Archives For History

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

Hitler's Traitors: German Resistance to the Nazis, Susan OattawayThis past week I finished reading Susan Ottaway’s 2003 book, ‘Hitler’s Traitors.’

I had borrowed this with the purpose of finding and filling gaps in my own knowledge of early-mid 20th Century European history. What I found was an excellent introduction to it. It’s a text I’m now planning to use for homeschool. (Worth noting, the Nazis banned homeschooling. So there’s a small sense of irony here.)

The book’s potential lies in its content and flow. I was particularly attached to Ottaway’s blunt opinions and it’s likely that these pieces of commentary contributed to her reasons for saying, ‘this is not a scholarly work’ (xiii).

Scholarly work or not, Ottaway’s book is well researched and her criticisms are balanced. The text is indexed, bibliographed and it contains four appendages that present primary documents, including the White Rose leaflets and photos of key people.

Ottaway doesn’t sugar coat the truth.

Chronologically written, her book deals with a long list of historical figures and complex events. What unlocks this as a suitable homeschool text is its conversational style. With brevity and wit, Ottaway explains the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles and the initial well-intentioned, but ultimately ignorant approach of the Allies.

Additional themes include the politics of appeasement, the fall of the Weimar Republic, German anti-Nazi resistance, the horrific persecution of European Jews, the rise of communism and the defeat of Nazism.

The only real downside to the book is that it has no footnotes and not every reference is cited meticulously enough to allow an easy follow up reading.

Finding good resources for homeschool is hard. It’s usually because there’s a limited budget and a somewhat specific curriculum to follow. It’s not for lack of choice. American resources that are directed at homeschooling abound. While Australian material, for the most part, is not. Hence, the age old struggle to find the right resources can snare us in a web of high cost with little reward.

We have enough and we’re grateful for it. Still, ordering the wrong resources could cost us time and hit the budget hard. It means being careful in choosing supplemental material, once the must-buy material has been purchased.

This need to be fugal is a gift. It helps us to focus our aim. It encourages us to be creative and industrious. It means making an effort to find the right resource that’s right for the job.

Ottoway’s book fits this description.

It precisely carries the intensity of an era dominated by Germany. ‘Hitler’s Traitors’ teaches early-mid 20th Century European history in a way youth can hear and understand.

What Ottaway has done is create an in-depth overview of this period in modern history. It’s readable and it digs deep enough.  Ottaway successfully illustrates what life was like and what life could be like, should we fail to remember and act on what this history teaches us.


Related post: Never Again

Relgion and Science Peter HarrisonPeter Harrison, the director of Queensland University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, recent book, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion,’ counters the myth of a conflict between science and religion. Uncovering long hidden connections, Harrison concludes that the perceived conflict between science and religion involves a fabrication of historical facts. This work is best described as an in-depth treatise that locates the origins of the conflict myth, surveying concepts, categories, and the shifting definitions of religion and science.

Harrison states that when the information is more closely reviewed, any perceived hostile exchange is in fact contained within each respective sphere. Science was, and perhaps because of its very nature, is still in some ways at conflict within itself. For instance: the divide in the science community about “global warming”. Therefore an historical war between religion and science, or the Church and the Enlightened, as the popular assumption goes, did not exist.

Correcting the often used polemic against religion, Harrison invokes the Galileo controversy, arguing that any perception of a conflict between science and Christianity, at that time, ignores the differing and predominant scientific views of the day. This along with other similar examples that Harrison provides, gives clear evidence of a conflict myth that is being pushed forward by a ‘distortion of historical and conceptual contexts which are projected back over history.’ (p.172)

Harrison’s points are strong. Working his way up through Greek antiquity to modern liberalism, he shows that the conflict between science and Christianity was invented. This invented narrative maintains the perceived supremacy of science by painting religion, in particular Christianity, as the antagonist. Harrison suggests that this is not without agenda. Science is always in flux, for it to stay a unified boxed up entity, a crisis is needed. This crisis unites the populace, conscripting them in a stand against a perceived common enemy, hence the need for a conflict between science and religion.

‘The modern moral program is fed by an ersatz eschatology which points to environmental crisis, demanding repentance and contrition […]This is connected to there being a need for science to have a unifying narrative with some kind of moral or aesthetic vision to promote its relevance to the public’ (p.179)

As for progress and the progressive, those who invalidate Christianity tend to validate the science vs. religion conflict, deploying an easy to sell utilitarianism. As first espoused by Thomas Huxley and later Social Darwinism, science, it is claimed, is the only sure answer; the only certain way to manage vice, ensure freedom, progress, purpose, meaning and moral development. By way of selling a concentrated narrative of material solutions to the human condition, science and all that is squeezed into this modern narrow definition of it, is forced to dismiss its own origins. As a result it is cut off from its historical connection with philosophy and theology.

Harrison’s argument here flows well because of the way in which he unpacks the dialogue from the mid-19th Century up until now. This enables him to connect the presumed conflict between science and religion with evidence to support the conclusion, that this presumed conflict is built on a dubious distortion of context, concept and category. This includes the modern liberal fusion of science to progress and it’s all encompassing, go-it-alone, promise to bring about the general betterment of all humanity. Something Harrison suggests is in need of honest critique:

‘The generally considered neutrality of the public space of Modern Liberalism, where no single religious tradition is favoured, needs to be brought into question. This is because Modern liberalism [as opposed to classical liberalism] might be thought of more along the lines of a competing ideology or religion, asserting its own supremacy at the cost of other traditions.’ (p.190)

The problem, as Harrison outlines, is that progress implies the teleological. Meaning and purpose has to fit in somewhere because for progress to be progress it must have an end or a goal to move towards, otherwise it’s simply just change. Science has its own limitations and vices. That the modern progressive pushes to disallow room for taking the theological or philosophical seriously, means that the current concept of progress is without any real direction.

‘There is something inherently unstable in the modern understanding of progress. Progress had once been thought of as the movement of human beings toward certain given ends. But without at least an implicit teleology (which was precisely what the new natural philosophical approaches sought to dispense with) the notion of progress is difficult to sustain. Progress, in other words, is goal dependent; progress is toward some end. Without goals, progress is just change.’ (pp. 143-144)

Harrison moves through a chronology of historical facts,  identifying influential events and key historical players. Such as the significant role natural theology and natural philosophy played in the development of natural science from the early modern period. Starting with Aristotle, Harrison works his train of thought up through to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and then John Locke. Stating that the conceptual context of natural theology for Augustine and Aquinas is vastly different to that of the natural theology of early modernity.

The redefining not just of the roles, but the concepts of natural philosophy and natural theology accompanied the newly created, one-size-fits-all categories of religion and science. The latter groupings were no longer aligned with the valuable theological virtues of religio and the ‘complimentary role’ (p.133) of the intellectual virtue of scientia. Faith seeking understanding was gradually replaced with the fabrication that faith is historically hostile to understanding.

In sum, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion’ is a well stated counterpoint to the long-held assumption that science and Christianity are inherently at odds. I am in agreement with Harrison’s conclusions. His overview of the changing concepts of religion and science, which encompassed the redefining of religio and scientia are a clear highlight. Another standout is in how Harrison illustrates the slow transformation and later dismissal of pre-enlightenment natural theology and natural philosophy for the new categories of science and religion.

Of importance is the light Harrison shines on the instability of the ‘modern moral program’ (p.179), which employs the perceived conflict between science and religion in order to sustain superiority. To do this modern liberalism, new atheism and even creation scientists focus on selling science, marketing the obvious benefits of science to suit a particular agenda. Rather than taking up an ancient fight against religion, they instead create a conflict where historically one did not exist.

For new atheism and modern liberalism this is achieved through perpetuating confusion about categories, concepts and definition. Through a fabricated narrative and distortion of historical events the supposed superiority of modern liberal constructs is bolstered. The aim to control what is labelled religion and what is labelled science, a success. Controlling the role of science to demonise, and undermine the legitimate and historical role of theology and philosophy.

The value of ‘The Territories of Science and Religion’  is that Harrison counters this. While maintaining that clear boundaries exist between natural science, and the science of theology and philosophy, Harrison opens up an in depth enquiry into the conflict myth. In turn encouraging a review of popular assumptions about a perceived conflict because historically, it was in fact a complimentary relationship, dominated by civility and discourse, not vitriol and conflict.


Source:

Harrison, P. 2015 The Territories of Science And Religion, The University of Chicago Press, Kindle Ed.

Related post:

Despite Popular Opinion The Historical Conflict Between Christianity & Science Is a Myth

I’ve just started reading Peter Harrison’s new book, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion.‘ So far it’s been worth the effort.

Harrison is the director of Queensland University’s, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Formerly, The Centre For The History of European Discourses. His career also includes being the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion and Director at the University of Oxford. (source)

Harrison has a clear understanding of the history of Religion and Science. Showing how that history is blurred by the modern issues surrounding the hostility played up between them. One of the chief aims of his new book is to help along a better understanding of the differences between modern and classical definitions of the two. E.g.: the classical-medieval understanding of ‘religio’ and ‘scientia’ is not the same as the 17th Century division of religion and science into two opposing spheres of influence.

Insecurity complicates things. It’s issued out from both sides of these relatively new spheres. This insecurity is Harrison’s target as he presents an informed corrective addressing the predominant assumptions about the origins of each. By doing so Harrison counters a false dichotomy between Christianity and science, challenging assumptions and half-truths that fuel misconceptions, and which are all conveniently left in place in order to stoke antichristian, anticlerical sentiment.

With a term break fast approaching, I’ll aim to do a more complete review. In the meantime, here are two of twelve brief, but outstanding, Q & A sessions he recently did with Australia’s John Dickson, from the Centre for Public Christianity.

Case Study One:

 

Case Study Two:


 

Source:

CPX: The Centre For Public Christianity

Elisabeth Elliot QuoteOne benefit of my upbringing is how deeply it instilled in me a passion for justice, a sense of empathy and the importance of personal responsibility.

Growing up, our next door neighbours were Indigenous Australians. Overall there was a heartfelt respect for those who struggled and reverence for those who gave their all for our current freedoms.

My parents benefited from welfare programs that enabled us to have a home, food and basic clothing. We also witnessed the darker side of a community when it goes from being a welfare dependent season-of-life, to being a welfare dependent culture.

Even though my agnostic-at-the-time parents were cultural Anglicans, my sister and I attended a Catholic Primary School, where we found ourselves part of a denominational minority.

We didn’t always fit.

We rarely owned brand new school clothes, trendy school bags or school shoes. There were also times when the schoolyard elite were more than happy to go beyond just verbally measuring our worth by my parents socio-economic situation.

Yet, God reigns. It is by His grace, that through these experiences, I can teach my kids about what it means to live in victory, not victimhood. Working through those experiences has provided me with a great deal to reach for when I’m teaching my kids about mercy, justice, fairness, compassion, and personal responsibility.

It’s a lifeline akin to the hope established by Joseph’s words to His brothers, ‘You meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Gen. 50:20).

Some great examples of this are found in African-American history. It’s here that a recent lesson began. Our starting point was Louis Armstrong’s ‘Black and Blue’, which then led to a few comments read aloud from Booker T. Washington’s, ‘Up from Slavery’ and an introduction to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation.’

From there I directed our homeschoolers attention to the lament in Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. Introduced Martin Luther King Jnr. Talked about his assassination in 1968 and listened to some of his preaching. We then encountered the magnificent voice of Mahalia Jackson and identified some jarring truths found within the poetry of Maya Angelou.

Of historical significance, each document, word and song gives a different perspective. Each delivered through a unique text type. All expressing, through their very existence, the promise of those who chose, by God’s grace, to live in victory, not victimhood.

There the theological reality forms a solid ledge for us all to safely stand on. It’s established in knowing the difference between human triumphalism and God’s triumph in Jesus Christ.

We have victory because Jesus is Victor! It means that we shall indeed overcome. With this comes the need to recognise that even  with our effort, the entire credit belongs to God (Psalm 115).

It is on our behalf that God acts. Through His act we are pointed beyond our broken stories, beyond ourselves, towards His Word to where the roar of new life breaches the walls of apparent darkness.  It is by His act that we are released to respond boldly to the present, bravely forgive, learn from the past and teach towards tomorrow.

‘The past not only shapes and illuminates the present but anticipates the future.’
– Alistair McGrath [ii]


Source:

[i]  Quote: ‘God still owns tomorrow’ is from Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman 1999, p.31

[ii] ‘Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution’ HarperCollins, 2007, p.10

ANZAC

April 25, 2015 — 2 Comments

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Orchestrated by socio-political heavy weights such as Lord Kitchener, and younger politicians like Winston Churchill. Commonwealth soldiers landed in the beach assault on Gallipoli and other areas of the peninsula, in April, 1915. These included soldiers from Britain, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Though debate still continues, The Dardanelles Strait campaign ended in more of a stalemate than defeat.

It was ultimately deemed a failure, due, according to Lloyd George, ‘not so much [the younger] Winston Churchill’s haste as to Lord Kitchener’s and [the then British Prime Minister] Herbert Asquith’s procrastination.’ [i]

Among other things, the joint Australian and New Zealand commemoration of ANZAC day provides an opportunity to reflect on the cost of war, freedom and the importance of our gratitude; that our collective “thank you” is collectively acknowledged; lived and breathed, not just superficially spoken.

Just as importantly, the day also provides an opportunity to talk about the violent persecution of the Armenians; a persecution carried out by some of the louder political factions within the politically unstable Ottoman Empire during this period.

The Armenians were Christians. They were considered more Westernised than their Muslim neighbours and as a result were looked upon with suspicion by the hostile factions.

The Armenian people looked for independence from Turkey, but were yet to be represented by any organised governmental body.

This was unlike Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, who, being represented as a nation in the battle for the Gallipoli Peninsula, had been considered to have come of age .

Alan Moorehead rightly noted that the success of the Turkish Army had become a political success.

‘They saw themselves as standing for the Turk, and for Islam. So, in elation, they set about hunting down their racial and political opponents (which was nothing new in the East or everywhere else for that matter). Success against the allied assault had expedited the persecution and slaughter of Armenians. It would be absurd, however, to argue that the Allies’ failure in the Dardanelles was the only cause of this, since the root instinct to destroy the unprotected, Christian, Armenian minority was always there. Before March there were about two million Armenians in Turkey, and it was the young Turks’ intention to exterminate or deport them all. This task, however, was never completed; barely three-quarters of a million were dead or dying by the time the frantic rage of their tormentors had exhausted itself.’

The point of ANZAC day is first found in an ode near to its heart:

‘…At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.’
(The Ode, from For The Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon, 1869-1943 )

We are in need of ANZAC day. Though body and memory fade, the act of being remembered transcends time. Placing us in the humble position of being reminded that ‘we are not God. That we aren’t even good idols.’ [iii]

Because of the gravity of it, our corporate, individual and collective arrogance is challenged; And we are met face to face with the enormity of the task before us. A task of vigilance that requires us to make every effort to protect and seek, peace and good will, among societies and nations.

Standing with those who care to uphold it, and are willing to share in bearing both its burdens and its blessings.

Standing in responsible disagreement against those who would seek to do the opposite.

Perhaps at the core of how important ANZAC day is, is that we as a society, are ourselves, confronted with the brutal fact, that a history too easily forgotten is a history too easily repeated.

 


Source:

[i] Moorehead, A. 1956, The Classic Account of Gallipoli, Aurum Press LTD. (p.171)

[ii] ibid, pp.98-101

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1945 ‘Today, Tomorrow & The Eternal’ in Discerning the Signs of the Times :Sermon Essays

Related posts:

100 Years

The image in the photo above is of some knitted, red, poppy flowers. They mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings and were on display at a local show a few weeks back.

 

Christ Jesus, protect us from all that sets out to destroy us.

(St. Patrick’s ‘Breastplate’ partially summarised in twelve words)

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Related posts/links: Christian, Pray. St. Patrick’s Breastplate