Scrying

This is an interesting addition to the Joseph Smith file: a bit of background on John Dee:

In the early 1580s the English scholar and magus John Dee undertook an experiment with his “scryer,” who went by the name of Edward Kelley, to try to acquire otherwise inaccessible knowledge by means of invoking and interrogating angels. Kelley, by peering into his “seer stone,” mediated numerous conversations between these angels and Dee, and Dee left detailed transcripts of these encounters. He was told that the lost books of Esdras were still in the hands of the Jews. He was also told that he would be shown the lost books of Enoch quoted by Jude, but there is no record of this happening. Instead, the angels dictated a lengthy revelatory book called Liber Loagaeth, which was to restore all the lost holy books. Unfortunately, it is written in an “angelic” language (called “Enochian” by later followers of Dee) and, apart from a word or two here and there, no translation was ever forthcoming.

Episcopalians in the Congo

Ed Jones from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia writes about a recent trip to the Congo that he and some others from the Diocese made:

At the service at the cathedral in Bukavu, Carey Chirico of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg offered a sermon that captured the spirit of Pentecost. Her words were translated into Swahili.

Indeed, the basic structure of the service, from the sermon to the prayers to the creeds, was similar to what Episcopalians in the U.S. would know.

What was different were the long stretches of singing and dancing from the seven choirs of the church. During some of those extended musical offerings, the whole congregation seemed to find a spiritual rhythm, swaying as one.

Note that St. George’s is a thoroughly apostate parish that has things like an “Integrity Circle for LGBT persons.” What is Integrity?

Integrity is an officially recognized organization within the Episcopal Church which serves as the leading grassroots voice for full inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons.

So why is the Congo receiving apostates like this? Perhaps Anglicans in the Congo aren’t aware of the beliefs of these folks, but I’m not so sure. It makes the Congo look more and more mercenary, when you couple it with the support of the AMiA.

Life Speeds By

Seneca’s first Epistle discusses using time, and how we waste it:

Greetings from Seneca to his friend Lucilius.

CONTINUE to act thus, my dear Lucilius – set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed, Whatever years be behind us are in death’s hands.

Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon to-morrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.

You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practising. I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss; I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man. My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own: every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue.

What is the state of things, then? It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and you cannot begin too early. For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask./a Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile. Farewell

Jordan Reviews Weber

In the Westminster Theological Journal 44, No. 1, James Jordan reviews Robert E. Webber’s book “The Secular Saint: A Case for Evangelical Social Responsibility.” He writes:

When the present writer accepted the assignment of reviewing this book a year ago, I anticipated a relatively simple assignment. I found, however, the task to be difficult. On the one hand, The Secular Saint appears to be designed as a simple introduction to the questions of the cultural mandate and Christian society. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion and recommended further readings. On the other hand, the book also claims a more rigorous purpose: “What I hope to do, therefore, is to set forth the various historic models, show their grounding in Scripture, illustrate them from history, and evaluate their effectiveness in the modern world. In this way I hope both to provide a theology for social concern and to set forth the major models of social awareness that have appeared in the church” (p. 14).

Accordingly, I shall review the book from two perspectives. First, let us consider whether Dr. Webber has written a “safe” and reliable introduction for young Christians to the matter of biblical thought. The book is well laid out, with each chapter broken up into sections and sub-sections. The questions for further discussion are helpful. The Reformed reader, however, will not be so happy with the recommended further readings. Liberal and neo-orthodox writers vastly outnumber orthodox ones. The student is directed to the works of Richard Niebuhr, Jacques Ellul, Gerhard von Rad, John Bright, and Wolfhart Pannenberg, among others. The only conservative book on the cultural mandate recommended is that of Henry Van Til; ignored are the works of R. J. Rushdoony, E. L. Hebden Taylor, F. N. Lee, H. van Riessen, Carl Henry, Francis Schaeffer, etc. The reader is, however, directed to the writings of recent “left-wing evangelicals,” such as Richard Mouw and Ronald Sider. The resulting impression is that only liberals and left-wing evangelicals have done any work in this area, an impression which is misleading. The overall effect is likely to lead the student away from historical evangelical orthodoxy and toward loose views of Scripture, sadly increasingly common in modern evangelicalism today.

Moreover, still considering the book’s possible usefulness as an introduction for young Christians, many church leaders will be distressed by Dr. Webber’s setting aside of the question of the historicity of Genesis 1–11 (p. 35). My guess is that Dr. Webber accepts these chapters as at least partially historical, but his idea that the question of historicity can be set aside, even for a moment, actually destroys, in my opinion, everything he is trying to say. As C. Van Til and F. A. Schaeffer have so often pointed out, the cultural mandate cannot be grounded in mere ideas, which substitute the “idea of history” for history itself, and the “idea of creation” for the truth of creation ex nihilo. Ultimately the world and society do not matter at all if they are merely constructs projected by the Kantianized mind of man. Doubtless Dr. Webber would agree with me here, but one wishes that he had given a clearer statement of the matter in his book.

Orthodox Christians will be distressed to read on p. 39 that the woman, after the Fall, “is to be subject to her husband, a perversion of the partnership she enjoyed in the garden.” At the very least, this smacks of modern egalitarianism, not of biblical covenantalism. And what are we to make of the statement on p. 177 that God’s self-disclosure “is preserved in Scripture as a trustworthy record of God’s revelation”? The Bible is far more than a mere record of revelations; it is itself written revelation.

My conclusion is that this book, considered as an introduction to the social mandate for young Christians, is too often misleading and unhelpful. Let us now review the book at a more sophisticated level, as a treatise on evangelical social responsibility.

After two helpful introductory chapters on defining terms and problems, Webber has two chapters on biblical background. There are good observations here concerning man’s place as the image of God, dependently creative, and man’s rebellious attempt to become independently creative. The brief discussion of the nature of Cainitic civilization as characterized by violence is also well written and helpful, but pales in comparison with Rushdoony’s treatment of the same subject in Revolt Against Maturity (Thoburn Press, 1977). The biblical discussion is marred, in my opinion, by Webber’s premillennialism (p. 65) and by an incomplete discussion of the relationship between OT law and NT “kingdom ethics”: he rightly says that NT ethics is thoroughly grounded in the OT (p. 60), but discusses the Sermon on the Mount almost as if “kingdom ethics” were to be identified with the recorded teachings of Jesus while He walked the earth (p. 69). The relationship between the teachings of the pre-incarnate Christ on social matters (in the Torah) and the New Covenant is foundational to any attempt to set forth a Christian social ethic, especially in setting forth biblical canons for evaluating various proposed Christian ethical options.

There follow three chapters, on the separational model, the identification model, and the transformational model. The problem with Webber’s discussion here is that he fails to see that the orthodox or transformational model actually and by design incorporates the virtues of the other two. Questions can be raised, moreover, regarding his discussion of the history of the three positions. I think that the pre-Constantinian church should be classified as transformational, within its permitted parameters, rather than separatist. Why else all the apologetic writings? Moreover, the idea that the early church was pacifistic is certainly debatable. Many would hold that the early church rejected military service on the grounds that it involved idolatry, not on pacifistic or separatistic grounds (cf. Tertullian, De Idol. 19;  De Corona Militis, 11). Similar considerations underlay the early church’s objection to its members’ becoming judges. There is no biblical basis for objecting to capital punishment, and the church did not go through some flip-flop when Constantine came to power. The church had been working to transform the world from a position outside society; after Constantine she was working from a position of ascendancy. More appropriately, Webber uses the anabaptists as illustrations of separatism, and orthodox Lutheranism as an illustration of identificationalism.

In the section on identificationalism, there is a section on civil religion. While Dr. Webber’s discussion of folk religion is useful, his application of the concept of civil religion to modern America is strangely misdirected. The civil religion of the United States for the past 150 years has been liberal humanism. The ecclesiastical wing of this civil religion is not evangelicalism but the liberal mainstream denominations. Evangelicals and fundamentalists have definitely been outsiders during this period. Conservative political thought, isolationistic and libertarian, favoring the death penalty, etc., has also been a minority opinion for a long time, and the election of Ronald Reagan does not indicate any real reversal of that trend. Webber’s identification of conservatism, evangelical and political, with the established civil religion of America is highly questionable, and functions as a red herring. We are left to think, I suppose, that men like Ron Sider are outsiders. Actually Ron Sider and his friends are very close to the mainstream of modern American civil religion, as their widespread popularity and acceptability indicate.

Dr. Webber says on p. 174 that “evangelicalism appears to be aligned not only with conservative theology but also with conservative politics, and it is certainly not (as a whole) in the forefront of social reform.” What is this supposed to mean? Contrary to Dr. Webber, it means that evangelicals are definitely working for social change, since the prevailing orthodoxy in America is liberalism. Evangelicals involved in working against organized theft (fiat paper money), against organized murder (legalized abortion), against pornography, and for the reinstitution of the death penalty, are working against the tide of prevailing liberal orthodoxy. In an age of liberalism, conservatism is radicalism.

Dr. Webber’s discussion of the transformational model includes sections on Augustine, Calvin, and (!) liberation theology. The historian can only wince to read such statements as this, written with reference to Calvin’s times: “A rapidly growing capitalism had the effect of increasing the cost of living while at the same time decreasing the value of human labor” (p. 150). In fact, capitalism has never had such an impact, rather just the opposite. It is state-manipulated mercantilism that is the culprit here. Webber summarizes Calvin’s own thought at one place with this statement: “He [the rich man] is to share his wealth so that the poor will no longer be poor and the rich will no longer be rich” (p. 151), surely a superficial reporting of Calvin’s views.

Most liberation theology is not even Christian, and so one questions what it has to do with this book. Liberation theology generally is simply Marxism couched in Christian language; to the extent that it has any genuinely Christian elements at all, they are almost wholly Roman Catholic. Moreover, liberation theology is not transformational, but is a form of identificationalism: the Christian is to identify with the “poor and oppressed,” whoever they may be. This is in principle no different from identifying with the rich and powerful. The so-called “gospel” is wholly identified with the political platform of one-party—it just happens to be the party that gets all the sympathy from secular humanists and from “left-wing evangelicals.” It has nothing to do with transformational Christianity.

The final chapter, designed to give a contemporary perspective, is also misleading. Webber is excited about the social reform movements that came out of Arminian and Pelagian (Finney) movements in the 19th century. These groups were in fact characterized by a considerable number of quasi-manichean notions, such as the sinfulness of using condiments and drinking wine, the morally transforming effects of using Graham flour, abolitionism (which taught that all slavery, even biblical slavery, is wrong), egalitarian feminism, etc. Webber would have done better to discuss the life and work of Abraham Kuyper, or of J. Gresham Machen.

From a Reformed or conservative evangelical viewpoint, The Secular Saint cannot be recommended. Its discussions are too often misleading and one-sided. The conclusion of the study, that Christians should live in the world but not be of it, does not really advance the discussion. Any treatment of these issues must be compared with H. Van Til’s classic Calvinistic Concept of Culture, currently sadly out of print, and there can be no question which is the more profound and helpful book: Van Til needs to be brought back into print.

Serious typographical errors occur on p. 131 (line 12) and p. 177 (lines 26–28). Other than that, the book was in good condition as regards format.

American Culture

…American culture or civilization has been, in the main, a Baptist modification of old catholic and Reformed culture. The New Christian Right, in its attempts to stem the tide of degeneracy in American life, is a Baptistic movement, and this is the reason why the New Christian Right finds itself in a condition of crisis, confusion, and indeed impotence. The thesis the editors are setting forth, then, is that American Christianity must return to a full-orbed Biblical and Reformed theology, and set aside Baptistic individualism, if it is to have anything to say to modern problems – indeed, if it is to survive.

– James Jordan, The Failure of American Baptist Culture, 1982

Counter-revolutionaries, not Conservatives

The time to use the label “conservative” has come to an end. What is left to conserve? Child slaughter for all? The freedom to blaspheme? Mass pornography? Lawrence Auster puts it like this:

Since the Congress can now command citizens to do anything the Congress wants, since America as a republic under a government of limited powers is now officially dead, therefore conservatism, which if it means anything means support for that republic of limited powers, is now also dead. For conservatives to continue to support the constitution means supporting a leftist government with unlimited powers. Therefore the only meaningful form that conservatism can now take is counterrevolution, which means: opposition to the lawless regime that America now is, and the declared intent to dismantle it. Any “conservatism” short of counterrevolution is simply subscription to, loyalty to, patriotism to, subservience to, a leftist unlimited state.

I think America has been revolutionary for a long time, exporting that revolutionary spirit across the world. As Pope Benedict put it, “Everything started with the sexual revolution“:

The “sexual revolution” unleashed in the 1960’s was intended to “free” human sexuality from the straightjacket of traditional morality. It began to sing the praises of sexuality as a simple consumer good and means for obtaining pleasure. The satisfaction of the sexual impulse was propagandized as the way to happiness and to the true development of the personality. Values like self-control and chastity were accepted less and less. Many maintained that sexual continence was unnatural and unlivable. Others in turn sought to transfer human sexuality completely into the realm of the “private” and the “subjective”: if two persons love each other and want to express this in the language of love, why should they be prevented from doing so?

Subsequently the exercise of sexuality was detached more and more from marriage, and above all with the global spread of contraception, from procreation. It was asserted that the “old” understanding of sexuality corresponded to another culture, which in the meantime had been transformed.

The sexual revolution is indeed at the heart of both the changes to our society and the modern edifice of liberal statism. Abortion is the sacrosanct principle that is defended at all costs. As long as we make peace with the revolution, we have lost. So we are not conserving anything, we are now fighting a counter-revolution, one that will probably have to be played out over centuries and in quiet places, while the tottering society collapses and disintegrates.

LDS Missions on Facebook?

In a piece of bad or misleading reporting, Ruth Gledhill says: "But soon the famously clean-shaven, clean-living Mormon missionaries might be shown the door for the last time." Her article goes on:

Elder Erich Kopischke, head of the Church’s European operation who is in London to mark the 175th anniversary of American missionaries setting sail for Liverpool on July 1, 1837, told The Times that one post on Facebook could reach 900,000 people in an instant. It would take many months, if not years, to knock on that many doors, he said.

He was speaking at a time when Mitt Romney is campaigning to become the first Mormon US President. The US musical satire The Book of Mormon is due to open in March next year in London.

Elder Kopischke, married with five children, who did his own missionary door knocking on doors in the Pope’s homeland of Bavaria, said: "Door-knocking was really the old way of communicating things."

There are 900 Mormon missionaries on the road in Britain, but the Church has a strong web presence and more than 600,000 people have "liked" its official Facebook page. "If you think about the idea of door-knocking, Jesus once said, ‘Your mouth speaks what your heart is full of’. Why do people knock on doors? Because their heart is full. Why do people use social networks? Because they have something to say. Door-knocking is sometimes understood as aggressive proselytising." Over time, he said, social networks would be more efficient. "If I want to share with you what is really on my heart or that I have observed something, it is easier than to make the trip."

Gledhill implies that Mormons are going to stop going door to door and will just reach out via social media, but the church says nothing of the sort. Rather, it emphasizes that it now does a lot of online chats:

A Church spokesman said that social networking was proving far more effective than knocking on doors. Over a 12-month period, Mormon social networking missionaries have taken part in more than one million online chats.

But I can’t see this replacing Missions at all. For one thing, the Mission is a formative tool in getting young Mormons to own their faith. They have to learn about it on the fly, defend it, and become apologists of sorts, all in a short, two-year time span while their secular counterparts are busy at keggers and hooking up. Also, they and their families have to fund the mission on their own, the church doesn’t pay for it. It is the central event of most young Mormon’s lives. Mormon families take enormous pride in their children successfully completing a Mission.
Also, many of the areas that LDS missionaries are serving aren’t exactly Facebook friendly. That approach might, *might*, work in the UK or the US, but how about Africa? And even in the UK, how many old folks or home-bound folks are on Facebook? There is no substitute for face to face interaction and I’m sure Mormons know this. If anything, the online chats probably lead to a follow up from the Missionaries.
So the tantalizing headline of this article is not at all fleshed out in the details. But I expect we’ll continue to see shoddy reporting on Mormon issues throughout Mitt Romney’s time in office.

“This Time Will Be Different”

C.S. Lewis writes on progressives of the 16th century:

Brinkelow ought to have learned his lesson from the fate of the monastic lands: in his simplicity he had really believed that government would spend its booty on ‘social services’, and had been bitterly disappointed by the event. But experience beats in vain upon a congenital progressive. He urged the spoliation of the colleges in the firm hope that this time-that mystical ‘this time’ which is always going to be so different-government, having sucked in, would give out.

From “English Literature in the Sixteenth Century.”