The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Sermon Is Not the Point of Going to Church

The church is the organic community of faith that was established by Jesus Christ through His Apostles, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them as they waited in Jerusalem following His Ascension on the first Whitsunday. It is entered by baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united in its confession of faith in Jesus Christ, and as His body, continues His Incarnational presence and ministry on earth. When we have the entire church, throughout the whole world in mind, we call the church catholic. When we have the portion of the catholic church that gathers and meets in a specific location in mind, we call it by its particular name. The community of Christian faith, as the Book of Acts records, has been in the practice of regularly meeting together from the very beginning and is commanded by the author of the Book of Hebrews to maintain that practice. Indeed, the Greek word for church, ἐκκλησία, points to this practice for it means “assembly.”

What does the church do when it meets? The Book of Acts says that the first church in Jerusalem:

continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (2:42)

We will consider these items in reverse order as it is the first mentioned that I wish to focus on. That prayers would be included in meetings of the community of Christian faith requires little in the way of commentary. The breaking of bread mentioned here, is the same breaking of bread spoken of by St. Paul in the tenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthian church:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (v. 16)

This is what is called Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the Eucharist (1) – the mystery or sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ for the New Covenant at the last Passover supper that He shared with His disciples under the Old Covenant. It was the custom, at first, for the church to celebrate this sacrament daily, in the evening, at the end of a kind of potluck meal. It eventually became necessary, for reasons alluded to in the eleventh chapter of the last mentioned epistle, for St. Paul to separate the two and the larger meal became what was known as the “agape feast” in the early church.

Fellowship is the same word rendered communion in 1 Corinthians, but in our verse in Acts it may be a separate item – although the early Syrian and Latin translations join the two. Whether the verse is speaking of “fellowship in the breaking of bread” as the early translators thought or “fellowship and the breaking of bread” the meaning of κοινωνία, which is rather more than the “engaging in social interaction” that the word fellowship has often been reduced to today, is perfectly illustrated by St. Paul’s remarks about the “communion” of the Lord’s Supper in the verse in 1 Corinthians that follows the one already quoted:

For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

We turn now to our topic, the primitive church’s steadfast continuance “in the apostles’ doctrine.” Doctrine, here, is the Greek word διδαχή from which our English word “didactic” is derived. It means teaching, both in the sense of the material that is taught – which is what we usually think of when we hear the word doctrine – and in the sense of the act of instruction itself. It is in the latter sense that the word is being used here. The church in Jerusalem, which was growing rapidly – that first Pentecost of the New Covenant had seen three thousand converts – and these met daily to be taught the doctrines of Jesus Christ by His Apostles themselves.

The church’s teaching ministry did not end with the Apostles. As the church grew, and spread out through many cities, first in the Holy Land, then throughout the entire Roman Empire, the Apostles ordained others to be bishops (overseers) and priests (elders) (2) and entrusted them with the ministry of faithfully instructing the church in the doctrines of Christ, and guarding their flocks like shepherds against the wolves of heresy that even then were beginning to creep in. While there are several different forms of instruction that would fall under the general umbrella of the church’s teaching ministry, such as catechizing - the giving of beginner’s lessons in the basics of the faith to novices in preparation for baptism – the most direct descendent of the “apostles’ doctrine” of Acts 2 is the teaching element incorporated into the liturgy, or formal order of service, in connection with the reading of the Scriptures, that is traditionally known as a sermon or homily. (3)

As important and indispensable as this ministry is to the life of the church, it has suffered a great deal of abuse and corruption due to overemphasis in many evangelical churches. As with so many other of the religious problems (and political problems for that matter) that trouble us today, this can be traced back to John Calvin and especially to the English Calvinists who in the reign of Elizabeth I returned radicalized from their exile in continental Europe, to stir up dissent, sedition, rebellion, and revolution. Calvin, like Luther, sought to reform the practices of the church from the excesses of late Medievalism. Admirable and necessary as this was, Calvin took it to an extreme. He formulated what has since been dubbed the “regulative principle” of worship, which is the idea that the church’s traditional liturgy and worship needed to be stripped of everything that was not commanded and authorized by the Scriptures. To give one example, the Calvinists maintained that the Scriptures did not command the traditional practice of bowing at the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so, when Archbishop Laud reintroduced the practice during the reign of Charles I, the Puritans threw a hairy fit and gave Laud the same treatment – a corrupt trial and illegal execution – that He, at Whose name Laud saw fit to bow the head, received at the hands of the religious leaders of Israel.

The regulative principle completely violates the spirit of Christian liberty, with which spirit the normative principle, that everything in the church’s traditional worship that is not forbidden in Scriptures is permitted, is far more in keeping as Richard Hooker, the great apologist for classical Anglicanism argued in his Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie. The Puritans were great fanatics for the regulative principle. They dubbed most of traditional liturgical worship “man-made tradition”, and in practice their application of the principle meant stripping the church of everything that was aesthetically pleasing, making an idol out of the idea of simplicity, and demanding that the faithful come to a plain building, for the purpose of listening, after a few plain prayers and maybe a plain psalm or two, (4) to a very long sermon. The influence of this thinking is physically visible in those Protestant church buildings where the pulpit stands in the focal point of the congregation’s gaze, right in the centre at the front of the church. This is traditionally where the altar (5) stood, and his having placed it back there where it belongs is yet another reason for the Puritans’ homicidal hatred of Archbishop Laud.

The result, of course, was that as much superstitious abuse, if not more, attached itself to the sermon in the Puritan tradition, as had attached itself to the Eucharist in Romanism. It is not uncommon to hear those under the influence of this kind of thinking refer to the sermon as the “preaching of the Word”, as if the sermon itself were the Word of God, rather than a man’s explanation of the Word of God. Traditionally, the sermon had always taken a subordinate place beneath the Word itself. Churches early on developed lectionaries which would schedule the Scripture readings for cycles, usually of one to three years. Sound reasoning lay behind this. Until the relatively recent invention of the printing press it was not practical for every believer to have his own Bible and even to the present day literacy is far from universal therefore the only practical access to the Scriptures for many believers was and is through the readings in church, making it imperative that these readings be chosen, not to suit the topical hobby-horse of the preacher, but the need for the congregation to hear the entire Word of God, give or take a genealogy here or there, read out to them. The church would set the Scriptural readings in its lectionaries, and the readings would govern the sermon, which would explain the read texts. While the best preachers in the Calvinist tradition have practiced expository preaching, the Calvinist emphasis on the sermon laid the foundation for the topical sermon that is the norm in evangelicalism today – the preacher decides what he wants to rant about, and selects the texts accordingly, thus in effect making the Word of God subordinate to the sermon.

It should be noted that properly and scripturally, there is a distinction between the teaching, preaching, and prophetic ministries of the church. The word “preach” in the English Bible, usually indicates the Greek word κηρύσσω which literally means to perform the role of a herald, i.e., to go somewhere and make an official announcement or proclamation. When the Gospels say that after Jesus’ baptism He began His ministry of preaching that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” they mean that He was acting as a herald to national Israel, proclaiming to them the good news that the kingdom of God, promised in the prophets of their Scriptures, had finally arrived in the person of the King (Himself). When He charged His disciples, soon be His church, to go into all the world “and preach the gospel to every creature”, (Mk. 16:15) He meant that we are to act as His heralds to the whole world, bringing to them the good news that God had sent them a Redeemer, in Jesus Christ, Who had died for their sins to reconcile them to God and then rose again victorious over death, the grave, and hell. This is the preaching ministry of the church and, Katherine Hankey’s “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest” notwithstanding, it is clearly an outward directed ministry that is not to be equated with the inward directed teaching ministry of the church although the latter, obviously, ought to equip and instruct the church in the performance of the former. The prophetic ministry of the church is the ministry of reproving and rebuking sin. This is the essential role of the prophet, to which foretelling the future is merely accidental. This ministry of the church can be directed both outward and inward, and so overlaps both the teaching and the preaching ministries, but it ought not to overshadow either. Unfortunately, the giving of the sermon in church (the teaching ministry) is almost always described as preaching, whereas this word has developed, in the common lingo, the connotations of nagging people about their behaviour and harping on about their faults (a caricature of the prophetic ministry), confusing the vital distinction between these ministries, and presenting a distorted view of all three of them. While not all of the blame for this confusion can be placed on the Puritans, their overemphasis on the sermon, and their legalistic and moralistic approach to sermonizing, certainly contributed to and greatly exacerbated the problem.

All of this hardly improved the quality of the sermons. My favorite illustration of Puritan preaching at its worst comes from Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights. Early in the novel the nominal narrator (the bulk of the story is actually narrated to the narrator by someone else) Mr. Lockwood, forced to spend the night at the house named in the book’s title, falls asleep and dreams a dream influenced by names that he has encountered in the literature he has been perusing in his temporary bedroom. He dreams that he goes to a Puritan chapel, where the Reverend Jabes Branderham is going to preach his famous sermon on the “Seventy Times Seven and the First of the Seventy-First”, i.e., all the sins you have to forgive your brother for, and the one on which you are released from this obligation. The sermon was “divided into four hundred and ninety parts, each fully equal to an ordinary address from the pulpit, and each discussing a separate sin!” Understandably, Lockwood fidgets and squirms through this interminable harangue until finally, as the Reverend is about to turn to the sin beyond forgiveness, he and the minister mutually denounce each other for committing it, each feeling that he has forgiven the other the maximum required times, the one for 490 counts of inattentiveness to his sermon, the other for 490 counts of having preached it in the first place!

The dream sermon depicted in Bronte’s novel may be a – slightly – exaggerated caricature, but here is Anthony M. Ludovici:

The first thing that the Puritan party conscientiously set about doing was to make the Englishman miserable…Not only was all amusement forbidden, but the Church services themselves were made so insufferably tedious and colourless, and sermons were made to last such a preposterous length of time, that Sunday became what it was required to be by these employers of slaves — the most dreaded day in the week… Puritan preachers vied with each other, as to who would preach the longest sermons and say the longest prayers, and if any of the less attentive among their congregations should fall asleep during the former orations, which sometimes lasted over two hours, they were suspected of the grossest impiety. (6)

Of the Puritans who crossed the ocean to North America he went on to add:

Short prayers and short sermons were considered irreligious in New England, and it was not unusual for these to last one hour and three hours respectively. A tithing-man bearing a sort of whisk, would keep an eye on the congregations during Sunday service, brusquely wake all those who fell asleep, and allow no deserters.

For all their claim to get their doctrine and practice from the Bible alone, the Puritans clearly had not learned anything from the twentieth chapter of the book of Acts. In this chapter, St. Paul, St. Luke, and their entourage sail from Philippi to Troas and stay there a week. The seventh verse reads:

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Let us note in passing, that a) the practice of the church meeting on Sundays (the weekly anniversary of the Resurrection) had already begun, and b) the purpose of the meeting was to take the sacrament of communion. Also note that in this verse and verse nine, the word translated “preach” is not κηρύσσω but διαλέγομαι, the verbal form of the word from which our English “dialogue” is derived. It means to have a discussion, conversation, (8) or even in some cases an argument. My point, however, is that on this instance, the Apostle was unusually long-winded, so much so that he put a young man named Eutychus to sleep, and he fell out a window and “was taken up dead.” Long sermons can be fatal! To be fair to the Puritans, however, even the Apostle Paul was not quick to learn from this experience. After reviving the young man, and celebrating the Eucharist, he resumed talking and kept on until the sun came up.

I will close this long essay on the evils of long sermons by making one final point. The Puritan influence was such that by the Victorian era, it was generally thought in non-conformist Protestant churches, that the minister’s job was to preach the sermon and that the point of going to church was to hear it. This generated an atmosphere that was in many ways unhealthy. In many cases, oratorical skill came to be a more important consideration in hiring a minister, than Creedal orthodoxy, which goes a long way towards explaining how the rank unbelief of liberalism crept into so many churches. Even apart from this, however, it was hardly conducive to the Christian humility, of either clergy or congregation, to think of the church as a kind of speech-giving club, in which every Sunday the minister would try his best to be the next Demosthenes or Cicero, and his congregation would listen to him in order to pass judgement on how well he had spoken.

The traditional model, in which the Ministry of the Word and the Ministry of the Sacrament are equals and the sermon takes a subordinate role to the Scripture readings within the former, is much healthier. The more the emphasis is placed on the pulpit, the more likely it is that the pulpit will become the place, where the reverse of the miracle of Numbers 22:28-30 will occur. (9)

(1) This term is a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving” or “gratitude.” The sacrament is also sometimes called a "Mass" although this term, used mostly by the Roman Catholic Church, more properly refers to the entire liturgical service in which the sacrament is celebrated, rather than to the sacrament itself.
(2) The English names of these ministerial offices are ultimately derived, through Latin, from the original Greek names of the same offices. The words in parentheses are the literal meanings of the Greek names. The third ministerial office, of deacon, is similarly called by a derivative of the original Greek name which if translated would be "servant" or "minister."
(3) In common usage these terms are interchangeable, although there is a technical distinction between the two in the official usage of many churches.
(4) The Calvinist application of the regulative principle to music varied from “no music allowed” to “music without instrumental accompaniment allowed” to “only the Psalms allowed.”
(5) For fifteen hundred years, the hearing and explaining of the Word had been the first stage of the liturgy, in preparation for the sacrament of the Eucharist, as it still is, not just in Roman Catholicism, but Eastern Orthodoxy, the ancient churches of the Near East, and most Anglican and Lutheran churches. Despite the fact that the Eucharist was instituted and established by Christ Himself, celebrated daily in the primitive church, and clearly central to Christian worship and fellowship (1 Corinthians 10-11), the Puritans used late Medieval superstitious abuses of the sacrament as an excuse for making it infrequent and, when celebrated at all, as a sort of post script to the service, where the focus was on the sermon.
(6) Anthony M. Ludovici, A Defence of Aristocracy: A Textbook For Tories, (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1933) p. 189.
(7) Ibid. p. 190.
(8) The Latin word from which our “sermon” is derived has a similar meaning.
(9) This is the passage in which God opens the mouth of a jackass and it speaks like a man.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

What Books Make Up the Bible?

The twenty-second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew records events that took place in the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, after He had openly presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah on the first Palm Sunday, as recorded in chapter twenty-one, and before the Last Supper, in which He partook of the Passover Seder of the Old Covenant with His disciples for the last time and instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist of the New Covenant on the evening of His betrayal, arrest, and trial, as recorded in chapter twenty-six. During that last week, Jesus taught in the Temple and His enemies came to Him posing trick questions in vain attempts to trip Him up. Three such occurrences are recorded in the chapter we are considering, the first and third by the Pharisees and the second by the Sadducees. After the final question – the one about which commandment is the greatest – Jesus turned the tables on His interrogators and asked them a question which they could not answer after which, the Apostle records “neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”

The question from the Sadducees and Jesus’ response is particularly interesting. The Sadducees, whom the Apostle reminds us did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, asked Him:

Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
(vv. 24-28)

Jesus answer is to say:

Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (vv. 29-32)

There are two parts to His answer, the first part which addresses the question posed to Him, and the second which addresses the Sadducee’s heretical doctrine. The first part of the answer raises the question of what exactly Jesus meant when He said that they did not know the Scriptures. It cannot be referring to their rejection of the resurrection as it precedes the περὶ δὲ (“but concerning”) at the beginning of verse 31 with which Jesus turns to this matter. It seems at first glance, therefore, like Jesus is saying that what He goes on to explain about the nature of the resurrection state is explicitly found in the Old Testament Scriptures. If, however, this is what He meant, where are those Old Testament Scriptures that say that in the resurrection “they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven”?

The answer, of course, is that nowhere in the Old Testament does it say any such thing about the state of the resurrected. Jesus own words are the first revelation we have on this subject. What then was He talking about when He said that they did not know the Scriptures?

Sadly, few evangelicals will know the answer. This is because most of them have never read the book to which the Sadducees were alluding when they posed their question to Jesus. No, they did not just make it up to suit their purposes. The story of the woman who had seven husbands comes from the Book of Tobit, which is set in Ninevah, after the Assyrians had conquered the Northern Kingdom in 720 BC. The book concludes with the destruction of Ninevah in 612 BC, as prophesied in the book of Nahum, but this takes place long after the main narrative has concluded. The title character is a faithful Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali who, like Antigone in Sophocles’ play, gets in trouble with the civil authorities for performing burials that they have forbidden. Blinded by birds after sleeping in the street one night, he sends his son Tobias to a man in Media to collect money the latter owes him. Raphael, “one of the seven holy Angels, which present the prayers of the Saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy one” (11:15) accompanies Tobias and helps him both to accomplish his task, to heal his father’s blindness, and to marry Sara, daughter of their kinsman Raguel. Sara has previously been given in marriage to seven men, but each had been killed on the wedding night by Asmodeus, demon of lust, before the marriage could be consummated. Raphael shows Tobias how to drive the demon away, and so to safely marry Sara.

The Sadducees, in alluding to this story, add the detail that the seven husbands were brothers acting in accordance to the Levirate instructions in Deuteronomy 25, which, although it can be reasonably inferred is not present in Tobit, and, more importantly leave out the more important detail that she was given in marriage an eight time, and this time the marriage was completed. Of these, only the eighth, Tobias, was ever truly her husband in the fullest sense of the term. Thus, “not knowing the scriptures”, they presented a mangled and distorted version of the story. Note that the reason the Sadducees did not know this book very well is the same reason that they did not believe in either the resurrection or angels. They accepted only the Torah (the Pentateuch, the first five books) as canon.

Many Calvinists today deny that this passage in the Gospel of Matthew – which is also found in Luke and Mark – alludes to the Book of Tobit, but in support of this denial, they can only point to the differences between the Tobit account of the woman with seven husbands and the Sadducees version when, as we have seen, these differences are precisely what Jesus was calling attention to in rebuking them for not knowing the Scriptures. The real problem Calvinists have with seeing the allusion to Tobit here is that they, like the Sadducees, do not regard the book of Tobit as Scripture. In this they disagree with the vast majority of Christians throughout history and, if the text does indeed allude to Tobit, with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The book of Tobit belongs to those books which in Martin Luther’s German Bible of 1534 and in the Authorized English Version of 1611 were printed in a separate section between the Old and New Testament and dubbed, “The Apocrypha”. This is a misnomer, as the books which can be found in these sections are not the Gnostic, heretical, and pseudepigraphal writings to which the early church first applied this term. In the Bibles of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches as well as the ancient Churches of the Near East these are found within the Old Testament itself. They are not printed at all in most bibles that evangelicals use, such as the popular New International Version. It is a widespread notion among evangelicals that the Bible consists of sixty-six books and that the books contained in the so-called “Apocryhpa” were added by the Roman Catholics at the Council of Trent. This is a distortion of history, and it does not represent the viewpoint of the Protestant Reformers.

When Martin Luther moved these books, in his translation of the Bible, from the Old Testament into the “Apocrypha”, he defined “Apocrypha” as meaning “books which are not considered equal to the Holy Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.” This does not mean that he considered them as being down on the level of his own writings, or even those of the Church Fathers. It meant that he considered them unequal to the books which he left in the Old and New Testaments, but still worthy of being set higher than all other Christian literature by being printed in the Bible itself. This was the same position taken by the Church of England in the Sixth of its Thirty-Nine Articles, which is why the Book of Common Prayer includes readings from them in its lectionary (the readings for the weeks of the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, the Twenty-Third through Twenty-Sixth Sundays after Trinity, and the Last Sunday before Advent) and why it was included in King James’ Authorized Bible in the same position as in Luther’s Bible. Although the evangelical/fundamentalist idea that these books don’t belong in the Bible at all and perhaps should be avoided as being “popish” came, as we shall see, out of the Calvinist tradition, it does not represent John Calvin’s own views. Calvin, on this as on many other matters, was much closer to Martin Luther and the English Reformers than he was to those who would call themselves “Calvinists.”

Those who argue for the “Calvinist” position on the canon – that I and II Esdras (III and IV Esdras in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles which count Ezra and Nehemiah as I and II Esdras), Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, the Prayer of Manasseh, I and II Maccabees, and the LXX versions of Esther, Jeremiah (including Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah), Daniel (including the Song of the Three Children, Susanna and the Elders, and Bel and the Dragon) – are no part of the Bible and should be regarded with suspicion as popish additions will often maintain that neither Jesus nor His Apostles cited these books in the New Testament and that the earliest non-canonical Christian writings did not do so either. Neither of these claim is true.

The allusion to Sara and her seven husbands in Matthew 24 is not the only reference to Tobit in the New Testament. The Book of Revelation reads like a written tapestry in which threads of imagery are plucked from throughout the Old Testament and woven together. In the eights chapter St. John writes that “I saw the seven Angels which stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. And another Angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all Saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” (vv. 2-3). The seven angels who stand before God and offer up the prayers of the saints comes from the fifteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of Tobit (quoted above). John Calvin saw a reference to the fourth chapter of Baruch in the tenth chapter of St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians where both speak of sacrifices to idols as being made to devils. Later in the same epistle, his reasoning in the verse which speaks of those “who are baptized for the dead” is identical to that used in II Maccabees 12:43-45 to explain Judas Maccabeus’ actions in sending two thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering on behalf of his slain comrades. Indeed, there are multiple references to the Maccabees throughout the New Testament. In the Olivet Discourse Jesus references the book of Daniel when He speaks about the “Abomination of Desolation” but it would be difficult, if not impossible, for “whoso readeth” to “understand” what Daniel was talking about without the illumination provided by the books of Maccabees. In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel Jesus goes to Jerusalem to participate in a festival established, not in the Torah, but in the Maccabees. The author of Hebrews includes a reference to II Maccabees chapter seven in his list of heroes of faith in chapter 11 (verse 35).

Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem, citing F. F. Bruce and Roger Beckwith as authorities, states that “In fact, the earliest Christian evidence is decidedly against viewing the Apocrypha as Scripture, but the use of the Apocrypha gradually increased in some parts of the church until the time of the Reformation.” (1) John Piper makes similar statements. This is utterly fantastical nonsense, however. Apart from the New Testament itself, of which vide supra, you do not find earlier “Christian evidence” that St. Clement of Rome’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, The Epistle of Barnabas, (2) the Didache, and St. Polycarp of Smyrna’s Epistle to the Philippians. In these Wisdom, Sirach, and Tobit are all cited authoritatively like any other Scripture.

The fact of the matter is that the books that in Luther’s Bible and the KJV are called “The Apocrypha” were part of the Septuagint or LXX. This was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, that was said to have had been made by seventy-two Jewish scholars for the Macedonian King of Egypt, Ptolemy II, who wanted copies of all the world’s books of wisdom for the library in Alexandria. (3) According to legend each was required to translate the whole of the Hebrew sacred writings independently of the others and miraculously they all agreed. Whatever truth there may or may not be to that story, it was the LXX and not the Hebrew Masoretic Text that became the Old Testament of the early Church. The books that were in the LXX, but not the Masoretic Text, were accepted as Scriptures – not without dissent, but by a broad consensus – by the Christian Church, from its earliest days, and long before the Council of Trent. N.B. they are included in the canons of the Eastern Churches that broke with Rome in 1056 AD, a good five hundred years before the Council of Trent, and by the Near Eastern Churches that broke with the Greek and Latin Churches almost five hundred years before that.

The dissenting voices to the broad consensus wherewith the LXX, including the books not found in the Masoretic Text, was accepted as Old Testament Scriptures represent a minority, regional, tradition. It was primarily followers of Origen of Alexandria, such as Pamphilus and Eusebius of Caesarea, who argued against the LXX. This was a school of thought that, while highly regarded for its scholarship was not known for its orthodoxy. Origen, notoriously, fell into a sort of proto-Arianism of which Eusebius was also later accused. On the other hand, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, the champion of Trinitarian orthodoxy and Eusebius’ chief opponent, also took Origen’s position on the Old Testament canon, arguing that the canon should be limited to the books of the Masoretic Text, minus the book of Esther, but that a second category of “ecclesiastical books” needed to be recognized, consisting of writings approved by the Fathers for edification and instruction. In this category he placed Esther, the LXX books, and certain early non-canonical Christian writings like the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas. (4) St. Jerome was of the same opinion, although he included the LXX books in his Latin translation of the Old Testament. Apart from St. Athanasius and St. Jerome, there were very few others among the unquestionably orthodox Fathers who did not fully accept the canonicity of the LXX.

In arguing against the canonicity of the books found in the LXX but not the Masoretic Text these men used the lack of Hebrew originals and the fact that the Jews did not accept the books in their own canon as reasons for excluding them from the Christian canon. The first of these reasons is partially out-of-date as Hebrew copies of some of these books have since been discovered – portions of Sirach and Tobit in Hebrew, for example, were discovered among the scrolls in the caves of Qumran in the twentieth century. The second reason is not a valid reason for excluding these books from the Christian canon. No matter how it is parsed, what it is ultimately reduces to is the idea that a religion that rejects Jesus Christ as the Messiah is a more trustworthy authority as to what books belong in the Bible than the broad consensus of the Christian Church from the earliest days. (5)

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the English Reformers, while they accepted the arguments of Sts. Athanasius and Jerome, did not remove the “ecclesiastical books” from the Bible altogether, but rather set them apart, between the Testaments, in a section that they unfortunately and inaccurately dubbed “The Apocrypha.” The position of these Reformers was that of the Church of England in its Thirty-Nine Articles declared of these books “And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.” (6) Note that this is identical to the distinction Martin Luther drew between the literal interpretation of the Scriptures and the other three interpretations of the traditional quadriga (allegorical, moral, and anagogical). The latter interpretations are only to be considered valid if established elsewhere in the Scriptures literally, and doctrines can be supported from the deuterocanonical books if established in the protocanonical books. Luther frequently quoted the deuterocanonical books in this way and while Calvin was less liberal in his use of the deuterocanonical writings, he did often appeal to Baruch and the Wisdom of Solomon.

So why do evangelicals dissent, not only from the vast majority of Christian Churches (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and ancient Near Eastern Churches all accepting the full canonicity of the “ecclesiastical” or “deuterocanonical” books) but the Protestant Reformers (who kept the books in the Bible, as in Luther’s translation and the KJV, but in a subordinate position, appealed to for instruction, edification, and support, but not establishment of doctrine), and take the unhistorical position that these are “popish” books, added by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent?

Today’s evangelicals are basically liberal fundamentalists, that is to say individuals who have a mostly fundamentalist theology with considerably less rigidness and strictness – often on things that they ought to be rigid and strict about. Fundamentalism was a late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century movement, based primarily in North America, and descended theologically from the Puritanism of the late sixteenth to seventeenth centuries, in England and her North American colonies. Puritanism was the radicalized form of Calvinism, brought back to England from Switzerland after the reign of Bloody Mary. In addition to being the ancestor of fundamentalism and through fundamentalism modern evangelicalism it was also the ancestor of political liberalism (of which the “conservative” republicanism of the country to our south is a variety).

The Puritans were religious and political extremists. By contrast with Luther and the English Reformers, who reformed Church practices in accordance with the Normative Principle (established church customs that are not forbidden in the Scriptures are allowed to be retained) they followed Calvin’s Regulative Principle (whatever is not authorized by the Scriptures is forbidden) and took this much further than Calvin himself. This principle is enshrined in the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter XXI, paragraph 1) (7), which is the first Confession to go further than the Reformers on the deuterocanonical writings and take the hard position that “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings” (Chapter I, paragraph 3). The men who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith were rebels, revolutionaries, seditionists, and terrorists, waging war against their king and the established Church, who three years after writing their Confession, illegally put their king to death, and established the tyrannical junta that would be the prototype of subsequent, secular, totalitarian states such as the first French Republic, and those of the Communists and Nazis. In placing the LXX books outside the Bible altogether, as the earlier Reformers were careful not to do, not wanting to be guilty of subtracting from the Scriptures, they chose to believe that the religion that rejects Jesus Christ as Messiah is right about the Old Testament canon and that the broad consensus among those who have confessed Jesus Christ is wrong, and were guilty of countless other counts of Judaizing as well. (8)

Today’s evangelicals would do well to reject this heritage, and return to that of the earlier, saner, evangelicalism of Luther and the English Reformers.

(1) Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994)
(2) Not to be confused with the heretical Gospel of Barnabas.
(3) The title of the translation refers to the number of translators, rounded down to the nearest ten.
(4) St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Festal Epistle for 367 AD.
(5) This argument against the exclusion of these books from the Christian canon is all the stronger if, as has long been believed, Judaism did not come to a decisive decision as to its own canon until after the destruction of the Second Temple. The theory, based upon a passage in the Mishnah portion of the Talmud, that this took place at a Council held in Yahvneh or Jamnia in the late first century AD, has gone out of vogue among scholars, but the evidence does suggest that until the destruction of the Second Temple (70 AD) necessitated the translation of Jewish identity out of the terms of the nation Israel and into those of the religion Judaism, there was no consensus among the sects of the first century Jews as to the canon of their Scriptures. As noted in the text of this essay, the sect of the Sadducees had an extremely limited canon, and while the sect of the Pharisees may very well have accepted a canon closer to that of present day Judaism, the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus speaks of twenty-two books that were divinely inspired and authoritative (the canon of the Tanakh currently recognized by Judaism contains twenty-four books, Ezra and Nehemiah being considered one book, as are the twelve minor prophets), other Jewish groups, such as the one in Alexandria to which the philosopher Philo belonged, used the Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide evidence that Hebrew originals of the LXX books not found in the Masoretic Text were used by the Essenes, and, ironically, all branches of Judaism continue to celebrate as a major festival each year, Hanukkah, which was established in the Maccabean books.
(6) For a fuller look at the original Protestant position on the canon see D. H. Graham’s article “The Protestant Bible: A Touchstone of Orthodoxy,” which can be found in Anglican Tradition, Volume I, (2012-2015), pp.25-52.
(7) Ironically the chapter previous to this is the one on “Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience.”
(8) See Eliane Glazer, Judaism Without Jews: Philosemitism and Christian Polemic in Early Modern England, (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007), pp. 30-63 and Norman Podhoretz, Why are the Jews Liberal?, (New York: Doubleday, 2009), pp, 73-80.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Orthodoxy and Literalism

A century ago the fundamentalist-modernist controversy broke out across all Protestant denominations. This was very different from previous theological controversies. In the early centuries of the Church the orthodox Church Fathers defended the Apostolic faith against various sorts of heresies but these latter were distortions of the truth rather than outright denials of it. Nestorians separated the natures of Christ, monophysitists confused them, and in response the Council of Chalcedon condemned both heresies and articulated, in its famous Definition, the orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union – that full deity and full humanity are, without being confused with each other, inseparably joined in the one Person of Jesus Christ. Other controversies, would later arise among those who accepted Nicene orthodoxy, over fine points of theological interpretation. The fundamentalist-modernist controversy was not like either of those.

What was called modernism them but is usually called liberalism today, was not a new theological “tribe” that had suddenly popped up among the faithful. Instead, it was unbelief articulated as theology. Rationalistic philosophy had persuaded many people that the laws of nature were inviolable, that events such as virgins giving birth, men walking on water and multiplying a handful of loaves of bread so that they can feed thousands, and the dead returning to life, did not and could not happen. Modernism was the result of people being convinced of the rationalist position but unwilling to give up their profession of the Christian religion and so accordingly they developed a theology in which unbelief was disguised as belief, through the means of non-literalism. Thus, while unbelief is the proper term for their idea that the body of Jesus Christ remained in the grave and rotted, they instead spoke of their belief in a “non-literal” Resurrection. Similarly they asserted their belief in a “divinity of Christ” but not in the literal, Jesus Christ was the Creator of the universe, Who as the Son of God shared the nature of the Father and Holy Spirit with Whom He existed from all eternity, sense of orthodox Christianity. H. Richard Niebuhr – the brother of the better known Reinhold Niebuhr – aptly summed up the message of liberal Protestantism as “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” (1) It was in no way a form of Christianity but a different religion altogether as Presbyterian theologian, J. Gresham Machen, observed:

In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called “modernism” or “liberalism.” (2)

It is important, therefore, when examining the weaknesses of fundamentalist literalism from the perspective of historical and traditional Christian orthodoxy – small-o orthodoxy, that is, the Apostolic doctrine of Christ upheld by the Church Fathers in the early, undivided, Church – that we recognize that the objections that orthodoxy might raise to fundamentalist literalism are not the same ones that liberalism raises. There are today those who hold to a kind of pseudo-orthodoxy. These are people, often ex-evangelical Protestants, who belong to traditional, liturgical, denominations, and who emphasize the fact that literalism is not the traditional, orthodox, interpretation of the Scriptures in order to advance non-literal interpretations of the Scriptures that are considerably further removed from traditional orthodoxy than fundamentalist literalism. An example of this would be the kind of semi-Marcionism that does not exclude the Old Testament from the canon, as Marcion of Sinope and his followers did, but allegorizes away the parts of the Old Testament to which Marcion objected, claiming an inconsistency between the behaviour of the YHWH depicted in a literal reading of these books with that of the Father God proclaimed by Jesus in the New Testament.

When traditional orthodoxy departs from the strict literalism of fundamentalism it is in the opposite direction to that of liberalism. Liberalism rejects the literal truth of the Scriptures out of unbelief, traditional orthodoxy asserts that the truth of the Scriptures cannot and must not be reduced to the literal. Another way of putting this is to say that unlike liberalism, orthodoxy is more than literalism – not less.

The orthodox interpretation of Scripture is a multi-layered edifice to which the literal reading is the foundation. That is to say, the genuine literal reading and not a hyper-literal reading, i.e., one that ignores the presence of metaphor and other figures of speech in the Scriptural text. St. Thomas Aquinas explained that:

The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore the first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal and presupposes it. (3)

St. Thomas went on to divide the spiritual sense into three kinds – the allegorical, moral, (4) and anagogical (5) senses. These, together with the literal sense, comprise the quadriga, the fourfold sense of Scriptures, that had been taught and recognized by theologians from the Church Fathers through the Reformation. The first of the three spiritual senses – more commonly called typological as all three are allegories of one sort or another – is itself spelled out in the New Testament. This is the sense in which the institutions, people, and events of the Old Testament are understood as types of Jesus Christ and His New Covenant. This spiritual sense cannot be rejected without also rejecting the book of Hebrews in its literal sense, especially chapters nine and ten. It is also very much evident in use in the way the Old Testament is quoted throughout the New. As St. Augustine of Hippo famously put it “the New Testament is hidden in the Old, The Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” (6)

In orthodoxy, however, the literal interpretation was always the primary interpretation. It was recognized that the spiritual interpretation could very easily run to all sorts of excesses, extremes and fanaticisms if not tried down by literal. Dr. Martin Luther formulated this into the rule that “no allegory, tropology, or anagogy is valid, unless that same truth is explicitly stated literally somewhere else. Otherwise, Scripture would become a laughing matter.” (7)

The other continental Protestant Reformers were not as orthodox as Luther. Calvin in particular disparaged the quadriga and argued that the Scriptures had only one meaning, the literal. He thereby laid the foundation for both Puritanism and fundamentalism. Puritanism was the extremist form of Calvinist theology that the Marian exiles brought back to England in the sixteenth century after the accession of Elizabeth I. It insisted upon using the regulative (8) rather than the normative (9) principle in holding Christian tradition accountable to the Scriptures and turned seditious, regicidal, tyrannical, and genocidal when it found its pharisaical sabbatarianism and its schemes to purge England of such “popery” as Christmas and Easter to be opposed by the king. William Perkins, an early Puritan who remained within the Church of England and mercifully, for his sake, did not live to see Puritanism at its ugliest, said in a post-humously published work that there “is onelie one sense, and the same is the literall.” (10) Note, however, that those such as Calvin and Perkins who insisted in theory that the literal was the only sense, in practice often simply collapsed the other senses into the literal.

It is evident that the branch of Protestant theology that produced the fruit of Puritanism and later fundamentalism deviated from the orthodox understanding of the Scriptures in its literalism, and that this deviancy was an act of reduction – the act of collapsing the edifice which was the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures in all three of its traditional aspects into its foundation, the literal meaning. Liberalism, far from seeking to rebuild the edifice, commits an act of further demolition that attacks the very foundation itself, by positing “non-literal” meanings of the Resurrection that leave Jesus in His tomb.

For those seeking a more wholesome form of Christianity than literalist fundamentalism, traditional orthodoxy, which recognizes that the God Who through human writers penned His communication to man in the words of the Scriptures, also wrote His message on the events recorded therein, is the right direction to look, rather than liberalism. You will find it in the opposite direction of liberalism.

(1) H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America, (New York: Harper & Row, 1937) p. 193.
(2) J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, (New York: MacMillan, 1923), p. 2.
(3) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I.I.10.
(4) Also called the tropological sense – this is the lesson we are to take from the Scriptural narrative as to how we should behave.
(5) Also called the eschatological sense – in which things and events of this temporal world, recorded in the Scriptures, are understood to signify things and events that belong to eternity.
(6) St. Augustine, Questionum in Heptateuchum, II.73. “quamquam et in Vetere Novum lateat, et in Novo Vetus pateat.”
(7) Quoted by Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 25th Anniversary, 6th Ed. (Oxford: Wiley/Blackwell, 1993, 2017), p. 118. Although McGrath provides no bibliographic data for this quotation, merely dating it to 1515, it seems to be a translation from Luther’s commentary on the Psalter.
(8) The regulative principle is the idea that only those practices explicitly authorized in the Scriptures are to be followed. It was aptly refuted from the Scriptures and reason by Richard Hooker in his Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie.
(9) The normative principle is the idea that any practice that is not forbidden by the Scriptures is to be allowed. This is in accordance with the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty and is superbly defended in the work mentioned in the footnote above.
(10) William Perkins, The arte of prophecying, or, A treatise concerning the sacred and onely true manner and methode of preaching, (1607). Spelling is as in the original.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Billy Graham, Evangelicalism and Orthodoxy, and Ecumenism, Old and New

Last week it was announced that Billy Graham, undoubtedly the most well-known evangelist of our time, had passed away at ninety-nine years of age. He had been out of the public spotlight for quite some time, having turned the leadership of his Evangelistic Association over to his son Franklin years ago. In my youth, however, he was still growing strong and two or three times a year, his crusades would be broadcast over television. When, twenty-seven years ago, I first put my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, I actually began watching them. The old Billy Graham “team” was still around at that time, with Cliff Barrows leading the service, George Beverley Shea singing one or another of his repertoire of gospel songs, and Billy Graham, of course, preaching a simple gospel message, and inviting people forward to receive Christ, always with Charlotte Elliot’s “Just as I Am” playing. This was the early nineties, following the decade that had seen the televangelist scandals over moral failures, misuse of donations, and dubious and excessive fundraising appeals, but Billy Graham was above all of that and his semi-annual broadcasts only ever contained a short, responsible, appeal for funds. They were about spreading the Gospel, not making money.

I have been reflecting much over the last couple of months on evangelicalism and orthodoxy. The two are not the same thing, although contemporary evangelicals often confuse them. There is much overlap between the two, but there are also very important differences. By orthodoxy, I mean small-o orthodoxy rather than the churches of the East which call themselves by the name Orthodoxy. Small-o orthodoxy, in short, is the term for the truths clearly propounded in the Holy Scriptures, as summarized in the Creeds of the early, undivided, Church. The term “evangelical” has had several meanings over the centuries. When, following the mid-fifteenth century invention of the printing press, Christian humanists such as Thomas More and Erasmus had renewed scholarly study of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic writings after the example of the similar ad fontes approach to the Graeco-Roman classics of the Renaissance humanists, this led to the rediscovery of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith and in the sixteenth century, the term evangelical, from the Greek word for Gospel, came into use, applied first to Martin Luther and the Lutherans, later to the Reformed followers of Zwingli and Calvin, who embraced the Pauline doctrine. In other words it became a synonym for Protestant and continues to be used as such in continental Europe. In the English-speaking world, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it developed the narrower meaning of those within Protestantism who followed the Wesleys and Whitefield in emphasizing the importance of a personal faith experience.

Today, the term evangelical, while still retaining these earlier associations, has undergone a further evolution in meaning and no figure was more representative of the “new evangelicalism” than the late Billy Graham. He was something of an historical bridge. On the one hand he was the last of the old itinerant revivalists – men like Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, “Gipsy” Smith, Billy Sunday, Bob Jones Sr., and Mordecai Ham – who would go from town to town, city to city, holding meetings in tents and fields, tabernacles and arenas, warning people of the judgement to come and pleading with them to turn to Christ while there is still time. On the other he was the first of the “new evangelicals” as Harold John Ockenga had dubbed them – a new breed that sought to distance itself from the combative fundamentalism of the older revivalists and to rewrap its message in a more polished and positive packaging. The National Association of Evangelicals, the journal Christianity Today, (1) and the Fuller Theological Seminary became the flagship institutions of the new evangelicalism and Billy Graham, involved to some degree or another in the establishment of each of these, was universally regarded as the movement’s chief spokesman. What is meant by evangelicalism today is what was called new or neo evangelicalism in the 1950s.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the “new” evangelicalism and the older, fundamentalist, variety was that the former was willing to participate in contemporary ecumenism, the latter was not. The nature of this difference is consistently distorted by evangelical historians but the truth of it can be seen in the event that signified their parting of ways – the 1957 Billy Graham Madison Square Garden Crusade.

This was the longest single campaign of Billy Graham’s career. He held meetings for four months straight in the huge Manhattan arena – not the one that presently bears the name but its predecessor. Prior to this campaign Billy Graham had come under fundamentalist criticism – most notably from the Rev. Carl McIntire in his Christian Beacon newspaper – for having accepted invitations from ministerial councils that included liberals. Until this campaign, Graham did not articulate a policy regarding this. This time, however, having turned down previous invitations from conservative groups, he had accepted one from the very liberal Protestant Council, upon whose full cooperation he insisted as a condition of his coming. In response to this many who had supported his earlier ministry and defended him from McIntire’s previous criticisms withdrew their support, including the Bob Joneses (2), evangelistic newspaper Sword of the Lord and its editor John R. Rice (3), and Jack Wyrtzen of Word of Life ministries. (4)

At this point the BGEA finally articulated a policy – one that was dubbed “cooperative evangelism.” (5) The policy was built upon the idea that as long as he was preaching the Biblical Gospel it should not matter who invited him to preach it. As the evangelist himself put it “I would like to make myself clear. I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody to preach the Gospel of Christ if there are no strings attached to my message. I am sponsored by civic clubs, universities, ministerial associations, and councils of churches all over the world. I intend to continue.” This idea, in itself, is quite sound and reasonable, and has clear Scriptural precedent in the ministry of St. Paul. The fundamentalists took the position that it was not a matter of speaking to whoever is willing to listen to you but that the kind of cooperation the BGEA was insisting upon from the ministerial councils was that of co-workers in the Gospel. To include liberal clergymen in this violates the clear teachings of Scriptures they argued, and they too were right. Note that in this context “liberal” does not refer to support for progressive politics – although the clergymen in question were usually liberal in that sense of the word too – but to disbelief in the authority of the Bible and anything in it that conflicts with modern rationalist presuppositions, especially supernatural miracles such as the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ Himself warned against such false teachers, as did St. Paul, both in the Acts of the Apostles and several of his epistles, and so did Sts. Jude, John and Peter, and the instructions as to how to deal with them are quite clear.

In other words, in the divergence of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, both sides started with a basic concept that was in itself reasonable, defensible, and Scriptural. Each side, however, then proceeded to take that concept an indefensible and absurd extreme. Fundamentalism became narrower, more divisive and schismatic – as the evangelicals predicted it would, whereas evangelicalism became more compromising and wishy-washy – as the fundamentalists had, indeed, foreseen.

Both sides would have benefited greatly from a better knowledge and understanding of the first five centuries of Christian history – the era of the first “ecumenism.” Ecumenical is a Latinization of the Greek word meaning “the entire inhabited earth” by which the great councils of the early Church were designated. These were the councils in which representatives of the entire Church convened to define the doctrines of Scriptural orthodoxy and to condemn heresies. The first and second of these, the First Councils of Nicaea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD), were called, primarily in response to the heresy of Arius of Alexandria, produced the most important and most widely used of the Christian Creeds.

The “ecumenism” of the early centuries was similar to the ecumenism that began in the early twentieth century in the sense that it had the unity of the Christian faith and Church as its goal. In another sense it was completely different because the Fathers of these early councils did not believe that this unity should or could be attained through sacrificing truth and attempting to find a lowest common denominator of belief – the approach of the contemporary ecumenical movement. They defined orthodoxy and condemned heresy. Those who taught heresy contrary to Apostolic orthodoxy were defrocked, excommunicated, and anathematized.

From the Novatian and Donatist controversies, fundamentalism could have learned that the answer to impurity in the Christian Church is not to withdraw and found your own, supposedly, “pure” sect – this is, in fact, the heresy of sectarianism and schimaticism. From the Patristic era as a whole, on the other hand, from St. Irenaeus and Tertullian’s treatises against the Gnostics and Marcionites, from the stands of St. Athanasius of Alexandria against Arius, of St. Basil the Great and the St. Gregories of Cappadocia for the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, including the Personhood and full deity of the Holy Spirit, and of St. Cyril of Alexandria against Nestorius, evangelicalism could have learned that however worthwhile the goal of healing schism, and fostering larger Christian unity that transcends denominational labels may be, it must never be at the expense of the Apostolic doctrine of Christ. Anyone who is at all familiar with the writings of these and the other Church Fathers ought to know that they would have been as vehement as the fundamentalists, if not more so, in their condemnation of liberal or modernist theologians, who deny Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection. (6)

What the Christian faith and Church needs, is the ecumenical orthodoxy of the first five centuries, not the unorthodox ecumenism of today.

(1) In my country, Canada, the equivalent of the National Association of Evangelicals is the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and on an international scale it is the World Evangelical Alliance. The EFC’s journal Faith Today could be considered a Canadian version of Christianity Today.
(2) Before taking a degree in anthropology at Wheaton College Billy Graham studied for the ministry at Florida Bible Institute. His first semester, however, had been at Bob Jones College, when it was located in Cleveland, Tennessee. When the Joneses relocated to Greenville, South Carolina and expanded their school into a university, they awarded an honorary degree to Billy Graham.
(3) Rice’s newspaper, of whose board Graham had been a member, had heavily promoted Graham’s ministry up until this point. Two year’s previously he had gone to Glasgow, Scotland to appear with Billy Graham in a campaign there and he had defended the BGEA when he had earlier been suspected of ecumenical tendencies.
(4) Before founding the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham began his evangelistic career working for Youth for Christ. Wyrtzen had been an important influence in the founding of YFC.
(5) Robert O. Ferm’s short book by this title, published by Zondervan shortly after the Madison Square Garden Crusade, articulated and defended the BGEA’s policy. A response from the fundamentalist side, written by Gary G. Cohen and entitled Biblical Separatism Defended was published by Presbyterian & Reformed Ltd. in 1966.
(6) This conclusion cannot be escaped by the deceptive argument that fundamentalism is literalist in its interpretation of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers were not. Traditional theologians, beginning with the Church Fathers, diverge from fundamentalist literalism, not by denying the truth of the literal interpretation of things like the virgin birth and resurrection, the way liberals do, but by insisting that the correct interpretation of the Scriptures is not limited to the literal, that there are other layers of meaning on top of the literal. Among those with whom the Fathers contended were Jews and Ebionites who maintained that Isaiah 7:14 does not predict a virgin birth but only that a young woman will conceive. Their arguments were identical to those later advanced by liberals, such as those who translated the RSV and NRSV. Similarly, the answers of Church Fathers like St. Irenaeus and St. Cyril of Jerusalem, are identical to those of twentieth-century fundamentalists.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Justin Trudeau Needs to Go

We Canadians are paying a heavy toll for having voted the Liberal Party into power so many times over the course of the last century. The Liberal Party has, from its inception, been the party of opposition to the Confederation project that established our country, the Dominion of Canada, in 1867. It has neither confidence in nor respect for the constitutional, political, legal and judicial traditions and institutions that, adapted by the Fathers of Confederation for our own country, we inherited from Great Britain. It has encouraged and fostered the widespread ignorance of and apathy towards those traditions and institutions that is so appalling in Canada today.

A consequence, sadly, of that apathy is that books like Eugene Forsey’s The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament in the British Commonwealth (1) and John Farthing’s Freedom Wears a Crown (2)have been out of print for many years. Forsey’s abridged doctoral dissertation and Farthing’s posthumously edited masterpiece are both brilliant defences of our constitution of parliamentary monarchy which spell out the continuing importance of the reserve powers of the Crown for maintaining our traditional rights and freedoms and protecting us from the tyranny of the governing party and Prime Minister. These truths are needed today like never before.

In their arguments for the reserve powers of the Crown it was the right to refuse a recommendation for the dissolution of Parliament that Forsey and Farthing focused upon. The reason for this was historical. In 1926, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Liberal Prime Minister who had clung to power after the last Dominion election despite having failed to win even a plurality through the support of a third party, was facing a vote of censure in Parliament over his government’s involvement in a customs scandal, asked for a dissolution. The Governor General, Lord Byng, quite properly turned him down. In the next election, Mackenzie King deceived the electorate with his entirely false claim that Byng had acted inappropriately, that his refusal amounted to imperial interference in Canadian domestic politics, and that he, Mackenzie King, was championing Canada’s sovereignty over its own domestic affairs. All of this was hogwash, and the real issue was that if the Prime Minister can obtain a dissolution just by asking in order to avoid the just censure of Parliament then he is no longer responsible to that Parliament or to anybody else. The Liberal interpretation of these events, Forsey and Farthing rightly argued, laid the foundation for autocratic Prime Ministerial tyranny.

The Crown also has the right, in extraordinary circumstances in which the sitting government has become an active threat to the rights and freedoms of Canadians and the laws protecting them, to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister. Over the course of this past week, the Prime Minister and several of his Cabinet, including his Justice Minister, have behaved in such a way as to make the exercise of this Crown power appropriate.

I am referring to their response to the acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley who had been charged with second-degree murder over the death of Colten Boushie. Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould both responded to the acquittal by extending their sympathy to Boushie’s family and treating the verdict as an act of racial injustice – Boushie was an aboriginal youth. “We have to do better” they both said. Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Affairs tweeted that her thoughts and prayers were with the Boushie family and that “we all have more to do to improve justice & fairness for Indigenous Canadians.”

If the Prime Minister or any other Cabinet Minister sincerely wished to offer their condolences to the grieving Boushie family the time and occasion to do so would have been a year and a half ago after the shooting. To extend sympathy at this time, however, not over the death of a family member but over a jury verdict of not-guilty, is out-of-line. To do so is to disagree with the verdict and to say that the jury either made a mistake or made a bad decision out of malice. We are all free to disagree with jury verdicts but to do so publicly in this way is not the place of a government Minister.

Even worse was the government’s announcement later in the week that it was going to act on the ill-chosen words of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Let us go over this again. A man was put on trial for murder and acquitted by a jury of his peers. The government says that it does not like the verdict. The government says that it is going to overhaul the legal system to correct what it does not like. There is no way that Trudeau and his Ministers can act on this that will not trample over some basic Canadian legal rights and undermine some of the most basic principles of our legal system.

One of those principles is that the burden of proof in a criminal case always rests upon the Crown prosecutor. This principle rests upon the foundation of the even more basic principle that it is better that many guilty people go unpunished than that a single innocent person be made to suffer unjustly. (3) Translated into the language of legal rights, this becomes the right of someone accused of a crime to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Included within this are the rights to confront his accuser face to face, to cross-examine and discredit his accuser, and to have the case decided, not by politically motivated government ministers, but by a jury of his peers. That is to say, a jury of the defendant’s peers, not the peers of his alleged victim. If a member of race A is accused of murdering a member of race B, this ought not to ensure that race B is represented on the jury but may indeed, be grounds for excluding them because of the likelihood of prejudice against the defendant.

All of this is potentially endangered by the Trudeau government’s shameless exploitation of this case. It was not that long ago that the progressive left was accusing the neoconservative Stephen Harper of “fascism” because he wished to limit a judge’s ability to hand down slap-on-the-wrist sentences for serious crimes. Note, however, and note well, that sentencing by a judge only takes place after a guilty verdict has been reached. It is the Trudeau Liberals, not the Harper Conservatives, who want to interfere in the verdict-reaching process so as to get the verdicts they desire. This is where true fascism lies.

Through his complete disrespect for the principles of our justice system and his willingness to discard them in order to virtue signal to his mindless, politically correct, base of Generation Snowflake social justice warriors, Justin Trudeau has forfeited his right to lead Her Majesty’s government in Ottawa. It is time for him to go.

(1) Eugene A. Forsey, The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament in the British Commonwealth, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1943)
(2) John Farthing, Judith Robinson ed., Freedom Wears a Crown, (Toronto: Kingswood House, 1957)
(3) This is an ancient principle, drawing upon both Scriptural (Abraham negotiating the fate of Sodom in the book of Genesis) and classical authority (Socrates, at least as represented by Plato in the Gorgias, said “it is better to suffer an injustice than to commit one”). Of course the same Liberals who have encouraged apathy and ignorance of our country's political and legal traditions have encouraged the same towards Scriptural and classical learning. If more people were familiar with Aeschylus’s Oresteia they would appreciate better that trial by jury was designed to liberate man from the tribal vengeance mode of “justice” that those upset over the Stanley verdict are calling for. For an excellent critique of how Canada’s educational system has gone to pot through progressive liberalism, written just as the rot was first setting in, see Hilda Neatby’s So Little For the Mind: An Indictment of Canadian Education, (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company Ltd, 1953)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

“Me Too”, ---- You! - Or Perhaps Not.

Unprovoked and awful charges - even so the she-bear fights – Rudyard Kipling

In 411 BC, the war between the Athenian Delian League and the Spartan Peloponnesian League, which had resumed three years previously after the Peace of Nicias finally fell apart, reached its twentieth year. Things were not going well for the Athenians. During the break in the fighting with Sparta, Alcibiades, the leader of the Athenian war party, talked the Assembly into sending a fleet to Sicily, ostensibly to support their allies, but with the goal of conquering the island. The same Nicias who had negotiated the peace with Sparta, in an attempt to dissuade them from doing this told the Assembly that a much larger force would be needed than what they originally intended, but with the only result being that they enlarged the armada and put him in charge, along with Alcibiades and Lamachus. Once there, the generals decided to begin their campaign by establishing a base and launching an attack on the strongest Sicilian city-state, Syracuse. Before the siege began, Alcibiades, who had thought up this strategy, received a summons ordering him to return to Athens to stand trial on charges of the desecration of sacred statues. He opted to flee instead and defected to Sparta. In his absence, the siege of Syracuse did not go well, Lamachus was slain, and Nicias sent away for reinforcements. Athens sent the reinforcements, led by Demosthenes, but this made things worse as the fighting with Sparta, now backed by Syracuse, resumed shortly thereafter and the Sicilian Expedition ended in total disaster for Athens with the loss of most of their ships and the enslavement of their men.

Ultimately, this would cost them the Peloponnesian War, but in 411 the decisive loss to Lysander of Sparta at Aegospotami was still six years away. It was at this point that Aristophanes, the master of Attic Old Comedy, introduced a new play. The play is called the Lysistrata, after its main character, an Athenian woman who with the help of her Spartan counterpart Lampito, persuades the extremely reluctant women of Greece to go on a sex-strike and withhold sex from the men until they agree to stop the war. It is not easy for her to convince the women to either agree to this or to stick to the plan once they have agreed to it. Contrary to a popular misconception, it is women rather than men who are by far the most obsessed with sex, a fact of which Aristophanes was well aware, and which he exploited to its full comic potential.

What makes the Lysistrata so hilarious is that the title character succeeds in her plan to end the war despite her use of a strategy that would almost universally be perceived – it certainly was so seen by her creator – as utterly undoable. There is an old quip, that has been variously attributed to Ann Landers, Henry Kissinger, and a host of others although it appears to be older than all of them, that the battle of the sexes can never be won because there is too much fraternizing with the enemy. It is, however, the current year, and perhaps it is time that the idea of a sex strike be seriously considered – not by women, but by men. Indeed, it is starting to seem necessary not for the purpose of attaining any political end but for survival. This is due to the “Me Too” movement that insists that we treat every Potiphar’s wife as if she were Lucretia. Just be clear, the Lucretia in the last sentence is she of ancient Rome, who committed suicide to protect her honour after her rape by Sextus Tarquinus and not her considerably less virtuous fifteenth century namesake, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, who was as ruthless, conniving and bloodthirsty as her brother Cesare Borgia, of whom Machiavelli’s Prince was a verbal portrait.

Indeed, there is evidence that just such a sex-strike is in its beginning stages. The ever fabulous veteran actress and author Dame Joan Collins, in her latest Diary for The Spectator remarks that “if these accusations towards men continue much longer, I fear a major decline in population growth in the near future.” She demonstrates that this fear is not unwarranted by concluding her column with the following illustration:

A 30-year-old single man informs me that he wouldn’t consider dating because he was too scared of being accused of inappropriate behaviour or of being ‘named and shamed’ by social media or the Twitterati. ‘I go out with the guys, drink beer and watch box sets,’ he said ruefully, ‘and friends are doing the same. We’re scared of the #MeToo movement and of being accused of sexual harassment and worse if we even tell a girl she’s pretty.’ ‘In my day we called it flirting,’ I told him.

Today, the line between “flirting” and “sexual harassment” is extremely blurry, making it potentially hazardous for any man to approach or otherwise show interest in a woman. American Vice President Mike Pence was mocked about a year ago for his policy of refusing to dine alone with women other than his wife. The Atlantic published a piece that claimed that this policy “hurt women” using the same tortured excuse for logic that the courts have been using since the 1970s to admit female reporters to men’s locker rooms – the reverse has now been accomplished on entirely different but even more absurd grounds – and to force private clubs to abandon “men only” policies. Vox posted an article claiming that this was “probably illegal.” The New Yorker ran a piece entitled “Mike Pence’s Marriage and the Beliefs That Keep Women From Power.” Each of these, incidentally or not, was written by a woman. Half a year later, l’affaire Weinstein broke, the “Me Too” movement was launched, and all of a sudden it was a lot more difficult to laugh at Mike Pence.

Rape, of course, is a serious crime – and it has been treated as such from time immemorial. Undoubtedly it is immoral and sleazy for an employer, whether he be a Hollywood producer, a corporate executive, or a Cabinet Minister, to offer to advance a woman’s career in exchange for sexual favours. It is just as immoral and sleazy, however, for a woman to accept the offer – and it is by no means the case, far from it, that it is always the man who initiates this sort of exchange. “Sexual harassment” is the preferred charge of the “Me Too” movement precisely because it is so vague and hazy. Virtually any attention that a man shows to a woman qua woman can be interpreted as sexual harassment if the woman so chooses.

Apart from their preference for the comparatively hazy charge of sexual harassment over those of long recognized sexual crimes and misdeeds with more concrete definitions, the “Me Too” wave of feminism insists that accusations be believed on the say so of the accuser, even in a dearth of supporting evidence and if the accusations pertain to events that took place decades previously. Potiphar’s wife would undoubtedly approve. This is a total assault on justice, that is to say true justice, at least as the term has traditionally been understood in the English-speaking world, and not the spurious contemporary substitute that is called “social” despite being utterly corrosive of society, its institutions, and, as we are seeing in feminism, ordinary social interaction between the sexes.

Eventually, the totally irrational and irresponsible “Me Too” movement is sure to self-destruct. Before this happens, however, there is no telling how many lives and careers it will ruin, to say nothing of the damage it will inflict on the fabric of society and relations between the sexes.

In the meantime, in the interests of self-preservation, men need to consider, at the very least following the example of Mike Pence. A reverse Lysistrata strategy would, however, be more effective in securing the downfall of the enemy. It is true that a strategy that eliminates the procreative act has the potential of resulting in a Pyrrhic victory, but women are far more likely to cave against such a move then men. So perhaps the answer to the “Me Too” movement is for men to tell the fairer sex, “futuete vos ipsos”, not as a crude expletive but practical advice, because they are for the time being no longer willing to do it for them.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Thoughts on the Times

Smoking Stupidity

The solons who govern the city of Winnipeg in which I reside have, in their inscrutable wisdom, ruled, that as of April 1st, no one is to be allowed to smoke in outdoor patios where food and beverages are served. Although set to come into effect on April Fool’s Day, sadly, this fascist bylaw, is no joke. This latest and most absurd assault, in the neopuritan war on tobacco, is, like previous ones, based on the myth of harmful and deadly second-hand smoke. Undoubtedly, many if not most of the dingbats championing this ban are the same people applauding the federal Liberals’ decision, also coming into effect this year, to legalize the recreational smoking of the flowers and leaves of non-industrial hemp. Tobacco smoking can over time be damaging to the health of the body. The risk is much higher for cigarette smokers than for those who smoke tobacco the way God intended it in pipes and cigars, although this distinction and difference means nothing to the Mrs. Grundys of the Winnipeg City Council. Cannabis smoking damages the health of the mind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Heed my advice if you wish to stay sane;
If you smoke, smoke Old Toby and not Mary Jane

Remember S. Charles, King and Martyr

Yesterday was the Feast of King Charles the Martyr, murdered by the regicidal and heretical, Puritan sect 369 years ago. The December 2017 edition of the American Region Edition of SKCM News, the Magazine of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, contains this item:

BBC History magazine has published a seventeenth-century recipe for drinking chocolate. Charles I enjoyed the beverage, but Oliver Cromwell banned it, deeming it sinful. (p. 3)

Yet further evidence, as if more were needed, that Puritanism is evil. In addition to being Pharisees, the Puritans were also Philistines and in the Interregnum, they broke up King Charles’ impressive collection of art and sold most of it off. The Telegraph reports that with the help of the Royal Martyr’s namesake, the present Prince of Wales, the Royal Academy of Arts has reassembled the collection for the first time in almost four centuries, for a special show commemorating the Academy’s 250th anniversary.

Some Quotes from a Church Father

St. Irenaeus was a second century Church Father. He was born and raised in Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, when St. Polycarp, who had been the disciple of St. John the Apostle, was bishop there. Later he served, first as presbyter (priest) then as bishop, in what is now Lyon in France. He is most remembered as a defender of Apostolic orthodoxy against the various Gnostic sects that taught that the God of the Old Testament Who created the heavens and the earth was an inferior deity, the Demiurge, and not the Father of the New Testament. Eric Voegelin argued, in The New Science of Politics, that in Calvinist Puritanism, Gnosticism had been revived and had evolved into the spirit of the Modern Age.

St. Irenaeus wrote a five-book treatise against the Gnostics which in Latin is titled Adversus Haereses. The first book outlines the teachings of several varieties of Gnosticism, focusing primarily on the Valentinian sect. In the second paragraph of the twenty-fourth chapter of this book can be found this remark about a different Gnostic sect, the followers of Saturninus:

Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by a feigned temperance of this kind.

Later, of yet another Gnostic sect, the Encratites, he writes:

Some of those reckoned among them have also introduced abstinence from animal food, thus proving themselves ungrateful to God, who formed all things. (I.28.1)

Sadly, there has been a great deal of ignorance of and indifference to the Patristic writings among Western Protestants for the last century or so which perhaps explains the revival and popularity of the Gnostic heresy of vegan vegetarianism in our day and age.

A Quote From Our Friends Down Under

The Australian traditionalist and reactionary group Sydney Trads, in its “The Year in Review: 2017, Year of the Hate Hoax, the Heckler’s Veto and the Persecuted ‘Oppressor’”, included the following:

2017 was the year of Schrodinger’s ethnicity: Whites apparently exist as an identifiable category if they are being attacked, mocked, ridiculed or blamed for something, but also do not exist as a legitimate category of self-identification when a representative defends their interests as a group.

That is liberalism’s essential self-contradiction on race all summed up in a nutshell. Nicely done.

Justin Trudeau’s Nightmare

In the 1860s, the Fathers of Confederation formed a new country out of the provinces of British North America, giving it the title of Dominion and the name of Canada. The new country was to be a federation of provinces, with a parliamentary government modeled after the Westminster parliament, under the monarchy shared with Great Britain and the rest of the British Empire. The Fathers of Confederation looked to the federal system to overcome the difficulties of British Protestants and French Catholics living together in one country and to the monarchy as the source of continuity and unity, envisioned the evolution of the British Empire itself into a federation in which Canada would play a senior role, and tried to protect their country from the gravitational pull of the republic to their south with a national economic program of protective tariffs and internal trade facilitated by the construction of a transcontinental railroad. From that time to today, the Liberal Party of Canada has been the anti-Confederation party, the party that has sought to belittle the accomplishments of the Fathers of Confederation and Canada’s Loyalist heritage, to line the pockets of its financial backers through increased trade with the United States up to the point of continental economic integration, to weaken our parliamentary constitution and give autocratic power to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to replace our traditional national symbols with ones of their own manufacture and to seriously undermine our traditional Common Law rights and freedoms. The Liberal Party found out in 1891 and again in 1911 that presenting their naked agenda to Canadians at election time was a losing strategy and evolved the strategy of pandering and grievance mongering that worked much better for them in the twentieth century. The strategy consists of telling identifiable groups that the Old Canada of Confederation had treated them unfairly but that if they would give their support to the Liberals, the Liberals would fix the situation and give them a bag of taxpayer-supplied goodies.

At first it was French Canadians that Liberals focused on, telling them that all the Britishness of the Canada of a Confederation was an unfair reminder of their defeat at the Plains of Abraham. This was nonsense – French Canadians knew full well that the protection of the British Crown had secured their language, religion, and culture for them when the Puritan Americans had wanted to take them away from them and their leaders were fully involved in the Confederation talks, helping shape the Dominion. The Liberal strategy had an unintended consequence – the emergence of the Quebec nationalist separatism that threatened to divide the country.

When this happened the Liberals adjusted their strategy. They now told a broad, “rainbow coalition” of different races, religions, and ethnic groups that they had been unfairly “excluded” from the Old Canada of Confederation, but would receive redress in the New Canada of the Liberal Party. To ensure that the coalition was as large as possible they revamped the immigration system, bringing in the race-neutral points system of 1965 as our “official” immigration policy, but this was merely a cover for their true policy of exploiting the loopholes to the points system (the largest of these being “family reunification”) to make Canada as ethnically diverse as possible as quickly as possible. They, of course, silenced anybody who pointed out the obvious drawbacks to this by calling him a “racist.”

This was done largely during the premiership of Pierre Trudeau. Now, in the premiership of Justin Trudeau, the Liberal coalition has been expanded to include minority sexual orientations and gender identities as well.

This strategy has always been a divisive one, first pitting French Canadians against English Canadians, then pitting a coalition of racial, religious, and ethnic minorities against European Christian Canadians, and maximizing diversity in total disregard to the fact that this is the way to generate ethnic and racial strife and conflict rather than harmony. It has been quite clear for some time now that the Liberal coalition cannot hold together for long. Earlier in the premiership of the second Trudeau it seemed likely that the breaking point would be between Muslims and the alphabet soupers, both of whose causes the Prime Minister was loudly, vehemently, and recklessly championing despite the obvious contradiction between the two. Now, however, a different fracture has become evident.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister shamelessly turned the occasion of a young Muslim girl in Toronto, Khawlah Noman’s, claim that she had been attacked by a man who cut her hijab with scissors, into an opportunity to grandstand, get his name and picture in the press yet again, and lecture Canadians about how horribly “Islamophobic” we all are. It later turned out that, like the vast majority of highly publicized “hate crimes”, the incident was a hoax and had not occurred after all. Those who have been waiting for Trudeau to return to his taxpayer-funded soap box and eat crow have been listening to crickets chirp and watching the tumbleweeds drift by ever since.

This weekend, however, protests were held all across Canada by the Asian communities of cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Regina. It turns out that it was an Asian man whom the girl had falsely accused – a detail that was not widely reported by the press as it conflicts with their narrative in which bigotry and bigotry-inspired-violence are the exclusive domain of white, heterosexual, Christian males. The protests were aimed at Trudeau, insisting that the hoax, and his gullible swallowing it without waiting for a full investigation, constituted a “hate crime” against them. While I have little sympathy for the protestors, as their claim that they were being scapegoated and discriminated against is ludicrous seeing that the school division, the federal and provincial governments, the leaders of the opposition, and the news media all went out of their way to avoid drawing attention to the fact that the girl had accused one of their ethnicity, there is something deeply satisfying in seeing Trudeau’s coalition fall apart, and its members turn on him.