The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, October 27, 2023

Where the Hatred Comes From

Following the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel, in which the terrorist organization not only unleashed the predictable barrage of largely ineffective rockets on the Jewish state, but penetrated the barrier between Gaza and Israel with a large force that killed about 1500 people and took about 150 hostage, we were treated to the disgusting spectacle of progressives gathering en masse in cities and academic campuses around the West, not to protest these despicable acts, but to cheer them on.   This was immediately denounced as a display of anti-Semitism, mostly by neoconservatives many of whom called for such demonstrations to be banned.   While I don’t have much better an opinion of these demonstrators than the neocons have this call to criminalize the demonstrations is extremely foolish.    There is already too much suppression of the expression of thought and opinion, we do not need to add any more.   I don’t agree that this is an expression of anti-Semitism either.   This essay will explain why.


A discussion of this sort requires that we define anti-Semitism at some point so we might as well get that out of the way.   H. L. Mencken said that “an anti-Semite is someone who dislikes the Jews more than is absolutely necessary”.   That is amusing, at least to those who do not have a politically correct pole permanently lodged up their rectums, but not particularly helpful.   Joe Sobran said that “an anti-Semite used to be someone who didn’t like the Jews.   Now he is someone the Jews don’t like”.   This is more helpful as an explanation of the neoconservative use of the term than of what it really means.  


Most people, I suspect, use it to mean any dislike of the Jews for any reason.   The late rabbinical scholar, Jacob Neusner, objected to this promiscuous use of the term.   In an article entitled “Sorting Out Jew-Haters” that appeared in the March 1995 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture he gave this account of anti-Semitism:


According to anti-Semitism, Jews are a separate species within humanity, peculiarly wicked, responsible for the evil of the human condition. A political philosophy formulated in the world of late 19th-century Germany and Austria, anti- Semitism formed the ideological foundation of political parties and served as the basis for public policy. It provided an account of life and how the Jews corrupt it. It offered a history of Western civilization and how the Jews pervert it. It formulated a theory of the world’s future and how the Jews propose to conquer it. People make sense of the world lay appealing to anti-Semitism, and in World War II, millions of Germans willingly gave their lives for the realization of their country’s belief in an anti-Semitic ideal of national life and culture.


The term, he argued, should be reserved for Jew hatred of the type that fully meets this description, and to apply it to lesser prejudices trivializes it.


Now, you might be thinking that what we are seeing meets Neusner’s requirements to be called anti-Semitism.    The rallies that we have been talking about, after all, are not just in support of the Palestinian people, but of Hamas, the terrorist organization dedicated to the elimination of Israel, and of its actions on 7 October.    Why would anyone support such an organization and such behaviour unless their mind was in the grips of the sort of hatred described in the paragraph from Neusner’s article quoted above?


There are a couple of obvious problems with that way of thinking.  


The first is that if these progressives, academic and otherwise, were motivated by anti-Semitic hatred we would expect that their support for violent, murderous, organizations and their behaviour would be limited to Hamas and other similar groups.   This is not the case.   The progressive activist crowd has a long history of supporting violent, murderous, groups.   In the post-World War II era of the last century, for example, they supported every Communist group available from the Stalinists to the Maoists to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.   Communism killed 100 million people in the twentieth century.    Pol Pot’s group murdered about 2 million people, a quarter of the population of Cambodia.  Yet Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguistics professor who became the guru of the student activist wing of the left and who is regarded by most neoconservatives as a self-loathing Jew for his support of the Palestinians, decades ago was defending Pol Pot and claiming that the accounts of the “killing fields” were American propaganda.   My old friend Reaksa Himm, whose account of seeing his family slaughtered by these brutes and being left for dead himself, was published as The Tears of My Soul: He Survived Cambodia’s Killing Fields, His Family Didn’t, Could He Forgive? in 2003, would no doubt have a few things to say about that.   Then, of course, there are the countless progressive students who thought it “cool” to wear t-shirts or put posters up in their dorm room bearing the image of vile Communist terrorist and mass murderer Ernesto “Che” Guevara.   So, no, this sort of stupidity on the Left, is not all about the Jews.


The second problem is that even when progressive bile is directed towards Israel as it is in these pro-Hamas demonstrations it is not against Jews qua Jews.   There is an element of racial hatred in it but that racial hatred is not directed against Jews as distinct from everyone else.   It is directed against Jews as white people.    Some might object to that statement on the grounds that not all Jews are white, Jewishness being primarily a religious identity.   Others, including some Jews who hate whites and Christians and some whites who don’t like Jews, would make the polar opposite objection that in their opinion no Jews are white.   These wildly differing objections aside, my statement is nevertheless true.   The hatred the immature, idiotic, Left is displaying towards Israel is the same hatred they display towards all Western countries, i.e. countries that lay claim to the heritage of Greco-Roman, Christian, white European, civilization, and to the extent that there is a racial element it is that which is on display almost ubiquitously on university campuses in the form of the claim that “whiteness” is a cultural and civilizational cancer that must be “abolished”.   The language used against Israel is the same language used against Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and basically any country and society settled and built by Europeans as an extension of Western civilization.   The only difference is that in this case the settlers were Jews rather than Christians.


It is not therefore a case of anti-Semitism.   Anti-Semitism and its counterpart Zionism began around the same time in the nineteenth century.   Both were the result of “Enlightenment” philosophy’s war against God, revelation, religion and faith.  For centuries Christians and Jews had been at odds over a religious issue.   We, rightly, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.   They, wrongly, reject Jesus as the Christ.   This was not an insurmountable divide.   Any Jew could become a Christian by believing that Jesus is the Christ and being baptized into the Church.   The “Enlightenment” brought about a loss of faith on both sides but this did not eliminate the divide.   Instead, post-Christian Gentiles and secular Jews began to regard their division as being based on biological racial differences.   Division on this basis is insurmountable.   You cannot change your race.   At least, you couldn’t until the whole “I’m whatever gender, sex, race, species, I want to be” garbage started up in the last few years.   The expression of this idea of an insurmountable race divide was anti-Semitism on the part of post-Christian Gentile Europeans and Zionism on the part of secular Jews.   In the early days of both movements they supported each other.   Each believed that the racial differences between Jew and Gentile prevented them from living in peace together, therefore the solution was for them to live in peace apart.    Whatever else might be said about this way of thinking it is clear that the animosity directed towards the Jews of Israel on the part of the pro-Hamas progressive demonstrators is not this anti-Semitism.   It is based, indeed, on the very opposite concept – that the Jews are fundamentally one with other Western Europeans rather than being fundamentally divided from them by race or even religion.


Just in case you mistake this as an attempt to white-wash the progressives, let me assure you my intention is quite the reverse. The progressives’ anti-Israel position arises out of a far more pernicious attitude than mere anti-Semitism.   It arises out of the hatred that is at the very heart of leftism. 


The Left is the openly revolutionary form of liberalism.   Sometimes liberalism tries to hide its revolutionary nature behind a mask of reform, of working within the institutions of civilization to accomplish its goals, but when that mask is removed what you get is the Left.   The Left, therefore, is the true face of liberalism, and that face is one of revolution and sedition.   Liberalism is not a constructive force but a destructive force.  In its earliest recognizable form it began as an attack on Christendom or Christian civilization, the heir to classical Greco-Roman civilization.   Its first targets were kings who are the earthly political representatives of the King of Kings Who rules over all of Creation, and the Church, the corporate body of Jesus Christ in which His Incarnational presence is sacramentally continued after His Ascension to the right hand of the Father.   In attacking God’s earthly representation in this way liberalism revealed that its ultimate hatred is of God Himself.   Liberalism is essentially the earthly continuation of Satan’s revolt against God.   After attacking king and Church, liberalism launched its siege on every other tradition and institution of Christian civilization.   From what we have just seen about liberalism’s essential nature its hatred of civilization is entirely explicable.   Liberalism hates kings because they are the earthly representation of God’s Sovereign rule over Creation.   Liberalism hates the Church because the Church is the earthly representation of Christ’s priestly intercession in Heaven.   Liberalism hates civilization because civilization is the product of man as builder and it is in his capacity as builder that man most displays the image in which man was created, the image of God the Creator.


That is the hatred that is on display whenever the progressive Left blithers on and on about “colonialism” and “imperialism”.   Man, in his fallen estate, is incapable of building a perfect civilization.   Imperfect civilization, however, is better than no civilization at all.   The Left is no more capable of building a perfect civilization than the builders of the past it is always decrying, sometimes for their real sins but more often for new offences they just made up yesterday, and the Left is not interested in trying to build a perfect civilization.  It is only interested in tearing down the civilization others have built.   It claims to be speaking out for “victims”.   Sometimes the “victims” are people who have suffered actual harm in some way from civilization building.   Other times, they are merely those who have not shared equally in the benefits of civilization with others.   Either way, the Left’s idea that civilization must be razed, its history erased, and its builders “cancelled” and defamed is hardly the answer and in the support they are now showing for the despicable acts of murderous terrorists they show that their motivation is not genuine concern for those who have not fared as well from civilization as others, but a Satanic hatred of civilization builders, for representing, even in an imperfect way, the image of the Creator God.


That is a far more vile form of hatred than the extremely banal one of which the neoconservatives are accusing them.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Seed of Abraham

It is often thought that the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis which cover the primordial history of the world from Creation to the confusing of tongues and scattering of nations at the Tower of Babel depict God in relation to the whole of humanity but in the twelfth chapter a narrower focus on His relationship to a single nation begins.   On one level, this is true.   In the first chapter of Genesis we read the account of God creating the universe.   In the second we read the account of His creating our first parents and placing them in the Garden of Eden.   In the third we have the account of the Temptation in the Garden and the Fall of Man.   The fourth begins with the account of Cain and Abel, then introduces Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, from whom the line of descent that leads to Noah, which genealogy fills the whole of the fifth chapter, begins.  The account of how God sent the Great Deluge to destroy the primordial world for its wickedness, but preserved life, human and animal, through Noah and the ark, then after the Flood made a covenant with Noah and the human race that was to begin anew with him, takes up the sixth through the ninth chapters.   The tenth contains the genealogies of Japheth, Ham, and Shem, Noah’s three sons.   After the account of the scattering of the nations, the eleventh chapter concludes by extending Shem’s genealogy down to Terah and his family, including his son Abram.   The twelfth chapter begins with God’s call to Abram, the first stage in the establishment of His covenant with the man whose name He would change to Abraham.   Here is the account of that call:


Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:1-3)


In these verses we see that the apparent narrowing of the narrative to focus on one nation is not the entire story.   God does indeed promise Abram that He will “make of thee a great nation” and the narrative relating His doing just that fills the rest of the Torah or Pentateuch.   The concluding words of the promise to Abram, however, tell us that even here God was no less concerned with the whole world than He was in His earlier interactions with Adam and Noah and Nimrod’s construction crew.


There are some who interpret this passage so as to make everything that is promised to “thee”, Abram, a promise that applies to the “great nation” that God will make of Abram.   They further interpret the passage by saying that ancient national Israel has continued in the diaspora Jewish people to be reborn as a nation in the twentieth century, the present national state of Israel.   They then say that the promise to bless whoever blesses and curse whoever curses are promises to the Jewish people and the present state of Israel.   Translated into contemporary geopolitics this becomes the idea that we are required to support the state of Israel in all her conflicts or run the risk of incurring the curse of God.    Those who interpret the promise this way are obviously intent on persuading Christians to support Israel as the argument would not work with unbelievers.  It is most often heard, therefore, as part of a theological package known as “Christian Zionism”.


It is my intent in this essay to demonstrate that Christian Zionism is not compatible with the Christian orthodoxy of the New Testament.   First, however, I wish to show how this interpretation is not compatible with the Old Testament. 


One does not have to look outside the Book of Genesis itself to make this point.   Genesis makes it clear that the promises God makes to Abram/Abraham (1) do not descend automatically to all of his physical offspring.   Before Isaac was born to Sarah, she had arranged for Abram, as he was at the time, to sire a son, Ishmael, with her handmaid Hagar.   This takes place in the sixteenth chapter of Genesis.   In the twenty-first, after Isaac’s birth, when Sarah demands that Ishmael be driven out, God promises that of Ishmael He will make “a nation, because he is thy seed”, but that it is Isaac who will inherit the promises.   Later, after Sarah dies, Abraham remarries, and his second wife Keturah bears him six sons, but these do not co-inherit with Isaac any more than Ishmael does.   This is recorded in the twenty-fifth chapter, which also records Abraham’s death and burial, and the birth of Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau.   While they are still in the womb God tells Rebekah that they will become two nations which will strive with each other.   It is with the younger of the twins, Jacob, later renamed Israel, that God makes His Covenant and to Jacob that He confirms the promises that He made to Abraham.


Only one of Abraham’s literal sons inherited the promises.   Only one of Isaac’s literal sons inherited the promises.   Therefore, the promises are not automatically conferred by right of physical descent from Abraham.   Not even in the Old Testament.  


The events recorded in the remainder of the Torah/Pentateuch did not change this.  In the Book of Exodus, four centuries after the death of Joseph, the descendants of Israel (Jacob) had grown into an ethnos within Egypt, but their fortune had taken a turn for the worse since the days when Joseph was Pharaoh’s favourite and basically the Prime Minister of Egypt.   They were enslaved and cruel measures were taken by the Egyptians to hinder their growth.   Then God raised up a deliverer in the person of Moses, who had been born into the tribe of Levi but had been raised as an adopted member of the Egyptian royal family.   God sends Moses to speak to Pharaoh demanding the release of His people, and ultimately provokes, through a series of increasingly intense plagues, Pharaoh into driving the Israelites out of Egypt.  En route to the land of Canaan, promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses leads the people to Mt. Sinai, where God enters into a covenant with them as a nation.   This covenant, however, is not like the one God made with the Patriarchs.   Everything that God promised unconditionally to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which unconditional promises we have just seen did not automatically descend to Abraham and Isaac’s progeny by right of physical descent, were in the Mosaic Covenant promised to Jacob’s descendants as a collective people group, a nation, but on a very much conditional basis.   The condition was that they obeyed all of God’s Commandments.   If they did, they would enjoy the benefits of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   If they disobeyed, they would be punished with the opposite of those promises.  This is why this covenant is called the Law.   The remainder of the Old Testament demonstrates that they were unable to meet the requirements of the Law.   This is not because they were uniquely wicked.  No nation would have been able to meet those requirements.   That was not the point of the Law.   The Law demonstrated the need for a New Covenant that operated on a different basis from the Law.   That New Covenant was promised in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament in connection with the promises that God would send them a Saviour from the Davidic line Who, because He would inherit David’s throne, was called the Messiah, meaning “Anointed One”, i.e. king.   The promises of the Messiah expanded on a promise made to all of fallen mankind in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15) and so did not concern one nation alone.


Although his story is told in the New Testament, John the Baptist was the last prophet of the Old.   Yes, that sounds weird, I know.  It is helpful to remember that “Testament” means “Covenant” and can refer either to the Old and New Covenants qua Covenants or to the collections of sacred books in which these Covenants respectively predominate.   In both Testaments, in the sense of collections of books, the historical narrative begins prior to the establishment of the Covenant.   The Old Covenant was established at Mt. Sinai but this doesn’t occur in the narrative until the second book, Exodus.   The New Covenant was established at the Cross at the end of each of the Gospels.   In the earlier part of the Gospels, and the account of John the Baptist occurs at the beginning of each, the Old Covenant is still in effect.    That John the Baptist is the last prophet of the Old Testament, meaning the last prophet filling that office in the period before the New Covenant takes over, is what Jesus was talking about when He said “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” and “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matt. 11:11, 13).   It is also indicated by the fact that Jesus waited until John the Baptist had been imprisoned before He began His public ministry of proclaiming the “Kingdom of Heaven”, i.e., the promised Messianic Kingdom, “is at hand”, i.e., had arrived in the Person of Him, the promised Messiah.   It is significant therefore that John, as the last Old Testament prophet and, according to Jesus, the fulfilment of the prophecy that ends the canonical Old Testament in Malachi 4:5-6 (2), directly addressed the idea that biological descent from Abraham conveyed in itself the promises and blessings to Abraham when he warned the Sadducees and Pharisees:


And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Matt. 3:9)


We come now to the New Testament proper.   In the New Testament we find the substance of which the Old Testament was the shadow.   That which was concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New.   The New Testament makes it very clear how Abraham was made a blessing to all the families of the world, to whom the promises made to Abraham descend, and how.

In his epistle to the Churches of Galatia, the region of Asia Minor that had been settled by the Celtic Gauls in the 3rd Century BC, St. Paul discusses the same issue that was formally addressed by the Holy Catholic Church in the Council of Jerusalem recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.   This issue was whether or not Gentiles, that is, non-Jews, had to become Jews, by being circumcised and agreeing to keep the Mosaic Law with all its ceremonial restrictions, in order to be Christians.   That Gentiles could become Christians was established when St. Peter was sent to Cornelius the Centurion to preach the Gospel, after which he and his household believed, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they were baptized into the Church at St. Peter’s command.   In the ministry of SS. Paul and Barnabas, who were sent out on their first missionary journey shortly thereafter by the Church in Antioch, the Gentiles proved more receptive to the Gospel than the Jews and joined the Church in droves.   This led to the controversy about whether or not these Gentile converts should be circumcised and made to follow the Mosaic ceremonies.   The Council of Jerusalem after much testimony and deliberation ruled that the answer was no and sent out a letter to that effect.   St. Paul in his epistle went even further than the Council and pronounced an anathema upon those who were troubling the new Christians with their Judaizing claims. (3)


It is in the third chapter of his epistle that the Apostle incorporates into his case against the legalistic Judaizers arguments that also decisively demolish ideas that are key to the Christian Zionist position.   Here are the sixth through ninth verses of the chapter:


Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.


This passage begins with an allusion to Genesis 15:6, the same verse the Apostle similarly references in the epistle to the Romans, to make the identical point that righteousness before God, which cannot be attained by doing the good works required by the Law for the Law demands flawless obedience of which human sinners are incapable, is, on the basis of Grace, that is, favour freely given, credited to those who trust God for it.   That it is Jesus Christ Who made this possible, by providing His own flawless righteousness to meet the demands of the Law, and by paying for the sins of the world through His propitiatory death, is spelled out shortly after this passage in verse thirteen.   What makes this most relevant to our discussion is that here St. Paul makes a point of saying that it is those who share Abraham’s faith, and so are justified by faith like Abraham, who are the children of Abraham, and that these come from all nations (“the heathen”, here, like “the Gentiles”, means all the other nations of the world).   This is reiterated in verse fourteen.


It is at this point that St. Paul’s argument, already devastating to the Christian Zionist position, puts the final nail in its coffin.    In the fifteenth verse he says that covenants, even if they are only between men, once confirmed are neither added to nor annulled.  Then in the sixteenth verse he says this:


Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.


While it might seem to some that the Apostle is taking great liberty with his text here – there are a number of different verses this might be referencing but Gen. 17:7 is the most likely – St. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, provides God’s own interpretation of his earlier words.   Jesus is the Seed of Abraham.   St. Paul spells it out for us in black and white.   When, only a few verses earlier, he said that those who are “of faith”, that is to say, who have justifying faith like Abraham, are the children of Abraham, they are the children of Abraham because their faith unites them to Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham.   This is how justifying faith – or rather saving faith, because salvation in its entirety, justification, sanctification, glorification, positional and practical, is a gift received by faith – works.   It contributes nothing of its own, it receives what God gives us freely, and that which God gives us freely He gives us in Jesus.   When we receive Him by faith, we are united with Him into a corporate body of which He is Head, and we members.   Therefore, what He is in Himself, the Seed of Abraham, we who believe in Him are by virtue of being united with Him in His body.


Now, before I proceed to the rest of the chapter, I wish to make and emphasize the point that everything I just said is not something that is new with the New Testament.   Nobody in the Old Testament was saved by his works, much less by his race.   The Old Testament saints were saved by the Grace of God, received through faith, on account of the work of Jesus Christ as Saviour, just like New Testament saints.   The difference, of course, was that the faith of Old Testament saints looked forward to the Saviour that had been promised but with the dawn of the New Testament saving faith has looked back to the Saviour already given.   In the case of the Old Testament saints, salvation by Grace through faith worked through the anticipation of their union with Christ which union was fulfilled in the establishment of the New Covenant at the Cross and of the corporate Body of Christ on the first Whitsunday (the Christian Pentecost) as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts.   When the Church was born, the Old Testament saints, whom Jesus had taken to Heaven with Him after releasing them from the Kingdom of Death (Sheol/Hades) when He entered there as conqueror in the Harrowing of Hell, were brought fully into the union, becoming the first members of the Church Triumphant.  


Again,  even in the Old Testament, those who were the children of Abraham in the sense acknowledged by God, were so in anticipation of their union with the true Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, because they like Abraham looked forward to Him in faith, and not because of physical descent from Abraham.  


In the verses that follow after Galatians 3:16, St. Paul, elaborates on the significance of this.   The covenant that God made with Abraham and his Seed, he explains, a covenant based on His own freely given promises, i.e., Grace, precedes the Law.   Since the earlier covenant was confirmed in Christ, the Law which came latter cannot disannul it.  The Law, he explains, was a temporary measure, a schoolmaster or tutor assigned the duty of leading the heirs of the promise to Christ to be justified by faith, after which “we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (v. 25).  


What St. Paul says here is the opposite of what the Plymouth Brethren/Scofield Reference Bible/Dallas Theological Seminary school of dispensationalist theology teaches.   This is the theology that gave birth to Christian Zionism.   It teaches that the present Church Age in which Jewish and Gentile believers are one in Jesus Christ is a previously unknown parenthesis in God’s prophetic timeline and that when the Church Age is over the Church will be removed, the Age of Law will resume, and God will return to His real prophetic agenda which is all about national Israel.   St. Paul, however, makes it clear that the Law is the parenthesis in God’s timeline, and that God’s grand plan was always about His promises of blessing freely given in Grace in Jesus Christ to all who believe, regardless of ethnicity.   After telling us that with the coming of the faith of Christ the parenthetical period of Law the tutor is over he concludes his argument with the following:


For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (vv. 26-29)


Clearly, therefore, St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians precludes the Christian Zionist interpretation of Genesis 12 as requiring us to support the contemporary state of Israel in any and all conflict with her neighbours.   This would be so even if we were to accept what the Christian Zionists take for granted, i.e., that Jewish identity has not changed from the New Testament to our day.   We would be fools to accept any such thing, however, because that is plainly not the case.


Even in the Bible Jewish identity is not a constant.  Judah was the fourth son of Jacob, whose name became that of the tribe of his descendants from whom King David came, then later the name of the Southern Kingdom that remained loyal to the House of David after the schism of the Northern Kingdom which called itself after the whole of the nation, Israel.   Originally, the word that corresponds to our “Jew”, derived from “Judah”, referred to the subjects of the House of David in the Kingdom of Judah, but following the Babylonian exile it was expanded to include all ancient Israelites.   This is the meaning that carries over into the New Testament where for the most part it is synonymous with Hebrew or Israelite, although in the Gospel of John as the narrative progresses it takes on the narrower meaning of the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  


Shortly after the events recorded in the book of Acts and the writing of most of the books of the New Testament – all except those by St. John – an event took place which had been predicted by Jesus that radically altered the nature of Jewish identity.   To suppress a Jewish revolt, the Roman Empire sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, dispersed the Jews, and abolished their national identity as it was at the beginning of the first century.   With the destruction of their national identity, they were left with a religious identity.   Yet at the same time, and for the same reason, the religion which God had given Israel through Moses was no longer available to them.  Without the Temple, the sacrifices could no longer be offered.   The Levitical priesthood ceased to be the spiritual leaders of the people, even in the nominal sense that had lingered after the Herodian corruption of the priesthood.    The centre of Jewish worship shifted from the destroyed Temple to the synagogue and with it the spiritual leadership of Judaism shifted from the Levitical priesthood to the teachers of the synagogue.   These were the scribes, scholars, and lay teachers, mostly from the sect of Second Temple Judaism known as the Pharisees, who under the title rabbi became the new clergy of this new Judaism.  The rabbis were scholars not just of the Tanakh – what we call the Old Testament – but even more so the oral traditions that they would start to write down as the Mishnah which along with their own commentary on it, the Gemara, forms the Talmud.   The rabbis notoriously disagreed on almost everything, a fact to which the Talmud bears abundant witness.   On one thing, however, they agreed.   They agreed that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ. 


The New Testament is absolutely clear as to what that constitutes:


Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)


Christian Zionists, although they usually have a very elaborate concept of the Antichrist, shy away from applying this term to rabbinic Judaism even though it meets the New Testament definition of the word.   Many of them have no problem applying the label to a particular Christian bishop who, although guilty of exceeding his jurisdiction and perverting a number of doctrines, has not yet denied Jesus.  


Note that while rabbinic Judaism most definitely is antichrist by the scriptural definition of 1 John 2:22 this is not grounds for harbouring hatred towards individual adherents of this religion.   Our attitude towards them should be one of pity towards those bound by the shackles of false religion and of prayer that they would be enlightened by the Holy Ghost to see in Jesus the true Christ Who is their only salvation.   The same attitude, in other words, that we take towards the Mussulmen or adherents of any other false religion.


Judaism, both the Old Testament religion of Moses of which Christianity is the true spiritual heir, and the post-Temple rabbinic religion that also lays claim to being the heir of the Old Testament religion but which rejects the Christ Who is the fulfilment of the Old Testament, admits converts.   While post-Temple Judaism has not exactly been characterized by a zealous mission to convert the world, converts have not been unknown either.   Ironically, considering the absurd claim of many Christian Zionists that the Palestinians are the descendants of the enemies of Israel in the Old Testament, one group that was converted to Judaism in the second century BC was the Edomites.   A few of the better known stories in the Talmud feature Gentiles who go to Rabbis Hillel and Shammai, the two most prominent rabbis of the early first century, challenging them with questions and promising to convert if given a satisfactory answer.   In the eighth century AD the king of Khazaria, a Turkish realm in the southern part of what is now the Ukraine, asked Christianity, Islam, and Judaism to send representatives to explain the tenets of their religions, and in the end, converted to Judaism and made his entire kingdom convert with him.   In the twentieth century there were a number of celebrity conversions to Judaism – Marilyn Monroe, Ivanka Trump and Elizabeth Taylor to give just three examples.   This places the Christian Zionist in the absurd position of maintaining that Marilyn Monroe, in order to marry the playwright Arthur Miller whom she divorced five years later, obtained a God-given right to a portion of the Holy Land by converting to a religion that meets the Scriptural definition of antichrist for rejecting God’s Son as Christ.


None of this means that the opposite of Christian Zionism, the idea of those who insist that we are under some sort of obligation to support the Palestinians are right.   In my next essay, Lord willing, I shall discuss the masses cheering on Hamas, look at their infantile mentality, and show that it comes from a far more perverse source than the banal “anti-Semitism” the neo-conservatives have been mindlessly yammering about.


(1)   Genesis 12:1-3 contain just the first set of these promises, to which more are added later in the chapter in verse 7, then in verses 14-17 of the thirteenth chapter after Abram and Lot part ways, then in the fifteenth chapter in which God formally enters into covenant with Abram, then in the seventeenth chapter in which God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and promises that he will be “a father of many nations” (not just one), and that his wife Sarai, whose name is also changed to Sarah, will give birth to an heir despite their old age, and adds circumcision as the sacramental sign to the covenant between Him and Abraham, then again in the twenty-second chapter after God tests Abraham’s faith in the matter of the command to sacrifice Isaac

(2)   John’s own denial that he was Elijah (Jn. 1:21) does not contradict Jesus as it may seem.   John was addressing a party sent from Jerusalem that thought of Elijah in terms of the historical personage sent back to earth.   John was right to say that this is not who he was.   Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:14, affirming that John was the fulfilment of this prophecy, mean that this prophecy was not to be taken as literally as that.

(3)   The epistle was clearly written in the midst of the controversy.   Whether it was written before or after the Council, which took place towards the end of the fifth decade of the first century, cannot be determined with certainty, although the absence of reference to the Council might be taken as indicating that the epistle was written first.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Greatest Scam on Earth

As you are all most likely aware, the Israel-Palestinian conflict has flared up again.   Like clockwork, the apologists for both sides have come crawling out of the woodworks insisting that we all take sides.   Interestingly, this time around the apologists on each side are taking rather the same position with regards to the apologists of the other side that they insist the side they are cheering for in the Middle East take towards the other side, i.e., one of eradication and elimination.   The pro-Israel side is calling for the pro-Palestinian side to be silenced, their protests shut down, and their views criminalized.   Some on the pro-Israel side are capable of distinguishing between being pro-Palestinian, that is to say, someone who seeks to promote the basic human rights of the Palestinian Arab population, and being a supporter of the murderous terrorist organization Hamas, but it seems to me that they are outnumbered by those lacking this capacity.   To be fair, this same incapacity characterizes the other side as well.   On either side, it is most ugly in its manifestation.   The pro-Israelis who fail to make the distinction have come close to calling for all expressions of humanitarian concern for the Palestinians to be outlawed as hate.   They clearly have come dangerously unhinged because all rational, sensible, and decent people are categorically opposed to laws criminalizing hate qua hate.   The other side, however, has made it difficult not to sympathize with them to some degree in that they have been openly cheering on the most vile and despicable sorts of behaviour on the part of Hamas.


Two and a half years ago, in an essay entitled “The Holy Land Returns to the Old Normal” I gave an overview of the Israel-Palestine conflict, rebutted a few common fallacies concerning it, offered an explanation of where the insistence that we all take sides comes from, and answered that demand.   I do not intend to go over all of that material again, but I hope you will excuse my quoting myself here.  At the end of the essay I pointed out the obvious real nature of the relationship between the Israeli government and Hamas:


The most ill-kept secret of the Middle East is that Likud Israeli governments and Hamas each rely upon the other to maintain their popular support among their own people.   The Palestinians expect Hamas to keep on harassing Israel.   The Israelis expect their government to brutally punish the Palestinians.  Each, therefore, provides the other with the excuse to do what they need to do to play to their own crowds.   So we come to May of this year.   On the sixth the Palestinians hold a protest in East Jerusalem, on the seventh the Israelis crack down and storm the al-Aqsa mosque, on the tenth Hamas issues an ultimatum which Israel naturally ignores and the rockets start flying, on the eleventh the Israeli Air Force begin several days of bombing the hell out of Gaza.   On the twentieth, having given their fans the show they were looking for, Netanyahu and Hamas agree to a ceasefire.   Bada bing, bada boom, it is all over in a fortnight, mission accomplished, everyone is happy, high fives all around.   Too bad about all the people who had to die, but didn’t someone somewhere at sometime say something about an omelet and eggs?


There is no good reason to think that any of this has changed in the present situation.   Indeed, the current conflagration could be said to exemplify the point.   The actions of the Israeli government and Hamas both clearly serve the interests of the other.   Consider Hamas’ attack on 7 October.   On top of the usual barrage of rockets, Hamas breached Israel’s supposedly impenetrable barrier and almost 3000 of their agents entered Israel, attacked towns, kibbutzim (collective farms), and even a weekend music festival.  They murdered some 1500 people, and took about 150 hostages.   The murder victims and hostages were mostly Israeli citizens, although there were a few soldiers and a number of people from other countries who were in Israel in various capacities – workers, students, attendees of the music festival – among both the dead and hostages.    This was far better organized and co-ordinated than any previous Hamas attack and consequently far more lethal but it is difficult to see how it accomplished anything for Hamas other than the bloodshed itself.   It did, however, clearly serve a purpose of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu, who had been ousted as Prime Minister of Israel in June of 2021, was re-elected in December of last year on a hard-line platform and needed to at least appear to be making good on his promises.  Cracking down on Hamas is the easiest way of doing that and by carrying out an attack of this nature Hamas handed him an iron clad justification for doing so.   On a side note, whatever else you might say about Benjamin Netanyahu, his political longevity is something to be marvelled at.   I fully expect that sometime down the road we will be reading, a week or two after his funeral, that he has just won re-election as Prime Minister of Israel in a landslide.


Now some of you might be thinking “Aha, gotcha, there is a flaw in your argument.   Hamas’s actions might serve Netanyahu’s ends, but in retaliating the Israeli government will wipe them out so there is no reciprocal benefit, it is a one-way street this time around”.   This, however, very much remains to be seen.   So far, apart from the rhetoric, Israel’s retaliatory actions have consisted of the same sort of aerial bombardment with which they have responded to past Hamas attacks, albeit on a larger scale.   There has been talk of an imminent and massive ground incursion into Gaza for a week and a half now but if it ever materializes the IDF’s overwhelming military superiority does not guarantee Israel a quick and easy victory.   Ask the Americans.   Israel would be walking into the same sort of situation in which the United States found herself entangled in Vietnam and later Afghanistan.   This is a long term operation and the longer it drags on the more it is to Hamas’ favour, because the longer such a conflict stretches out, the less international public sympathy will be with Israel, and it is in the arena of international public opinion that Hamas fights all its true battles.


It sounds crazy but it is nevertheless true that every time Hamas attacks Israel it is with the intention of provoking a retaliatory attack.   The reason this seems crazy is because Israel is so much stronger than Hamas in terms of military might.   It conjures up the picture of a chihuahua getting in the face of a big bruiser of a bull dog and yipping away annoyingly until the larger dog barks or bites its head off.   One moral of the Old Testament account of David and Goliath, however, is that size isn’t everything.   In this case, Hamas wants Israel to attack back because every time Israel does far more Palestinian civilians are killed than Hamas agents, enabling Hamas to run to the international news media, the General Assembly of the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, humanitarian organizations, university professors and student activists, and basically every group of self-important jackasses with a lot of money and power and not enough brain cells to fill a thimble, and whine and cry about how mean old Israel has been beating on them again, after which these groups wag their fingers in Israel’s face saying shame on you, shame on you, and dump tons of money in humanitarian relief into Hamas controlled Palestinian territory, keeping Hamas solvent, and freeing up other resources with which to buy more rockets.


A great illustration of the Hamas strategy can be found in the 1959 film The Mouse That Roared.   In the movie, a small European country, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, has built its entire economy on a single export product, the wine Pinot Grand Fenwick.  When a California wine company produces a cheap knockoff, and the country is threatened with insolvency, Duchess Gloriana (Peter Sellers) and her Prime Minister, Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) hatch a scheme to attack the United States, lose, and then reap the rewards of losing to the United States, which pours plenty of money into rebuilding the countries it has defeated in war.   So they send the United States a declaration of war and then put their game warden, Tully (guess who), in charge of their small army of soldiers, mail-clad and armed with bows and arrows, and send him over.   The scheme goes awry when Tully accidentally wins the war – watch the movie to find out how.   The point of course, is that Hamas’ strategy is essentially that of Grand Fenwick.   It is a darker version that involves much more bloodshed including the sacrifice of large numbers of their own and the payoff is expected more from third parties than from the victorious attackee, but it is the same basic scam.


Israel is running a big scam too, of course.   In her case it is not the gullible “international community” that is the mark so much as the equally gullible United States of America.   Israel, which paid for the creation of Hamas – see my previous essay alluded to earlier – has long been the single largest recipient of American foreign aid, in part because the various pro-Israel lobby groups in the United States make the National Rifle Association look like rank amateurs in comparison, but also because Israel knows how to play on the United States’ national mythology by presenting herself as the only liberal democracy in her region, surrounded and besieged by anti-Semitic autocrats, just like those that the United States likes to imagine herself as having single-handedly defeated in the Second World War.   Of course there is some truth in that depiction.   When did you ever hear of a successful scam that consisted completely of falsehoods?


This is why it is best for the rest of the world to stay out of this conflict and refuse to give in to this demand that we pick sides.   Our involvement, whichever side we end up supporting, however well-intentioned, ends up facilitating the worst sort of behaviour of both sides.


We need to stop looking at the conflict in the Middle East through the lens of the “good guys” versus “bad guys” dichotomy, rooted in the heresy of Mani that has permeated Western popular culture through the pernicious influence of Hollywood movies and the comic book industry.   There are no “good guys” in this conflict although there are a lot of innocent victims, both Israeli and Palestinian Arab.


If someone were to point a gun to my head and demand that I choose sides I would chose Israel, although I would be sure to hold my nose while doing so.   Israel is a legitimate state, or at least the closest thing to a legitimate state that a modern democratic government without a king can be, which isn’t very close.   Hamas is a criminal organization of lawless thugs and murderers.   Israel has spent the last three quarters of a century trying to build up a civilized society for herself and her people.   Hamas are destroyers not builders.   I am a life-long Tory by instinct and as the late Sir Roger Scruton wisely put it “Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”   I will never side with those who only ever walk the easy path of destroying what others have labouriously built.   Not Year Zero, Cultural Maoist, groups like Black Lives Matter and Every Child Matters in North America. Not Hamas in the Middle East.   Finally, while both sides value the lives of civilians on the other side extremely cheap, there is a huge difference in that Hamas places no higher a value on the lives of their own civilians.   Indeed, Hamas arguably values the lives of civilian Palestinian Arabs less than Israel.   Hamas, when it attacks Israel, targets the civilian population, but prior to 7 October, its attacks have been largely ineffective.   It fires tons of rockets at Israel, almost all of which are taken down by the Iron Dome, and the few that make it past are not guaranteed to hit anything or anyone.   Its rocket launchers, however, Hamas deliberately places in residential neighbourhoods, mosques, hospitals, schools, and other similar locations where a retaliatory strike to take out the rocket launcher will have maximum civilian casualties.   The same is true of anything else Hamas has that would be considered a legitimate military target by the rules that most countries, nominally at least, support for the conduct of warfare.   Therefore, Israel must either stand there and allow herself to be attacked, the sort of thing someone whose soul has been killed and brain rotted from training in public relations and/or human resources might recommend, (1) or take out Hamas’ attack bases and in the process destroy the civilian and humanitarian infrastructure within which those bases are hid and kill the countless numbers of Palestinians that Hamas uses as human shields, handing Hamas plenty of ammunition in the form of bad press to use against her..


That having been said, the reasons for refusing the choice, for not taking sides are solid.   It is in the mutual interests of Israel and Hamas to keep this conflict going forever, but this is not in the interests of the civilians on both sides, nor is it in the interests of the rest of the world which both sides expect to pay for their lethal and destructive activities.   It is in the best interests of everybody, that the rest of the world refuse to be dragged into this any longer, and tell the two sides they both need to grow up.


I shall, Lord willing, follow up this essay with two others.   The first will demonstrate that the Christian Zionist position that we are required by the Scriptures to take Israel’s side in Middle-East conflicts is rank heresy.   The second will look at the neoconservative claim that the pro-Palestinian Left’s unhinged support of Hamas comes from anti-Semitism and demonstrate that it comes from a different source.


(1)   Contrary to what the Anabaptist heresy teaches, Jesus said nothing of this sort in Matthew 5:39.   This verse is best understood as forbidding revenge rather than self-defence but even if taken as forbidding self-defence it says nothing about how governments, responsible for the security of those they govern, are to act, as evident from the fact that before this section of the Sermon, Jesus gave a disclaimer that it is not to be taken as abrogating the Law.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Manitoba is now up the Creek, Without a Paddle, in a Leaky Kinew

 I have said before that I think we Canadians owe our Sovereign, now His Majesty Charles III, although when I made the remark originally it was our late Sovereign Lady of blessed memory, Elizabeth II, an apology for the incompetent, utterly corrupt, and insanely evil clown who, through our abuse of our voting privilege, has been Prime Minister of this Commonwealth Realm for the last eight years.   Now I would add that the Canadians of my province, Manitoba, owe a double apology for putting the only politician in the Dominion worse than Captain Airhead himself into the premier’s office, with a majority in the Legislature behind him.


When the evil New Democratic Party led by the execrable Wab Kinew won the provincial election on 3 October, I was disgusted but not surprised.   When Lee Harding of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a local think-tank here in Winnipeg, published a piece on 29 September calling for the re-election of the Progressive Conservatives, I could not agree with his title as much as I desired that outcome.   The title was “Manitoba PCs Deserve Another Mandate”.   No, they did not.   The reason for voting PC this election was not that they deserved it but that the alternative was much, much, worse.


The Progressive Conservatives, led by Brian Pallister, won the provincial election of 2016 and governed well enough in their first term that Harding’s title would have been true had he written his article in 2019.   That year they won re-election and at the annual New Year’s Levée hosted by the Lieutenant Governor I shook Pallister’s hand and congratulated him on his victory.   Within a few months of this, however, Pallister’s governance went south badly and I came to loathe the man.   In July of 2021, a short time before he resigned as PC leader and premier, I expressed this in these words:


Brian Pallister is an ignorant fool!

He’s a stupid, ugly, loser and he smells bad too!

His one and only virtue,

I hate to say it but it’s true,

His one and only virtue is –

He’s not Wab Kinew!



It was Pallister’s handling of the bat flu scare that had so soured me on his governance.   He had imposed a particularly harsh lockdown, had done so earlier than many other provinces, and had done so in an arrogant, in-your-face, manner.   Wab Kinew and the NDP criticized Pallister’s handling of the pandemic, but their criticism went entirely in the wrong direction.   They criticized Pallister for not imposing lockdowns sooner, not making them harsher, lifting them too early and this sort of thing.   They should have been criticizing Pallister for trampling all over the most basic rights and freedoms of Manitobans, that is to say our ancient Common Law rights and freedoms not the useless and empty guarantees of Pierre Trudeau’s Charter, and acting like there are no constitutional limits to the power of government in an emergency.   Their mishandling of the bat flu panic under Pallister is the reason the PC’s don’t deserve another mandate.   Kinew’s criticism of the same, which amounted to a demand that Pallister do more of what he was doing wrong, is one reason why the NDP do not deserve to replace the PC’s as government and are a much worse alternative.


It was not the botched job he made of the bat flu that ultimately brought about Pallister’s resignation as PC leader and premier at the beginning of September 2021.   This was 2021, and the crazy progressive leftists who dominate so much of the Canadian mainstream media, envious as always of their counterparts in the United States, decided that Canada needed her version of the George Floyd controversy that had been manufactured by the BLM Movement – the movement for whom the lives of American blacks matter the least because their target is the American police who protect American blacks from the violent crime that costs so many blacks their lives each year – and so jumped on the discovery of ground disturbances – and that was all that were discovered – on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which the band interpreted as the discovery of unmarked graves – not “mass graves” as falsely reported – and began claiming that this “proved” the version of the Indian Residential Schools narrative that defrocked United Church minister and conspiracy theorist Kevin Annett has been spouting since the 1990s, i.e., that children were murdered by the thousands in the schools and buried in secret graves.   Imagine if the mainstream media in the UK were to start reporting David Icke’s theory that the world is controlled by reptilian shapeshifters from outer space and you will have an approximation of the degree of departure from journalistic standards and integrity that was involved here.   Their claim has since been thoroughly debunked, which is why leftist politicians now want to criminalize debunking it, but it had its intended effect.   That summer saw the biggest wave of hate crimes in Canadian history as Church buildings – whether the Churches had any connection to the residential schools or not – were burned or otherwise vandalized all across the country.   On Dominion Day, Year Zero, Cultural Maoist terrorists, toppled the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.   No society can afford to tolerate this sort of violent, seditious, assault on her history and civilization and Brian Pallister appropriately condemned these acts.   In doing so he made positive statements about the previous generations of Canadians who settled and built the country and who are now constantly being defamed by progressive academics and journalists, in violation of the fifth and ninth commandments.   The provincial Indian chiefs decided to take offense at this – take offense is the operative phrase, as none was given, Pallister had not said anything about them, negative or otherwise – and demanded that Pallister apologize.  Pallister should have told them to go suck an egg and stood his ground.   Instead, about a month later, he cravenly gave them the apology they didn’t deserve, and in the event didn’t accept, and shortly thereafter resigned.


Kelvin Goertzen took over as interim party leader and premier until the party held its leadership vote on 30 October.   Now, I am not a fan of this method of choosing a party leader.   I think that it is far more consistent with our parliamentary form of government for the party caucus – the party’s sitting members in the House of Commons or provincial legislative assembly – to choose their leader, and that selling paid memberships in the party with a vote for the leader attached smacks of the American republican system.   I also dislike the way our elections, Dominion and provincial, are now treated by almost everyone as if we were directly voting for the prime minister or premier, rather than voting for our local representatives in a larger parliamentary assembly, for the same reason.   This is a consequence of being inundated with too much American culture in the form of television and movies.   That having been said, if the party leader is to be chosen this way, it should at least be open and honest.   That is precisely what the vote that put Heather Stefanson in as leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives and premier of the province was not.   Stefanson was the candidate supported by the sitting members – had the party chosen its leader according to my preferred method she would have still become leader.   She was also, however, the candidate that the backroom bosses of the party wanted as leader, and when they ultimately got their way their new leader had a huge cloud of suspicion of shenanigans over her head.   Stefanson won the leadership vote by a narrow margin – 51.1% over the 48.9% received by Shelly Glover, which looks even narrower in total vote count – 8, 405 for Stefanson, 8, 042 for Glover.   Glover, who had formerly been a member of the House of Commons representing St. Boniface, based her campaign in part on dissatisfaction with how Pallister, with whose government Stefanson had been associated, had handled the bat flu.   The party’s former CFO, Ken Lee, had also sought the leadership, in his case making opposition the Pallister lockdowns his sole issue, but his candidacy was disqualified for reasons that never really were made clear.   This looked shady, as did the fact that over 1200 members had not received their ballots in time to vote, and when Glover lost by such a narrow margin - less than 400 votes - she contested the outcome, but her challenge was quickly dismissed.    This had all the appearances of a backroom fix.


When this happened I realized that it would take a miracle for the Progressive Conservatives to win the next election.   You cannot treat your voting base this way and expect them to turn up in sufficient numbers to support you come election time.


It was apparent during the short election campaign, and the longer pre-campaign leading up to it, that Stefanson’s PCs were not remotely as committed to their winning the election as their enemies were to their being defeated.   I say enemies rather than opponents because it is not just their rivals in the legislature that I am talking about.


The unions have been determined to take down the PCs since pretty much the moment Brian Pallister became premier and have really stepped up their game in the last couple of years.   They have spent a fortune on billboard ads all over Winnipeg attacking the PC government.   Then there are the yard signs that began popping up like mushrooms all over the place long before the party campaign signs came out.   These couldn’t explicitly endorse candidate or party, but everyone knew what they were getting at.  The most common such signs were from the Manitoba Nurses Union and the Manitoba Teachers Society.  


Allied with these unions in their quest to bring down the PCs and put Kinew’s NDP into government, was the media, especially the CBC, which as Crown broadcaster by rights ought to be neutral, and the Winnipeg Free Press.     


These media, along with the Manitoba Nurses Union and the NDP, have been using health care as a club to bash the Progressive Conservatives with ever since Pallister, early in his premiership, indicated his disagreement with them that health care spending needs to keep going in one direction only, up, converted the Emergency Rooms at Seven Oaks and Victoria Hospitals in Winnipeg into urgent care centres, and closed the Concordia Hospital ER refocusing the hospital to transitional care for the elderly and those undergoing physical rehabilitation.   The PCs dropped the ball on this one.   They should have hammered back, just as hard, pointing out that the consultant’s report on whose recommendations they did this had been commissioned by the previous, NDP, government, and that at the same time they expanded the capacity of the three remaining ERs – Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface, and Grace.   They should also have emphasized that health care has usually fared much worse under NDP governments in rural ridings.   The ER in Vita, a rural community about an hour and a half south-east of Winnipeg, closed three years after Greg Selinger became premier.  Two years later it was still closed, with eighteen others along with it.    ERs in many other rural communities remained open, but on a basis somewhat like a multi-point parish, with the same doctor serving several ERs, being in the one the one day, another the next.   In the second last year of Gary Doer’s premiership, the ER in Virden, a rural community along the TransCanada Highway near the Saskatchewan border was temporarily closed, mercifully for only about half a year.   These examples are representative, not comprehensive, and while the rural doctor shortage is a chronic problem regardless of who is in government, rural areas always fare worse under the NDP.  Not coincidentally, these same areas rarely if at all vote NDP.   A rural ER closure, even a temporary one, is worse than an ER closure in Winnipeg, for while there are more people in Winnipeg, the transit time to the next ER, especially if the ER to close is one that serviced a very large area, like the one in Vita, is increased that much more in the country.


The media also found another club to bash the PC government with in the Indians’ demand that the Prairie Green Landfill be searched for the remains of two murdered women that the Winnipeg Police believe to have ended up there.   This demand was expressed in protests, blockades, and something that is probably best described as a riot, earlier this year.   Here again, Stefanson’s PCs shot themselves in the foot.   Not so much by refusing the demand – their grounds for doing so were sound, and certainly not the “racism” of which idiots accuse them – but by bringing the issue into the election campaign.   No matter how sound the case for not conducting this just under $200 million search of an area laced with toxins, there was no way Stefanson could argue her point without appearing heartless.  It would have been better to stay silent.


So, no, the Stefanson PC’s did not deserve another mandate.   The problem is that those who won deserved it even less.


Let me spell it out for you.   At the moment, people all across the Dominion of Canada are experiencing an affordability crisis.   The price of food has gone through the roof.   Many Canadians are skipping meals, many others are buying less healthy processed food than they otherwise would, because the prices at the grocery stores are too high.   At the same time rent is sky high and houses are selling at obscene prices.   Transportation is also that much more expensive.   Much of this is the direct consequence of bad action on the part of the Dominion government.   The price of gasoline has gone up considerably due to the carbon tax, which in turn increases the price of everything that needs to be transported using fuel.  The housing shortage is a direct consequence of Captain Airhead’s decision to use record immigration, with apologies to Bertolt Brecht, to elect a new people.   While Captain Airhead seems to think that food prices are high because of price fixing on the part of the big grocery chains, a notion he borrowed from the man propping his minority government up, federal NDP leader Jimmy Dhaliwal, the fact of the matter is that he has been spending like a drunken sailor since he got into office.   When governments spend more than they take in in revenue, this is not a contributing factor to inflation, it is inflation.   The extra they spend increases the supply of money, the means of exchange, which decreased the value of money per unit, and causes the price of everything else to rise relative to it.    When you spend the way Captain Airhead did over the last few years, paying people to stay home for long periods of time and not go to work – decreasing the production of goods and services and thus causing their cost in currency to go up – you increase inflation exponentially.   Manitoba just elected a premier who has the same sort of attitude towards spending as Captain Airhead.  


Last month, in the Million Person March, organized by Ottawa Muslim activist Kamel El-Cheik, but supported by many faith groups and people just concerned about the rights of parents, Canadians across the Dominion expressed what polls already had indicated to be the overwhelming majority opinion of Canadians – that schools should not be keeping parents out of the loop about what is going on in the classroom with their kids about gender identity and that sort of thing.   While leftists have tried to spin this as an alphabet soup issue, accusing those protesting of various sorts of hatred and bigotry, and spinning the reasonable insistence that teachers entrusted with the education of children report back to the parents who so entrusted them, as “forced outing”, they are being absurd.   There is a word for someone who tells kids to keep stuff having to do with sex a secret from their parents.   The policy that schools and school boards have been following in recent years seems tailor-made to accommodate such people.   Heather Stefanson had promised in her campaign to protect parental rights.   The promise would have been more credible had she introduced the legislation to do so earlier when the New Brunswick and Saskatchewan governments were doing so.   However, this much is clear, if someone wanted to protect perverts in the schools rather than the rights of parents, he would be cheering the outcome of this election.

The province already has a huge problem with drug abuse and related social evils.   The CBC reported in April that provincial Chief Medical Examiner had told them via e-mail that the number of drug-related deaths per year has "risen dramatically here in recent years" and that "the deaths are only the tip of the iceberg".   407 Manitobans died from overdoses in 2021, 372 the year previously, both record numbers.   It was at least 418 in 2022.    At least 228 involved fentanyl and/or related drugs.   The city of Winnipeg also saw the largest jump in crime severity of any Canadian city in the same period.   These two facts are not unrelated, nor is the size of the homelessness problem in Winnipeg.    The left, in recent years, has been obsessed with the "harms reduction" approach to this matter, an approach that tries to lower the number of deaths due to overdose and contamination by providing a "safe" supply of drugs and "safe" places to use them.   It is usually coupled with decriminalization or outright legalization of some or all narcotics.   This approach is concerned more with the effects of drugs on those who (ab)use them and less or not at all with the effects of drug abuse on the surrounding community.   It was tried by the NDP in Alberta in the premiership of Rachel Notley, and more dramatically in British Columbia, where the provincial NDP government introduced this approach on a provincial scale earlier at the beginning of this year, despite it having proven a failure when the city of Vancouver tried it, causing overdose deaths to rise.   The NDP are incapable of learning from their mistakes on matters such as these.   Expect Kinew to try and imitate BC's mistake, not avoid it and look elsewhere, like, for example, Singapore's "harm prevention" approach, for a successful model.    This problem is about to get much worse in Winnipeg and Manitoba.


It will not be long before we in Manitoba rue the outcome of this election.


Now we owe His Majesty a double apology, first for Captain Airhead in the Dominion Prime Minister’s Office, now for Captain Airhead’s doppleganger in the province of Manitoba.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Tiers of Truth: The Creed and the Reformation


In my last essay, I looked at how Hyper-Protestants, those who are not content merely with opposing the errors distinctive to Rome that the Magisterial Reformers, continental and English, rejected, but who also oppose at least in part the Catholic tradition that belongs to all the ancient Churches and not just Rome, elevate their position in disputes over doctrines that are at best tertiary, over both the first rank of Christian truths – the Catholic tradition, especially the essential core which is the faith confessed in the Creed – and the second rank, the truths for the clarification of which, the Protestant Reformation was fought.   In this essay we shall look at that second rank of Christian truths and see why, important as they are, they should not be treated as on the same level or higher, than the truths of the Creed.


It is common among conservative evangelicals today to say that the Reformation was fought over the Five Solae – Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide and Soli Deo Gloria.   In English these are respectively Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and To God Alone be the Glory.   Note that you will find these arranged in different orders and while Sola Scriptura is more often than not the first and Soli Deo Gloria is usually the last, there is no correct order.   That doesn’t mean that the order is irrelevant.   The reason Sola Scriptura usually appears first is because it identifies the authority claimed for the others.   The reason Soli Deo Gloria usually appears last is because it is a conclusion that inevitably follows from the others – if Christ is the only Saviour, and salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, then God alone gets the glory for it.   The order of the three others varies the most.   I have placed them in the order that I think makes the most sense as a sequence where each item follows logically from that which preceded it.   That there is no “correct” order is because it is absurd to think of a correct order to a formulation that was thought up in the twentieth century, and imposed upon the theology of the sixteenth century.


That the Five Solae are a twentieth century formulation imposed on the sixteenth century is one reason why I do not think it is the best way of looking at the truths the Reformers stood for.   If this were the only reason it would not be sufficient cause for looking for another formulation since the same thing could be said of any alternative.   There are, however, other reasons.


It was Reformed theologians who came up with the Five Solae formulation.   The Reformed tradition already has a five point formulation.   This formulation is the canons of the Synod of the Reformed Church that met in Dort from 1618-1619 to respond to the challenge of Arminianism, a form of theology that had developed within the Reformed Church as a reaction against the strong Predestinarianism of the Reformed tradition.   The Arminians had issued a five-point challenge to the Predestinarian position in their Articles of Remonstrance, published in 1610 shortly after the death of their teacher Arminius the previous year, and in the Canons of Dort the Reformed Church responded to these Articles point by point.   The Canons are one of the Three Points of Unity of the Reformed Church, are very strongly Predestinarian, and, slightly rearranged, are familiar as the Five Points of Calvinism, the TULIP – Total depravity (or inability), Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement (particular redemption), Irresistible Grace (effectual calling), and the Perseverance of the Saints.   Of these, the doctrine of Limited Atonement – that Jesus died only for those whom God had pre-selected for final salvation and not for the whole world contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture (1 John 2:2) and undermines the sixteenth century Reformation understanding of the Gospel as the objective assurance of salvation to all who believe it, an understanding retained in the Lutheran tradition, but in the sixteenth century taught by the Reformed Reformers as well, including John Calvin.   It undermines this understanding of the Gospel, because a message of “Good News’ that says “if you are lucky enough to be one of those God pre-selected for salvation then Jesus died for your sins” is considerably less assuring than “Jesus died for your sins”.   Indeed, it ultimately undermines the Law-Gospel distinction so important to Dr. Luther and Calvin in that having stripped the Gospel of its objective assurance, the believer must look elsewhere for assurance that he is one of the elect, and the Dortians have generally directed such seekers to look inward to the fruit of sanctification, i.e., their own works.   Since the Five Solae is a formulation drawn up by theologians within the Dortian tradition, influenced by their own Five Points of Dort, it looks like an attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to the paint the entire sixteenth century Reformation with the brush of the Dortian Reformed tradition.   The Reformed tradition is but one of the three major traditions to emerge from the Magisterial Reformation, one that was already more radical in the sixteenth century than either Lutheranism or Anglicanism, and which became that much more so, at least in regard to Predestinarianism with the Synod of Dort.   It is a mistake, therefore, in my opinion, to try and read the entire Reformation through a Dort-inspired lens.


It is also a red flag that the common word to all five is “sola” or “alone”.    The reason this is a red flag is that isolating a truth from other truths is the formula for generating a heresy.   A heresy is not a simple error.   A heresy is a truth that has been set apart – alone – from other truths and so emphasized that other truths end up denied.   Unitarianism and Sabellianism, for example, so separate and overemphasize the unity of God, that they deny that God is Three in Person.   The opposite heresy of this is Tritheism, which emphasizes the unique Personhood of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to the point of denying the unity of God and making the Three Persons into Three Gods.   Nestorianism emphasizes the distinction between Jesus’ two natures, His being fully God and fully Man, to the extent that it denies the unity of His Person by rejecting the Communicatio Idiomatum and asserting that something can be true of one of His natures that is not true of Him as a Person.   Monophysitism is the opposite heresy that emphasizes the unity of the Person of Jesus Christ to the point of denying the distinction between His natures and maintaining that His humanity was swallowed up into His divinity.   This is the nature of heresy, getting one truth alone, so that others are denied.   This is also why the opposite of one heresy is generally not the truth but another heresy.   Someone, recognizing that one heresy has denied an important truth, pushes back too far in asserting that truth, and in doing so rejects and denies the truth the original heresy had overemphasized.   A careful statement of truth, like the statement of the Hypostatic Union in the Definition of Chalcedon, avoids the heretical pitfalls of both extremes, in the case of Chalcedon the extremes of Nestorianism and Monophysitism.


This does not mean that the word “alone” always marks a truth that is in the process of being isolated into a heresy.   In the case of the Five Solae, each, if properly explained – and some need more explanation than others – is sound.   It does indicate, however, that a doctrinal statement in which each article is an “alone” statement is not the product of the same type of careful, precise, and contextual theological thought that went into the ancient Creeds and the Definition of Chalcedon.


Of the Five Solae, the one that requires the least by way of explanation is Solus Christus.   Jesus Christ is the only Saviour.   This is basically the same thing as what St. Peter said when addressing the high priests and Sanhedrin in Acts 4 he said “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (vs 12)   Or for that matter what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said when He told the Apostles after the Last Supper “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6)


Sola Fide requires Sola Gratia.    Sola Gratia is that salvation – the spiritual salvation that Jesus Christ, as the only Saviour, accomplished – is by the Grace, the freely given favour that is, of God alone.   Alone in this case means as opposed to “with the help of human works”.   The principle is spelled out in the fourth chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans where it is quite clearly, especially if the chapter is read in its own place in the context of the linear argument the Apostle makes in this book.  “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (vv. 4-5)   God’s saving favour is freely given to those who don’t deserve it.   It is not a reward to be earned but a free gift.   This is stressed repeatedly in the Pauline epistles.   It is only when this is first grasped that Sola Fide makes sense.    If God’s saving Grace is a gift freely given in Jesus Christ to those who do not deserve it (none of us deserve it – Rom 3:23) then how do those who do not deserve it and cannot earn it receive it?  By faith is the answer.   “Faith alone” means that faith is the sole means appointed to the sinner to appropriate the freely given Grace of God.   It is not an ontological statement about faith existing apart from repentance, Christian love, and the works Christian love produces in the heart and life of the believer nor is it a statement that faith is the “whole duty of man” or any such nonsense.  

While Sola Fide requires Sola Gratia and follows from Sola Gratia, and Sola Gratia follows from Solus Christus in that if Jesus, the Saviour God has given us, is the only Saviour, then salvation is a free gift by His Grace, Sola Fide then leads back to Solus Christus, for faith needs an object and that object is Jesus Christ the only Saviour.   Solus Christus in turn requires Sola Fide for if Jesus is our only Saviour and if He does all the saving without our assistance, the only thing left to us is to trust Him.


By contrast, Sola Scriptura requires the most by way of explanation.   If not carefully explained it can become the source of all sorts of bad doctrine and practice.   The Sola is the problem here.   Does it mean that the Scriptures are the only one of something like how Solus Christus means Jesus is the only Saviour?   Or does it mean that something is to be done by the Scriptures alone, like how Sola Fide means that the free gift of salvation is to be received by faith alone?   If it means that the Scriptures are the only one of something then what is that something?   Does it mean that the Scriptures are the only authority binding on Christians?   If that is what it means it contradicts those very same Scriptures.   Does it mean that the Scriptures as the written Word of God are the only earthly authority vested with infallibility?   This, I think, is much closer to the thinking of the Reformers, but let us consider the other possible interpretation of Sola.  If it means that something is to be done by the Scriptures alone, what is that something?   The answer that jumps to mind is prove and establish true doctrine but this raises yet another question.   Who is to prove and establish true doctrine by the Scriptures alone?   The Church or the private individual.   For Dr. Luther and the other sixteenth century Magisterial Reformers, the answer to this would have been the Church as the community of faith.  For the more radical Reformers – the continental Anabaptists, the English Puritans, the separatists and sectarians of various shades – the answer was the private individual.


If we take the idea that the Scriptures as the written Word of God are the only earthly authority that is infallible and the idea that the Church, not the private individual, is to prove and establish true doctrine by the Scriptures alone, these ideas together are a good picture of what the Reformers thought with regards to the Scriptures and what they were fighting for.   Personally, I don’t think the language of “Sola” or “Alone” is necessary to convey these ideas and that speaking of Scriptural Primacy or Supremacy accomplishes the job much better and without lending itself to the private interpretation view that gives birth to heresies, schisms, and enthusiasm of all sorts.  


Someone might object to this characterization of the Reformation position by claiming that Dr. Luther taught private interpretation.   This is not accurate.   Not entirely, at any rate.   Dr. Luther certainly did not practice private interpretation.   He did not ignore what previous generations of Christians going back to the Church Fathers had to say when interpreting the Bible.  Nor did he throw out the teaching authority of the Church and discard the Ecumenical Councils.  The Lutheran confessions contained in the Book of Concord are evidence of that.   What Dr. Luther did not admit to Church tradition, the Church Fathers, and the magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church) was a) infallibility and b) an authority over the Scriptures to impose a meaning upon them other than what is there in the text.   He did not admit either of these things to the individual Christian either.   He was fighting the false teachings of a Patriarch of Rome that had usurped jurisdictional authority over the entire Church, magisterial authority over the Scriptures themselves, and was already heading in the direction of Vatican I in which he would claim infallibility.   He knew that granting this same usurped authority to each individual Christian, thus in effect making each Christian his own pope, would multiply the problem not rectify it.   .Now, some apologists for the Roman Church might jump in here and say “Ha, gotcha, Luther said exactly that.   He said ‘In these matters of faith, to be sure, each Christian is for himself pope and church’”.   This is a quote that regularly pops up among Roman apologists when addressing Sola Scriptura but that was not what Dr. Luther was talking about.   These words originally appeared in the context of an extended discussion “Concerning Faith and Works” that appears in his Commentary on the Psalms, under Psalm XIV verse 1, in which Dr. Luther was talking about faith in Christ as opposed to faith in external ceremonies (formalism) and urging those who trusted in the outward works of ceremonies to cast such misplaced faith off.   In this context, these words do not mean that each Christian is “pope and church” when it comes to deciding what the Scriptures mean, but that when it comes to placing faith in Christ rather than externals, he, the Christian, should not wait approval from the Church hierarchy.


In other places Dr. Luther sometimes appears to affirm something like private interpretation when talking about the universal priesthood of all believers.   In the Western Church by the sixteenth century, an unhealthy gap between the clergy and the laity had developed.   It was widely thought, although not necessarily officially taught, that the priesthood and the laity were ontologically different classes within the Church, that the priesthood was assigned the active role of interpreting the Scriptures and sanctifying the people, especially through offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, and that the laity were assigned the passive role of believing whatever the priests told them and being sanctified by the Eucharistic sacrifice whether they partook of it Sacramentally or not.   Dr. Luther, rightly opposed this sort of thing, but in doing so, he incorrectly inferred from the universal priesthood of all members of the Church taught in the New Testament that Christ had not appointed a specific priesthood to lead His Church.   The inference is illogical – in the Old Covenant, all members of national Israel were said to be priests, but God also gave the nation the Levitical priesthood under the Aaronic high priesthood.   That the same was not true of the Church under the New Covenant, Dr. Luther and the other Reformers – except the English Reformers, and the Scandinavian Lutherans who departed from Dr. Luther in retaining the priesthood – argued on the basis of Christ having offered once and for all the one true Sacrifice, leaving the Church with only Christ’s High Priesthood and the universal priesthood.   This contradicts what the Apostle Paul said of his own ministry in Rom. 15:16.   The word translated “ministering” in this verse means “doing the work of a sacrificing priest”.   While the truth in the Reformation position was that Jesus by dying on the Cross for our sins and offering His blood in the Holy of Holies of the Heavenly Tabernacle once and for all accomplished the true Sacrifice to which the Old Testament slaying of animals on the altar and sprinkling their blood in the Holy of Holies pointed and any claim that a Christian priesthood is doing these things or anything analogous to them would indeed be blasphemous, the Reformers pressed the point way too far, because Jesus Christ’s One Sacrifice is clearly depicted in the New Testament as the food that sustains the everlasting spiritual life of the believer, and the Apostolic ministry as commissioned to make that Sacrifice available to believers through the means of the Sacrament.   The Apostolic ministry of the Church is, therefore, very much a “Christian priesthood”.   Of course, feeding the flock with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ’s One Sacrifice is not something that can be done by the priests for the people without the people participating in the Sacrament and under the New Covenant, the substance of which the Old Covenant was the shadow, the Apostolic priesthood is not there to do everything for the people, but to lead the people in being the “royal priesthood” that they are in Christ.   In the teaching ministry of the priesthood, which the Reformers rightly thought had come to be neglected in the period leading up to the Reformation, the priests teach the Word to the flock, so that the flock can in turn teach the Word to others.   It is in this sense, of the flock passing on what they have learned and teaching others, that Dr. Luther sometimes uses language similar to that of private interpretation.    That he did not mean that each individual Christian can and should decide for himself what the Bible means, disregarding what the Christian community, the Church, in all previous generations have thought it means, is evident in his vehement rejection of those who thought just that in his own day – the Anabaptists.


Again, “Scriptura Suprema” or “Prima Scriptura” better express the Reformers’ position than Sola Scriptura.   The Reformers’ point was not to deny any authority to tradition or the Church but that these authorities are not higher than that of the Scriptures.   The Scriptures’ authority must necessarily be the highest due to the difference in kind between Scriptural authority and the authority of tradition and the Church.   The Scriptures are the inspired, written, Word of God, which never changes.   Tradition, by contrast, is always changing, growing, and adapting.   This does not mean the inflexible Scriptures and flexible tradition are opposed to each other.   Each has the qualities best suited to its own kind of authority.   Being “written in stone” – literally in the case of the Ten Commandments – is the quality needed in an infallible, highest authority that has the final say over lower authorities.   It is not so desirable a quality in other types of authority.   This is illustrated in the Scriptures themselves.   The inflexibility of the Law of the Medes and Persians proved to be a roadblock to stopping the plot of Haman when it was uncovered in the book of Esther, although, thanks to the ingenuity of Mordecai, it was not an insurmountable roadblock.   Michael Oakeshott, speaking of the “Rationalist”, the person who has rejected all knowledge as knowledge except technical knowledge and replaced tradition with ideology, writes “And by some strange self-deception, he attributes to tradition (which, of course, is pre-eminently fluid) the rigidity and fixity of character which in fact belongs to ideological politics” (the title essay of Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, 1962).   Oakeshott, of course, was talking about political tradition rather than religious tradition, but fluidity is the nature of both types of tradition – I remember seeing a placard in the narthex of a Church in Toronto once that read “tradition is a moving target” – and this is tradition’s strength.   Tradition is an ongoing conversation between man who changes in his ever changing circumstances on the one hand and God Who never changes on the other hand, if it is religious tradition, the permanent things that reflect His character in the order of Creation – Goodness, Beauty, Truth – if is cultural or political tradition.   Tradition, therefore, needs to be fluid for the conversation not to become stagnant – reducing tradition to a rigid ideology is a bad thing – but it also needs an anchor to hold it to that which is immutable and good, and in the case of the Christian religious tradition this is the supreme authority of the infallible, written Word of God.


Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be the glory – is in itself, a pretty straightforward and unobjectionable concept but it can be and has been taken to some strange extremes.   In the context of the Five Solae it clearly means that God deserves all the credit for salvation.   As is evident from the arguments of those whose Nestorian claims I answered in my last two essays, some seem to take it to mean that nobody else should get any honour of any type for anything whatsoever, with one person thinking that the appropriate way to avoid giving Mary the kind of honour and glory due only to God, is to heap mud on her.   This, of course, is antiscriptural.   God will not share the honour and glory due to Him alone with anyone else, but is constantly bestowing other types of honour and glory on people.  


Another way in which Soli Deo Gloria is taken to an absurd extreme is in the reasoning behind Dortian Predestinarianism.   Remember what we have already said with regards to Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide, the trio of mutually interdependent affirmations regarding the freeness of the gift of salvation.  Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, He saves on the basis of freely given Grace and not on the basis of reward for works, and the only means whereby we receive this freely given Grace is faith.   Faith, as the means of receiving Grace, is distinguished from the means by which God brings the Grace that Christ obtained for us to us to be received.   The means by which God communicates Grace are two – the Word and the Sacraments – although both Word and Sacrament are forms of the Gospel, the message of the Good News of God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ.   God is the one Who communicates Grace to us through these means.   Faith, as the means by which we receive that Grace, is like a hand receiving a physical gift.  Under normal circumstances, nobody would think that someone’s stretching out his hand to receive a gift means that he deserves a share in the credit given to the giver for giving him the gift.   Indeed, under normal circumstances one would suspect anyone who suggested such a thing of being an idiot.   With regards to the gift of salvation, however, some think it appropriate to say that if the gift were given to all, with us left responsible to receive it by our faith, then this would mean that we get a share of God’s glory and credit and that this is unacceptable.   Well, let us humour such people, shall we, and consider the nature of the hand that receives the gift of salvation.   It is faith – believing something, trusting Someone.   With physical gifts and literal hands, the recipient makes a conscious act to stretch out the hand and take the gift.   It is an act of the will.   This is not the case with faith.   Nobody decides to believe anything, nobody decides to trust anyone.  I believe that Sir John A. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada.  This is not because I chose to believe this when I could have just as easily decided to believe that Timothy Eaton was the first Prime Minister of Canada.   I believe it because it was communicated to me by credible – literally “believable” from Latin credo, credere “to believe” – sources.   I trust the mechanic who changes the oil in my car.   I don’t do this because I choose to trust my mechanic when I could just as easily have trusted Ronald McDonald to do the job.   I do this because my mechanic has proven himself to be trustworthy.   That is how faith works.   Although the person with the faith is the one who does the believing or trusting in the active voice, faith is more fundamentally the passive result of the demonstrable credibility of the proposition believed, the person trusted.  What must be worded in the active voice when expressing the faith of a believer as a verb, is the passive of the act of “persuading” or “convincing” on the part of the object of faith.   So then, salvation is a gift, those who are saved don’t contribute to it but receive it, and the means by which they receive it is faith which even in other contexts doesn’t come from the person believing/trusting but from the persuading/convincing of the one believed/trusted.   Even this is not enough to secure Soli Deo Gloria for some people.   To these, unless you also say that the Gospel that God has given to all the world contains insufficient power in itself to bring anyone to faith but that God must also add to the Gospel a special work of irresistible grace that He gives only to a select few that He has chosen arbitrarily from eternity past, you have not sufficiently guarded the glory of God from being shared with the creature.


This sort of theology is the result, not only of taking the truth of Soli Deo Gloria to an unhealthy extreme, but of taking the Sovereignty of God to an unhealthy extreme as well.  Indeed, it often seems as if they think that the Sovereignty of God cannot be taken too far, but it most certainly can.   Consider what it is that is diminished or denied when the Sovereignty of God is taught in this way.   God as conceived in the theology of Dort may be bigger than how He is conceived in other theologies in terms of His Sovereignty.   He seems a lot smaller, however, in this theology by contrast with other theologies, in terms of His Love.    Which, His Love or His Sovereignty, does God so stress in the New Testament that He self-identifies with it?   This is not a hard question.  The answer can be found twice in the fourth chapter of 1 John, in the eighth and the sixteenth verse.   The answer is, of course, His Love.   Dortian theologians go to great lengths to twist the Scriptures so as to make God’s Love less extensive than a plain reading of the text would suggest.   St. John, after declaring “God is love” in the first of the just-mentioned verses, writes:


In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (vv. 9-10)


The Dortian points to the words “toward us” and “that we might live” and “he loved us” and “propitiation for our sins” to limit the object of God’s love to us, believers, God’s elect.   Earlier in the epistle St. John had written:


And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 Jn. 2:2)


Even here the Dortians try to avoid the obvious, that God’s Love extends not just to us, His Church, but to the whole world, that God provided a propitiatory Sacrifice in Christ for everybody.


To so stress God’s Sovereignty that you diminish His Love in this way does make your God bigger than other peoples’ God, or to put it more accurately, does not make God in your conception of Him bigger than in other people’s conceptions of Him.   It makes your conception of God smaller, much, much, smaller.


What is the term again for when someone stresses one truth to the point of denying another that is equally or in this case more important?   It starts with the letter h, I believe.


There is no need for this sort of thinking to defend the glory of God.   Monergism, that God is the sole Actor in salvation, does not require double predestination, a limited Atonement, or irresistible Grace.   Lutheranism is monergistic without any of these things.   In Lutheran theology, God is the sole Actor in salvation, and faith like the salvation it receives is a gift God gives man, but God gives saving faith to man through the resistible intermediate means of the Gospel.   Therefore, the Grace that produces the saving faith that receives Grace, is given to everybody in the Gospel, but it can be resisted and rejected, and man in his fallen estate is inclined by Original Sin to resist and reject.   If someone comes to saving faith it is because this universal, resistible, Grace has prevailed, and it is entirely God’s work.  If someone ultimately fails to come to saving faith, it is entirely on him, it is not due to any insufficiency in the Grace given by God.   You can trace God’s work in those who believe back to eternity past and call it Election and Predestination.   You cannot do the same for those who do not believe.   Again, their failure to believe is entirely on them.   This is a sound way of looking at monergism and predestination.    It is the Lutheran way of understanding these matters but it is consistent with our Anglican Articles of Religion as well and, for what it is worth, it is my own understanding of how this works.   Indeed, it is the only form of monergism consistent with the distinction between Law and Gospel, and the Reformation doctrine of the Gospel as objective assurance of salvation.   The Law describes for us the righteousness that God requires of us as His creatures and subjects and in so doing convicts us of our sin.   It is because of our sin that we need saving.   The Gospel tells us that God has given us the salvation we need freely in Jesus Christ and promises us that it is certain in Christ to all who believe.   The Gospel meets the need of those convicted of sin by the Law, whether unbelievers needing to receive salvation, or believers needing to be assured of their salvation in Christ.   It directs both to look outside themselves and find what they need in Jesus Christ.   That Dortian predestinarian theology compromises that is evident in how quickly the Calvinist tradition departed from Calvin and began directing Christians looking for assurance of salvation to the fruit of sanctification in their own lives, blurring the Law/Gospel distinction.


So then, having sifted the grain of Reformation truth from the chaff of post-Reformation Reformed theology that often obscures it, the question remains as to whether this grain – the Scriptures as the supreme, final, infallible authority that keeps tradition and the Church accountable, salvation as the free gift which God has given us in His Son, Our only Saviour, Jesus Christ, which we receive by the means of faith, and the Gospel, in both its forms, Word and Sacrament, as the message that brings that salvation to us and assures us of it, as distinct from the Law – is on the same level of Christian truth as the Articles of the Creed.


Here is the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed adapted by the universal, undivided, Church in the first two Ecumenical Councils, as translated by Thomas Cranmer for the Book of Common Prayer, with the spelling updated:


I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible, and invisible:

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Begotten of his Father before all Worlds, <God of God>, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: 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, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.

    And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father (and the Son), who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And I believe one
[Holy] Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of Sins, And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come. Amen. (1)


Those who would place the Reformation truths on the same level as those of this Creed, or even set them higher so as to write out of Christianity altogether the Church of Rome which confesses this Creed – and the Definition of Chalcedon and the Athanasian Symbol – and to assign it a place among the pagans or, more absurdly, identify it with the antichrist of eschatology (2),  are in effect saying is that it is less important to believe the truths of the Creed and trust the Saviour confessed in the Creed than it is to have a correct understanding of how the truths of the Creed fit into the order of salvation, the nature of their salvific benefits, and the mechanics of how one comes to believe.   I trust that you can see how ridiculous that is.


It is even more ludicrous when the broader historical perspective is taken into consideration.   Reformation soteriology depends upon an understanding of Christ’s saving work on the Cross that emphasizes the penal substitution aspect of the Atonement.   The Eastern Orthodox Church, which continues to place its emphasis where the Fathers of the first millennium did, on Christ as Victor (over Satan, sin, death, and Hell) in the Atonement, would point out how the emphasis on penal substitution in the Reformation understanding of the Atonement came about through theological development within the Roman Church after the Schism (St. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century, St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth, the Reformation in the sixteenth).   Protestant soteriology, from the Eastern perspective, is dependent upon the Roman Catholic understanding of the Atonement.


I will conclude by showing just how narrow the disagreement between Roman and Protestant soteriology actually is.   Let us leave aside popular folk theology.   Confessional Protestants would not want their soteriology defined by those who think that one goes to heaven by saying the sinner’s prayer once, neither should Roman soteriology be defined by those who think that outward adherence to the Church will mechanically convey salvation upon them even if they have to suffer thousands of years in Purgatory first.   Consider the following soteriological statements:


Salvation is a gift of God.


Jesus Christ is the Saviour Who accomplished salvation by dying for us on the Cross.


Salvation includes both justification, which makes us righteous, and sanctification, which makes us holy.  


Both justification and sanctification have positional and practical aspects.   Positional justification and sanctification are God’s regarding us as righteous and set apart for Himself (holy).   Practical justification and sanctification are God’s making us righteous and holy in a way that is visible to others in our works. (3)


Justification and sanctification, in both their positional and practical aspects, are effected through our union with Jesus Christ.   Christians are united to Jesus Christ in His body the Church of which He is the Head.   Through this union, His death is our death, cancelling our sin debt as fully paid, and His righteousness is our righteousness, making us righteous and holy in Him in God’s eyes, and through this same union, His resurrection life is our new life, and He indwells us through the Holy Ghost to make His righteousness and holiness a lived reality in our lives.


Are these statements of Roman or Protestant soteriology?


They are statements that both sides affirm.   Where they differ is that Roman Church makes ongoing and final positional justification dependent upon the outworking of practical justification.   Both assert that practical justification occurs in all who receive positional justification.  Rome sees practical justification as contributing to positional justification after initial justification.   We see this as an error because practical justification is never completed in this life, the fruits of practical justification are therefore never perfect, and neither is therefore worthy of contributing to our standing before God, which is perfect from the moment we are joined to Christ, because it is our standing in Him.


Is this difference sufficient to justify writing a Church that confesses Jesus Christ in the faith confessed in the Nicene Creed out of Christianity?


Those who would say yes would maintain that the Roman Church has fallen into the error of Galatianism upon which St. Paul pronounced anathema in the Bible.   Galatianism was the error of the false teachers that had come to the Church in Galatia and told this primarily Gentile Church that they needed to become Jews – specifically to be circumcised and keep the ceremonial parts of the Mosaic Law – in order to be (ultimately) saved.  While Rome’s error bears some similarity to this – and Rome’s foolish decision to anathematize the Protestant position in the Council of Trent invites this retaliatory accusation – there are also huge differences.   The works, as the outcome of practical justification, that they see as contributing to ongoing and final justification, are not the ceremonial works of the Mosaic Law, but moral works of benevolence to others produced by the Christian love that the Holy Ghost works in the Christian’s heart through faith.   Think of the sort of works brought up in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in the Olivet Discourse in St. Matthew’s Gospel.   I think that Rome is wrong to say that these contribute to the positional righteousness that is already perfect in Christ.   I don’t think that they are so wrong as to fall under St. Paul’s anathema in Galatians, however.


That neither side should have been so quick to issue the kind of condemnations each leveled against the other seems the only reasonable conclusion from the fact that the New Testament contains both the epistle of Romans and the epistle of James.   That the two epistles don’t contradict each other, all orthodox Christians must accept.   The question is one of how we understand them to relate to each other.   The Roman position is what you get when you say that St. James interprets St. Paul.   The Protestant position is what you get when you say that St. Paul interprets St. James.


Although one of our great orthodox Churchman, George Bull, the seventeenth century Bishop of St. David’s, argued the opposite in his Harmonia Apostolica, I think that St. Paul as the interpreter of St. James is the obviously correct position.   The Jacobean epistle is widely thought to have been the first book of the New Testament to have been written – Bishop Bull disagreed with this - and to have been composed very early.   Romans, although it appears first in the Pauline corpus in the usual order of publication in the New Testament, was the last of St. Paul’s epistles other than the Prison and Pastoral Epistles to be written.   It was composed while St. Paul was about to set out on the journey to Jerusalem that led to his arrest.   This would be in the late ‘50s.   While many of the same words – save, justify, faith, works – are found in both Romans 4 and James 2, one prominent word from Romans 4 is conspicuously missing in James 2.   That word is Grace.   That would suggest that St. James is not talking about justification by Grace, a conclusion that is supported by the fact that the word translated “only” in our Authorized Bible in the twenty fourth verse of James 2 is an adverb not an adjective, modifying “justified” not “faith”, and so the verse is talking about two justifications, one by faith and another by works, and not a single justification by both faith and works.   Finally, St. Paul includes a verse in Romans 4, the second verse of the chapter, that can be read as an affirmation and explanation of James.   No verse similarly explaining Romans can be found in St. James’ epistle.   If Romans 4:2 is St. Paul explaining St. James, then St. James is not talking about justification by Grace before God when he says that there is a justification by works as well as a justification by faith.


The Protestant view of justification – actually of salvation, for all of salvation, justification, sanctification, glorification, is a gift, given to us in Jesus Christ, brought to us in the Gospel, Word and Sacrament, and received by us by faith, with works coming out of salvation as its fruit, not contributing to it – is then the Scriptural and correct one.   This is not grounds to exclude ancient Churches that confess Jesus Christ in the articles of the Nicene Creed from Christianity.   As the Irish Anglican, Edmund Burke, put it in his Reflections on the Revolution in France:


Violently condemning neither the Greek nor the Armenian, nor, since heats are subsided, the Roman system of religion, we prefer the Protestant: not because we think it has less of the Christian religion in it, but because, in our judgment, it has more. We are Protestants, not from indifference, but from zeal.


The disagreement between Protestantism and Rome is a disagreement about the relationship between faith and works, the Creed is the faith.  The truths in the Creed, remain the core of the first tier of Christian truth.   The Reformation truths are important, but secondary.   Making them out to be as important as the truths of the Creed is the first step down the dangerous path of Hyper-Protestantism.


The best answer to Rome on the matter of salvation and justification was given by Archbishop Laud in his A Relation of the Conference Between William Laud, Late Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Fisher the Jesuit, By the Command of King James.   The Anglican primate of the reign of Charles I quoted Roman apologist Cardinal Bellarmine as having written “that in regard of the uncertainty of our own righteousness, and of the danger of vainglory, tutissimum est, it is safest to repose our whole trust in the mercy and goodness of God” and commenting on these words said:


And surely, if there be one safer way than another, as he confesses there is, he is no wise man, that in a matter of so great moment will not betake himself to the safest way. And therefore even you yourselves in the point of condignity of merit, though you write it and preach it boisterously to the people, yet you are content to die, renouncing the condignity of all your own merits, and trust to Christ’s. Now surely, if you will not venture to die as you live, live and believe in time as you mean to die.


(1)   The words in <> were part of the Greek of the original Nicene Creed but were left out of the Greek of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan, the words in () translate the Latin filioque that is not in the Greek original and which is not accepted by the Eastern Church, and the word in [] was left out of the English for some reason, although it appears in both the Greek and Latin versions.   In the form published by the Councils, the confession was plural “we believe” but in liturgical use has been singular “I believe” even in the Greek , until in our own day liturgical revisionists decided to pluralize it again.

(2)   St. John writes “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” (1 Jn. 2:22).  Again he writes “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 Jn. 4:3).   You cannot deny that Jesus is the Christ or that Jesus Christ is come of the flesh and confess the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, and the Athanasian Symbol.   St. Paul writes “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor. 12:3)   Nobody, therefore, who claims to accept the Bible as the sole, infallible, authority, has any business to accuse the Roman Church or her Patriarch, of being “the antichrist”.   It does not matter that the Protestant Reformers used this language.   They were wrong.   As Protestants we have not replaced the error of papal infallibility with the error of the infallibility of the Reformers.   The Roman Church is a Christian Church that has erred, and the Roman Patriarch is a usurper of universal jurisdiction, which is a serious enough offense without bringing in accusations that are clearly unscriptural.   No, the Roman Patriarch’s usurpation does not make him “the man of sin” that St. Paul talks about II Thessalonians 2:3-10.   The Roman Patriarch has not declared himself to be God – not even when he falsely declared himself infallible in Vatican I.   Nor, if John 5:43 is as it is widely understood to be, a reference to the Man of Sin, has he been received as Messiah by those who reject Jesus Christ as Messiah.   Indeed, it is ludicrous to suggest that someone who confesses Jesus as Christ, and who leads a Church that confesses Jesus as Christ, would himself be accepted as Christ by those who reject Jesus as Christ.   Note that those who reject Jesus as their Messiah are not usually very fond of the Patriarch of Rome.

(3)  Theologians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, often use justification to mean the positional standing of the Christian and sanctification to mean the ongoing practical work of transformation in the Christian life.   My wording in the text of this essay, is more precisely accurate.  Righteousness and holiness are not the same thing.   There are positional and practical aspects to both justification and sanctification.