The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Fourth Article – The Passion of Christ, the Salvation of Man

In our examination of the third Article of the Christian Creed we noted that grammatically it was the beginning of a long relative clause.   In the Latin of the Apostles’ Creed the relative clause includes the third through seventh Articles.   This is not reflected in the English translation in the Book of Common Prayer which inserts a sentence break after the fourth Article.   In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed the third Article begins with a definite article that functions in this context as a relative pronoun and is the subject of all the Articles from the third through the seventh.   In the conciliar Creed this is not a subordinate clause within the sentence that starts in the second Article in the Greek, however, because it has a sentence break at the end of the second.   Interestingly, here the English translation eliminates the sentence break.   These punctuation variations do not affect the meaning of the Creed. Whether it is a subordinate relative clause, a separate sentence, or even broken into several sentences, everything from the Incarnation in the third Article to the Second Coming in the seventh is affirmed about Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God.


We also observed that the conciliar Creed includes a declaration of the end that motivated the Son of God to come down from Heaven, become Incarnate as a Man, and do all that is affirmed of Him in these Articles.   This is the clause rendered in English as “for us men and for our salvation” found immediately after the definite article/relative pronoun.   As we saw, this statement was well placed in the third Article about the Incarnation because it was the Incarnation that made possible everything else the Son of God did for our salvation.   Now we shall look at the fourth Article which speaks of how the Incarnate Christ accomplished our salvation.


Compared to the other Articles we have seen there is very little difference between two versions of the Creed.   The Latin of the Apostles’ Creed is passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus which in the English of the Book of Common Prayer is “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.”  The Greek of the conciliar Creed is Σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα which in English is “and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried”.     “Suffered” and “crucified” switch places in the two Creeds, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan specifies that He was crucified “for us” whereas the Apostles’ spells us out that He “died”, otherwise the only difference is that in the conciliar Creed each thing that is affirmed of Christ is joined to the others in the Article by a copula while in the Apostles’ they are put in a list and separated by commas with only one copula.    Passus and its Greek equivalent and cognate παθόντα which both mean “he suffered” are the source of the word “Passion” which we use to designate all the suffering Jesus Christ submitted to for our sake. (1)


Another noticeable contrast between this Article and those which preceded it is the absence of precise language chosen to avoid specific errors.   With one exception it affirms merely the basic historical facts of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, His death and His burial.   The exception is the words “for us” in the Nicene Creed.   These words are an assertion of the soteriological significance of these events but the most basic and simple such assertion possible.   That God gave His Son to be our Saviour, that He saved us by dying for us, and that therefore His death was for us, is something upon which all Christians are in agreement.   It is over how Christ’s death accomplished this that there has been disagreement.     The New Testament is not silent on this question, but it uses many different types of language and imagery to explain Christ’s saving work.   The language of redemption depicts Christ’s death as a price paid to liberate man from slavery, that is to say, slavery to sin, death and the devil.   The language of sacrifice declares Christ’s death to be the final and effective sacrifice to which all the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed.   The language of reconciliation speaks of Christ’s death as bringing God and man, separated by man’s sin, back into harmony.   The language of satisfaction depicts Christ’s death as a propitiation or expiation that appeases God for the offence that is man’s sin.   The language of substitution speaks of Christ as taking our sins upon Himself and bearing them in our place.   The New Testament uses each of these languages and all of this different imagery tells us that the answer to the question of how Christ’s death saved us is multifaceted.   It is good, therefore, that in the Creed, the basic confession of the Christian faith, the what of Christ’s death for us is affirmed without commentary as to the how.


This was probably not intentional on the part of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Fathers.   At the time significant controversy over what we now call the theory or model of the Atonement was still centuries away.   Indeed, the history of theological debate over this matter is often thought to be divided into two periods, pre-Anselm and post-Anselm.   Anselm was the thirty-sixth Archbishop of Canterbury who held the See from 1093 to 1109 AD, shortly after both the Great Schism between the Western and the Eastern Churches and the passing of the English throne to the Norman dynasty of William the Conqueror.   About five years into his term in the Archbishop’s office, on the eve of the transition from the eleventh to the twelfth centuries he completed a work entitled Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Man?).   In this work, Anselm challenged what he believed to have been the main way in which the Atonement had been understood prior to him, i.e., the ransom model.   According to this model, Christ’s death was a ransom price paid by God to purchase the liberation of man from the bondage to sin, death, and the devil into which he had fallen in the Garden.    The extent to which this model was accepted before Anselm is debatable.   It is certainly found in the writings of Origen of Alexandria who lived in the third century.   St. Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century, the century that produced the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, notably opposed it.   Anselm’s objection to this model was that it made the death of Christ into a payment God made to Satan and thus suggested that the problem to which the Atonement was the solution was that someone, either us or God, owed a debt to Satan.   Sin is indeed depicted as a debt in the New Testament but the debt is owed by man to God not by anyone to Satan.   Anselm, who lived in feudal times, understood this to be a debt of honour.   Man had offended God’s honour by sinning and thus owed Him satisfaction.   .   By dying for us, Christ satisfied God’s honour, and so won for us reconciliation and forgiveness.    This is called the satisfaction model of the Atonement.  Since the understanding of the Atonement that has prevailed in the Roman Catholic Communion since Scholasticism has been Anselm’s model as interpreted by St. Thomas Aquinas, and the penal substitutionary model of the Protestant Reformation is Anselm’s model translated by John Calvin, a trained lawyer, from the honour language of feudal society to the legal language of contract society, (2) Anselm’s model can be said have dominated Western Christianity ever since.    The pre-Anselmic understanding of the Atonement remains the understanding in Eastern Christianity which broke Communion with Western Christianity a few decades prior to Anselm.   It would be a mistake, however, to think of the Eastern view as being predominately the ransom model.   The Eastern understanding includes the ransom model – it is found in their Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great – but other understandings of the Atonement are included elsewhere in the Eastern liturgy.


None of these models or theories are affirmed in the Creed – neither are any of them denied or rejected.   About a century ago a Swedish Lutheran bishop and theologian named Gustaf Aulén wrote a short influential book in which he argued that before Anselm the Church held to what he called the “classic view” of the Atonement which he claimed was taught in the Bible, by the Church Fathers and by Dr. Martin Luther.   This view has come to be called “Christus Victor”, which was also the title of Aulén’s book, and it basically is that the Atonement was a strategic military victory by Jesus Christ over sin, death, and the devil which brought about the liberation of those whom these forces of evil had held captive.   Of all the models that have been proposed this is the closest to being one that can claim to be affirmed in the Creed but this is only because it is not what Aulén purported it to be, an explanation of how Christ’s death saved us, but rather a re-wording of the assertion of the fact that it does.   Everyone who affirms the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds will affirm that in His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ triumphed over sin, death, and the devil (3) and set mankind free.   This includes, however, all those who think of the Atonement primarily as a ransom, as well as those who think of it primarily as satisfaction or substitution.    The weakness of Aulén’s book was that he treated his “classic view” as mutually exclusive with what he called the “Latin view” i.e., Anselm’s satisfaction and Calvin’s penal substitution models.   These are not mutually exclusive, and in his attempt to prove that they were, Aulén made claims which very much conflicted with Nicene orthodoxy.   He treated the Law as one of the enemies that needed to be defeated alongside Satan and sin in flat contradiction to St. Paul in the epistle to the Romans.   He argued that the satisfaction model made the Atonement into an act of man directed towards God rather than an act of God directed towards man, an argument that had both Nestorian and Docetist implications.     


Indeed, the most common objections to the satisfaction and substitution models that have been raised over the last century have rested upon assumptions that conflict with Nicene orthodoxy.   Think, for example, of the popular complaint that these explanations of the Atonement amount to “cosmic child abuse”.    Nicene orthodoxy is that Jesus Christ is God Who became a Man and Who is thus both God and Man.   Those who regard the substitutionary model of Atonement as speaking of a God Who is guilty of “cosmic child abuse” implicitly assume Jesus Christ to be neither God nor Man.  For if Jesus Christ is what the Nicene Creed says He is, “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, being of one substance with the Father” then the satisfactory and substitutionary model of the Atonement does not tell the story of a God Who refused to forgive men their sins unless an Innocent third party unjustly suffered instead but the story of a God, rightly offended by sin, Who becomes a man in order that He might Himself pay the penalty of sin on behalf of those who offended Him.


The late Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan Kallistos Ware suggested a number of helpful questions for evaluating theories of the Atonement.   The first of these was “Does it envision a change in God or us?”   Since the problem for which Christ’s death is the solution is in us, sin, rather than in God, a sound understanding of the Atonement requires that change us rather than God.   This might seem to be the point where Anselm’s model and those derived from it fail the test but this is only the case if the language of analogy that we use to speak of God is taken far more literally than it was ever intended to be.   If we take the language of Christ’s death as a propitiatory sacrifice that appeases God by satisfying His wrath, language which is used in the Scriptures themselves, at its most literal, then we will have a theory in which the Atonement works by effecting a change in God.  God is angry at us because of our sin, Christ’s death takes care of that, so that God is no longer angry at us anymore.   What we need to recognize is that while wrath or anger in us is a passion that stirs up in response to things other people do this is not what the wrath or anger of God is like.   When the Scriptures speak of the wrath of God they use the human passion as an analogy to speak of how God in His holiness, righteousness, and justice always looks upon sin.   It is not something that our sin stirs up in God, it is not an emotion or a passion, it is how God in His unchangeable goodness sees sin.   Therefore, when we speak of Christ’s death as appeasing God’s wrath, this too is analogous language.   We do not mean that Christ’s death effects a change in God so that His wrath is gone because that would mean that the immutable holiness, justice, and righteousness of God which reject and punish sin are gone, which would mean that God becomes less than perfectly Good, and this cannot be.   The language of appeasing God’s wrath is as analogous as the language of God’s wrath and it means that that which does the appeasing, Christ’s death, removes from us that which is the object of God’s wrath, our sin.   As long as we remember that the analogies and metaphors that we use to explain God in human terms have a point beyond which their literalness should not be pushed lest they cease to be helpful then there ought to be no problem with our using the various models – ransom, sacrifice, satisfaction, substitution, etc. – drawn from the very words of the New Testament to explain how God by becoming a Man and dying for us, saved us from the bondage of sin and death.


When it comes to confessing our faith in the Creed, however, it is sufficient that we confess the fact that Christ “suffered (for us) under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”.


(1)     This is why oratorios in which the text of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, scourging, and crucifixion are set to music are called Passions (J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion and St. John’s Passion are examples), plays in which these events are acted out are called Passion plays, and Mel Gibson titled his film depicting the events of Good Friday The Passion of the Christ.

(2)     In Anselm’s model it was God’s honour that was offended by sin.   In John Calvin’s model it was God’s justice.   In both versions of this model the Atonement works by satisfying God.    In Anselm’s model God, having been satisfied by Christ’s Atonement, forgiveness man rather than punishing man for offending Him.   In Calvin’s model God’s justice is satisfied because Christ took the punishment due man on man’s behalf.   Otherwise they are the same basic concept.  Contrary to what is often asserted against the Protestant model the idea of the Atonement as Christ taking man’s punishment for him was not invented new in the sixteenth century.   The language of substitution is found in the New Testament – St. Paul uses it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, St. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 2:24 – and even in the Old in Isaiah 53:6, as well as in all the most important Church Fathers.   Where Calvin’s model is susceptible to the charge of novelty is its explanation of substitution in strictly legal terms.   By contrast, none of the New Testament or Patristic references to Christ taking our punishment for us place it in the context of a cold, formal, legal transaction.   St. Paul’s reference in 2 Corinthians, for example, places it in the context of reconciliation.

(3)     Except perhaps those liberals who try to disguise their liberalism by limiting it to truths not affirmed in the Creeds.   The Creeds are not intended to be exhaustive and comprehensive statements of all Christian truth.   Rev. Austin Farrer explained well the difference between the sort of truths that made it into the Creeds and those that did not:   “Christians profess a creedal belief in God and resurrection to eternal life.  They do not profess such belief in the devil or in everlasting torment.   The doctrine of hell has certainly found a place in authoritative statements of Christian teaching; it has never formed part of a creed properly so called (the Athanasian creed is not a creed, whatever it may be).  Try the experiment of tacking on to the Apostles Creed or the Nicene ‘and in one devil, tempter and enemy of souls; and in damnation to hell everlasting.’   Now say the whole creed and see what it feels like.  I can promise you it will feel pretty queer; and the queerness will be due to a swapping of horses in midstream; you jump from one act of belief to a different sort of act, when you pass from the God-and-heaven clauses to the devil-and-hell clauses.  The belief which is expressed by creedal profession is a laying hold on the objects of belief; or still more, perhaps, a laying of ourselves open to be laid hold of by them.  But there is no question of our laying ourselves out to be laid hold of by hell or by Satan.  That cannot be the object of the exercise.  Christians may believe there is a hall.  They do not believe in hell as they believe in heaven.  For they do not put their faith in it.” (Saving Belief, 1964, pp.150-151).   Liberalism, as the term is used in religion rather than politics, is the unbelief generated by Modern rationalistic philosophy, crept into Churches and sects, disguised as an updated form of belief.   The classic example is the liberal who claims that he believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a sense, but that sense does not include Jesus’ body having been re-animated and leaving the tomb, thus the liberal’s “belief” is actually unbelief.  A more subtle form of liberalism is the kind that is careful not to contradict or redefine the Creed like this, but which feels free to reject anything and everything not included by the Creed, and which more specifically throws out or disregards all the most negative truths of Christianity like the devil and the sinfulness of man.   It would be difficult for someone who holds to this kind of liberalism to affirm the Christus Victor view of Christ’s saving work, however, because they have thrown out everything over which Christ could have been Victor.




Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Third Article – God Became Man

As we have seen in the first Article of the Creed we confess our faith in God the Father and in the second Article we confess our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.   We looked at how in the longer conciliar version of the Creed, the Nicene and Constantinopolitan Fathers took care to use such precise language with regards to the deity of the Son of God as to preclude any interpretation that would make His deity a lesser sort than that of the Father.   In the third Article of the Creed, which is our subject today, we confess our faith in the Incarnation, that God – more specifically God the Son – took human nature upon Himself and became a Man.


The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was published and revised in the two ecumenical Councils of the fourth century.   The primary heresy with which those Councils had to contend was Arianism which denied the co-equality and co-eternality of the Son with the Father and declared the Son to be a created being.    This was a heresy concerning the deity of Jesus Christ.   There were also heresies that concerned His humanity.    Docetism, for example, denied His humanity by denying that He had a physical human body and teaching that He had the mere appearance of one.   In the century that followed the century that gave us the conciliar Creed the foremost Christological heresies that the Church contended with pertained to the relationship between Christ’s deity and humanity.     Nestorius, who was Patriarch of Constantinople until he was condemned and deposed by the third ecumenical Council held in Ephesus in 431 AD, sought to settle a theological dispute older than himself pertaining to the use of the title Θεοτόκος in reference to the Virgin Mary.   This word means “God-bearer” and is more usually rendered “Mother of God” in English.   Some objected to the title on the grounds that Mary was not the source of Jesus’ divine nature but of His human nature.   This fact was not in dispute – nobody claimed that Mary was a divine being or that Jesus derived His deity from her – but the reasoning used to derive the objection to the title Θεοτόκος from it was problematic.   Nestorius, by seeking to mediate in the dispute, ended up lending his name to the side which rejected the title and to the problematic Christological doctrine that was formally condemned as the heresy Nestorianism.   The problem with Nestorianism was that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of Jesus, Who is a Person not a nature.   That Person, Jesus, is God.   Therefore Mary was the Mother of God.   Of course, Jesus Christ, God the Son, always was God from eternity past, and derives His deity through Eternal Generation from the Father and not from His Mother, but to object to the title on these grounds is to divide what was forever united in the Incarnation – deity and humanity in the One Person of Jesus.  


The condemnation of Nestorianism at Ephesus did not end the Christological disputes of the fifth century.   Indeed, it opened the door to a new heresy.   Eutyches, who had been a priest and monk under Nestorius in Constantinople where he was in charge of a monastery, strongly supported Cyril of Alexandria who presided over the condemnation of Nestorius at Ephesus.   He took Cyril’s position to an extreme, however, and taught that in the Incarnation the humanity of Jesus Christ was swallowed up in the ocean of His deity so that not only was He One Person but had only One nature as well.   This too was problematic because it was a denial of Christ’s true and full humanity and so twenty years after Nestorius was condemned and deposed Eutyches was himself condemned as a heretic at the fourth ecumenical Council at Chalcedon.   His heresy sometimes bears his name, Eutychianism, but is more commonly called Monophysitism.


In the Council of Chalcedon the Church did not more than just condemn Eutychianism.   It also issued a statement that positively affirmed what the orthodox Church did believe regarding the Person and Nature of Jesus Christ as opposed to both the heresies of Nestorianism and Eutychianism.   This statement is sometimes called the Chalcedonian Creed although since it was not intended as a revision of the Creed nor is it a full statement of the Faith but is rather a supplement to the Creed it is more properly and more usually called the Definition of Chalcedon.   It asserts that the Incarnate Jesus Christ is One Person, Who has Two Natures, and so that One Person is both fully and truly God and fully and truly Man.   (1)    As a positive affirmation of faith the Chalcedonian Definition has been more valuable than all the anathemas pronounced against the myriad of heresies that in one way or another take away from His deity, humanity, or unity of Person.   It came with a cost, however, in terms of the unity of the Church.   Six centuries before the Greek speaking and Latin speaking Churches followed the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Rome in mutually disfellowshipping the other, the Definition of Chalcedon produced a major and lasting break in Communion between the ancient Churches which confessed Christianity in accordance with the faith of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.   While most Churches affirmed the Chalcedonian Definition, four ancient Churches (2) rejected it because they thought the language of two Natures was too close to Nestorianism for their liking.  (3)  The Chalcedonian Churches have historically regarded these Churches as Monophysite although they have always maintained that they rejected the heresy of Eutyches.   Of themselves they say that they follow the faith as taught by St. Cyril of Alexandria, that the Incarnate Jesus Christ is One Person with One Nature but that this One Nature is such that He is fully Man as well as fully God, His deity and humanity being united into a single Nature in such a way that His humanity is not lost in His deity.   They call their position Miaphysitism.  In recent years dialogue has opened up between these and other Churches and the Chalcedonian Churches, especially the Eastern Orthodox have been more willing to take seriously their claim that their position is not the heresy condemned at Chalcedon.


It is the third Article of the Creed which asserts the truth the implications of which were debated in these fifth century controversies.


In the Apostles’ Creed the third Article is qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine which is rendered in the English of the Book of Common Prayer as “who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary”.   Grammatically, this is part of the same sentence that begins with the second Article and it begins a relative clause that continues through the seventh Article in Latin.  The English inserts a sentence break after the fourth Article but this does not affect the meaning in any way.   The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is, as usual, longer here than the Apostles’ Creed.   It asserts τὸν δι' ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα, which in the English of the Book of Common Prayer is “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;”.   Note that the English translation in saying that Jesus was “incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary” follows the Latin text which uses “ex” instead of “et” where the Greek text reads καὶ (“and”). 


We have already discussed how the conciliar Creed arose in a century in which theological controversy centered around the deity of Jesus Christ.   This focus can be detected in the different way in which the Creeds word this Article.  The Apostle’s Creed speaks of the Incarnation in terms of two events which are common to all descendants of Adam and Eve – conception and birth.   Thus, although these were miraculous and supernatural in that the conception was the work of the Holy Ghost and so Mary gave birth to Jesus as a Virgin, this wording emphasizes Jesus’ sharing fully in the human experience.   In the Nicene-Constantinopoltian version the same three Persons appear – the Holy Ghost, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Himself – but the events are condensed into a single word, the participle σαρκωθέντα which, with the meaning it has here, is hardly a word that is used of common human experience.  (4)    It means what John 1:14 means when it asserts that “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”.   This manner of speaking about the Incarnation throws the emphasis back upon the deity of the One Who was made flesh.   Note that it is an ancient custom in many Western Churches to genuflect both at this point in the recitation of the Creed and when John 1:14 is read in the reading of the Gospel.   Where the Nicene Creed stresses what God the Son became rather than what He always was is in the words καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα – “and was made man”.


In this Article the Nicene Creed states that Jesus “came down from heaven.”   This is, of course, something that can be inferred from the Creed’s declaration that Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God Who was made man, but clearly the conciliar Fathers thought it important to state it explicitly, as Jesus Himself did in His interview with Nicodemus (John 3:13).     When, later in the Article we affirm that Jesus “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man” we affirm the aspect of the Incarnation in which Jesus’ role was passive.   He “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary”.   In the wording of the Apostles’ Creed the passivity of Jesus in the Incarnation is particularly emphasized.    That people do not get an active choice in their own conception and birth is proverbial.   By saying that Jesus “came down from heaven”, however, we affirm another aspect of the Incarnation, one in which Jesus was indeed active.


The Gospel account of all that Jesus did for us has often been expressed in terms of a two-part journey.   In the first part, His Humiliation, He started at the highest place (Heaven) and went to the lowest place (Hell).   The second part of the journey, His Exultation, begins in the lowest place with His Triumphant entry into Hell as conquering Victor and ends with His return to the highest place in His Ascension back into Heaven.  Both Creeds include the Ascension in the sixth Article, as well as the most important things Jesus did on earth in both parts of the journey.      The beginning of the journey – His leaving Heaven to come down to earth – and the pivotal point where His Humiliation ends and His Exultation begins, do not appear together in the Creeds.   The one appears here in the third article of the conciliar Creed, the other appears in the fifth Article of the Apostles’ Creed.   The fullest picture of the Son of God’s entire Gospel journey, therefore, requires both Creeds.


In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed this Article – and the longer relative clause of which it is the start – begins by stating the purpose for which the Son of God became Incarnate and did all that He did.   It was “for us men and for our salvation”.   In Greek and Latin “us men” is “ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους” and “nos homines” respectively.   ἄνθρωπος and homo are the Greek and Latin words that mean “man” in the sense of “human being”, as opposed to ἀνήρ and vir which are the words that mean “man” in the sense of “male adult human being”, so all people are the intended beneficiaries and not just males, not that there has ever been much confusion about this contrary to what the politically correct advocates of “gender neutral language” would have you believe.   Salvation, like the Greek word it translates, basically means “deliverance”, i.e. from some sort of danger and “preservation”, with implications, depending upon the context, of health, well-being, safety, security, and freedom.   In a spiritual or religious context, it has a specialized meaning derived from these more basic meanings, of deliverance from sin, the curse that sin brought upon Creation, including the evils of death and hell.  


This part of the third Article is of particular importance because it shows that what we affirm in the Creed is the very Gospel itself.   That the historical facts of the Gospel are affirmed in the Creed is not in dispute.   The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which St. Paul declares to be the Gospel in the fifteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, are affirmed in the fourth and fifth Articles, and the Articles before these provide the necessary context to these events by affirming Who Jesus Christ is.   What makes the Gospel the Gospel - the Good News that Christians and the Church are to proclaim to the world – is that everything that Jesus did He did for our salvation.


The Article about the Incarnation was a very appropriate place to put this because it is the Incarnation that made everything else Jesus did for our salvation possible.   “For there is one God”, St. Paul wrote, “and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5).   Jesus could be such a mediator because He was both God and man.   Jesus saved us by dying for our sins.   He had to become man in order to do so, because God qua God cannot die, and because it having been man who sinned payment was required from man.   Only the sinless God-Man could be the Saviour.



 (1)    This is called the Hypostatic Union from the Greek word ὑπόστασις.   At one time this word was basically a synonym for οὐσία which means being, essence, or substance.   In the theological disputes leading up to and including those of the first four ecumenical Councils it took on a different meaning.   In the context of discussing the Trinity οὐσία was used for the way in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One, while ὑπόστασις came to be used to denote the way in which they are distinct from each other.   In the Christological context it denotes that of which the Incarnate Christ is One.   In English we use the word Person for this, from the Latin words persona that came to be used in the place of ὑπόστασις in Latin theological discussion.

(2)   These are the Coptic Orthodox Church, founded by St. Mark the Evangelist, the Syriac Orthodox Church which grew out of the Church of Antioch in the book of Acts, the Armenian Apostolic Church founded by the Apostles Bartholomew and Jude, and the Indian Orthodox Church which was established by St. Thomas.   There is also an Ethiopian Orthodox Church and an Eritrean Orthodox Church both of which belong to this type of Church – they are collectively called the Oriental Orthodox Churches – but these were part of the Coptic Orthodox Church at the time of the Chalcedonian Controversy.   The Ethiopian Orthodox Church became autocephalous when it was given its own Patriarch by the Coptic Pope in 1959.   In 1993 the Eritrean Orthodox Church, which up to that point had been part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, also became autocephalous with its own Patriarch.

(3)   Earlier, the ancient Assyrian-Persian Churches which like the Indian Orthodox Church trace their origins to St. Thomas, broke fellowship with the other ancient Churches over the Council of Ephesus which they condemned and canonized Nestorius as a saint.

(4)   The Greek verb σαρκόω means “to make flesh”.   Ordinarily this word was used for situations like when a smaller, weaker, person gets bigger and stronger or when flesh grows to fill in a wound.   In the Creed it is used with the very specialized meaning of a spiritual being having been given flesh.



Thursday, March 16, 2023

15 Minutes to Save the World?


The expression “15 minute city” is a little under ten years old.  It was about four to five years ago that it first began to circulate significantly and it really took off during the time when people everywhere proved themselves to be incredibly stupid by their willingness to submit to the all but total elimination of their most basic freedoms because of their naïve faith in medical experts who told them that they needed to stop living in order to avoid dying from the bogeyman of the bat flu.   Last month, however, 15 minute cities became big news as mainstream media outlet after mainstream media outlet began running op-ed pieces about how critics of the concept were engaged in “conspiracy theory”.  At the start of the last week in February I typed the words “15 minute cities” into Google and pressed the search button.   The top results, both on the news tab and the main Google page, were articles of this sort from sources like CNN, The Guardian, and even the Weather Network.  Indeed, the only one of the highlighted stories not to include the word “conspiracy” in the title was a piece from Bloomberg entitled “No, 15-Minute Cities Aren’t a Threat to Civil Liberties”, which, of course, was yet another denial of the “conspiracy theory” about 15 minute cities.   At the time I did this search these stories and many more were all fresh, having been released in the previous two days, most in the previous twenty four hours.   


Now, if someone wanted to convince people to take seriously the idea that there is some sort of nefarious international plot behind the latest buzzword expression in urban planning, one way to go about doing so would be to get the entire mainstream media to issue a denial in lockstep like this.  When media companies all begin saying the same thing like a horde of brainwashed cult members chanting a mantra it is usually best to consider the exact opposite of what they are saying to be the truth. Indeed, if people like our Prime Minister, that contemptible lowlife Captain Airhead and J. Brandon Magoo, that creep who gives off the strong impression of someone who wandered off from the geriatric ward of an asylum for the criminally insane only to find himself in the White House were to start using their state pulpits to denounce anyone opposed to 15 minute cities as fringe extremists we would know with a certainty from this the supporters of 15 minute cities are up to no good.


So what are 15 minute cities?   Are they part of a sinister plot to rob us of our freedom of motion and imprison us all within our own neighbourhoods?   Or is the idea behind them an innocent one, aimed at renewing neighbourhoods and reducing traffic congestion, upon which unfair suspicion has been thrown by the unsavoury associations of those promoting and defending it?


Back in the 1960’s the term “walkability” entered the vocabulary of those with an active interest in revitalizing big cities or at least hindering them from dropping to a lower circle of Dante’s abyss.   Making a city walkable meant making it as friendly and accessible to pedestrians as possible.    The opposite of walkability was urban planning aimed at maximizing the ease and speed with which one could get around a city by car which was one aspect of the “urban renewal” movement that had influenced much or most of the city planning of the previous few decades.  The 15 minute city is an adaptation of this concept of walkability or, to be more precise, a variation of an older adaptation the 20 minute city.  The basic idea of a 15 minute city is that of a city in which people have access to everything they would need on an ordinary day in their own neighbourhoods within a 15 minute walk or bicycle ride from where they live.   As with many ideas that generate heated controversies the heat comes more from the implications than from the basic concept.   If it were possible to transform a city into a 15 minute city where everyone has everything he needs within such a small radius from his home without in any way altering anything else about the city and the lives of its inhabitants this would undoubtedly be an improvement and a very good one at that.   If quality of life in a city were measured strictly in terms of convenience it would be an exponential improvement.  The problem is that it is not possible to transform a city in this way without making many other changes.   Since the advocates of 15 minute cities seem to be largely motivated by environmental concerns it would be appropriate here to cite Dr. Garrett Hardin’s First Law of Human Ecology “We can never do merely one thing.”   It is those other things that would need to be done to transform cities into 15 minute cities that have a lot of people’s dander up.


Take, for example, the plans for low traffic neighbourhoods which Oxford, the city in Oxfordshire, England that is home to Oxford University, recently announced its intention to implement on a trial basis starting next year.   A low traffic neighbourhood is a concept that is related to that of a 15 minute city and often promoted together with it, so much so that the two are sometimes mistaken as being synonymous with each other.  The difference is that a low traffic neighbourhood is designed to keep something out of the neighbourhood – traffic congestion due to through traffic – whereas a 15 minute city is designed to put something in the neighbourhood – the necessities of everyday life easily accessible by walking or cycling.  The Oxford city council has announced its intention, beginning next year, of dividing the city in to six districts and placing a limit of 100 on the number of times residents can drive from one district to the next, through certain routes between 7 am and 7 pm, to be enforced by licence-plate camera and fines.   Residents would be able – for a fee – to apply for an additional allotment of trips through the limited routes.


Now this does not amount to locking Oxford residents within their districts.   If Oxford goes ahead with this – and does not take it any further – Oxford residents will be able to pass between districts any time they wish and as many times as they wish if they do so on foot or by bike, and even by automobile if they take routes other than the more direct ones upon which the limits are being placed.   This whole thing does, however, give off too much of a vibe of a high-tech, updated, version of “show us your papers, comrade” and so it is not surprising that the Oxford announcement was met with a large and vehement protest, especially since people were already fed up with this sort of thing from the three years of public health emergency tyranny.  These measures do carry the potential for evolving into the permanent confinement of people within their own neighbourhoods through mission creep much like “14 days to flatten the curve” evolved into two and a half years of lockdowns, forced masking, and vaccine passports and mandates.   Indeed, not only do they have the potential for evolving in this direction there is a very high probability that they will do so.


One reason for this is because those who are promoting low traffic neighbourhoods based on the 15 city model are openly motivated by the goal of getting people to drive less.  When the earlier, more general, concept of walkability was conceived it was part of a response to several decades of urban planning based on utilitarian principles.   The kind of urban planning that involved houses, small businesses, parks and playgrounds, local schools, libraries, hospitals and the like being torn down, often through the means of entire city blocks being seized by governments and handed over to developers, to make way for large apartment complexes, office buildings, malls, and the like.   While large-scale urban planning on utilitarian principles went back to the nineteenth century, it had exploded around the middle of the twentieth century due to mas production’s having made motor vehicles increasingly available and affordable.   This factor also, of course, affected the way the designs of these planners as utility now included such things as parking lots and freeways.   A backlash against this sort of thing began in 1961 when Jane Jacobs published her The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which documented the negative side of “urban renewal”.   Jacobs did not just write about the subject but was also an activist who fought against this sort of urban planning both in New York where she lived when she wrote her book and Toronto where she moved about a decade later, in both cities fighting against the construction of freeways or expressways.   Among her criticisms of this kind of planning was that it was making cities into places for cars rather than for people.   Those who began to promote the concept of walkability owed much of their inspiration to Jacobs.   The promoters of the 15 minute city model would like us to think that they are following in these earlier footsteps and perhaps in a limited sense they are.   Their primary objection to automobiles, however, is very different.  


Jacobs and those whom she inspired in the 1960s objected to tearing down houses and digging up parks to make way for freeways and parking lots because these actions uprooted and dissolved communities and razed the neighbourhoods in which they had lived in order to replace these with dead, concrete, spaces made for machines rather than men.   The promoters of the 15 minute city model, such as Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, France, and her Columbian born advisor, Carlos Moreno, the professor at Sorbonne University who seems to be the one who came up with the concept, by contrast, don’t want people driving cars because they want to see a radical reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.   People like this think that the drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions they want is necessary to save the world.     People who think that the world is at stake are not people likely to accept or respect limitations on their efforts nor are they people likely to listen to reason coming from those who disagree with them. If, therefore, placing limits on the daytime use of high density routes fails to achieve a reduction in car use and simply diverts heavy traffic to other routes, the planners will be likely to revise the model – and keep revising it until they achieve their goal.   Such revisions will move the model closer and closer to something resembling people being permanently locked into their own neighbourhoods.


There is another difference between the original pushback against the large building/parking lot/freeway type of urban planning and the advocacy of the 15 minute city today which supports the conclusion that the concept is inherently flawed in such a way that its implementation, however, good the intentions of those behind it may be, would inevitably lead to urban life becoming more tightly controlled.    Prior to the invention and mass production of the automobile every city was a city in which every neighborhood had its local store, school, etc. so that there was no necessity for long daily commutes that were impractical before motorized transportation.   Transforming cities that were like this into cities where many if not most people live in one district, work in another, and do all their shopping in yet another and where the city’s infrastructure is designed to facilitate the fast motor vehicle transportation that makes such an arrangement feasible required city governments to expropriate private property and spend massive sums of money in imposing a redesign upon their cities dreamed up by engineers who had been given an unprecedented amount of centralized control over what their cities would look like.   In other words, the kind of urban transformation to which people like Jane Jacobs’ objected, in which older, traditional, more organic communities were bulldozed down and paved over to make way for concrete and asphalt edifices designed for machines rather than the people the machines were themselves built to serve, required government to insert itself far more actively and visibly in the everyday lives of urban inhabitants than it had before, which meant that this was a step away from a more free mode of life and towards a more controlled mode of life.  


Any serious attempt to transform a city into a 15 minute city would require a further step in the same direction.    This is because the model calls for all necessities to be available to people within a 15 minute walk or cycle ride from their home.   Obviously, if a city has to be transformed into a 15 minute city then these necessities are not already available this close.   Therefore, to remake a city according to this model would involve moving businesses and services into neighbourhoods that don’t already have them.  A government that wants a certain type of business in a neighbourhood has to do a lot more to achieve its goal than a government that wants to keep a certain kind of business out of a neighbourhood.  If a city, for example, does not want strip bars and casinos next to elementary schools, then all it has to do is pass a zoning restriction.   If, however, a city decides that it wants a bakery in a neighbourhood that does not have one, a simple change to zoning laws would not in itself accomplish this.  Somebody has to put the bakery in there.  Either the city would have to build and operate a bakery itself or, if it was dead set on having one, it would have to lure a private baker in with some sort of incentive.  A bakery is only one type of business.   To turn a city into a 15 minute city its government would have to do this not merely with bakeries but with every sort of business and service it deems essential, and in every neighbourhood.


While those promoting the 15 minute city model claim to be the heirs of Jane Jacobs they are in spirit far closer to the city planners she fought against in New York and Toronto.   As different as the two kinds of urban planners are in their attitude towards automobiles, they are united by a common belief that if you get the right urban engineers, with the right ideas, and sit them down together in a drawing room, they will be able to come up with a design for a city which if enacted would produce maximum happiness for the maximum number of the city’s inhabitants.   If, however, freedom is essential to human happiness, and it is, then this sort of thinking is counterproductive because it can only move cities in the direction of being more planned and less free.   Those who make pitches for the 15 minute city concept like to try and sell it to us as a restoration of an older, simpler, way of life.   That way of life, however, belonged to traditional communities which possessed at least one quality that was more conducive to happiness than that in modern cities and which cannot be reproduced artificially by planning.  That quality is that of being organic.   This is a quality that comes about in a community naturally, when families live together in the same place, working in the same businesses, shopping in the same stores, worshipping in the same churches, for several generations over the course of which a sense of social oneness grows.   This cannot be reproduced artificially by planning and attempts to do so will only produce ugly caricatures of natural, traditional, communities.


One does not have to speculate about sinister motives behind the 15 minute city concept – and without such speculation you do not have a “conspiracy theory” – to have serious misgivings about the idea.   Urban planning of this nature cannot recreate true organic communities, inevitably requires an increase in government control and a decrease in human freedom no matter how benign the motivation, and, being wedded to an environmentalist ideal of eliminating carbon emissions that has in recent years taken on the characteristics of a cult of fanatics is set on course to evolve into something far more unpleasant.   

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Dilbert Gets Downsized


Scott Adams began writing his comic strip Dilbert in 1989.   The strip quickly became popular but I was not a regular reader until it was in its tenth year.   Then on Thursday, 9 September, 1999 the first panel of the strip had Dilbert in the office of his Pointy-Haired Boss saying “I found some numbers that support your strategic plan”.   In the second panel he adds “I had to take the square root of a negative number to do it.”   In the final panel he says “The timeline is on this Mobius strip” which he hands to the Pointy-Haired Boss who responds by saying “Good work”.   I found this to be so hilarious that from that point on Dilbert,  Dogbert, all the assorted other –berts, Wally, Alice, the Pointy-Haired Boss, and company joined Garfield, Snoopy, and Dagwood on the list of characters to whom I would turn for a laugh every time a newspaper was before me.  


It appears that most newspaper readers are no longer going to be able to do this.   Over the last week hundreds of newspapers dropped Dilbert and over the weekend the syndicate that carried it dropped it as well.   Here in Winnipeg the strip had been carried by the Winnipeg Free Press which announced on Monday that it was dropping it thus removing the last remaining reason for anyone to ever again pick up a copy of that paper.  Of course with newspaper readership as low as it is pretty soon many of these newspapers are likely to be out of business while Dilbert will still be available to its fans online.   Indeed, I hope that not merely many but most or all of the newspapers that dropped Dilbert will soon be filing for bankruptcy.   Any newspaper that would drop Dilbert for the reason for which it has been dropped is, in my opinion, a rag its community would be better off without. 


The media mob that is gunning for Scott Adams has been crying “racist” over remarks he made on his podcast.   Now before looking at what he said and why it is being labelled “racist” a few words are in order about accusations of racism in general.  


When someone is accused of committing a crime we hold a trial in which he is given the opportunity to confront and cross-examine his accusers and to mount a defence.   The burden of proof is placed upon his accusers and the bar is set as high as it can go.   The prosecutor must establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.   If the prosecution fails to do so then the accused is entitled to an acquittal.   This is called the principle of the presumption of innocence – that someone accused is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.   This is an ancient principle going back at least as far as the Roman Empire.   While not universal it is the next thing to it, being affirmed in one form or another by all of the Abrahamic religions and being a keystone to the concept of justice embodied in the Common Law of the British Commonwealth and the United States.   It is an essential protection against those who would seek to turn the law into a weapon to destroy their personal enemies through making false accusations.


There has never been an equivalent to the principle of the presumption of innocence for non-criminal accusations. It had not been thought that one was necessary.  It was assumed that the worst things people could be accused of were crimes - murder, rape, robbery, etc. – and that therefore accusations of things that were non-crimes would be lesser accusations that would do less harm to the accused’s reputation than criminal accusations.   It was similarly assumed that the socially and culturally imposed consequences of doing things society frowned upon but which were not prohibited by criminal law would be less severe and damaging than the penalties inflicted by the courts upon law breakers.   These assumptions are far less valid today than they were decades or even just a few years ago.


In the last three quarters of a century progressive liberals have coined the terms “racism” and “racist” and convinced the public that “racism” is worse than the worst crime and that “racists” are worse than the worst criminals.   Through doing so, they have persuaded the public to be largely indifferent or approving of the way they treat people they accuse of being “racists”.    The way they treat accused “racists” is to utterly destroy them economically and socially.   Since the same progressive liberals have done everything in their power to strip the criminal justice system of any real teeth when it comes to punishing actual crimes this in effect makes the consequences of an accusation of “racism” far more damaging than the consequences of a criminal accusation.    Furthermore, they have managed to attach a presumption of guilt to accusations of “racism”.   By doing all of this, they have successfully bypassed the safeguards in our traditional justice system protecting people from those who seek to use the law and courts as weapons to destroy their enemies through false accusations by establishing an alternative way of destroying their enemies through accusations.   Indeed, they have been so successful at this that they have created a battery of similar weapon words with which to crush and destroy their enemies.


The anemic opposition to progressive liberalism that is mainstream “conservatism” has chosen a strategy of responding to this by trying to turn said accusations against their creators and saying that it is the progressive liberals who are the “real racists”.    The most that mainstream conservatives have been able to accomplish through this has been to score a few points against their opponents in academic debates.    What is desperately needed is for the opponents of progressive liberalism to abandon this form of the fallacy of tu quoque that affirms the very false presupposition that, having been instilled in the public mind, enable progressivism to weaponized words in this manner.   Instead they should be attacking those presuppositions, exposing this system of destroying people through weaponized words as being fundamentally unjust, and stripping words like “racist” of their power to destroy.


Let us now take a look at the accusations against Scott Adams.   In his Real Coffee with Scott Adams podcast he was commenting on the results of a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports.    The poll asked Americans whether “it’s okay to be white” and reported its findings by race.   The number of blacks that did not agree that “it’s okay be white” was just under 50%, and while these were divided almost equally among those who outright disagreed and those who were not sure, those who outright disagreed were the larger percentage, 26% as opposed to the 21% who were not certain.   Adams, in response to this said that while he had been identifying as black for years – this seems to be an ongoing joke about the translunacy that has engulfed Western culture since the apogynosis of Bruce Jenner – this poll had led him to reconsider this decision because it amounted to joining a hate group and advised whites that the best advice he could give them was to “get the hell away from black people”.


Those who have been denouncing Adams in print over the last week all seem to share the same defect in their ability to reason.  Everything Adams said was reasonable if the Rasmussen Reports poll and its results are taken at face value.   If you don’t agree with “it’s okay to be white” than you either think “it is not okay to be white” or “it might not be okay to be white”, the first of which translates into “whites should not exist” and the second into an openness to the idea that whites should not exist.   It is entirely fair to interpret someone’s saying that someone else should not exist as an expression of hate and it is also fair to interpret the expression of uncertainty as to whether someone should exist or not as expressing a weaker form of the same hate.   When a poll, therefore, tells us that such hate exists among 47% of a population it indicates that said population has a serious problem with hate.  Adam’s advice to the objects of this hate is actually quite moderate.   He advised them to get away from those who hate them, not to hate them back or launch some sort of preemptive hate strike against them. 


Adams’ denouncers, unsurprisingly, have taken the position that what one thinks of the expression "it's okay to be white” should be based upon who purportedly coined the phrase rather than what the phrase means.   According to self-appointed and self-important anti-“hate” watchdog groups, the slogan “It’s okay to be white” was coined by “neo-Nazis” and “white supremacists” on 4chan.   Therefore, according to these supposed experts, the right thing to do is to denounce the slogan because of the people who came up with it.   This way of thinking, applied by Adams’ denouncers to the Rasmussen poll, means that the 47% of blacks polled who did not agree with the statement were in the right because they were disagreeing with “white supremacists”.   This is ridiculous, however, for many reasons.   Whether or not we agree or disagree with a statement ought to be based on the truth or not of what the statement says not on who said it.   Statements that in terms of their content are true and good do not become otherwise through contamination by those who say them.   If it were otherwise, and “it’s okay to be white” were somehow contaminated by the white supremacy that those who coined it are accused of holding, then “black lives matter” is similarly contaminated by the looting and rioting and vandalism of the movement that coined it as its slogan and “every child matters” is contaminated with the Christophobia that spawned the arson and vandalism of almost seventy churches in the biggest hate crime spree in Canadian history.   Indeed, if the 47% of black respondents to the Rasmussen poll who did not agree with the statement “it’s okay to be white” are to be applauded because of the alleged origin of the statement then what does that say about the 53% of black respondents who agreed with it?


The Rasmussen poll did not ask people what they thought of the people who originally coined the phrase “it’s okay to be white”.   It did not even mention them.   Rather, it asked people whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.   Scott Adams took the poll at face value and rightly drew from it the conclusion that an alarmingly large number of black people openly express some degree of hate towards white people and that this is cause for concern on the part of those targeted by that hate.   His response to the poll was reasonable.   His accusers’ response to his podcast was not.   Unfortunately his accusers were many and powerful and so Dilbert will no longer be available in the comics section of most newspapers.   Once again the humourless, self-righteous, watchdogs of anti-racism will have robbed countless people of something that brought a smile to their face and mirth to their hearts.


As Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light would say:  Darn them all to Heck!