The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Billy Graham, Evangelicalism and Orthodoxy, and Ecumenism, Old and New

Last week it was announced that Billy Graham, undoubtedly the most well-known evangelist of our time, had passed away at ninety-nine years of age. He had been out of the public spotlight for quite some time, having turned the leadership of his Evangelistic Association over to his son Franklin years ago. In my youth, however, he was still growing strong and two or three times a year, his crusades would be broadcast over television. When, twenty-seven years ago, I first put my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, I actually began watching them. The old Billy Graham “team” was still around at that time, with Cliff Barrows leading the service, George Beverley Shea singing one or another of his repertoire of gospel songs, and Billy Graham, of course, preaching a simple gospel message, and inviting people forward to receive Christ, always with Charlotte Elliot’s “Just as I Am” playing. This was the early nineties, following the decade that had seen the televangelist scandals over moral failures, misuse of donations, and dubious and excessive fundraising appeals, but Billy Graham was above all of that and his semi-annual broadcasts only ever contained a short, responsible, appeal for funds. They were about spreading the Gospel, not making money.

I have been reflecting much over the last couple of months on evangelicalism and orthodoxy. The two are not the same thing, although contemporary evangelicals often confuse them. There is much overlap between the two, but there are also very important differences. By orthodoxy, I mean small-o orthodoxy rather than the churches of the East which call themselves by the name Orthodoxy. Small-o orthodoxy, in short, is the term for the truths clearly propounded in the Holy Scriptures, as summarized in the Creeds of the early, undivided, Church. The term “evangelical” has had several meanings over the centuries. When, following the mid-fifteenth century invention of the printing press, Christian humanists such as Thomas More and Erasmus had renewed scholarly study of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic writings after the example of the similar ad fontes approach to the Graeco-Roman classics of the Renaissance humanists, this led to the rediscovery of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith and in the sixteenth century, the term evangelical, from the Greek word for Gospel, came into use, applied first to Martin Luther and the Lutherans, later to the Reformed followers of Zwingli and Calvin, who embraced the Pauline doctrine. In other words it became a synonym for Protestant and continues to be used as such in continental Europe. In the English-speaking world, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it developed the narrower meaning of those within Protestantism who followed the Wesleys and Whitefield in emphasizing the importance of a personal faith experience.

Today, the term evangelical, while still retaining these earlier associations, has undergone a further evolution in meaning and no figure was more representative of the “new evangelicalism” than the late Billy Graham. He was something of an historical bridge. On the one hand he was the last of the old itinerant revivalists – men like Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, “Gipsy” Smith, Billy Sunday, Bob Jones Sr., and Mordecai Ham – who would go from town to town, city to city, holding meetings in tents and fields, tabernacles and arenas, warning people of the judgement to come and pleading with them to turn to Christ while there is still time. On the other he was the first of the “new evangelicals” as Harold John Ockenga had dubbed them – a new breed that sought to distance itself from the combative fundamentalism of the older revivalists and to rewrap its message in a more polished and positive packaging. The National Association of Evangelicals, the journal Christianity Today, (1) and the Fuller Theological Seminary became the flagship institutions of the new evangelicalism and Billy Graham, involved to some degree or another in the establishment of each of these, was universally regarded as the movement’s chief spokesman. What is meant by evangelicalism today is what was called new or neo evangelicalism in the 1950s.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the “new” evangelicalism and the older, fundamentalist, variety was that the former was willing to participate in contemporary ecumenism, the latter was not. The nature of this difference is consistently distorted by evangelical historians but the truth of it can be seen in the event that signified their parting of ways – the 1957 Billy Graham Madison Square Garden Crusade.

This was the longest single campaign of Billy Graham’s career. He held meetings for four months straight in the huge Manhattan arena – not the one that presently bears the name but its predecessor. Prior to this campaign Billy Graham had come under fundamentalist criticism – most notably from the Rev. Carl McIntire in his Christian Beacon newspaper – for having accepted invitations from ministerial councils that included liberals. Until this campaign, Graham did not articulate a policy regarding this. This time, however, having turned down previous invitations from conservative groups, he had accepted one from the very liberal Protestant Council, upon whose full cooperation he insisted as a condition of his coming. In response to this many who had supported his earlier ministry and defended him from McIntire’s previous criticisms withdrew their support, including the Bob Joneses (2), evangelistic newspaper Sword of the Lord and its editor John R. Rice (3), and Jack Wyrtzen of Word of Life ministries. (4)

At this point the BGEA finally articulated a policy – one that was dubbed “cooperative evangelism.” (5) The policy was built upon the idea that as long as he was preaching the Biblical Gospel it should not matter who invited him to preach it. As the evangelist himself put it “I would like to make myself clear. I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody to preach the Gospel of Christ if there are no strings attached to my message. I am sponsored by civic clubs, universities, ministerial associations, and councils of churches all over the world. I intend to continue.” This idea, in itself, is quite sound and reasonable, and has clear Scriptural precedent in the ministry of St. Paul. The fundamentalists took the position that it was not a matter of speaking to whoever is willing to listen to you but that the kind of cooperation the BGEA was insisting upon from the ministerial councils was that of co-workers in the Gospel. To include liberal clergymen in this violates the clear teachings of Scriptures they argued, and they too were right. Note that in this context “liberal” does not refer to support for progressive politics – although the clergymen in question were usually liberal in that sense of the word too – but to disbelief in the authority of the Bible and anything in it that conflicts with modern rationalist presuppositions, especially supernatural miracles such as the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ Himself warned against such false teachers, as did St. Paul, both in the Acts of the Apostles and several of his epistles, and so did Sts. Jude, John and Peter, and the instructions as to how to deal with them are quite clear.

In other words, in the divergence of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, both sides started with a basic concept that was in itself reasonable, defensible, and Scriptural. Each side, however, then proceeded to take that concept an indefensible and absurd extreme. Fundamentalism became narrower, more divisive and schismatic – as the evangelicals predicted it would, whereas evangelicalism became more compromising and wishy-washy – as the fundamentalists had, indeed, foreseen.

Both sides would have benefited greatly from a better knowledge and understanding of the first five centuries of Christian history – the era of the first “ecumenism.” Ecumenical is a Latinization of the Greek word meaning “the entire inhabited earth” by which the great councils of the early Church were designated. These were the councils in which representatives of the entire Church convened to define the doctrines of Scriptural orthodoxy and to condemn heresies. The first and second of these, the First Councils of Nicaea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD), were called, primarily in response to the heresy of Arius of Alexandria, produced the most important and most widely used of the Christian Creeds.

The “ecumenism” of the early centuries was similar to the ecumenism that began in the early twentieth century in the sense that it had the unity of the Christian faith and Church as its goal. In another sense it was completely different because the Fathers of these early councils did not believe that this unity should or could be attained through sacrificing truth and attempting to find a lowest common denominator of belief – the approach of the contemporary ecumenical movement. They defined orthodoxy and condemned heresy. Those who taught heresy contrary to Apostolic orthodoxy were defrocked, excommunicated, and anathematized.

From the Novatian and Donatist controversies, fundamentalism could have learned that the answer to impurity in the Christian Church is not to withdraw and found your own, supposedly, “pure” sect – this is, in fact, the heresy of sectarianism and schimaticism. From the Patristic era as a whole, on the other hand, from St. Irenaeus and Tertullian’s treatises against the Gnostics and Marcionites, from the stands of St. Athanasius of Alexandria against Arius, of St. Basil the Great and the St. Gregories of Cappadocia for the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, including the Personhood and full deity of the Holy Spirit, and of St. Cyril of Alexandria against Nestorius, evangelicalism could have learned that however worthwhile the goal of healing schism, and fostering larger Christian unity that transcends denominational labels may be, it must never be at the expense of the Apostolic doctrine of Christ. Anyone who is at all familiar with the writings of these and the other Church Fathers ought to know that they would have been as vehement as the fundamentalists, if not more so, in their condemnation of liberal or modernist theologians, who deny Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection. (6)

What the Christian faith and Church needs, is the ecumenical orthodoxy of the first five centuries, not the unorthodox ecumenism of today.

(1) In my country, Canada, the equivalent of the National Association of Evangelicals is the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and on an international scale it is the World Evangelical Alliance. The EFC’s journal Faith Today could be considered a Canadian version of Christianity Today.
(2) Before taking a degree in anthropology at Wheaton College Billy Graham studied for the ministry at Florida Bible Institute. His first semester, however, had been at Bob Jones College, when it was located in Cleveland, Tennessee. When the Joneses relocated to Greenville, South Carolina and expanded their school into a university, they awarded an honorary degree to Billy Graham.
(3) Rice’s newspaper, of whose board Graham had been a member, had heavily promoted Graham’s ministry up until this point. Two year’s previously he had gone to Glasgow, Scotland to appear with Billy Graham in a campaign there and he had defended the BGEA when he had earlier been suspected of ecumenical tendencies.
(4) Before founding the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham began his evangelistic career working for Youth for Christ. Wyrtzen had been an important influence in the founding of YFC.
(5) Robert O. Ferm’s short book by this title, published by Zondervan shortly after the Madison Square Garden Crusade, articulated and defended the BGEA’s policy. A response from the fundamentalist side, written by Gary G. Cohen and entitled Biblical Separatism Defended was published by Presbyterian & Reformed Ltd. in 1966.
(6) This conclusion cannot be escaped by the deceptive argument that fundamentalism is literalist in its interpretation of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers were not. Traditional theologians, beginning with the Church Fathers, diverge from fundamentalist literalism, not by denying the truth of the literal interpretation of things like the virgin birth and resurrection, the way liberals do, but by insisting that the correct interpretation of the Scriptures is not limited to the literal, that there are other layers of meaning on top of the literal. Among those with whom the Fathers contended were Jews and Ebionites who maintained that Isaiah 7:14 does not predict a virgin birth but only that a young woman will conceive. Their arguments were identical to those later advanced by liberals, such as those who translated the RSV and NRSV. Similarly, the answers of Church Fathers like St. Irenaeus and St. Cyril of Jerusalem, are identical to those of twentieth-century fundamentalists.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Justin Trudeau Needs to Go

We Canadians are paying a heavy toll for having voted the Liberal Party into power so many times over the course of the last century. The Liberal Party has, from its inception, been the party of opposition to the Confederation project that established our country, the Dominion of Canada, in 1867. It has neither confidence in nor respect for the constitutional, political, legal and judicial traditions and institutions that, adapted by the Fathers of Confederation for our own country, we inherited from Great Britain. It has encouraged and fostered the widespread ignorance of and apathy towards those traditions and institutions that is so appalling in Canada today.

A consequence, sadly, of that apathy is that books like Eugene Forsey’s The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament in the British Commonwealth (1) and John Farthing’s Freedom Wears a Crown (2)have been out of print for many years. Forsey’s abridged doctoral dissertation and Farthing’s posthumously edited masterpiece are both brilliant defences of our constitution of parliamentary monarchy which spell out the continuing importance of the reserve powers of the Crown for maintaining our traditional rights and freedoms and protecting us from the tyranny of the governing party and Prime Minister. These truths are needed today like never before.

In their arguments for the reserve powers of the Crown it was the right to refuse a recommendation for the dissolution of Parliament that Forsey and Farthing focused upon. The reason for this was historical. In 1926, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Liberal Prime Minister who had clung to power after the last Dominion election despite having failed to win even a plurality through the support of a third party, was facing a vote of censure in Parliament over his government’s involvement in a customs scandal, asked for a dissolution. The Governor General, Lord Byng, quite properly turned him down. In the next election, Mackenzie King deceived the electorate with his entirely false claim that Byng had acted inappropriately, that his refusal amounted to imperial interference in Canadian domestic politics, and that he, Mackenzie King, was championing Canada’s sovereignty over its own domestic affairs. All of this was hogwash, and the real issue was that if the Prime Minister can obtain a dissolution just by asking in order to avoid the just censure of Parliament then he is no longer responsible to that Parliament or to anybody else. The Liberal interpretation of these events, Forsey and Farthing rightly argued, laid the foundation for autocratic Prime Ministerial tyranny.

The Crown also has the right, in extraordinary circumstances in which the sitting government has become an active threat to the rights and freedoms of Canadians and the laws protecting them, to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister. Over the course of this past week, the Prime Minister and several of his Cabinet, including his Justice Minister, have behaved in such a way as to make the exercise of this Crown power appropriate.

I am referring to their response to the acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley who had been charged with second-degree murder over the death of Colten Boushie. Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould both responded to the acquittal by extending their sympathy to Boushie’s family and treating the verdict as an act of racial injustice – Boushie was an aboriginal youth. “We have to do better” they both said. Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Affairs tweeted that her thoughts and prayers were with the Boushie family and that “we all have more to do to improve justice & fairness for Indigenous Canadians.”

If the Prime Minister or any other Cabinet Minister sincerely wished to offer their condolences to the grieving Boushie family the time and occasion to do so would have been a year and a half ago after the shooting. To extend sympathy at this time, however, not over the death of a family member but over a jury verdict of not-guilty, is out-of-line. To do so is to disagree with the verdict and to say that the jury either made a mistake or made a bad decision out of malice. We are all free to disagree with jury verdicts but to do so publicly in this way is not the place of a government Minister.

Even worse was the government’s announcement later in the week that it was going to act on the ill-chosen words of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Let us go over this again. A man was put on trial for murder and acquitted by a jury of his peers. The government says that it does not like the verdict. The government says that it is going to overhaul the legal system to correct what it does not like. There is no way that Trudeau and his Ministers can act on this that will not trample over some basic Canadian legal rights and undermine some of the most basic principles of our legal system.

One of those principles is that the burden of proof in a criminal case always rests upon the Crown prosecutor. This principle rests upon the foundation of the even more basic principle that it is better that many guilty people go unpunished than that a single innocent person be made to suffer unjustly. (3) Translated into the language of legal rights, this becomes the right of someone accused of a crime to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Included within this are the rights to confront his accuser face to face, to cross-examine and discredit his accuser, and to have the case decided, not by politically motivated government ministers, but by a jury of his peers. That is to say, a jury of the defendant’s peers, not the peers of his alleged victim. If a member of race A is accused of murdering a member of race B, this ought not to ensure that race B is represented on the jury but may indeed, be grounds for excluding them because of the likelihood of prejudice against the defendant.

All of this is potentially endangered by the Trudeau government’s shameless exploitation of this case. It was not that long ago that the progressive left was accusing the neoconservative Stephen Harper of “fascism” because he wished to limit a judge’s ability to hand down slap-on-the-wrist sentences for serious crimes. Note, however, and note well, that sentencing by a judge only takes place after a guilty verdict has been reached. It is the Trudeau Liberals, not the Harper Conservatives, who want to interfere in the verdict-reaching process so as to get the verdicts they desire. This is where true fascism lies.

Through his complete disrespect for the principles of our justice system and his willingness to discard them in order to virtue signal to his mindless, politically correct, base of Generation Snowflake social justice warriors, Justin Trudeau has forfeited his right to lead Her Majesty’s government in Ottawa. It is time for him to go.

(1) Eugene A. Forsey, The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament in the British Commonwealth, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1943)
(2) John Farthing, Judith Robinson ed., Freedom Wears a Crown, (Toronto: Kingswood House, 1957)
(3) This is an ancient principle, drawing upon both Scriptural (Abraham negotiating the fate of Sodom in the book of Genesis) and classical authority (Socrates, at least as represented by Plato in the Gorgias, said “it is better to suffer an injustice than to commit one”). Of course the same Liberals who have encouraged apathy and ignorance of our country's political and legal traditions have encouraged the same towards Scriptural and classical learning. If more people were familiar with Aeschylus’s Oresteia they would appreciate better that trial by jury was designed to liberate man from the tribal vengeance mode of “justice” that those upset over the Stanley verdict are calling for. For an excellent critique of how Canada’s educational system has gone to pot through progressive liberalism, written just as the rot was first setting in, see Hilda Neatby’s So Little For the Mind: An Indictment of Canadian Education, (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company Ltd, 1953)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

“Me Too”, ---- You! - Or Perhaps Not.

Unprovoked and awful charges - even so the she-bear fights – Rudyard Kipling

In 411 BC, the war between the Athenian Delian League and the Spartan Peloponnesian League, which had resumed three years previously after the Peace of Nicias finally fell apart, reached its twentieth year. Things were not going well for the Athenians. During the break in the fighting with Sparta, Alcibiades, the leader of the Athenian war party, talked the Assembly into sending a fleet to Sicily, ostensibly to support their allies, but with the goal of conquering the island. The same Nicias who had negotiated the peace with Sparta, in an attempt to dissuade them from doing this told the Assembly that a much larger force would be needed than what they originally intended, but with the only result being that they enlarged the armada and put him in charge, along with Alcibiades and Lamachus. Once there, the generals decided to begin their campaign by establishing a base and launching an attack on the strongest Sicilian city-state, Syracuse. Before the siege began, Alcibiades, who had thought up this strategy, received a summons ordering him to return to Athens to stand trial on charges of the desecration of sacred statues. He opted to flee instead and defected to Sparta. In his absence, the siege of Syracuse did not go well, Lamachus was slain, and Nicias sent away for reinforcements. Athens sent the reinforcements, led by Demosthenes, but this made things worse as the fighting with Sparta, now backed by Syracuse, resumed shortly thereafter and the Sicilian Expedition ended in total disaster for Athens with the loss of most of their ships and the enslavement of their men.

Ultimately, this would cost them the Peloponnesian War, but in 411 the decisive loss to Lysander of Sparta at Aegospotami was still six years away. It was at this point that Aristophanes, the master of Attic Old Comedy, introduced a new play. The play is called the Lysistrata, after its main character, an Athenian woman who with the help of her Spartan counterpart Lampito, persuades the extremely reluctant women of Greece to go on a sex-strike and withhold sex from the men until they agree to stop the war. It is not easy for her to convince the women to either agree to this or to stick to the plan once they have agreed to it. Contrary to a popular misconception, it is women rather than men who are by far the most obsessed with sex, a fact of which Aristophanes was well aware, and which he exploited to its full comic potential.

What makes the Lysistrata so hilarious is that the title character succeeds in her plan to end the war despite her use of a strategy that would almost universally be perceived – it certainly was so seen by her creator – as utterly undoable. There is an old quip, that has been variously attributed to Ann Landers, Henry Kissinger, and a host of others although it appears to be older than all of them, that the battle of the sexes can never be won because there is too much fraternizing with the enemy. It is, however, the current year, and perhaps it is time that the idea of a sex strike be seriously considered – not by women, but by men. Indeed, it is starting to seem necessary not for the purpose of attaining any political end but for survival. This is due to the “Me Too” movement that insists that we treat every Potiphar’s wife as if she were Lucretia. Just be clear, the Lucretia in the last sentence is she of ancient Rome, who committed suicide to protect her honour after her rape by Sextus Tarquinus and not her considerably less virtuous fifteenth century namesake, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, who was as ruthless, conniving and bloodthirsty as her brother Cesare Borgia, of whom Machiavelli’s Prince was a verbal portrait.

Indeed, there is evidence that just such a sex-strike is in its beginning stages. The ever fabulous veteran actress and author Dame Joan Collins, in her latest Diary for The Spectator remarks that “if these accusations towards men continue much longer, I fear a major decline in population growth in the near future.” She demonstrates that this fear is not unwarranted by concluding her column with the following illustration:

A 30-year-old single man informs me that he wouldn’t consider dating because he was too scared of being accused of inappropriate behaviour or of being ‘named and shamed’ by social media or the Twitterati. ‘I go out with the guys, drink beer and watch box sets,’ he said ruefully, ‘and friends are doing the same. We’re scared of the #MeToo movement and of being accused of sexual harassment and worse if we even tell a girl she’s pretty.’ ‘In my day we called it flirting,’ I told him.

Today, the line between “flirting” and “sexual harassment” is extremely blurry, making it potentially hazardous for any man to approach or otherwise show interest in a woman. American Vice President Mike Pence was mocked about a year ago for his policy of refusing to dine alone with women other than his wife. The Atlantic published a piece that claimed that this policy “hurt women” using the same tortured excuse for logic that the courts have been using since the 1970s to admit female reporters to men’s locker rooms – the reverse has now been accomplished on entirely different but even more absurd grounds – and to force private clubs to abandon “men only” policies. Vox posted an article claiming that this was “probably illegal.” The New Yorker ran a piece entitled “Mike Pence’s Marriage and the Beliefs That Keep Women From Power.” Each of these, incidentally or not, was written by a woman. Half a year later, l’affaire Weinstein broke, the “Me Too” movement was launched, and all of a sudden it was a lot more difficult to laugh at Mike Pence.

Rape, of course, is a serious crime – and it has been treated as such from time immemorial. Undoubtedly it is immoral and sleazy for an employer, whether he be a Hollywood producer, a corporate executive, or a Cabinet Minister, to offer to advance a woman’s career in exchange for sexual favours. It is just as immoral and sleazy, however, for a woman to accept the offer – and it is by no means the case, far from it, that it is always the man who initiates this sort of exchange. “Sexual harassment” is the preferred charge of the “Me Too” movement precisely because it is so vague and hazy. Virtually any attention that a man shows to a woman qua woman can be interpreted as sexual harassment if the woman so chooses.

Apart from their preference for the comparatively hazy charge of sexual harassment over those of long recognized sexual crimes and misdeeds with more concrete definitions, the “Me Too” wave of feminism insists that accusations be believed on the say so of the accuser, even in a dearth of supporting evidence and if the accusations pertain to events that took place decades previously. Potiphar’s wife would undoubtedly approve. This is a total assault on justice, that is to say true justice, at least as the term has traditionally been understood in the English-speaking world, and not the spurious contemporary substitute that is called “social” despite being utterly corrosive of society, its institutions, and, as we are seeing in feminism, ordinary social interaction between the sexes.

Eventually, the totally irrational and irresponsible “Me Too” movement is sure to self-destruct. Before this happens, however, there is no telling how many lives and careers it will ruin, to say nothing of the damage it will inflict on the fabric of society and relations between the sexes.

In the meantime, in the interests of self-preservation, men need to consider, at the very least following the example of Mike Pence. A reverse Lysistrata strategy would, however, be more effective in securing the downfall of the enemy. It is true that a strategy that eliminates the procreative act has the potential of resulting in a Pyrrhic victory, but women are far more likely to cave against such a move then men. So perhaps the answer to the “Me Too” movement is for men to tell the fairer sex, “futuete vos ipsos”, not as a crude expletive but practical advice, because they are for the time being no longer willing to do it for them.