Thursday, 31 March 2016

Behold Your Mother, by Tim Staples

In Behold Your Mother, Tim Staples offers a robust defense of the Catholic Marian doctrines. He provides Biblical evidence for Our Lady's Divine Motherhood, Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, her Assumption into Heaven, her role as Co-Redeemer and finally her Queenship. While acknowledging that these doctrines are not explicitly stated in Scripture, they have their foundation in the Word of God. He also frequently quotes the Church Fathers, demonstrating that the Marian teachings have always been the orthodox doctrine of the Church. Along the way, he tackles the objections of Protestants, including that heavyweight, James White. In appendices, he provides additional evidence for the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady, as well as arguments for her in partu virginity and for her painless delivery.

I liked the way the author interacted with Lumen Gentium. I would have liked him, however, to have said a bit more about Mary as Mediatrix and the role of her intercession. This book does not have the warm conversational tone of Scott Hahn's Hail Holy Queen, but it presents the Biblical evidence in much greater depth than that book.

Staples argues that it is an option for Catholics to hold that the 'brethen' of our Lord were step-brothers by St. Joseph, but he points out that if James the Less was a step-brother, his mother was alive and so St. Joseph would be divorced, not widowed. I think St. James was a cousin of Jesus, but based on the Proto-evangelium tradition, I think St. Joseph was a widower with children of his own. Staples argues that it would have been unlikely that Saint Jerome would have casually dismissed Joseph being a widower if the Proto-evangelium tradition was strongly held. I would argue that the Proto-evangelium tradition had a stronger foundation in the east. Furthermore, Jerome had an agenda in using Joseph as a model for the consecrated life.

I would highly recommend Staples' book. It is first-class Catholic apologetics.

New Atlanticist: Poland’s President Seeks Stronger NATO Presence in Europe’s East

New Atlanticist: Poland’s President Seeks Stronger NATO Presence in Europe’s East

Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, wants an enhanced NATO presence—in the form of troops as well as infrastructure—in Central and Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression, but said his government does not want to isolate Russia or return to the Cold War.

Noting Russia’s military buildup in Kaliningrad Oblast, which borders Poland; its growing missile potential; and “aggressive” military exercises near the Baltic States, the Polish President emphasized the importance of “real deterrence” on Europe’s eastern flank in the face of these challenges.

“Real deterrence means real presence,” he said.

Duda spoke at the National Press Club in Washington on March 30 at an event co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Following his remarks, Duda participated in a discussion with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

NATO will hold its annual meeting in Warsaw in July. Duda said the summit must demonstrate that “we are capable of building an adequate and cohesive defense potential based on resilience and deterrence.”

Oops... Could the Western Rite Please Try Again? by CJS Hayward

CJS Hayward is an Eastern Orthodox chap who has written a huge volume of material and has self-published it on Amazon. Not only is he a self-publisher, but he seems to be something of a self-publicist. He has been described more than once as a 'legend in his own mind.'

You might expect from the title that this short book would be a review of Western Rite liturgies, one which finds them inadequate. However, the book does not address any particular liturgies. Hayward's critique is not of the Western Rite itself, but of the mentality of converts to it. He argues that their approach and attitude to Orthodoxy falls short. The Western Rite Orthodox are ex-Anglicans seeking to convert, not to Orthodoxy, but their own club of ex-Anglicans. He also suggests that in seeking to reconstruct a lost western orthodoxy, the Western Riters are missing out on the glory of Orthodoxy as a living tradition. There is some substance to his arguments, but they are not at all well developed or argued. This does not seem at all like a book that the author has taken pains to research and plan, but more like a two-part blog post that has been published.

I'm not Orthodox, so I don't have a dog in this fight. However, I do find Western Orthodoxy interesting. As somebody who loves the Book of Common Prayer, I like the fact that the Western Rite Orthodox have used that liturgy as source material. It makes a sharp contrast to the tendency to narrowness and suspicion of western things that is often seen in Orthodoxy. The Liturgy of Saint Tikhon in particular, is not in any way a work of liturgical archaeology, but was an adaptation of a 19th century edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

National Review: No, Trump Isn’t Actually Better than Hillary

National Review: No, Trump Isn’t Actually Better than Hillary

by David French

"We know what we’ll get from Clinton when it comes to foreign policy. She’s an internationalist interventionist with more muscular instincts than Barack Obama and less resolve than George W. Bush. She voted for the Iraq invasion but then went wobbly as the war dragged on. She backed the surge in Afghanistan, advocated intervention in Libya, and was famously more skeptical of the Arab Spring than Obama. Her “reset” with Russia was a disaster, but she’ll broadly back American allies, maintain our stewardship of NATO, and keep our other international commitments.

Trump’s foreign policy, insofar as he has a coherent foreign policy, is by contrast an entire casserole of crazy. At various points in the campaign, he’s promised that he’d order the military to commit war crimes by torturing terrorists and killing their families; he’s called our core alliances in question; he’s pledged to remain neutral in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; and he’s switched anti-ISIS strategies so many times that no one has the slightest clue what he’d do. This is a man who has on multiple occasions endorsed a “bomb them all and take their oil” strategy for fixing the war-torn Middle East. He’d alienate every Muslim ally America has, including the Kurds, and he’s still completely mystified by the most basic defense concepts. The entire world would be less secure with his finger on the button."

The Telegraph: No, Britain wasn't lied to when we joined the EU. We knew what we were getting into

The Telegraph: No, Britain wasn't lied to when we joined the EU. We knew what we were getting into

by Greg Rosen

Those who claim we were deceived when we entered Europe in 1975 are speaking in flagrant ignorance of the easily-accessible facts

"MP David Waddingon, subsequently Margaret Thatcher’s last Home Secretary, spelled it out further: “[a] country may have complete legal sovereignty, complete power to pass whatever laws it wishes in an attempt to control every kind of activity of its citizens, and yet be so weak as to be incapable of protecting its people from military, economic, or other action taken by other countries. Conversely, another country may sacrifice quite a lot of its legal sovereignty and yet, by acting in partnership with others, be able to exercise very much more power and give greater protection to its citizens than it ever could and did before that sacrifice was made.”

Margaret Thatcher’s last Agriculture Minister John Gummer agreed: “if anyone believes that we have the same power to guide our destinies today as we had in 1945 or in 1900 he is taking a totally wrong attitude to life. Sovereignty is defined today as it was in 1900, but the power it gives us is totally different. Therefore, I am not interested in legalistic definitions of our sovereignty; I am interested in what we can do to create a new future for ourselves. How can we control our environment? How can we control our financial future?”

At the heart of this debate was not deception but genuine disagreement, over whether the economic benefits of EEC membership combined with the opportunity for greater collective power through pooled sovereignty outweighed the infringement upon narrow national sovereignty that EEC membership entailed.

Helpfully, the wonders of modern technology make the past ever more accessible: Hansard, for example, is now helpfully online, so every Parliamentary utterance of Britain’s politicians on what joining the Common Market actually entailed can be accessed with but a click of a mouse."

The Heavy Anglo-Orthodox: Our Muslim neighbours

The Heavy Anglo-Orthodox: Our Muslim neighbours

"The Christian presence in the Middle East has been made practically untenable by a perception - completely unwarranted - that Christians are the existential enemies of Muslims. This perception was bolstered by the war in Iraq. It continues to be fanned and spread by the likes of Daesh and al-Qaeda.

If we Christians in the West want to be of any service or help to the Christians in the Middle East, we need to have our priorities straight and our message needs to be clear. We need to disavow and repudiate all claims that Muslims are our enemies. We do have a deep and perhaps irreconcilable doctrinal dispute with Islam that is not going away anytime soon, but we also have to deal with the practical implications of the fact that Muslims are our neighbours, and that in many cases we share in their struggles.

The fact that this is the official position of my Church, the Roman Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, articulated countless times in many different venues, spoken and written (for example, this one), should be proof that this is not feel-good moral posturing. This is not liberal handwringing. This is not armchair SJW-ism. This is not about political correctness. This is about survival. Christians, Muslims and Jews live alongside each other in the Levant and have been doing so for centuries."

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

BBC News: Leaving EU 'devastating for young', says Nicky Morgan

BBC News: Leaving EU 'devastating for young', says Nicky Morgan

A vote to leave the European Union could have a devastating impact on the life chances of young people, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is to say.

Entering the debate over EU membership, she will urge parents and grandparents to think how their vote will affect opportunities for the next generation.

She is also urging young people to make sure they vote in June's referendum.

The Vote Leave campaign said the EU had been bad for young people, with a generation on the continent unemployed.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast ahead of a speech at the Fashion Retail Academy in London, Mrs Morgan said companies were already suspending hiring decisions as they waited to see the outcome of the vote on 23 June.

"As we saw from the recession that we've just been through, the people who suffer most are the youngest. Those who are trying to get into jobs and careers will suffer if companies and organisations are not hiring," she said.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Neo-Neocon on Moderate Muslims

Neo-Neocon: On moderate Muslims and the concept of “religiosity” [Part I]

"There are many Muslims in this country who display no more “religiosity” than the secular Jew or the reform Jew who doesn’t keep kosher and hasn’t read the Tanakh, or those nominal Christians who don’t go to church regularly and even have some trouble with the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. Many of those Muslims are citizens who are as dedicated to the principles of the Constitution as the average Christian or Jew. Those who suggest that all Muslims must be deported need to take them into account without just stating that all Muslims are secret jihadis or that these “moderate” people aren’t really Muslims.

They exist. They are Muslims of one kind or other. They are citizens. You may think they are the eggs that must be broken to make some palatable omelets, but I don’t."

Unsurprisingly, this post is attracting plenty of daft comments from right-wing clowns.

I don't think I agree with Neo-Neocon that a consistent Moderate Islam is impossible or does not exist, but she rightly points out that there are Muslims who are moderate, regardless of whether their moderation is consistent with Islam. She acknowledges that to discriminate against these people, as the klown korps are advocating, would be plain wrong.

Neo-Neocon is somebody who repeats all those cliched anti-Islam arguments, yet she seems to be aware that Islamophobia can only lead somewhere ugly, whether that is deportations or internment camps. I just wish she would recognise the need to cool down the anti-Islam rhetoric and acknowledge that Islamophobia is a real problem.

Passing Parade, by Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn is a well known right-wing journalist, whose work is usually witty and enjoyable. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't. Like a lot of conservatives, he comes across as not very at ease with the modern world; a grumpy old man. His worse fault is his endless tendency to repeat Islamophobic misinformation. More than once in this book, he brings up the false claim that Muslims are going to take over Europe as a result of having an high birthrate. This is false. It is solidly taken apart by Doug Sanders in The Myth of the Muslim Tide. The truth is that although Islam is growing relative to other religions, the global Muslim birthrate is declining dramatically. Although Muslims have more children than their neighbours, their birthrate is slowing down. The current migrant crisis will increase the number of Muslims in Europe, but not enough to significantly shift the demographics.

Passing Parade is a compilation of obituaries that Steyn has written. While that might not sound very exciting, the figures in this book, from Pope St. John Paul II to Idi Amin offer titanic snapshots of the history of the Twentieth Century. An obituary is the best kind of biography because it is a concise summary; leaving out all those tedious details about the subject's childhood, schooling and military service. At times in the book, Steyn's interest is not so much in describing the life of his subject, but in making a broader point. For instance, in talking about the Argentine dictator, Leopoldo Galtieri, he talks about Britain's resurgence from decline. After the demise of the British Empire, Galtieri had every reason to think that Britain would do nothing to stop Argentina taking the Falklands. Thatcher, however, had other ideas and halted Britain's descent into impotence.

Mark Steyn is at his best, not when he is writing about political figures, but when he covers the people of show business- song writers, actresses and television presenters. Many of these people I had never heard of, but Steyn brought them to life and showed what made them great. I had not been aware that Lois Maxwell, the original cinematic Miss Moneypenny, also voiced Atlanta Shore in Gerry Anderson's Stingray. Steyn amusingly suggests that she was basically playing the same character in both Stingray and James Bond (the office girl ignored in favour of the exotic beauty). Our author is scathing about the celebrated playwright Arthur Miller, dismissing his work and suggesting he is admired only for his shallow Left-wing politics. He points out the uselessness of The Crucible's suggested analogy of the Salem Witch Trials with McCarthyism:

He wasn’t amiable enough to be an amiable dunce but he was the most useful of the useful idiots. It was a marvellous inspiration to recast the communist ‘hysteria’ of the 1950s as the Salem witch trials of the 1690s. Many people have pointed out the obvious flaw — that there were no witches, whereas there were certainly communists. For one thing, they were gobbling up a lot of real estate: they seized Poland in 1945, Bulgaria in ’46, Hungary and Romania in ’47, Czechoslavakia in ’48, China in ’49; they very nearly grabbed Greece and Italy; they were the main influence on the nationalist movements of Africa and Asia. Imagine the Massachusetts witch trials if the witches were running Virginia, New York and New Hampshire, and you might have a working allegory.

Steyn makes other very interesting points. On the murdered rapper Tupac Shakur, he chides the media for celebrating his violent and rather repulsive life. On Pope St. John Paul II he argues that the media was utterly unable to comprehend the holy father's defense of timeless moral values. On the Mormon polygamist leader Owen Allred he says:

In an age which deplores unreconstructed homophobes foolish enough to conflate gayness and pedophilia, we’re happy to assume that, if some hatchet-faced patriarch with nothing but a compound in one of the less chic zip codes can find eight women prepared to marry him they must be 14-year old cousins he keeps in the cupboard under the stairs most of the week. One of Owen’s nieces, Dorothy Allred Solomon, wrote an expose of her life within the church, under the title of Daughter Of The Saints: Growing Up In Polygamy or, if you prefer (as the publisher evidently did), Predators, Prey And Other Kinfolk: Growing Up In Polygamy. Mrs Solomon couldn’t quite live up to the latter billing. She was the middle child – 24th of 48 – of Rulon Allred, and the vicissitudes of her life seem to derive from the secrecy and isolation that necessarily attends such communities – the psychological damage of the polygamous closet.

But, if you’ve got 48 kids and only one is disaffected enough to go public, that’s a better strike rate than most celebrities manage, or, indeed, many two-child monogamous couples. At Allred’s funeral, six of his sons carried his coffin and as many daughters celebrated his memory with a rendition of “Oh, My Papa” and, given that most of them aren’t exactly spring chickens, I doubt that’s because he was keeping them chained out in the dog pound. There’s less verified child abuse among all the Utah churches than among priests who passed through Cardinal Law’s diocese in Boston. It was the state that permitted marriage at the age of 14, and Owen Allred who campaigned for the legislature to raise the age to 16. “For 50 years now,” he said, “the rule among our people has definitely been that girls should not even start courting until they are at least 17.” At 88, he told The New York Times, “People have the wrong idea that we’re old-time kooks who prey on young girls. I suppose I’m guilty of that. My youngest wife is 64. My oldest girl is 93.” They lived in four houses, lined up side by side, and all eight marriages were till death did them part.

Writing of the fallen statesman, John Profumo, Mark Steyn contrasts the penitent former minister's life of quiet dignity and charitable service with Christine Keeler's desperate attempts to prolong her celebrity status. I hate to sound like a lefty feminist type, but maybe it's easier for a man from a privileged background to live a life of quiet dignity than for a working class former call girl.

In terms of Mark Steyn's own career, the most significant obituary in this book is that of the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. While it's hard not to admire the cheek this woman showed in her famous interview with the Ayatollah Khomeini, she was the godmother of Islamophobes, introducing all the cliched arguments that get recycled by right-wing bores, unfortunately including Steyn. These are the same arguments that were included in a manifesto written by a chap called Anders Breivik. Like Steyn, Breivik had issues with the Left and accused them of complacency towards Islam. Breivik is still with us. However, should he ever be murdered or commit suicide in prison, perhaps Steyn will write his obituary. Perhaps he will comment on how fear and suspicion of Muslims inspired this man's crimes. The Left is almost always wrong, but sometimes the Right can take a wrong turn.

The Telegraph: The EU referendum is a choice between certainty and risk

The Telegraph: The EU referendum is a choice between certainty and risk

by Anna Soubry

"The longer this campaign goes on, the clearer it becomes. On one side, you have those, like me, who want to remain. We not only offer certainty: certainty about our access to the Single Market; certainty about jobs and prices. We are also backed up by a welter of opinion, from businesses small and large to independent experts. In the past two weeks alone, the London School of Economics, Oxford Economics and the CBI have all warned of the economic danger of leaving.

On the other, you have those who want to leave, who make assertions with little evidence, and don’t have their claims backed up. All they offer is risk at a time of uncertainty. With our children and grandchildren’s future at stake, that’s a gamble we cannot take."

Sunday, 27 March 2016

National Review: Cruz Must Be the Anti-Trump

National Review: Cruz Must Be the Anti-Trump

by Mona Charen

"There is one message that Cruz can emphasize from here on out that would not conflict with his established identity but might rally voters not otherwise inclined toward him — political decency. At every opportunity, he must stress that Trump’s virtually naked appeal to racial hatred (his footsie with the KKK being exhibit A), his encouragement of mob violence, his tolerance for actual violence against a woman by his campaign manager, and his frightening admiration for dictators of all stripes make him utterly unfit to be the standard bearer for the party of Lincoln. Though Cruz has made his name disparaging the Republican party, it now falls to him to defend its honor and that of the conservative movement against nativism, vulgarity, ignorance, and authoritarianism.

He must stress (as he has done in one or two debates) that being faithful to the Constitution doesn’t just mean appointing worthy justices to the Supreme Court — as crucial as that is — but also respecting constitutional limits on government power, especially executive power. And he must emphasize that in a world made far more dangerous by the intentional weakening of the United States under Barack Obama, an erratic, ignorant, and unstable commander-in-chief represents an unacceptable danger to the nation and the world."

Armageddon and the Peaceable Kingdom, by Walter Klaassen

I bought Wyngaarden's Future of the Kingdom thinking its author was a Mennonite Amillennialist. Unsurprisingly given his Dutch name, Martin Wyngaarden was a Calvinist Amillennialist. However, Armageddon and the Peaceable Kingdom, by Walter Klaasen, is a defense of Amillennialism from a Mennonite perspective. It is also a polemic against the popular writers of Premillennial end-times literature.

Klaassen is devastating in his critique of popular eschatological literature and spares no (metaphorical- he's a pacifist!) punches. I suspect a Premillennialist or enthusiast of such literature reading his book is likely to be offended or upset by his confrontational approach. I don't think he has ever been a Premillennialist, Dispensational or Historic, and he shows no understanding or empathy with the appeal of apocalyptic literature and preaching. When I was a Premillennialist, I felt such excitement when I read books or heard speakers pointing to contemporary events as signs of the nearness of Christ's Second Coming. While that eschatological approach might have been wrong, I don't think the spiritual effect it had on me was necessarily unhealthy. I think it increased my longing for Christ's coming, it made me see the temporality of worldly things and gave me greater zeal to see the Gospel preached. I would have liked to have seen Klaassen show some acknowledgement of these more positive aspects of Premillennialism.

As a member of one of the historic peace churches, our author shows great discomfort at the apparent tendency of Premillennialists to delight in the violent judgement of God on the nations at Christ's Second Coming. He argues that this is utterly incompatible with the peaceful Jesus we see in the Gospels. The problem is that it is very much in harmony with the Old Testament, with such judgements as the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. What are we to make of the calls for God's judgement in the Psalms and the cries for vengeance of the martyred souls in the Apocalypse? Klaassen does offer his own explanation and model of divine judgment, but I do not think he adequately deals with the Old Testament material. He may have some liberal tendencies in this area; he denies that the book of Daniel predicts the Roman Empire (sadly many Catholic scholars do the same), which is a sure sign of giving too much of a pass to higher criticism. Like it or not, many Christians do see no contradiction between a peaceful ethic of love in the Gospels with acknowledging God's prerogative to execute violent judgment on the nations who reject Him.

Articulating his own view of eschatology, Klaassen argues that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom that was established through Christ's first coming. I agree with him on this, however, as a Postmillennialist, I would have liked to see some optimism about the cosmic implications of the Kingdom of God. Klaassen would be unsurprised to see the Kingdom limited, even at Christ's Second Coming to a few faithful believers scattered here and there. Yet many prophetic passages speak about the nations coming to worship God and serving Him. What are we to make of these promises of triumph and victory? Many Amillennialists would see these fulfilled in the eternal state after Christ's Parousia. Yet this move minimizes the impact of Christ's first coming and His present victory over Satan. I found it unsurprising that Klaassen does not say an awful lot about the Ascension and enthronement of Christ.

This is a book that makes some good points, but has some definite weaknesses.

An Inconvenient Truth

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Reduction of Christianity, by Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart

Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart, The Reduction of Christianity: Dave Hunt's Theology of Cultural Surrender,1988 American Vision, Atlanta

In the 1980s, the Protestant fundamentalist apologist, Dave Hunt, wrote a book entitled The Seduction of Christianity, followed by a sequel entitled Beyond Seduction. The main target of this book was the Word-Faith movement and its heterodox teachings. Some of the criticisms made in this book were sound, but on the whole it was dreadfully sensationalized. Hunt claimed that the aberrations of the Word-Faith teachers and Prosperity Gospellers were part of a New Age conspiracy to corrupt Christianity. Back then, the New Age was big news and fundamentalists were obsessed with it. Some fundamentalists have not moved on and are still convinced of a New Age conspiracy, but in reality the New Age is a bit of a joke. There are still people interested in New Age ideas, but most people would regard them as cranks. They also tend to be older people. Young people these days might do the odd Ouija board, but by and large they are materialistic and atheistic in their outlook. Young people are seldom seeking the 'alternative spirituality' that the New Age once provided.

Attacking the Word-Faith teachers, Dave Hunt referred to Dominion Theology. Under this umbrella he attacked both Charismatic Kingdom Now teachers who expected a Holy Ghost revival that would shake the world and the more level-headed Theonomic Reconstructionists, a form of Postmillennialism that viewed the Mosaic civil law as a blueprint for transforming society. This book is a response to Dave Hunt's views, offering both a polemic against his Dispensational Premillennialism and a defense of Theonomy and Postmillennialism.

There is a sense here that Leithart and DeMar were capitalizing on a popular and well known writer to get some publicity for an obscure viewpoint. There is even an appendix offering a list of Theonomic books that the beginner ought to read next. Nevertheless, however cheeky this might be, the result is a very interesting and enjoyable introduction to Theonomic Reconstructionist Postmillennialism. Along the way, DeMar and Leithart tear Dave Hunt's ideas to shreds, yet they do it in a remarkably polite and respectful way. They accuse him, along with most other Premillennialists, of giving up on the task of reforming and seeking to influence society.

Another Theonomic writer, Gary North, wrote the foreword. He makes an interesting point that had never occurred to me before. He points out that Dispensationalists like Dave Hunt affirm that Satan has a kingdom, after all Our Lord said so Himself (Matthew 12:26). Yet Satan does not rule through being present on Earth, but through human representatives. Despite allowing that Satan rules his kingdom through human representatives, the Dispensationalists insist that Christ must be physically present for His Kingdom to be in operation. The Postmillennialist in contrast, argues that Christ's Kingdom works through the representation of men and women on Earth. Just as the unbelieving are tools of Satan to corrupt to society, those who belong to Christ's Kingdom must work to influence and transform it. Gary DeMar and Leithart go on to talk about the necessity of building a Christian civilization. They acknowledge that this will take time, but through the work of evangelism, the Kingdom of God will grow, making this possible.

I like the fact that the authors spend a lot of time talking about church history (Peter Leithart more recently wrote an excellent biography of St. Constantine). They use history to illustrate how Christians have been able to influence society, particularly the United States. They also talk about the Church Fathers, particularly Athanasius, who does seem to have been an early exponent of the Postmillennial view.

This is one of the most enjoyable Postmillennial books I have read.

ConservativeHome: On that first Good Friday, Pilate needed “more time to think”

ConservativeHome: On that first Good Friday, Pilate needed “more time to think”

by Paul Goodman

"Then there is another member of the cast. Pilate – who, were he a saint (and some traditions claim he was), would surely be the patron saint of politicians. He finds Christ not guilty but none the less proposes to flog him: “I…have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him…I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” What this decision lacks in logic, let alone humanity, it makes up for in pragmatism. Pilate is under pressure. He has the chief priests and the elders at his door – the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his bishops or the Chief Executive of the Equality Commission and its members or whoever most packs a punch in modern Britain.

It is the Passover – a time when tensions in Jerusalem run high. He wants rid of the problem. He needs to make a snap decision. His accusers say that Jesus should die “because he made himself the Son of God”. Such a religious claim has nothing much to do with Pilate, so they try a different tack instead: “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” It is this suggestion of disloyalty to Caesar, according to St John’s Gospel, that swings his verdict. But even then Pilate does not condemn Jesus to death. Instead, he does what any professional politician would do: he consults a focus group.

This takes the form of a crowd, which is given the choice of a man called Jesus, son of the Father, or another man called Jesus, son of the father (at least, according to some early manuscripts of St Matthew’s Gospel, for “Barabbas” means “son of the father”, and these versions put “Jesus” before that name). It is a kind of bloody version of Britain’s Got Talent. One man gets released. The other gets crucified."

The Guardian: Sun ordered to admit British Muslims story was 'significantly misleading'

The Guardian: Sun ordered to admit British Muslims story was 'significantly misleading

The Sun has been ordered to print a statement acknowledging that its claims that one in five British Muslims supported people who have gone to Syria to fight for jihadi groups such as Islamic State were significantly misleading.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said a front page article from 23 November last year – as well as more coverage inside the paper – misrepresented the results of the poll on which they were based because the relevant question in its poll did not support the claim.

Respondents were asked to what extent they had sympathy with “young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”, rather than with those who went to fight with Isis or any other Islamist group.

I really despair over the British press and their tub-thumping xenophobia.

EU= Peace

Not every positive change in Europe is down to the EU, but it must be said that the peaceful Europe we see today is completely removed from any other period in history.

The Guardian: In the battle against crime and terrorism, we are far safer within the EU

The Guardian: In the battle against crime and terrorism, we are far safer within the EU

by Malcolm Rifkind

Quite simply, the EU is now to internal security what Nato was to military security during the cold war. It is not a panacea, it does not obviate the need for national effort, but the EU is indispensable. This is a vitally important debate, one which we as a country are right to be having. But we must be influenced by facts. The overwhelming weight of evidence and expert opinion suggests that the British public are safer when we combine our own national efforts with the benefits to our law enforcement agencies from close co-operation within the European Union. Ending our current access to European co-operation in the battle against terrorism would delight our enemies and be nothing short of monumental folly.

Energy Bills

Friday, 25 March 2016

How Good Friday shifted my thinking

Three years ago, when I was a Protestant, a very good Evangelical friend sent me a text message. He was in the habit of sending me text messages about the Bible and Christian teaching, almost like a 'thought for the day.' In this particular text message, he stated that our Lord Jesus Christ must have been crucified on Wednesday or Thursday and not Friday, as we are told He was in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40).

The response to this argument from the traditional point of view is simple. Three days and three nights does not need to mean 72 hours. If somebody has a part-time job and tells me she works three days a week, I do not assume she is saying she works for three 24-hour periods. She is saying she works for a period on three days.

I was very well aware of the view that Jesus was not crucified on Friday. I was taught it at the Evangelical Christian school where I had my secondary education. I had heard the popular preacher David Pawson defend it. Another friend of mine had read Dave Hunt and enthusiastically argued for it. I had formed no strong opinion on the subject; it was a matter of indifference to me whether Our Lord was crucified on Friday or Wednesday.

Nevertheless, after receiving this text message, the thought crossed my mind, "Is he saying that for two thousand years Christians were unable to count?" The Church Fathers taught that Jesus was crucified on Friday; were the men who gave us our Christology such dunces that they were unable to do basic mathematics? I decided that on this question, Christian tradition was probably sounder than Dave Hunt and the rest of his crew.

This got me thinking. If Evangelicals were wrong to disregard what the Church Fathers said about which day of the week the Lord was crucified on, maybe we were wrong to ignore them on other subjects. Could the Church Fathers have been right about justification? Could they have been right about the salvific role of baptism? Could they have been right in their view of the Eucharist? It was a train of thought that led me to re-think and abandon my Protestantism.

It would be the Annunication today, but it's Good Friday

I believe that in the Ethiopian Tawahedo Orthodox Church, the feast of the Annunciation is so revered that it actually trumps Good Friday in their liturgical calendar.

O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, that we may honour thy Son on this Good Friday.

Saint Gabriel, pray for us that we may be strengthened, as Christ was strengthened before His Passion.

Helping us fight Crime

The days of suntanned, gold-medallioned crooks living it up on the Costa del Sol are long gone.

Listen to the Economists

Third Collect for Good Friday

O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live: Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer 1662

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Telegraph: Donald Trump is a gift to ISIL

The Telegraph: Donald Trump is a gift to ISIL

by Ed Husain

"After the attacks in Brussels, Trump claimed that Muslims are not reporting, "absolutely not reporting" the radicals in our midst to the authorities. Such is the ignorance from a man aiming for the US presidency. Where do I begin?

On a very basic level, extremists murder Muslims en masse. Isil and others don’t see them as proper Muslims, but apostates. By letting their actions define Islam, Trump and others prove their point.

Trump should also visit the headquarters of Britain’s intelligence services MI5 and MI6 or the Home Office. Those on the frontline of tracking down extremists are often Muslims.

Prayer rooms in both places are evidence of pious, observant European Muslims taking the fight to our enemies. Ask the CIA or FBI and they will confirm that their best resources are Muslims inside the organisations, and communities who handover culprits.

Remember the underpants bomber in Christmas 2009? It was his own father that reported his son to the US Embassy in Nigeria. He is not alone – many, many family members are vigilant of their children and in the UK, work with the government to de-radicalise their children."

The Telegraph: Why this lifelong Eurosceptic is now voting to stay in

The Telegraph: Why this lifelong Eurosceptic is now voting to stay in

by Alan Duncan MP

"Brexiteers have yet to offer a convincing picture of what a post-EU United Kingdom would look like. Statistics about the volume of trade we conduct with others are used to argue that business would continue unimpaired. Massive costs are attributed to the burden of EU regulation, and all would be better, if only we had the courage to leave. But I believe this logic is flawed.

It is a fundamental tenet of Conservative thought that we are realists who take the world as we find it – and that we reject utopian philosophies which offer a path towards perfection. Some say that leaving the EU is no different to resigning from the local cricket club and that we can simply return the UK to the status quo ante. The language of this theoretical paradise has become the Marxism of the Right. It is unwise, and is fraught with danger.

Disengaging from the EU, and dismantling its current agreements, would be massively complicated. The assurance that a new raft of trade agreements could quickly be whisked up looks like a fanciful pretence. We are being offered a promised land, with little promise."

InFacts: Free movement means we can’t control our borders, right?

InFacts: Free movement means we can’t control our borders, right?

by Luke Lythgoe

"Despite what Brexiteers say, Britain doesn’t need to “reclaim control of its borders”. Anyone who wants to enter the UK still needs to present a passport for security checks by a UK Border Force official.

This differs from our EU partners in the Schengen Area, where internal border checks between countries have largely been abolished. The UK has an opt out from the Schengen Area and will never be obliged to join.

One thing that has helped muddle the issue is the migration crisis focussed on Syria, which has led to much talk of Europe’s “leaky borders”. But, in fact, these are the Schengen Area’s leaky borders. The UK’s control of its own borders means that, despite more than one million migrants entering Schengen in 2015, few have reached the UK. The camps in Calais are testament to how difficult it is for irregular non-EU migrants to enter Britain.

Even media organisations who strive for impartiality helped muddle this issue at the height of the migration crisis by using the short-hand “Europe” when Schengen is more accurate (see these BBC, Reuters and FT headlines).

Eurosceptics blame open borders for recent terrorist atrocities. This partly holds true for the Paris attacks. But any jihadi attempting to enter the UK will be checked. Whether they will be apprehended is down to British border officials, not the EU. That would be true if we quit the EU too. Key to catching potential terrorists at the border is intelligence, and the UK will find it easier to cooperate on EU-wide counter-intelligence by remaining in the EU."

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

National Review: Brussels Shows the High Cost of Obama’s Slow-Motion War Strategy

National Review: Brussels Shows the High Cost of Obama’s Slow-Motion War Strategy

by David French

"In 2014, Barack Obama decided to respond to jihadist shock and awe with the military and propaganda equivalent of stop and bore. Let’s briefly recall those terrifying days. ISIS burst out of its Syrian stronghold, routed entire divisions of the corrupt and incompetent Iraqi Army, took Mosul, and threatened the Kurdish homeland. Yazidis faced extinction. Iraqi Christians faced genocide. The Kurds — lacking heavy weapons — faced defeat.

Obama, to his credit, acted. Although he had committed the unpardonable sin of abandoning Iraq in 2011 — leaving it vulnerable to exactly the kind of jihadist counteroffensive that military officials predicted — he at least did not commit the sin of Saigon, of turning our backs entirely as an ally burns. American air strikes helped stabilize the front, inflicted losses on ISIS, and launched a slow-burn war of attrition — a war that has since cost ISIS roughly 20 percent of its territory and thousands of fighters.

A success? Only if one defines “success” as staving off ultimate defeat. By other measures, however, the Obama strategy has perversely enabled ISIS — leaving it with time and space to consolidate its victories, spread its influence, and plot terror attacks while providing it with exactly the kind of propaganda victories that jihadists need."

Neo-Neocon on Deporting Muslims

Comments from the blog of Neo-Neocon

You write:

THE solution is simplicity itself, expel every Muslim from Europe.

That however would require abandonment of its leftist panaceas; socialism, multiculturalism and voluntary male castration.

But it would also require abandonment of one of the pillars of Western policy for the last couple of hundred years—religious tolerance.

You may decide it’s worth it to try to expel all Muslims. That would mean, by the way, determining the religion of every person in Europe, including the native-born who converted to Islam, and expelling them—to where? For those who are foreign nationals, this would not be a problem, if indeed the countries would take them back and it could somehow be accomplished. For native-born Muslims, what do you do? What about those who dissemble and go underground, like the conversos in Spain after the expulsion of the Jews? I could go on and on and on with this, but you probably get the idea.



You know that religious tolerance is a long-held tenet of this country, and a more recent but nevertheless long-held tenet of Europe. Don’t pretend you don’t know that. I’m not making this up.

And don’t pretend you don’t know that I’ve been as tough on Islam and its fanatics as anyone. But it is also true that to many of its less-fanatic adherents, Islam is very much a religion and they want nothing to do with terrorism or terrorists. That is why this is such a big, big problem.

Simplifying the matter so that you believe that there is no such thing as the religion of Islam is incorrect. I refuse to do so to please the right as much as I refuse to cater to the left’s whitewashing of the very very real problems with a great deal of Islam and a great many Muslims.


Geoffrey Britain:

Islam may not have moderate branches, but there are moderate Muslims who are good citizens of this country and believe in its ideals.

Do you not know nominal Christians and nominal Jews who don’t follow all the precepts (or even most of the precepts) of their religions? Islam is no different. I know quite a few people born as Muslims who are not religious. Some are even atheists. I know these people quite well. They would be classified by Islam as Muslims, and they would be Muslims by birth, but they are very moderate and no threat at all. They constitute more than 10% but probably less than 50% of the Moslems in this country. Some of them, for example, are ex-pat Iranians who came (or their parents came) to this country after the 1979 revolution. They no more want that sort of life for themselves or for other people than you do, and they are against terrorism. Nor do they want other people to become Muslim.

On a post on Trump and the Muslim Problem:

Trump’s proposal is not only broad but vague. Would citizens be included in the ban, if they left the country? How would this be enforced? What about constitutional issues—although Trump himself seems to have no interest in those? Why “Muslim” and why not “from Arab or Muslim countries where the population and/or government support Islamic terrorism”? What about Muslim European citizens—and there are plenty of them? How does one determine who’s a Muslim and who isn’t, since it isn’t written on their passports?

It's refreshing to see somebody who is a little bit to the Right of me opposing daft Islamophobic ideas and taking the usual flak for it.

I am really glad a sensible conservative like Neo-Neocon rejects Trump's solution (as did Ted Cruz). I can't help thinking though, that by continually raising up fears about Islamic immigration, such conservatives only fuel the call for extremist solutions.

National Review| Q&A: David Axelrod on Why Marco Rubio Wasn’t Barack Obama 2.0

National Review| Q&A: David Axelrod on Why Marco Rubio Wasn’t Barack Obama 2.0

ALBERTA: Yes, but didn’t it appear the “3-2-1” strategy had a chance to succeed? He was poised to clear his competition from the establishment lane with a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire, before he imploded in the debate and finished fifth there.

AXELROD: The problem is that he didn’t claim the establishment lane. He was counting on the establishment lane claiming him when the others fell by the wayside. That’s not how it works in this business. The other guys are going to fight back. You can’t run millions of dollars of negative ads against Chris Christie and expect that he’s not going to go all Sopranos on you. You can’t usurp your mentor in Jeb Bush and expect that he’s going to sit passively by and allow that to happen. I just don’t think they accounted for that. They thought this would fall to them without actually claiming it. And they miscalculated that these other guys were going to fall without a fight.

Jeb Bush endorses Ted Cruz and so shall I

BBC News: Jeb Bush endorses Ted Cruz over 'vulgar' Donald Trump

Former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz for president, calling him a "principled conservative".

Mr Bush, former governor of Florida, dropped out of the race last month after poor showings in state contests.

He said Mr Cruz has shown the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests, like in Utah on Tuesday.

Republicans must "overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity" Donald Trump has introduced, he said.

If not, the party will certainly lose the White House to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Mr Bush wrote in a Facebook post.

"Republicans can win back the White House and put our nation on a path to security and prosperity if we support a nominee who can unite our party and articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential," he wrote, and linked to Mr Cruz's website.

I think Jeb Bush would make a much better president than Ted Cruz, but if he thinks he is the best of what's left standing, then I shall give him my support. This blog now endorses Ted Cruz.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

INFacts: Brussels bombings reason to stay in EU, not quit

INFacts: Brussels bombings reason to stay in EU, not quit

by Hugo Dixon

"There are two main errors in the Brexiteers’ arguments. First, Britain is not part of the Schengen Area. We have our own border controls. Even if Schengen’s leaky borders helped the Brussels bombers – and that is currently speculation – a jihadi would still be checked at the UK border.

The second problem with the eurosceptics’ arguments is they ignore how cross-border cooperation helps keep Britain safer. Each of the EU’s 28 countries has only one bit of a jigsaw puzzle. If they swap information, it is easier to piece together what is happening.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacres, we opted into the Schengen Information System, a database that contains, among other things, details on 250,000 wanted or missing people and 40 million alerts on identity documents. Some of this is relevant to terrorism. We also benefit from the European Arrest Warrant, which allows us to extradite criminals – including terror suspects – rapidly from other EU countries."

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Telegraph: Putin is no master of strategy – his Syria plan was a shambles

The Telegraph: Putin is no master of strategy – his Syria plan was a shambles

by David Blair

"Once the expedition began, the Kremlin set out its aims. The first goal was supposedly to fight the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). As Russian planes flew their first missions on Sept 30, Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, said the aim was “exclusively to provide air support to Syrian government forces in their struggle against Isil”.

From the beginning, however, most Russian air strikes were targeted against just about every rebel group except Isil. Assad has never fought Isil as a priority – and nor have his Russian allies. The latest study of Syria’s war by IHS, a consultancy, finds one anomaly: the only areas where Isil gained ground in 2015 were also the regions where Russian warplanes hammered the other rebels. Put simply, Russia obligingly bombed Isil’s enemies among the other armed factions, particularly around Aleppo, and the terrorists took the opportunity to advance. In some areas, the net result of Russia’s campaign was actually to help Isil."

Irish Times: EU links significant to strength of British-Irish relations

Irish Times: EU links significant to strength of British-Irish relations

by Damian Collins

A vote for the United Kingdom for leave the European Union, would be bad for Britain and Ireland.

We would be worse off as a ‘Brexit’ could restrict trade between our two countries, and tensions in Northern Ireland could increase if the free movement of people, goods and services on the island of Ireland comes to an end.

"People in London sometimes forget that although Britain could vote to leave the EU, we can not abolish it. We would not be able to come to a separate trade agreements with Ireland or any other individual member state, only with the EU as a whole. The consequences for the agricultural sector could be significant. The UK is Ireland’s largest agricultural trading partner, and takes around 35 per cent of Ireland’s food exports. The beef and dairy sectors in particular could be badly hit in the event of a Brexit.

There would then be the practical matter of trying to police the only land frontier between the UK and EU. If we were in different trading zones, there would have to be customs posts along the 300 odd miles of border. As Brexiteers want to impose greater restrictions on the movement of people from Europe into the UK, there would no doubt have to be full border checks as well."

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Basis of Hope, by Robert Brush

Robert Leon Brush, The Basis of Hope: A Grid for Evaluating Prophetic Assumptions,2005 Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers

These days Postmillennial eschatology is mostly confined to Reformed Calvinists. However, at one time Postmillennialism influenced a much broader segment of Protestantism. While Premillennialism made inroads into the Wesleyan-Holiness movement and the average Methodist today has no idea what she thinks about the Lord's Return, the Wesleyan movement was at one time strongly Postmillennial. In The Hope of the Gospel, Vic Reasoner attempted to revive the optimistic Postmillennialism of classic Wesleyanism. This book is a shorter adaptation of his work.

The Wesleyan movement has taught the possibility of entire sanctification and complete holiness before death. With such an optimism about God's grace it is unsurprising that Wesleyanism has historically favoured Postmillennialism, with it's hope of a world-wide conquest of the Gospel in this age. This book does depart from much classic Wesleyanism in taking the preterist, rather than the historicist view of prophetic texts such as Matthew 24 and the Apocalypse.

Brush summarises the Postmillennial eschatology in ten key points:

1. Jesus Christ is the central theme of Bible prophecy.
2. Christ conquered Satan at the cross and established His kingdom.
3. Christ's kingdom will overcome the kingdom of Satan and exercise world-wide dominion.
4. Christ will remain at the right hand of the Father until all enemies are put under His feet.
5. Christ will come to raise all the dead and to judge the whole world.
6. No one can get saved after the return of Christ.
7. No one can enter Christ's kingdom except through saving faith in His atoning work.
8. God has not unconditionally selected any race or group of people.
9. Christ is coming after a holy, not a defeated Church.
10. Christians are to live by faith in the victory of the cross and in hope of world revival.

Catholics would affirm 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. I won't go into whether Catholics believe in 7, as that is a completely different and very complex subject. Catholics would historically tend to affirm 8, but there is a tendency since Vatican II to see God's covenant with Israel as having some kind of permanent status. 3, 9, 10 are themes that can be found in Catholic thought, but they run counter to a tendency to a more pessimistic eschatology. In Catholicism there is a tension between the idea of a victorious Church and a preference for a pessimistic futurist eschatology. There are some Catholics who take a more preterist view of the prophetic texts, so I think it would be possible to develop a species of Catholic Postmillennial eschatology.

The Basis of Hope is a very readable and concise introduction to the Postmillennial view, despite coming from a different ecclesiastical quarter to most Postmillennialism today.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Spectator: How my disabled son has changed my mind about political correctness

The Spectator: How my disabled son has changed my mind about political correctness

by Simon Barnes

"I sometimes notice a momentary dismay in people in shops or pubs or casual encounters, but it’s soon conquered. People know they’re not allowed to feel distaste any more. There’s an obligation to get over it and behave as one human being to another. More or less — though not quite — invariably, that’s what people do. They walk away surprised at themselves, and I think enriched.

They do so because society has changed in Eddie’s favour. Because it would be politically incorrect to treat Eddie badly, it has become inexorably clear that treating Eddie badly is also morally incorrect.

It’s natural to resent the bullying of the self-righteous. It’s also natural to feel that students — people forever seeking to make a better job of the world than their parents did — are mistaken to the point of lunacy. When I was a student I was crazy enough to believe that what the world needed was love and peace; one look at today’s newspaper will show you how wrong I was.

Correct terms change with bewildering frequency. Felix Leiter tells James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever: ‘People are so dam’ sensitive about colour around here that you can’t even ask a barman for a jigger of rum. You have to ask for a jegro.’ That was published in 1956: perhaps the first recorded joke about political correctness.

But at heart, political correctness and its attendant language are about inclusivity: race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, physical and mental capacity. Non-PC views, however jovially expressed, are about exclusion, generally exclusion of the weak by the strong. And if you go to the pub with Eddie, you do rather tend to think that an inclusive society is better than the other kind."

An excellent article. I had a friend who used to refer to people with Downs Syndrome as 'mongoloids.' When I challenged him, he accused me of being 'politically correct.' Some people use hostility to political correctness as an excuse to say things that really are offensive.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Senator John McCain

John McCain would have made a great president of the USA.

The Feast of Saint Joseph

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by Saint Joseph's intercession your Church may constantly watch over the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation, whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Litany of Saint Joseph

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us (after each line)
Saint Joseph,
Renowned offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most strong,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched, Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. He made him the lord of His house:
R. And ruler of all His substance.

Let us pray.
O God, who in Thine unspeakable providence didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Thine own most holy Mother: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may deserve to have him for our intercessor in heaven, whom we reverence as our defender on earth: who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Saint Joseph, pray for us, and for the Jewish people.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Feast of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

O God, who through the Bishop Saint Cyril of Jerusalem led your Church in a wonderful way to a deeper sense of the mysteries of salvation, grant us, through his intercession, that we may so acknowledge your Son as to have life ever more abundantly. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Cyril, pray for us, that our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures may increase.

Fathers and Anglicans, by Arthur Middleton

Arthur Middleton, Fathers and Anglicans: The Limits of Orthodoxy, 2001 Gracewing

I read this book after it was recommended on the Old Jamestown Church blog.

Fathers and Anglicans is an history of Anglican patrology. It looks at how some of the great hisrtorical theologians of the Church of England have emphasised the importance of the writings of the Church Fathers. Men such as Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes and Richard Hooker looked upon the Church Fathers as both a source of theological enrichment and a polemical bulwark in debates with both Catholicism and non-conformist Protestantism. Covering Anglican history into the 19th century, the author explores how the Tractarians departed from the historical Anglican use of the Fathers in the way they sought to use the Fathers not only to defend Anglicanism, but also to re-shape it.

The author sees in the Church Fathers much relevance in both establishing Anglicanism's catholic and ecumenical foundations, as well as acting as a corrective to the various modern fads and trends that afflict her.

As a Roman Catholic, I am a little sceptical about whether the Church Fathers would have approved of the Church that arose from the English Reformation and whether the patristic sources used by men like Cranmer and Taylor really supported their conclusions, but one must admire the reverence that Anglicans had for their Patristic heritage.

Fathers and Anglicans is a very thorough and detailed exploration of its subject, if perhaps a little dry.

New Atlanticist: Migrant Crisis, Brexit Distracting EU from Enlargement, Says Albania’s Foreign Minister

New Atlanticist: Migrant Crisis, Brexit Distracting EU from Enlargement, Says Albania’s Foreign Minister

The migrant crisis and the debate over the United Kingdom’s future in the European Union have shifted focus away from the enlargement of the bloc and this could disrupt the process of building democratic future member states, Albania’s Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said on February 25.

“Unfortunately, the migrant crisis, coupled with other crises that Europe is facing, has transformed enlargement policy into a second-tier issue,” Bushati said in an interview at the Atlantic Council’s offices in Washington.

The British debate, meanwhile, does not allow the EU to think in more strategic terms about how to deal with the Western Balkans to “complete and consolidate the unification project,” he added.

In the absence of a cohesive and coherent EU response to the migrant crisis, officials from Albania, eight other Balkan nations—Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia—and Austria announced their decision on February 24 to slow the entry of migrants into their countries. It is “not possible to process unlimited numbers of migrants and applicants for asylum,” they said, suggesting that a complete halt may be inevitable.

New Statesman: Of course the sugar tax is regressive. So is sugar.

New Statesman: Of course the sugar tax is regressive. So is sugar.

by Henry Zeffman

"Well of course it’s regressive. So is sugar and so are its effects. The country’s obesity crisis – and it really is a crisis when almost two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese along with a quarter of young children - disproportionately affects the poorest. Findings drawn at the end of last year from the Millenium Cohort Study, which tracks nearly 20,000 British families, found a stark link between relative poverty and childhood obesity. By the age of just five, poor children were almost doubly likely to be obese than their better off peers.

Of course sugar consumption does not explain all, or even most, of that relationship. Still, high sugar intakes are a cause of obesity, and obesity is a cause of type 2 diabetes, which has risen by 70% in a decade.

If obesity and its effects disproportionately hit the poor, why should it be any surprise that a measure to tackle obesity disproportionately affects the poor? That’s the whole point. A tax with the intention of changing behaviour is obviously going to affect the people who behave in that way."

The Spectator: Barack Obama is right to offer his government’s view on the EU referendum

The Spectator: Barack Obama is right to offer his government’s view on the EU referendum

by Alex Massie

"Now they may be mistaken and the case for Remain scarcely depends on the views of outside observers but it’s absurd to say Britain’s friends elsewhere have no stake at all in this argument. Since they have that stake, it seems reasonable for them to offer their opinion. You don’t have to agree with them for that to remain the case.

And, look, many of the people clutching their pearls in horror at the thought Obama might suggest an In vote is the more prudent course are the same people who chortled, nay celebrated, his observation that the United States preferred a strong and united United Kingdom. You cannot, at least not with any consistency or honesty, salute his intervention during the Scottish independence referendum campaign and now deplore his intervention in the EU referendum campaign. If one intervention was fine, so is the other.

Perhaps Obama should not have said anything about the Scottish vote either. But in that case the UK government should not, presumably, have spent quite so much time drumming up support for its position from foreign governments. In 2014, however, almost all of this country’s friends and allies hoped – with varying degrees of secrecy – for a No vote just as those same friends and allies now hope Britain will vote to remain a part of the EU."

The Guardian: The idea of Brexit is pure Project Fantasy. But the dangers are very real

The Guardian: The idea of Brexit is pure Project Fantasy. But the dangers are very real

by Alan Johnson

"As we enter what is in danger of being Britain’s final 100 days as a committed member of the European Union, the arguments being made by the leave campaigns have become increasingly muddled. Nigel Farage seems to want to take us back to an imaginary golden age.

And having struggled with an “agonisingly difficult” decision only last month over whether to back Brexit, Boris Johnson now seems to see no dangers whatsoever in leaving, and says doing so would lead to a “bright, bright future”. What exactly were you agonising over then, Boris?

Clearly, there is some deception going on. Johnson, Farage and the other Brexiters are quick to denounce anyone who spells out the facts about what Brexit would mean for Britain’s prosperity, security or influence as constituting “Project Fear”. But it is increasingly clear that the leave campaign is the one that is reliant upon deception – let’s call it Project Fantasy.

Project Fantasy goes like this. Diminish Britain’s standing by suggesting that Europe is somehow something that is done to us; ignore the ways in which, from terrorism to climate change, we are far more effective working with our partners; label all workers’ protections “red tape” and say the economy would be better off if we could scrap them; ignore the huge economic benefits our EU membership has brought us and try to convince people that there is a land of milk and honey waiting outside the EU without spelling out how to get there."

The Chancellor Speaks

The Feast of Saint Patrick

O God, who chose the Bishop Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the peoples of Ireland, grant, through his merits and intercession, that those who glory in the name of Christian may never cease to proclaim your wondrous deeds to all. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Patrick, pray for us, and for Ireland.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

National Review: The Story of Marco Rubio’s Epic Underachievement

National Review| How ‘Michael Jordan’ Missed His Shot: The Story of Marco Rubio’s Epic Underachievement

by Tim Alberta

“The central flaw of the campaign is they had an identity crisis. They wanted to be all things to all voters. Broad appeal — it sounds nice, but it’s a monumental task,” Tyler says. “Jeb wasn’t going to catch on, and you could see that people were shifting toward Rubio. And he would have been a very effective establishment favorite. But Rubio just never embraced it.”

Tyler adds, “Rubio wanted to build a coalition of Republicans. And we feared that he could, first by consolidating the establishment and then digging into the conservative base. But he just refused to embrace the establishment.”

This was consistent with Rubio’s theory of the race. His brain-trust had concluded in the spring of 2014, a year before launching, that the Republican nominee would have to transcend the party’s ideological and demographic divides. This was evident in their refusal to prioritize one state over another: Too much time in Iowa and you’re a conservative courting evangelicals; too much in New Hampshire and you’re a moderate wooing the establishment. Some Rubio lieutenants insisted until the bitter end that their strategy was the right one, and that Trump’s emergence rendered all of the campaign playbooks irrelevant. Others aren’t so sure. “Primaries are always about base. And you have to have a base in a divided field,” Axelrod says. “Rubio tried to be everybody’s second choice, hoping that if the field narrowed he would become people’s first choice. That was a flawed theory. And it contributed to a sense of trying to be all things to all people, and that hurt him. He was a man without a country.”

Axelrod is sympathetic to Rubio’s concerns about not running as an “establishment” Republican in an election defined by anti-government wrath, but argues that it was his only plausible path to the nomination. “They didn’t want to get branded with the scarlet letter, so they had no brand at all,” he says. “And one thing is for sure: If you have no brand at all, you’re not going to win.”

I never warmed to Rubio. He came across as a bit too slick, like a typical used car salesman. I didn't like the way his supporters treated him like a messiah either, and their repeated calls for other candidates to drop out. There was also a touch of Ed Miliband in the way he chose to stand against his former mentor, Jeb Bush.

We finally have a Sugar Tax!

Well done, Mr Osborne!

I am delighted that the Chancellor has introduced a tax on sugary drinks in today's budget. This is a vital measure that will help to combat the rise of obesity and diabetes among the young.

I don't want to hear accusations of 'nanny state.' Diabetes can cripple and kill. The government cannot ignore the connection between the rise in obesity and diabetes and the popularity of drinks with a horrendously high sugar content. It is simply unacceptable that it is cheaper to buy a sugary fizzy drink than to buy water. The decision to tax sugary drinks is therefore highly welcome in my opinion.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Travel and Tourism

New Atlanticist: Six Ways the US Can Defeat Putin and Bolster Ukraine

New Atlanticist: Six Ways the US Can Defeat Putin and Bolster Ukraine

"Since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has evolved into a more effective fighting force.

Training and equipment provided by the United States and other nations have been helpful and should be expanded. At the institutional and strategic levels, emphasis should be directed to assisting the Ukrainian defense establishment to improve its personnel structures, logistics systems, medical capacities, intelligence organizations, and command and control systems.

The time is long overdue for the United States and others to grant Ukraine the “lethal defensive equipment” it has requested. Russia’s large-scale “snap” exercises underscore the challenges the Ukrainian military would face should Putin decide to drive deeper into Ukraine, a possibility that cannot be discounted in light of Moscow’s rhetoric and belligerent military posture.

The provision to Kyiv of anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and other weapons would complicate Russian military planning by adding risk and costs to operations against Ukraine. Moreover, the failure of Washington to provide such equipment is not only disillusioning to Ukrainians, it signals a lack of determination by the United States to counter this Russian aggression—particularly when such equipment is shared with US state and non-state partners elsewhere in the world."

National Review: Of Course Ted Cruz Would Make a Better President Than Donald Trump

National Review: Of Course Ted Cruz Would Make a Better President Than Donald Trump

by Matthew Continetti

"Cruz is very conservative, a Bible-believing Christian who is fiercely pro-market and hawkish (if not as interventionist as other Republicans). That might upset secular liberals worldwide. But would Cruz be as erratic, would he be as explosive, would he be as unsettling as Trump? I doubt it. The man idolizes Ronald Reagan. Well, we survived, indeed flourished under, one Reagan presidency. Not a bad model for our next president to have. Who does Trump idolize? Himself. And his neutral and sometimes flattering attitude toward authoritarian governments ought to make you think twice about seeing him in the Oval Office.

The Oval Office seems very far away right now. It’s unlikely either Trump or Cruz will be elected president. But nominating Trump would change the Republican party in a way nominating Cruz would not. Trump overthrows the apple cart. He’s already breaking one weak institution — the GOP — and there’s no telling what other weak institutions he could break if elected to high office. For reasons of policy, presentation, and character, there is only one remaining choice in this GOP primary. It is Ted Cruz."

The Telegraph: Obama shouldn't be barracked into silence about the EU

The Telegraph: Obama shouldn't be barracked into silence about the EU

by Hugo Dixon

Brexiteers have launched a preemptive attack on Barack Obama’s UK visit, telling him to keep his nose out of the EU referendum. Boris Johnson, Steve Baker and Peter Bone are three Tory MPs who’ve argued as much. That suggests they are worried that the US president, who is reported to be planning a trip to Britain in late April, could swing votes in favour of Remain.

Obama needs to be careful about what he says. It is not his place to tell the British people how to vote. But, as leader of the free world and a friend of Britain, he has the right - and arguably even the duty - to spell out some home truths about geopolitics. The President shouldn’t zip his mouth. Here’s a draft of what he could say.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Neo-Neocon: “Get over it” say Trump supporters

Neo-Neocon: “Get over it” say Trump supporters

"Many Trump supporters also write things like, “You forced me to vote for Dole, Bush, McCain, and Romney, because they were the nominees. So now you’d better vote for Trump if he’s the nominee unless you want to be called out for the hypocrite you are.” Leaving aside the fact that it’s not possible to force someone to vote for a particular candidate (short of holding a gun to the person’s head and going into the voting both with him), are there parallels here?

I don’t think so. Trump is not just a candidate with whom people differ on policy items, or think is too conservative or not conservative enough or whatever it was that people didn’t like about the aforementioned Gang of Four, he represents a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. This is no ordinary disagreement between the more moderate and more conservative wings of the party; this a difference more profound."

Sunday, 13 March 2016

We need an Optimistic kind of Christianity

I do get weary of the pessimism and sense of impending doom among many Christians, especially conservative Catholics today. The prevailing attitude of our time seems to be that either the Muslims or the secularists will get us.

Jesus told us that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. Gates are built to defend not to attack and in the last century we have seen hell plundered again and again. God's people have been on the offensive.

The Twentieth century saw tremendous and unprecedented levels of evangelization. The Evangelical preacher Billy Graham confronted millions of sinners with the cross of Christ. His crusades took him around the world, making Jesus known to countless men and women. His evangelistic labours were futher aided by the development of radio that enabled his Gospel messages to be broadcast even further. The development of television and the internet have also enabled him and other evangelists to reach homes across the world.

The 1960s saw phenomenal levels of evangelization in Africa. The vast majority of sub-Saharan Africa was converted from heathenism to either Protestant or Catholic Christianity. While not on quite the same scale, huge levels of conversion took place again in the 1980s in Asia, with massive church growth in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, but most especially South Korea. The Bible has been translated into so many more languages across the world. Today, the younger Church in Africa and Asia has made its voice known as a dynamic and powerful force in the world.

For much of the Twentieth century Communism was the great oppressor of Christians, yet that whole system fell apart almost overnight, opening the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to the revival of Christianity. China remains under a totalitarian system, but that regime is increasingly threatened by the spectacular an unstoppable growth of Christianity among its people.

Our Lady appeared at Fatima and promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph. Do we believe her? With the fall of Communism we can hope for the conversion of Russia and the blessings and glory that would follow such a victory. The Universal Living Rosary Association of Saint Philomena has been active in recruiting thousands of Catholics across the world to pray for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Islam remains a stubborn foe of the Gospel. Yet here and there, Muslims are becoming Christians. We can pray that more will do so. We should not fear the presence of Muslims in Europe and the west, but we should welcome the opportunity to make Christ known to them.

The Second Vatican Council opened the way for some changes that were misguided, yet the Second Vatican Council also brought much good fruit. We see in the council documents a call to the laity to become active in the work of evangelization and a recognition of the value of our separated brethren and the call to work them as partners in the Gospel.

In Saint John Paul II, God gave us a pope who was a beacon to the nations, a voice calling the Church and the world to the Christian message. Saint John Paul II called us to partner with the Blessed Virgin Mary in interceding for the world and claiming it for Mary's Queenship. Our current Pope Francis continues to have the world's attention. While we might at times sigh at his off the cuff remarks, he is a pope who is truly zealous to make known Christ's Gospel of Mercy to every corner of the world.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told us that all authority had been given to Him. He is on the throne and all the kingdoms of this world belong to Him. We do not know how long it will take before they acknowledge His authority, but with the power of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we can and will bring them to Christ.

Heaven Misplaced, by Douglas Wilson

A lot of Christians have their hope centred on going to heaven. While God does promise the hope of heavenly glory to His saints, popular Reformed theologian Douglas Wilson argues that these Christians have the wrong emphasis in their eschatology. He argues for an optimistic Postmillennial eschatology that expects the conversion of the nations and the transformation of the Earth into the Kingdom of Christ.

There is some very solid exegesis in this book, but it has a very devotional and pastoral flavour. It felt a lot like reading a series of sermons. I really appreciated the warm and encouraging tone.

I like Wilson's explanation of the divine economy: In the Old Testament dispensation God governed the nations through the intermediary of celestial beings. Now the Lord Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven and taken over as mediatorial ruler. In the heavenly government of the God-Man, humanity's dominion is restored and redeemed.

This is a beautiful and very readable defense of the Postmillennial position.

Theologians, Inc: A Constant and Commanding Compassion

Theologians, Inc: A Constant and Commanding Compassion

"Impassibility as God’s inability to suffer is a well-known pillar of ‘classical theism’ (do I ever hate using that little phrase). I’ve written on it before and have, as far as I can tell, made a complete 180 in my thinking on it. I want to flesh impassibility out a little more here, however, so I’m not going to argue for it but assume it. Click the link above for that kind of argumentation. My main goal here is to present impassibility as a mode of God’s covenant presence characterized by constant, commanding compassion.

Katherine Sonderegger, in her Systematic Theology, spends a few pages on the issue of impassibility, noting that ‘the impassible God of tradition is the passionate God of Scripture’ (p. 494). She affirms that God is love and orients her discussion around that maxim, but interestingly enough, she takes issue with the idea that love is fundamentally object-oriented."

Our Lady Will Triumph

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Guardian: Donald Trump's campaign violence is condoned all the way to the top

The Guardian: Donald Trump's campaign violence is condoned all the way to the top

by Lucia Graves

"When will the first pro-Donald Trump murder happen?

The incidents are piling up. A Black Lives Matters protester was sucker-punched by a white bystander at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A young black woman was surrounded and shoved aggressively by a number of individuals at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. A black protester was tackled, then punched and kicked by a group of men as he curled up on the ground in Birmingham, Alabama. Immigration activists were shoved and stripped of their signs by a crowd in Richmond, Virginia. A Latino protester was knocked down and kicked by a Trump supporter in Miami.

At a press conference on Friday morning Trump even seemed to encourage violence at his rallies. “We’ve had some violent people as protesters,” he said. “These are people that punch. These are violent people.” (No such videos have been found.) This adds to evidence piling up that the Trump campaign’s culture of violence extends all the way to the top."

The violence will backfire on Trump. Direct action is the way to defeat the Far Right. it's how the National Front in Britain were defeated. Venues start cancelling, potential supporters become afraid of violence and the movement gets a bad name in the press. Racists like Trump are bullies. The only way to stop them is to bully them even harder.

The Spectator: Eurosceptics are finally having to emerge from their safe space

The Spectator: Eurosceptics are finally having to emerge from their safe space

by Nick Cohen

"But can you not see what is wrong with you? Do you not understand that for years you have shut yourself up in a Tory safe space? It has been a warm and reassuring place to hibernate, I am sure, with nothing but the sound of back-slapping to disturb you. Everyone has agreed with everyone else. You have never had to doubt. Never had to admit that critics may have a point that needs answering.

As a way of passing the time, I’m sure it has been pleasant. As an approach to politics and journalism, however, it has been a disaster. Because you have never been challenged, you have never had to come up with a common line, or indeed, any line, on what Britain should do next. Unconvincing though he was, at least Alex Salmond had an answer to the question ‘what currency would an independent Scotland use?’

You have nothing.

And perhaps the rest of us should not be surprised. A neurotic insistence on ‘respect’ characterises our culture. It deems argument an offence and treats debate as if it were a grievous bodily harm. Political divisions offer no protection. On the Eurosceptic right as much as the student left, the only response to contrary opinion is to scream ‘that’s soooo unfair’."