Abortion

Please read this excellent post at Cranmer’s blog by guest contributor Neil Richardson.

Triablogue also has a short post on this topic this week.

My hope is that pro-abortion laws will be overturned in the USA and the UK. Perhaps this is the time in history for Roe v Wade to be reversed, and perhaps a new government will be formed in the UK that will prioritise Christian values.

There is a great spiritual war going on at the moment, intensifying as the end of the age approaches. The world is being shaken, and only the immoveable Kingdom of God will be left at the end of it.

Upcoming elections

The European Parliament elections will take place next week. It is expected that among the UK candidates, the Brexit Party, headed by Nigel Farage, will perform well. There are several messages that people who will vote for the Brexit Party wish to send.

  • While we remain in the EU, we will resist the proliferation of EU legislation and the concentration of power in EU institutions.
  • We are unhappy with the failure of the government and Parliament to take us out of the EU by the end of the two-year notice period triggered by the Article 50 process.
  • We distrust the mainstream parties and consider that they have failed to preserve our heritage.
  • We seek a return to our traditions of independence, minimal interference, and global relations.
  • We are opposed to the dissolution of the nation state.

It is hoped that Brexit Party MEPs, should any be elected, will be able to work with representatives from similar continental parties. The current trends in EU politics and aspirations are concerning.

  • Freedom of speech (particularly over the internet)
  • Relations with the USA
  • The creation of an EU army
  • Relations with Russia
  • Immigration
  • The Ero
  • Direct interference with the budgets of Member States
  • Relations with Israel
  • Rights pertaining to discrimination

The two wings of the EU – left and right – are fundamentally opposed to one another. The right wing may gain a majority of seats in the Parliament or at least enough to offer real resistance to proposed legislation. We shall see.

Thursday Thoughts on Songs

Occasionally we have posts about our favourite hymns or the role and choice of music in the liturgy. NEO comes from a church music background, so I am always interested to hear his thoughts on the matter.

Music is one of the ways in which the Christian Anglosphere is held together. Sharing English as a language, we are able to understand songs written in different parts of the Anglosphere (though we may need to reflect on some contextual matters to understand what a given lyricist has in mind).

Where the pastor organises the service, even if he does not lead various parts of it, it is common for him to pick hymns that are related in some way to the main message of his sermon. Thus, for example, a pastor preaching on the return of Christ might choose the following hymns for the service.

  • “Lo! He comes with clouds descending” by John Cennick and Charles Wesley
  • “Sing we the King who is coming to reign” by Charles Silvester Horne
  • “Christ is surely coming bringing His reward” by Christopher Idle
  • “Great is the darkness that covers the earth” by Gerald Coates and Noel Richards

New songs may be set to old melodies, and it is common for older songs to be sung to a variety of melodies and blended by worship leaders in order to create a fluent time of worship during the service.

The traditions of the Church and the use of repitition allow us to use songs to emphasise various seasons and doctrines. This brings stability and devotion to the Lord (cf. the use of litanies in private devotion, such as the Litany of the Virgin).

Our world of instability, rocked by the spiritual war and the tribulations of the physical world, weary our bodies and souls. Sung worship helps us to commune with God, to reflect on His character and promises, and trust in Him as the Rock upon whom our lives and His Church are built.

The ancient Church, taking on the traditions of Second Temple Judaism, understood worship on earth to be mystically linked to worship in heaven (see the scenes of worship in Revelation). They believed that angels would be present during our earthly services, taking part in worship (invisibly as a general rule). This provides part of the context for St Paul’s admonition to women to have their heads covered during gatherings (hence mantillas).

Songs are also used to augment certain parts of the liturgy (although this practice is also open to abuse). Thus it is common in many churches to have the worship band or choir perform during the eucharist. Choirs in traditional churches are often dressed in white surplices or gowns in order to reflect the worship of the redeemed and angels in heaven.

Songs, as mentioned above, are also problematic: things in this earthly realm can be used for both good and evil. The emotional intensity elicited by songs can make us vulnerable.

Passing the collection plate during worship has drawn the ire of many Christians, who object to this practice on the following grounds. Firstly, it is a distraction during a time when one is supposed to be focussing on God. Secondly, people may feel compelled to give in their emotional state when otherwise they would not. Arguably it is better to give in a fully rational mind when one chooses freely. Lastly, people can see each other giving: it is not private. The purpose of this paragraph is not to give a definitive position on this practice, but merely to point out that it is controversial.

Worship can also be a temptation for performers, composers, and leaders to draw attention to themselves, rather than to God. While succumbing to this temptation is probably rare, it does happen. Similarly, there is a danger for congregants: singing in order to make ourselves feel better as a primary goal, rather than to give worship to God. For this reason, the song, “The Heart of Worship”, was composed by Matt Redman.

Songs, gestures, declarations, and prayers are not the only part of Christian worship. The Bible teaches us that, if we truly love God, our whole lives will be one long act of worship. Obeying Jesus’ commandments out of love for Him is worship: giving to the poor, spending time with the vulnerable, being dutiful to our parents and those in authority over us, speaking the truth in love.

All of the above show the different intersections between Christian songs and our lives. They teach us, inspire us, and help us to show God our wonder and love for Him. But they also reflect the times in which they were written. For many today, the meaning of (parts of) older songs is obscure. Thankfully, we have opportunities to address this problem through sermons, emails, blogs, conversations, and bible studies.

Have a good Thursday.

7 Years.

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Seven years ago today, a humble little Christian blog raised its head up to look over the parapet at an increasingly hostile world. It has grown much and occasionally waned since that day, but has never lowered its head, nor has it changed its mission from that first day, as expressed in our tagline:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you … John 13:34.

None of us who actively contribute here, were here that day. Scoop and I are probably the oldest contributors left, and I’m not very active at present, but my heart remains here.

If you are newer than we are, I’d recommend that you poke around in the archives, there is much to enjoy and much to learn, from many viewpoints.

All of those who are listed in our sidebar as contributors gave us much wisdom and remain in my thoughts and my prayers. Those no longer active are missed and I give thanks daily for those who have carried the load, before and now as well.

Mother Julian of Norwich, a great favorite of us here leaves us a couple of thought on this day.

  • “He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but he said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.”

But also:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ..

Both are important to keep in mind.

So raise a glass and thank God, that there are those who keep their head up and their eyes on the prize of Heaven, and then drink to the next seven years, that they may see us continue the Lord’s work.

Christian Unity

I made a comment on Richard’s Watch today that I think is worth sharing with the readers here at AATW. It was made in the context of discussion about people getting involved with the Occult, the New Age, and other parts of that nexus.

Comment

Fascinating and a salutary warning to people who might be tempted to meddle with forces best left alone. Having an interest in these matters myself, I have come across numerous testimonies of Christians who, like you, had engaged with the spiritual world and faced terrible consequences.

I believe some blame for this phenomenon can be placed on the rise of materialism as a pervasive philosophy following the two World Wars. Man intuitively knows there is a supernatural world out there and longs to be linked with it. Refusing to bow to the authority of God, either because God’s morality is inherently unattractive to the sin nature or because the Church badly models Christ, he seeks the supernatural in places that reject the Gospel. Evil ensues.

I suspect another contributing factor in some cases is the simple, dressed-down version of liturgy found in a number of Protestant churches, including my own. While many of us, particularly Puritanesque Christians, approve of this, for some people worship needs to be outwardly special, not just about the connection in our hearts and minds. The spectacle of pagan and Jewish temple-style worship has been with mankind longer than the simplicity of the Protestant/Evangelical churches. Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and mid-to-high Anglicanism retain this spectacle with their vestments etc. If that sort of thing is what you need (or want?), but you do not want Christianity itself, I can see how you might be attracted to neo-paganism or esotericism, or living religions that have such displays.

Regarding miracles and unity, like you, I care about those things. But I also feel a tension in them, which perhaps the Lord will resolve now – but maybe not. I think, especially in the case of healing, there is a concern among many of us about the times when nothing seems to happen and we wonder what went wrong and feel bad for raising anybody’s hopes. In unity, there is the problem of doctrinal differences, and how to overcome them. Much as I would like to be a Catholic, and have wanted to be for much of my life, there is a part of me that has something like a Puritan’s worldview, and this prevents me from joining Rome. I reject the claims of the Magisterium and other parts of its structure and there is nothing I can do about that, because it is a conscience issue. In some respects, I think we are actually better at unity now than we used to be because we respect each other’s boundaries and consciences more; there is more of a modus vivendi than there was in previous history – even some acknowledgement of the good things in each other’s denominations.

-At https://richards-watch.org/2019/05/11/searching-for-wrong-truth-traps-me-in-a-spiritual-prison/#comments

AATW from its inception (I was not a member in those days, however) was about Christians from different denominations giving their perspectives on issues of the day, both secular and church-related. Various ministries perform similar functions. I am particularly fond of Archbishop Cranmer’s blog and Anglican Unscripted, both of which, despite being Anglican in origin, have fans from across different Christian traditions.

Occasionally I will also watch videos from Catholic ministries, usually at the recommendation of Scoop or Phillip Augustine, such as TheRemnantvideo or Church Militant or Brian Holdsworth. These give me some insight into how Catholics (both cradle- and convert-) perceive the crisis within their own church, and the broader issues affecting Christians in the world. Understanding not only what other Christians think, but why they think it, is important in building unity, although impractical as regards every single matter, unless one is fortunate to have sufficient time for such things.

What the internet has done is show us how much we have in common (and yes, I am aware that this is a cliché). I suspect that if the main contributors of AATW were to be gathered for a prayer meeting, we would actually be able to pray in real unity about a number of matters, even if we had to leave certain sensitive things aside. At the same time, we would also be able to speak in candour (and hopefully politeness) about matters where we have different perspectives, be they political, economic, social, or religious. That is a precious thing in this age of fury and division.

Tuesday Thoughts: Land

There is an earlier post by me on the subject of land at AATW.

The price of land has become a problem in the western world. The difficulty young people face in obtaining a home is having an adverse impact on maturity and family, both of which are important parts of a healthy, functioning society.

A number of factors are contributing to this problem. One of them is the attraction of land as an investment, which has led to high rents and high resale prices and foreign money (not all of it licit, see analysis of money laundering in global property markets) entering the national market.

Historically, the treatment of land as an investment has always been a problem. Humans naturally want to make a profit (and as much profit as possible), so this factor by itself cannot fully explain the current crisis. We must look elsewhere to understand what is allowing the market to create such high values for rent and sale prices.

Another factor is the role of planning (in the UK) and zoning (in the USA) and the equivalent policies and practices in other countries. This constitutes an artificial interference in property markets. Where land has planning permission permitting the construction of a housing estate or commercial property, the land owner can charge the developer a lot more than land that is restricted to, say, farming purposes.

These restrictions are not the natural result of the land’s nature but of the purposes and ideas of man about what is suitable in a given area. Furthermore, in order to obtain permission, at least in the UK, it is possible for the local council to accept a covenant on the part of the developer to pay money towards building infrastructure, which will have an impact on prices and profit margins.

The costs of development, including legal costs and costs associated with planning permission, are a further factor in the housing crisis. Certainly in the UK construction industry, profit margins are narrow. Where it is difficult to carry on work in a given sector, and difficult for new competitors to enter a sector, it is likely that there will be supply problems.

This leads naturally to a consideration of supply versus demand. Demand continues to grow apace in general terms, (though see research about specific variables: class, nationality, ethnicity, and gender). Supply appears not to be keeping up with this demand.

The problem is further exacerbated by the flocking of people to particular conurbations, because that is where the work is. This market factor creates a vicious cycle, which can only be broken if we can make more of an effort to implement working from home. This will counteract the need to live near where one works.

Wages have not kept pace with living costs. People from different political ideologies are right to point this out, even if they are wrong in their prescriptions for the cure of this problem. Our broader economic malaise, in combination with out social problems, works in a vicious cycle here.

Mortgages are the last factor I wish to consider (though no doubt there are others that you, dear reader, might suggest in the comments below). Where loans (and large ones at that) are (relatively) easily available, landowners will charge a higher price for their land. Those who buy the land will charge a high rent in order to pay off the high price and make a profit on top.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on these problems, including a package of reforms that might help us address the crisis. God speed.

Death between the Edens

This 20-minute video contains an interesting discussion about the problems of loneliness, consumerism, and depression in our modern world. It covers ground that the contributors and readers of AATW have discussed before in both posts and comments.

The discussion makes a number of suggestions about steps people can take to combat these problems in our societies, ostensibly supported by empirical studies. One should note a few things, however.

  • The discussion is not Christian. It does not deal with the deeper angst the soul feels when confronted with eternity and judgment before the throne of a righteous God.
  • Certain steps may not be available to everyone at all times. Johann Hari acknowledges that if one is living in actual poverty, then one is unlikely to be contented, because one’s basic needs are not being met.
  • The problems are discussed in the context of our rapidly-changing, technologically-dependent world. But society has always faced issues of loneliness, social division, and isolation.
  • While a certain level of contentment may be achievable, it is folly to think that one can be truly happy and content all of the time before the resurrection of the dead. There is injustice and malevolence in this world, and one should not be happy about that.

Christianity points us in the direction of the Answer to all our problems: the Lord Jesus Christ, who created and sustains us and will judge us. He is coming to renew the world, and by His Spirit, we can be renewed ourselves, “born again”, as Jesus says in John’s Gospel and Bosco so fondly reminds us.

Church provides us with community in a world of isolation. But Church is made up of fallen human beings on the road of sanctification and transformation. Sometimes – oftentimes, if we are honest – we fail not only God, but each other. The Bible teaches us that believers are brothers and sisters in Christ, that we should love one another as Christ loved us, and that he who hates his brother cannot love God (see John’s epistles).

The above is not written to scold or encourage – my own failings, especially in the furore surrounding Brexit, limit my objectivity here. Rather, I write to remind us to be realistic about unhappiness in this world, and to call us to preserve and strengthen what bonds of Christian friendship and fellowship we have – online and in the flesh, as it were.

Eden

I came across an interesting video today, about 12 minutes long, on the archaeology of Eden.

I have read material on this topic before from a Facebook acquaintance who is involved in Christian apologetics. The theory posited in this video and by my acquaintance (among others) holds that Eden was destroyed by a flood that covered a particular region, including parts of Mesopotamia, but not the whole world – although it was part of a bigger geological event that has had worldwide implications.

The reader may find the following posts to be useful as starting points in considering this reading of Genesis.

https://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/02/out-of-eden.html

https://triablogue.blogspot.com/2019/01/genesis-and-ancient-near-east.html

https://www.sentinelapologetics.org/single-post/2017/10/14/Noah’s-Flood-A-Localized-Catastrophe-in-the-Persian-Gulf

Social Democracy

Today, I direct you, dear reader, to an article at Mises.org:

https://mises.org/wire/why-social-democracy-failing-europe

If the West is to climb out of its sickbed, it must start by giving greater attention to clear thinking, involving the logical consequences of decisions. Clarity must be brought to our political discourse; intellectual virtue must be praised and intellectual sloth discouraged.

The political mess we find ourselves in today has much to do with the “useful idiots” who served the communist agenda, and the compromising centrism that refused to have open discussions about what nationalism is, what ethnic identity is, what a priori assumptions we impose on issues connected with social care and taxation, etc.