Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Stomping Boot

Paul VanderKlay (PVK) did a video reviewing, among other things, Tucker Carlson’s recent Heritage Foundation talk – the one that some point to as one more reason for his ousting.  Following are some of my reactions to this.

PVK asks, what is the answer to the divide seemingly caused by these various cultural and political issues?  In my view, the only peaceful answer is secession and decentralization.  Secession means gathering with others who share similar cultural, political, and religious views – and excluding those who hold contrary views.  Decentralization means governance at ever-lower institutional levels – at the lowest reasonable level (e.g., family). 

And this happening, but not in the traditional way.  The traditional way would result in The State of Jefferson.  But we know that the US government has a history of not allowing peaceful transitions.  Not in the United States, not in Korea, not in the former Soviet Union – even Ukraine today.  Not anywhere.

But back to how it is happening today.  People are migrating – seceding in the way they can.  California and New York are losing people, Idaho and Tennessee are gaining people.  Unfortunately, this isn’t an answer for everyone, or even many.  It can only happen on the margins.  But it is happening.

There is no law of God that says three hundred million people have to live under the same rules or in the same culture.  When God created the earth, He didn’t draw the political boundaries on His creation.  These aren’t carved in stone, so to speak. 

We have a culture that freely ignores what God carved in stone, and violently defends that which God did not carve in stone.  Abraham Lincoln ignored what was carved in stone by God, and violently defended that which was not carved in stone by God.  And he is considered by many as our greatest president – especially so by many Christians…sadly showing how long the road is that must be traveled.

Carlson, when speaking of the culture-destroying actions we see all around us, said something like: The weight of the government is behind it.  PVK: “I agree with this, but they aren’t thinking through it either.”  I think this is a naïve statement by VanderKlay.  He attributes good intentions where such attribution isn’t deserved – or, he doesn’t attribute malevolent intentions when such attribution is richly deserved.

PVK, commenting on one of the many theological points made by Carlson: “He’s not at a theological podium; he’s at a political podium.”  VanderKlay would often comment: “Politics is downstream from religion.”  He is right.  In other words, it’s all theological.  It’s just a question of which theology.

PVK: Don’t back your enemies into a corner unless you are planning to do something final.  From this, two points: liberal democracy does not have the tools necessary to defend itself; its enemies don’t play by the rules of liberal democracy, and nothing in liberal democracy is available to counteract this.  Second, one side in this discussion is happy to just be left alone – in other words, they will tolerate, but don’t demand that they affirm.  The other side demands more than toleration; it demands even more than affirmation.  It demands subservience.

Then PVK asks: “Was Donald Trump just more pantomime?” 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The Road Ahead…

…and what is to be done.


Through a link from a post by Chuck Baldwin: I Hope America’s Evangelicals Are Sleeping Well, I found the following: ‘Death to Christians’: Violence steps up under new Israeli gov’t

Jerusalem – Nothing about the attack or what happened since surprised Miran Krikorian. The Armenian owner of Taboon and Wine Bar in the Old City of Jerusalem was not surprised to receive a call the night of January 26 that a mob of Israeli settlers was attacking his bar in the Christian Quarter and shouting “Death to Arabs … Death to Christians.”

Attacks against Christians in Jerusalem have been on the rise.

A couple of days later, Armenians leaving a memorial service in the Armenian Quarter say they were attacked by Israeli settlers carrying sticks.

It isn’t only Armenian Christians:

Hostility by fundamentalist Jews towards Jerusalem’s Christian community is not new, and it is not just Armenian Christians who suffer from it. Priests of all denominations describe being spat at for years.

At the beginning of the year, 30 Christian graves at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery were desecrated. In the Armenian Quarter, vandals spray-painted “Death to Arabs, Christians and Armenians,” on the walls.

And keep this in mind the next time you hear something from Christians United for Israel:

At the Church of the Flagellation, someone attacked a statue of Jesus with a hammer.

About a century ago, the Christians made up a quarter of the population of Jerusalem; today, they represent less than one percent.  Consider that under Ottoman Muslim rule, the Christians were better protected than under the rule of Israeli Jews.

There are thirteen churches in Jerusalem; a small population divided so many ways.  It has come to the point where the fragmented Christian population is starting to understand that they must come together if they are to survive.

Christians in Jerusalem are starting to increase engagement within and between communities.

“The new generation is growing up with the idea that Christians must cooperate with each other in the city to keep the Christian presence,” said Dzernian. “If we keep saying that we will work alone, we will lose in the end.”

“Occupation makes people very cold, very separate. ‘I am [Syriac], I am Catholic, I am Orthodox, I am Evangelist’,” remarked Hani the restaurant owner. “But with the threats, the violence, the vandalism, now the people are coming together. The churches are waking up. We were blind for 50 years, but no more.”

I find this entire story very applicable to Christians in the West – really, the United States – today.  So much arguing, hostility, etc., between denominations and traditions.  Fighting about trees and losing sight of the forest.  We will continue to have less influence until we come to the point of Jerusalem’s Christians, it seems.

But by this, I don’t mean to include all who label themselves as Christians.  Those who cheer on the war machine, those who bow down at the call of masks and close churches at the whim of some politician, those who see the state of Israel – even with this persecution of Christians – as a state worthy of Christian devotion, those who cannot understand that God made them male and female; I exclude them all.  None of these will be useful in this fight.

Which brings me, once again, to Doug Wilson: A Ham Sandwich With 34 Slices of Felonious Cheese.  The first part of this is just hilarious; he is speaking of the charges against Trump:

Monday, April 10, 2023

Those Other Christians

Throughout this book, I refer to the Eastern Christian churches that are commonly known as Jacobite and Nestorian.  Both names raise problems…. …a reader would not go far wrong by understanding both terms as meaning simply “ancient Christian denominations mainly active outside Europe.”

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died, by Philip Jenkins

There was once a substantial Christian Church, in lands east of the Greek Church, stretching to today’s Afghanistan and beyond.  I have covered this history once before, briefly, via on chapter in The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan.  But that was merely one chapter in Frankopan’s book.  Jenkins devotes an entire book to the topic, and I will work through it.

In that earlier post, I wrote:

The story of the spread of Christianity from Palestine to the west is well known; the spread of Christianity to the east was far more remarkable and extensive.  Christianity was brought in through the trade routes, as well as through the deportations of Christians from Syria.

Evangelists reached north into Georgia, reaching a large community of Jews who converted.  There were dozens of Christian communities along the Persian Gulf and as far to the east as today’s Afghanistan.

Jenkins introduces the churches of this region – Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia – as churches where the early Christians wrote and thought in Syriac, a language closely related to Jesus’s Aramaic.   Passionate debates with the Greek and Roman Churches ensued, resulting in divisions even as early as the Council of Nicea in 325.

Yes, Christ was in some sense both human and divine, but what was the exact relationship between the two elements?  How could someone say that Jesus was both man and God?

A disagreement that would continue until Chalcedon in 451 and even beyond, as examined by V.C. Samuel.  Not to revisit this theological controversy (please keep in mind, I write of these matters to understand the history, not to debate theology), but Patriarch Nestorius – who accepted the two natures – did not accept the mystical sense in which these were united.  Hence, no Theotokos.

Jenkins makes what is an unfortunate error when writing that many in Egypt and the East accepted only one nature – hence “Monophysites.”  As Samuel demonstrated in the aforementioned work, those in these regions did not write in such a “Monophysite” manner.  The two natures were there, the only issue being, precisely how?

The Jacobites held sway in Greater Syria; the Nestorians in what we now know as Iraq and Iran.  However, Jenkins does not intend that by using these labels these groups were anything less than Christian.  I keep in mind, the differences were still being worked out, and, truth be told, it isn’t like there was a solid Scriptural basis for one teaching or another (as long as human and divine were both in there…somehow, as if we are really capable of understanding this or putting this into words).

Many today from the Roman Church or the Greek Church would claim “tradition” as the way by which to settle these differences – differences not made clear in Scripture.  But, as I have often argued, which tradition?  These churches in the furthest reaches of the east had just as much claim to the tradition of the first three or four centuries as the other churches.