Friday, February 24, 2012

Note to War Hawks...

Christian missions need to focus on the Muslim world... We think of them as the ones that are most closed to the Gospel. I believe the opposite is true. They are the people most open to the Gospel right now. This is a time of harvest. Satan’s strategy is to get Christians to ignore Islam or, worse yet, to hate Islam. That is the only way to stop the Muslims from coming to Christ.
Read it all here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Too Good Not to Share

From Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya 
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith!
The disciplines of Lent, which begin on Ash Wednesday, are not intended to be burdensome, but to open our lives more fully to the transforming power of the gospel. Our mission as the Anglican Church of Kenya is simple, yet powerful: it is ‘to equip God’s people to transform society with the gospel’. This is an holistic transformation much deeper and more lasting than any government or international agency can bring because it addresses our deepest need, that of a restored relationship with the God in whose image we are made and whose workmanship we are.
The glorious truth of the gospel is that we are justified freely by God’s grace alone, but far from making us complacent about doing good, the abundant grace and full forgiveness we have through the blood of Christ should be a great spur to Christ-like living, to walking in those good works ‘which God prepared beforehand’.
Imagine the transformation if our nation heeded this call. As we prepare for general elections which will test the cohesiveness of our civil society, Christians need to model what it means to live in peace, practicing tolerance and forgiveness, with a new sense of urgency. Moreover, the foundation of our civic life is the family so it is vital that the love of Christ deeply infuses family relationships and that the shameful violence being reported in the media, not only of husbands towards wives but now even of wives towards husbands, is replaced by the kindness and gentleness of Christ.
Our Christian faith can also have an impact on the scourge of unemployment; although the immediate causes often lie with economic forces beyond our control, the Christian values of hard work, thrift, enterprise and honesty have the capacity to bring long term prosperity.
These things are not easy. They call for the spiritual depth which comes from a real and growing awareness of Christ’s presence in our personal lives. Otherwise, the good works God calls us to do will simply feel like burdens and we will not sustain them under pressure. During this Lenten season, whatever particular disciplines we adopt, our first aim should be to draw near to God in prayer and through his Word, beseeching him to make in us new and contrite hearts, hearts that will desire the things of his heart.
Without this joyful discipline, we will be vulnerable to taking short cuts that lead us away from the truth of the gospel. Some church leaders seem to think that the transformation of society will simply come through commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and at home in Kenya, the Vision 2030 initiative and the new constitution. While it is obvious that such good things as feeding the hungry, fighting disease, improving education and national prosperity are to be desired by all, by themselves any human dream can become a substitute gospel which renders repentance and the cross of Christ irrelevant.
Moreover, we need to be discerning about the values behind these visions. For instance the Millennium Development Goals have grown out of a secularised Western culture which is pushing Christianity to the margins and uses the language of human rights and equality to promote irresponsibility in social life and diminish personal responsibility.
So this Lent, let us seek to experience a renewed walk with Christ in those good works that God has prepared. The good news of the gospel is that transformation begins with ordinary men, women and children, however sinful or insignificant we may feel. It is not a responsibility we can leave to governments and agencies, but a challenge to fulfil the purposes of Almighty God in our place for our time.
May the Lord establish your hearts in every good work as you trust in Him
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya

Ash Wednesday

Old Jack, in my mom's lower pasture, Jefferson  Co. TN
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain

~ T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

There is Conservatism, and then there is Conservatism

As the United States sinks further and further into totalitarianism, its salvation will require men and women with the kind of commitment and courage that Pastor Bonhoeffer displayed. We can only hope and pray that the nation still includes at least a few people who would rather follow God than Caesar.

- Robert Higgs, economist and economic historian with the Independent Institute

Note to Republican voters: the “few” does not include Rick Santorum.

I was wrong about Rick. I thought for sure he would fade after the Iowa caucuses, that the GOP machinery would get behind Mitt Romney and send another Dole-like sacrifice to the Democratic incumbent. I underestimated the extent to which my fellow countrymen would rally to the war-mongering, big government “conservative” from the Keystone State.

But then, most self-identified “conservative” Americans aren’t conservative at all. Neither they nor their new champion meet the criteria laid down by the late Russell Kirk. The great irony is that if he were alive today Kirk, who once labeled libertarians “chirping sectaries,” would find Ron Paul to be the man who best fits the bill.

The fact is, Ron Paul is not nearly as “libertarian” as the media and the public perceive him to be. He is libertarian only in a relative sense; libertarian, because the GOP, suffering from the historical blindness personified by Rick Santorum (for whom world history began in 1979), is sliding toward neo-fascism.

In a tradition that runs from Burke to Kirk, Paul is simply trying to conserve the liberties of the American founding – liberties the colonists thought they had secured from King James, later abrogated by parliaments and monarchs trying to finance one of the world’s first global empires. Who knew that America would try to replace Great Britain? Well, the Antifederalists and Old Republicans did. And Ron Paul fits neatly into their tradition. Kirk, the hagiographer of Edmund Burke and his Virginian acolyte John Randolph of Roanoke, would not help but recognize in Paul what one observant writer called the “leader of the new Tertium Quids.”

The definition of conservatism seems to be lost on Americans. It has been reduced to opposing abortion and homosexual marriage (which faithful churches and civil society have been more successful at confronting), and the utterly schizophrenic notion that “limited government” and Cold War-style containment of the Muslim world (and every other “rogue state” as identified by the powers that be) somehow go hand in hand. The candidates who appeal to these trigger points get enthusiastic applause from an eagerly compliant South and other red states. Even when the 30,000 spy drones start buzzing overhead, Hannity and Levin will help the public grasp the absolute national security necessity of it (assuming their guy places the drones in orbit).

If I may, an analogy from the English Reformation. Compared to the Church of Rome, men like John Jewel, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Richard Hooker seemed like theological liberals. But they saw themselves as consummate conservatives, reaching back to recover and preserve the truths held by the primitive church. Hooker’s opposition to the radical Disciplinarians had several motives, but among them was his prescient understanding that Puritanism would fragment into factional strife. But to the radicals Hooker seemed like a sell-out, a Romanist in disguise.

In similar fashion, Ron Paul seems too “radical” for the GOP mainstream. But among the myriad factions of anarchism (anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-syndicalism, agorism, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, et. al.) Paul is looked on with suspicion as another closet “statist.” What Paul really stands for is the Old Republic, which began to fade after McCullough v. Maryland (1819).

A Republic which stands in a fog of history too distant, too miasmal for today’s Republican voter.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Fourth Turning? Why Bill Bonner is Right and Gary North is (Probably) Wrong

In a February 12 column at The Daily Reckoning, Bill Bonner wrote:
The zombies now are getting more money than wage earners. And millions of those wage earners are zombies themselves, on the government payroll…or the payroll of some industry — health, education, military — that depends on federal spending.
That leaves honest working people in a minority. And everybody gets a vote.
How do you think the zombies will vote? To cut back on spending on education? On healthcare? On foreign wars or new weapons? On welfare? On food stamps? On unemployment comp?
No, dear reader, there are some ailments that can’t be cured…and some problems democracy cannot solve.
As Frédéric Bastiat noted many moons ago in The Law, an inherent problem with democracy is the tendency of majorities to vote away property and rights to themselves. As he tersely put it,
The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else.
This basic insight was revisited with a vengeance in Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy – The God that Failed (2001).

For Gary North, the Austrian thinker and Bible scholar with an optimistic view (though pessimistic in the short run), the Millenial Generation will lead the way toward voting an end to Baby Boomer entitlements and preemptive foreign wars. But here’s a wrinkle: thanks to declining birth rates among the productive classes of American society (as well as abortion), the Millenials just don’t have the numbers – let alone that but a fraction of them are interested in a laissez-faire economic process.

For North’s expectation to prevail, more than disgruntled young service workers must become disillusioned with the present system.

I think Bonner is right. The late Medieval to late 18th century experiment in classical liberalism and freed market process ran its course. The social tendency throughout history has been toward political centralization and market control. The democratic sort, in its sundry shapes, continues to prove especially despotic.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Supper, or Sacrifice?

From the pen of Charles Pettit McIlvaine, Episcopal Bishop of Ohio, 1846:
None can deny that our Lord instituted and administered the Eucharist at a common household table. And when he says the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table, we necessarily contemplate the Saviour and the twelve as engaged in an act of family, spiritual communion simply; analogous to that of a household around the family table. Nothing can more perfectly exclude the idea of sacrifice, priest, and altar. It was the communion of the Passover. The Supper of our Lord took the place of the Jewish paschal feast. The latter was a feast after, and upon, a sacrifice which had been previously offered at the great altar of burnt-offerings at the temple. The work of the Jewish priest was finished when the paschal lamb had been sacrificed. Other altar a Jew could not have, than that of the temple, around which the blood of that lamb was sprinkled. Other sacrifice there remained none in connection with that feast, when once that lamb had been slain. But there did remain the feast of communion upon that lamb, thus offered, once for all the house of Israel. The lambs were many; the sacrifice, the feast, the type, was one. It was the communion of the whole household of the chosen people. They met in families, as we meet for our communion in congregations. They met, not at the altar, where the sacrifice was offered, but at the table of the family fellowship; as we meet not at the cross, where Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, but at a table expressive of the family fellowship of all believers in the reconciliation effected by the blood of Jesus. They met without a Priest; all that pertained to the office of Priest having been finished at the Temple. We meet at the Lords Supper without any mere human Priest: [Of course I mean Priest in the sense of a Sacrifice.] for all that pertaineth to the office of a Priest, in our reconciliation to God, was finished when Christ offered up himself, once for all, on the altar of the cross; or else is being perfected in his present, ever living, intercession, within the vail, before the mercy-seat in heaven. The Jews met at the table of the household to feed upon what had elsewhere been offered on an altar as a propitiatory sacrifice to God. Christians meet to feed, by faith with thanksgiving, spiritually, upon a propitiatory sacrifice, long since offered, even the flesh and blood of Jesus, by which we draw nigh to God. The Jewish Passover was of two parts--the sacrifice of the Lords Passover, and the Feast of the Lords Passover; the propitiatory offering at the temple, and the eucharistic supper on that offering, in the family dwelling. It was as much commanded that the feast should be in the house, and not at the temple, as that the sacrifice should be at the temple, and not in any private house. Our Passover is of like two parts, the sacrifice and the feast; the offering of the Lamb of God, and the eucharistic supper of the whole household of faith, partaken in spirit, by faith, in that Lamb. In the beginning of the dispensation of the gospel, the sacrifice of our Passover was slain, once for all. Jesus was priest and victim. The whole period, since then, and to the end of the world, is the Feast of the Lords Passover, during which each believer, every day, is living by faith, in the secret of his own heart, upon the sacrifice of Christ, as all his life and hope and the whole Christian household of faith are, at stated periods, assembling together to express and declare, in the sacrament of the breaking of bread, their common dependence on, and their common thankfulness for, that one perfect and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. As the Jews were not allowed to unite the offering and the eating, the priestly sacrifice and the Eucharistic feast, but were commanded to separate them in point of place and time; so we cannot, by any possibility, unite them, under the Gospel. The sacrifice for us was offered eighteen hundred years ago, once for all. It cannot be repeated. The feast alone remains--a feast commemorative of a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of commemoration, except as the offering of prayer and thanksgiving is figuratively a sacrifice and each communicant is in that sense a Priest.
+McIlvaine served for a time as chaplain at West Point, where he led a revival of evangelical faith among cadets.  His pupils included Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gandalf, Ron Paul, and the Fourth (Beast?) Turning

I have been a Ron Paul supporter since early 2007 while generally subscribing to the Austrian school of economics. I also have a keen interest in the history of the American empire and biblical eschatology. That’s why an article like this one by Donald W. Miller strikes my fancy. Using The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe as a frame of reference, Miller argues that Ron Paul is the Elder Prophet to the Millenial (Y) Generation of young, soon-to-be heroes:
[Strauss and Howe] note that a “Young Hero and Elder Prophet” pairing occurs repeatedly in history, myth, and art, as with Joshua and Moses in the Old Testament, the Gray Champion in Colonial America, King Arthur and Merlin in Celtic myth, Tolkien’s Frodo and Gandalf, and Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars...
After the housing boom peaked in 2006 and foreclosures began to mount, the so-named “Millennial Crisis” began in February, 2007 when the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) announced that it would no longer buy subprime mortgages or mortgage-related securities (collateralized debt obligations). The Y Generation facing this crisis today bears some likeness to the GI Generation, born at the beginning of the last century (1901-1924), who became young adults during the last big crisis in U.S. history, the Great Depression and World War II. Strauss and Howe see the GI and Y generations as both manifesting a "Hero" archetype – can-do heroes and competent pragmatic managers who possess confidence and optimism.
Strauss and Howe wrote in 1997,
“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. Thus might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse – or glory. The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed. Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition. The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis [the one we are experiencing now]; all they suggest is the timing and dimension.”
If postmillennialists like Austrian economic historian Gary North and our friend Joel Martin at A Living Text are right, America could possibly be on the cusp of a new, decentralized epoch.

Judging from voting trends and candidates whose ideas (entitlements, preemptive wars) resonate with the majority, my money is on expanded authoritarianism and apocalypse.

Then Shiloh comes.

After all, we have before us the fate of the most expansive economic and military empire in the history of the world. An empire the sage Antifederalists and Old Republicans never wanted.

Regardless, have fun with Miller’s article.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Living Faith

This past Friday, February 3, would have marked my Granny’s 92nd birthday. She was the grand-daughter of Bill Birchfield, the Confederate deserter. She was raised on the north side of the Little Tennessee River in Swain County, NC, in an area now within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The communities along Hazel Creek were bought out and sent packing by the TVA in the mid ‘40s for the construction of Fontana Dam and reservoir. Where Granny grew up is now beyond the infamous “Road to Nowhere.”

Granny’s dad, C.C. Birchfield, was a farmer on Hazel Creek before the inundation and later in McDowell County (where Granny would meet and marry my Papaw). As my uncle likes to tell it, C.C. “never had a public job in his life,” meaning that he lived entirely off his own land and labor and was never employed by another. For people such as this, biblical stories take on a more immediate relevance. Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Jacob and Moses were agrarians with whom Granny and her kin could readily relate. They were not distant; to the rural Southern Appalachian mind they might have been only a few generations removed. There was an imminent sense of tangible reality to the Bible stories.

Granny never spoke of a “personal relationship” with Jesus in the postmodern evangelical sense. But she talked directly with Him every day, often crawling under her kitchen table (the specific reason for which I never quite understood) and pouring out her soul to Him. She could speak to Him as plainly as anyone else in the room. When not addressing Him she busied herself with caring for grand young’uns, sharing vegetables from her prodigious garden with down-and-out neighbors, and visiting with the shut in. One summer my brother and I stood with her at that kitchen table and rolled gospel tracts in cellophane, to be strategically placed on drug store counters and in public restrooms. One could say that Granny had fellowship with the Father and the Son because she was ever about God’s business.

The Christian faith wasn’t her resource or wellspring; it was her life. Even as I write this it shames me to realize the extent to which I tend to veer off the simple path she followed through laughter and tears. But when I think of her I have in my mind probably the most authentic Christian that I have ever personally known.

I don’t know what Granny, a lifelong independent Baptist, would make of my embrace of the “fer’en” Anglican tradition. I would like to think that from her position now she would very much understand and appreciate what we’re doing, and why. But one thing she instilled in me was a fundamentalism – not simply of scriptural authority – but of God’s ever present nearness and the implications that go with it. I think we had (perhaps still) a “fundamentalist” strain within the Anglican tradition. I think of Dean Alford, Bishop Ryle, Dr. Griffith Thomas, the Church Society in England; perhaps our brethren in East Africa and elsewhere who have nowhere else to go but to the Lord under tables and rocks and in the bush and caves.

I believe that in the age to come - a day for which Granny always longed - all of these will recognize in each other a like precious faith. They are parts of the great tradition. We could stand to follow their example more closely.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Plainly Stated

I do not know when Christ will come again. I would think it most presumptuous if I said that I did. I am no prophet, though I love the subject of prophecy. I dislike all fixing of dates, and naming of years, and I believe it has done great harm. I only assert positively, that Christ will come again one day to set up His kingdom on earth...

~ Bishop J.C. Ryle