Archives For October 2014

JetsHalloween isn’t really an Australian ‘thing’. Outside economic reasons and a general understanding that Australians have a love/hate relationship for some things American, I’m not sure why we’ve even gone down that road.

Therefore, since it’s a little ironic for me to post something that wavers on the extraordinary, consider that a disclaimer, and this, an acknowledgement of the irony of this post.

In ‘Part IV: To the Reformation’ Edwards hones in on something well before his time. Here is American theologian describing the antichrist’s activities in both the West and in the East.

When reading this bear in mind two current events and one historical fact: first, the beheadings of Christians in the East, court rulings against Christians in the West, and the fact that Edwards wrote this in the 1700’s.

Where things get sketchy is Edwards’ association of the Ancient Roman Empire with the antichristian West. In the context he uses words such as ‘heathen’[i] which helps, up to a point, separate the Roman Catholic Church from his meaning. He does, however, as most Reformed theology does to some degree, discuss the corruption within the R.C that brought on the reformation.

Nevertheless, in Edwards’ commentary a separation between the ‘heathen’-Ancient Roman Empire and Roman Catholicism exists.

For instance:

‘The two great works of the devil, in this space of time, against the kingdom of Christ, are his creating his Antichristian and Mahometan kingdoms; which both together comprehend the ancient Roman empire; the kingdom of Antichrist the Western, and the Mahometan kingdom the Eastern, empire. As the Scriptures in the book of Revelation represent it, it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ, at the introduction of the glorious times of the church, will mainly consist.’[ii]

What he means by “it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ, at the introduction of the glorious times of the church, will mainly consist” is unclear. From the context which includes referencing Revelation 9, his meaning is certain to be that of the ‘end times’.

‘Satan’s Mahometan kingdom shall be utterly overthrown. The locusts and horsemen in the 9th of Revelation, have their appointed and limited time set them there, and the false prophet shall be taken and destroyed…The visible kingdom of Satan shall be overthrown, and the kingdom of Christ set up on the ruins of it, everywhere throughout the whole habitable globe.’[iii]
 ‘then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree…in appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like woman’s hair, and their teeth like lion’s teeth; they had breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots rushing into battle’
– Revelation 9

There is a danger of reading too much into this (e.g.: projecting a form of apocalyptic apologetics by assuming a literal and not metaphorical reading of Revelation 9). Something I’m trying to avoid by simply allowing Edwards to speak for himself.

Outside the uncanny relevance, I won’t speculate on how spot on Edwards’ eschatological perspective might be. That task is one I’ll leave up to each individual reader.


Source:

[i] The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Volume I & II (Loc. 47424) Kindle Ed.

[ii] Ibid, Loc. 47409-47412 Kindle Ed.

[iii] Ibid, Loc. 48158-48159 & 48201-48202 Kindle Ed.

 

Unabridged Grace

October 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

Unabridged grace

Burning cathedrals; collapsing ‘isms

God’s reach surpasses our own

Fire Image  4

 ©RL2014

 

BanishedDuring my second year in college, our innovative church history professor assigned an assessment centred around the PC game, ‘Medieval: Total War’. It was a research project discussing the historicity of the game and whether not the storyline was chronologically accurate.

Since then I haven’t looked at computer gaming the same.

The downside is the inbuilt individualism in many video games that imparts unhealthy expectations, through a “virtual world” that caters to your every decision, want or desire. (I’ve played many and know some of that, of which I speak)

In an offline environment where you’re made into either a hero or a god, the outcomes of such a pseudo reality, are generally a false sense of entitlement, false empowerment and false achievement. Inside such a world the victims are aplenty.

There are also the online environments where the villainous choices of others are rewarded. Their efforts ‘’celebrated’’ on ‘’kill boards’’ that collate both performance, in-game currency and/or other means of measuring skill and ‘’success’’.

Without a fair and well-regulated Eula the online video game ethos is determined by the primary player base. The environment is essentially left governed by Golding-esk mob rule; a ‘Lord of the flies’ dysfunctional society, absent of restraint or consequences.

On the upside, as game developers fine-tune their products, they are beginning to produce serious exceptions to this general rule.

Making the right choice or knowing where to start at first might be overwhelming. It’s something even a seasoned video-gamer will wrestle with from time to time.

The marketplace is overflowing with choice. Therefore investing in the right kind of multi-media material that will enhance home education can be rough. Especially when it comes to software that comes with shiny promises, polished YouTube trailers and walk-throughs.

There is no real blueprint for success here, but there are some questions worth asking yourself:

  • What are the features and benefits?
  • What are the reviews like?
  • Is the storyline in any way supportive/unsupportive of our faith and values?
  • Does the game involve some form of team work?
  • Is the game relevant to the curriculum?
  • Would I be willing to play it, after I’ve paid for it?

Outside some random apps targeted at specific educational goals, parental participation is paramount. This makes room for engagement that empowers relationship. In addition it reinforces online safety guidelines that form a necessary part of all educational norms in an information age.

Curiously enough, albeit in a different age, John Adams writing to his wife once made a similar call:

“The education of our children is never out of my mind. Train them to virtue. Habituate them to industry, activity, and spirit. Make them consider every vice as shameful and unmanly. Fire them with ambition to be useful. Make them disdain to be destitute of any useful or ornamental knowledge or accomplishment. Fix their ambition upon great and solid objects, and their contempt upon little, frivolous, and useless ones.”
(The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #14 28th August, 1774)

Games that I have found  helpful in this department include:

SimCity Learning outcomes include: economics, government, maths, environment, water and power management, design, architecture, law enforcement, progress, development, travel, industry and sustainability.

Age of Empires II H.D – trade, resource management, diplomacy, history of warfare, technology, medieval history, imperialism, maritime warfare, navigation, and the importance of a good defence.

Banished – agriculture, technology, environment, disaster management, diet, and different building materials. This list would also include the impact of deforestation and mining; the importance of reforestation, community, seasons, education, immigration, Churches, hospitals, and markets; basically Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Minecraft – construction, survival, creativity, exploration, importance of symmetry, agriculture, geology, chemistry, climate, time management, technology – such as the usefulness of boats, powered vs. unpowered railways and imagination.

World of Diving – underwater exploration, scuba diving, marine archaeology, history and marine biology.

Although I am critical of it. My main point here is based upon my own observations, not a moralistic demonization of the technology or a hagiographic overemphasis on the gameplay and their designers.

My sub-points attempt to outline, despite the ironic “barbarianism” that can be found online, how this technology is changing, and how it can be useful for enhancing homeschool curriculum.

All this said, there is no substitute for discernment when making an informed choice.

‘Guard your heart above all else,  for it determines the course of your life.’ (Proverbs 4:23, NLT)

1962664_10202907183906958_850207938668940473_nIt’s been nearly twenty years since I first heard this album.

Although the song ‘Jesus Freak’ is overdone, something a quick YouTube search verifies, the importance and gravitas of the album is far from having yet been outdone.

Today, in a random shuffle through a scattering of cd’s left on the floor of my car, I rediscovered it and then introduced my kids to a revolution.

From start to finish the lyrical relevance of this album is pertinent. Reaching far beyond the issues that helped make the ’95 release so popular.

Pioneered by bands such as Petra, Stryper, Barry McGuire, Keith Green and numerous others. DC Talk broke through the false dichotomy between the secular and the sacred, as they moved away from comfort zones and stepped into spotlights often hostile to Christianity.

As a band, DC Talk redefined what it meant for Christians to participate within a ”secular” arena in the mid 1990s.

Toby Mac, Michael Tait and Kevin Max, were able to voice an ancient perspective about Christianity and art. Consequently, they sparked a new breed of Christian musician, one respected for the concern they showed towards the quality of their art and the delivery of the message that inspired it.

Utilising a finely produced full sound, featuring a mix of grunge, rap, and rock rhythms, Jesus Freak shattered the kitsch that so often plagues ”Contemporary Christian Music”.

In consideration of the issues we are facing as a global community today, this album is a revolution worth revisiting.

 

November ’38

October 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

Night of broken glass November 1938Helmut Gollwitzer in response to the reasoned insanity of ‘Kristallnacht’ (Night of broken glass/crystal):

”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’
– (November 1938, Berlin, Sermon: ‘About Kristallnacht’ )

 

 


Sources:

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

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

Image: United States Holocaust Museum, Kristallnacht

 

 

Rembrandt_-_Belshazzar's_Feast_-_WGA19123Arrested 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. 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)

Dean Stroud notes:

‘Schneider no longer believed that ‘’our evangelical church” (read Christian 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]

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

 

paul-schneider-quote-2

 


Sources

[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

Schneider quote 1_1