing of the left and who is regarded by most neoconservatives as a self-loathing Jew for his support of the Palestinians, decades ago was defending Pol Pot and claiming that the accounts of the “killing fields” were American propaganda.   My old friend Reaksa Himm, whose account of seeing his family slaughtered by these brutes and being left for dead himself, was published as The Tears of My Soul: He Survived Cambodia’s Killing Fields, His Family Didn’t, Could He Forgive? in 2003, would no doubt have a few things to say about that.   Then, of course, there are the countless progressive students who thought it “cool” to wear t-shirts or put posters up in their dorm room bearing the image of vile Communist terrorist and mass murderer Ernesto “Che” Guevara.   So, no, this sort of stupidity on the Left, is not all about the Jews.

The second problem is that even when progressive bile is directed towards Israel as it is in these pro-Hamas demonstrations it is not against Jews qua Jews.   There is an element of racial hatred in it but that racial hatred is not directed against Jews as distinct from everyone else.   It is directed against Jews as white people.    Some might object to that statement on the grounds that not all Jews are white, Jewishness being primarily a religious identity.   Others, including some Jews who hate whites and Christians and some whites who don’t like Jews, would make the polar opposite objection that in their opinion no Jews are white.   These wildly differing objections aside, my statement is nevertheless true.   The hatred the immature, idiotic, Left is displaying towards Israel is the same hatred they display towards all Western countries, i.e. countries that lay claim to the heritage of Greco-Roman, Christian, white European, civilization, and to the extent that there is a racial element it is that which is on display almost ubiquitously on university campuses in the form of the claim that “whiteness” is a cultural and civilizational cancer that must be “abolished”.   The language used against Israel is the same language used against Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and basically any country and society settled and built by Europeans as an extension of Western civilization.   The only difference is that in this case the settlers were Jews rather than Christians.

It is not therefore a case of anti-Semitism.   Anti-Semitism and its counterpart Zionism began around the same time in the nineteenth century.   Both were the result of “Enlightenment” philosophy’s war against God, revelation, religion and faith.  For centuries Christians and Jews had been at odds over a religious issue.   We, rightly, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.   They, wrongly, reject Jesus as the Christ.   This was not an insurmountable divide.   Any Jew could become a Christian by believing that Jesus is the Christ and being baptized into the Church.   The “Enlightenment” brought about a loss of faith on both sides but this did not eliminate the divide.   Instead, post-Christian Gentiles and secular Jews began to regard their division as being based on biological racial differences.   Division on this basis is insurmountable.   You cannot change your race.   At least, you couldn’t until the whole “I’m whatever gender, sex, race, species, I want to be” garbage started up in the last few years.   The expression of this idea of an insurmountable race divide was anti-Semitism on the part of post-Christian Gentile Europeans and Zionism on the part of secular Jews.   In the early days of both movements they supported each other.   Each believed that the racial differences between Jew and Gentile prevented them from living in peace together, therefore the solution was for them to live in peace apart.    Whatever else might be said about this way of thinking it is clear that the animosity directed towards the Jews of Israel on the part of the pro-Hamas progressive demonstrators is not this anti-Semitism.   It is based, indeed, on the very opposite concept – that the Jews are fundamentally one with other Western Europeans rather than being fundamentally divided from them by race or even religion.

Just in case you mistake this as an attempt to white-wash the progressives, let me assure you my intention is quite the reverse. The progressives’ anti-Israel position arises out of a far more pernicious attitude than mere anti-Semitism.   It arises out of the hatred that is at the very heart of leftism. 

The Left is the openly revolutionary form of liberalism.   Sometimes liberalism tries to hide its revolutionary nature behind a mask of reform, of working within the institutions of civilization to accomplish its goals, but when that mask is removed what you get is the Left.   The Left, therefore, is the true face of liberalism, and that face is one of revolution and sedition.   Liberalism is not a constructive force but a destructive force.  In its earliest recognizable form it began as an attack on Christendom or Christian civilization, the heir to classical Greco-Roman civilization.   Its first targets were kings who are the earthly political representatives of the King of Kings Who rules over all of Creation, and the Church, the corporate body of Jesus Christ in which His Incarnational presence is sacramentally continued after His Ascension to the right hand of the Father.   In attacking God’s earthly representation in this way liberalism revealed that its ultimate hatred is of God Himself.   Liberalism is essentially the earthly continuation of Satan’s revolt against God.   After attacking king and Church, liberalism launched its siege on every other tradition and institution of Christian civilization.   From what we have just seen about liberalism’s essential nature its hatred of civilization is entirely explicable.   Liberalism hates kings because they are the earthly representation of God’s Sovereign rule over Creation.   Liberalism hates the Church because the Church is the earthly representation of Christ’s priestly intercession in Heaven.   Liberalism hates civilization because civilization is the product of man as builder and it is in his capacity as builder that man most displays the image in which man was created, the image of God the Creator.

That is the hatred that is on display whenever the progressive Left blithers on and on about “colonialism” and “imperialism”.   Man, in his fallen estate, is incapable of building a perfect civilization.   Imperfect civilization, however, is better than no civilization at all.   The Left is no more capable of building a perfect civilization than the builders of the past it is always decrying, sometimes for their real sins but more often for new offences they just made up yesterday, and the Left is not interested in trying to build a perfect civilization.  It is only interested in tearing down the civilization others have built.   It claims to be speaking out for “victims”.   Sometimes the “victims” are people who have suffered actual harm in some way from civilization building.   Other times, they are merely those who have not shared equally in the benefits of civilization with others.   Either way, the Left’s idea that civilization must be razed, its history erased, and its builders “cancelled” and defamed is hardly the answer and in the support they are now showing for the despicable acts of murderous terrorists they show that their motivation is not genuine concern for those who have not fared as well from civilization as others, but a Satanic hatred of civilization builders, for representing, even in an imperfect way, the image of the Creator God.

That is a far more vile form of hatred than the extremely banal one of which the neoconservatives are accusing them. Posted by Gerry T. Neal a

The Greatest Scam on Earth

The Greatest Scam on Earth http://cafe.nfshost.com/?p=9150

Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Greatest Scam on Earth

As you are all most likely aware, the Israel-Palestinian conflict has flared up again.   Like clockwork, the apologists for both sides have come crawling out of the woodworks insisting that we all take sides.   Interestingly, this time around the apologists on each side are taking rather the same position with regards to the apologists of the other side that they insist the side they are cheering for in the Middle East take towards the other side, i.e., one of eradication and elimination.   The pro-Israel side is calling for the pro-Palestinian side to be silenced, their protests shut down, and their views criminalized.   Some on the pro-Israel side are capable of distinguishing between being pro-Palestinian, that is to say, someone who seeks to promote the basic human rights of the Palestinian Arab population, and being a supporter of the murderous terrorist organization Hamas, but it seems to me that they are outnumbered by those lacking this capacity.   To be fair, this same incapacity characterizes the other side as well.   On either side, it is most ugly in its manifestation.   The pro-Israelis who fail to make the distinction have come close to calling for all expressions of humanitarian concern for the Palestinians to be outlawed as hate.   They clearly have come dangerously unhinged because all rational, sensible, and decent people are categorically opposed to laws criminalizing hate qua hate.   The other side, however, has made it difficult not to sympathize with them to some degree in that they have been openly cheering on the most vile and despicable sorts of behaviour on the part of Hamas.

Two and a half years ago, in an essay entitled “The Holy Land Returns to the Old Normal” I gave an overview of the Israel-Palestine conflict, rebutted a few common fallacies concerning it, offered an explanation of where the insistence that we all take sides comes from, and answered that demand.   I do not intend to go over all of that material again, but I hope you will excuse my quoting myself here.  At the end of the essay I pointed out the obvious real nature of the relationship between the Israeli government and Hamas:

The most ill-kept secret of the Middle East is that Likud Israeli governments and Hamas each rely upon the other to maintain their popular support among their own people.   The Palestinians expect Hamas to keep on harassing Israel.   The Israelis expect their government to brutally punish the Palestinians.  Each, therefore, provides the other with the excuse to do what they need to do to play to their own crowds.   So we come to May of this year.   On the sixth the Palestinians hold a protest in East Jerusalem, on the seventh the Israelis crack down and storm the al-Aqsa mosque, on the tenth Hamas issues an ultimatum which Israel naturally ignores and the rockets start flying, on the eleventh the Israeli Air Force begin several days of bombing the hell out of Gaza.   On the twentieth, having given their fans the show they were looking for, Netanyahu and Hamas agree to a ceasefire.   Bada bing, bada boom, it is all over in a fortnight, mission accomplished, everyone is happy, high fives all around.   Too bad about all the people who had to die, but didn’t someone somewhere at sometime say something about an omelet and eggs?

There is no good reason to think that any of this has changed in the present situation.   Indeed, the current conflagration could be said to exemplify the point.   The actions of the Israeli government and Hamas both clearly serve the interests of the other.   Consider Hamas’ attack on 7 October.   On top of the usual barrage of rockets, Hamas breached Israel’s supposedly impenetrable barrier and almost 3000 of their agents entered Israel, attacked towns, kibbutzim (collective farms), and even a weekend music festival.  They murdered some 1500 people, and took about 150 hostages.   The murder victims and hostages were mostly Israeli citizens, although there were a few soldiers and a number of people from other countries who were in Israel in various capacities – workers, students, attendees of the music festival – among both the dead and hostages.    This was far better organized and co-ordinated than any previous Hamas attack and consequently far more lethal but it is difficult to see how it accomplished anything for Hamas other than the bloodshed itself.   It did, however, clearly serve a purpose of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu, who had been ousted as Prime Minister of Israel in June of 2021, was re-elected in December of last year on a hard-line platform and needed to at least appear to be making good on his promises.  Cracking down on Hamas is the easiest way of doing that and by carrying out an attack of this nature Hamas handed him an iron clad justification for doing so.   On a side note, whatever else you might say about Benjamin Netanyahu, his political longevity is something to be marvelled at.   I fully expect that sometime down the road we will be reading, a week or two after his funeral, that he has just won re-election as Prime Minister of Israel in a landslide.

Now some of you might be thinking “Aha, gotcha, there is a flaw in your argument.   Hamas’s actions might serve Netanyahu’s ends, but in retaliating the Israeli government will wipe them out so there is no reciprocal benefit, it is a one-way street this time around”.   This, however, very much remains to be seen.   So far, apart from the rhetoric, Israel’s retaliatory actions have consisted of the same sort of aerial bombardment with which they have responded to past Hamas attacks, albeit on a larger scale.   There has been talk of an imminent and massive ground incursion into Gaza for a week and a half now but if it ever materializes the IDF’s overwhelming military superiority does not guarantee Israel a quick and easy victory.   Ask the Americans.   Israel would be walking into the same sort of situation in which the United States found herself entangled in Vietnam and later Afghanistan.   This is a long term operation and the longer it drags on the more it is to Hamas’ favour, because the longer such a conflict stretches out, the less international public sympathy will be with Israel, and it is in the arena of international public opinion that Hamas fights all its true battles.

It sounds crazy but it is nevertheless true that every time Hamas attacks Israel it is with the intention of provoking a retaliatory attack.   The reason this seems crazy is because Israel is so much stronger than Hamas in terms of military might.   It conjures up the picture of a chihuahua getting in the face of a big bruiser of a bull dog and yipping away annoyingly until the larger dog barks or bites its head off.   One moral of the Old Testament account of David and Goliath, however, is that size isn’t everything.   In this case, Hamas wants Israel to attack back because every time Israel does far more Palestinian civilians are killed than Hamas agents, enabling Hamas to run to the international news media, the General Assembly of the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, humanitarian organizations, university professors and student activists, and basically every group of self-important jackasses with a lot of money and power and not enough brain cells to fill a thimble, and whine and cry about how mean old Israel has been beating on them again, after which these groups wag their fingers in Israel’s face saying shame on you, shame on you, and dump tons of money in humanitarian relief into Hamas controlled Palestinian territory, keeping Hamas solvent, and freeing up other resources with which to buy more rockets.

A great illustration of the Hamas strategy can be found in the 1959 film The Mouse That Roared.   In the movie, a small European country, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, has built its entire economy on a single export product, the wine Pinot Grand Fenwick.  When a California wine company produces a cheap knockoff, and the country is threatened with insolvency, Duchess Gloriana (Peter Sellers) and her Prime Minister, Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) hatch a scheme to attack the United States, lose, and then reap the rewards of losing to the United States, which pours plenty of money into rebuilding the countries it has defeated in war.   So they send the United States a declaration of war and then put their game warden, Tully (guess who), in charge of their small army of soldiers, mail-clad and armed with bows and arrows, and send him over.   The scheme goes awry when Tully accidentally wins the war – watch the movie to find out how.   The point of course, is that Hamas’ strategy is essentially that of Grand Fenwick.   It is a darker version that involves much more bloodshed including the sacrifice of large numbers of their own and the payoff is expected more from third parties than from the victorious attackee, but it is the same basic scam.

Israel is running a big scam too, of course.   In her case it is not the gullible “international community” that is the mark so much as the equally gullible United States of America.   Israel, which paid for the creation of Hamas – see my previous essay alluded to earlier – has long been the single largest recipient of American foreign aid, in part because the various pro-Israel lobby groups in the United States make the National Rifle Association look like rank amateurs in comparison, but also because Israel knows how to play on the United States’ national mythology by presenting herself as the only liberal democracy in her region, surrounded and besieged by anti-Semitic autocrats, just like those that the United States likes to imagine herself as having single-handedly defeated in the Second World War.   Of course there is some truth in that depiction.   When did you ever hear of a successful scam that consisted completely of falsehoods?

This is why it is best for the rest of the world to stay out of this conflict and refuse to give in to this demand that we pick sides.   Our involvement, whichever side we end up supporting, however well-intentioned, ends up facilitating the worst sort of behaviour of both sides.

We need to stop looking at the conflict in the Middle East through the lens of the “good guys” versus “bad guys” dichotomy, rooted in the heresy of Mani that has permeated Western popular culture through the pernicious influence of Hollywood movies and the comic book industry.   There are no “good guys” in this conflict although there are a lot of innocent victims, both Israeli and Palestinian Arab.

If someone were to point a gun to my head and demand that I choose sides I would chose Israel, although I would be sure to hold my nose while doing so.   Israel is a legitimate state, or at least the closest thing to a legitimate state that a modern democratic government without a king can be, which isn’t very close.   Hamas is a criminal organization of lawless thugs and murderers.   Israel has spent the last three quarters of a century trying to build up a civilized society for herself and her people.   Hamas are destroyers not builders.   I am a life-long Tory by instinct and as the late Sir Roger Scruton wisely put it “Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”   I will never side with those who only ever walk the easy path of destroying what others have labouriously built.   Not Year Zero, Cultural Maoist, groups like Black Lives Matter and Every Child Matters in North America. Not Hamas in the Middle East.   Finally, while both sides value the lives of civilians on the other side extremely cheap, there is a huge difference in that Hamas places no higher a value on the lives of their own civilians.   Indeed, Hamas arguably values the lives of civilian Palestinian Arabs less than Israel.   Hamas, when it attacks Israel, targets the civilian population, but prior to 7 October, its attacks have been largely ineffective.   It fires tons of rockets at Israel, almost all of which are taken down by the Iron Dome, and the few that make it past are not guaranteed to hit anything or anyone.   Its rocket launchers, however, Hamas deliberately places in residential neighbourhoods, mosques, hospitals, schools, and other similar locations where a retaliatory strike to take out the rocket launcher will have maximum civilian casualties.   The same is true of anything else Hamas has that would be considered a legitimate military target by the rules that most countries, nominally at least, support for the conduct of warfare.   Therefore, Israel must either stand there and allow herself to be attacked, the sort of thing someone whose soul has been killed and brain rotted from training in public relations and/or human resources might recommend, (1) or take out Hamas’ attack bases and in the process destroy the civilian and humanitarian infrastructure within which those bases are hid and kill the countless numbers of Palestinians that Hamas uses as human shields, handing Hamas plenty of ammunition in the form of bad press to use against her..

That having been said, the reasons for refusing the choice, for not taking sides are solid.   It is in the mutual interests of Israel and Hamas to keep this conflict going forever, but this is not in the interests of the civilians on both sides, nor is it in the interests of the rest of the world which both sides expect to pay for their lethal and destructive activities.   It is in the best interests of everybody, that the rest of the world refuse to be dragged into this any longer, and tell the two sides they both need to grow up.

I shall, Lord willing, follow up this essay with two others.   The first will demonstrate that the Christian Zionist position that we are required by the Scriptures to take Israel’s side in Middle-East conflicts is rank heresy.   The second will look at the neoconservative claim that the pro-Palestinian Left’s unhinged support of Hamas comes from anti-Semitism and demonstrate that it comes from a different source.

(1)   Contrary to what the Anabaptist heresy teaches, Jesus said nothing of this sort in Matthew 5:39.   This verse is best understood as forbidding revenge rather than self-defence but even if taken as forbidding self-defence it says nothing about how governments, responsible for the security of those they govern, are to act, as evident from the fact that before this section of the Sermon, Jesus gave a disclaimer that it is not to be taken as abrogating the Law. — Gerry T. Neal

Manitoba is now up the Creek, Without a Paddle, in a Leaky Kinew

Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Manitoba is now up the Creek, Without a Paddle, in a Leaky Kinew

 I have said before that I think we Canadians owe our Sovereign, now His Majesty Charles III, although when I made the remark originally it was our late Sovereign Lady of blessed memory, Elizabeth II, an apology for the incompetent, utterly corrupt, and insanely evil clown who, through our abuse of our voting privilege, has been Prime Minister of this Commonwealth Realm for the last eight years.   Now I would add that the Canadians of my province, Manitoba, owe a double apology for putting the only politician in the Dominion worse than Captain Airhead himself into the premier’s office, with a majority in the Legislature behind him.

When the evil New Democratic Party led by the execrable Wab Kinew won the provincial election on 3 October, I was disgusted but not surprised.   When Lee Harding of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a local think-tank here in Winnipeg, published a piece on 29 September calling for the re-election of the Progressive Conservatives, I could not agree with his title as much as I desired that outcome.   The title was “Manitoba PCs Deserve Another Mandate”.   No, they did not.   The reason for voting PC this election was not that they deserved it but that the alternative was much, much, worse.

The Progressive Conservatives, led by Brian Pallister, won the provincial election of 2016 and governed well enough in their first term that Harding’s title would have been true had he written his article in 2019.   That year they won re-election and at the annual New Year’s Levée hosted by the Lieutenant Governor I shook Pallister’s hand and congratulated him on his victory.   Within a few months of this, however, Pallister’s governance went south badly and I came to loathe the man.   In July of 2021, a short time before he resigned as PC leader and premier, I expressed this in these words:

Brian Pallister is an ignorant fool!

He’s a stupid, ugly, loser and he smells bad too!

His one and only virtue,

I hate to say it but it’s true,

His one and only virtue is –

He’s not Wab Kinew!

It was Pallister’s handling of the bat flu scare that had so soured me on his governance.   He had imposed a particularly harsh lockdown, had done so earlier than many other provinces, and had done so in an arrogant, in-your-face, manner.   Wab Kinew and the NDP criticized Pallister’s handling of the pandemic, but their criticism went entirely in the wrong direction.   They criticized Pallister for not imposing lockdowns sooner, not making them harsher, lifting them too early and this sort of thing.   They should have been criticizing Pallister for trampling all over the most basic rights and freedoms of Manitobans, that is to say our ancient Common Law rights and freedoms not the useless and empty guarantees of Pierre Trudeau’s Charter, and acting like there are no constitutional limits to the power of government in an emergency.   Their mishandling of the bat flu panic under Pallister is the reason the PC’s don’t deserve another mandate.   Kinew’s criticism of the same, which amounted to a demand that Pallister do more of what he was doing wrong, is one reason why the NDP do not deserve to replace the PC’s as government and are a much worse alternative.

It was not the botched job he made of the bat flu that ultimately brought about Pallister’s resignation as PC leader and premier at the beginning of September 2021.   This was 2021, and the crazy progressive leftists who dominate so much of the Canadian mainstream media, envious as always of their counterparts in the United States, decided that Canada needed her version of the George Floyd controversy that had been manufactured by the BLM Movement – the movement for whom the lives of American blacks matter the least because their target is the American police who protect American blacks from the violent crime that costs so many blacks their lives each year – and so jumped on the discovery of ground disturbances – and that was all that were discovered – on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which the band interpreted as the discovery of unmarked graves – not “mass graves” as falsely reported – and began claiming that this “proved” the version of the Indian Residential Schools narrative that defrocked United Church minister and conspiracy theorist Kevin Annett has been spouting since the 1990s, i.e., that children were murdered by the thousands in the schools and buried in secret graves.   Imagine if the mainstream media in the UK were to start reporting David Icke’s theory that the world is controlled by reptilian shapeshifters from outer space and you will have an approximation of the degree of departure from journalistic standards and integrity that was involved here.   Their claim has since been thoroughly debunked, which is why leftist politicians now want to criminalize debunking it, but it had its intended effect.   That summer saw the biggest wave of hate crimes in Canadian history as Church buildings – whether the Churches had any connection to the residential schools or not – were burned or otherwise vandalized all across the country.   On Dominion Day, Year Zero, Cultural Maoist terrorists, toppled the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.   No society can afford to tolerate this sort of violent, seditious, assault on her history and civilization and Brian Pallister appropriately condemned these acts.   In doing so he made positive statements about the previous generations of Canadians who settled and built the country and who are now constantly being defamed by progressive academics and journalists, in violation of the fifth and ninth commandments.   The provincial Indian chiefs decided to take offense at this – take offense is the operative phrase, as none was given, Pallister had not said anything about them, negative or otherwise – and demanded that Pallister apologize.  Pallister should have told them to go suck an egg and stood his ground.   Instead, about a month later, he cravenly gave them the apology they didn’t deserve, and in the event didn’t accept, and shortly thereafter resigned.

Kelvin Goertzen took over as interim party leader and premier until the party held its leadership vote on 30 October.   Now, I am not a fan of this method of choosing a party leader.   I think that it is far more consistent with our parliamentary form of government for the party caucus – the party’s sitting members in the House of Commons or provincial legislative assembly – to choose their leader, and that selling paid memberships in the party with a vote for the leader attached smacks of the American republican system.   I also dislike the way our elections, Dominion and provincial, are now treated by almost everyone as if we were directly voting for the prime minister or premier, rather than voting for our local representatives in a larger parliamentary assembly, for the same reason.   This is a consequence of being inundated with too much American culture in the form of television and movies.   That having been said, if the party leader is to be chosen this way, it should at least be open and honest.   That is precisely what the vote that put Heather Stefanson in as leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives and premier of the province was not.   Stefanson was the candidate supported by the sitting members – had the party chosen its leader according to my preferred method she would have still become leader.   She was also, however, the candidate that the backroom bosses of the party wanted as leader, and when they ultimately got their way their new leader had a huge cloud of suspicion of shenanigans over her head.   Stefanson won the leadership vote by a narrow margin – 51.1% over the 48.9% received by Shelly Glover, which looks even narrower in total vote count – 8, 405 for Stefanson, 8, 042 for Glover.   Glover, who had formerly been a member of the House of Commons representing St. Boniface, based her campaign in part on dissatisfaction with how Pallister, with whose government Stefanson had been associated, had handled the bat flu.   The party’s former CFO, Ken Lee, had also sought the leadership, in his case making opposition the Pallister lockdowns his sole issue, but his candidacy was disqualified for reasons that never really were made clear.   This looked shady, as did the fact that over 1200 members had not received their ballots in time to vote, and when Glover lost by such a narrow margin – less than 400 votes – she contested the outcome, but her challenge was quickly dismissed.    This had all the appearances of a backroom fix.

When this happened I realized that it would take a miracle for the Progressive Conservatives to win the next election.   You cannot treat your voting base this way and expect them to turn up in sufficient numbers to support you come election time.

It was apparent during the short election campaign, and the longer pre-campaign leading up to it, that Stefanson’s PCs were not remotely as committed to their winning the election as their enemies were to their being defeated.   I say enemies rather than opponents because it is not just their rivals in the legislature that I am talking about.

The unions have been determined to take down the PCs since pretty much the moment Brian Pallister became premier and have really stepped up their game in the last couple of years.   They have spent a fortune on billboard ads all over Winnipeg attacking the PC government.   Then there are the yard signs that began popping up like mushrooms all over the place long before the party campaign signs came out.   These couldn’t explicitly endorse candidate or party, but everyone knew what they were getting at.  The most common such signs were from the Manitoba Nurses Union and the Manitoba Teachers Society.  

Allied with these unions in their quest to bring down the PCs and put Kinew’s NDP into government, was the media, especially the CBC, which as Crown broadcaster by rights ought to be neutral, and the Winnipeg Free Press.     

These media, along with the Manitoba Nurses Union and the NDP, have been using health care as a club to bash the Progressive Conservatives with ever since Pallister, early in his premiership, indicated his disagreement with them that health care spending needs to keep going in one direction only, up, converted the Emergency Rooms at Seven Oaks and Victoria Hospitals in Winnipeg into urgent care centres, and closed the Concordia Hospital ER refocusing the hospital to transitional care for the elderly and those undergoing physical rehabilitation.   The PCs dropped the ball on this one.   They should have hammered back, just as hard, pointing out that the consultant’s report on whose recommendations they did this had been commissioned by the previous, NDP, government, and that at the same time they expanded the capacity of the three remaining ERs – Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface, and Grace.   They should also have emphasized that health care has usually fared much worse under NDP governments in rural ridings.   The ER in Vita, a rural community about an hour and a half south-east of Winnipeg, closed three years after Greg Selinger became premier.  Two years later it was still closed, with eighteen others along with it.    ERs in many other rural communities remained open, but on a basis somewhat like a multi-point parish, with the same doctor serving several ERs, being in the one the one day, another the next.   In the second last year of Gary Doer’s premiership, the ER in Virden, a rural community along the TransCanada Highway near the Saskatchewan border was temporarily closed, mercifully for only about half a year.   These examples are representative, not comprehensive, and while the rural doctor shortage is a chronic problem regardless of who is in government, rural areas always fare worse under the NDP.  Not coincidentally, these same areas rarely if at all vote NDP.   A rural ER closure, even a temporary one, is worse than an ER closure in Winnipeg, for while there are more people in Winnipeg, the transit time to the next ER, especially if the ER to close is one that serviced a very large area, like the one in Vita, is increased that much more in the country.

The media also found another club to bash the PC government with in the Indians’ demand that the Prairie Green Landfill be searched for the remains of two murdered women that the Winnipeg Police believe to have ended up there.   This demand was expressed in protests, blockades, and something that is probably best described as a riot, earlier this year.   Here again, Stefanson’s PCs shot themselves in the foot.   Not so much by refusing the demand – their grounds for doing so were sound, and certainly not the “racism” of which idiots accuse them – but by bringing the issue into the election campaign.   No matter how sound the case for not conducting this just under $200 million search of an area laced with toxins, there was no way Stefanson could argue her point without appearing heartless.  It would have been better to stay silent.

So, no, the Stefanson PC’s did not deserve another mandate.   The problem is that those who won deserved it even less.

Let me spell it out for you.   At the moment, people all across the Dominion of Canada are experiencing an affordability crisis.   The price of food has gone through the roof.   Many Canadians are skipping meals, many others are buying less healthy processed food than they otherwise would, because the prices at the grocery stores are too high.   At the same time rent is sky high and houses are selling at obscene prices.   Transportation is also that much more expensive.   Much of this is the direct consequence of bad action on the part of the Dominion government.   The price of gasoline has gone up considerably due to the carbon tax, which in turn increases the price of everything that needs to be transported using fuel.  The housing shortage is a direct consequence of Captain Airhead’s decision to use record immigration, with apologies to Bertolt Brecht, to elect a new people.   While Captain Airhead seems to think that food prices are high because of price fixing on the part of the big grocery chains, a notion he borrowed from the man propping his minority government up, federal NDP leader Jimmy Dhaliwal, the fact of the matter is that he has been spending like a drunken sailor since he got into office.   When governments spend more than they take in in revenue, this is not a contributing factor to inflation, it is inflation.   The extra they spend increases the supply of money, the means of exchange, which decreased the value of money per unit, and causes the price of everything else to rise relative to it.    When you spend the way Captain Airhead did over the last few years, paying people to stay home for long periods of time and not go to work – decreasing the production of goods and services and thus causing their cost in currency to go up – you increase inflation exponentially.   Manitoba just elected a premier who has the same sort of attitude towards spending as Captain Airhead.  

Last month, in the Million Person March, organized by Ottawa Muslim activist Kamel El-Cheik, but supported by many faith groups and people just concerned about the rights of parents, Canadians across the Dominion expressed what polls already had indicated to be the overwhelming majority opinion of Canadians – that schools should not be keeping parents out of the loop about what is going on in the classroom with their kids about gender identity and that sort of thing.   While leftists have tried to spin this as an alphabet soup issue, accusing those protesting of various sorts of hatred and bigotry, and spinning the reasonable insistence that teachers entrusted with the education of children report back to the parents who so entrusted them, as “forced outing”, they are being absurd.   There is a word for someone who tells kids to keep stuff having to do with sex a secret from their parents.   The policy that schools and school boards have been following in recent years seems tailor-made to accommodate such people.   Heather Stefanson had promised in her campaign to protect parental rights.   The promise would have been more credible had she introduced the legislation to do so earlier when the New Brunswick and Saskatchewan governments were doing so.   However, this much is clear, if someone wanted to protect perverts in the schools rather than the rights of parents, he would be cheering the outcome of this election.

The province already has a huge problem with drug abuse and related social evils.   The CBC reported in April that provincial Chief Medical Examiner had told them via e-mail that the number of drug-related deaths per year has “risen dramatically here in recent years” and that “the deaths are only the tip of the iceberg”.   407 Manitobans died from overdoses in 2021, 372 the year previously, both record numbers.   It was at least 418 in 2022.    At least 228 involved fentanyl and/or related drugs.   The city of Winnipeg also saw the largest jump in crime severity of any Canadian city in the same period.   These two facts are not unrelated, nor is the size of the homelessness problem in Winnipeg.    The left, in recent years, has been obsessed with the “harms reduction” approach to this matter, an approach that tries to lower the number of deaths due to overdose and contamination by providing a “safe” supply of drugs and “safe” places to use them.   It is usually coupled with decriminalization or outright legalization of some or all narcotics.   This approach is concerned more with the effects of drugs on those who (ab)use them and less or not at all with the effects of drug abuse on the surrounding community.   It was tried by the NDP in Alberta in the premiership of Rachel Notley, and more dramatically in British Columbia, where the provincial NDP government introduced this approach on a provincial scale earlier at the beginning of this year, despite it having proven a failure when the city of Vancouver tried it, causing overdose deaths to rise.   The NDP are incapable of learning from their mistakes on matters such as these.   Expect Kinew to try and imitate BC’s mistake, not avoid it and look elsewhere, like, for example, Singapore’s “harm prevention” approach, for a successful model.    This problem is about to get much worse in Winnipeg and Manitoba.

It will not be long before we in Manitoba rue the outcome of this election. Now we owe His Majesty a double apology, first for Captain Airhead in the Dominion Prime Minister’s Office, now for Captain Airhead’s doppleganger in the province of Manitoba. — Gerry T. Neal

1595 – Anglicanism at a Crossroads

Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, August 25, 2023

1595 – Anglicanism at a Crossroads

In my last essay I demonstrated that contrary to the view sometimes put forth by overzealous Low Churchmen of a Reformed-in-the-continental-sense bent that our English branch of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church affirms her Protestantism in a Calvinist as opposed to Lutheran way in her reformed Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, these instead are worded in such a way as to side with neither Wittenberg nor Geneva absolutely on the controversies between the two with the result that while on the matter of the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper they lean towards Calvin without excluding Luther, on the matter of Predestination they lean towards Luther without excluding Calvin.   On several other matters – prioritizing the truths confessed in the Catholic Creeds over other doctrines, retaining the Apostolic episcopacy rather than adopting a presbyterian government (some Lutherans, such as the Swedish, are like us in this regards, others, such as the German, who were unable to retain the episcopacy, did not adopt the Genevan model), the normative principle (what is not forbidden by Scripture is permitted) over the regulative principle (what is not commanded by Scripture is forbidden) – Anglicanism, as confessed in the Articles is far closer to the Lutheranism than to Calvinism.

An interesting response to this came in an online Anglican group.   The matter of the Lambeth Articles of 1495 was raised and the person who brought it up seemed to think that this document invalidated my entire argument by providing an official Anglican declaration that Article XVII (On Predestination and Election) is to be understood in the most Calvinist way possible.   What made this response so interesting was that the answer to it was so obvious – the Lambeth Articles are not official Anglican doctrine.   They were denied royal assent twice, first by Queen Elizabeth I, then by King James I at the Hampton Court Conference of 1604.    Thank God for the divine right of kings!   It was not a matter of the monarchs refusing out of personal theological prejudice to allow the Church to teach what she wanted.   At the same time as the events leading to the drafting of the Lambeth Articles the first volumes of a lengthy treatise defending the Elizabethan Religious Settlement against the arguments of Calvinists who wished to overthrow said Settlement and introduce something more radical and less Catholic appeared in print.   The way in which this treatise was subsequently embraced by Anglicans of every party demonstrates that Queen Elizabeth and King James knew what they were doing in not allowing a narrower, much more rigid, interpretation of the difficult doctrine of predestination than that which appears in Article XVII to be imposed on the English Church.

The wisdom of the royal judgement in not allowing the Lambeth Articles to become the official doctrine of the Church will become all the more apparent as we look at the history of how this would-be addendum to the Articles of Religion came to be.  

The Lambeth Articles indirectly testify to the fact that Article XVII of the Thirty-Nine Articles does not require those who affirm or subscribe to it to accept the interpretation of predestination that is taught in the Lambeth Articles.   If it did, there would have been no need for strict Calvinists to draw up the Lambeth Articles and try to make them enforceable upon the clergy.  

The Most Reverend Matthew Parker had been chosen to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury upon the accession of Elizabeth I in 1559 and he was consecrated and installed in that office in December of that year.   Contrary to lies spread by the Jesuits, this was done properly by four bishops at Lambeth Palace, preserving the Apostolic succession, not in some untoward way in the Nag’s Head Tavern.   Nor are the arguments against the legitimacy of his Apostolic succession raised by Roman Patriarch Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae (1896) valid but that is a subject for another time. One of his first accomplishments was the revision of the Forty-Two Articles, written by his predecessor Thomas Cranmer and briefly made the official doctrine of the Church of England in 1552 at the very end of the reign of Edward VI.   These were revised into Thirty-Nine Articles in the Convocation of 1563, with much of the work of revision being done by Parker himself.   While a couple of changes had to be made before the Articles received royal assent in 1571 for the most part the Thirty-Nine Articles were what they would ultimately be in 1563.   The following year John Calvin died.

John Calvin’s death removed what had up to then been the chief restraint preventing the Genevan school from running to seed on the doctrine of predestination.   It seems strange to think of it that way today, when Calvin’s name is virtually synonymous with predestination, but compared to those who came after him he was quite moderate on the topic.   Like Dr. Luther, he was strongly influenced by St. Augustine of Hippo, who in the early fifth century led the orthodox Church in condemning the heresy of Pelagianism (the denial of Original Sin and assertion that the human will unassisted by God’s grace can move towards God).   In defending Augustinian orthodoxy, at least as he understood it, in On the Bondage of the Will (1525) his answer to Erasmus, Dr. Luther had taken a strong view of predestination that was very similar to that of Calvin’s.   It did not have as important a place in his theology as it did in Calvin’s, however, just as in Calvin’s theology predestination was not near as important is it would become among Calvin’s followers.   While later in his life Dr. Luther continued to regard On the Bondage of the Will as his favourite of his own writings, he clearly saw the danger of fixating on the doctrine, especially if it is considered apart from Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and warned against this danger, reminding people of the difference between what God has revealed to us and what He has kept hidden, and that it is inadvisable to focus on and speculate about the hidden things (he argued this at length and in several places in his Lectures on Genesis).   In the larger Lutheran tradition predestination and election are affirmed only of those who will ultimately be saved, there is no teaching of reprobation to damnation.  Jesus is proclaimed as having died for all, with the Grace He obtained for all on the Cross brought to man in the two forms of the Gospel, Word and Sacrament.  Faith, the sole means of receiving the Grace so brought to man, is itself formed in the human heart by the Grace contained in the Gospel, again Word and Sacrament, without any contribution from our own will.  The Grace in the Gospel is sufficient to produce saving faith in all, but resistible, so that salvation is entirely of God, damnation entirely of man.   Dr. Luther and his tradition took care that the doctrine of predestination not be taught in such a way as to either undermine the assurance of the Gospel or encourage licentious behaviour.  

In John Calvin’s writings, while predestination has a larger role than in Dr. Luther’s, it is by no means the doctrine to which all other truths must be subordinated that it often seems to be in the teachings of many of his followers.   In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he devotes four chapters to it, towards the end of the third (out of four) volume. The third volume is about salvation, following after the first, which is about God the Creator, and the second, which is about God the Redeemer.    He turns to election in this volume, only after extensively covering Grace, Faith, Regeneration, Justification, Assurance, the Christian Life, and Christian Liberty.   It is very much a subordinate doctrine, that he derives from the sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience of God, but without the puerile manner in which some who bear his name today taunt those who do not believe exactly the way they do with the accusation that they preach too small a God, then wonder why nobody else is impressed with their “my God is bigger than your God” type arguments that sound like nothing so much as a boy in the schoolyard telling his playmates “my dad can beat up your dad”.   He expresses the same concerns about the abuse of the doctrine as Luther and from his Institutes it appears that his pastoral counsel to someone troubled by an undue fixation on predestination was almost identical to Luther’s, that is, look to Christ as revealed in the Gospel, not to the hidden councils of God.   Later Calvinists had trouble doing this because of their doctrine that Jesus died only for the elect.   The closest Calvin came to teaching this doctrine was in his remarks on 1 John 2.2 in his Commentary on the Catholic Epistles.  That was published in 1531.   In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, published two years later, his remarks on the most beloved and comforting words in all of Scripture, the familiar sixteenth verse of the third chapter, exclude all possibility of a Limited Atonement interpretation: “And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers.   Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favour of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life”.

Article XVII, both as Cranmer had originally written it in the Forty-Two Articles, and in the slightly edited form in which it stands in the Thirty-Nine Articles, speaks of predestination only in reference to the saved not the lost.   In this, it affirms what the larger Lutheran tradition affirms, without affirming what appeared to have been Dr. Luther’s position in 1525 but what the Lutheran tradition and possibly Dr. Luther himself in his later years moved away from, and what the Lutheran tradition would explicitly reject in the Formula of Concord six years after the Thirty-Nine Articles were adopted by the Church of England, that is double predestination.   Double predestination is rejected in paragraphs three and four of Article XI of the Formula of Concord, the only Article in all of the Lutheran Confessions on the subject of Election.   There is no Article on election or predestination in the Geneva Confession of 1536, or the Gallican (French) Confession of 1559, the only Confessions written in whole or in part by John Calvin himself.    It appears in the Second Helvetic Confession, however which was written by Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, shortly before Calvin’s death, and published shortly after.   In the Three Forms of Unity of the Reformed Church, the Heidelberg Catechism written by Ursinus in the same year that Parker was revising the Articles of Religion makes no mention of predestination, unsurprisingly perhaps in that it is a Catechism, that is to say, intended to be introductory and basic.  In the other two, however, Article XVI of the Belgic Confession (1561) is on Election, with the weak form of the doctrine of reprobation affirmed and the Canons of Dort (1619) are entirely in defense of the doctrine of Double Predestination.   This shows how the doctrine became much more important in the Calvinist tradition as it developed.

The Anglican Article XVII neither affirms reprobation like the Calvinist tradition, nor positively rejects it like the Lutheran tradition in the Formula of Concord.  What it does affirm about predestination is much more Lutheran than Calvinist though.   The second paragraph begins by saying that it is a comfort for the godly.   This, however, is only true if we heed the advice of the final paragraph.   Here, Parker’s revision of Cranmer’s original, was perhaps unfortunate.   Cranmer wrote “Furthermore, although the Decrees of predestination are unknown unto us, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they are generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture, and in our doings, that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.”   The italicized portion was removed in the Thirty-Nine Articles.   It is stronger in the original wording, but the meaning still stands in the revised version, and it is identical to the advice given by Dr. Luther in his Lectures on Genesis, that we should not concern ourselves with what God has not revealed to us, His secret counsels from all eternity, but with what God has revealed to us in the Gospel.

Cranmer in 1553 and Parker ten years later could not have known the direction that the Reformed tradition would take after Calvin’s death, but they seem, like Dr. Luther, to have recognized that predestination is a doctrine that can easily take someone who runs with it into any number of ditches, and to have written Article XVII to guard against this possibility.   The Most Reverend and Right Honourable John Whitgift would have been well-advised to follow the lead of these his predecessors.   He seems to have attempted to do so at first but in 1595 committed the blunder of signing off on a document that, had it received final approval, would have imposed an interpretation of predestination on Article XVII that was more extreme than could be found in any then-extent Calvinist Confession.   Ironically, his intent in so doing was to restore peace to the campus of Cambridge University, where he himself had been a professor earlier in his career at the beginning of the Elizabethan Age.

The man who had upset the peace at Cambridge was William Barrett, who was the chaplain of Caius College at Cambridge University.   On 29 April, 1595, Barrett gave a sermon from the pulpit of St. Mary’s Church, in the course of which he blasted the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and asserted that predestination and reprobation were based on human holiness and sin respectively.   The main target of his attack, however, was the more basic doctrine of assurance of salvation.   He denounced as arrogance, the confident assurance of one’s salvation.   This raised a ruckus and he was immediately brought before the Vice-Chancellor of the University, who chewed him out.   Unrepentant, the heads of the various colleges were brought in, and they joined in denouncing him, so he was forced to make a retraction on 10 May.   He came across as somewhat less than sincere in his retraction which did not satisfy the academic authorities.  As a matter of fact the heads of the colleges went to the Vice-Chancellor demanding his expulsion.  At this point the affair was brought by both sides to the attention of Archbishop Whitgift who asked Hadrian Saravia, a prebendary at Gloucester Cathedral and a member of Cambridge’s rival Oxford University, and Lancelot Andrewes who was his personal chaplain at the time, for their opinions on the matter.  Their opinion was that while Barrett wasn’t entirely in the right, the Cambridge authorities had gone too far in forcing that retraction on him.   The Archbishop, satisfied with this opinion, sent a message to the Cambridge authorities dressing them down and reminding them that they could discipline a chaplain for speaking against the Articles of Religion but not for speaking against whatever was currently in vogue in Geneva.   He then made the grave mistake of assigning further investigation to William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

This was a mistake because Whitaker was the man against whom Barrett’s sermon had been directed in the first place.   Whitaker had himself given a sermon on 27 February against “those who assert universal grace” by which he meant Peter Baro, who was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity.   Baro was originally from France, like Calvin he had studied law and then he went to Geneva to study theology under Calvin.  He was ordained into the ministry by the Reformer himself.   When the Huguenots (French Calvinists) faced persecution in France in the 1570s, he fled to England where he was appointed to one of what were then the only two endowed professorships of divinity at Cambridge, which he had held for twenty one years at the time this controversy broke out.   In the meantime, like Beza’s student Arminius, he had moved away from the strict view of predestination that Beza had been working to make stricter.   Whitaker had held the other endowed professorship in divinity for almost as long, having been appointed to the post in 1580.   He had also been appointed Master of St. John’s College in 1586, and about the time Archbishop Whitgift asked him to look into the Barrett case, was made a canon of Canterbury.   He very much seemed to be a man on the rise at the time of this controversy.   In part this was due to his scholarly achievements.    His scholarship was acknowledged, even by Cardinal Bellarmine against whom his magnus opus, Disputations on Holy Scripture, was written, to be second to none.  The other part was due to his being protégé of both Whitgift and Lord Burghley (William Cecil – Elizabeth I’s Lord High Treasurer, spymaster, most trusted adviser, and basically, although the office was not yet created, Prime Minister).   He was also, however, the most extreme Calvinist among the Church of England’s clergy at the time, outside of the Puritan faction.   Needless to say, the theological differences between the Regius and the Lady Margaret Professors of Divinity, had led to the formation of bitterly rival factions in the school of divinity.   Whitaker accepted the task of investigating Barrett from Whitgift but, although he himself had been the target of Barrett’s sermon, it was not Barrett he was interested in so much as Baro.

Whitaker gave Barrett a questionnaire full of questions designed to elicit answers from the man which would enable Whitaker to accuse him to Whitgift, not just of Arminianism, a word that had barely made it to the English shore at this point in time, but of the far more serious charge of popery.  Usually Calvinist accusations of popery against those who did not agree with their view of predestination were nonsensical slurs but in this case it seems to have been justified.  After these events he left England and joined the Roman Church.  Whitaker sent Barrett’s answers, with his own commentary, to the Archbishop and then, in September, the Vice-Chancellor and college heads wrote to Whitgift asking for a final ruling, and permission to discipline Barrett.   Whitgift, wanting neither to let Barrett off on the points where he seemed to be supporting Romanism nor to force him to agree with the entire recantation that the Cambridge authorities had drawn up, asked Barrett to give an account before him at Lambeth Palace in November.    The other members of the tribunal were Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London, and Richard Vaughan, who had been chosen as the next Bishop of Bangor but would not be consecrated and installed until the following year.  Whitaker and Humphrey Tyndall, the President of Queen’s College and Dean of Ely, were sent along as the representatives of the Cambridge authorities.   The matter of Barrett was fairly easily disposed of – he agreed to another recantation.  Then Whitaker handed the Archbishop a set of nine Articles, clarifying in the sense of significantly narrowing, the Church’s position on predestination, and asked him to make it binding on the clergy.   This would have opened the door to his having Baro ejected from his seat at Cambridge.

Whitgift, after consulting with the Archbishop of York, made with the other bishops on the tribunal a few revisions to the Articles and then signed them on 20 November.   One consequence of this has been that Archbishop Whitgift, the staunch anti-Puritan, has ever since had a reputation for being a far stricter Calvinist than he actually was.   Here are the Articles in the form in which they were signed:

  1. God from eternity hath predestinated certain men unto life; certain men he hath reprobated.
  2. The moving or efficient cause of predestination unto life is not the foresight of faith, or of perseverance, or of good works, or of any thing that is in the person predestinated, but only the good will and pleasure of God.
  3. There is predetermined a certain number of the predestinate, which can neither be augmented nor diminished.
  4. Those who are not predestinated to salvation shall be necessarily damned for their sins.
  5. A true, living, and justifying faith, and the Spirit of God justifying [sanctifying], is not extinguished, falleth not away; it vanisheth not away in the elect, either finally or totally.
  6. A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.
  7. Saving grace is not given, is not granted, is not communicated to all men, by which they may be saved if they will.
  8. No man can come unto Christ unless it shall be given unto him, and unless the Father shall draw him; and all men are not drawn by the Father, that they may come to the Son.
  9. It is not in the will or power of every one to be saved.

Whitaker returned to Cambridge to prepare for the prosecution of Baro.   He caught a cold on the way home, however, which developed into a fever, and two weeks after the publication of he Lambeth Articles he died.   Before he died he met with his other patron, Lord Burghley, who among his many other duties was Chancellor of the University, and discussed the matter, most likely expecting Cecil’s support.   The Lord High Treasurer, however, recognized immediately the threat to the peace of realm and Church that the “Lambeth Articles” posed and went directly to Queen Elizabeth with the news that Whitgift had essentially held an unofficial Convocation behind her back in which he had added to the Articles of Religion in such a way as to force a narrow interpretation of a contentious point on them.   Queen Elizabeth summoned Whitgift to appear before her and her Privy Council to answer for this illegal behaviour, for which he could do nothing but apologize and beg her pardon.   Whitgift received her pardon – but the Lambeth Articles were vetoed.   Baro was allowed to finish his term and retire peacefully, and the queen appointed John Overall to the Regius Professorship vacated by the death of Whitaker.   Overall was a young clergyman, born the year of the queen’s accession, and ordained only four years prior to his appointment to Cambridge.   Later he would work with Lancelot Andrewes on the translation of the Authorized Bible, a few years after which he was consecrated Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield before being translated the very end of his career and life to the See of Norwich.   He was already known to be a moderate on the matter of predestination in 1595, however, and it was for this that he was chosen as the replacement of Whitaker. 

The Lambeth Articles, although originally drafted to narrow Anglican orthodoxy to a strictly Calvinist position on predestination, in the modified form in which Whitgift signed them, still left room for non-Calvinist interpretations.   The second Article, while affirming “the good will and pleasure of God” as the sole cause of predestination to life, makes no such statement about reprobation and, indeed, the fourth Article by asserting that those not predestinated to life will be damned “for their sins” places the cause of their damnation, and hence their “reprobation”, in themselves rather than God.   The ninth Article, of course, can be affirmed by any Augustinian, for not only is it true that “it is not in the will or power of every one to be saved” it is actually “not in the will or power of any one to be saved” because salvation does not come from the will or power of the one saved but from God Who does the saving.   “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God” as our Lord put it.   None of the Lambeth Articles asserts the most problematic of the doctrines that would be adopted by the Synod of Dort in response to the Arminian Articles of Remonstrance in 1619, the anti-Scriptural and blasphemous doctrine of Limited Atonement, that Jesus died only for the elect.   This is why the fifth Article can assert “A man truly faithful, that is, such a one who is endued with a justifying faith, is certain, with the full assurance of faith, of the remission of his sins and of his everlasting salvation by Christ.”   This assertion is inconsistent with the idea that Jesus died only for he elect.   Justifying faith is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a revelation of what God has done in secret, into which category fall election and predestination.   It is a revelation of what God has done for mankind out in the open for everyone to see, by the giving of His Son Jesus Christ, Who made Atonement for dying for the sins of the world, then rose again from the dead.  The difference between “historical faith”, which does not justify or save and “saving faith” or “justifying faith” is that the person with “historical faith” sees in the Gospel only events that are some place, some time, distant and unconnected to himself, while the person with justifying faith sees in the Gospel the message that “Jesus died for me” which information is absent from the Gospel if Jesus died only for the elect, and indeed, if Jesus dies only for the elect, the information about whether Jesus died for any particular individual will not be available this side of the Last Judgement, so what is asserted in the fifth Lambeth Article is utterly impossible if Jesus died only for the elect.   Indeed, assurance is difficult to square with the concept of double predestination.   The early Dr. Luther managed to do so, as did John Calvin, but this was because both men recognized that it was unwise to dwell on what God has not revealed, His secret counsels, but must direct our faith towards what God has revealed in Jesus Christ.

One who did not follow them in this was William Perkins.  Perkins was born in the last year of the reign of Mary, studied at Cambridge University, and remained a fellow of Christ’s College at Cambridge until the year before the controversy that produced the Lambeth Articles.  He was a Puritan, considered a moderate in that he was neither a separatist nor a rebel, but was very severe in his Calvinism.   He died almost twenty years before Limited Atonement was formulated but he accepted Theodore Beza’s supralapsarianism, the form of extreme Calvinism that started the chain of events that led to Dort.   He developed the doctrine of “experimental predestination” for when his obsessive preaching on predestination caused people to ask the question “am I one of the elect”.  In this he advised people to make use of a practical syllogism – everyone who believes is a child of God, I believe, therefore I am a child of God – that separated assurance from the direct look of faith.  Worse, he told them to look for evidence for the second premise, if they doubted their faith was the saving kind, by looking inward for the fruit of sanctification.   This didn’t work out too well in his case.   His biographer Thomas Fuller records that he died “in the conflict of a troubled conscience”.   Perkins’ writings were more influential than any other Puritan of the Elizabethan Age on subsequent generations of Puritans and this problem of dying in the conflict of a troubled conscience recurred over and over again.   There were also cases of people living in the conflict of a troubled conscience because of this doctrine and being driven mad by it.   William Cowper, the Olney poet and hymn writer, is a classic example of this, although to be fair, the evidence suggests that given his extremely melancholic temperament he might have ended up the same way no matter what doctrine he had been taught.   

The example of Perkins, and the subsequent generations of Puritans who followed him in this, if not in his moderation with regards to making further reforms to the Church, demonstrates how an overemphasis on predestination undermines in practice the assurance of salvation that it is supposed to bolster.   For a good example of how the doctrine can be taught without having this negative effect see the second to last chapter in Getting Into The Theology of Concord  (1977) by Robert D. Preus.   The book is a commentary on the Lutheran Confessions and under the heading “Predestination and the Election of Grace” Preus, who was president of Concordia Theological Seminary at the time, explained that it was a doctrine that was only to be introduced after one had already been assured of salvation through faith in the revealed Gospel, in order “to give him even greater certainty and assurance of God’s grace”.   Preus recounted his own professor’s explanation of predestination as meaning merely “everything God has done in time to save us and make us His children and preserve us in the faith, He determined in Christ to do for us in eternity.”   Understood this way, the doctrine is not the threatening source of uncertainty that it has been when overemphasized as it has been in much of the Calvinist tradition.   In the Canons of Dort (1619) Perkins’ view of assurance replaced that of Calvin (found in Article XI of the Geneva Confession of 1536, Articles XVIII, XIX, XX and XXII of the Gallican Confession of 1559, and the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, chapter xxiv, paragraph 5) as the official Calvinist doctrine in the twelfth article under the first head (Divine Election and Reprobation – in Dort, the points are ordered ULTIP rather than TULIP):

Assurance of their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word—such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

The Lambeth Articles were brought to the Synod of Dort and read out in the deliberation there.   Although they affirm a strong view of assurance of salvation, and the occasion of their drafting was Barrett’s sermon attacking assurance – Saravia and Andrewes advised Whitgift that Barrett had only denied the impossibility of those justified by faith falling from grace, asserted by Calvinism but not in the Articles of Religion, rather than their present assurance of forgiveness and justification, while his accusers maintained he had denied both –  they can therefore be regarded as a step in the direction in which Calvinism was moving, away from the solely outward look to the objective truth of the Gospel of Lutheranism and early Calvinism to the inward look of Puritanism/Dort.   It is therefore, most merciful indeed, that by the grace of God, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I prevented them from becoming an official addendum to the Articles of Religion.

Those who wish it were otherwise often claim that the Lambeth Articles represented a consensus of the leading clergy of the Church of England at the time.  This is hardly the case.   Archbishop Whitgift was by no means as harsh a predestinarian as his signature on these Articles might suggest to some.   It is now time to consider another protégé of Whitgift’s who the year before this controversy had published the first four volumes in a defense of the Elizabethan Settlement against those who wished to reshape the Church entirely in the image of Geneva, a defense that gained such wide acceptance that Anglicans of all parties would in the future claim its author as one of their own.

Richard Hooker was born five years before the accession of Elizabeth I and through the patronage of John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury and author of an Apology which defended the reformed Church of England against Romanist attacks on the grounds of arguments drawn from the Church Fathers, studied at Corpus Christi College in Oxford.   He became a fellow of the College in 1577 and was ordained a priest two years later.   In 1585, Elizabeth I, on the advice of Archbishop Whitgift appointed him Master of the Temple, an unusual title for the senior priest of an unusual Church, the Temple Church, which ministers to the Inner and Middle Temple Inns of Court, in what was originally the headquarters of the Knights Templar.   The Reader of the Temple, that is to say, the assistant clergy, was at the time, Walter Travers.   Hooker and Travers were kin by marriage – Travers’ brother was married to Hooker’s sister, the relationship between the two clergy is usually, if not entirely accurately, described as that of cousins-in-law – but in very different places theologically.   Travers was a Calvinist of the type who thought that every Church everywhere needed to resemble in theology, practice, and order the Church in Geneva, in other words, a Puritan.   He had been ordained in Antwerp by Thomas Cartwright, who unlike his contemporary William Perkins was not a moderate, as evidenced by a) his ordaining someone without the episcopal authority to do so, and b) his doing so abroad where he was living in semi-exile (he returned the same year Hooker was appointed Master).   Indeed, his Puritanism was so extreme that even Edmund Grindal, the most Puritan-friendly of the Elizabethan Archbishops of Canterbury, denounced him as a nut.   Archbishop Whitgift, correctly insisted that Travers needed to be re-ordained, but Travers refused.   He then wondered why the queen passed him over for the senior position at the Church and gave it instead to his in-law who already had something of a reputation as an opponent of Puritanism.  Why, indeed.

The arrangement at the Temple was that the Master, Hooker, would preach in the morning, and the Reader, Travers would preach in the afternoon.   Travers’ sermon would take the form of a rebuttal of the sermon given in the morning.   While this would have been inappropriate anywhere else, it does seem sort of fitting in a parish where the congregation was made up mostly of lawyers.   Indeed, they managed to carry on in this way without it disturbing their personal friendship.   Then, a year later, Archbishop Whitgift finally had enough and ordered Travers to cease and desist.  Travers appealed this decision to the Privy Council and as part of his appeal accused Whitgift’s protégé, his own cousin, Hooker of heresy.

The basis of the accusation was a series of three sermons on the book of Habakkuk that Hooker had delivered in March of either 1585 or 1586 – there is conflicting evidence as to which year – that he later published as a pamphlet under the title “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and How the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown”.   In these sermons, Hooker articulated the doctrine of justification by faith on the basis of Christ’s merits alone and identified several errors of the Church of Rome in relation to this subject.   He distinguished between justification and sanctification, and defended the Protestant position that the former, the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, is not based upon the latter, the righteousness that manifests itself in the believer as faith works through love.  The faith that justifies, however, is faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in the doctrine of sola fide, and since the Roman Church confesses faith in Jesus Christ as expressed in the orthodox Creed, neither that faith nor the justification that comes through it is necessarily overthrown by the errors of Rome.   It was this last point that twisted Travers’ knickers in a knot.   It translates into the idea that somebody is not necessarily going to Hell just because they are a member of the Roman Church.   To the twisted and paranoid mind of the Puritan that was tantamount to saying the Reformation was a mistake and we should all bow before the Roman Patriarch.

Archbishop Whitgift, although unwilling to openly endorse the idea that not everyone in the Roman Church is lost, tacitly did so by sticking to his guns on Travers, and not disciplining Hooker.   In this he was supported by the Privy Council which removed Travers from the position of Reader altogether.   Hooker continued as Master of Temple until 1591 when, seeking a less public position so as devote time to writing his treatise, he became rector of the small country parish of St. Andrew’s in the village of Boscombe, again through the patronage of the Archbishop.   The first four volumes of his Of The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie were published about a year before the controversy in Cambridge.   Eventually the work would include four other volumes, bringing the total to eight.

Hooker’s Lawes are best thought of as being to Puritanism, what his first patron, Jewel’s Apology was to the Church of Rome, that is to say, an answer to their attacks on the Church of England and the status quo of the same that had been established in the Elizabethan Settlement that employed the language of the attackers.   Jewel had defended the orthodoxy and Catholicity of the Church of England, including her Protestant positions, with citations from the Church Fathers.   Hooker defended the Anglican Church from the very Scriptures the Puritans claimed as their sole authority.   While Hooker also appeals to tradition and reason, these are very much subordinate lower rungs on his hierarchy of authority with Scripture clearly at the top.   Hooker uses tradition and reason very effectively in support of his main argument which over and over again is that the Scriptures do not support the radical changes the Puritans were demanding because the Scriptures do not say what the Puritans think and claim they say.

The Lawes are not an eight volume takedown of the doctrine of predestination.   It is not the Puritans’ soteriology that is Hooker’s focus but their ideas concerning Church Government.   This ought to be evident from the title of the work.  Ecclesiastical Politie (Polity) means Church Government.   It is not William Perkins whom Hooker is concerned with so much as Thomas Cartwright, the arch-presbyterian mentor of his relative Travers.   Specifically, it is the Puritan claim that the Scriptures contain not merely everything necessary for salvation, as Article VI declares, everything necessary to answer any question that might arise, including the one true model of Church government and organization (the Genevan, even though this could be found nowhere on earth before the sixteenth century) and a complete set of instructions as to what can be done in Christian worship to which nothing can be added that is not sinful, idolatrous, and blasphemous, that he systematically dismantles.   He patiently makes his case, first laying the foundation with a discussion of the nature of laws in general in the first volume, which leads into a refutation of specific Puritan claims that occupies the rest of the first four books, the ones published before 1595.   In the fifth book, published in 1597, which is as long as the first four combined, as he examines Scripture readings, sermons, music, Sacraments, liturgy and basically everything that is today summed up in the word “worship” and demonstrates through an extended defence of the normative principle that the established Anglican way of doing these things is not contrary to Scripture, he begins to segue from answering the claims of the Puritans into setting forth the positive case for the status quo of the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion that will occupy the remainder of the work.   In making that case, while he rests ultimately upon the authority of Scripture, he does not do so in the same manner as his opponents, he does not mirror their attitude of thinking there is only one way of doing everything.   Instead, having shown that episcopal polity, liturgical worship, royal patronage, etc., not to be in violation of Scripture but to be positively beneficial, he argues that all these should be retained unless their opponents can meet the burden of proof in arguing for their elimination, which they have failed to do. 

Although it was the Puritans’ demand for changes in the structure, organization, and practices of the Church that Hooker answered in his Lawes rather than their narrow doctrine of predestination, the basic conservatism of his arguments provided the Church with an alternative path to that which Whitaker wished her to take with the Lambeth Articles.   Just as the Puritans insisted that there was only acceptable form of Christian worship, the Genevan, the stricter school of Calvinists, Puritan or not, insisted that there was only one way of understanding the doctrine of predestination, that which they attempted to impose on the Church in the Lambeth Articles, and which would eventually narrow further in the continental Reformed tradition into that espoused at Dort.   The Articles of Religion, to which clergy of the Church were required to subscribe, affirm predestination, but only in a more general way.   They do not exclude an Anglican clergyman from holding to the narrower view of Whitaker’s Articles, but neither do they require it.   There was no need to impose a narrower view.   Predestination is mentioned in the Scriptures, but only on a few occasions, and not in such a way as to justify the claim that only the strict Calvinist interpretation is acceptable.   In the book of Romans, for example, St. Paul brings it up in precisely the way Dr. Preus talked about.   First he shows that all people, Jew and Gentile alike, have sinned and therefore cannot be justified before God by their own works, then he talks about how God has justified by His Grace those who believe in Jesus on account of the redemption He accomplished by His propitiatory death.   Having established that believers have peace with God through their Saviour Jesus Christ, he urges them to live righteously because through their union with Christ in baptism, they died to sin with Him in His death, and now live to God and righteousness in the newness of His resurrection life.   This leads into an acknowledgement of the ongoing struggle with sin, which the Law is powerless to assist the believer in, which is followed immediately by the encouragement that the Holy Ghost provides what the Law cannot, and it is only then, in this context that predestination is raised to strengthen this assurance and encouragement, by telling the Roman believers that what God is doing in them He will see through to completion because He planned it from before the world and that no power exists that break our union with Jesus Christ.   The idea of predestination, in this context, should not give rise to speculation about God arbitrarily deciding so-and-so will be saved and so-and-so will be damned, and the language that some might take in this sense in the following chapters is clearly talking about the present state of nations, Jews and Gentiles, rather than the final destiny of individuals.   Indeed, as if to avoid dogmatic speculation about the nature of predestination, the Apostle places foreknowledge before predestination.   This does not have to be taken in the Arminian way – I do not understand it that way myself – but it is a good reason to be careful in flinging the word “heresy” around about views other than strict Calvinist double predestination.   Heresy is a departure from the basic truths of the faith, primarily those confessed in the ancient and universal Creed, and these are truths that are clear and open revelation in Scripture, central to the message of Scripture, and not things that get a mention in Scripture but with the details left to the unrevealed secret things of God, into which it is unwise to pry.   Therefore, from Hooker’s basic conservative principles, we can deduce that it was very wise indeed of Elizabeth I, to not allow a narrow formulation of the doctrine of predestination to become official doctrine in the Church.   In taking the path represented by Richard Hooker, rather than that represented by the Lambeth Articles, Anglicanism made the right choice at the crossroads of 1595. –Gerry T. Neal

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An English Rose not a Dutch TULIP

  Throne, Altar, Liberty

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Friday, August 18, 2023

An English Rose not a Dutch TULIP

The Church of England and the other national Churches descended from her is a Reformed Catholic Church.   From the English Reformation on Anglicans have disagreed among themselves as to which word should be stressed.   High Churchmen stress the Catholic, Low Churchmen stress the Reformed.  I am a High Churchman and stress the Catholicity of the Anglican Church.   By this I do not mean that I stress what the Anglican Church has in common with the Roman Church, but what the Anglican Church shares with all the Churches organically descended from the first Church in Jerusalem – the Catholic faith confessed in the ancient Creeds especially the Nicene-Constantinopolitan, the Apostolic government and priesthood, the Gospel Sacraments, liturgical worship, and the doctrines, practices, customs and traditions that are the heritage of all Christians in all Churches.    Now Anglican High Churchmanship underwent a change in the nineteenth century due to the Oxford or Tractarian Movement of the 1830s.   The pre-Tractarian High Churchmen generally called themselves “Orthodox”, did not regard the English Reformation as a regrettable mistake, had no problem identifying as Protestant as well as Catholic, and had little to no interest in reintroducing practices jettisoned in the English Reformation, let alone new ones that Rome had introduced in the Council of Trent.   After the Oxford Movement many High Churchmen preferred the term “Anglo-Catholic”, saw the English Reformation as something to be regretted, avoided the term Protestant, and introduced liturgical reforms based on Rome’s Tridentine model.   Although my own High Churchmanship is far closer to that of the older pre-Tractarian model, I don’t agree with the judgement that a certain school of Low Churchmen have been making as of late that the Oxford Movement was a disastrous betrayal of Anglicanism.   I think that despite a tendency among some of the Tractarians to embrace as Catholic what was merely Roman, the reverse error of the Hyper-Protestants who reject as Roman what is truly Catholic, the Oxford Movement was overall more for the good than otherwise.

In saying that the Anglican Church is Reformed Catholic I do not mean that it is a compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism, a middle ground that is neither the one nor the other, which is the image that the familiar expression via media unfortunately tends to conjure up.   The Anglican tradition is both fully Protestant and fully Catholic.   It is however a via media within both Protestantism and Catholicism.   The Anglican expression of Catholicism is not entirely that of the Roman Church nor that of the Eastern Orthodox but is somewhere between the two.   Our Episcopal hierarchical structure is closer to that of the Eastern Orthodox, for example, but we confess the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed with the filioque clause.   As a via media within Protestantism, it is often said that Anglicanism is a via media between Wittenberg and Geneva, meaning between the Lutheran and Calvinist expressions of Protestantism.   I don’t think anybody would be foolish enough to think us closer to Zurich.  

That brings me to the topic of this essay, which is another claim made by the same school of Low Churchmen referred to in the first paragraph.   In my last essay which was on the topic of Hyper-Protestantism I addressed certain similarities between this school and the Hyper-Protestants.   Here I wish to address their claim that true Anglicanism is not just Protestant generally, but Reformed in the sense of the specific form of Protestant theology that the word Reformed denotes in denominational titles such as Dutch Reformed or Reformed Baptist.   That type of theology is often called Calvinist, although this is misleading, and it is usually contrasted with Arminianism, which is even more misleading, and most misleading of all it is claimed that Arminianism is a close relative of Romanism.   Why these things are misleading will become clear when I give some background history to Reformed theology.   First, however, I clarify that what I will be arguing against is the claim that the Articles of Religion, which in their final form were adopted by the Church of England in 1571 as part of the Elizabethan Settlement, are distinctly Calvinist, not as opposed to Arminianism which did not exist in 1571, but as opposed to Lutheranism.    While this claim has some validity when it comes to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is completely false when it comes to soteriology which is where our focus will be, and is utterly laughable when it comes to any other topic.

Thomas Cranmer, who was consecrated and installed as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 during the reign of Henry VIII was the principal leader of the English Reformation until the reign of Mary in which he was removed from office and executed.   An even more conservative Reformer than Dr. Luther, at the beginning of the English Reformation he was a Christian humanist of the same type as Erasmus and his reforms took the Patristic period rather than what was going on in continental Protestantism as their model.   Over the course of his career he became more influenced by the continental Protestants, at first the German Lutherans, then towards the end of his life, the Calvinists.   When, after the brief interruption of the English Reformation during the reign of Mary, Elizabeth I acceded the throne, the English Reformation took an even more conservative turn.   In 1559 she ordered the Black Rubric excised from the Book of Common Prayer.   This had been inserted into the Order for Holy Communion in the second Edwardian Prayer Book (1552) as an attempt at compromise between Scottish Calvinist Reformer John Knox’s argument that Communion should be received sitting and Cranmer’s conservative defence of kneeling, but it ended up more radical than either Cranmer or Knox, by asserting the Zwinglian view of the Sacrament (mere memorialism).   When it was eventually re-inserted into the Prayer Book it was in the Restoration edition (1662) and with the Zwinglian language excised.   In 1563, Archbishop Matthew Parker led Convocation in revising the Forty-Two Articles of Religion that Cranmer had drafted towards the end of Edward’s reign.   After a few more tweaks they become the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571.   The Article on the Lord’s Supper excludes both the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation and Zwinglian memorialism.   While what it affirms sounds closer to Calvin’s view than any other continental Reformer, it needs to be compared with how the same Article read in the Forty-Two Articles.   Language that specifically excluded the Lutheran view was omitted from the final version.   That language reads:

Forasmuch as the truth of man’s nature requires that the body of one and the self-same man cannot be at one time in diverse places, but must needs be in some one certain place, the body of Christ cannot be present at one time in many and diverse places. Because (as Holy Scripture does teach) Christ was taken up into heaven, and there shall continue unto the end of the world, a faithful man ought not, either to believe or openly to confess the real and bodily presence (as they term it) of Christ’s flesh and blood in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

These words explicitly state the Calvinist position and include the reasoning that is the basis of the Lutheran accusation that Calvinists are crypto-Nestorians.   They were excised from the final version that became cemented as the official Anglican doctrine in the Elizabethan Settlement.   In their place was put the following:

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The result was that in the Thirty-Nine Articles, Article XXVIII  (it was Article XXIX in the Forty-Two Articles) either a) affirmed a milder, more watered down, version of the Calvinist doctrine or b) was deliberately made ambiguous enough to allow for both Lutheran and Calvinist interpretations and exclude only the Roman and Zwinglian.   The overall tenour of the Elizabethan Settlement, which was to minimize divisive stances so as to maintain peace in the realm and Church, and the fact that if Parker et al. wished the Article to endorse the Calvinist position over the Lutheran they could have left it unedited, suggests that b) is the correct understanding here.

It was during the reign of Elizabeth that a decidedly Calvinist element arose in the English Church that called for reforms that greatly exceeded those of the Settlement.   These are historically remembered as the Puritans and towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign Richard Hooker provided an Anglican answer to their arguments, especially as expressed by Thomas Cartwright, in his Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie.   In the Jacobean and Carolinian reigns, the next generation of Puritans became more extreme both in their Calvinism and their demands.   They accused Orthodox Churchmen like Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, who oversaw the translation of the Authorized Bible in King James I’s reign, and Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, of Arminianism for opposing their excessive preaching of predestination although it is highly unlikely that either man, both of whom tended to ignore contemporary theologians of narrow schools in favour of the Church fathers, was influenced much or at all by Jacob Arminius and his followers.   They also accused the same of being closet papists.   Here we see the first instance of this Calvinist linking of Arminianism with Romanism that has resurfaced in the contemporary school that I am addressing.   The second accusation was also ludicrous.   Andrewes, in his responses to Cardinal Bellarmine, and Laud in his published Conversation with the Jesuit Fischer, were the closest thing the Church of England had to the scholastics who had arisen in the Lutheran and Reformed Churches (think Johann Gerhard and Martin Chemnitz for the Lutherans, Zacharias Ursinus and Francis Turretin for the Reformed) to answer the new arguments from a new generation of Roman apologists such as said Cardinal Bellarmine who were armed with the re-articulation of Roman doctrine that had come out of the Council of Trent.   At any rate, the Puritans became so extreme that they, having taken control of Parliament, fought a civil war against King Charles I, captured, illegally tried, and murdered him, then established an interregnum under the protectorate of the tyrannical Oliver Cromwell who in his quest to rob the English people of all joy cancelled Christmas and Easter, shut down the theatres, outlawed games, sports, and other amusements outside of religious services on Sundays (the only day of the week people weren’t working), stripped the Churches of artwork and organs, imposed a legalism that out-Phariseed the Pharisees, and basically did everything in his power to prove H. L. Mencken right when he defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”.   Their revolt against their king would become the inspiration towards the end of the next century of the French Revolution which in turn became the model for all subsequent Communist revolutions.   Since the Puritanical party in Parliament became the Whigs after the Restoration and Puritanism in North America developed into the Yankee culture of New England, Puritanism can be said to be the source of the major evils of the Modern Age – liberalism, Americanism, and Communism.   Whether consciously or not, the Puritan revolt against King Charles I was itself modelled after an earlier such revolt.   As Dr. Johnson put it “the first Whig was the devil”.

After the Restoration, which was when the British, sick to death of Puritanism, restored Charles II to his rightful throne, and restored the Church of England to the pre-Puritan status quo, the Puritan Calvinists divided among themselves into the Nonconformists, those unwilling to accept the restored Church of England who left and formed schismatic sects, and those for whom the restored Church of England was acceptable, who became the first Low Churchmen or as they were called at the time, Evangelicals (this was one of the first, if not the first, use of this term with a narrower sense than “Protestant”).   In the eighteenth century, Arminian Low Churchmen first began to appear due to the influence of John Wesley, and these introduced a new emphasis on experience into Evangelicalism.   The embrace of strict, academic, Reformed theology by many evangelicals in the Twentieth Century is, perhaps, a reaction to what became an over-emphasis on experience in the revivalist heritage of evangelicalism, and what we are seeing in this new school of Low Church Calvinism may be the Anglican expression of this phenomenon.

Their claim that Anglicanism in her Articles of Religion is specifically Reformed in the sense of Calvinist is not born out by an examination of the Articles.   It is also rather anachronistic because what they mean by Reformed theology or Calvinism had not yet been formulated in the way we know it today at the time the Articles received royal assent.   This may seem a strange thing to say, since John Calvin died in 1564, but what is called Calvinism today was formulated over sixty years after his death in response to a dissenting movement that had arisen within the Reformed tradition.   Theodore Beza, Calvin’s prize pupil and his successor in Geneva, had articulated a version of the doctrine of predestination that anyone with an ounce of humanity had to reject.   Impiously inquiring into the secret counsels of God, which is arrogant and forbidden to humanity, he had come up with the doctrine of supralapsarianism.   That is a big word that basically means that God first chose people to damn to hell, then decided to let them fall into sin so He would have grounds to damn them.  In 1582 – eleven years after the Articles of Religion – a Dutch Reformed student by the name of Jakob Hermanszoon, better known by the Latin version of his name Jacob Arminius, came to Geneva to study under Beza.   Later that decade he was ordained a pastor in Amsterdam and was asked by the Ecclesiastical Council there to defend Beza’s doctrine of supralapsarianism against Dirck Coornhert who had rejected it.   Arminius attempted to do this but found that he could not honestly do so and began to develop a modified form of Reformed theology that emphasized free will rather than predestination.   He died in 1609 and the following year, the year before the Authorized Bible was published in England, his followers published The Five Articles of Remonstrance, stating their views on election, predestination, and free will.   In 1618, the Dutch Reformed Church convened the Synod of Dort to answer this document and the following year published its Canons, of which there were five, one for each Article of Remonstrance.   These have ever since been called the Five Points of Calvinism and are usually placed in a slightly different order than they appear in the Canons of Dort so as to make the acronym TULIP – Total Depravity (or Inability), Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.

Just in case you failed to pick up on that, the five points regarded as definitive of Calvinism today, were formulated in 1618-1619 in response to Arminianism, itself a response to supralapsarianism, a doctrine first taught by Calvin’s successor rather than Calvin himself.   Arminianism, therefore, rather than being a “sister of Romanism”, is most closely related within the various schools of Christian theology, to Calvinism itself.   Calvinism versus Arminianism, is an in-the-family dispute within the Reformed branch of Protestantism.   Calvinism and Arminianism disagree on all five points – that is kind of the point – although in other areas, they are closer to each other, than to any other form of Christianity, including the other Protestant traditions.   The five points also separate Calvinism from the other Protestant traditions.

Before looking at our Anglican Articles note how Lutheranism and Calvinism, agree and disagree on these matters.   Lutheranism and Calvinism are both monergistic (salvation is entirely the work of God not a cooperative effort between God and the one being saved) and Augustinian, and so both can affirm the first point of Calvinism at least if it is understood as the Augustinian concept of Original Sin, that the Fall so affected human nature as to make man utterly helpless in the matter of his own salvation and dependent utterly on the Grace of God.   Calvinists sometimes elaborate this in ways other Christians cannot affirm, such as claiming that the Image of God was wiped out by Original Sin.  Lutherans can also affirm unconditional election, but they reject double predestination which includes the concept of reprobation (predestination to hell) which Calvinism affirms.   So there is agreement between Lutheranism and Calvinism on one and a half points of Calvinism.   On the other points there is disagreement.   Lutherans most definitely do not believe in Limited Atonement – it conflicts with their understanding of the Gospel as a proclamation of Objective Justification accomplished for all human beings in Christ, that each human being must receive by faith for it to be validated as his own Subjective Justification.   Nor do they believe in Irresistible Grace.   God’s will, when worked through His Own power directly, is irresistible, but when God works through intermediate means, other wills can resist His own.   In the case of salvation, the salvation God accomplished for the world in Jesus Christ is brought to individuals through the intermediate means of the Gospel, which in both forms, Word and Sacrament, has in itself sufficient Grace to produce faith in the human heart, but because that Grace is conveyed through intermediate means, it is resistible rather than irresistible.   If someone believes it is entirely due to the Grace in the Gospel, he adds nothing of his own to it, if someone remains in unbelief, this is entirely due to his own resistance, and there is no answer, no simple one at any rate, to the question of cur alii, alii non (why some, not others).   On Perseverance both Lutherans and Calvinists affirm that the elect will persevere to the end and receive final salvation, but Calvinists combine this with the concept of perpetual justification – that after one is initially justified, this justification persists and is not lost through subsequent sin, a doctrine that among Baptists and Plymouth Brethren is often affirmed without Perseverance – and Lutherans do not, teaching that someone who commits Mortal Sin after initial justification loses it until he repents and is forgiven.

So where do our Articles stand on all of this?

Well, unsurprisingly the only points directly addressed are the first two, on which Lutherans and Calvinists mostly agree.   Articles IX and X, “Of Original or Birth Sin” and “Of Free-Will” respectively, affirm the Augustinian view of these things against the Pelagian.   Article XVII is entitled “Of Predestination and Election”.   Here it is in its entirety:

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God’ s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

Note there is no affirmation of Reprobation in this Article.   Lutherans as well as Calvinists can confess it.   Indeed, the second paragraph can almost be taken as an affirmation of the Lutheran understanding of the doctrine against the Calvinist.   Compare what it says about the doctrine being a comfort for the godly and not something to be excessively and indiscriminately preached because it can have a deleterious effect on the ungodly with Article XI of the Formula of Concord.   Paragraph 89 of the Solid Declaration of that Article reads:

Moreover, this doctrine gives no one a cause either for despondency or for a shameless, dissolute life, namely, when men are taught that they must seek eternal election in Christ and His holy Gospel, as in the Book of Life, which excludes no penitent sinner, but beckons and calls all the poor, heavy-laden, and troubled sinners [who are disturbed by the sense of God’s wrath], to repentance and the knowledge of their sins and to faith in Christ, and promises the Holy Ghost for purification and renewal, 90 and thus gives the most enduring consolation to all troubled, afflicted men, that they know that their salvation is not placed in their own hands,-for otherwise they would lose it much more easily than was the case with Adam and Eve in paradise, yea, every hour and moment,-but in the gracious election of God, which He has revealed to us in Christ, out of whose hand no man shall pluck us, John 10:28; 2 Tim. 2:19.

Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption), the idea that Jesus died only for the elect is not affirmed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and indeed, Limited Atonement contradicts both Articles II and XXXI.   Article II, which is about the “Word or Son of God, which was made very Man” ends with the affirmation that He “truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men” and Article XXXI, “Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross” reads:

The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

There is no affirmation of Irresistible Grace (or Effectual Calling for Calvinists who are allergic to TULIPs) in the Articles and it is not consistent with the language used of the Sacraments in Article XXV:

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

Remember, Grace that is conveyed through intermediate means is Grace that can be resisted.    Now, for the final petal in the TULIP, let us turn to Article XVI “Of Sin After Baptism”.  This Article reads:

Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

The language here strongly suggests the Lutheran position without explicitly affirming it against the Calvinist.   Note the words “deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism”.   This is the concept of Mortal Sin as it is understood in Lutheran theology.   Calvinist theology does not allow for a concept of Mortal Sin which is probably why the expression is avoided.   The possibility of departing from grace is affirmed, although in such a way that it is only the heresy of those who say that once you become a Christian you cannot sin again that can be definitely said  to be denied here rather than the Calvinist doctrine of perpetual justification.   What is most strongly affirmed, that repentance and forgiveness are available to those who sin after Baptism, is believed by all orthodox Christians, and what is condemned, earthly sinless perfectionism and the unavailability of forgiveness, are ideas asserted only by the looniest of wing-nuts.   Overall, the Article reads as a statement of the Lutheran view, worded carefully so as not to offend Calvinists.

From what we have just seen, those who would say that the Articles of Religion are Reformed in the sense of Calvinist as opposed to Lutheran, are clearly in the wrong when it comes to soteriology.   The Articles lean Lutheran, but in such a way as to not exclude Calvinists.  On the Lord’s Supper, they lean Calvinist, but in such a way as to not exclude Lutherans.   On Church government they are clearly not Calvinist – they affirm the Episcopal government shared by every Church everywhere before the sixteenth century, retained by the Anglican Church and by some Lutherans.   On the very matter of deciding what from the pre-Reformation tradition can be retained and what must be jettisoned they affirm in Article XX the normative principle which they share with the Lutheran Augsburg Confession rather than the regulative principle of the Calvinists and Anabaptists.

Those Low Churchmen who think the only true Anglicans are Five Point Calvinists clearly haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. — Gerry T. Neal

Be A Protestant But Not a NUT!

                                                                                                Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, August 11, 2023

Be a Protestant BUT NOT A NUT!

I have borrowed the title of this essay, mutatis mutandis, from that of the fourth chapter in Dr. John R. Rice’s book I Am a Fundamentalist (1975).   Dr. Rice wrote that book in the midst of the “second-degree separation” controversy that was dividing fundamentalist against fundamentalist in the 1970s.   It was his answer to those fundamentalists who were on the side of “second-degree separation”.   The chapter in question addresses the issue of riding hobby-horses.   To give an example, he wrote “Some people are strong against apostasy and modernism, but they think a man a modernist if he gives a Christmas present or sends a Christmas greeting card, or observes Easter Sunday and preaches on the resurrection”.   I know just such a nut, although he probably considers himself a charismatic rather than a fundamentalist.   Another example was “There are others who think one is a modernist if he doesn’t drink carrot juice, eat whole wheat bread and wheat germ, if he doesn’t abstain from pork and coffee”.   Personally, I’d be more inclined to think someone a modernist if he did those things, rather than didn’t do them.   At any rate, I describe my position as orthodox rather than fundamentalist.   Doctrinally, the ancient Creeds are the litmus test of orthodoxy, rather than a list of five fundamentals drawn up in the last century.   Since all the fundamentals of fundamentalism are included in the Creeds, orthodoxy can be said to be more than fundamentalism, not less.   With regards to practice, the biggest distinction between orthodoxy and fundamentalism is that orthodoxy rejects the idea of withdrawing from the Church because of error, doctrinal or moral, which idea is historically associated with the heresies of Novatianism and Donatism.   In orthodoxy, separation from heresy and apostasy takes the form of excommunicating the heretics and apostates and the right way of dealing with institutional error is that of a reconquista rather than an exodus.  That having been said, I think the distinction Dr. Rice made between his brand of fundamentalism – I would say that if all fundamentalist Baptists were like him it would be a much better movement except that the biggest problem with Baptist fundamentalism is that most fundamental Baptist preachers are would-be John R. Rices who are pale imitations at best –  almost caricatures – and the kooks, can be applied to Protestants and Hyper-Protestants.

On the one hand there is Protestantism.  On the other hand there is Hyper-Protestantism.   Protestantism is good.  Hyper-Protestantism is bad.   The word “Catholic” is a useful shibboleth for distinguishing between a Protestant and a Hyper-Protestant.   “Catholic” is a bad word to the Hyper-Protestant who uses it to mean everything he thinks Protestantism opposes.   The English and Lutheran Reformers never used “Catholic” in this way.   They referred to the errors against which they “protested” as “Romish” or “popish” to indicate that these were recent errors and errors which belonged to a particular Church, the Church governed by the Patriarch of Rome, rather than the Catholic Church, the whole of the Christian Church including all Churches governed by Apostolic bishops.   Indeed, the Patriarch of Rome’s claim to have the supreme governorship over the entire Church, a claim rejected by the Churches under the other Patriarchs since Patristic days, is one of the errors of Rome against which the Reformers protested.   Calling the Roman Church the Catholic Church is tantamount to accepting that error.   Some Protestants today have fallen into the habit of using Catholic for the Roman Church and its members, not out of Hyper-Protestantism but out of the idea that it is respectful to call people what they call themselves.   This is the same flawed reasoning that some use to justify using a person’s stated preference in pronouns rather than those which correspond to that person’s biological sex.   In both cases truth is what one ends up sacrificing in the name of being polite.   Protestants who use Catholic to mean “Roman Catholic” for this reason can usually be distinguished from Hyper-Protestants in that they do not speak the word as if it were a swear word in the way Hyper-Protestants do.

Catholic, an intensified compound version of the Greek word for “whole” has been used since at least the beginning of the second century when St. Ignatius of Antioch used it in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, to mean the Church in its entirety, the Church everywhere as opposed to the Church in just one location, the Church in Rome, for example, or the Church in Smyrna.   The Catholic faith is the faith confessed by all orthodox Christians, in all orthodox Churches, everywhere, the faith confessed in the Creed.   The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed has the best right to be called the Catholic Creed in that it was accepted by all the ancient Churches before there was any break in fellowship between them and is still accepted by them today, the dispute over the wording that divided East from West notwithstanding.   This Creed was developed by the first two Ecumenical Councils – Councils to which the government of the entire Church, everywhere was invited to participate – in the fourth century, taking an earlier, local form of the Creed, as its template.   The shorter but similarly worded Apostles’ Creed, developed out of the form of the Creed used by the Church in Rome in baptisms at least as early as the second century.   The similarity between the two suggests that the forms out of which both were developed were themselves versions of an earlier template that most likely goes back to the Apostles.  Hints of such a form that pre-dated the writing of the New Testament are dropped from time to time by St. Paul in his epistles and this would explain the antiquity of the origin story from which the Apostles’ Creed derives its name, the origin story being basically true, but referring to the earliest form of the Creed, from which multiple local versions were derived, two of which eventually became the Apostles’ and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds.   In the fifth century, after the third Ecumenical Council but before the fourth, in the period when the fellowship of the ancient Churches was first broken, St. Vincent, a monk in Lerins Abbey on one of the islands of the same name off the coast of the French Riviera, wrote his Commonitorium under the pseudonym “Peregrinus” in which he explored the question of how to distinguish true Catholic doctrine from heresy, famously stating that in the Catholic Church care must be taken to “hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all”.   He is often said to have proposed three tests of Catholicity, but in actuality he proposed four.   The first test is that the doctrine must be derived from the Holy Scriptures.   This first Catholic principle of St. Vincent is identical to the first principle of Protestantism.   The other three tests pertain to the interpretation of Scripture and they are universality (an interpretation is not Catholic if it is only found in one region of the Church), antiquity (an interpretation is not Catholic if it does not go back to the earliest centuries of the Church but is instead of late origin and contained within a particular timespan rather than being taught in all times of the Church) and consent (formal acknowledgement by the authorities of the Church, preferably at the Ecumenical level).

None of the doctrines that the early Reformers, English and Lutheran, protested against in the teachings of the Church of Rome are affirmed as articles of faith in the Creed, Apostles’ or Nicene-Constantinopolitan.   With one possible exception, none of the practices of the Roman Church that these Reformers objected to can withstand the Vincentian tests.  

We shall return to that possible exception momentarily.   First I wish to observe that Hyper-Protestantism gets the word Protestant as wrong as it gets the word Catholic.   Most Hyper-Protestants use the word Protestant as if the word were synonymous with “Calvinist”.   This is true even of many Hyper-Protestants who would object to being called Calvinists themselves on the grounds that they are Arminians.    Arminianism is to Calvinism what heresy is to orthodox Christianity in general, a defective form.     Of course, what I am calling Calvinism here is not actually Calvinism in the sense of “the teachings of John Calvin”.   John Calvin himself was closer to Lutheranism than to what has been called Calvinism since the seventeenth century.   Dr. Luther would not appreciate hearing that not only because he regarded Calvin’s view of the Eucharist as rank heresy but also because he objected to a movement being named after him in the first place.     Calvin, however, as is clear from his writings, was Lutheran in his views of the extent of the Atonement and assurance of salvation, rather than Calvinist.  John Calvin was to Lutheranism, what Jacob Arminius and his followers were to Calvinism, which ought to be called either Bezism or Dortism, after its true fathers, Theodore Beza and the Reformed Synod of Dort.   Protestant, however, is the general term for all the Christians who threw off the usurped supremacy of the Patriarch of Rome in the sixteenth century.   In the best sense of the word, it is defined only by the doctrines that set the earliest and most conservative of the Reformers apart from Rome rather than by doctrines distinctive of any of the more specific traditions that emerged from the Reformation.   If we have to define Protestantism by the doctrines of a specific tradition, Lutheranism has a better claim to being that tradition than Calvinism, being the original Protestant tradition of which John Calvin’s Calvinism was a deviation, from which deviation Theodore Beza and the Synod of Dort further deviated with their “Calvinism”, of which Arminianism is a yet further deviation.

The doctrines of the general Reformation, that is to say what the Reformers positively affirmed rather than merely what they denied in Rome’s teachings, are today commonly summed up in the five solae – sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria. This is not the best formulation, in my opinion.   It does not date to the Reformation itself, but only to the last century.   It is a Calvinist formulation.   One of the most important teachings of the Reformers is missing from it.   Sola Scriptura can be easily misinterpreted to mean something that Dr. Luther and the English Reformers would have found abhorrent, i.e., the idea that the Bible can and should be privately interpreted in isolation from tradition and the Church.   The other solas can be summed up in a single doctrine – the freeness of salvation as the gift of God.   If I were to come up with a formula summarizing the doctrines of the general Reformation it would be:

–          The supremacy of Scripture as the written Word of God

–          The freeness of salvation as the gift of God

–          The Gospel is the assurance of salvation to all who believe it

The last of these was absolutely essential to the Reformation.   It was the search for such that led Dr. Luther to the Pauline epistles on justification and to oppose the carrot-on-a-stick approach coupled with the outright sale of salvation to which Rome had stooped at that point in time.   John Calvin was as one with Dr. Luther on this.   Those who would later call themselves “Calvinists” were and are not in accord with either Luther or Calvin but actually offend against this truth worse than Rome.   In their theology the Gospel cannot assure anyone of salvation because Jesus came only to save a handful of pre-selected individuals.   Nobody can really know that he is among the chosen few.   He must constantly look for evidence of his regeneration in his own works, but can draw no lasting comfort, because if he falls away it will demonstrate he was not really regenerate, which remains a possibility until the very end of his life.   Consider what such “Calvinists” as John Piper and John F. MacArthur Jr. have to say about assurance of salvation today.   Both take the position that the Gospel cannot fully assure those who believe it of their own salvation because they must prove their faith to be real to themselves by finding evidence of it in their works, a position explicitly condemned by both Dr. Luther and John Calvin, and solidly rejected in the Lutheran tradition to this day.   MacArthur, who has been unsound on all sorts of other matters, including at one point a key element of Nicene Christology, wrote not one, not two, but three books arguing this point, proving only that he wouldn’t be able to tell the Law from the Gospel if the difference between the two were to take anthropomorphic form and walk up and smack him upside the head.   Piper is more subtle, like the serpent in the Garden.   He merely slips nuggets of the faith-based-on-works error such as “assurance is partially based on objective evidences for Christian truth” into presentations that contain a lot of sounder statements.   The Reformation truth is that while faith is accompanied by the repentance that the Law works in us by convicting us of our sin and by the works that spring from the Christian love worked in us by the love of God received through faith, these accompanying things are not part of the basis of faith which rests on nothing but the Gospel, the objective message that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has saved all who believe in Him by dying for their sins on the Cross and rising from the dead, which message is proclaimed both in Word and Sacrament, and that the faith that rests on that objective Truth is itself the subjective experience of assurance of salvation.   The subjective experience, faith which is assurance (Heb. 11:1), must rest entirely on the solid rock of what is objective, the Gospel, for if it rests partly on that solid rock, and partly on grounds that are themselves subjective, our experiences and works, it will be most unstable indeed.   The Hyper-Protestant Puritanism, that in addition to being regicidal, tyrannical, and opposed to all joy, defected from Calvin’s teachings in precisely this way, and one of its fruit, alongside the evils of the Modern Age – liberalism, Communism, and Americanism – was a psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually crippling dearth of assurance and plague of despair.

Nothing in these basic truths of the Reformation conflicts with anything in the Creed.    Nor do they conflict with the teachings, practices, and forms of worship common to all the ancient Churches, i.e., the Catholic tradition.   They place Protestantism in opposition to such late Medieval Roman doctrines as human merit, supererogatory works (the idea that someone other than Jesus can do works over and above what is required of him and so contribute to someone else’s salvation), and the whole general impression Rome was giving that salvation was a reward for dotting all your is and crossing all your ts, but not with the Catholic faith held throughout the Church everywhere, in all ages, since the Apostles.   Basic Protestantism, therefore, is in conflict with Romanism not Catholicism, and since the Catholic faith of the Creed is the basic Christian faith, to be a good Protestant, one must first be a Catholic.   The essential distinction between Hyper-Protestantism and Protestantism is that Hyper-Protestantism opposes what is Catholic and not merely Roman.

I do not mean that Hyper-Protestantism rejects the Creed, necessarily, although Hyper-Protestants generally do not hold to the necessity of organizational and organic continuity with the Apostolic Church in Jerusalem, making it rather difficult for them to confess the ninth Article about the “Holy Catholick Church”, at least with a sense that would have been recognized by any Christian anywhere prior to the Reformation.   What I mean is that Hyper-Protestants reject the Catholic tradition wholesale except for elements that they cannot deny are Scriptural.   If there is a traditional practice of the Roman Church that the Hyper-Protestant cannot find a Scriptural text that says you must do it this way, the Hyper-Protestant will say that you must not do it that way, even if there is no Scriptural text forbidding it, and every other ancient Church does it that way, not just the Roman.   This is called the regulative principle.   Although it appears in most of the important Calvinist confessions, it was actually far more typical of Zwingli’s approach than of Calvin’s.   Indeed, while Zwingli had already been practicing it in Zurich for about half a decade before the rise of Anabaptism, the movement of Continental Hyper-Protestant schismatics who took their cue from Zwingli rather than Luther and Calvin but whose radicalism brought about a break with all of the Magisterial Reformers including Zwingli himself, it was the Anabaptists who first articulated it as a stated principle.  It was Conrad Grebel, the founder of the Swiss Brethren, an Anabaptist sect who raised it in arguing for the Anabaptist position on baptism, the argument going that because there is no specific command to baptize infants in the New Testament it must therefore be prohibited.   Grebel pointed to Tertullian, the second to third century apologist, as having taught the regulative principle.  Since it only appeared in Tertullian’s writings after he joined the ultra-rigid Montanists towards the end of his life, this was not exactly a good argument for the principle.   Especially since it is impossible to reconcile that principle with the doctrine of Christian liberty taught by St. Paul in his epistles.

The opposite of the regulative principle it the normative principle.   In its simplest, this is the idea that if the Scripture does not forbid you to do something, you are permitted to do it.   There is obviously no conflict between this principle and the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty.   It can, however, depending upon how it is interpreted in its implications, conflict with the Pauline doctrine of orderly worship and conduct in the Church.   One version of the normative principle, primarily associated with evangelical and especially charismatic worship in the twentieth century, is the idea of eliminating all or almost all formal structure and allowing everyone from the preacher to those providing the music to the congregants in the pew to each do his own thing as he thinks the Holy Ghost is leading.   This sounds like a recipe of chaos and in some instances this is exactly what it produces.   More often, however, the result in practice is that the worship service ends up resembling a performance at a theatre, an evening in a night club, or some other secular activity that in no way resembles a Church service.

By contrast there is the version of the normative principle employed by Dr. Luther and the English Reformers.   In this version, the normative principle was applied to the pre-Reformation tradition of the Church and whatever in that tradition was not found to be prohibited by Scripture or to otherwise contradict Scripture was maintained.   This is what is most consistent with both the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty and the Pauline doctrine of orderly worship and conduct.   In the Anglican Church’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571) it is spelled out in Article XX “Of the Authority of the Church” which reads:

The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

In the Lutheran Book of Concord it is found in Lutheranism’s Augsburg Confession (1530) in Article XV “Of Ecclesiastical Usages” in the first section of the Article:

Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquillity and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like.

Put into practice, the result was that those things which the Anglican Church and the Lutherans rejected were Roman, that is to say, distinctive of the Roman Church after the Great Schism and often quite later than that, whereas those things which were retained were Catholic, that is, common to all the ancient Church – the Church of Rome, the other four ancient Patriarchates in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and even the Assyrian and Oriental Orthodox Churches the fellowship of which with the larger Church was broken beginning in the fifth century AD.   In the Lutheran and Anglican traditions, Protestantism is a Reformed Catholicism, not the wholesale rejection of Catholicism except for everything that cannot be jettisoned on account of its being undeniably Scriptural that is Hyper-Protestantism.

In the Anglican Church there are those who bristle at the thought of our Church being Catholic, despite Catholic being used in only a positive sense in all of the Anglican formularies, including the Book of Common Prayer.   I do not say that these are Hyper-Protestants, although they have several of the traits of Hyper-Protestantism.   They often try to claim that the Articles of Religion can only be read rightly in accordance with as Calvinist interpretation as possible, despite the fact that when the Articles touch on issues where there is a difference of opinion between the continental Protestant traditions, such as Predestination and Election in Article XVII, they are written in such a way that either Lutherans or Calvinists could affirm them (there is no mention of Reprobation, which Calvinists accept and Lutherans reject, in the Article).   The Articles of Religion, like the Anglican Formularies in general, were irenicons, drafted so as to minimize conflict among members of the Church of England, whether it be conflict between those who see the Church as Catholic first and Protestant second and those who see it the other way around, or between those whose Protestantism was more Lutheran and those whose Protestantism was more Calvinist.  The Anglicans who want the Anglican Church to be only Protestant often make arguments that seemingly presuppose the regulative principle, despite the Articles’ affirmation of the normative.   This past weekend I engaged in an online discussion with them on a matter that might seem to be an exception to the rule that the English Reformers rejected only what was Roman and kept all that is Catholic.

That matter occurs in Article XXII of the Articles of Religion.  I am not referring to the main subject of that Article which is Purgatory.   Purgatory is a Roman doctrine, not a Catholic doctrine.   While some of the ideas associated with it go back much further, Purgatory itself dates to the end of the twelfth century, the century after the Great Schism, and is not an official doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church.   Indeed, the Eastern Orthodox opposed the doctrine following the attempt at reunification in the Second Council of Lyon (1272-1274).  There have been and are different schools within Eastern Orthodoxy that have held different views on the matter.   The ones who came closest to Rome were the seventeenth century prelates such as Peter of Moghilia and Dositheus of Jerusalem who reacted against the “Calvinist” Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, and in doing so produced Confessions that affirmed Purgatory in all but name.  The rejection of the name is more significant than the affirmation of the doctrine as these men were representative only of their own time in this.  Most Eastern Orthodox schools of thought reject the doctrine as well as the name, and interestingly enough there has been a heated on-and-off controversy in the Eastern Church over “Aerial Toll Houses”, a different concept of an intermediate state from that of Purgatory, the most recent flare up in the controversy being in the last century.   The Armenian Apostolic and Coptic Orthodox Churches both reject Purgatory and I suspect this is true of the other Non-Chalcedonian Churches.   Thus, Purgatory does not pass the Vincentian tests of Catholicity and is a distinctly Roman error.   The matter in question is found among those tucked in with Purgatory in this Article.   Here is Article XXII in full:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

Note in passing the use of the word “Romish” rather than “Catholic”.  

The discussion began with someone sharing the quotation “If you think you need a mediator with Jesus; you don’t know Jesus”.   Now, there is nothing wrong with these words taken in their plain, ordinary, sense.   There is One God, St. Paul declares, and One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).    You do not need a mediator between yourself and the Mediator.   The man being quoted, however, was James R. White, a Reformed Baptist minister and the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries.   This is a man who never misses an opportunity to throw the Catholic baby out with the Roman bathwater.   A few years ago I thoroughly rebutted his attempt to have it both ways on Nestorianism and “the Mother of God”,  something not uncommon among Calvinists, as well as his embrace of “scientific” textual criticism as applied to the New Testament, the gateway drug to “higher criticism” an error he could easily have avoided had he applied the Vincentian Catholic principle to textual criticism and adopted the position that the true text of the New Testament is the text received by the Church everywhere, always, and by all, with the recognition that in areas of the Church where another language predominates that text may find representation in a “Vulgate” of the dominant language, such as the Latin Vulgate in the Roman Church, and the Authorized Bible in the English Church.   I observed the possibility that by “mediator” White might actually have meant “intermediary”.    Hyper-Protestants reject the Apostolic priesthood of the Church, despite its being there in the New Testament, because they reject the idea of intermediaries between Jesus and the individual believer, condemning themselves in the process because they accept the necessity of preaching, and preachers are intermediaries between Jesus and the individual believer in precisely the same way that Apostolic priests are, not gatekeepers who decide who gets to see Jesus, but stewards appointed to bring Jesus to each individual through their dual ministry of Word and Sacrament.

As it turned out, however, the discussion went down a different road than that.   What the person who posted the quote from James White and those who agreed with him were interested in condemning was the practice of asking the saints to pray for them. 

Now this is not something that I do myself.   I have never had any interest in doing this, much less a compelling urge to do so. It is, however, something that is done in all the ancient Churches – Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Non-Chalcedonian, and Assyrian – and so cannot be said to be a distinctly Roman practice.   The only case that can be made against it being Catholic is that it can only be traced back for certain to the third century.   In St. Clement of Rome’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, written before the end of the first century, around the time St. John was writing the Book of Revelation, this early Roman bishop and companion of St. Paul talks in what is usually numbered as the fifty sixth chapter about remembering those who, having fallen into sin, had submitted in meekness and humility to the will of God, to God and the saints.   The wording is ambiguous and the saints mentioned here could be the living members of the Church, but especially since everywhere else in the epistle St. Clement refers to these as brethren, this could also be the earliest reference to the practice in question, in which case it most decidedly is Catholic, this earliest of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers having been regularly read in the Churches along with the Sacred texts in the early centuries and considered, although ultimately rejected, for canonical status.   Even if St. Clement is not a first century witness to the practice, the third century predates both the first Ecumenical Council and the rise of Emperor Constantine who is usually regarded as the founder of “Catholicism” by the restorationist type of Hyper-Protestant, the historical illiterate who thinks that the Church apostatized the moment Christianity was legalized (a view these type of Hyper-Protestants share with all the heretical sects they call cults) .    It is recommended by both St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine in the fourth century, neither of whom was known as an innovator and both of whom would have staunchly rejected it had it been inconsistent with orthodox Christianity as it had come down to them.  Indeed, the idea of the Intercession of the Saints – that the faithful who have gone on to the next life are praying for us in Heaven – that is associated with the practice, and often but not always denied by those who reject it, can be traced back with certainty much earlier than the practice, being frequently mentioned in the Apostolic Fathers.   For that matter, it appears in the Bible itself in Revelation 5:8 where the twenty-four elders are depicted as holding golden vials, filled with odours that are the “prayers of the saints” (if the “saints” here are taken to be the saints on Earth, the image is even stronger, for it suggests that it is the saints in Heaven who bring before the Throne the prayers of the saints on Earth), which raises a few questions about the Scriptural literacy of those who loudly trumpet their belief in “Sola Scriptura” while denying that the faithful departed pray for us.   An even more important doctrine is at stake in this dispute, however, the doctrine of “The Communion of the Saints” that is indisputably Catholic, confessed in the Apostles’ version of the Creed, and held even by those ancient Churches that use only the Nicene and not the Apostles’ Creed.   It was for the sake of this Truth, not the practice itself per se, that when I realized what was being argued, I joined in the argument on the side of the defenders of the practice.

A word here about, well, words, is in order.   Those on the other side of the debate consistently spoke of the practice of asking the faithful departed for their prayers as “praying to the saints”.   I consistently referred to it as asking for their prayers.   I would not have been comfortable making the arguments I made, even in defence of the Truth confessed in the Creed, using the same language as the other side.   The English word “pray”, comes to us through French, from a Latin word meaning “ask, beg, request, entreat” and in earlier centuries was used in a more general sense.   “I pray thee”, contracted to “prithee” used to be a common synonym for “please” and was used with requests made of other people.   For most people, however, “pray” has long ceased to be a synonym for “ask” in general, and is now limited to requests made as acts of worship.   This being the case, I would say that the word should be reserved for requests made directly to God, and not used of the act of requesting that others pray for  you.    There are two entirely different arguments here depending upon whether we follow that rule or not.   One is an argument about whether we should make the same kind of requests of the faithful departed that we make of God, in which case the right is on the side of those who say no, we should not.   The other is an argument about whether we should make the same kind of requests of the faithful departed that we make of other living Christians.   It is in regards to this second argument that I would say that since the practice is Catholic and not just Roman and based on “the Communion of the Saints” confessed in the Creed a strong burden of proof must be placed on those who say it isn’t allowed to prove their case from the Scriptures, which I do not think they can do.   I will note that the language of “praying to the saints” is sometimes used by defenders of the practice among those Churches who practice it, undermining their own position in my opinion.   It has been my observation, however, that this language is far more likely to be used by less-informed lay people in these Churches than in official ecclesiastical statements.   On a related note, the frequent heard accusation by Hyper-Protestants against the Roman Church, and sometimes the other ancient Churches, that they pray more to Mary and the saints than to God, has no validity with regards to prayers used in public worship, although it may sometimes be warranted in the case of private practice, just as private Protestants may distort things in private in a way unsanctioned by their Church or sect.    In Eastern Orthodoxy, one of the most popular prayers, if not the most popular, is a prayer addressed to Jesus – it is actually called “The Jesus Prayer” – and virtually indistinguishable from the one that in evangelical circles is often substituted for “believe” in presentations of the Gospel and treated as if it were a magical incantation the reciting of which mechanically transforms one into a Christian.  The act of asking the Saints or Mary to grant something in their own power is not sanctioned by any Church and is, of course, idolatry.   This is not to say that it is not superstitiously done by the ignorant, but the only requests directed towards anyone other than God in the liturgies of any of the ancient Churches are requests for prayer.

When I raised the point of the difference between praying to someone and asking them to pray for you in the debate someone pointed out that Article XXII speaks of “invocation of Saints” and argued that “invocation” is a broader term and includes all forms of address not just prayer.   My response was to point out that in that case technically the Article forbids asking living Christians to pray for us as well.   For, as the type of Hyper-Protestant who does not understand how language works and that a word can have a narrower as well as a wider meaning and so condemns the use of “Saint” as a title likes to point out, all Christians are Saints in the most basic sense of the word.

So what about Article XXII?   Do the  Articles of Religion depart from the normative principle affirmed in Article XXII by condemning a practice “invocation of Saints” that is truly Catholic rather than merely Roman?

As the saying goes “it’s complicated”.   The Articles affirm the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds as well as the Athanasian (more an annotated version of the Apostles’ than a distinct Creed in its own right) in Article VIII saying these are “proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture”.   Thus, they cannot mean in Article XXII that the doctrine of the “Communion of the Saints” confessed in the Apostles’ Creed is “grounded upon no warranty of Scripture” when they seemingly impugn the practice based on this doctrine.     This raises the question of whether the practice and the doctrine can be so separated that one can affirm one without the other.   If they cannot, then either the Articles contradict themselves, a possibility as they, not being Holy Scripture, are not infallible, something those Anglicans which insist so strongly on their Protestantism might try to remember, or, as the wording of the Article allows, the “fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God” is not “invocation of Saints” per se but the “Romish doctrine” concerning it.   John Henry Newman tried to make this last argument with regards to the main subject of the Article, Purgatory, in the last of the Tracts for the Times before he crossed the Tiber.   His argument was not particularly convincing, although it could possibly be made more strongly for “invocation of Saints” than for Purgatory based on invocation being Catholic and Purgatory distinctly Roman, potentially allowing for “the Romish doctrine” about “invocation of Saints” being asking them to intercede for those in Purgatory.   I’m not going to press that interpretation as it seems highly unlikely that this is what was meant in the days of the Elizabethan Settlement by those who came up with the final draft of the Articles.   Historically it was not until the Tractarians that High Churchmen thought to understand the Article in any way other than as completely forbidding the practice as demonstrated by it being a point of contention between the Non-Jurors and the Eastern Orthodox in the unsuccessful attempt to bring the two into communion in the early eighteenth century, about a century before the Oxford Movement.   Neither, however, am I going to say that the Articles do contradict themselves.   Rather, I am going to take the position that Article XXII as an exercise of that “power to decree Rites or Ceremonies” affirmed of the Church in the same Article that affirms the Normative Principle and as thus binding upon the province of the Holy Catholic Church that is the Anglican Church in terms of practice and not an authoritative statement dictating what we are to think about the practice, a position quite in keeping with the spirit of the court of Elizabeth I, who understood well that her God-given authority to regulate the Church for the sake of the peace of her realm was limited to the public exercise of religion and did not extend to the private consciences of men, something monarchs reigning by divine right understand a lot better than politicians elected by the mob.   In keeping with this position on Article XXII which is in accordance with my own non-participation in this practice as a member of the Anglican Church, I shall now discuss the matter of whether or not the practice violates Scriptural prohibitions and/or principles.   My position is that it does not.  

Now, in the debate last weekend, those on the other side were arguing for something and not just against something.   What they were arguing for was that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator, that His One Sacrifice is sufficient and that nothing anyone else does can add anything to it, that He is accessible through prayer to all believers and that we don’t need to go through anyone else to get to Him, and that we should not direct towards creatures that which belongs to God alone.   With none of this, did I, or anyone else on my side of the debate, disagree, and indeed, I, and I would assume everyone on both sides, would affirm all of this.   Those on my side were also arguing for something, and not just the practice of asking the faithful in Heaven to pray for you, but a truth we confess every time we confess the Apostles’ Creed.

Before I even entered this conversation, others on the side that I took had already asked the other side whether or not they ever asked members of their parishes to pray for them.   The point of the question, of course, was that if asking the faithful departed to pray for you somehow takes away from Christ’s sole Mediatorship, implies a deficiency in His Sacrifice, or suggest the idea that we need to go through someone else to get to Jesus, then this is also true of asking living believers to pray for us.   This point is entirely valid, and I further observed that it cuts both ways.   If in asking another Christian for prayer we do so in a way that transgresses by inappropriately offering to our fellow Christian the prayer that we should be addressing to God alone we have transgressed regardless of whether that fellow Christian is alive or dead.   If, on the other hand, we ask other Christians for their prayers in accordance with the Scriptures, then it is Scriptural regardless of whether the other Christians are part of the Church Militant – the Church on earth – or the Church Triumphant – the Church in Heaven.

The other side always answered the question with yes.     They justified the inconsistency in their position by saying that the New Testament tells us as Christians to ask our living brethren for their prayers.   This, while not wrong exactly, is a bit misleading.   In the New Testament you find St. Paul requesting the prayers of the Roman Christians (Rom. 15:30), the Colossians (Col. 4:3), and the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1).   You find him telling several different groups of Christians that they are always in his prayers (Rom. 1:8-9, Col. 1:9-10, Phil. 1:3-4).   There is St. James’ instructions to pray for one another (Jas. 5:16).   There are also general instructions to pray for all Christians (Eph. 6:18) or even more generally, all people of all sorts (1 Tim. 2:1) as well as instructions to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) and to encourage and build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11).    Those opposed to asking the faithful departed for their prayers say that nowhere in all of these passages is there an example of someone asking the departed for their prayers or an instruction to ask the departed specifically for their prayers.   With regards to the second point, however, nowhere are we told not to ask the departed faithful for their prayers.   With regards to the first, while obviously those to whom St. Paul wrote requesting prayer were living at the time, he did not tell them to stop praying for him when their earthly sojourn was over and they departed to be with Christ.   No, I am being neither facetious nor flippant.  Those who are opposed to asking the faithful departed for their prayers are generally also opposed to praying for the faithful departed.   Praying for the faithful departed is another practice that is Catholic – shared by all the ancient Churches, not just Rome.  St. James’ instructions to pray for one another can be reasonably taken to exclude the departed as those for whom the prayer is to be offered because he is not talking about prayers in general but specifically about prayer for healing.   However, prayers for the faithful departed are clearly not prohibited in the New Testament because St. Paul offers up just such a prayer for Onesiphorus in 2 Tim. 1:18.   For that matter, every prayer in the New Testament that resulted in a resurrection was obviously a prayer for the departed.   If this aspect of Catholic practice, prayers for the faithful departed, can be proven by the New Testament, and in case you failed to notice I just proved it from the New Testament, then the other side of the same coin, asking the faithful departed for their prayers can hardly be excluded simply because there is neither example nor instructions for it specifically can be found.   I emphasize the word specifically because the burden on those opposed to asking the departed for their prayers is actually heavier than that which the normative principle implies.   Their burden is to prove that the faithful departed, the Church Militant, are excluded from the general instructions to bear one another’s burdens, encourage, and build one another up, in all of which praying for one another in a more general sense than in James is included.

This is a burden of proof they cannot meet.  Indeed, their assumption that the faithful departed are automatically excluded from the New Testament’s instructions to Christians to pray for one another and bear their burdens, is an assumption that contradicts the entire New Testament on the subject of the union between believers with Christ and through Christ each other in the Church, a union that cannot be broken by death.   The faithful departed, including the Old Testament saints, are depicted by St. Paul in Hebrews 12  as “so great a cloud of witnesses” on account of which we should “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” so that we may “run with patience the race that is set before us”.   Later in the same chapter when the Apostle uses Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion as symbols of the Law and Gospel covenants respectively, he tells his Hebrew Christian readers “ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (vv. 22-23) which would be an incredibly strange way of wording it if he thought death to be an impassible barrier between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.   Not only are the faithful departed depicted as a “cloud of witnesses” encompassing us, but believers in their earthly sojourn are depicted as having already joined them in Heaven, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6)

The New Testament teaches that on the first Whitsunday (the Christian Pentecost), the Holy Ghost came down from Heaven and united the disciples with Jesus Christ, Who had died, descended as Conqueror into Hell (the Kingdom of death), rose again from the dead, and ascended to Heaven where He sat down at the right hand of God the Father.   This union formed the Church, a united body in which Jesus Christ is Head, and all who are baptized into the Christian faith are members.   In the establishment of the Church the Old Testament saints, that is, those in the Old Testament who were not just members of the Covenant nation of Israel physically, but were also members of the spiritual Congregation of the Lord, who had been awaiting their redemption in the Kingdom of death, were released by Jesus Christ, and taken up to Heaven with Him when He returned there, were also joined that all of God’s saints in all ages would be part of the one Body of Christ.   In the Church, each individual Christian is united with Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ with each other.   Jesus Christ having already conquered death, believers being described as having “passed from death unto life” (past tense) and having “everlasting life” (present tense) in this life (Jn. 5:24), death cannot break this union and divide those who have departed this world from those who remain.   In Jesus Christ and to Jesus Christ, all believers are alive eternally:

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  (Jn. 11:25-26)

After all, as He said to the Sadducees in rebuking their denial of the resurrection, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mk. 12:27).

This is what the Communion of the Saints that we confess in the Apostles’ Creed is all about.

Those who condemn the practice of asking the Church Triumphant to pray with you and for you just as you might ask the person sitting in the pew next to you to do so seem to have a much harder time in affirming this New Testament truth as those of us who do not wish to throw the Catholic baby out with the Roman bathwater have in affirming the truth of Jesus’ sole Mediatorship – even Rome affirms this – which they think, mistakenly, they are safeguarding.   That is a pretty strong indicator that they are the ones in error here.  

Another such indicator is how quickly they descend into vulgar abuse when they cannot answer questions.   Unable to answer how their position is consistent with the New Testament teaching that all believers are one in Him to Whom there is no living and dead, they resort to accusations of occult superstition.   Asking the departed faithful to pray for you, they say, violates the Old Testament prohibitions against such things as necromancy, witchcraft, séances and the like.   Anybody who knows anything about these practices knows that they are worlds removed from asking the faithful departed for their prayers.   The practices condemned in the Old Testament involve summoning the spirits of the dead as if they were your personal slaves, either to obtain information from them, use them to manipulate the natural world in a supernatural way, or both.   There is no acknowledgement of God in these practices, the spirits of the dead qua spirits of the dead are invoked, the power to summon them is thought to be inherent in either the ritual used or the summonor, and the power to do what the summonor wants or tell him what he wants is thought to belong to the spirit.   Suggesting that the Catholic practice falls into this category is just a cheap insult.   The type one would expect from the sort of person who speaks of ecclesiastical bodies which confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, in the words of the ancient Creeds, as possessing the “spirit of Antichrist”.

The New Testament tells us who “Antichrist” is.   “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” St. John writes in 1 John 2:22, “He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”   The Patriarch of Rome has been guilty of overstepping the boundaries of his jurisdiction, usurping a supremacy over the entire Church, and teaching various errors, among them his own infallibility, but as someone who confesses the faith of Jesus Christ in the orthodox form of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and governs a Church that confesses this, the Apostles’ and the Athanasian Creeds, he cannot be the Antichrist.   What does it say about Hyper-Protestants that whenever they use the word “Antichrist” it is in association with the Roman Patriarch and his Church?

Indeed, there is another type of Hyper-Protestant than the Calvinist type I have been addressing.   In addition to identifying the Patriarch of Rome as the “Antichrist” and the Church he governs as “Mystery Babylon”, this type insists that that adherents of another world religion that literally fits the description of the Antichrist in 1 John 2:22 in that it, like Christianity, claims to have inherited the mantle of the Old Testament religion but departs from Christianity on precisely the point that it denies “that Jesus is the Christ”, cannot be criticized without incurring the curse of Genesis 12:3, as if St. Paul had not identified for Christians once and for all Who the Seed of Abraham is in Galatians 3:16.   I know Hyper-Protestants of this type who cannot stand to hear anything negative, no matter how true, said about this other world religion and its adherents, but who believe and regurgitate every last piece of  conspiratorial drivel they hear, not only about the Patriarch of Rome and his Church, but about all the ancient Churches so that basically, while believing nothing but good about people who deny that Jesus is the Christ, they write off the vast majority of people in the world today and who have ever lived who confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, their Lord and Saviour, since the majority of people in the world today and who have ever lived who confess Jesus as Christ, Son of God, Lord and Saviour, have belonged to the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other ancient Churches.   These same Hyper-Protestants claim to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Christians.   One would think that if the Spirit that filled and led them were the Holy Ghost, He would convict them of the sin of participating in the last socially acceptable bigotry (except the genocidal anti-white racial hatred currently being displayed by “anti-racist” academics and activists), anti-Catholic bigotry.

Be a Protestant, but don’t be a Hyper-Protestant nut! — Gerry T. Neal

Barbenheimer Meets the Terminator

                                                         Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, August 4, 2023

Barbenheimer Meets the Terminator

Just when everyone thought that the combination of two and a half years of bat flu paranoia, online streaming services, and new film releases consisting mostly of the double digit latest instalments in series that everyone had grown tired of at least a decade ago had finally killed off the cinema, Barbenheimer – the simultaneous release of the films Barbie and Oppenheimer -brought the teetering industry back from the brink of bankruptcy, as both films broke box office records their opening weekend.   The meme itself, which encouraged people to watch both as a double feature, probably had something to do with it.  I don’t know who exactly came up with it.   There is a well-known phenomenon in which rival film studies release similar films around the same time – think Deep Impact and Armageddon in 1998, for one example.   This is obviously the exact opposite of that, two movies that could hardly be more different from each other being released at the same.   Of course this is not exactly an unusual phenomenon.  Arguably, it occurs every weekend.   In this case, however, the difference between the two seems to have struck someone, or rather a whole lot of someones as the popularity of the meme attests, as being much larger than is usual.     Or maybe it was just the catchiness of the portmanteau.   The first is a live action comedy featuring Margot Robbie as the fashion doll upon which Mattel built its toy empire.   The second is a three hour biopic starring Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist from Berkeley who was led the Manhattan Project in uncorking the bottle and releasing the genie of nuclear weapons into the world.   With Barbie being only an hour shorter than Oppenheimer, bringing the total running time of the two to five hours, it would have been a long night at the movies for anyone who took the meme literally.   Not, “watch the entire Ring cycle in one sitting” long, but a step in that direction.

Barbie proved to be the bigger hit of the two, taking in almost twice as much as Oppenheimer.  Since it is a highly politicized movie, a fact the filmmakers made no attempt to hide prior to release, some have jumped on this as debunking the maxim “go woke, go broke”.   An op-ed cartoon in the Baltimore Sun, for example, depicts Ron DeSantis as saying “go woke go broke” as he is trampled by a mob rushing into a theatre showing Barbie.   Tori Otten wrote an editorial for The New Republic maintaining that the Barbie opening weekend sales debunk the saying that she dubs “far right”.   Perhaps she has never heard of the other saying “the exception that proves the rule”.  That might be what we are seeing here.   Then again, the rule may simply not apply.   The implications of “go woke go broke” are that companies that were originally apolitical and sold their products to a general consumer base will lose a lot of customers if they start injecting politics, especially of the obnoxious, preachy, ultra-left kind that is now called “woke”, into their brand.     What happened with Bud Light earlier this year is the textbook example.   Or, and this is particularly the case when it comes to pop culture, if a story or character originally created to appeal to the kinds of people the woke hate is suddenly given a woke makeover, it is not likely to go over well.  If someone were to film a remake of Dirty Harry, for example, telling the story from the perspective of the liberal mayor and police commissioner, with Inspector Callahan breaking down into tears, coming around to their point of view, throwing away his .44 Magnum instead of his star, and hugging Scorpio and begging his forgiveness, then I would expect that movie to do exceptionally poorly in the box office.     A movie, on the other hand, about the doll that has been associated with the Helen Gurley Brown “you can have it all, girl” type feminism from pretty much the day Ruth Handler ripped her off from a more risqué German doll marketed for adult males and repackaged her in a pink box for girls, is not likely to be harmed at the box office by its having a feminist message.

Amusingly, the film preaches feminism in such a way as to completely undermine its message.   *spoiler alert*  The title character, a feminist of the Cosmo type her brand has long represented, lives in a world inhabited by her multiple versions, and the other characters of the franchise.   That world is a complete gynocracy.  Most people would probably call it a matriarchy but none of the females who rule the place seem to have any maternal instincts – except discontinued pregnant Midge – so gynocracy makes more sense.  To “stereotypical Barbie” this is a utopia.   It is also a mirror-image parody of what feminists think the world looked like before feminism and would still look like without feminism.   Barbie thinks that due to her influence the real world is like hers.  Then she has to visit it and discovers that it is not.  In the real world she is verbally dressed down by a young girl who spouts the extra crazy version of feminism that thinks that women are all oppressed “A Handmaid’s Tale” style in the Western world today and that Barbie is the “fascist” enabler of said oppression.   This girl and her mother end up going back with Barbie to Barbieland, where they discover that it has been taken over by Ryan Gosling’s Ken, who had gone to the real world with Barbie, read about “patriarchy” in a library, went home and easily replaced the gynocracy with what he thought “patriarchy” was.   Note that patriarchy is the term feminists use for a society ruled by men qua men, who oppress women qua women, basically the Marxist concept of haves oppressing have nots, with the sexes taking the place of the economic classes.   The same objection that I made to matriarchy earlier apply to this usage of patriarchy.  The term logically suggests the traditional authority belonging to fathers which is a good thing not a bad thing.   Androcracy would be a better word for what the feminists are talking about.   It is not likely to catch on, but then as the thing it would denote only exists – and only ever has existed – in the fevered brains of feminists, it is not really needed.  

Now, and this is the point, nobody with an IQ over ten who watches this movie is going to think that the actual world around them either a) resembles Barbieland with the sex/gender roles reversed or b) resembles Kendom, the weird caricature that the idea of “patriarchy” inspired Ken to create.   Especially since in the movie, Barbie herself, after restoring her world to the way it was, sort of, opts to leave Barbieland for the real world and become a real girl with the help of the ghost of Ruth Handler, played by Rhea Perlman, who for some unexplained reason has the same powers as the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio.  

Something similar can be said about the movie’s man-bashing, which Piers Morgan and others have criticized. (1)   Yes, the movie does depict its male characters as stupid, incompetent, clumsy and boorish.   I can’t imagine anyone, however, who has not already been thoroughly brainwashed by feminism, watching the movie, and thinking that this is an accurate depiction of men.  Nor, I suspect, are many likely to be persuaded to think that the film’s portrayal of men accurately depicts how men see women, which is obviously the point it is, at least on the surface, trying to make.    It is simply too much of a caricature to be taken seriously.  The film comes across as pretending to promote feminism while actually satirizing it.   Except that this does not mesh well with anything else I have ever heard about filmmaker Greta Gerwig, I would be inclined to say this must be intentional.

Many have criticized Barbie as being far too political for a children’s movie and this criticism would be accurate regardless of whether it is the woke, feminist, propaganda that on the surface it can be read as or whether it is actually the most brilliant, satirical, takedown of the same ever made.   Except, of course, that it is obviously not a children’s movie as ought to be evident from the rating.   Like G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) and its sequel, and the more successful Transformers film series, also based on children’s toys, this film’s target audience is not children playing with the toys today, but the children who played with the toys decades ago and are today adults, if only in the sense of having passed the age of majority.

Oppenheimer seems set to become Christopher Nolan’s most successful film yet.   It would probably have done even better if he had not insisted on shooting it only in IMAX, forcing moviegoers to either pay the steep price of an IMAX ticket or watch it in a theatre for which it is not really formatted.   It is a very timely film.   I suspect that a lot of people would agree with that statement because, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine and NATO’s involvement in said conflict on Ukraine’s side, we are closer to nuclear war than we have been since the Cold War ended.   That is certainly a valid reason for thinking the film to be timely   It is not the reason behind my statement, however.    Before looking at that reason a few remarks about the movie are in order.

The film does not just cover the period in which the atomic bomb was being developed.   It also looks at Oppenheimer’s revulsion at the destructive fruit that his efforts produced, his unsuccessful attempts to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle and the ensuing falling away between him and his former colleagues.   The movie zig-zags between this latter part of Oppenheimer’s life, the period in which he led the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos Laboratory, and an even earlier, pre-war period of his career.   In this earlier period he apparently identified as Snow White’s evil stepmother.   Or, at any rate, he tried to dispatch his tutor, Lord Patrick Blackett, played in the film by James D’Arcy, in the same manner employed by the witch in her final attempt on Snow White’s life.   Since the apple went uneaten, neither dwarves nor prince were needed.   Pity.  They would have been available for the movie since Disney kicked them out of its new ultra-woke live action remake of Snow White.     

In the storyline about the post-war part of his life the dominant theme is the growing animosity between him and US Atomic Energy Commission chair Lewis Strauss, portrayed in the film by Robert Downey Jr.    The film is shot partly in black and white, partly in colour, with the colour parts depicting when the story is told from Oppenheimer’s point of view, the black and white depicting when it is told from Strauss’ point of view.   It is best to know that going into the theatre because otherwise the natural assumption would be to think it had something to do with the different timeframes the movie keeps switching between.  The contest between Oppenheimer and Strauss culminated in the 1954 AEC hearings in which Oppenheimer was asked about his Communist associations (before the war his social circle included several Communists, including his pre-war girlfriend Jean Tatlock, portrayed by Florence Pugh in the movie, Katherine “Kitty” Puening, portrayed by Emily Blunt in the movie, who became his wife, and his younger brother Frank, portrayed by Dylan Arnold) and stripped of his security clearance.   Strauss’s purpose in these hearings was more to publicly humiliate Oppenheimer than to harm him professionally – the clearance was set to expire the day after he was stripped of it.   Ultimately, it cost Strauss his own appointment to Eisenhower’s cabinet as Secretary of Commerce when the US Senate voted against confirmation of the appointment in part because of the lobbying of scientists looking to avenge Oppenheimer.    In depicting these events Nolan does not stray from the Hollywood party-line on “McCarthyism”, which is not surprising since if any film since John Wayne starred in Big Jim McLain in 1952, two years before the Oppenheimer hearings, has dared to tell the other side of the story I am not aware of it.   Accordingly the film’s precise historical accuracy fails somewhat on this point.   That Strauss in hauling Oppenheimer before the AEC’s Personnel Security Board was carrying out a personal vendetta is accurate enough.  That the charges against him were bogus, well, that is not as clear as the film suggests and as many people think.   That J. Brandon Magoo took it upon himself, last December, to indulge in the empty gesture of voiding the revocation of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance, suggests there might have been more to the charges than meets the eye.  

The reason, however, that I said that Oppenheimer is a very timely film, is not the Russia-Ukrainian War and the renewed threat of nuclear annihilation that the repentant Oppenheimer felt to be the inevitable outcome of his work nor does it have anything to do with Communism.   A notable moment in the film is when the title character quotes “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” upon his realization of just what he had unleashed, a line which earlier he had translated upon request from his pre-war Commie girlfriend during an, ahem, intimate moment.   The classical Sanskrit original of the quote comes from the Bhagavad Gita, an important section of the sixth parva or book of the Mahabharata, the longest epic poem still extent and one of the principal Hindu scriptures.   In its original context, the line is spoken by Krishna, avatar of the Hindu supreme deity Vishnu, to Prince Arjuna, the hero of the epic, and its intent is to convince Arjuna to go to war.   When Oppenheimer took to quoting this line in his post-war life it was rather to the opposite effect of this.   Another contrast, however, jumps out.   Oppenheimer in his testimony before the USAEC Personnel Security Board in 1954 said:

When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.

George Grant, the greatest thinker my country, the Dominion of Canada, has ever produced, was as fond of quoting these words, especially the first part up to the words “do it”, as Oppenheimer himself was of quoting the line from the Gita.   Grant believed that in these words Oppenheimer had captured the spirit that animates Modern technological progress and had also expressed in the same words, the very thing that was objectionable, or at the very least problematic from a Christian, ethical, and philosophical point of view, in said progress.    The question of whether or not something should be done is made subordinate to the question of whether or not something can be done and postponed until it is too late to ask the question because the damage has already been done.   Given what has already been noted about Oppenheimer’s thoughts, later in life, towards the atomic bomb, his words have the force of a mea maxima culpa.

As the trailers for Barbie and Oppenheimer were released and the hype for these movies grew we began to hear story after story about another technological genie in the process of being released from its bottle.   That is the genie of artificial intelligence or AI.

That AI poses a threat to mankind as great or greater than that of the Manhattan Project’s invention is something that even Elon Musk, the last person on earth one would suspect harboured technoskeptical sentiments, suggested that the brakes be applied.   Indeed, the man behind Tesla has been issuing these warnings for quite some time.    The AI threat that he has been talking about is a lot more serious than the threat to their careers that the striking Hollywood actors began to perceive about the time AI channels began to flood Youtube offering us artificially generated covers of every song ever written by every artist that never covered it. About five years ago he warned that AI was like “summoning the devil”, that it needed to be proactively regulated, because “By the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it will be too late”, that it could produce an “immortal dictator from which we would never escape” and posed “a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization”. 

Of course when it comes to warning about AI, Musk was beaten to the punch by decades by a film maker.   As you have probably deduced from the title of this essay I am talking about James Cameron.   In Ottawa a couple of weeks ago, when he was asked by CTV News Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos to comment about recent warnings regarding AI he said “I warned you guys in 1984, and you didn’t listen.”

1984, in addition to being the title of George Orwell’s novel warning about a totalitarian dystopia, was the year that Cameron released The Terminator.   Directed and co-written by Cameron, this film starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role as a cyborg assassin, sent back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, the character played by Linda Hamilton.   The Terminator was sent by Skynet, an Artificial Intelligence designed by Cyberdyne Systems and placed in charge of nuclear defences that would declare war on humanity in the future and eventually be defeated by a resistance led by Sarah Connor’s son John.   The future John Connor, to protect his mother and his own existence from the Terminator, sends one of his men, Kyle Reese, portrayed by Michael Biehn back in time to protect Sarah.    Reese, over the course of the movie, becomes John Connor’s father, and he and Sarah eventually defeat the Terminator at the cost of his own life.   Before the Terminator is destroyed it loses an arm, however, which in the first of many sequels it is revealed falls into the hands of the creators of the future AI enemy of mankind, becoming the means by which they learn how to develop that technology in the first place.

Throughout the Terminator movie franchise both sides are constantly struggling to prevent an outcome that proves to be inevitable.   Skynet is constantly fighting against its own future defeat at the hands of the resistance, the Connors and their allies are constantly trying to prevent the rise of Skynet.   The fatality both are fighting a losing battle against arises out of the dilemma attached to the concept of time travel, that if you go back in time to change something, after having changed it you lose the motive to have gone back in time to begin with.   The present attempt to prevent AI from becoming the threat already visible on the horizon of the future often seems similarly futile but it is not.   The battle is not against a future that cannot be changed because it is the fixed reference point for everyone working to change it in the past as in the movies.   It is against a future that is only inevitable if we continue to accept the idea that when it comes to science and technology, we must first find out if something can be done, and, after having done it, only then ask the question whether we should have done it or not.   We must reject, in other words, the Oppenheimer ethic, and in its place firmly establish – or re-establish – the idea that we must first ask the question of whether or not something should be done, and not bother at all with the question of whether it can be done unless the answer to the first question is firmly determined to be yes.

If we don’t, we are at risk of unleashing a technological threat that would render the “battle of the sexes” type controversy surrounding the first of the movies discussed here moot.   For if soulless, sexless, machines take over the world, this would indeed be an end to any sort of “patriarchy”, real or imagined, but it would also be “Hasta la vista, Barbie”.

(1)   I find it hilarious that Piers Morgan has been taking this both personally and far more seriously than I have.   Morgan is liberal on most social and moral issues, albeit liberal in the sense of thirty years ago rather than today.  Indeed, the question he posed in ranting about Barbie’s man-bashing was “why does empowering women have to be about trashing men?” He framed it in that way to indicate his support for “empowering women”.   Frankly, I think there is far too much “empowering” going on in this day and age.   While people who talk about empowerment generally conceive of it in terms of self-fulfillment, in reality power is the ability to coerce others to do your will.   It is something that is very dangerous and needs to be constantly held in check and under control.   What is sorely needed today is not for more people of more types to have more power, as the left thinks, but a restoration and revival of authority, the respected right to lead, vested by prescription – the quality of having been tested and proven since time immemorial – in traditional institutions, the only thing capable of containing power and bending it to serve the ends of civilization, rather than unleashing it in a destructive manner.   The terms “patriarchy” and “matriarchy” if they were used to mean what their component parts suggest, which neither of them is, would denote fatherly and motherly authority respectively, both good things, -archy being the suffix corresponding to authority as –cracy is the suffix corresponding to power.   As far as “empowering women” specifically goes, I am unapologetically of the same mind as Dr. Johnson, “nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little”, and Stephen Leacock, “women need not more freedom but less”, and think that every wave of feminism, including the first, was based on a fundamentally erroneous miscalculation of how little power women already had in the world, but did not take offense at this movie the way Morgan did. — Gerry T. Neal

Labels: AI, Barbie, Christopher Nolan, Cilian Murphy, Dr. Johnson, Elon Musk, George Grant, Greta Gerwig, J. Robert Oppenheimer, James Cameron, Lewis Strauss, Margot Robbie, Piers Morgan, Stephen Leacock, The Terminator

Crime And No Punishment

Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Crime And No Punishment

I recently returned to Winnipeg after visiting my father on his farm where the radio is constantly tuned to 880 CKLQ the country and western station out of Brandon.   On the morning of the day I drove back they played a familiar classic by Merle Haggard, “Mama Tried”.   The song is semi-autobiographical, written in reflection on the time the to-be country star served in San Quentin for an attempted robbery in Bakersfield.   I say semi-autobiographical for while Haggard did indeed reach the age of majority in prison the sentence he was serving was nowhere near as severe as the lyrics suggest:

And I turned twenty-one in prison doin’ life without parole
No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied
That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried

When I listened to these familiar words again this time it occurred to me to wonder what on earth someone would actually have to do to be sentenced to life in prison without parole while still a minor.  Even in 1957 when Haggard was convicted it would have had to have been a lot more than what he did.   California was not as crime-friendly then as it is today but they would not have locked a minor up and thrown away the key for an unsuccessful break and entry in which no one was hurt, not even with all of his priors.  His actual sentence was fifteen years of which he served three.   Today, it is highly unlikely that anyone in any jurisdiction outside of Texas would receive such a sentence for a similar crime.

All across North America today, both in the United States and in my country, the Dominion of Canada, major cities have seen a massive rise in violent crime especially in, but by no means limited to, their downtown, core, neighbourhoods.   More than one factor has contributed to this urban crime crisis, of course.  One of the disturbing aspects about the crisis is that “unprovoked random attacks” by strangers, i.e., when someone you don’t know from Adam comes up to you and assaults you for no discernable reason, which were previously very rare, have spiked and account for a huge percentage of the crime wave.   Two explanations for this jump to mind.   The first is the vast increase in mental illness over the last three years induced by idiotic governments forcing people into social isolation for long periods of time in a failed and absurd attempt to protect them from a respiratory disease that in most cases had only mild symptoms and from which the vast majority fully recovered.   The second is the increase in drug abuse, particularly of paranoia-inducing substances like crystal meth, which is partly due to the same thing that caused the uptick in mental illness, but which is also the result of stupid politicians having prioritized in their drug policy the making drug use safe for users over the safety of others who might be harmed by drug-induced violence.

These factors, while they help account for random stranger attacks, do not in themselves explain the larger urban crime crisis.   Another factor that significantly contributes to the overall rise in urban crime is the soft-on-crime attitude promoted by the sort of people who like to think that being forward-minded, progressive, and liberal amounts to being enlightened and that they are therefore more enlightened than others.  This attitude has in recent years been translated into various sorts of bad policies that are often described as “catch and release” or “revolving door”.   These include sentences that are too short or too soft, parole being too easily obtained and too early, and, more recently, pretrial release being too easily obtained even with multiple prior convictions.   This latter, due no doubt to its relative novelty, is the most discussed at the moment.   In several American jurisdictions liberals have demanded and sometimes obtained the elimination of cash bail either entirely, as in Illinois as of New Year’s Day this year, or for all but the most heinous of crimes, as in New York four years ago.   In Canada, criminal law falls under the jurisdiction of the Dominion government, even though in practice its day to day administration is carried out by the provinces, and so provincial premiers and legislatures cannot enact such policies within their own provinces the way American state governments can.   Not that any of the current provincial premiers would want to do so.  In January of this year all provincial and territory premiers signed a letter unanimously calling on the Dominion government to enact bail reform of the opposite sort to that of the just mentioned Illinois and New York examples, the toughening of bail laws to make it much harder for a repeat offender or one likely to repeat, to be released back into the public.  Unfortunately, the Canadian politicians most in sync with American liberals in their thinking on this matter happen to be the ones in power at the Dominion level.  

In 2018, while they still had a majority government, the Liberals introduced Bill C-75 which passed Parliament the following year.   Bill C-75 contained a number of amendments to the Criminal Code and related legislation such as the Youth Criminal Justice Act.   While I consider most, if not all, of these amendments to be bad, they fall into three categories.   The first is those which are bad for reasons that are not germane to what we are discussing here, such as the lowering of the age of consent for anal sex.   The second consists of amendments that limit the traditional rights of Canadians when accused of crimes.   Examples include the near-elimination of preliminary inquiries (intended to speed cases through the court system this has the opposite effect and so infringes on the right to a speedy trial), the abolition of peremptory challenge in juror selection (this infringes as it was intended to do on the defense’s right to exclude those prejudiced against the accused from the jury system), and allowing police to testify via affidavit (this infringes on the right of the accused to confront and cross-examine his accuser).   What needs to be said about these amendments is that while they do not err in the direction of being soft-on-crime in the sense we have been discussing (1) they are not legitimate steps in the opposite direction either.   There are a lot of people who confuse the rights of the accused with soft-on-crime but they are very different.   The rights of the accused are there to protect the innocent from the abuse of the criminal justice system.   They may, at times, result in a guilty person getting off, but they are based on the traditional conviction that for justice to fail in this manner is to be preferred over it failing by punishing the innocent, a conviction that is right and Scriptural (see Genesis 18).   Soft-on-crime policies do not protect the innocent from wrongful accusation but are rather about lighter sentences for criminals that disregard the safety of the public.   The third category consists of amendments of the soft-on-crime type.   Examples of this include the hybridization of offences and the related reduction of sentences and, most relevantly, the amendments to the bail provisions of the Criminal Code.  The stated purpose of the bail amendments was to make the earliest possible release the default outcome of an arraignment rather than detention, with fewer conditions and less requirements of cash, bond, or other surety.   In other words it was very similar in intent to Cuomo’s experiment in bail elimination in New York around the same time.

It was similar in effect too and one consequence of that was the aforementioned unanimous letter by the premiers demanding that the Dominion government walk this back and make bail harder for repeat violent offenders.   In May, David Lametti, who lamentably holds the portfolio of Minister of Justice and Attorney General in His Majesty’s government – lamentably because he has shown in numerous ways, the most recent being his favourable attitude towards criminalizing disagreement with the obviously distorted and easily debunked false official narrative about the Indian Residential Schools, that he ought not to be put in charge of the penalty box at a hockey game, much less the Ministry of Justice –  responded to the premiers’ demands with Bill C-48 which proposed further amendments to the bail system.   Unfortunately, but sadly not unpredictably, the “reform” that stands out the most is itself an egregious error of the sort contained in the second category of bad amendments in Bill C-75.   This is the proposed reverse onus for repeat violent offenders.   In other words, someone previously convicted of a violent offence, arrested a second time, would have to prove that he should be granted bail, rather than the Crown having to prove that it should be denied him.   This is something that all the Justice and Public Safety Ministers – Dominion, provincial, territorial – called for when they met in Ottawa in March.   Admittedly, this is a lesser offense against the principle of the presumption of innocence than reversing the burden of proof when it comes to guilt in an actual trial would be, but it still offends against the principle, opening the door for worse such offences.   Indeed, an examination of Bill C-48 demonstrates that most of the proposed amendments are merely different variations on the idea of reverse onus.   With all the possible ways out there of toughening up our policies towards crime without violating even in minor ways the ancient and sacred principles like the presumption of innocence that protect us all from abuse of the criminal justice system, this was the best the provincial governments could recommend and the federal government could come up with?

What is behind this push to implement policies that turn dangerous criminals back out into the streets as quickly as possible and to meet complaints about how this undermines public safety not by walking back said policies but by eroding the rights of the accused and the principles that underlie them?

We might say that it is an inversion in the priority of sympathies in which some people sympathize more with those who commit crime than with those who are its victims.    This inversion manifests itself in a number of different ways.   One of these is the liberal’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy and right of defending one’s self, one’s loved ones, and one’s property from criminals.    Look at the current uproar over country and western singer Jason Aldean’s song “Try That in a Small Town” and the accompanying video.  The song’s lyrics talk about violent urban crime such as sidewalk assaults, carjacking, liquor store robbery, etc. and challenges the thugs who do these sort of things to “try that in a small town”.   Sniveling idiots like Sheryl Crow have accused Aldean of “promoting violence” in the song and worse idiots have accused him of promoting “lynching” on the flimsy grounds that one had apparently taken place a century ago on the popular filming location where he shot the video.   To normal people, the person who sucker punches someone on the sidewalk, the carjacker, and the liquor store robber are guilty of criminal violence, and someone fighting back in defense of himself and his community is using legitimate force.  The distinction is lost on liberals – and people who whatever their politics have had their minds and souls destroyed by being brainwashed with human resources and public relations “education” – who use the word violence to describe people who exercise their God-given right of self-defense to repel criminal assaults with force but avoid using this word for the criminal assaults themselves.  While this inversion would not be a wrong answer to the question, it is a description of the problem rather than an explanation for it.

We could say that it is a result, intended or otherwise, of sixty to seventy years of liberal and progressive crusading against discrimination.   The population of prison inmates looks very different from the general population.   This may be true of economic status.   The imprisoned are far more likely to come from poverty than from wealth.   Note, however, that the poorer outnumber the richer in the general population in any society.   It is certainly true of race.   In the United States the black percentage of the prison population is far higher than the black percentage of the general population.   In Canada this same disparity exists between the representation of North American Indians in the prison population and the general population.   By contrast, in both countries, the percentage of Asians in gaol is far lower than in the general population.   It is also true of sex.   Indeed, here the greatest disparity is to be found.   In Canada, women represent on average about five percent of the incarcerated.   In the United States it is higher, about eight to ten percent.   In both countries, however, men are vastly overrepresented in the prison population if the basis of the comparison is their representation in the general population.   Even though the disparity with regards to sex is much, much, greater than the disparity with regards to race, and greater still than the disparity with regards to economic status, it is never alluded to by those who demand the criminal justice system be reformed in a softer-on-crime way because it is unfair.   Neither do they reference Asian underrepresentation.   This is because both of these facts go against their narrative in which society and its structures are biased against women rather than against men and in favour of whites against all other races.   Indeed, when it comes to the huge disparity with regards to sex, this not only goes against the narrative it rebuts it entirely.   The reason men comprise ninety percent or higher of the prison population is because men commit ninety percent or higher of the crimes that land one in gaol.    There is not really much of a dispute about this.   Discrimination in the system, therefore, is not the cause of male overrepresentation in the prison population which is not really overrepresentation when the basis of comparison is what it should be, the percentage of males in the general population who commit crime.   This suggests that something similar could be argued for the overrepresentation of blacks in the American prison population and of Indians in the Canadian prison population, a suggestion supported by the underrepresentation of Asians in the prisons of both countries, which can hardly be explained by a racial bias that favours whites against all others, and by statistics gleaned from the victims of crime as to the race of the perpetrator.   Liberals and progressives treat any suggestion that the races overrepresented in the prison populations of Canada and the United States are not overrepresented when contrasted with the percentages of each race among the criminal perpetrator population rather than the general population, no matter how backed by facts and data that suggestion may be, as arising out of racism.  Their actions, however, and the policies they support demonstrate that they do not really believe this, that on an unspoken level they acknowledge it, but in their need to be seen and to see themselves as sympathetic with American blacks, Canadian Indians, and, to switch to the economic status category, the poor, they blame the larger society for this.   This makes them, of course, vulnerable to all the ugly accusations they hurl against others.   Blaming the larger society for the overrepresentation of American blacks, Canadian Indians, and the poor is to deny agency to blacks, Indians, and the poor.   Furthermore, justifying being soft-on-crime in the name of being fair to these groups, overlooks the fact that they are also overrepresented among the victims of crime.   This is a fact that goes hand-in-glove with these same groups being overrepresented among the perpetrators of crime because the majority of crimes are in-group rather than perpetrated by members of one racial or socioeconomic group against members of another.   Therefore, it is favouring soft-on-crime policies that is discriminatory against these groups, because even if American blacks and Canadian Indians are represented among perpetrators of crime at a higher percentage than they are represented among the general population, the majority of these groups are not criminals and all members of these groups, here including the poor, are at a higher risk of being the victims of violent crime than the general population, and so need the protection of hard-on-crime policies more.   However, liberalism and progressivism’s misguided, ill-informed, and myopic crusade against discrimination, while it may explain the shape of the arguments currently used by soft-on-crime liberals and the policies they currently support, it does not explain the origin of their way of thinking.

This is so because liberals have been soft-on-crime for a lot longer than they have been obsessed with discrimination.   In the “Enlightenment”, the seventeenth and eighteenth century movement away from the light of orthodox Christianity into the darkness of the superstitious idolatry of science and materialistic reason that took Puritanism, the anal retentive form of Calvinism and transformed it into liberalism, the anal retentive form of secular agnosticism, the early liberals decided that traditional criminal justice was barbaric and cruel both in its penalties – death for capital crimes like murder, corporal punishment, fines, public humiliation, exile and such for lesser crimes – and its underlying theory – that by breaking the law, criminals incurred a debt to society which they had had to pay.   In place of the older penalties the early liberals wanted incarceration to become the default penalty for crime which they achieved in the nineteenth century.   In the traditional system gaol was merely for holding the accused until trial, long term imprisonment was reserved for political prisoners.   Punishing people for their crimes, the liberals said, was not justice but revenge.  This is nonsense.  In all the ancient accounts of the origins of the traditional criminal justice system, from Aeschylus’ tragedic account of the origins of jury trials in his retelling of the myths of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Orestes in the Oresteia to the account of the establishment of refugee cities in ancient Israel in sacred Scripture, the criminal justice system was not based on revenge but implemented to curb the lust for revenge and protect societies from out of control cycles of vengeance.   Although obviously, for criminal justice to do this, it must legitimately satisfy the need which blood vengeance seeks to satisfy in an illegitimate manner – unsuccessfully as its tendency to get out of control indicates – there is a careful and clear distinction between the two.   In revenge, a wrong doer’s debt is owed to the victim or his kin, and they exact it from him to the extent that they are able and that they themselves see fit.  Under justice, the debt is owed to the laws of society, it is not exacted by those with a personal stake in the case but by the lawfully appointed court and its officers, guilt has to be investigated and established and the accused has the right to present his own case, and the law places limits on the penalties that can be exacted.   The Lex Talionis – “an eye for an eye” – whether enshrined in the Code of Hammurabi or the Law of Moses is in its fundamental nature, a limit on the penalty someone can be made to pay for injury to another.   The principle underlying it is that expressed by Cicero in De Legibus III.4, noxiae poena par esto, more commonly remembered as the Roman legal maxim culpae poena par esto which means “let the punishment fit the crime” (or “offense” in Tully’s wording).   By treating the traditional system of criminal justice as being the very thing it was designed to limit, prevent, and replace the liberals committed a most impious injustice against multiple generations of their ancestors stretching back to antiquity.   They argued that making a criminal pay for his offence must not be the goal of the criminal justice system, that the only acceptable goals were deterring others from committing similar crimes and reforming or rehabilitating the criminal.   This was the original liberal soft-on-crime attitude.

C. S. Lewis answered this earlier version of the liberal soft-on-crime attitude in an essay entitled “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” that was originally published in The Twentieth Century in 1949 and later included in the collection of his essays posthumously edited and published by William Hooper as God in the Dock in 1976.   Lewis clearly felt very strongly on the matter – he alluded to it in later essays, asked T. S. Eliot to write an essay about it in a letter in 1962, and included a discussion of it in his novel That Hideous Strength.   What made Lewis’ response so interesting is that he based his case against the progressive view to which he gave the name found in the title of his essay and his defense of the traditional view on the argument that the progressives’ humanitarian theory failed on the very point on which it claimed superiority over the traditional view, that is, treating offenders in a humane, dignified manner.   Its advocates think it “mild and merciful” but in reality it “disguises the possibility of cruelty and injustice without end”.   Removing the concept of “desert”, i.e., the offender getting what he deserves as punishment for his crime from the picture, removes “the only connecting link between punishment and justice” so that without retributive justice, rehabilitative justice is not justice at all.   By treating crime as essentially pathological and the courts and prison system as essentially therapeutic, the progressive humanitarian theory opens the door to excessive punishment by transferring the decision as to the fate of the convicted into  the hands of “technical experts” trained in “special sciences “which “do not even employ such categories as rights and justice”.   These, since they are operating under the idea that they are curing the criminal rather than punishing him, are not bound by the limits which justice places on what punishment can be exacted from a criminal and will keep on until they are convinced he is cured.   Lewis argued that this theory made it possible for good men to act “as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants” or “even worse” because “a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive” since “those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience” and while they “may be more likely to go to Heaven” they are also “likelier to make a Hell of earth”.   Lewis argued that far from being “humane” the system advocated by the progressives in the name of humanitarianism treated law breakers as less than human.   This seems indisputable.  The traditional system treated the criminal as responsible for his actions and so owing a debt the payment of which squared the criminal with the law and society.   The progressive humanitarian system denies responsibility to the criminal and keeps his crime dangling above his head forever as the experts who “cured” him keep perennial watch lest he have a “relapse”.

Lewis’ answer to the humanitarian theory, since it addresses it on the level of its fundamental injustice, is an answer that would stand even if the experiment in “curing” criminals had been one hundred percent successful.   The experiment has not been successful.   It has rather proven to be a colossal failure.   Yes, people have gone to prison and come out reformed.   Merle Haggard, referred to at the beginning of this essay, is an example.   His reformation in San Quentin, however, had less to do with the prison’s rehabilitation system working than with its retaining part of the older retributive system.   California did not abolish the death penalty until 1972.    Haggard was sent to San Quentin while Caryl Chessman was serving his last days on death row there before his execution in 1960.   Chessman’s early life, with the experience of being in and out of detention, initially for petty crimes, later for more serious ones, mirrored Haggard’s in some ways.   Later, however, he had been convicted of the “Red Light Bandit” crimes, a series of robberies and rapes that had taken place in the Los Angeles area in 1948, and sentenced to death.   By Haggard’s own testimony it was the experience of being caught brewing liquor in San Quentin and sent to “the shelf” – a row of solitary confinement cells in the same part of the prison as death row – where he saw Chessman, awaiting his execution, and this scared him straight.    He was rehabilitated in prison, but not by the prison, at least not in the direct sense that liberal supporters of the rehabilitation theory had in mind.   Others have entered prison and for various reasons – being further corrupted by worse criminals themselves, being hardened by prison culture and as a necessity for survival, etc. – have ended up worse than when they went in.   According to a research summary entitled “The effect of prison on criminal behaviour” published by Public Safety Canada in November 1999 which looked at 50 studies involving 300 000 offenders “None of the analyses found imprisonment to reduce recidivism”.

The liberal and progressive attitude towards how society should deal with crime and criminals has consistently been based on the conceit that their ideas are more “humane”, “enlightened”, “kind”, “compassionate”, et cetera ad nauseam than anything that preceded them no matter how ancient and time-tested-and-proven.   Initially, this manifested itself as the idea that it is more “humane” to treat criminals as rats in a social experiment in rehabilitation in prison laboratories than to treat them as men, responsible for their actions, who owe a debt to society and society’s laws.   Later, as the progressive conceit evolved from an attitude of superiority to the past and the civilization we have inherited from it to one of hatred for said past and civilization, it manifested itself in the idea that the criminal is the true victim, the real blame belongs to civilized society, and so civilized society must be made to pay rather than the criminal, who should be released into the rest of society as soon as possible with as few conditions as possible.   The progressive mind has proven remarkably resistant to the abundance of evidence demonstrating these ideas to be the very opposite of “humane” and “enlightened”.   For people who are always shooting their mouths off about their “compassion” and demanding that various groups be made “safe” from words and ideas that offend them they are extremely blithe about how their absurd policies make everyday life less safe from the threat of actual physical harm due to violent crime in our cities.

Ultimately, the liberal and progressive conceit goes back to the superstition they imbibed during the period that would more appropriately called the Darkening rather than the Enlightenment.   Having transferred their faith from the True and Living God to the idol of science, they no longer recognized that the True and Living God, in Whom both Perfect Justice and Perfect Mercy are untied without compromise, has delegated authority to two earthly institutions, to one of which He gave a sword and charged it with the exercising of Justice, to the other of which He gave a pulpit and an altar and charged it with bringing His Mercy and Grace to people all of whom are offenders under Divine Law.   The State, consisting of the king and his ministers, an earthly depiction of the government of the Universe, God as King of Kings, served by His ministers in Heaven, for which reason king-headed government is the only legitimate form of the State, was given the sword of Justice, but Justice that was to be tempered with Mercy, for which reason kings and the courts that act in their name have always had the power of clemency and pardon.   The Church, consisting of the Apostolic priesthood and the congregations of baptized Christians they shepherd, brings God’s Mercy and Grace to the sinful world by preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments.   While the Church’s ministry is primarily one of Mercy and Grace, as the State’s ministry is primarily one of Justice, just as the State must temper the Justice it exercises with Mercy, so the Church’s Apostolic leadership has been given the keys – the power of excommunication – to exclude from the ministration of Grace those who defiantly persist in rebellious and open sin until such time as they repent.   No longer recognizing the God from Whom the authority of Church and State alike are derived, liberals and progressives reject the Church and have replaced divine Mercy and Grace with inferior human substitutes the burden of distributing which they have placed on the State, the divine authority of which they have sought to replace with democratic power, the power of the mob.   Idols always fail those who worship them, however, and it has become abundantly clear that liberalism’s efforts to create a new justice superior to the old and more merciful after cutting itself off from the Source of true Justice and Mercy have failed and unleashed upon our civilization the opposite of both Justice and Mercy.

It is about time that we as a civilization turned our backs on liberalism forever and returned to the True and Living God, Who is Merciful and Gracious to all who turn to Him in repentance and faith, but has given to the State the sword to punish crime and expects it to be used for the safety of us all.