Calvin to Cranmer on Church Unity

Thomas Cranmer desired a general council of the Protestant churches to unite them in confession and form a western, Protestant Church. Oh that it would have happened! God in his providence did not see fit for that to occur. But here is Calvin’s response to Cranmer on the subject:

I know moreover, that your purpose is not confined to England alone; but, at the same moment, you consult the benefit of all the world. The generous disposition and uncommon piety of his Majesty, the king, are justly to be admired, as he is please to favor this holy purpose of holding such a council, and offers a place for its session in his kingdom. I wish it might be effected, that learned and stable men, from the principal churches, might assemble in some place, and, after discussing with care each article of faith, deliver to posterity, from their general opinion of them all, the clear doctrines of the Scriptures. It is to be numbered among the evils of our day, that the churches are so divided one from another, that there is scarcely any friendly intercourse strengthened between us; much less does that holy communion of the members of Christ flourish, which all profess with the mouth, but few sincerely regard in the heart. But if the principal teachers conduct themselves more coldly than they ought, it is principally the fault of the princes who, involved in their secular concerns, neglect the prosperity and purity of the church; or each one, contented with his own security, is indifferent to the welfare of others. Thus it comes to pass, that the members being divided, the body of the church lies disabled.
Respecting myself, if it should appear that I could render any service, I should with pleasure cross ten seas, if necessary, to accomplish that object. Even if the benefit of the kingdom of England only was to be consulted, it would furnish a reason sufficiently powerful with me. But as in the council proposed, the object is to obtain the firm and united agreement of learned men to the sound rule of Scripture, by which churches now divided may be united with each other, I think it would be a crime in me to spare any labor or trouble to effect it. But I expect my slender ability to accomplish this will furnish me with sufficient excuse. If I aid that object by my prayers, which will be undertaken by others, I shall discharge my part of the business. Melancthon is so far from me, that our letters cannot be exchanged in a short time. Bullinger has perhaps answered you before this. I wish my ability was equal to the ardency of my desires. But what I at first declined, as unable to accomplish, I perceive the very necessity of the business now compels me to attempt. I not only exhort you, but I conjure you, to proceed, until something shall be effected, if not every thing you could wish.

Perhaps we will see more unity built from the confusion of our day, although it now seems doubtful.

Engraven on Brass

Anyone familiar with the story of the Book of Mormon will know the phrase, “plates of brass.” These plates are one of many sets of plates that we read of in the book. We encounter them early on, in I Nephi 3.3:

For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of thy forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.

I came upon one possible inspiration for this idea last night as I read I Kings in the King James Version. In the section describing the building of Solomon’s Temple, I read:

And every base had four brazen wheels, and plates of brass…and also upon the mouth of it were gratings with their borders…For on the plates of the ledges thereof, and on the borders thereof, he graved cherubims, lions, and palm trees…
[I Kings 7]

Now the plates mentioned in Kings are of a very different nature than those in the BOM, but the phraseology is the same, and could easily be the kernel of an idea: the Jews worked in brass, brass would endure unlike scrolls and could preserve an ancient record. Also, the well-known interest of Masons in Hiram of Tyre and Joseph Smith’s interest in temples suggest that he would know this passage of Scripture with some familiarity.

Against Antinomianism

A central characteristic of the churches and of modern preaching and Biblical teaching is antinomianism, an anti-law position. The antinomian believes that faith frees the Christian from the law, so that he is not outside the law but is rather dead to the law. There is no warrant whatsoever in Scripture for antinomianism. The expression, “dead to the law,” is indeed in Scripture (Gal. 2:9; Rom. 7.4), but it has reference to the believer in relationship to the atoning work of Christ as the believer’s representative and substitute; the believer is dead to the law an an indictment, a legal sentence of death against him, Christ having died for him, but the believer is alive to the law as the righteousness of God.

– R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, 2-3


Thoughts on the Election

These are my unscientific thoughts about the election this week. I think that the American public moved from being concerned with questions of terrorism after 9-11 to economic concerns in 2006. Also, the way that we were railroaded into going to war with Iraq rankled many people and the perpetual duration and costs of the wars made people sick. [note that we don’t see any anti-war protests now that the Democrats are in charge of the nation]

We had the dot com blowup followed by the Enron scandals and 9-11, but the economy seemed to normalize only to see the housing bubble collapse starting in 2005 and reaching full force in 2008. Rather than rein in government spending or do anything like reduce the scope of government, President Bush expanded government massively via things like the Homeland Security Agency and new intelligence directorates all over the place. Spending skyrocketed and the wars seemed endless and hopeless. Home equity was plunging and people felt despair. Despite all of this, McCain was neck and neck with Obama until the Lehman Brothers collapse and the panic it induced. People voted for a cipher – President Obama – in hopes that he would end the wars, fix the economy, somehow make Washington a paragon of openness and virtue, stop global warming and other magical and wonderful things. The voters rejected the Republicans as hypocrites and took out their vengeance for bad economic times on them. What they did not do, by and large, was endorse the Democratic agenda of a large welfare state, unlimited abortion and other radical notions. Many GOP voters probably stayed home in 2008 out of anger or disgust.

The Democrats, however, interpreted the results as a sweeping wave that affirmed their agenda and was ushering in a new Rooseveltian or Great Society vision of the country. As George Will wrote, all they were in 2008 was “not George Bush.” The Democrats assumptions of generational and demographic realignment were wrong.

Now it is 2010. The economy is still in tatters, the wars continue, Washington is the same as it ever was and housing is still a shambles. Additionally, we have had trillions of dollars in debt added to our system and many feel that we teeter on the edge of a total financial collapse in the next decade or two. So, voters put a lot of the insiders out on their ear and shook things up again. Republicans should not interpret this as the nation turning to Constitutional originalism, small government, Laffer-curve, pro-life policies. I see it more as inchoate rage and frustration, coupled with the idea on the part of many middle class and lower class whites that the government is growing beyond control and that the Christian values of our past are forcibly derided on the part of the overclass. I don’t know how blacks and Hispanics feel about the government, but I surmise that many blacks expected something from President Obama and haven’t seen it.

Until the economy improves and uncertainty fades, I don’t see either party lasting in power for long periods of time. Fundamentally, our economic pattern of massive debt, fiat currency and unfunded entitlements seems doomed. Defense spending cannot be sustained at its current levels. The morals of our institutions are out of whack with what many profess to believe. This will make for continual turmoil in our nation as far as I can tell, and I also don’t expect the new wave of GOP legislators to achieve much.

My two cents.

Evolution and Space Policy

For a long time I have believed that one of the motivating forces behind our space program is to attempt to prove Darwinism by seeing it on other planets. This article confirms it to me.

Based on the geology of Mars’s northern plains, the new study suggests that bodies of water formed as groundwater slowly seeped through cracks in the crust. This process would have made oceans and lakes quickly—within just a few years—but also could have sustained the bodies of water over millennia.

However, even when Mars was supposedly wet, the planet likely didn’t have a very thick atmosphere. Many scientists therefore think that if life as we know it evolved on Mars, the best places to look for it would be where liquid water would have been protected from extreme temperature changes and damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun.


The Dictatorship of Moral Relativism

My favorite author and painter, Michael O’Brien, writes of his trip to Poland:

In a meeting with a very highly placed journalist and ministry official, I was told by her that freedom of the press in Poland has shrunk drastically in a very short time, since all secular media is now heavily influenced by vested interests and a resurgent secret police, many of whom are old Communists/new Eurocrats. Only Radio Maria and smaller Catholic journals continue to report the objective truth in the country, and thus the mainstream press continues a constant barrage of propaganda against both the Church and Catholic media. This was a shocking statement, but it was repeated by responsible observers of the situation many times during my travels. The dictatorship of moral relativism (as Pope Benedict calls it) has many faces, but its most deceptive mask is that of the “enlightened” liberalism. Beneath such liberalism there is an agenda that is very much allied with the culture of death, with power and with private wealth. In North America and most other Western nations the same dynamic is a work in various guises.

I like how he points out the links between enlightened liberalism, private wealth, power and the culture of death.