The City of Cain

The City of Cain

Last night, I heard these statistics about New York City:

New York City is $100 billion in debt –
20% of all NYC residents are on food stamps, which cost $250 million a month
5% of NYC population are on disability, costing $252 million a month
Other assistance costs approximately $100 million a month
600,000 people (7% of NYC population) are receiving payments for public housing –

New York City, for upwards of a hundred years, in concert with other great American cities, functioned as a transformer in the great American “melting pot.” Generations of immigrants appeared on Ellis Island, settled in NYC, and within 2-3 generations made the great leap to middle and even upper class American life. Scores of Jews from Eastern Europe, appeared for many decades, and were largely illiterate, except for the Rabbi who came with them. They sold pickles on the streets of NYC, had other menial work, and in one generation, their offspring came to dominate all of the professions of that great city. The Jews were perhaps the most notable in the speed of transformation, but the story was similar with almost all immigrant groups.

Our cities were the great engines and transformers of this unparalleled upward mobility. This is why people came to America, as the great shining hope. But now, all of that has stopped. Our cities are no longer the great melting pots of transformation and instead of upward mobility in one or two generations, we have a new inner city slavery and dependency. Our cities are now dying and moribund as generators of this upward mobility.

What happened?

New York City, the largest city in North America, was one of the great “import replacement cities” in the world. It was the city where scores of immigrants who came to America to find a better life, and in fact, did so. They achieved, sometimes over a period of several generations, financial independence, and a new life. New York has been transformed into a fiefdom of dependency, not even supporting itself, and relying on massive transfer payments from the federal government. It has become a city of the extremely rich, and many, many of the poor, who have little or no hope of upward mobility out of their current circumstance. They face a future of endless welfarism. They are facing a new kind of dependency, a second slavery.

If similar statistics are true of many, or most of our major cities in America, how will we survive? We now have a national debt of approximately $19.3 trillion. But most economic surplus has to be created in cities, and if New York City is at all representative of many US cities, where is there anything but a future of beggary? How will the welfare state be supported?

What does any of this have to do with me, a metropolitan missionary in Boulder, Colorado? Well, if we are only talking about economics or sociology, then perhaps not much. But, we all know the Bible and ministry address every aspect of life, and this no less. We can examine all of this in terms of what the Bible says about cities. New York City is beginning to have more of the attributes of the City of Cain (Enoch), which culminates in the city we are told of at the end of the Bible as The Whore of Babylon, as opposed to the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem.

After Cain murdered his brother (the first murder in the world), he is inquisited by God, found guilty, and told that the ground will no longer yield its strength to him. And also, he shall wander, be a fugitive, and a vagabond on the face of the earth (Genesis 4:12). Cain says that his punishment is more than he can bear, and complains to God that anyone who finds him will kill him. God responds by telling him that He will put a mark on him, and anyone who kills him will be avenged seven fold. Cain then goes “out from the presence of the Lord,” and lives in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Nod means “wandering.” (vs. 16-17) Cain’s response to his punishment is one of anxiety, and his response to his consequent anxiety is two-fold. He “knows” his wife, has a son, who he names Enoch, and then he builds a city and names it after his son. (vs. 16-17)

Cain actually establishes the second proto-city. The first proto-city was Eden. The ultimate outcome of Eden, had it proceeded unhindered, would have been the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21-22). The ultimate outcome of Enoch is the Whore of Babylon (Revelation 17-18).

The city of Enoch had built into it Cain’s entire history. It became a city of blood and vengeance. It was a city of “wandering.” Nobody was really at home there. We see the amplification of these attributes in his great, great, great grandson, Lamech, who swears, and boasts to his wives (he has graduated to polygamy, and exercises power over many women) that if God would avenge Cain seven fold for killing him, he will avenge anyone who would so much as hurt or wound him seventy-seven fold. The city became the sphere of the bloody strong man, motivated by a perpetual feeling of grievance, who will avenge himself and enslave those weaker than him. The line of Cain are the original “victims” whose personal motivation is revenge and self justification. They are filled with anomie, and wandering lostness. This city culminates in the Whore of Babylon many, many centuries later.

The Whore of Babylon made many of the merchants of the earth very, very wealthy. But the energy and motivation to find and produce this wealth is ultimately built on vengence and blood. The great harlot is “drunk on the blood of the saints.” (Revelation 17:6) and the ultimate merchandise of the city is “the bodies and souls of men.” (Revelation 18:13) The ancient city was built on slavery and subjugation. The city of Cain is built on the captivity of the many to the dominance and vengeance of the few. The city of the Whore eventually becomes a self-destructive enterprise. The seven kings with whom she commits fornication, ultimately turn on her, hate her, “eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16). The nations destroy and hate their own cities, and destroy their own wealth.

Let me suggest that the modern fallen city is built on a new kind of post-Christian slavery, a second slavery, the dependency of the welfare state. Everything becomes different after a world has been Christianized. After Christianization, false Christianity is necessary, and itself becomes a new power to be desacralized. This is precisely what “anti-Christ” is. It is a false Christ, one who functions entirely within this cosmos. The welfare state is built on kidnapped values stolen from the Kingdom of God. It is built on supposed mercy, and kindness. But the mercy of the welfare state is just what the Proverbs say it is. “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10b) What parades as kindness actually promotes servitude. It creates unfree, enslaved people. This is the second slavery.

Freedom is one of the marks of God’s people. God’s Word is free, and it makes those who dwell within it themselves to be free.

The book of Acts in large measure is the story of the Gospel breaking the “Cain power” of the ancient city. The Apostle Paul is imprisoned in city after city. From within the prison, he breaks the power of the great principality of the city of Cain. He brings the beginnings of the liberty and freedom of the New Jerusalem into each of these cities. Paul’s preaching was so threatening to the powers that it ignited thirteen city-wide riots, and he was imprisoned after many of those. During his imprisonment in Rome, he authored four epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Paul inaugurated the liberation of cities while being incarcerated. The presence of the church in each city was the source of further liberation. The presence of the church in cities today is also the source of liberation and a free citizenry.

The “principalities and powers,” were in a definitive way, disarmed by the death of Christ upon the Cross (Colossians 2:15), but the application of that disarming has to be applied over and over. There have been two great desacralizations of the powers. The first was in the great disarming of the great pagan powers over a period of more than a thousand years. The second was in the Reformation after much of paganism found its way into the church as a kind of “baptized paganism.” If I may be allowed an oxymoron, we now need a third great desacralization with what might be termed “baptized Christianity,” false Christianity as the world now mimics in order to tame and control, that which it cannot defeat. The welfare state, more aptly termed, the “welfare city” must now be overcome by the church.

As people pour into our cities from dead economies from the south and the Middle East, they must become free people and not new slaves, put in chains by false mercy. This is the office of the church in every city of the world today. Only the church can do this. The book of Acts must become a new handbook for us. Paul went from city to city, establishing churches, and disarming the powers. So, we must be given wisdom to do this in our own time.

I hope you will join me as I learn to do this where I am, and as we hope to share all we learn in many, many cities. I welcome your prayer partnership, and your financial partnership.

God bless all of you as we approach Christmas and a New Year in which to serve our Lord. May God give us city after city on a world-wide scale. Below is a link if you are interested in further following or contributing to this ministry…

Merry
Christmas! He Has Come!

http://www.globalassociates.org/associates/rich-bledsoe/

Rich

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Van Til and Obama Care

Van Til’s take on the splitness of all issues once God is taken out of the equation, fits Obama Care quite nicely.

After WWII, in order to entice people into taking, and sticking with a job, “benefits” began to be offered. The plum benefit was medical insurance. Prior to this, there certainly was Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and other private medical insurance, but many people did not have it, and medical costs were “out of pocket,” and very affordable. We have one lady chaplain here at the hospital whose father was a doctor, and she remembers in the early 60s when he would do a house call for $12 a call. Now, unbelievable.

Jobs began offering medical insurance as a benefit. This meant (unavoidably) that going to the doctor was now, “free.” After all, it cost employers very, very little to give such a benefit to employees and their families. But, it changed the mindset. Now, I run to the doctor for most anything, and much more often.

It also changed the economics. Doctors were no longer pricing their services to individuals whose capacity to pay or not was very important. Supply and demand began to be tinkered with. Now, doctors were dealing with big, rich corporations, whose capacity to pay was far more certain than individuals were in the past. They could now afford to charge more for services, and this was inevitable since demand was rising, and ability to pay was seemingly unlimited.

At first, this was merely a hole in the dam. But holes have a way of getting bigger. The split between services and payment for services began to increase. In fact, they began to splinter apart a previously nicely unified great oak tree. The connection between services offered and payment for those services began to be distorted. Schizophrenia began to set in.

Medical services were increasingly viewed as being “free,” and to doctors, medical payment was also being changed into “a free lunch.” But, the “free lunch” was getting more and more expensive, because demand had artifically increased dramatically, and was also far less efficiently applied. And, since it was now “free” and therefore a “right” and a “benefit,” it also increases the sense of resentment when “my rights” are trampled on. So, increasingly lawyers got to jump on the band wagon, or the gravy train, and cash in their chips. This also added a whole lot to the expense of “free” healthcare.

One can also see increasing distortion in the previously very personal doctor patient relationship. More and more, the gigantic insurance conglomerates become the controlling agent in the background.

Finally, the split is dramatic and huge. On the one hand, medical care is “free,” on the other, costs have become almost apocalyptic. It still works reasonably well if you have medical insurance, but now, it is routinely paid for by employers and private parties can almost not afford it. So large numbers of people are now left without coverage. So of course at this point, it is ripe for the state to step in to “solve” the problem. But by now, what was “almost” apocalyptic has become indeed apocalyptic, and we are viewing something that could literally be civilization ending (if America becomes Greece, civilization as we know it will not survive). The universal sense of entitlement and right is nearly complete, and at the same time, costs are approaching what looks like infinity. Obama Care, which has already doubled in price from what was originally promised, might be able to perform the miracle of nearly infinite cost.

So, it is now totally free and at the same time threatening infinite expense. It is also going to be a lot less personal. If you don’t like the care you will be offered, you can write your Senator. And remember, you cannot sue the Federal government. (so much for the carefully groomed sense of right and resentment of the last 50 or 60 years). But the lawyers will not go hungry. They will have more work than ever.

Here is one last issue that needs to be looked at. Is it not possible that medical expenses have risen so much because so much greater technical training and equipment are involved? Indeed, working in a modern hospital, I see everyday the technical wonders at work. Owning and operating this equipment cannot be cheap. Could this increase costs, even dramatically?

But, in every other area of life, increased technical power causes costs to drop, not to increase. If this were so, a modern I-Phone or typical desk top computer should cost millions of dollars. As a friend pointed out one day, the apps we have on our typical smart phone, at original cost, would approximate nine hundred thousand dollars. Instead, with advance, they are free.

Should medicine not be cheaper today than in 1955?

The Beast loves it. It is a recipe for almost endless meat and morsels for Hell.

Van Til was right…

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Sex Selection Abortion

Democrats have, in the last week, put legislation to bed that would have made illegal “sex selection abortion.” I wrote this before that happened. But, the extreme discomfort, and the insoluable ethical dilemma that has now been exposed, is not going to go away. Below, is a little exercise examining the logic around sex selection abortion.
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Something exceedingly odd is happening in America. New moral taboos are growing up for all of the strangest reasons. but one takes ones’ taboos where one can get them.

I recently read both of Mary Eberstadt’s volumes and I found them wonderful (The Loser Letters, Adam and Eve After the Pill). She comes up with some data and some 2+2 detective work that is fascinating. In a closing chapter in the later volume, she details just how it was that by the 90s, pedophilia was on the verge of becoming very in. Following on the heels of radical chic in the late 60s was the coming pedophilia chic in the 90s. It was just on the verge of becoming fashionable, when (saved by the bell) America and Europe were struck by the pedophilia priest scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. Herein is an interesting ambivalence. Liberals love to hate the Church, and it is perhaps true that in America, hating the Church via the Roman Catholic Church is the best of all ways forward. So liberals were stuck. In order to hate and execrate the Church, it also became necessary for pedophilia to become an unthinkable taboo. Today, it is a taboo, and perhaps one of only two or three sexual taboos that liberals will countenance (A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To Complete Libertinism). To be fair, it may also be that the pedophilia priest scandal re-awakened people to taboos they still deeply held, and were in danger of being washed away in the swift currents of the fashionable

Now, something else is happening. It is apparently unthinkable to ever abort because the fetus is female and one is especially desirous of a boy. This cannot be done, cannot be thought. We cannot be Chinese in our abortion intentions. Not only is there clamoring for laws to be passed forbidding this practice, but one must notice that the special crime is in the intention. Sex selection abortion is a thought crime, whatever else it may be.

Now, until the day before yesterday, abortion was permissible for any reason, and one must not even ask the why question. Fetuses had no legal rights, no legal protection. What was sacrosanct was the power the woman had to choose. But now, apparently there ought to be limits to choice. The fetus suddenly has significance and should have legal rights in case it is a little girl and is now unwanted for that reason.

This is very, very odd indeed. It turns out that in one case, a fetus ought to have rights. Female fetuses should have rights to protection if they are unwanted. Hmmmmm….the only fetuses who deserve legal rights are unwanted little girls. This seems to turn Roe vs., Wade on its head. It used to be the rationale for abortion was unwantedness. Now in a somersault, unwantedness is the sole and only reason for a fetus to deserve protection.

Let’s carry on a bit. What if we push a little bit? Is it really the case that criminal unwantedness should only function if the fetus is female? Will the detractors of sex selection abortion be comfortable with saying that it is just fine and dandy if we kill a fetus because it is a boy, and a little girl is what is really wanted? There may be some tough as nails die hard radical feminists out there who would consistently carry through, but I doubt they would have the guts to ever even say so in print and in public. It would make one feel a little uncomfortable, and liberalism is so much about not feeling uncomfortable, at almost any price, I doubt a very large contingency could be found to push such a proposition very far. For some reason (I have no idea why) consistency still counts for something,

So, it probably turns out that it is now unthinkable to abort in case the fetus is a little girl, or a little boy. Hmmmm…That seems to about cover the bases. There may be many genders, but there are still only two sexes. I suppose there is the very rare case of truly sexually mixed fetus (sexual dimorphism), but then liberals take seriously BLGT, and that includes bi-sexuals, and the transgendered, and the whole fight is for their full rights. Does the non-sex-selection lobby want to single out only bi-sexuals and the potentially transgendered, as being worthy to be snuffed out if that’s not the sex one wants?

But here is the dilemma. For liberals, abortion is still a legal, and a necessary good, and it would be unthinkable to not have legal access, for any other reason whatever. But now the cat is out of the bag. One has admitted that girlness, boyness, and bi-sexuality are significant and worthy of legal protection. But isn’t every fetus either a girl or a boy or bi-sexual?

Hmmmm.. I guess we had never noticed sexual identity before. But, now we have. Oh my! Can we now unnotice it? That might be tricky. Ought it now be legal to snuff out the little critter because, he, she, he/she are going to stand in the way of my graduate degree this year (or think of any of another thousand reasons)? Yesterday, the fetus was only as significant as an insect (who I can chose to swat for any reason). But now, because of feminism, it has been noticed that the little critter is also a boy, girl, boy/girl.

Well, if a new taboo begins to grow up because of the wooly-mindedness of liberalism, then so be it. It is a common sentiment in the Psalms that “God will make them fall into their own pits.”

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Glory

Here are a few thoughts relative to our age.

In every era, every doctrine, and all of theology are recapitulated, but every era is especially spoken to by some portion of Scripture as well. We have now “outworn” Luther’s doctrine of justification. I do not mean that justification by faith is not true. I rather mean that it does not touch the “felt need” of the age. Another door in to the Kingdom is now necessary.

I have toyed with a historical application of the so-called ordo salutis of Paul in Romans 8:29-30. I am not sure I can exactly fit this, but I have an end point that I am trying to get to.

The collapsing Roman Empire was spoken to especially by Augustinian predestination. Predestination freed men (and women!) from the paralysing power of fate, of the stars, of the inevitable. Predestination paradoxically, created free men and women, free citizens.

Then, the tribes were “called” and spoken to all together. They were all called by one Father, and one Chief, and were called to one blood sacrifice at one table. Calling created bonds of love between the tribes (something that was impossible
before).

Luther discovered justification, and the paralysing power of guilt was overcome, and all of Europe’s powers were thus released to create a great civilization.

We could briefly cheat and add one that Paul maybe implies, but does not state. The era of the Puritans (which lasted through the age of Spurgeon anyway) was the age of “Sanctification.” It has always seemed to me that sanctification was the great Puritan emphasis beyond the Reformation and Justification. And as a subset, as a kind of Puritanism, the Methodist emphasis on “ye must be born
again” also fits. The feeling of degeneracy (the degeneracy that so marked the Restoration era and effected all, rich and poor alike) was so powerful that to be “regenerated” by being “born again” spoke to en entire era, all the way through the Victorian era.

Now, we are in the era of the democrat. As Allan Bloom said, in democracies, all men at least slightly despise themselves. “Self esteem” is only a problem for democratic man. aristocrats could not even conceive of the problem, and peasants are rooted and know quite exactly well who they are and where they fit. Only democratic man spends most of his life trying “to find himself” and then on top
of that, if he ever does find himself, it is a huge task to much like what he finds. Being equal means I am saddled with constant envy, which all moralists have always known is the most painful of sins. As C.S. Lewis shrewdly observed, “Only two sins have no corresponding pleasure associated with them–cowardice and envy.” Hence, democracy is the most irritated and repressedly non-pleasant of all regimes (outside of open tyranny), and the only outlet is to live in a constant state of offense. It is psychically miserable, and everyone is rubbed raw, and there are no teeth in the gears (they have all been irritated and offended away) so the wheels cannot engage each other, but just interface and turn round and round (democracy is very lonely). Viva la difference is turned into an offense instead of being the foundation of what is interesting and pleasurable and what creates relationship
and love.

The answer for self despising democratic man (and woman) is the last stage in the ordo, glory.

What does it mean for democratic man to be given glory and to live in glory? Or, as an example of this working itself out, we are now “Israels” (which means, princes who have authority with God, and are even given permission to command God–A New Testament application, for instance, “If you command this mountain to be cast into the sea…”). Whatever Jacob’s virtues, it does seem to me that
Jacob always had a “self-esteem” problem. Daddy always liked big brother best, and he must engage in trickery with Mommy to get what is coming to him. However righteous he is, he is not happy (and I do not think his deceiving actions are unrighteous). His status is
one of a “heel grabber,” a usurper, one who lives by deceit. It may not be unrighteous, but it is not much fun, and it is awfully hard to like yourself when you have had to deceive your poppa. His new name is glorious, and he becomes one who can effortlessly command rather than grab a heel. Even Uncle Laban and big brother are going to have new attitudes and have some respect. He is now beginning to shine.

Small, equality obsessed, envious, irritable English and American, and Canadian and Australian democrats, who do not like themselves, and compensate by living in a constant state of very unpleasant offense, need glory as much as Luther needed justification.

Is it the next step?

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More On Inspiration

It actually does seem to me that some of our earlier defenders of Inspiration were a bit “wooden headed” in their own literalism (not just Lindsell, but Allis and Young, and even Warfield) and did partake a bit in the quest for “photographic accuracy.” They had themselves not quite gotten over the Kantian barrenness and desert.

But, there were some remarkable people in the decades of the 20s, 30s, and 40s of the 20th Century who leaped the chasm quite deftly.

The early Wittgenstein in THE TRACTATUS was just an update and application of Russell and Whitehead’s PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA, and its quest for an “ideal language.” But both Wittgenstein and Whitehead later made the escape and realized that such ventures could never succeed, and both tried to escape a “picture theory of language.” How successfully is another question. (It strikes me that all of Wittgenstein’s “puzzling” and finding everyday language “odd,” is really a quest to recover transcendence, which everyday language gives witness to everywhere.) C.S. Lewis and company (headed I suppose by Owen Barfield) really did escape and realized that language was both literal and symbolic at the same time. One cannot make that leap really, unless one re-escapes to orthodoxy. So of course the other person who escaped most supremely was Cornelius Van Til.

On a purely Kantian basis, symbolism is surely an impossibility; at least symbolism that matters. Pray tell what could be symbolized? The noumenal is completely unknowable, so all that anything in the phenomenal realm could symbolize would be other phenomena, and what fun would that be? Hence, the attempt to escape THIS dilemma (which is no small thing to anyone who cares about a high culture–like all the great Germans did) must be the great project of all the great neo-Kantians of the 19th and 20th centuries (PHILOSOPHY OF THE SYMBOLIC FORMS–Ernst Cassirier, for example–but how successful could they be without Christian revelation?) Polanyi of course was doing the same thing in showing how unreal the descriptions of people from Beacon to Russell were in describing the real human endeavor of doing science. No one can function in the barren wilderness of the Enlightenment.

But in truth, it is only Christians with a full blown doctrine of inspiration who can make this escape.

Two more short things. One, it seems to me to be true that earlier commentators and theologians (even popular figures like Matthew Henry) are far more interesting than the great 19th century figures like Joseph Addison Alexander on Isaiah, precisely because the earlier ones are entirely unencumbered by the Kantian literal barrenness and function very naturally with symbolism. And this is what makes a figure like Vos so important, and James Jordan so interesting (and important). We are close to getting over it.

And secondly, in two or three thousand years, it will be entirely obvious that “proto-Wittgenstein and Whitehead” and “Deutero-Wittgenstein and Whitehead” are entirely different figures separated by at least several centuries. Look at the differences in style!  And the vast differences in mental outlook make clear they are from entirely different places and cultures and eras, if not different planets. Such a vast change in mental outlook would require a great many years, even centuries. Some things do get more and more clear with the passage of time.

Rich

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More On Science and Faith

The redoubtable Rosenstock-Huessy says somewhere in his corpus (people like ERH are really hard to footnote–they have said too much in too many places, and they are very hard to find) that real science never happens apart from despair, or rather, the overcoming of despair. This never happens, at least initially, apart from God.

Nothing becomes history until it is forgotten and then re-remembered. This is the pattern all over again of death and resurrection. Let me give two simple examples off of the top of my head.

It is hard for us to fathom how popular GK Chesterton was as a commentator in Britain for many years in the early 20th century. One might be tempted to compare what he did to talk radio today. On the level of popular influence, I suppose one could compare him to Rush Limbaugh today. But then he was forgotten. His hundred books were relegated to dust filled corners of public libraries and no one remembered (except as a dim distant nostalgia) who he was or what he said or did. His death commenced his death. And then in the last twenty years, it is as though he was resurrected from the dead. Now he is everywhere, and as one of the most quotable and clever of commentators, his quips can be seen and referenced either as sayings in themselves, or as allusions to the essay and book length meditations or stories that he concocted.

The other example is Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas in his lifetime and for a few years beyond was remarkable. But then, he either became a museum piece or was not remembered at all, except as one of those petrified “scholastics.” Then in the early 20th century, he was awakened from his long slumber (partly through Chesterton) and there has now been a century long renaissance and renewal. Aquinas has joined the living, the very living, and every renewal of memory makes him more interesting and deeper than before.

Both of these gentlemen have now “made history,” but their memory had to die first.

The most notable place this is true is with what the Bible itself has wrought in the world. The Christian revelation, and its instantiation in the world through the church, has so completely transformed human understanding and existence that after that transformation it is regarded as simply “natural” and the way things have always been. It is unthinkable that they could be otherwise.

This is similar to what has been said about great leadership. The nemesis of all great leadership is that it succeeds so “successfully” that the previous terrible reality and circumstance that has been overcome is forgotten, and the great leader is never thanked (until much later when he makes “history”).

To return to ERH and science. He says (somewhere) that the pagans never rise to science. They create interesting toys, they create very clever and very workable simple technologies, but never science. Science required the faith of Abraham to come into existence. Science only happens after the fires of despair have been overcome in a deeper faith. The early scientists were all Abrahams who leaped over impossible chasms.

Remember, Abraham was placed in an impossible situation by God. He married a barren woman. Then, beyond that, God was sure to wait long enough that she passed through menopause. Menopause came later at that time than now. Now it comes between 40 and 50. Then, people’s life spans were still declining from pre-flood lengths (Methuselah, 969 years) to the now average 70-80.  Abraham live to be 175, and Sarah lived a mere 127 years. She probably had to reach or exceed 70 or 75 to pass menopause. At any rate, she lived a long time beyond menopause before her pregnancy. And the final barrier was in the Apostle Paul’s words’ that Abraham was “as good as dead” a euphemism for being impotent. So, we have a triple impossibility for having a son. Sarah is barren, past menopause, and her husband is impotent in his approaching old age. And yet, he is to believe God for a son. And God did it in His own time. The child was appropriately named “Isaac,” a double entendre meaning both laughter of delight for having a child in old age when impossible, and the laughter at how ridiculous this entire situation is!

Now we have forgotten what barriers had to be gotten through to achieve real science. Paganism always gave up before the great breakthroughs were made, because they took seriously what appeared to be true. What appeared to be true was that indeed, the universe IS irrational. It certainly appears so. Laws can only be established to point, to a degree, and beyond that is surrender to the obvious impossibilities of imposing or seeing any order upon the primordial chaos that underlay everything. It is not easy to make a breakthrough to a new perspective that sees a deeper order in all that appears irrational. It is no easier to keep believing this is a possibility than it is to believe God can give you a son when you are 100. It took extraordinary faith and belief to persevere to such places. The early scientists were in fact Abrahams.

Now, we have made so many breakthroughs for so many centuries that we assume this to be the possibility and the reality. We have forgotten. It now must be re-remembered and can now enter the blood stream of humanity as “history.”

Leslie Newbigin has said somewhere (also “somewhere” in his vast corpus) that one of the primary tasks of the church in the 21st century and beyond, will be to be the defender and keeper of “reason.” Modernity was always a Christian heresy. The polytheism of the ancient world meant that the gods were always at war with one another against a background of ultimate chaos. There were many stories just as there were many gods. It was an irrational cosmos that was of necessity at war with itself. The Christian revelation (following the Hebrew) taught for the first time that this was a single UNIVERSE, and not a multiverse, created by, and presided over by the One Triune God, who was the implication of all perfections, complete harmony, and final love. Modernity learned that this was a harmonious universe with one final story and not a multiverse, but wanted to abstract it from the Bible, the story of the Bible, and the God of the Bible. But by the 19th century it began to become apparent that one harmonious story in one universe, was only a myth after it was abstracted from the Book. Nietzsche was the great pioneer, and he fathomed that reason is violent and at war. In Nietzsche’s world, once again slavery and war are ultimate and we must surrender harmony and reason to naked power.

Modernity always was a Christian heresy, and post modernism is academic tribalism.

We are now in a position to remember again. We are ready for “taken for granted” assumptions to remember where they came from. We are ready for “history” and for this renewed memory to once again, now self-consciously, to remake the world–again.

Rich

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A New Phariseeism?

How odd the world is. Pharisees gave the pretence of caring about the justice and righteousness given witness to in the Torah. But instead, God’s righteousness was subverted by giving priority to the “traditions of the elders,” and the Word of God was buried under a mass of habits, traditions, and precepts inherited from past fathers. In doing so, they actually “became like the nations around them,” because such traditions were the whole fabric of all of the ancient world outside of Israel. The Word of God is startling, suprising, and its reception, application, and result, could never be foreseen or predicted.

Revelation created something unheard of and impossible outside of Revelation. It created a future. There could be no future for ancient pagans, because all of life was a repetition of the traditions of the elders. Such repetition simply meant nothing new could ever happen. But, the Prophets, in particular, gave new promises of new life, of redemption, of renewal of all things in ways never dreamt of, never thought of before. God promised over and over, to “do a new thing.”

Jesus was the future. He was the startling New Man who would renew all things. He therefore opposed the Pharisees adherence to “the traditions of the elders” which buried the Torah under a mass of dead human precepts. He did so over and over, and in every instance of opposing “the traditions of the elders,” he does so by quoting the Hebrew revelation, what we now term The Old Testament.

As the Gospel has taken hold through history, we see a gradual overcoming of the habits of the ancient world. The Reformation was a re-affirmation of the text of Scripture (Old and New Testament) over against a whole lot of new “traditions of the elders” that had come to cling to the church over the centuries. The very heart of Martin Chemnitz’s EXAMINATION OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT (published a generation after Luther) was the greatest of all defenses of Reformation Doctrine by showing that the very structure of Roman Catholic and Trentine theology, was that its structure was a virtual repetition of Rabbinical Theology. The Rabbis had a secret oral tradition that supposedly came down from Sinai, and Trent claimed an oral tradition that came down from the time of the Apostles. In both cases, the secret oral tradition (known only to the highest clergy in both cases) took practical precident over the written text. But, Jesus who was the future, always forced the priority of the written text to all secret oral traditions. The Reformation forced the same issue. And, it must be said that Rome has been extensively forced back to the written text as it has tried to do war with the children of the French Revolution. The traditions of the elders were substantially what gave fuel to the Revolution in the first place.

Phariseeism has been disappearing. So is the world now, in an untramaled way, becoming righteous?

I am skeptical.There may be forward movement, but in hardly an untramaled way.There is a great new set-back. The devil is clever. If you can’t beat them, join them…

If the traditions of the elders have been the way of blocking the new future that will be created by the New Man in concert with His Word, then let us (says the Evil One) do the opposite.

What we care about now, what we will make the new public opinion (say the Principalities and the Powers) is youth and the future. All things (including the Word of God) can now be subordinated to Youth and a Utopian Future. But this utopian future created by the Planners of the Omnipotent State, is a world of perfect stagnation. It is remarkably like the static cyclical world of the traditions of the elders.

It is the novelists who have seen this. The “dystopias,” the brilliant satirazations of the coming leftist utopias, those great novels of Orwell (1984), Huxley (BRAVE NEW WORLD) and most insightfully, CS Lewis (THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH)

The new Phariseeism is established by lifting up youth and the future. And, the engine that propels it is the very concept of Righteousness and Justice that is derived from the Bible, from Christianity. In this way, a new hypocrisy is ensconsed. The text of the Word of God is effectively subordinated to The Up To Date Opinion, the New York Times Editorial Page.

If you are interested in being young, thinking young, and having progressive, up-to-date opinions on all subjects, and if you are particularly interested in establishing “social justice,” beware. You might be in the neighborhood of the new Pharisees. You might be party to creating a stagnant, unchanging world of perfect oppression. And it is all in the name of superior righteousness.

Rich

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