The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, April 25, 2024



If you have read much of the theological works of the older school of Reformed theologians you have probably encountered numerous references to the sophistry of the Socinians.   These were the followers of the thought of Faustus Socinius and his uncle Lelio.  These were a pair of sixteenth century Italian Renaissance humanists who went much further than the Magisterial Reformers or even most of the Anabaptist radicals.   They rejected the basic Christian faith as confessed in the ancient Creeds and taught a form of unitarianism.


Faustus Socinius also formulated a set of basic arguments against the penal substitution theory of the Atonement that have been used by those who object to that theory ever since.   These are found in his De Jesu Christo Servatore (Of Jesus Christ the Saviour), first published in 1578.   The penal substitution theory is one of the theories that purport to explain how the Atonement works.   It is not itself, nor is any other such theory, de fide, that is to say, a basic tenet of the faith once delivered unto the saints.   That Jesus died for us and rose again, and by doing so rescued us from our plight as sinners helpless to save ourselves, is de fide.   While the Apostles’ Creed includes the basic historical facts of the Gospel without commenting on their larger meaning, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the standard of orthodoxy for the entire Church since her first two Ecumenical Councils, affirms that Jesus:


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.


That the entire Gospel history is of events done for our salvation is the import of the first italicized phrase, that His death by crucifixion was particularly so is the import of the second.  This basic fact is de fide, the various theories purporting to explain how it works are not.  


The penal substitution theory is that in the Atonement the guilt for our sins was transferred to Jesus, He took our punishment in our place, and His righteousness is on account of this transferred to us.   This was the understanding of the Atonement stressed by the Protestant Reformers and like all the other theories it is drawn from certain Scriptural texts.   The most obvious ones are 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”, 1 Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” and the verse in the Old Testament book of Isaiah to which St. Peter there alludes, Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”


It is not uncommon for those Catholics – by Catholics I mean those who profess the faith of the ancient Creeds, accept the conciliar interpretation of that faith as developed in the first millennium prior to the Great Schism, and who are part of a Church in organic descent from the Church in Jerusalem, rather than those who are in communion with the Patriarch of Rome – who reject the penal substitution theory to cite the Socinian arguments against them.  It is difficult not to suspect that the real issue these have with the theory is their dislike of the men who promulgated it in the sixteenth century.   Among Anglo-Catholics, for example, that is to say Catholics according to the above description who belong to Church of England, the broader Anglican Communion, or one of the various Anglican groups that are not in communion or full communion with the Church of England/Anglican Communion due to her apostasy into liberalism, acceptance of the Socinian arguments against penal substitution was far more common after the Oxford Movement of the 1830s than before.  This is likely explainable by a change in Anglo-Catholicism brought about the Oxford Movement.  Earlier Anglo-Catholics, like the Caroline Divines, had no problem regarding themselves as Protestant as well as Catholic and were not biased against the Reformers.  The Oxford Movement introduced a romantic view of Rome as the model that exemplifies Catholicism and with it came a more negative attitude towards the Protestant Reformers.  Ironically, by contrast with either Roman Catholics or Anglo-Catholics of the anti-Reformer type, the Catholics of the East, the Eastern Orthodox, are more likely to see penal substitution as the logical outcome of the development of Roman theology on the Atonement since the Schism.   Dr. Luther and John Calvin, in their view, merely took the satisfaction theory put forward by St. Anselm of Canterbury in Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Man?) and reframed it legal terms rather than those of the feudal honour system.  St. Thomas Aquinas in his discussion of satisfactory Atonement in his Summa Theologica had refused to so translate the theory, otherwise his version of the theory was scarcely distinguishable from that of the Reformers.


Whatever one’s view of the Protestant Reformers, or for that matter the penal substitution theory of the Atonement, those who confess the Catholic faith ought to think more carefully about using the Socinian arguments against penal substitution.  Faustus Socinius did not confess the Catholic faith and was a Unitarian.   His arguments are defensible within his framework.   They fall apart within the Catholic framework.


Take, for example, his moral argument against penal substitution.  This argument states that it is unjust to punish an innocent person for crimes he did not commit and unjust to acquit a guilty person, therefore penal substitution is doubly unjust.  This argument sounds pretty strong to a lot of people because in the vast majority of circumstances it is true that to punish an innocent person and let a guilty person off is an injustice.   It is not so strong when applied to the Atonement.   Not when we believe confess the Catholic faith of the ancient Creeds.   For according to the orthodox faith, Jesus Christ is both God and Man.   As the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, He is God of the same substance or essence with the Father, from eternity.   In time He became Man, “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God” as the Athanasian Symbol puts it.  So He became a real Man in time, and will be a Man eternally, but without ceasing to be God.   The significance of this is that He Himself is the One against Whom men’s offences have been committed.   If Person A were brought before a Judge and proven to be guilty of a crime it would indeed be an injustice if the Judge were to look into the gallery, see Person B sitting there, and declare that while Person A is guilty, he is sentencing Person B to pay for it.   It is an entirely different situation when the Judge, the Offended Party, and the Innocent who pays for the crime of the guilty – and voluntarily, I might add – are all the same Person.   This situation would never arise in a human court of law since, human imperfection being what it is, we do not generally allow a judge to rule on a case in which he is one of the parties, but no such objection can be made to the infinitely Perfect Being doing this.


Which brings us to Socinius’ forgiveness argument.  The penal substitution theory, he argued, depicts salvation as a cold courtroom transaction rather than a warm, loving act of forgiveness.   This, however, raises the question of what exactly forgiveness is.   If someone does you a harm and you forgive him this means that you abandon your right to retaliate and harm him back.  If you borrow a large sum from a bank and the bank forgives the loan that means that the bank has abandoned its right to demand repayment and you no longer owe the money.  Other examples could be endlessly multiplied, but in each one forgiveness has this common element – the offended party who forgives the offender absorbs the costs of the harm done.  Or to put it another way, the offender party pays for the harm done by the offender.  This is perhaps clearer in the example of the forgiven bank loan.   Therefore, for God to do what the penal substitution theory of the Atonement says He did, to take human nature Himself and become a Man, as the Party against whom man has offended with his sin, and to pay the penalty for the sins of the world Himself, is not contrary to the idea of God forgiving man but the very definition of forgiveness perfectly illustrated.


Socinius also argued that the penal substitutionary theory cannot be right because the penalty paid by Christ differs from the one exacted from sinners themselves if they reject His salvation.   While this might seem like a valid point it is so only superficially.  The penalty sinners pay if they reject the salvation obtained for them by Jesus Christ.  It is to be eternally barred from the Kingdom of God, and hence from the Beatific Vision, the highest Good for which they were created and for which their nature yearns even if they refuse to acknowledge it.   This punishment is what it is, however, not because it is the legal penalty incurred by their temporal sins in their short lifetimes.   It is what is, because to enter the Kingdom of God and attain the Beatific Vision, their character must become such in which all the spiritual as well as earthly virtues are perfected.   Someone whose character is less than that would make a Hell out of Heaven were he to be admitted.  To reject Jesus Christ is to reject the only way provided for a sinner to attain that perfection.   That is why those who do so face endless punishment.   While the Scriptures do not address the matter directly it can be inferred that those who enter the place of everlasting punishment do so unwilling even then to humble themselves, repent of their sins, and seek the forgiveness of God and remain unwilling forever.  God being infinite in mercy, if this were not so, their punishment would not be what it is.  This is what C. S. Lewis had in mind when in The Problem of Pain he wrote “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”  To pay the penalty for man’s sin so as to redeem him and restore him, Jesus Christ did not have to endure the endless suffering of those who forever reject His grace, although the case can be made that being infinite He was able to suffer in a limited time what the damned suffer in eternity.   He paid the penalty that was set for sin at Creation – death.   That He could pay that penalty for all people with a single death is, of course, due to His being both infinite God as well as perfect Man.


Another objection that one often hears that is somewhat similar to the last mentioned is that we still suffer and die.   If Jesus by His suffering and death paid the penalty for our sins why do we still suffer and die?   The answer to this is while suffering and death remain the consequences of sin in that we endure them as we never would had we never sinned they are no longer for us punishments for sin.   That Jesus has removed this aspect from death is the import of this famous passage of St. Paul’s towards the end of his discussion of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:


O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:55-57)


By taking our sin upon Himself and enduring death for us, He removed the sting of death, it is no longer for us a punishment for our sins.  This is why, for believers at least, death is often referred to as falling asleep in the New Testament.   It is temporary rather than the permanent second death to which the damned consign themselves in their rejection of Christ. “One short sleep past/we wake eternally/and death shall be no more/death thou shalt die” as John Donne put it.   More than this, by removing the penal aspect of suffering and death, Jesus Christ freed them up to serve higher purposes.   This is related to the Patristic concept that Jesus had to enter into every aspect of human existence in order to redeem it.  Against the heresy of Apollinaris of Laodicea, who taught that Jesus did not have a human nous or mind since He had no need of such being the Divine Logos, the Fathers declared that what Christ’s having a full human nature, including a human mind, was necessary for salvation.  As St. Gregory of Nazianzus famously put it, Το γαρ απρόσληπτον και αθεράπευτον, “that which is not taken up is not healed.”   Of course it is not merely the removal of the penal aspect of suffering and death that redeems them for higher purposes, the positive side to that is that Jesus by suffering and dying sanctified suffering and death.


This last point is an important one when it comes to approaching the Atonement of Christ.   There is a reason the Atonement is de fide but no one theory of it is.  No one theory can capture all that Jesus did for us in all of its many facets.   In the penal substitutionary theory the vicarious aspect of Christ’s death and sufferings, clearly present in the Scriptures but shamefully neglected in long periods of Christian history, was brought to the forefront.   It is, as we have seen in this essay, consistent with ancient faith.   It should not be regarded as the only facet of Christ’s saving work.   Nor should it be isolated from other Christian truths that provide the context in which it makes the most sense.   One obvious example is the corporate union of believers with Jesus Christ.   That believers are united to Jesus Christ is stressed in the New Testament.   This is why the Church is called the “body of Christ” in which He is the head and we members.  Viewed in the context of this truth, neither the substitutionary aspect Christ’s death nor the imputation of His righteousness can be regarded as the “legal fiction” that critics of these theories maintain them to be.  We become one with Christ and in this His death and righteousness become ours.   It is also through this union that we are gradually made to conform to Christ in our personal character is accomplished.   When we remember that it is through our union with Christ that His death and righteousness become ours and our eventual perfect conformity to His character is being accomplished by the Holy Ghost there is no need to fear that we have separated justification from sanctification.   That St. Paul in Romans 6 and Galatians 3 identifies baptism as the instrument through which the Holy Ghost accomplishes our union with Christ also provides necessary context.   A point on which the Protestant Reformers can legitimately be faulted is that they, probably unintentionally, helped usher in an era in which Christianity was increasingly interpreted through an individualistic lens.   That St. Paul made a point of identifying baptism through which one becomes a member of the visible, outward, community of the faithful that is the Church, as the means through which union with Christ is effected by the Holy Ghost in the very epistles in which he explains at length that faith rather than works is the means by which we personally appropriate the grace of God and salvation in all of its aspects, is important to remember.  Jesus Christ, despite evangelicalism’s insistence on the unbiblical phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” to summarize what it means to be a Christian, founded a faith community not a do-it-yourself, go-it-alone faith.


Friday, April 12, 2024

Captain Airhead Fesses Up, But Only Partially

Last week Captain Airhead made an interesting admission.   He was in Halifax announcing that the government was committing $6, 000, 000, 000 to a new housing and infrastructure development fund.   He was asked if the government would also be scaling back the immigration that has been making housing so unaffordable for Canadians.   In his answer he acknowledged that “over the past few years we’ve seen a massive spike in temporary immigration, whether it’s temporary foreign workers or whether it’s international students in particular that have grown at a rate far beyond what Canada has been able to absorb.”


Was this admission immediately followed by an apology to all the Canadians he has accused of racism for pointing out that immigration was too high before he was willing to admit it himself?


Yeah right.  In Captain Airhead’s dictionary racist is a word that always applies to his opponents even if they are at odds over something that has nothing to do with race, such as when he accused people who opposed mandatory vaccination of racism, and never applies to him even when he does something that he would regard as racist, perhaps extremely so, in anyone else, such as all those times he was photographed or caught on video in blackface.   Words that are used in this way are absolutely meaningless and it is imperative that all the rest of us recognize this and ignore these words entirely so as to rob scumbags like Captain Airhead of the ability to use them as weapons.


What Captain Airhead admitted to was, of course, only a part of a larger truth the rest of which he continues to deny.  Just before the admission he said the following: “It’s really important to understand the context around immigration. Every year we bring in about 450,000, now close to 500,000, permanent residents a year, and that is part of the necessary growth of Canada. It benefits our citizens, our communities, it benefits our economy.”


Captain Airhead, in other words, was trying to divide permanent from temporary immigration and to say that it is only temporary immigration has gotten out of control and is being conducted on an unsustainable scale.   This, however, is nonsense.


If we eliminate the distinction between permanent and temporary then the rest of what he said about immigration being necessary and benefiting our citizens, communities, and economy would have been true had he been talking about Canada in the first few decades after Confederation when the country was basically being built.   Immigration is, indeed, necessary to a country in the building phase in which the struggles to build a new country serve to sift out the temporary from the permanent immigrants. The immigrants who come to participate in the building of the country either succeed in making a life for themselves in the new country and so become permanent or they do not and go back from whence they came in which case they are only temporary.  


Canada is long past this building phase.   One of the most basic problems with the Liberal Party of Canada is that it has never been able to accept this.   The Liberal Party cannot claim credit for Confederation or for building the country in those early decades when there was a very real danger that Confederation would fail and the country in whole or in part would be swallowed up by the American republic if we did not get our basic national economic and transportation infrastructure built and communities established from sea to sea, thus requiring large scale immigration.   The Liberal Party has ever since been trying to re-create the country in its own image, which has always been derived from either the United States or some Communist hell hole depending upon whether it is someone like Mackenzie King or someone like the Trudeaus who is leading the Grits at the time.   This is one reason why the Liberal Party tends to think building phase immigration should be a permanent feature of the country.   For them Canada is always in the building phase because they are constantly reinventing it.  Lest it be thought that I am attributing this problem solely to the Grits allow me to point out that one of the biggest failures of the Conservatives in the two periods in which they governed at the Dominion level since American neoconservatism replaced traditional Toryism as the party’s basic philosophy – the period in which the late Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister and the period in which Stephen Harper was Prime Minister – they went out of their way to not provide a sensible alternative to the Liberal Party’s approach to immigration and arguably made the problem worse.   Nor are they particularly strong on this point today.   While I cannot support him because of his neoconservative republicanism I give Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party credit for being the only federal politician willing to talk sanely and sensibly about immigration today.


Am I saying that a country should shut down immigration altogether after the building phase?


No, that would be an extreme almost as silly and absurd as the one represented by the current status quo.


A country like Canada that is already built and established needs to determine its immigration level on a year to year basis, based upon the needs and circumstances of the country in the year in question.  The sort of arguments based on economic necessity that might have been valid in the building phase should not be retained to argue for a permanent immigration target and especially not for a target that is set at a record high.   However many immigrants a built country may need in a particular year, it will under any but the most extraordinary of circumstances be far less than what she needed per year in the building phase.   Such circumstances as economic recession, high unemployment, and a shortage of affordable housing call for a radical reduction in immigration – all types, permanent and temporary.  


If the government is claiming that taking in half a million permanent immigrants per year is necessary despite circumstances that clearly call for its reduction then either a) the government is lying,  b) the necessity is an artificial one created by other types of government mismanagement, or c) all of the above.   With regards to what those other types of government mismanagement might look like, suppose that the necessity lies in the size of the tax-paying population.   If high immigration targets are needed to have enough tax payers to keep the government solvent then a) massive deficit spending on a yearly basis, b) an anti-natal program consisting of legal abortion that is easily accessible up to the very end of the pregnancy, heavy promotion of alternatives to heterosexuality, and the like and c) trying to keep health-care costs down by offering euthanasia as the answer to every sort of ill, are among the types of government mismanagement that would artificially produce this necessity.  These are all policies of the present Liberal government that Captain Airhead has gone out of his way to mark as belonging to his particular brand.


What is needed is not a scapegoating of temporary immigrants for the problems created by bad government immigration policy but a radical reduction of immigration of all types.   At a more fundamental level there needs to be a questioning of the ideas that almost everyone in leadership in the state, church, academy and fourth estate have held or at least given lip service to for several decades causing them to stifle and squash all deviation and dissent from the liberal “the more the merrier” approach to immigration.   For example, one of those ideas appears to be that since diversity is a strength therefore more diversity makes us stronger and maximum diversity would make us the strongest we can possibly be.  The comparative and superlative in this line of reasoning may follow from the initial premise although the principle that things that are good in themselves may cease to be good when taken to excess would argue against this being necessarily so.  Moreover, the initial premise is far from being infallibly established.  “Diversity can be a strength” is a far more rationally defensible statement than “diversity is a strength.”

Friday, April 5, 2024

Christ is Still Victorious

J. Brandon Magoo, the decrepit old geezer who a few years ago under suspicious circumstances highly indicative of chicanery and perhaps a deal with Lucy the gender-confused devil, became the occupant of the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington DC that has surprisingly not been renamed in one of the fits of anti-white hysteria that have marked the acceleration of Western Civilization’s descent into the final stages of Spenglerian winter, declared 31 March to be “Transgender Day of Visibility.”  Exactly why he thought this segment of the alphabet soup gang the visibility of which proportionate to its representation in the public has become comically excessive in recent years, needed such a day, escapes me.   Perhaps it is indicative of his eyesight having become so bad with age that he cannot see what is right before his nose.   Lest anyone think I am unfairly picking upon our neighbours to the south who are twice unfortunate, first in being saddled with an ungodly republican form of government, and second in having Magoo as their president, I will point out that the twit who has led His Majesty’s government as prime minister for the last nine years is just as bad and doesn’t have the excuse of extreme old age.  At any rate, Magoo’s choice of date looks very much like it was intended as a kick at his country’s Christians.   For this year, the most important festival of celebration in the Christian Kalendar fell on 31 March.   That is the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the Christian Passover.   In most countries it is called Pascha or some similar word derived from the Greek and Latin words for Passover.  In some countries, not all, with Germanic based languages – English developed out of Anglo-Saxon a dialect of German – it called Easter, Ostern, or some other such cognate, for which reason countries with Germanic languages are infested with the type of Hyper-Protestant who likes to spread the ridiculous conspiracy theory that the Church is not really celebrating the Resurrection on this day but rather worshipping some pagan goddess.   Twits like this would have a harder go at selling such tripe in countries that speak Greek or a Romance language.


It is rather amusing that these Hyper-Protestants are able to spin an elaborate conspiracy theory from what they think they know about the name of the festival.   In the lands where a variation of Eastern/Ostern became the popular name of the festival the Church had been celebrating as Pascha for centuries prior the name was taken from the month in which it often fell.   This is the month that we call April.   The Anglo-Saxons called it Eosturmonaþ. (1)   The Venerable Bede may or may not be right about that name having come originally from a Germanic goddess.  He is the sole source attesting to there having been such a goddess.  Whether or not the pagan Anglo-Saxons worshipped such a deity is immaterial.  She was supposedly the goddess of spring and the rising sun – the term east for the direction in which the sun rises has the same derivation – and this is the basis of her association with the month of April.  Eosturmonaþ was the Anglo-Saxon “month of spring.”   This is the association that was undoubtedly foremost in the minds of the Anglo-Saxons after they converted to Christianity and began calling the Christian festival that often falls in that month by its name.  


Far from being a paganization of Christianity the borrowing of this name for the Christian Passover was very apt.   While the Son Whose rising we celebrate on Easter is the Son, spelled with an o, of God, He is also according to the Messianic prophecy of Malachi “the Sun of righteousness”.  That is the prophecy that reads “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” (Mal. 4:2)   As for spring, into this season in which after months of winter, trees put forth leaves, grass begins to grow, flowers start to appear, animals come out of hibernation and the birds return, God has placed within nature a depiction of resurrection.   Perhaps this is also the reason why the Jewish Passover which prefigures the events that culminated in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrated in the Christian Passover occurred when it did.   The Jewish Passover falls on the 14th, the Ides, of the month in the Hebrew calendar that since the Babylonian Captivity has been called Nisan.  The original name of this month, the one used in the Pentateuch where the account of the Exodus out of Egypt and the instructions for celebrating Passover are laid out, is Aviv or Abib. (2)   This word means spring.  The name of the city of Tel Aviv in modern Israel means “Hill of Spring.”


This is why the Christian Passover is celebrated when it is.   In the early centuries of the Church different regions had different practices with regards to the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.  Some thought it should be celebrated on the date on which it occurred in the secular calendar regardless of what day of the week it fell upon.  Others thought it should always be celebrated on the day of the week in which it occurred, Sunday.   Some thought it should fall on the same day as the Jewish Passover.   Others thought that the dispensational change needed to be signified by a different date.  In the first ecumenical Council of the Church – a council, to which all the bishops from every region are invited and the rulings of which are subsequently received as binding by the universal Church – which was convened at Nicaea in 325 AD to address the heresy of Arius of Alexandria, who denied that the Son was co-eternal, co-substantial, and co-equal with the Father, it was ruled that the Church would celebrate the Christian Passover on the first Sunday – the day of the week on which the Resurrection took place – after the first full moon – a month in a lunar calendar begins with the new moon and the Ides fall on the full moon so Jesus was crucified on the full moon – on or after the spring equinox, an approximation of the anniversary of the Resurrection.


For those for whom all this talk of spring, the moon, etc. smacks of paganism, I strongly recommend, a) reading your Bible more thoroughly – that God gave the lights in the heavens for “signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years” is stated in the Creation account (Gen. 1:14), and the calendar the Israelites used was a lunar calendar in which each month was the length of a moon cycle, and b) reading C. S. Lewis’ God In the Dock.   This is a collection of essays compiled by William Hooper and published after Lewis’ death.  It is largely apologetic in theme and the essays that deal with Christianity and paganism are particularly relevant.  Lewis, in rebuttal of the school of skeptical anthropology that drew inspiration from Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and wrote off Christianity as presenting simply another version of themes that appear throughout pagan mythology, pointed out that by contrast with the figures in these myths, Jesus lived, died, and rose again in history, not in some otherworld and othertime, but in a known place and time in this our world.   He also pointed out that by contrast with mythology, in which a dying and rising again god may be understood as symbolizing such things as nature and fertility and the life cycle, with the events of the Gospel, it is the things in nature that the myths signify that themselves signify Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.    If you are averse to this sort of argument that Jesus is the reality to which myths imperfectly and indirectly point, understand it in terms of the New Testament’s theology of revelation.  God has revealed Himself to all in His Creation, St. Paul explains in the first chapter of Romans.  This is called natural revelation.   It is insufficient to bring anybody to a saving faith but it provides enough light that the ideas that natural man derives from this revelation, whether philosophical or mythological, while they will be marked by numerous errors, will not be entirely devoid of truth.   The ancient Israelites were given a different type of revelation on top of this.  It is called special revelation.  The true God in establishing His Covenant with the Patriarchs and later the nation of Israel gave them a revelation of Himself and His will that no man could come to from natural revelation alone.   That revelation too, however, paled in comparison to God’s ultimate revelation of Himself in the Incarnation.   When St. Paul brings up natural revelation in the first chapter of Romans it is at the beginning of an argument in which he shows that the nations of the world, despite this revelation, fell into the apostasy of idolatry and gross sin, and then shows that the Jews who had been given God’s Law fared no better, but that the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, are sinful, lacking the righteousness that God requires of them, which righteousness God gives to Jew and Gentile alike freely by His grace in Jesus Christ, through His Death and Resurrection.   This is something to which those who stick up their nose at Easter, the Christian Passover, and insist that we should stick to the Old Testament feast, really ought to give consideration.


As important as the delivery of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage, to which the Jewish Passover looks back, was, unless it is regarded as a type, foreshadowing the greater deliverance that Jesus Christ would accomplish it is merely the story of one nation, one people.   The Hebrew people, enslaved in an Egypt that had forgotten Joseph, was delivered by the God Who had made a Covenant with their distant ancestors, by sending a series of plagues upon Egypt culminating in the death of the firstborn from which only the Hebrews were spared on that first Passover, prompting Pharaoh to finally give in to God’s message through Moses, and let the people go, or rather drive them out.   Thus a nation was born and to that nation these events will always be specially sacred.   The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, however, was not some tribal deity, but the True and Living God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and God had promised the Patriarchs that through them He would bless all the nations of the world.   The Hebrews in the Exodus account represent all the people of the world, their physical bondage in Egypt represents the spiritual bondage to sin that has been the plight of the world since Adam, their deliverance from that slavery on that first Passover represents the redemption from slavery to sin, death, and devil that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Promised Christ or Messiah, would purchase not just for Israel but for the entire world by dying and rising again from the dead.   There were many facets to this redemption.   The Church Fathers in the first millennium stressed that because the Incarnate Son of God was sinless, death had no claim on Him, and so by dying He entered death’s kingdom not as captive but Conqueror, and liberated those over whom death had lost his claim by taking Jesus.   In the West in the second millennium the vicarious aspect of Christ’s death, that He bore our sins so as to settle our account and make us righteous before God, came to be stressed.   These are two aspects of the same truth which cannot be comprehended in any one single theory.   However we understand the mechanics of His Death for us the story is not complete without His Resurrection.   In His Resurrection the enemy that comes for us all in the end is himself overthrown and destroyed.   This is a victory that ultimately we are to share in.  As John Donne put it: One short sleep past/We wake eternally/And death shall be no more/Death thou shalt die.   In another very real sense our sharing in the victory of Christ’s Resurrection does not await that final day.  St. Paul explains in the sixth chapter of Romans that in out baptism into Christ’s Church we are baptized into Christ’s Death.   Being so joined to Him in His Death, we remain united with Him in His Resurrection and our sharing in His Resurrection life is the new spiritual life into which we are regenerated and in which the Apostle enjoins us to live to God in righteousness.   This is the substance of which the first Passover was the shadow.


In discussing Christ’s victory we often speak of the enemy that He defeated, death, as a person.   This is not just a device like the Grim Reaper of folklore that helps us to make tangible the concept of death.   The Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us exactly who death personified is: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”. (Heb. 2:14)   It should not surprise us therefore, when agents of the devil act out his impotent rage against all that Easter represents by doing things like declaring a day for something stupid, silly, and nonsensical and making it fall on the same day as Easter.   Nor should we allow it to disturb our peace of mind.   These are the last desperate measures of an already defeated foe and should be regarded as such and as nothing more.


Happy Easter!

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed! 


(1) The letter þ is called a thorn and is pronounced like th.  It is a runic letter.  When printing was invented, rather than make a distinct type form for it, printers often made y do double duty, for itself and for thorn.  In the 1611 edition of the Authorized Bible you will often find "the" and "then" printed as ys for thorns with the other letters in small superscript above them.   For the most part obsolete, this runic addition to the Latin characters that otherwise make up our alphabet, survives in the signs of businesses that have deliberately archaic names like "ye olde shoppe".   The "ye" is not the second person plural pronoun, which would not make sense as the first word in the name of a store, but the definite article spelled with the y version of thorn.

(2) The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet can be pronounced either like a b or a v.  In modern print Hebrew, the pronunciation is indicated by the presence of a dagesh, a dot in the middle of the letter.  If the dagesh is present bet is pronounced like b, if it is absent it is pronounced like v.  The dagesh like all Hebrew diacritical marks including the vowel indicators, is a relatively modern invention absent from ancient Hebrew writings.   This is why some words are transliterated into English both ways.