Monday, 24 April 2017

The Feast of Saint Mark

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly
doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark; Give us grace that. being not like
children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established
in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Mark, pray for us, for the city of Venice and for the Christians of Egypt.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Feast of Saint George

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr George with the virtue of constancy in faith and truth: Grant us in like manner for love of thee to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint George, pray for us, for England, for Georgia and for all soldiers.

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 23rd September

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

National Review: Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Policy Is Dangerous Nonsense

National Review: Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Policy Is Dangerous Nonsense

by David Harsanyi

"Moreover, it seems telling that many of those who are concerned about illegal immigration also seem intent on lowering numbers of legal and potentially high-achieving immigrants from entering the country. The underlying message is that there is a cultural problem, not merely an economic one. “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think . . . ,” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said not long ago in a jumbled explanation of economic nationalism, “a country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

The second part of the order cuts down on waivers and exemptions to President Herbert Hoover’s Buy American law. It instructs agencies to use American-made goods and services rather than saving taxpayer dollars or searching out the best deals they can. This is how we incentivize rent-seeking and cronyism. Until a couple of months ago, this is what Republicans used to call “picking winners and losers.” If you thought General Motors shouldn’t be bailed out because it couldn’t compete in a global marketplace, why would you support a state-impelled “Buy American, Hire American” when it comes to steel, for example?"

Campaigning in Stevenage Town Centre

Yours truly in the middle wearing a bomber jacket.

I was campaigning yesterday with Stevenage Conservatives and Stephen McPartland MP. I've criticised Theresa May and Brexit an awful lot, but I'm too dyed in the wool Tory not to campaign. Strangely, I become a really enthusiastic Tory as soon as I get out and start campaigning.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Baltic Fire Support

Returning to Reality, by Paul Tyson

Paul Tyson, Returning to Reality: Christian Platonism for our Times, 2015 The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge

Paul Tyson makes a case for a revival of Christian Platonism. I think I agree with Tyson that a Christianized form of Platonism is a good thing, though in a number of ways, I found this a frustrating book. I think it would have been helpful for readers for Tyson to have made some more direct comparison between Christian Platonism and other forms of Christian metaphysics, such as Thomism. Tyson spends a good deal of the book critiquing modernity. That is a worthy task, but well read Christians are likely to have read a number of books attacking both modernity and postmodernity, so it felt somewhat tedious.

Tyson makes reference a view times to John Milbank, but otherwise he does not make any mention of Radical Orthodoxy. This is somewhat disingenuous, as it is very clear that Tyson has been influenced by the Radical Orthodoxy school of theology. This is seen most clearly in his identification of Blessed Duns Scotus as the originator of modern thought with his advocacy of the univocity of being. Personally, I am not convinced of the univocity of being, but I am very uncomfortable with the way Radical Orthodoxy has turned Blesed Duns Scotus into a theological Darth Vader. Scotus made many wonderful contributions to theology. Might one not alternatively blame St. Thomas Aquinas' empiricism (and Tyson does hint at this as a root cause later in the book). Tyson does acknowledge that some scholars have questioned the approach he takes to Scotus, but it might have been better if he had avoided that whole avenue of controversial historiography.

What was most frustrating was the way our author connects adopting Christian Platonism with a left-wing anti-capitalist stance. I find it puzzling that he makes the connection between Christian Platonism and radical politics, as the Patristic Fathers did not share his politicized approach to the faith. Many of the anti-Nicene Fathers were positive in their views of the Roman empire and had no interest in political change. The post-Nicene Fathers were even more accepting of the Christianized empire.

I think Tyson is mostly on the right lines, but this book could have been better.

Ukraine Crisis: More than 90% of citizens consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians – survey results

Ukraine Crisis: More than 90% of citizens consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians – survey results

92% of citizens of Ukraine consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians, according to the Razumkov Center survey. 6% of the respondents consider themselves ethnic Russians, 1.5% account for other ethnic groups. It has been the highest recorded rate concerning Ukrainian self-determination since Ukraine gained independence. Russian annexation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas accelerated the self- identification process, say sociologists.

According to 2001 census, 78.8% citizens called themselves Ukrainian, in 2015 (according to Razumkov Center) it was 86%, and today it is 92%. According to the survey, the percentage of those who consider themselves Ukrainian is higher among the youngest audience – from 18 to 22 years old (96.2%). Among those over 60 it is less than 90%.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Feast of Saint Anselm

O GOD, who hast enlightened thy Church by the teaching of thy servant Anselm: Enrich us evermore, we beseech thee, with thy heavenly grace, and raise up faithful witnesses who by their life and doctrine will set forth the truth of thy salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Anselm pray for us, and for England.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bloomberg: May's Latest Brexit Gambit Is Clever But Not Smart

Bloomberg: May's Latest Brexit Gambit Is Clever But Not Smart

by Therese Raphael

"Third, there is something troubling about the way May framed her decision in a Tuesday speech -- something that sounds too close to an attempt to stifle debate.

In defending her decision, the prime minister pointed a finger at the opposition parties (and by extension, those in her own party who are dragging their feet on Brexit). She said division jeopardized the chances of getting a good Brexit deal and accused her detractors, as she has in the past, of playing political games.

In fact, the entire case for new elections was couched in terms reminiscent of the way Winston Churchill rallied the country for a war of survival.

"There should be unity here in Westminster," May said. "Instead there is division. The country should be coming together, but Westminster is not." The upshot: Those who aren't with me are against me, and those who are against me are against the country.

Brexit is historic and complicated and consequential. But it isn't an existential battle against an external foe. It isn't disloyal to question the government's strategy or oppose it. The furniture in the House of Commons is arranged in two facing rows precisely because debate and challenge are central to democracy."

I'm really conflicted by this election. If I'm asked to help campaign with the local Conservatives I will, but it will be with a sense of weariness.

Helicopter Exercises

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Daily Signal: Dignity and Fairness Matter for Every Child in the Locker Room

The Daily Signal: Dignity and Fairness Matter for Every Child in the Locker Room

by Kelly Fiedorek

"But substantially missing from this national conversation are the indispensable voices of the vast majority of children, and particularly girls. Ignoring their voices results in a failure to advance true equality and justice and violates children’s fundamental rights. Indeed, not one child’s privacy should be compromised.

And yet, young girls across the country—including in Illinois and Ohio, as just two examples—have been subjected to anxiety and humiliation when their school administrators secretly decided to open the schools’ locker rooms, restrooms, or showers to the opposite sex.

In Texas, 10-year-old Shiloh Satterfield recently described to the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee how uncomfortable and anxious she feels now that her school has changed its policies to let boys into the school’s intimate facilities."

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Blaze: Christian parents, your kids aren’t equipped to be public school missionaries

The Blaze: Christian parents, your kids aren’t equipped to be public school missionaries

by Matt Walsh

Fifth, related to the last point, your child is not ready to be a missionary. He cannot be a “witness” to others until he himself has been properly formed in the faith. It’s no surprise that most of the young “missionaries” we commission and send forth to minister to the lost souls in public schools quickly become one of the lost souls. We don’t need to sit around theorizing about whether the missionary approach to education is wise or effective. We already know that it isn’t. The vast majority of the parents who think their kids are being “salt and light” to their peers in school are simply oblivious to the fact that their little Bible warriors have long since defected and joined the heathens. You can hardly blame the kids for this. They’re just kids, after all. They aren’t warriors. Warriors are trained and disciplined. Children are neither of those things. I imagine this is why St. Paul didn’t travel to Athens and Corinth recruiting toddlers to help him carry the Gospel into pagan lands.

Education is supposed to prepare a child to carry the torch of truth. That is, he’s supposed to be ready to carry it once his education has been completed. This should not be a “throw them into the deep end to see if they can swim” strategy. They can’t swim. You and I can barely swim, morally and spiritually speaking, and we’re adults. Do you expect your child to be more spiritually mature and morally courageous than you?

I have always said the same thing. The idea that Christian children can evangelize their peers in secular schools is one of the worst myths in Evangelicalism. I am so glad my parents sent me to an independent Evangelical school which grounded me in the absolute truth of the Bible.

Secular education poisons children.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Cosmic Christ, by Alex Terego

This book offers a useful biographical sketch on the life of Pierre Teilard de Chardin, followed by a summary of his key theological ideas. There is something of an overemphasis on the conflict between Teilard de Chardin and the Church authorities. It seems to see his challenge to contemporary Church teaching as being a virtue in itself. No sympathy is shown to the legitimate concerns of the Church in preventing heresy.

No mention is made in this book of Teilhard de Chardin's support for eugenics. It's funny how books celebrating Teilhard de Chardin seem to avoid engaging with the darker side of his work. I think he had some great things to say, but at times, with his rather authoritarian ideas about human progress, comes across a bit like the NICE men in CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Judaism is not Jewish, by Baruch Maoz

Baruch Maoz, Judaism is not Jewish: A Friendly Critique of the Messianic Movement, 2003 Christian Focus

That really is a poor choice of title. Questioning the identity of an oppressed people is crassly insensitive. This is not at all what Maoz is trying to do, but the title of the book implies it. I suspect this provocative (and tasteless) title was chosen by the publisher rather than Maoz. Title aside, this book provides what the author, Jewish Christian Baruch Maoz describes as a 'friendly critique' of the Messianic Jewish movement. I would suggest this is actually a harsh criticism, rather than a friendly critique. Maoz believes that the Messianic Jewish movement has fallen short in it's obsession with maintaining a Jewish identity and has lost sight of its Christian identity. He believes that the emphasis of the Messianic movement on the Torah, the law of the Old Testament has led to a return of the Galatian error. He does clarify at the beginning that his critique does not apply to most Messianic congregations in Israel (where the author has ministered). This is unsurprising as being in a thoroughly Jewish culture, Messianic Jews in Israel have no insecurity about their Jewishness. However, he warns that the aberrations of American Messianic Judaism are being imported to Israel.

As well as critiquing the theology of the Messianic movement, our author also makes some practical observations about the reality of its congregations. He points out that they are overwhelmingly attended by Gentile Christians. The Messianic movement, he says, has been hugely unsuccessful at evangelizing Jews and most Jewish converts to Christianity have nothing to do with it. He suggests this is in large part down to Messianic congregations offering a bizarre, mutilated and inauthentic for of Jewish worship. He observes that the dancing and flag waving in Messianic assemblies would be unheard of in a Jewish synagogue. He makes the interesting observation that Messianic Judaism often attracts Gentiles with a tenuous claim to Jewish ancestry. I met somebody like that once. He claimed that his family were descended from Jews in Scotland who had converted to Christianity. He thus began calling himself a Messianic Jew. Later he renounced Jesus Christ and decided he wanted to convert to Orthodox Judaism.

Baruch Maoz's writing style is rather irritating. He tends to repeat himself a lot and labour each point with as many words as possible. In general he writes as though he were preaching a sermon, which is probably not the right tone for such a book as this. I think he makes many good points. Much of the Messianic Jewish movement is very problematic in it's emphasis on the Torah and it's emphasis on Jewishness at the expense of a trans-cultural Christian identity. Yet his critique is very much grounded in the traditional Reformed reading of Paul. This interpretation reads Paul and Judaism in the light of the Augustinian-Pelagian controversy. Maoz makes no reference to alternative readings of Paul or Judaism, such as NT Wright's 'New Perspective' and EP Sanders work on Palestianian Judaism. While those ideas have their only problems, treating Paul and ancient Judaism as if their message is uncontested is somewhat disingenuous. It is interesting to consider whether Messianic Judaism and it's use of the Torah might be seen differently in the light of contemporary readings of Paul.

Baruch Maoz says at one point that the Gospel will be victorious and triumphant. While he does not state his eschatological views, his optimism suggests that he is Postmillennial. That is a viewpoint I would very much commend.

I must admit, thinking about the rather naive, romantic Judeophilia and Pro-Israelism of the Messianic Movement rather makes me feel a bit nostalgic for upbringing in the Charismatic movement which tended to like all that stuff.