Saturday, December 31, 2005

Covenantal Ethics (Part II)

Since i mentioned David Novak in an earlier post, i have come across another thinker who has a similar diagnosis of the socio-political situation of our day : Robert Kraynak.

Kraynak, in his 2001 book Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, lists five reasons why Christianity should be resistant to the ideology of human rights:

--Duties to God and neighbor come before one’s own rights.

--Pronouncements of a hierarchically structured church grounded in divine revelation take precedence over individual conscience.

--Original sin implies distrust of weak and fallible human beings.

--The common good must come before individuals.

--Charity and sacrificial love are higher goods than the potentially selfish assertion of rights.

Source : archive

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Covenantal Ethics (Part I)

Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan seems to take an interest in the I.D./Evolution debate and has come out against the Iraq War; but, it was his piece on the French riots that recently got him onto my radar.

Here is a sampling of Mr.Buchanan's wisdom. According to him American integration "succeeded" because . . .

While, as late as the 1950s, black Americans were not integrated fully into our economy or society, they had been assimilated into American culture. They worshipped the same God, spoke the same language,

and France "will fail". because ... European nation has ever assimilated a large body of immigrant peoples, let alone people of color. [...]These newcomers worship a different God and practice a faith historically hostile to Christianity, a traditionalist faith that is rising again and recoils violently from a secular culture saturated in sex

Of course, while Islam is a "traditionalist faith...recoiling from a culture saturated in sex" Roman Catholicism (which is what Mr. Buchanan professes) would be an "untraditional faith" which embraces a society "saturated in sex", right ?

Got the logic ? Blacks were "succesfully" integrated into American society because they worship the same God but Muslims will not be integrated into Europe because they worship a different God.

Nor should Americans take comfort in France's distress. By 2050, there will be 100 million Hispanics in the United States – half of them of Mexican ancestry – heavily concentrated in a Southwest most Mexicans still believe by right belongs to them.

Ah! So the Hispanics are going to be a problem in America in 2050 like the Muslims are a problem in France today. But how is that possible ? I thought the Hispanics being Roman Catholics like Mr.Buchanan "worship the same God" and so can be "successfully" integrated like the Blacks. So what is the problem ?

I bring him up as an example of the dichotomy between declared adherence to truth or to some standard of morality versus that which is a personal engagement with truth which is self-consciously in the service of community in a covenantal way .

Oh, it's a very real distinction alright! In fact, it's the fault line which led to the controversy between Alain Finkielkraut and the Islamic community over the French riots. His comments follow a similar vein to that of Buchanan's but just might be more philosophical and rigorous than Buchanan's. "So who is Alain Finkielkraut?" you might very well ask.

Well to understand Finkielkraut you have to understand a bit about Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas was a Jewish philosopher who looked to the reasons for the commandments to buttress his own tradition, and to contribute to the larger conversation about ethics and political philosophy from a Jewish context. Alain Finkielkraut is also a philosopher and a disciple of Levinas.

You can see when you read his interview with Haaretz that this very approach was informing Finkielkraut's comments on the lack of personal responsibility as displayed by the rioters. The comments were entirely 'reasonable' and might not have got him into trouble had he not made a specific point of further identifying the rioters as being Arab and Islamic. This many of the neo-cons did as did Pat Buchanan. The only difference is that Finkielkraut nearly had a court case on incitement to racial hatred against him which was dropped only when Finkielkraut issued an apology.

What is needed is not just some form of "Enlightenment" or "Universalist" or even a "Utilitarian" ethics in a corrective swing away from the socially corrosive wave of 20th century ethical relativism. Even Tariq Ramadan has been advocating a European Islam on the basis of "universal ethics" but he and Finkielkraut seem to be talking past each other. What is really needed is something more like "Covenantal Ethics".

David Novak in his book entitled "Covenantal Rights" notes that he "differs from Levinas by insisting with the Jewish tradition that God, not humans, is the One who makes the primary claim on our response in the world". So for Novak, ethical and moral dialogue must take place through a medium that stems from a religious tradition and binds the individual to the community - and to God.

But instead all that is happening or perceived to be happening here is a cultural and relativistic finger pointing exercise which alienates communities and countries instead of building trust between them very much along the lines of a so-called 'Clash of Civilisations' .

I don't see any communutarian or inter-communitarian initiatives in any country which is advocating a commonly shared recognition of rights and responsibilities under God.

As this initiative should be coming from Christians,I have my doubts as to how Post-Christian Europe will or can deliver. Even when a communitarian effort is attempted, it tends to be some polluted form of racial supremacism rallying around prejudice which has been the characteristic of much 'right-wing' political reactions in Europe. In fact, both Huntington and Buchanan are advocates of the same noxious motivation.

Because Western society has become so thoroughly individualistic even in its religious tradition I'm afraid I don't see the way out of this impasse unless the Christian communities in the West can themselves change (or be forced to change)becoming self-consciously counter-cultural in living out community and covenant and and further change the cultural climate.

It's all a very tall order.

(to be continued in Part 2 )

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Covenant Headship

Man is the covenant head of his household (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23). This is clear. But how ,for instance, is a covenant head to know if he is "good" or "successful" in his role ? Where does one look ?
Does one look at what society or culture tells him ?

Ok, the Bible is the place to look but all we are given there is an example of a "bad" or "unsuccessful" covenant head. I guess if you simply manage to avoid the bad extreme you're alright. Who is to say otherwise ?

Goes to show how much we really know about "covenant headship" or even how "covenant" operates although there is no shortage of persons telling you how absolutely sure they are how the "covenant" operates (i.e. check out the people of the Federal Vision persuasion for instance) and go from there to confidently affirm "the truth of" paedo-baptism, paedo-communion, baptismal regeneration and a whole host of God's other operations.

I suspect covenant is as complex as creation itself and we should be so confident about how covenant operates only when we have figured out all the secrets of Creation. That should keep us humble for a while i should expect.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Authority & Autonomy

This is the last of a three part philosophical analysis of anarchism, authority and autonomy. (I have already commented on the first part here.)

The "Maverick Philosopher" blog concludes that authority and autonomy are not dichotomous.

However "autonomy" comes from the words "auto" and "nomos" meaning "self" and "law". So the autonomous person is his own law-giver which can only mean he recognises no law outside himself which can only mean there is no legitimate authority outside himself. If that is the case then all state authority is also illegitimate and the case for anarchism if even more firmly established.

Ultimately there are only two possibilities : either Self is God or God is God.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Case for Anarchism . . .

. . . is here.
Wolff's argument, as helpfully summarised by the Maverick Philosopher, is so compelling that anarchism is the inescapable and only conclusion UNLESS one accepts that certain people who are found to be in certain positions inherently possess authority for no other reason than that God says they do because He Himself is responsible for those persons to be holding those positions.
See Romans 13:1-6

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Old Earth versus Young Earth

I seem to differ with some close Evangelical Christian friends. I've had some friendly clashes but clashes nevertheless. I find it difficult discussing this with them since it is a very hot button topic but the impression I get is that there are principally and ultimately two reasons why they are Old Earthists :

(1) They use the genre argument to avoid some of the most direct and clear creational statements in Genesis 1-3 and

(2) They do not feel intellectually qualified to assess the cosmologists' claims who with their observations and theories have decided the universe is 13.7 billion years old. This then gives them confidence that Darwinism has the necessary huge scales of time to make the impossible possible (sorry couldn't resist a bit of sarcasm there).

Well I have always thought the genre argument to be a wobbly one for a number of reasons. It does not seem to have the support of rabbinical opinion going back in time (and they do go back quite far). The Rabbis have always read those passages literally as have the majority of Christian commentators over the centuries.

James B. Jordan has finally knocked it on the head for me in terms of the absurdity of the genre argument. Or if you subscribe to the Wrightsaid List check out Jim Jordan's messages numbered as follows : 9630, 9632, 9817, and 9829.

It is true that cosmologists could run rings around me in any physical or mathematical argument on the age of the universe. But in Isaiah God says
"I stretched out the universe" (Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:12, and Isaiah 51:13 ) which might be the description of a process which going by the speed of light could give the appearance of great age. I have no problem with the appearance of age. After all Adam and Eve could not have been created helpless babes . They would have had the appearance of age as would the trees and animals around them.

So what do I do ? I would be more than willing to put down my arms and go along with the scientist, the experts, those of whom society says are the recognised authorities on these things and also with my Evangelical Christian friends ....except that the words "day ...and it was morning and evening two .. and it was morning and evening three..." and "He made them all according to their kind" ring on my conscience. Sorry guys. I go with God on this one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas & Tabernacles

Here is an interesting article by Doug Ward on the Feast of Tabernacles connection which has been brought to my attention since I wrote on the
subject here.

What stuck me is how Tabernacles brings out the Temple and atonement element which is generally missing in Christmas celebrations such as they are.


Friday, December 16, 2005

The Theology of Christmas

1) Christmas is a baptised pagan holiday.

2) Doesn't God warn His people about not coyping or taking on board the feasts and festivals of pagan nations Deuteronomy 12:28-32, Jeremiah 10:2-5 ?

3) On the other hand, Jesus did prophetically fulfill the calendar of the Feasts of Israel (Passover and Pentecost, for instance) as layed out in the book of Leviticus.

4) Therefore, His incarnation most likely and most biblically is a fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

5) Tabernacles occurs around September/October which is most likely when Jesus was born.

6) Therefore, Jesus was not born on December 25.

7) So why don't we observe "Christmas" at the time of Tabernacles ?

8) Which is why i take a Cromwellian attitude toward Christmas.

Nevetheless, don't worry.
I won't be coming after you on a crusade against Christmas and spoiling your family get together on December 25.

Until such time as Christendom abandons its indefensible position and comes around to my obviously correct(!) way of thinking on the matter, in the gospel spirit of Romans 14:4-6
I wish you a Happy Christmas !

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Wave Theory of Life

"Life is just a series of peaks and troughs. And you don't know whether you're in a trough until you're climbing out, or on a peak until you're coming down. And that's it you know, you never know what's round the corner. But it's all good. 'If you want the rainbow, you've gotta put up with the rain.' [ . . . ] "

from Series 2, Episode 6

Quotes from the British series, The Office.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hostility to Atheists ?

There's an interesting discussion going on over at the "Cosmic Variance" blog.

As a Christian I am not of those who think atheists are persons of low or no integrity.

On the contrary I am certain that most are persons of high integrity.

Just remember, however, that it is much easier for someone whose belief system is defined in terms of negation (as in "a-" theist or "non-" Christian) to maintain a position whereby any lack of integrity is less perceptible or even completely imperceptible: What is their standard? Who sets it? And who judges whether they have achieved it?

Christians, on the other hand, hold to a positive personal ethic which is externally and not subjectively determined. So they are at a clear disadvantage. Any shortcomings are glaring and so open to being boldly trumpeted and paraded everywhere by the uncharitable.

Also note that while very bad things have been and continue to be done in the name of God ( John16:2 ) or of religion the Guinness World Record holders of evil are the atheists like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

Christians aren’t perfect just forgiven.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Of Political Entrepreneurs and Political Correctness

I suppose like many others I too have done my share of genealogical research on the Web. The internet makes it so easy. And so as result I learned a bit more about the Balkans than I knew before -- which was next to nothing ! My grandparents had, in fact, emigrated from the Balkans to Turkey, my parents emigrated the U.S. which I guess makes me a third generation immigrant in the U.K. and possibly also in the running for "Honorary Gypsy" !

My maternal and paternal grandfathers were, respectively, from Bitola and from Thessalonica. My brief research of these areas has given me a bit of a feeling for the multicultural centers these places must have been prior to WW1. Bitola apparently was populated by significant numbers of Bulgarians, Macedonians, Greeks, Turks, Jews and others. Thessalonica was apparently a multicultural metropolis.

So what happened ? Well, the various ethnic groups have long since emigrated to the New World or Down Under or joined their national or racial brethren in neighbouring countries. I can't help thinking that something of value has been lost as a result but ask myself why "balkanization" never became a vibrant and lasting social model.

Well, I have heard and greeted with skepticism many a Greek or Turkish acquaintance who has said on occasion with a half apologetic tone something like:
You know we get along just beautifully. It's just the politicians that constantly stir things up between us and cause trouble.
My skepticism about such comments had to do with either the genuineness of the inter-communal fellowship which is possibly being mis-remembered or a desire to cop out and makes a nebulous class of people called "politicians" the scapegoat for what in fact is a real personal hatred of "the other" --- to (over)use a popular philosophical phrase these days.

Well, I may have to repent of such suspicions having recently come across studies by the American sociologist Charles Tilly on the subject of what he calls "political entrepreneurs".

These are people in authority (or seeking power) who make it their "entrepreneurial" mission to sow seeds of discontent along ethnic fault lines. He claims to have data showing how these seeds then bear fruit in terms of inter-communal violence. Isn't it true that divisions are easy to foment and much more difficult to bridge? So might there not be a good case for taking preventative measures ?

Well, some on the left of the political spectrum have been much maligned and much ridiculed for their social agenda popularly known as "political correctness".

Perhaps political correctness seems silly but it may actually be playing a vital role as an antidote to the social poison put out by the political entrepreneurs. Without such an antidote we might find ourselves sliding into inter-communal violence. I'd rather have the silliness of some forms of P.C. than have to fight my neighbour in the streets, wouldn't you ?

Sadly, there is a perfect example of what I'm talking about right out of today's news headlines :

On Sunday a mob of 5,000 white men, many of them drunk, attacked men they believed were of Middle Eastern descent in retaliation for the assault a week earlier of two volunteer lifeguards.

Youths of Lebanese descent were alleged to be behind that assault, but police say there was no apparent racial motive.

Police arrested 16 rioters and said 31 people were injured, including a man stabbed in the back by an assailant officers said was a man of Arab appearance.

Prime Minister John Howard called the violence "sickening" but denied it was underpinned by a vein of racism running through Australian society.

"I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country," he said

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Keeping Mum" - film review

Starring Rowan Atkinson, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas this is a 15 rated English black comedy - indeed right up to the very last scene!

A reviewer and her companion found great hilarity with the silver screen depiction of Atkinson playing a Man of the Cloth totally oblivious in his "other worldliness" to the antics of a nymphomaniac daughter living right under his roof - and of other similar dangers as well.

It may perhaps be the fact that it is a silver screen depiction which has permitted some to find such scenes humourous. I myself could only bear them with a great sense of sadness (and mourning even) knowing that such or similar failings may be all too close to the truth and perhaps prevalent in the moral climate in which we live.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this, a mysterious housekeeper played by Maggie Smith joins the dysfunctional country vicarage and her name -"Grace" - turns out to be a double-entendre of a more edifying sort than the ones the philandering golf pro played by Patrick Swayze dishes out with almost every word he utters.

You may, if you are a Christian, actually find the sermon delivered by Rowan Atkinson's character on "God's mysterious ways" (his text :Isaiah 55v8) profound and even edifying to your soul.

So is this a Christian film then ? Well, this film did manage to draw me in. Strike that. It actually did grab me by the scruff of the neck and made me think in sober ways about Christian Ministry in a very relevent manner at both a general and sociological level as well as at a very personal level. There are not that many films "Christian" or otherwise that can do that, i should think. But, of course, that may just be accidental and not something the producers or writers intended.

It was the big names that drew my wife and i to see this film. I would not recommend it to anyone under the age of 18 or to folk who are easily shocked or offended as it treats spiritual and sexual issues in a frank manner but with a sensitivity and an ethical sense which is uncommon fare at the cinema these days.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


This is the closest to a definition of Hell that i have (so far) come across in the writings of Herman Dooyeweerd :

. . . sin in its fullness does not mean the cutting through of the relation of dependence between the Creator and depraved creation, but that the fullness of being of Divine justice will express itself in reprobate creation in a tremendous way, and that in this process depraved reality cannot but reveal its creaturely mode of being as meaning.It will be meaning in the absolute subjective apostasy under the curse of God's wrath, but in this very condition it will not be a meaningless reality.

A New Critique of Theoretical Thought , Volume I I , page 33

Friday, December 09, 2005

Face Transplant

I was thinking about writing my two cents worth on the serious ethical issues surrounding face transplants.

What the heck, this is about as serious i get on a Friday afternoon.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Replacement Theology

Yes, in Galatians 2:14-16 there's a radical re-definition of “Israel” to include Gentiles as Gentiles around the Lord Jesus Christ who provides the continuity in accordance with Ephesians 2:11-22.

For instance, is the re-definition so radical as to absurdly do away with the Jew ?

Are there biblical controls ( i.e. explicit statements that trump theologising and inferences made from text) that prevent us from going as far as declaring the Jewish people’s supercession by the Church a complete and total affair ?

Well what if , for instance, there were still unfulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament (and from the New Testament as well - just for good measure) which are impossible for the Church to fulfill no matter how one 'spiritualises' or 'allegorises' them ?

Here are some examples. (Please do read what the verses say by clicking on each reference ) :

Isaiah 11:11-16
Jeremiah 30:4-11
Ezekiel 11:17
Ezekiel 16:60-63
Ezekiel 20:33-41
Ezekiel 34:12-15
Ezekiel 34:22-28
Ezekiel 36:6-11
Ezekiel 36:21-36
Ezekiel 39:25-29
Amos 9:14-15 .
Zephaniah 2:1-15
Zephaniah 3:1-20
Zechariah 8:20–23
Zechariah 12:2-6
Zechariah 12:8-10
Zechariah 14:2-4
Zechariah 14:16–19
Matthew 23:37-39
Romans 11:25–26

Wouldn’t or shouldn’t these Scriptures be the silver bullet fit to kill once for all the beast of Replacement Theology ?

I think they should.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chase Farm Hospital

This morning an acquaintance who knew I would be at the meeting with the Honourable Paul Goggins (see below re Religious Hatred Bill)called and asked me if anything was said about Chase Farm Hospital .

I then remembered that a questionnaire was left for each attendee with some questions asking things like which bits of Chase Farm Hospital should be kept etc. Then my friend continued “they’re thinking of closing Chase Farm” and when she added “it will be the fourth hospital closure in Enfield. Companies like Tesco would love to get their greedy hands on it” it was like a light bulb came on.

About a week earlier I had learned from discussion with colleagues that the expansive neighbourhood of flats opposite the Highland School actually used to be Highlands Hospital. I once nearly got lost there having taken a wrong turn and wandered around behind the little Tesco store ! It made me think how much land hospitals really do occupy. The brand spanking new flats just go on and on forever ! All that must have made some property developer a tidy sum I should think.

I don’t know whether the population of Enfield has undergone the kind of decrease which would justify four hospital closures but already 1 out of every 6 people in the Borough is over the age of 65.

Demographics tell us that this ratio will increase not decrease in the future and as we all know it’s not the young but the elderly who usually require hospitalisation.

My hope is that the MP for Enfield North has her eyes open to what suspiciously looks like some kind of asset stripping strategy at work and that she is working to frustrate any interests who may presently be lurking in the shadows waiting to profit from such.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Career Advice

John Rawls (1921-2002) on Philosophy

HRP: What would you say to a student in 1991 who is interested in philosophy? Would you say to make it a career?

JR: I rarely, if ever, encourage people to go into philosophy. I impress upon them the drawbacks. If you very strongly want to do it, that’s one thing. Otherwise, you probably shouldn’t go into philosophy, because it does have its hardships and trials, and most who would be good at it would be much better off—at least by society’s standards—in doing something else. The real rewards of philosophy are personal and private and you should understand that. I think philosophy is a very special subject, particularly in our society, which pays very little attention to most serious philosophy, even when it is very well done. However, this is not a complaint, and it may be a good thing.

Click here if you want to read more.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Tale of Two Murders

Two men murdered in England on the same night under similar circumstances.

One was a white man murdered by a black man and the other a black man murdered by a white man.

And this is why the BBC is treating them differently.