‘Mate! what a bloody good thing,

Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His enemies.”

What a naïve scoundrel I once was!

Unknowingly

unbalanced

Scared,

lost,

scarred.

Bloody terrified!

What a bloody good thing that

Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His enemies!

All too aware of the past,

unaware of my ego

Confidently uncertain of my confidence,

transparent, I was see through

Such

was my existence.

Damaged,

broken and fallen….

Ruined, and in turn destined to ruin

….What a bloody good thing,

Jesus recruits amongst His enemies

Ignorant,

manipulated,

blind to aggressors, unkind to the carers

Invulnerable to vulnerability…..

”Mate! what a bloody good thing,

Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His enemies!”


(©RL2013)

Inspired by:

‘Bloody Darwin’ (circa 1941, Anon).

Cornelius (Acts 10, ESV).

‘Jesus recruits soldiers amongst His foes’ (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Military Orders, 12th Cent. In praise of the new Knighthood)

 

This is the closest I might come to writing an old-school, blues influenced, straight-up, Gospel song. It was written in 2013 and still holds an element of relevance.

“Everlasting Father[i], Son and Holy Spirit, divine
You are ‘I am’…Yahweh…pure breath…pure life.

Help me to hear your encouragement and receive
the whispers…that silence my pain

Help me to be set free
From the words that have hurt me
From the wounds and rage that won’t let me go
Help me to see your version of me, not the version I see reflected by others.

Striking healer; mighty God, accept my response

I confess that I have shown you contempt
I confess the pretence of my “worship”, and the self-absorbed pretence that enters my prayers.

Holy One of Israel you are great in our midst,

I acknowledge your complete presence.
“Show me how to kneel” …I surrender my brokenness.
I know you have not abandoned us
I know I need to be more vulnerable. Help me  speak precisely from your heart.

Father God; creator; redeemer; sanctifier
You ‘do not grow weary’ (Is 40:28)

Thank you for ‘good news’ (Is 61:1)
Thank you for ‘uniting the pieces of my broken-heart’ (Is 61:1)
Accept my brokenness and tears
For this, Lord, ‘you do not despise’ (Psalm 52:17, NLT)

Let your blessings that shine through provision bring us to say:

With you, I rise and speak to the calamity in Jesus name ‘peace, be still’ (Psalm 107:29)
With you, I rise and speak to the conflict in Jesus name ‘peace, be still’
With you, I rise and speak to the suffering caused by misunderstanding, in Jesus name ‘peace , be still’ (Matt.8:23/Mk. 4:39/Lk 8:24)

……worthy is the lamb….may the  lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering‘.

Amen.”

[Isaiah and the Gospels speak into our lives. They suggest that rescue  will only come from the ‘serenity that results from Jesus’ intervention’ (Green 1997, p. 331).

This is ‘Jesus acting as God acts’…it is Jesus looking for my ‘faith to show itself in those circumstances’ (ibid 1997, p. 333), by gifting me with the patience and ability to forgive.

A faith that looks to His resurrection, as a signal fire that points me to Isaiah’s Yahweh, as the ‘wounding healer’ (Baer 2010). The one who dynamically responds in grace to my inconsistent gratitude.

‘God gives himself to sinners and sinners cannot escape that gracious decision…the sinner who refuses this election of grace resists that grace and is resisted by it…Humanity is not sheltered from God but exposed to him and bound to him as never before in a bond of forgiveness and reconciliation’
(Torrance, ‘Incarnation’ 2008 pp.110 &113)

References:

[i] ‘He predestined us for adoption as sons & daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph.1:5-7 ESV)

[ii] Green, Joel 1997 NICNT: The Gospel of Luke Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan

[iii]  Baer David, ‘Praying through Isaiah’ lecture notes October 2010, Tabor Adelaide

Knight The Wounded

June 22, 2017 — 2 Comments

Rose At Night

.

Find this level of emptiness.
Forgive my heart’s forgetfulness.

Engulf my worship of sadness.
Embrace this prayer, despite my often awkward reach.

Tear these broken words apart.
Reorder each, so that I may hear,
.             You, my adopted Father speak.

Then accept these groans as prayers without speech.
Grip grace like a vice around our fears
.              and take these shivering hands,

.               that for so many years,
.               were so often drenched in tears.
Enter our darkness, breach the brokenness,
Holy Spirit, teach.

Be the fight, deploy Your word
With one firm sound, crack the violence;
that each stand may be under Your standard.

That all focus will be brought to hear
.               the noise of battle cease.

Seize upon the ashes.
Rejoice at the sight of
minds drawn to fellowship from desolate lands;

.                hearts of substance,
.                because every broken ounce and splinter
.                has been gathered,
.                       and placed gently into Your hands.

Walk through the garden of faithlessness,
.                that Your light will pierce the dark, choices and the consequence.

Then mend the overgrown path,
.        tend to the request for forgiveness.

And as all actions of wounding significance
.        are humbly brought before Your grace.

Knight the wounded,
Raise up the contrite,

Breathe Your life into this place.


(RL2017)

‘Where the grace of God encounters us, where we are led, pulled and made to grow, there, the Bible becomes clear […] He is the redeemer of that sighing creature within us.’

– (Karl Barth, 1917. The New World In The Bible)

#inhaledgraceignites

 

Australia receives snow in its Alpine regions and on its higher inland plateaus. For those areas that’s freezing.

For everywhere else, it’s freezing if the temperature gets to anything below 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit).

For us, this means that homeschooling gets a little easier. Winter and reading go hand in hand. We don’t have to navigate the Australian heat. We just have to aim at keeping warm.

It doesn’t appear to matter which culture you come from. Short, cold days, and the inner warmth of houses, incubate tranquillity.

Creating an environment which encourages us to slow down, sit, zone out and learn from the stillness that surrounds us.

Picking up a book and reading it isn’t just easy, it’s tempting and looked forward to.

Our dedicated reading list this winter is fairly straight forward.

1. Trends in Food Technology: Food Processing (Anne Barnett)

I was apprehensive about taking this on. It appeared to be full of jargon, almost unusable. Since working through the 43 pages, however, I haven’t regretted the decision. Barnett’s approach is conversational. She also provides a glossary in the back for bold text words featured throughout the book.

Food Technology fits in perfectly with our PD.H.PE curriculum needs, discussing a range of areas including food processes, preservation, flavorings, fats, oils, and key distinctions. One I’m seriously considering adding permanently to our library.

2. The Reason & The Mystery (Lacey Sturm)

If you’re tagging along with me on the internet somewhere, you’ll be no stranger to the fact that we like Lacey Sturm. I read Lacey’s book, ‘The Reason’ in 2015 and wrote some thoughts on it, which can be found here [Review: The Reason].

Whilst the idea did occur to me, at that time I had no plans on using it for homeschool. However, believing the subjects discussed and the overall way Lacey handles those subjects, I decided to include ‘The Reason’ in our core texts for both Junior and Senior High School. Attached to this decision was the intention to follow this up with ‘The Mystery’.

As per our goal, we’ve completed ‘The Reason’ and are now moving through ‘The Mystery.’

These books were also chosen because of similarities between my own journey and that of Lacey’s. I think most people who’ve walked through darkness and pick this book up would find some form of consolation.

Those who haven’t receive an open window into a world of brokenness they may not fully understand or know little about. I ran an open discussion per chapter, which inspired productive and passionate dialogue between, and with my two older homeschoolers. Key learning areas include music appreciation and PD.H.PE. Each book raises topics that provide for a holistic lesson on physical development, mental health, boundaries and relationships.

3. Explore the World of Man-Made Wonders (Text by Simon Adams &  Illustrations by Stephen Biesty)

The journey we took together here wasn’t dull. We even managed to link in Matt Damon’s movie, ‘The Great Wall.’ Simon Adams and Stephen Biesty have created an illustrative tour which moves from the leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Pyramids onto St. Basil’s Cathedral, in Russia.

Add in a tablet and Google Earth, this activity became a whirl wind tour of some pretty cool sites. I think the only sour note for our homeschoolers, was having to the book work after it.

4. The Rime of The Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Similar to the previous book, I linked in a movie. This to me was a natural progression. The content of the poem can be seen reflected in The Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl. This might be news to some, but I guarantee you, there’s got to be a link somewhere.

Coleridge’s poem is big enough to be a small book. A very small book, of course, but a book none the less. If you have never read it, or are looking for an easier way to teach it, I used a PDF version – which can be sourced [here]. The length isn’t big enough to be a problem. I used three copies and lead from my treasured Penguin book of Coleridge Poems.

Finally, I added the book of Numbers to the schedule for this term. We’ve pulled through it and loved every second of it; made even more insightful thanks to John Calvin’s Commentary, a bit of Sun Tzu and some material from Charles Spurgeon.

All of which, while dated, still find traction in the connection between relevance, rubber and road.  Some of which I discussed in a somewhat well received (for me and my stats anyway) post called, Orderly Disorder: The Book of Numbers & Sun Tzu’s Five Pitfalls of a General.


Related reading:

Our Current Read & Discuss List (The 2017 Autumn Edition)
Our Current Read & Discuss Lists (The 2016 [Fashionably Late] Spring Edition)
Our Current Read & Discuss Lists (The 2016 Fashionable Winter Edition)
Tandem Reading & Technology

IMG_20130627_191543I have long been a subscriber to the idea that hate is not a sin. However, I need to qualify this statement by firstly saying that: a) my alignment with this theory is a work in progress and b) my current theological understanding is that unless hatred is answered through confession with reconciliation as its goal, it will lead to sin.

For example: 1 Jn.3:15 in context would read ‘wherever hatred is, there is an inclination to do mischief’ (John Calvin, Institutes VIII:347).

Reconciliation and forgiveness are the primary spheres in which transformation is achieved, and it begins with the process of confession.

Ambrose of Milan stated that: ‘if you have confessed at the call of Christ the bars will be broken, and every chain loosed’ (Ambrose of Milan).

In a similar theological vein Karl Barth viewed confession as a referral and submission ‘to a higher tribunal confronting both partners with concrete authority’ (‘Church Dogmatics a selection’, Helmut Gollwitzer); to ‘lay our weapons down’ (John Mayer ‘Heartbreak warfare’, 2009 )

Unconfessed hatred is counter-productive. It leaves us like a ship lost at sea, left with only the stars to navigate by. Only then to find frustration with clouds that are constantly obscuring our efforts.

The outcomes of unresolved and concealed hate are inevitably confusion, anxiety, fear and rage – dysfunctional relationships – as such ‘no one really ever wins’ (John Mayer ‘Heartbreak Warfare’, 2009)

Consequently we become desperate for direction as our judgement increasingly becomes shrouded in fog.

We then abdicate our responsibility to speak the truth. We compromise on our Christian commitment to hope because our moral compass is exchanged for self-preservation, and we abandon the north star finding ourselves drifting deeper into a sea of brokenness and despair.

The counter to this is entering into a confession-that-seeks-truth. This is like choosing to drop the eggs instead of walking over them gently. Working on ways to help those around us ‘understand our pain’ (John Mayer, 2009).

If I say or act in love towards you, yet harbor hatred in my heart I conceal the truth. I am forced to lie in order to keep-the-peace. The problem with this approach is that appeasement tends to only ever benefit those who are appeased [1].

The strength in confession is when we confess our hatred, we can immediately be released from the burden the precarious nature of hatred brings, one which hangs around our neck like a rotting albatross. Confessing hate allows us to process and communicate reasons for such a response.

Only then can the movement towards resolution be enacted. Of course any confession requires being wise in how and who we express that confession to. Confrontation, context, tone and timing are also important considerations.

Sadly, Western society is increasingly being pressured from within to tolerate everything in order to appease post-modern politically correct sensitivities. How can falsehoods be confronted if it is not permissible to do so?

It is true that hate is a strong word that is loaded with emotion. Hate is defined by thesage as being an ’emotion of intense dislike so strong that it demands action’. Goodrick & Kohlenberger write that the Hebrew word for hate is:  שׂנא ‘sane’ which means to be unloved, shunned, disliked, an adversary.

That is why it has become a whip statement, a term utilised to shame and ridicule dissenters into silence with overly generalised terms such as Christians are ‘ignorant, anti-science, haters and bigots’. Such emerging social conventions should not be allowed to bind us into maintaining false appearances via restrictions on the freedom to confront falsehoods, be it society, science, left, right, church or state.

For the biblical authors the existence of falsehoods demand action.

Ps.119: 104 ‘Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Pr. 26:24-26 ‘People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public’ (NLT)
Pr.8:13 ‘The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate’.
Pr.13:5 ‘The righteous hates falsehood’
Eccl.3:8 ‘a time to love, and a time to hate’
Eph.4:26-27 ‘Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil’.

A few years back an estranged relative asked me the question ‘how can you be a minister with so much hate?’ Since then my response has been: “please don’t confuse telling-the-truth with hatred, tolerance with silence and silence with love.”

The act of confession is a compassionate and humble act towards others in grateful response to Father, Son and Spirit. Through ‘open confession’ (Ambrose) and humility, truth speaks through the community. For example Barth writes that `theology is impossible without humility because the truth at issue is a person who says : ”I am the truth” (Jn. 14); (Church Dogmatics, a selection).

Jean Bethke Elshtain puts it this way:

‘Our ideas have to meet the test of being engaged by others, far better than having people retreat into themselves and nurture a sense of grievance, rage and helplessness…thoughts must be tested in the public square where you have to meet certain standards…we must be careful not to confuse tolerance with complete and total embrace…total acceptance does not mean universal love’ (Maxwell School Lecture, State of Democracy 2013).

Therefore confess hate, speak truth and drop the eggs, watch the lies disintegrate. It may hurt, you may lose, but lose boldly with the hope that those who reject truth return to truth refined, renewed and rescued. Refuse to walk on egg shells, and instead clean up the pieces left behind, lovingly inviting others to do the same.

The truth is much more precious and valuable than any sugar-coated version of it we can create. There are never two sides to a story. There is only ever one story which evidently has multiple perspectives.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: ‘there is but one reality and that is the reality of God, which has become manifest in Christ in the reality of the world’ (Ethics, 195)

To love is not only to understand that Christians are called to speak truth-in-love but to also understand that love-speaks-truthfully. As the words attributed to Solomon so wisely put it:

 ‘Open rebuke is better than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6 ESV)

Loving ourselves is hard, loving our enemies? Even harder. (Lk.6:20-45)


Sources:

Ambrose of Milan, Concerning Repentance Kindle Edition.

Barth, K. Church Dogmatics: A Selection With Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer (Kindle Locations 1050-1051). Kindle Edition.

Bonhoeffer, D. Ethics Kindle edition.

Calvin, J Institutes of the Christian Religion Eerdmans

Goodrick, E.W & Kohlenberger, J.R 1991 NIVAC: Strongest NIV exhaustive concordance Zondervan

Meier, P. & Wise R. 2003 Crazy Makers: getting along with the difficult people in your life (particularly chapter twelve) Thomas Nelson Publishers Nashville

[1] Historically speaking, nowhere is this more evident than in British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s ‘’gift’’ of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in the 1938 Munich agreement.

(RL2013)

Two of the best Australian rock albums to come out of the 1980’s are 1927’s Ish & Icehouse’s, Primitive Man. Both albums, are among the unsung heroes of an era, when Australia had an actual music industry, with serious substance.

Compulsory Hero (add to this, Propaganda Machine) from Ish, & Great Southern Land from Primitive Man, being stand outs.

 

 

 

 


Related A-lists:

October’s A-List: The Fantastic Eight
November’s A-List: The Fantastic Five (better-late-than-never ed.)

In his discussion on ‘The Freedom of Man for God’, Karl Barth distinguishes between human triumphalism and ‘God’s triumph’[i]. Barth’s exposition asserts that human triumphalism stands against the God who triumphs.

Human triumphalism is both an active and passive denial of God.

Linked to works righteousness, it is a fanatical rejection of the Creators rights to His creation.

His Lordship is undermined, ignored and forgotten in order for humanity to assert their own. This act exemplifies itself in the form of ‘primal atheism’[ii]; humans reaching for God’s power whilst at the same time proclaiming that such a power only exists in a special few (mysticism) or does not exist at all (atheism).

In short, men and women seek to become lordless powers.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilise Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ.

Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment or mistreatment of the weak.

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness as light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [iii]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[iv], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Paul writes:

‘We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death He died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:10)

This in consequence means that ‘to be with God is to be in Christ’[v].

God’s triumph is God’s revelation which has been given in Jesus the Christ and is asserted in this time of grace by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, and only in Christ, is God’s triumph reconciled to human triumphalism.

From this point we stand and say “Jesus is the Victor”. From this point we abandon all questions that concern ourselves with what we have to do to be in God’s will, or win his approval. From this point we take up our true concern: the invitation into participation with what God has already done and is doing right now on our behalf.

As Barth noted:

God’s continued  presence in us and for us means a ‘state or position in which humans may find themselves, but only with amazement, only with gratitude, only in humble recognition of an accomplished fact…an earlier state is one of self-glorification and self-will. Apart from the triumph of God it would still be the state of humanity today. Marked again by forgetting or denying the triumph of God by seeing (and calling) the power of God on us and in us as anything other than the Holy Spirit’[vi]

References:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[ii] Ibid, p.321

[iii] Ibid, p.258

[iv] Ibid, p.260

[v] Ibid, p.258

[vi] Ibid, p.260

Image credit: Tim Marshall, Unsplash.com

.

Hear the seldom gong and its solemn tone
.       a high pitched, heart wrenching groan.

Unheard human tears, receive an audience before Divine ears.
Unhinged society’s switched off its intelligence;
Blank talking into the eyes of its own darkness.

The abussos,

.      its emptiness,

.      its quiet violent chasm.

The depth of which only God knows.

.       “Bring forth the railings, planks and rope,
.        sure up a bridge, empowered by grace.
.        and may from it spring, all manner of hope.”

Bind and pull back those who’ve just climbed down the walls in order to ascend
Warn the others and waste no time on those who still refuse to comprehend.

For once safely over this monstrous abyss,
.     only hope will carry those who did not cease to exist.

Huddle together,

.           walk quickly,

.                   pray ferociously.

For war is coming.

Those content with slavery find no excuse to resist,
.          intolerance is not tolerated by virtue of tolerance.
All hail the veiling master, the academic oppressor, and their slave traders;
Who’ve categorized the masses, tagged and sold them into subservience.

Ushered into these new wastelands,
.            convenient science feeds industrialized collectives
.            and is protected by martial law.

The only two options given,
are total submission or total war.


(©RL2017)

 

Judah

June 5, 2017 — Leave a comment

Of all the instrumentals I’ve put together this year, there are three that I struggle to really like. Either it’s a case of me rushing the production, or not spending enough time, during the recording process, on synchronizing the rhythm.

I’m okay with them. As I’ve said before on these kinds of posts, the instrumentals that I am putting together are done in under 7 hours. It’s one way of attempting to stretch myself artistically.

Plus, I see my YouTube channel as a public art process diary, not a money making venture. It will contain my musical flaws, faults and not-so-good recordings. Warts and all.

I’m not suggesting that my work ethic is slack or that I am lax in how I create. The music is genuine, or as genuine as I can get it to be given my lack of practice over the years and current technological limitations. All in all, I’ll give it my best shot and make an effort to learn from every bump, and blister along the way.

One of those instrumental songs is called, ‘Judah.’ Teaching through Numbers 23 this morning reminded of the fact that I hadn’t yet posted the instrumental or given any commentary on it.

The passage in Numbers which triggered this is where Balaam sets out to curse Israel. This ”mercenary prophet” [John Calvin’s words, not mine] is set up to curse Israel a second time, however he’s met with only that which God has allowed him to speak, saying:

‘[…]The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt and is for them like the horns of a wild ox […] Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself.’
(Numbers 23:18-24, ESV)

Calvin writes, ‘God will never cease to be gracious to His children, until He has led them to the very end of their course […] Israel, like a lion, shall be bold and strong, prompt in their resistance if any should provoke them.’ [i]

This is linked in with Genesis 49:9, where Judah is described as a ‘lion’s cub’. This is then later connected to the statement about Jesus, by John in Revelation,

‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.’
(Revelation 5:5, ESV)

Calvin writes,

‘the Tribe of Judah excelled in bravery. The sum is, that however, the people of Israel might be attacked on every side, it should be endued with invincible fortitude, to overcome all assaults, or to repel them vigorously. This courage was counted among the gifts of God.’ [ii]

With both art and sound, I had made an attempt to paint the tenacity of bravery in the midst of pain and breathless brokenness; of courage; of joy; of being awakened to the reminder that our strength is the joy of the Lord, and it radiates out from God’s holiness and grace.

As for the creative process, all the rhythm was created using a semi-acoustic layered over another semi-acoustic, bass and lead were done on an electric. The drums were sequenced via Garage band. The artwork was a fast drawn add-on.


References:

[i] Calvin, J. Commentary on Numbers

[ii] ibid.

The contents of Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War and The Bible are unrelated. They are, by any quick comparison, worlds apart. The Art of War is a masterpiece in military organisation and strategy. It’s a sage, giving the wealth of a sage’s advice to all who would follow his counsel closely.

The Bible is a collection of books, filled with multiple genres, following centuries of the same consistent theme: God’s faithfulness. Testified to from multiple authors, God’s faithfulness often jars in contrast to human unfaithfulness, both towards each other and towards God Himself.

These include eyewitness accounts, poetry, proverbial wisdom, historiography; prophecy, a litany of apocalyptic predictions, historical letters and genealogies.

The Art of War is a manual. In it the wisdom and experience of Chinese Army veteran, Sun-Tzu is encapsulated in a list of haiku like principles. Whereas The Bible, from start to finish moves from point to point testifying to the revelation of God; as He slowly raised and continues to raise humanity, through Covenant, promise and fulfilment, up out of humanities trajectory towards inhumanity and self-annihilation.

What The Art of War and parts of The Bible share in common is the way in which truth and experience is communicated through metaphor, simile and poetic syntax.

For example:

‘A rushing torrent/carries boulders/on its flood; such is the energy/of its momentum’ [i] (Sun-Tzu, The Art of War)
‘Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 19:24, ESV)

There are truths expressed within both examples and experience is expressed.

The relationship between The Art of War and The Bible is established in its use of poetic language to recall history and communicate truths, through narrative and poetic prose.

Any question over commonality is therefore answered. The next question is, can there be any relevance between the two? Can The Art of War help us better understand The Bible?

My answer to this question is yes.

Though, it’s cultural setting, context, authorship, and in most areas its contents are worlds apart, sections of The Art of War can enlighten our perspective of ancient society, politics and warfare.

Much like Machiavelli’s, The Prince, The Art of War gives in insight into areas of human behaviour, organisation, rule and movement. These include leadership, social organisation, paradox (dialectic)[ii], relationships, management, hierarchy, strategy and, in a few specific places, the value of human life.

‘[Force] March ten miles for some gain/and two in three men will arrive’[iii] (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

Relevance between the Bible and The Art of War can be found. Much of the first five books of the Bible, (the Pentateuch; Torah) discuss the state of the human race, God’s creation, liberation, government and ordering of humanity, centred within and viewed through the lens of His people.

God’s ordering, His governing where His leadership through a close friendship with Moses, is exemplified in the post Exodus, wilderness dwelling, Book of Numbers.

Here, Yahweh’s request under the Covenant with Israel is His way of bringing the Hebrews FULLY out of Egypt [psychologically & culturally, this was as much reformation as it was revolution]. As evidenced by the Golden Calf, one coup attempt, a number of formal protests and general disgruntlement about how much better things were under Egyptian rule. In other words, how much better things were under the rule of Egypt’s hybrid animal-human gods.

Yahweh is brought to trial. The just God is thrown unjust criticism and all manifestations of his grace through the miraculous provision and care given towards His people are forgotten.

The confrontation causes conflict, as Yahweh seeks to take their focus off the creature and put it onto the Creator; seeks to bring His people out of Egypt. To teach them that they are no longer under Egyptian rule, but are under His guidance, blessing, leadership; fatherhood – are united and reborn as the nation of Israel. The gods humans made are directly challenged by the God who made humans.

The victory is won, yet, Yahweh is still fighting against the influence of Egypt and the way of the Egyptian gods.

Throughout this contest, Yahweh is the model of a perfect General (Exodus 15). He avoids the pitfalls described by Sun-Tzu, even though, His people (and even Moses from time to time) fall right into them:

‘Recklessness – leading to destruction
Cowardice – leading to capture
Hot temper (manipulated or triggered into reacting poorly) – prone to provocation
Delicacy to honour (concern for reputation; perfectionism) – tending to shame
Concern for his men (easily swayed/influenced, people pleasing; concerned about offending them) – leading to trouble.’
(Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

Numbers teaches us that God perfectly hears us, has perfect self-control, can be provoked to anger, but is patient, quick to restraint and shows mercy, by way of warnings and provision.

   ‘These five perils to leadership demand the most careful attention’ – Sun-Tzu, The Art of War.

God is tolerant up to a point. At which time He makes that point known. Just as He did with those who opposed Israel, there is a point at which He chooses not to allow His people to advance, or they advance into the jaws of their enemies, both without and within.

 “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? – Jesus Christ, Luke 6:39

What Numbers alongside The Art of War teaches us is this: the pitfalls of a General are human pitfalls. That God is the perfect General, and that we fail, when we fail to follow Him into battle, in life and in death. Humanity fails when it fails to recognize or it chooses to reject, His grace. The grace that firmly holds us, even though we walk on the precipice of, and sometimes are forced to hang over, the abyss.

‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
(Paul, Galatians 2:20, ESV)

References:

[i] Sun-Tzu, circa 500 BC. The Art of War: Potential Energy Penguin Ed. 2008 (p.26)

[ii] For example: ‘Orderly disorder is based on careful division; courageous fear on potential energy; strong weakness on troop dispositions’.

[iii] Ibid, pp.40-41

Image credit: Rembrandt, 1659 Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law

Naming a tune can sometimes take time. There are days when the name will drop instantly. Then there are other days when the quest to aptly fit a title to a song is drawn out, long and tedious.

It’s no great drama since creating music, for me, forms part of practice. This coincides with the enjoyment of using a gift and the challenge to better myself each time.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how much harder this might if I were under the thumb of finance, corporate pressure and contractual obligation.

I’ve gained a healthier respect for the professional, who, sees his or her art dissolve into the mix of polish, performance and perfectionism. Rather than seeing their art come to life, they witness it being devoured.

On the creative front, each tune takes me approximately six hours to create, mix and post it in a video.

Currently, I only use audacity, a laptop, Marshall amp, guitar and FX unit for recording, which brings with it some challenges and limitations. The drums are sequenced using Garage Band on an ipad.

Blog posts like these function in much the same way as an active art process diary does for a working artist.

The title of this tune comes from a poem I wrote in April called The Embers of Inhaled Grace. If I could improve anything in this, it’d be the drums and mix.

‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’
(James 4:7. ESV)

 

 

With the start of the new school year we’ve been engineering the tone of homeschool for the rest of the year. So, my focus has been elsewhere. Which means, as far as blog content goes, posts are short and sweet.

Recently, I came across Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation on D-Day. One of THE defining military campaigns of the Second World War. (link to full text)

D-Day did more than symbolise a united stand against totalitarianism, it was a just act against blatant evil.

Hence the value of this document: it is both a humble prayer and political speech. Speculation is a cardinal sin for theologians, (or so I was taught), therefore I find myself holding back (with some difficulty) from thinking about how things would have gone if this act of contrition by the then American President had not happened. Looking at the paradigm of today’s political world, it is hard to imagine a prayer like this being deemed permissible.

For this reason: here is one the most powerful leaders in the free world submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no sentimentalism in it that I can see.This is not cultural Christianity parading the veneer of vaguely remembered Sunday School lessons in order to appeal to popular applause.

Underpinning this prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Excluding the word ‘crusade’, Roosevelt is inadvertently preempting the same considerations made by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1945:

‘Out of the humility of prayer grows the charity for comrade and foe. The recognition that we all stand under a more ultimate bar of judgement mitigates the fury of our self-righteousness and partly dissolves the wickedness of our dishonest pretensions…
We will therefore not be swollen by pride because others think well of us. We will remember that they do not know the secret of our hearts. Neither will we take their disapproval too seriously. The sense of a more ultimate judgement arms us with the courage to defy the false judgements of the community’ [i]

Both are impressive. Each make a unique contribution to how Jesus Christ, just judgement, Christian love and responsibility are valuable to an evangelical ethic that supports life and reaches out in truth. With the understanding that sometimes “no” is given in order to say “yes”; an ethical framework that every responsible parent knows well and practices daily.

Official & original:

With music and a video montage:

Repost: Originally posted 5th Feb, 2015


Updated 24th May 2017:
.
I’m seeing quite a bit of condemnation being thrown about regarding people offering their prayers for those lost and caught up in the tragedy in Manchester.

I’m in agreement with putting an end to sentimentalism and empty gestures like lightshows and hashtags. Prayer, however, shouldn’t be linked in with this.

There’s nothing wrong with prayer. At the end of the day, it all depends on who they’re directed towards and the motivation behind it. True prayer is preparation for action, not a substitute for it. Prayer is an act of true freedom.

When genuine, it rallies people in shared solidarity against arrogance, towards humility. It is a revolt against complacency, appeasement, disorder and gestures filled only with empty sentiment.

Underpinning F.D.R’s D-Day prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Ditch the sentimentalism and empty gestures, such as hashtags and lightshows. Don’t ditch prayer. For, ‘out of the humility of prayer..we will not be swollen by pride’ [ii] in right response to aggression.

‘Even the ”devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’
(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)

References:

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945 Discerning The Signs of The Times, Niebuhr Press Kindle. Ed.

[ii] ibid, 1945

Image: Mine. I cropped it using the first and last page of the transcript in order to draw attention to it.

Elshtain on ideology, human frailty and fairness…

Elshtain on the necessity of maintaining distinctions…

Elshtain on the importance of the ‘transcendent other’ in creating heaven on earth…

Of all the points of parallel relevance the past has with modern society, there are sometimes moments when historical parallels between past and present collide.

This nexus isn’t always clear or easy to acknowledge. The past may be misappropriated and misrepresented; hyped up to buttress a political agenda.

Key players manipulate the material in order to provoke a response, carefully steering reactions in a particular direction for political gain.

Throughout history the Christian Church has come up against this, battling forces within and without. Along the halls of Church History can be found the graffiti of false prophets, corrupt leaders, anti-Christs, and, the more surreptitious, pseudo-christs.

There have, for example, been a number of notorious examples of cults, false prophecies and dates given asserted to be the exact return of Jesus Christ and the end of days.

Like freedom, truth has to be fought for. Like freedom, the greatest threat to truth is the corruption of it.

One of the great positives of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, is that he provides an insight into the secularized church mindset. The, politically necessary fake-it-to-maintain-it, surface only profession of, in Machiavelli’s context, faith in Jesus Christ in order to maintain status, power, control and influence over the people.

‘There is nothing more important than appearing religious. In general people judge more by appearances than first-hand experience , because everyone gets to see you but hardly anyone deals with you directly. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few have experience of who you really are, and those few won’t have the courage to stand up to the majority opinion underwritten by the authority of the state.’ [i]

Social media provides the most poignant example of where a nexus between past and present exists. Just as Machiavelli, half mockingly describes politicians and the socio-political mix of his time, for a good majority, appearance is placed over substance.

Seeming to be something, or be doing something is part of the rule of the day. Today, it’s correct, politically incorrect, label is “virtue signalling”.

The nexus isn’t easy to see because it’s feared. Learning from the past empowers responsible action in the present. When allowed to speak freely, the truth of the past secures the future.

Either the truth of the nexus is too close for comfort, or what confronts us isn’t in line with political narratives that shape, and seek to shape, the way people think, act and speak.

Ideas that are deified, demanding an absolute pledge of allegiance to those, who by blurred distinctions, coerce the surrender of tried and trusted systems that ensure basic civic freedoms. Those who bind truth to lies with threats to deny those civic freedoms under the guise of treason.

God’s Word as law, given in grace is supplanted. Man’s word as law, given to enslave, is enthroned. Chiseled into existence with the arrogant proclamation, “God is dead”. This jubilant euphoria at man triumphant; God conquered, is, however, short lived.

The great evil committed in the Garden, now cemented in the creeds of an incorporated and thought-to-be newfound lordlessness. The regression towards a pre-Christ primal atheism strikes a devastating blow against humanity.Those this side of all of histories examples, say with lament, “man is dead”.

Human lords are divided,

‘no longer able so unambiguously to distinguish the light of Lucifer from the light of God […] Humankind has got what it wants; it has become creator, source of life, fountain head of the knowledge of good and evil […] it is the lord of its own world.’ [ii].

This was the case in Germany throughout the 1930’s: “To the good Nazi not even God stands before Hitler” [iii] Humanity becomes the source of good and evil; ‘living out of it’s own resources'[iv] in a rejection of God’s grace. The fickle motion of whim, feeling, and lust, combined with a reasoned insanity. Humanity strikes a devastating blow against itself.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilize Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ. Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment (mistreatment) of the weak.

Helmut Gollwitzer, in response to the so-called, reasoned insanity, of ‘Kristallnacht’ (Night of broken glass/crystal) preached:

”Those who cannot admit their guilt before God can no longer do so before men and women. Then begins the insanity of persecution that seeks to make the other person into the devil in order to make themselves into a god. Where repentance stops, inhumanity begins; there all common bonds shatter even while one tries to strengthen them through tenacious self-justification and self-pardon’ [v]
– (November 1938, Berlin, Sermon: ‘About Kristallnacht’ )

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness behind a veil of light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [vi]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[vii], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Humanity is triumphant only because God triumphed! Without God, nothing. For ‘God gives of God’s own life, of God’s Spirit. Human beings do not live as human beings apart from God’s Spirit.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation & Fall p.79)

“Extract us from sin, He Who dwells in the heavens
as the sun sets, call to those who pass through fire and water
Next Year in Jerusalem.” (source)


References:

[i] Machiavelli, N. 1532, The Prince Penguin Classics, 2011, (p.71)

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3:Creation & Fall

[iii] Julien Bryan, Henry Luce & Louis de Rochermont, 1939. March Of Time: Inside Nazi Germany

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3: Creation and Fall

[v] Gollwitzer, H. 1938 in Stroud, D. (ed.) 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s shadow: Sermons of resistance, Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing p.120

[vi] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[vii] ibid, 1938

YouTube: Jerusalem (Swedish Band): ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ from the album ‘Prophet‘, 1993

Image: United States Holocaust Museum, Kristallnacht

paul-schneider-quote-2Arrested four times, Paul Schneider became one of the first theologians of the Confessing Church to be murdered by the Nazis, and the first protestant pastor to die in a Nazi concentration camp.

In a nut shell, Schneider was labelled a firebrand. Like a lot of the Confessing Church Pastors and theologians, his theological resistance was “politically incorrect”.

His defiance was a veritable revolt against ‘compromise with Nazi ideology, and the indifference of the people.’[i]

As a result the ‘terror state would forbid him to preach, and attempt to silence his opposition by enforcing a form of exile’[ii]. Schneider was later arrested and imprisoned.

His tenacity is evidenced by accounts such as this:

‘In January 1939 two prisoners who tried to escape were hanged in front of the assembled inmates. Paul Schneider called out through his cell window: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I witness against the murder of these prisoners…The response was another twenty-five lashes.’ (source)

Greg Slingerland narrates the scene brilliantly:

On a January morning in 1939 in the concentration camp of Buchenwald, two beleaguered prisoners who had attempted to escape were brought into the parade grounds of the camp. There they were mercilessly executed.  As the bodies of the two prisoners went limp, a voice rang out across the camp from the window of the punishment cell.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, I witness against the murder of these prisoners!”

Not quite six months later, Schneider, beaten and starved, was euthanized by the Buchenwald camp doctor. Schneider was survived by his wife, Margarete and their six children. (source [iii])

Along with Schneider’s outspoken preaching in prison, his theologically informed political defiance permeated his sermons.

The first in 1934, where he firmly asserts a theological critique against the ideology of the day:

‘we have tolerated the teachings of Balak (Numbers 22.6), of liberalism that praises goodness and freedom of men and women while minimising the honour of God and letting the seriousness of eternity fade away into a misty haze[iv]we cannot close our eyes to the high storm-waves we see surging toward our people in the Third Reich[v]

The other is in a sermon smuggled out of a Gestapo prison camp in 1937 entitled: ‘About Giving Thanks in the Third Reich’. He draws deliberately onBelshazzar, a poem written by Heinrich Heine, a 19th century German Jewish poet[vi].’

Schneider matches the attitudes of late 1930’s Germany with the attitude of ‘the Babylonian ruler, who fully ripened in his godless, proud, and wasteful misuse of God’s gifts, had drunk himself sick and mocked God’[vii] (Daniel 5:13-30)

‘…His face is flushed, his cheeks aglow, till a sinful challenge to God resounds.
He boasts and blasphemes against the Lord, to the roaring cheers of his servile horde…
“Jehovah, your power is past and gone – I am the King of Babylon”
But scarce the awful word was said, the King was stricken with secret dread.
The raucous laughter silent falls, it is suddenly still in the echoing halls.
And see!
As if on the wall’s white space, a human hand began to trace.
Writing and writing across the stone, letters of fire, wrote, and was gone
The King sat still, with staring gaze, his knees were water, ashen his face.
Fear chilled the vassals to the bone, fixed they sat and gave no tone.
Wise men came, but none was equipped, to read the sense of the fiery script.
Before the sun could rise again, Belshazzar by his men was slain.’(source)

 

Rembrandt_-_Belshazzar's_Feast_-_WGA19123

Dean Stroud notes:

‘Schneider no longer believed that ‘’our evangelical church” (read German Evangelical [Free] Church) could avoid direct conflict with the Nazi state’[viii]

For the Church in the West, these are still ominous words. As witness (marturion; martyr) they also point us towards the ‘storms that are not so much around us, but in our hearts.[ix]

Heard as they must be heard, Schneider joins the chorus of voices who cry out to us today against complacency, indifference, arrogance, and the unwillingness to face the danger posed by those who seek to be our ideological masters. Dangers that we as a multi-ethnic community can still face up to together, or continue to ignore and find ourselves bound together under those ideologies to their yoke of slavery.

“In regimenting German thought, all radio programs emanate from the – [state own broadcaster] – the Department of propaganda. Every newspaper prints only what the State wants its people to read and any letter in the German mail is subject to censorship. For in Nazi Germany any instrument that forms thought, communicates ideas; must be used to glorify the Nazi super state and its demigod”
(Henry R. Luc, Julien Bryan, Louis de Rochemont, March of Time: Inside Nazi Germany, 1938)

Each poignantly targeted at us today, Schneider’s words and example, are yet another loud theological indictment on the lifelessness of ideological servitude.

For:

“The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain.”
(Ronald Reagan, 1964. A Time For Choosing)

References:

[i] Stroud, D. (ed.) 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance, Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing p.75

[ii] Ibid, p.94

[iii] This website is in German, but can be translated via the Google toolbar. {the mechanic seems reliable}

[iv] Given the content, what he means here is a view of freedom without responsibility; power without accountability; denial of the transcendent.

[v]  Ibid, p.80 (Schneider)

[vi] Ibid, p.96 (Schneider)

[vii] Ibid, p.104 (Schneider)

[viii] Ibid, p.76

[ix] Ibid, p.82 (Schneider)

Image 1: Rembrandt, 1686-8 ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’

Image 2: Paul Schneider, graphic created using picmonkey

Updated 15th May 2017, from an article I originally posted on October 1st, 2014

Having been buried in the topics of theology, specifically Christian history and political theology. I haven’t yet had the chance to fully engage with a lot of conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton’s work.

I’m indebted to an internet friend for posting this video on his blog otherwise I’d have completely missed it. Scruton is interviewed for an hour and half by Dutch journalist, Wim Kayzer as part of a series called ‘Of Beauty and Consolation‘.

The whole interview is worth watching. Since it is quite lengthy, my purpose here will be to share some of the more stand out points.

What this interview serves to show, among other things, is that, unlike modern liberalism and its cult-like followers, conservatives (and they’re allies) cannot be truly pinned down. Sure, extremes exist and there is [slash] are basic, tried and true, propositions by which conservatives work.

Conservatives,however, and in a lot of ways, those aligned with them, cannot be placed into a neat little box, then pushed aside under a plethora of reckless labeling that often comes their way. The freedom of religion, speech and conscience allows for the freedom of thought and the challenge of ideas.

Of everything discussed, the content between 53:00-58:00 is, to me, among the most significant.

Here Scruton states:

“Hysteria dominates modern politics … I think it’s no accident that the loss of faith in our century [20th Cent.] immediately was accompanied by the rise of totalitarian government. Communism; Nazism; Fascism. All of which are atheistic creeds growing out of superstitions [& hysteria]; growing out of a loss of the God-head”

This is the high point from which the documentary takes flight. The interview, from this point, spreads out in a range of answers to questions about society, theology, politics, philosophy and marriage.

Overall the interview follows its own organic course. The only thing planned were the questions. Outside those, Scruton leads the conversation the entire time.

Other points worth mentioning include: His response in 1:03/49 is very Barthian, and second, Scruton’s statement that marriage was a “creative endeavor”:

“Marriage is a creative endeavor that lifts us out of the animal realm and inscribes us into the eternal”

Scruton is candid, having no issue with opening up about his battle with social anxiety and how learning to overcome it has informed his philosophy; his search for truth. This is also evidenced by his thoughts on where modern (post-Christian) society is at.

“The problem with the modern world, in my view, is that people no longer dwell on the earth. They move as nomads around it. In search of something they know not what, and never finding it. Moving from person to person, place to place.”

The pandemics of “panic”, meaninglessness and emptiness which now plague the world are largely driven by anxiety avoidance and a “lack of awareness about its own state of unhappiness – it is the panic of the isolated individual“.

“People are totally [lost] at sea without the religious sense/awareness of that which exists beyond ourselves;that God feeling. With the loss of moral equilibrium that is provided by the Divine, and their detachment from where this is made real, people become prey to superstition of the most appalling kind.”

The interview is centered on the human concepts of experience, beauty and consolation. The conversation which follows is casually worked out from there. Ending with a return to Scruton’s comments about meeting his wife during a hunting trip.

The topic of consolation is the centerpiece of most responses. One stand out part is the distinction he makes between fake consolation and authentic consolation.

“False consolation, like finding refuge in wine or alcohol, does not involve over-coming. Consolation comes from having confronted trouble and elicited  from the heart of trouble the resolution of it.”

This lengthy interview caught me by surprise. I was not expecting to hear anything about Scruton’s battle with anxiety, his troubled home life as a child or his views on modern politics. Another surprise was learning that Scruton was a musician.

As was pointed out to me, Scruton’s theology is ‘not as refined’ as some might like. His theology does slide away at some points. Scruton struggles to find the right words. To his credit, when this happens he moves to assert that he is not a theologian, and even though he is discussing theology, “he [therefore] can’t answer those questions with the same acuity”.

I wasn’t a fan of the tone given out by the interviewer, but given the differences between Europe and Australia. Perhaps this can be graciously put down to being a kind of cultural tone I’m not used to hearing. Nevertheless, I sat through the entire interview and devoured it.


(RL2017)

H/T: Kevin Davis, Of Beauty and Consolation  sourced 12th May 2017 from After Existentialism, Light.

Il faut en finir.jpg2Karl Barth never ceases to confound his students or humble our feeble attempts to steer him in a particular political direction. One key example of this is a letter written in December 1939, to ‘The French Protestants’ at the outbreak of World War Two.

His words here are straight from the front, back towards the left and then on towards the right.

Barth is not advocating that the Church take up a “‘crusade’ against Hitler“. Rather that the Church repent and pray for a ‘just peace’. Choosing the better side of responsible action over against irresponsible action or worse, total inaction. Barth is calling for the Church to awaken; to turn from a politics of appeasement and blind compassion, in order to avoid the problems created when both are infused with good, but naïve intentions.

‘It would be regrettable if the Christian Churches, which in previous wars have so often and so thoughtlessly spoken the language of nationalism and militarism, should just in this war equally thoughtlessly decide to adopt the silence of neutrality and pacifism. The Churches  to-day should pray in all penitence and sobriety for a just peace…to bear witness to all the world that it is necessary and worth while to fight and suffer for this just peace’
(Barth in Loconte, J (Ed.) The End Of Illusions, 2004:157)

According to Joseph Loconte, Barth lamented the ‘Munich Agreement’ writing in his diary: ‘catastrophe of European liberty in Munich’ ibid:153). Adding in a letter to Czech soldiers that ‘resistance to Hitler, was service to Christ’ (ibid).

Also noting that the partial injustice of 1919, The Treaty of Versailles, made England and France ‘chiefly responsible for the  state of affairs which arose in Europe after 1919 – which in turn, as far as Barth sees it, makes them responsible, too, for making Hitler possible’ (ibid:156).

Although Barth prefers the term ‘just peace’, steering away from applying the phrase ‘just war’, he is advocating the latter. For instance: ‘Our generation would be answerable before God and before humanity if the attempt were not made to put an end to the menace of Hitler’. (ibid:156)

Other than reinforcing the important relevance of Barth to contemporary discussions. This letter shows that placing him into an ideological box, in order to serve an understanding of his theology, or using any conclusions drawn from that to advance the defence of utopian illusions or a benevolent ideological master, are deeply flawed. Such as being quick to claim that Barth was a sold-out pacifist.

Since there are parallels between his time and ours.Today’s Church needs to “get this”. It ought not fail to stand against sloppy sentimentalism, popular activism nor fail to act on the warnings which were so powerfully relevant for then, and are just as relevant to us today.

Barth asks:

‘Why have we heard and why do we continue to hear, and that not infrequently, voices of eschatological defeatism, a defeatism which appealing to the truth that “the whole world lies in the evil one,” busies itself almost cynically with asserting that Hitler’s present adversaries for their part are no saints either? The apprehension of the truth that God alone is holy will not excuse us from the duty of putting up resistance to-day.’ (ibid:157)
‘We must be prepared for God, just when we are acting in obedience to His command, to confront us with His own “Il faut en finir,” and again by His command to lead us to something wholly other… Done in this spirit of preparedness, our work of resistance will then be a good work…We are both allowed and obliged to know that God will reign in any case and the He makes no mistakes’ (ibid:161)

Loconte is right: ‘Any serious student of the 1930’s is struck by the familiarity of the debate’. (ibid:3)


Source:

Barth, K. 1939 First Letter to the French Protestants in Loconte, J. (Ed.) 2004 The End of Illusions  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Image: French roughly translated in English as ‘We must/will end it’ or ‘We shall go on to the end.’

(Originally posted Jan. 2015)

In a world of “noise” it can be difficult to step up and say something unique. That act risks rejection. It involves vulnerability, humility, courage and honesty.

The key to interaction, we’re told, is more interaction. We’re encouraged not to limit ourselves to just one media arena. Build followers, “friends” and establish a “market presence”, in a market overloaded with sell, sell, sell.

Twitter is a fast-paced, here one minute, gone the next platform and Instagram isn’t much different. Blogs are in the plenty and are always a step away from losing what little readers they do attract to the next biggest thing that can hold the already dwindling internet attention span of the masses.

Facebook has it’s usefulness, but as someone said to me in a conversation last night, it’s a two-edged sword. It should be wielded wisely.Pick your fights, sheath the thought. This is juxtaposed with its algorithms, which by default, push new posts to the bottom of the pile, only displaying those with the most responses. Social media is largely a popularity game that few will ever really win.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to make our own contribution. We can’t just wish away the responsibility to speak into that overloaded arena. As the aptly named axiom goes: “don’t compare yourself to others, just stay in your own lane”.

Or as Spurgeon stated:

‘If you, my Brother and Sister, have a little company of about a hundred people to deal with, be perfectly satisfied. Or if, my Sister, you have a class of ten or a dozen girls to teach, be content with that number and do the best you can to glorify God in your own proper place. Depend upon it, if you exchanged your burden for mine, you would not be able to bear it– and if I had yours, I dare say it would not fit my back so well as my own does!’
(Lowly Service, circa 1870s) [i]

Stay in your own lane. Speak with your own voice. Make your own contribution.

Yes, think before sharing. We should ask ourselves if whether or not what is being shared further pads the “noise”; pads our own egos or irresponsibly invites strife. We shouldn’t give up or give in there. Refine thought, argument and lofty opinion, “taking them captive to obey Christ” (2. Cor. 10:4-5). Then under conviction or consolation, either jettison it or seek a way to speak it.

For Christians, what guides this process is God’s eternal redemptive spiritual and physical presence; His voice spoken through Spirit and Son. One that pierces darkness and sheds light onto an otherwise difficult to see front line.

It’s His authority that we rest on. It’s His voice that will linger because in the end that which is wished forgotten, doesn’t serve the downtrodden.

‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it in many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth […] He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.’
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-4, ESV)

Therefore brothers and sisters:

‘The altar must never lose the glow and heat of its holy fire and the lamp of the sanctuary must never be permitted to go out, so these sufferers, as they lie, night after night, watching the long and weary hours, keep the lamp of prayer brightly burning and the incense of intercession perpetually ascending to the Most High. And so the earth is never without the sweetening influence of saintly supplication.’
(Spurgeon, ibid) [ii]

The poem featured below is a little on the heavy side, but it isn’t without redemption.

[For those interested in the creative process:  It takes about 3-5 hrs to put these tunes together; just me, God, my guitars, an amp and audacity. Another 2-3 for mixing and then creating the video.My most liked part of this weeks art project is the high-end lead parts and the bass. The lead for this was all done on a semi-acoustic.]


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1870s,  Lowly Service [online version available here]

[ii] ibid, Lowly Service

Emancipation

May 4, 2017 — 2 Comments

.

I’m schooled by necessity,
schooling from what was thrown at me unnecessarily.

Gasping for gravity,
learning new abilities beyond any owned or taught capacity.
Here you find me, of my broken father.
Me, a father’s broken son.

Another recipient of grace and master of no one;
a child with problems and a wounded teen;
high on self-medication; alcohol and drugs.

Sooner forgotten;
.          shifted blame,
.    adults and pointed fingers,
.    children forced to make adult decisions;
.                 figure it all out and not pull any triggers.

That place,
.      outpaced by a child’s pain;
.      a teen’s hate follows sadness like a moth to a flame.

Better your story not told,
.         than your story told before those who’d rather not know.

But, through this I grow.

Discounting tears;
.   chained to fear,
.   my companions abandon safe shores,
.   the dregs of smiles and public compassion dissolving into smoke and mirrors,
.   because there’s no medallions,
.                podiums,
.                applause,
.                or Instagram-perfect winners.

Such is the deadly repetition.
The cycle of denial, excuses and self-justification.

Sore eyes become long dark sighs, swimming in bloodshot exhaustion,
weakened by arguments and my point of view’s abortion.

Painful images painted by words,
morphed by experience and the cry of useful lament.

Stillness and memories,
.                   put downs and verbal incendiaries
Kindled by petition,
.               protest prayer and the cries for justice;
.               prayed out protests petitioning the light breather;

God. The life saver.

Pathos carried from human hearts to the heart of the unseeable;
carried up, out and on quiet wings to the unseen.
The one who makes Himself knowable.

As I am, I was found.
Found as I was,
.  here so I am.

Raised as a son by The Father,
.  brought up by The Father,
.  because of The Son.

I, now a father;
.   in Jesus Christ,
.   a forgiving son.

Right here. The Gracious. The righteous;
my emancipation sealed and won.


(RL2017)

‘The only way to escape from the devil is to run away from him without giving him any notice. Just as you are, at this moment escape with your lives! Do as the prodigal son did – say, “I will arise and go to [THE] Father.” And the, like he, rise up at once and go!”

(Charles Spurgeon, Sermon Lowly Service)

Sedated Polis

May 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

.

Images swallowed
are emptied of resonance;
Voided passion.
Pay-offs and silence; twisted resistance.

Social media degradation.
The mind controlled, so-called superior,
.              “tolerance” generation.

Enablers that scream “love”;
.         and define it as a constant “yes” in affirmation.
.Manipulators against love’s reasoned “no”;
.         a “no” given with loving consideration.
Those who make sex a commodity and confuse love with infatuation.

Violent conversions;
.          legalized perversions
.     the convulsing spasms of warring factions
.           stain and fill the still preventable,
.      but encroaching eulogies for the West.

The Eastern sands move closer,
.      the warlord and his progenitors howl louder,
.      all muffled by incompetence,
.       joined in its chorus by insanity incorporated.

By misplaced compassion and
.    ignorant multi-indifference,
.                 citizens become enslaved to ‘isms, under the guise of freedom
.    human words from over-lords,
.                  throw man-over-board;
.     man and woman over-Lord.

Abandoned for agendas
Anchoring to chaos,
God and Christ jettisoned for feel-good propaganda,
.      sold out subjects left watching,
.      numbed by entertainment,
.      numbered and tagged,
.      sentenced to clinics for containment.

Swirling incantations
.           of Utopians, red flags,
.           and mass ideological indoctrination.
Such is the sedated polis.
The coming cold and its dark solstice.


(RL2017)


 ‘The reason why was hazy in their minds[i]

After being summoned by General George C Marshall to meet with him on February the 11th, 1942, Frank Capra,  of ‘It’s a wonderful life’, and ‘You can’t take it with you’ fame, walked into the Pentagon .

Before Capra had received the invitation, he had been in the process of reviewing an offer of a partnership which, in his own words ‘would have made him part owner of “United Artists”. Easily placing him in the multi-millionaire class’[ii] and potentially exempting him from War time service.

In wrestling with the decision Capra wrote:

‘Why trade fame, glamour, and wealth for a number stamped on a dog tag?…I was bored with the applause. Furthermore, I had a guilty conscience. In my films I championed the cause of the gentle, the poor, the downtrodden, yet I began to live like the Aga Khan.[iii]

Responding to the invitation, Capra went from red carpet to khaki green.
Expecting to be assigned to the Signal Corps, he was surprised, and a little annoyed to find he had been reassigned to the newly created Morale Branch (Special Services)[iv].

Despite being uneasy, tense, and apprehensive[v]. His appointed meeting with Marshall on the 11th  of February went ahead better than he’d expected it to. Capra’s straight up honesty and his clear separation from being a typical “Hollywood type” – someone who ‘wouldn’t step on a carpet unless it was red’ [vi] – appeared to have justified Marshall’s choice.

Under his authority and at his request, Capra would produce a series of documentary movies that would serve as training videos for Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and Britain, to help counter Axis propaganda.

Marshall explains why:

‘The assumption of the Axis powers is that our boys will be too soft, too undisciplined to stand up against their highly trained, highly indoctrinated, highly motivated professional armies. They are sure the spirit and the morale of their individual soldier is superior to ours. He has something to fight and die for – victory for the superman; establishing the new age of the superstate. The spoils of such a victory are a heady incentive.
How can we counter their superman incentive? … Will young, freewheeling American boys take the iron discipline of wartime training; endure the killing cold of the Arctic, the hallucinating heat of the desert, or the smelly muck of the jungle? Can they shake off the psychological diseases indigenous to all armies – boredom and homesickness?
In my judgement the answer is ‘Yes’! Young Americans, and young men of all free countries, are used to doing and thinking for themselves. They will prove not only equal, but superior to totalitarian soldiers, if – and this is a large if, indeed – they are given answers as to why they are in uniform, and if the answers they get are worth fighting and dying for’
‘That Capra is our job – and your job. To win this war we must win the battle for men’s minds. I want you to nail down a plan to make a series of documented, factual-information films that will explain why we are fighting and the principle for which we are fighting’’[vi]

In response to Marshall, Capra said:

“I have never before made a single documentary film. In fact, I’ve never even been near anybody that’s made one”

Marshall countered back:

“Capra, I have never been a chief of staff before. Thousands of young Americans have never had their legs shot off before. Boys are commanding ships today, who a year ago had never seen the ocean before’’

To which Capra replied:

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make you the best damned documentary films ever made’’

He then turned to resolving the question of how? :

‘‘Shortly after General Marshall ordered me to make the ’Why we Fight’’ films for our servicemen, I saw Leni Riefenstahl’s terrifying motion picture, Triumph of the Will…it fired no guns, dropped no bombs. But as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal…
I sat alone and pondered. How could I mount a counterattack against Triumph of the Will; keep alive our will to resist the master race?’ [viii]
Capra is by far one of my favorite filmmakers from that era. In his own words he tells us that he wrestled hard with the issues, and in the end chose to fight propaganda with facts. Throughout this initial struggle he credits prayer and the Bible for having inspired his creative direction and determination to see the job done.
.
‘I needed a basic, powerful idea, an idea that would spread like a prairie fire; an idea from which all ideas flowed. I thought of the Bible.There was one sentence in it that always gave me goose  pimples: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Did this also mean that the truth would make you strong? Strong enough to stop the Axis powers? What was the truth about this World War?
Well, Fascists and Warlords were trying to stamp out human freedom and establish their own world dictatorships…But how could I know that statement was true? Who proved it to me? Why the enemy himself proved it to me, in his acts, his books, his speeches, his films. That was the key idea I was searching for – on my feet in Pentagon halls, on my back in bed, and on my knees in pews.
Let the enemy proveto our soldiersthe enormity of his causeand the justness of ours!’ [ix]

Why We Fight became the end product of this prayer filled decision. Seven documentaries – or information cinema – were produced. They were Frank Capra’s answer to Leni Rienfenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film, ‘Triumph of the Will‘; something Capra himself called, ‘a blood-chilling super-spectacle; the ominous prelude to Hitler’s holocaust of hate.’ (p.328).

Given the current state of the world and the increasing examples of threats to religious freedom, free speech, freedom of association & freedom of conscience.

Threats posed by excessive political correctness, militant LGBT activism, the twisting and quest to “own” science, the placement of feelings over facts, Islamism and its sympathizers in the West; all pushing for the triumph of the will, the will-to-dominate; to satisfy the libido dominandi and it’s lust for power. All tell us that Capra’s work here is not something that should be easily mocked or dismissed.

We can hear the tone his work resound in our ears today reminding us that:

“[In the slave world] men insist that progress lay in killing freedom.” (Why We Fight, 1942)

Like Capra, we are confronted with Jesus’ historical and eternal reminder,

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

And we stand on this, determined to not let the reasons for why we must take a stand, become hazy in our minds or the mind of society. We do this with the same skill, grace and determination because it is:

‘for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’
(Paul to the Galatians 5:1, ESV)

 

References:

[i] General George C Marshall, 1942 cited by Frank Capra, 1971

[ii] Capra, F. 1971 The Name Above the Title Da Capo Press p.314

[iii] Ibid, p.314

[iv] Ibid, p.318

[v] Ibid, p.326

[vi] Ibid, p.325

[vii] Ibid, p.327

[viii] Ibid, p.330

[ix] Ibid, p.330

Pic credit: 

Poster for IAWL (Wikipedia)

Photo of Frank Capra receiving the Distinguished Service Medal from U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall (Wikipedia)

(©RL2017)