Archive for January, 2010

Professor David Nienhuis: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A cross-post from CyberBrethren, covering a stunning article by David Nienhuis:-

The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy

Here’s an interesting analysis of a “problem”that is, in truth, a crisis. Thanks to Justin Taylor for this post. David Nienhuis, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, has a helpful piece in the Modern Reformation on the problem of evangelical students “familiar” with the Bible but still essentially illiterate.

Here’s an excerpt on how it happened:

Christians schooled in this rather anti-intellectual, common-denominator evangelistic approach to faith responded to the later twentieth-century decline in church attendance by looking not to more substantial catechesis but to business and consumer models to provide strategies for growth. By now we’re all familiar with the story: increasing attendance by means of niche marketing led church leaders to frame the content of their sermons and liturgies according to the self-reported perceived needs of potential “seekers” shaped by the logic of consumerism. Now many American consumer-congregants have come to expect their churches to function as communities of goods and services that provide care and comfort without the kind of challenge and discipline required for authentic Christian formation to take place.

He goes on to describe the difference between those transformed by the Word and those who are merely informed quoters of the Word:

To make a real difference in people’s lives, biblical literacy programs will have to do more than simply encourage believers to memorize a select set of Bible verses. They will have to teach people to speak the language of faith; and while this language is of course grounded in the grammar, vocabulary, and stories of the Bible, living languages are embedded in actual human communities that are constituted by particular habits, values, practices, stories, and exemplars. We don’t memorize languages; we use them and live through them. As Paulo Freire reminded us, literacy enables us to read both the word and the world. Language mediates our reality, expands our horizons, inspires our imagination, and empowers our actions. Literacy therefore isn’t simply about possessing a static ability to read and write; it is a dynamic reality, a never-ending life practice that involves putting those skills to work in reshaping our identity and transforming our world. Biblical literacy programs need to do more than produce informed quoters. They need to produce transformed readers.

Toward the end he lays out his vision:

We want to create a community ethos of habitual, orderly, communal ingestion of the revelatory text. We do so in the hope that the Spirit of God will transform readers into hearers who know what it is to abide before the mirror of the Word long enough to become enscripturated doers; that is, people of faith who are adept at interpreting their individual stories and those of their culture through the grand story of God as it is made known in the Bible.

The whole thing is worth a careful read.

THE BEAUTY OF SMALLER CHURCHES

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Cross-posted from Cranmer’s Curate:-

This by Cranmer’s Curate appeared in Friday’s Church of England Newspaper:

An excuse some Anglicans make for commuting away from the small parish churches where they live is that we are ‘boring’. This prompts this parish plodder to offer some reflections for his own ministry and hopefully for that of others in a similar situation:

• We must resist the temptation to compete. That can manifest itself in a tendency incessantly to think numbers at our services and on nurture courses such as Christianity Explored or Alpha and to exaggerate the numerical growth since we arrived. That is likely to lead to discouragement and ineffectiveness in serving Christ in the face of evangelistic reality in most small church parishes.

• We mustn’t be starry-eyed about the large churches either. Realism (hopefully not cynicism) will help us to think straight. The reason the large churches and their church plants can attract commuters is not necessarily because the preaching is superior quality. What these churches can offer that we often can’t is music in a contemporary form and that is undoubtedly a draw in the pop culture. They can also offer peer group on a scale that we can’t. These are facts of life – we just have to live with them, not get discouraged by them and get on with evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit.

• We in the smaller churches need to operate on the ‘little and often’ principle in feeding our congregations with God’s wonderful Word. That means sermons of no more than 20 minutes that are geared towards ministering God’s Word in digestible form to people who have probably not had much biblical teaching. Their edification in Christ needs to be at the front of our minds, not what may impress our absent peers from the preaching conference.

• We should try to be creative with the limited resources that we have. Manageable variations to our services include interviews with members of the congregation, children involvement in prayers and Bible readings, and leading the congregation in memorising Bible verses (which done with gusto can be great fun). These things may sound about as innovative as shepherd’s pie at a harvest supper but they are often brand new on the menu of a small church.

• We should hold our nerve in maintaining a mix of traditional hymns and the more modern choruses (provided in our settings they can be played on the organ and/or with the limited range of musical instruments at our disposal). Good traditional hymns really can reinforce the biblical message we are trying to introduce to a small congregation in a way that some of the repetitious modern choruses can’t.

Small parish churches that have an agreed agenda to grow are actually very exciting places to be. The living Christ is at work as his Word is proclaimed. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be bounced off the ball by the arrogance of the ‘you’re boring’ accusation. At the same time, we need to work hard to ensure that there is no justification for such a fundamentally consumerist rationalisation for driving past the door of a small church where God is at work.

I do believe that you live in the place where God wants you to worship and serve. How can you impact your local community if you are worshipping elsewhere?

I have always felt that in the ‘mega’ churches, many folks become lost in a sea of faces and it can all feel very impersonal. These churches also have a tendency to become very ‘polished’ and ‘businesslike’ and the feeling is more akin to watching a performance.

It is a catch 22 when folks scuttle off to the large ‘happening’ church, especially in relation to families with younger children, as smaller churches need families to attract other families.

Have Mercy

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

The following is from the Biased BBC website and highlights how the BBC attempts to ‘mind mold’ us into favouring murdering the weak euthanasia:-

Biased BBC

See that the BBC is pushing the merits of “mercy killings”. A poll for Panorama seeks to inform us that almost three quarters of respondents would support assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The liberal BBC agenda has been a fervent advocate of the death cult of assisted suicide and this Panorama poll is but the most recent manifestation of it. I do appreciate the sensitivities surrounding this issue and the great pain people go through, including the families of the person with the terminal illness but I have to say that the BBC persistently pushes just ONE side of this debate, as it chooses death.

And the BBC is at again this evening:-

Terry Pratchett ready to be test case for suicide law

Sir Terry Pratchett has said he’s ready to be a test case for assisted suicide “tribunals” which could give people legal permission to end their lives.

The author, who has Alzheimer’s, says he wants a tribunal set up to help those with incurable diseases end their lives with help from doctors.

A poll for BBC One’s Panorama suggests most people support assisted suicide for someone who is terminally ill.

Sir Terry is due to set out his ideas in Monday’s Richard Dimbleby lecture.

In the keynote lecture, Shaking Hands With Death, the best-selling author will say that the “time is really coming” for assisted death to be legalised.

Continue Reading

Lead Kindly Light, words by John Henry Newman

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Lead Kindly Light – Wells Cathedral Choir

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

Mariano – Atheism is Dead: Morality Debate with atheist.org

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

This is a guest post from one of my favourite bloggers and one of the most prolific and skilled defenders of Christianity against modern atheism, Mariano @ Atheism is Dead:-

To all,—and in the original Greek all means all; sorry, a little apologetics humor—very little :o )

A gentlemen who run an atheist org has challenged me to debate.
Thus far I know it will be in Canada, after February and on morals.

Please 1) pray for finances with which to travel (I support my wife and 4 kids on 1 income) and 2) pray for wisdom as I ain’t got too much of the smarts.

Thank you and aDios,
Mariano

Mariano also runs lifeanddoctrine.

CHARLES SPURGEON THE IMMUTABILITY OF CHRIST

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
Hebrews 13:8

IT is well that there is one person who is the same. It is well that there is
one stable rock amidst the changing billows of this sea of life; for how
many and how grievous have been the changes of last year? How many of
you who commenced in affluence, have by the panic, which has shaken
nations, been reduced almost to poverty? How many of you, who in strong
health marched into this place on the first Sabbath of last year, have had to
come tottering here, feeling that the breath of man is in his nostrils, and
wherein is he to be accounted of? Many of you came to this hall with a
numerous family, leaning upon the arm of a choice and much loved friend.
Alas! for love, if thou wert all, and nought beside, o earth! For ye have
buried those ye loved the best. Some of you have come here childless, or
widows, or fatherless, still weeping your recent affliction. Changes have
taken place in your estate that have made your heart full of misery. Your
cups of sweetness have been dashed with draughts of gall; your golden
harvests have had tares cast into the midst of them, and you have had to
reap the noxious weed along with the precious grain. Your much fine gold
has become dim, and your glory has departed; the sweet frames at the
commencement of last year became bitter ones at the end. Your raptures
and your ecstacies were turned into depression and forebodings. Alas! for
our charges, and hallelujah to him that hath no change.

But greater things have changed than we; for kingdoms have trembled in
the balances. We have seen a peninsula deluged with blood, and mutiny
raising its bloody war whoop. Nay, the whole world hath changed; earth
hath doffed its green, and put on its sombre garment of Autumn, and soon
expects to wear its ermine robe of snow. All things have changed. We
believe that not only in appearance but in reality, the world is growing old.
The sun itself must soon grow dim with age; the folding up of the wornout
vesture has commenced; the changing of the heavens and the earth has
certainly begun. They shall perish; they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
but for ever blessed be him who is the same, and of whose years there is no
end. The satisfaction that the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed
about for many a day, he puts his foot upon the solid shore, is just the
satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous
life, he plants the foot of his faith upon such a text as this — “the same
yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” The same stability that the anchor
gives the ship, when it hath at last got the grip of some immovable rock,
that same stability doth our hope give to our spirits, when, like an anchor,
it fixes itself in a truth so glorious as this — “Jesus Christ the same
yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”

I shall first try this morning to open the text by a little explanation; then I
shall try to answer a few objections which our wicked unbelief will be quite
sure to raise against it; and afterwards I shall try to draw a few useful,
consoling, and practical lessons from the great truth of the immutability of
Jesus Christ.

I. First, then, we open the text by a little EXPLANATION — “Jesus Christ
the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” He is the same in his
person. We change perpetually; the bloom of youth gives place to the
strength of manhood, and the maturity of manhood fades away into the
weakness of old age. But, “Thou hast the dew of thy youth.” Christ Jesus,
whom we adore, thou art as young as ever! We came into this world with
the ignorance of infancy; we grow up searching, studying, and learning
with the diligence of youth; we attain to some little knowledge in our riper
years; and then in our old age we totter back to the imbecility of our
childhood. But o, our Master! thou didst perfectly foreknow all mortal or
eternal things from before the foundations of the world, and thou knowest
all things now, and for ever thou shalt be the same in thine omniscience.
We are one day strong, and the next day weak — one day resolved, and
the next day wavering — one hour constant, and the nest hour unstable as
water. We are one moment holy, kept by the power of God; we are the
next moment sinning, led astray by our own lusts; but our Master is for
ever the same; pure, and never spotted; firm, and never changing —
everlastingly Omnipotent, unchangeably Omniscient. From him no attribute
doth pass away; to him no parallax, no tropic, ever comes; without
variableness or shadow of a turning, he abideth fast and firm. Did Solomon
sing concerning his best beloved, “His head is as the most fine gold: his
locks are bushy and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by
the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a
bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling
myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright
ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon
sockets of fine gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the
cedars?” Surely we can even now conclude the description from our own
experience of him; and while we endorse every word which went before,
we can end the description by saying, “ His mouth is most sweet, yea he is
altogether lovely. His matchless beauty is unimpaired; he is still ‘the chief
among ten thousand,’ — ‘fairest of the sons of men.’ “ Did the divine John
talk of him when he said — “His head and his hairs were white like wool,
as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto
fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of
many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his
mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun
shineth in his strength.” He is the same; upon his brow there is ne’er a
furrow; his locks are grey with reverence, but not with age; his feet stand
as firm as when they trod the everlasting mountains in the years before the
world was made — his eyes as piercing as when, for the first time, he
looked upon a newborn world. Christ’s person never changes. Should he
come on earth to visit us again, as sure he will, we should find him the
same Jesus; as loving, as approachable, as generous, as kind, and though
arrayed in nobler garments than he wore when first he visited earth, though
no more the Man of Sorrows and grief’s acquaintance, yet he would be the
same person, unchanged by all his glories, his triumphs, and his joys We
bless Christ that amid his heavenly splendours his person is just the same,
and his nature unaffected. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day,
and for ever.”

Again: Jesus Christ is the same with regard to his Father as ever. He was
his Father’s well-beloved Son before all worlds; he was his well-beloved in
the stream of baptism; he was his well-beloved on the cross; he was his
well-beloved when he led captivity captive, and he is not less the object of
his Father’s infinite affection now than he was then. Yesterday he lay in
Jehovah’s bosom, God, having all power with his Father — to-day he
stands on earth man, with us, but still the same, for ever — he ascends on
high and still he is his Father’s son still by inheritance, having a more
excellent name than angels — still sitting far above all principalities and
powers, and every name that is named. O Christian, give him thy cause to
plead; the Father will answer him as well now as he did afore time. Doubt
not the Father’s grace. Go to thine Advocate. He is as near to Jehovah’s
heart as ever — as prevalent in his intercession. Trust him, then, and in
trusting him thou mayest be sure of the Father’s love to thee.

But now there is a yet sweeter thought. Jesus Christ is the same to his
people as ever. We have delighted in our happier moments, in days that
have rolled away, to think of him that loved us when we had no being; we
have often sung with rapture of him that loved us when we loved not him.

“Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God;
He to save my soul from danger
Interposed his precious blood.”

We have looked back, too, upon the years of our troubles and our trials;
and we can bear our solemn though humble witness, that he has been true
to us in all our exigencies, and has never failed us once. Come, then, let us
comfort ourselves with this thought — that though to-day he may distress
us with a sense of sin, yet his heart is just the same to us as ever. Christ
may wear masks that look black to his people, but his face is always the
same; Christ may sometimes take a rod in his hand instead of a golden
scepter; but the name of his saints is as much engraved upon the hand that
grasps the rod as upon the palm that clasps the scepter. And oh, sweet
thought that now bursts upon our mind! Beloved, you conceive how much
Christ will love you when you are in heaven? Have you ever tried to
fathom that bottomless sea of affection in which you shall swim, when you
shall bathe yourself in seas of heavenly rest? Did you ever think of the love
which Christ will manifest to you, when he shall present you without spot,
or blemish, or any such thing, before his Father’s throne? Well, pause and
remember, that he loves you at this hour as much as he will love you then;
for he will be the same for ever as he is to-day, and he is the same to-day as
he will be for ever. This one thing I know: if Jesus’ heart is set on me he
will not love me one atom better when this head wears a crown, and when
this hand shall with joyous fingers touch the strings of golden harps, than
he does now, amidst all my sin and care and woe. I believe that saying
which is written — “As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved
you;” and a higher degree of love we cannot imagine. The Father loves his
Son infinitely, and even so to-day, believer, doth the Son of God love thee.
Every bowel yearns over thee; all his heart flows out to thee. All his life is
thine; all his person is thine. He cannot love thee more; he will not love
thee less. “The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”

But let us here recollect that Jesus Christ is the same to sinners to-day as
he was yesterday. It is now eight years ago since I first went to Jesus
Christ. Come the sixth of this month, I shall then be eight years old in the
gospel of the grace of Jesus: a child, a little child therein as yet. I recall that
hour when I heard that exhortation — “Look unto me and be ye saved, all
the ends of the earth, for I am God, and beside me there is none else.” And
I remember, how with much trembling and with a little faith I ventured to
approach the Saviour’s feet. I thought he would spurn me from him
“Sure,” said my heart, “if thou shouldst presume to put thy trust in him as
thy Savior, it would be a presumption more damnable than all thy sins put
together. Go not to him; he will spurn thee.” However, I put the rope
about my neck, feeling that if God destroyed me for ever, he would be just,
I cast the ashes on my head, and with many a sigh I did confess my sin; and
then when I ventured to draw nigh to him, when I expected that he would
frown, he stretched out his hand, and said, “I, even I, am he that blotteth
out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
I came like the prodigal, because I was forced to come. I was starved out
of that foreign country where in riotous living I had spent my substance,
and I saw my Father’s house a great way off, but little did I know that my
Father’s heart was beating high with love to me. O rapturous hour, when
Jesus whispered I was his, and when my soul could say, “Jesus Christ is my
salvation.” And now I would refresh my own memory by reminding myself
that what my Master was to me yesterday that he is to-day; and if I know
that as a sinner I went to him then and he received me, if I have never so
many doubts about my saintship I cannot doubt but what I am a sinner; so
to thy cross, O Jesus, I go again, and if thou didst receive me then, thou
wilt receive me now; and believing that to be true, I turn round to my
fellow-immortals, and I say, “He that received me, he that received
Manasseh, he that received the thief upon the cross, is the same to-day as
he was then. Oh! come and try him! come and try him! Oh! ye that know
your need of him, come ye to him; ye that have sold for nought your
heritage above may have it back unbought, the gift of Jesus’ love. Ye that
are empty, Christ is as full to-day as ever. Come! fill yourselves here. Ye
that are thirsty, the stream is flowing; ye that are black, the fountain still
can purify; ye that are naked, the wardrobe is not empty.

‘Come, guilty souls, and flee away,
To Christ, and heal your wounds;
Still ‘tis the gospel’s gracious day,
And now free grace abounds.’

I cannot pretend to enter into the fullness of my text as I could desire; but
one more thought. Jesus Christ is the same to-day as he was yesterday in
the teachings of his Word. They tell us in these times that the
improvements of the age require improvements in theology. Why, I have
heard it said that the way Luther preached would not suit this age. We are
too polite! The style of preaching, they say, that did in John Bunyan’s day,
is not the style now. True, they honor these men; they are like the
Pharisees; they build the sepulchres of the prophets that their fathers slew,
and so they do confess that they are their fathers’ own sons, and like their
parents. And men that stand up to preach as those men did, with honest
tongues, and know not how to use polished courtly phrases, are as much
condemned now as those men were in their time; because, say they, the
world is marching on, and the gospel must march on too. No, sirs, the old
gospel is the same; not one of her stakes must be removed, not one of her
cords must be loosened. “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou
hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Theology hath
nothing new in it except that which is false. The preaching of Paul must be
the preaching of the minister to-day. There is no advancement here. We
may advance in our knowledge of it; but it stands the same, for this good
reason, that it is perfect, and perfection cannot be any better. The old truth
that Calvin preached, that Chrysostom preached that Paul preached, is the
truth that I must preach to-day, or else be a liar to my conscience and my
God. I cannot shape the truth. I know of no such thing as paring off the
rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which
thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again. The
great mass of our ministers are sound enough in the faith, but not sound
enough in the way they preach it. Election is not mentioned once in the
year in many a pulpit; final perseverance is kept back; the great things of
God’s law are forgotten, and a kind of mongrel mixture of Arminianism
and Calvinism is the delight of the present age. And hence the Lord hath
forsaken many of his tabernacles and left the house of his covenant, and he
will leave it till again the trumpet gives a certain sound. For wherever there
is not the old gospel we shall find “Ichabod” written upon the church walls
ere long. The old truth of the Covenanters, the old truth of the Puritans,
the old truth of the Apostles, is the only truth that will stand the test of
time. and never need to be altered to suit a wicked and ungodly generation.
Christ Jesus preaches to-day the same as when he preached upon the
mount; he hath not changed his doctrines; men may ridicule and laugh, but
still they stand the same — semper idem written upon every one of them.
They shall not be removed or altered.

Let the Christian remember that this is equally true of the promises. Let the
sinner remember this is just as true of the threatenings. Let us each
recollect that not one word can be added to this Sacred Book. nor one
letter taken away from it; for as Christ Jesus is yet the same, so is his
Gospel, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.

I have thus briefly opened the text, not in its fullest meanings, but still
enough to enable the Christian at his own leisure to see into thee depth
without a bottom — the immutability of Christ Jesus the Lord.

II. And now comes in one of crooked gait, with hideous aspect — one
that hath as many lives as a cat, and that cannot be killed anyhow, though
many a great gun hath been shot against him. His name is old Mr.
Incredulity — unbelief; and he begins his miserable oration by declaring,
“How can that be true? ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and
for ever.’ Why, yesterday Christ was all sunshine to me — to-day I am in
distress!” Stop, Mr. Unbelief; I beg you to remember that Christ is not
changed. You have changed yourself, for you have said in your very
accusation that yesterday you rejoiced, but to-day you are in distress. All
that may happen, and yet there may be no change in Christ The sun may be
the same always though one hour may be cloudy, and the next bright with
golden light; yet there is no proof that the sun has changed. ‘Tis even so
with Christ.

“If to-day he deigns to bless us
With a sense of pardoned sin,
He to-morrow may distress us,
Make us feel the plague within.
All to make us,
Sick of self and fond of him.”

There is no change in him.

“Immutable his will
Though dark may be my frame,
His loving heart is still
Unchangeably the same.
My soul through many changes goes,
His love no variation knows.”

Your frames are no proof that Christ changes: they are only proof that you
change.

But saith old Unbelief again — “Surely God has changed: you look at the
old saints of ancient times. What happy men they were! How highly
favored of their God! How well God provided for them! But now, sir,
when I am hungry, no ravens come and bring me bread and meat in the
morning, and bread and meat in the evening. When I am thirsty, no water
leaps out of the rock to supply my thirst. It is said of the children of Israel
that their clothes waxed not old, but I have a hole in my coat to-day, and
where I shall get another garment I know not. When they marched through
the desert he suffered no man to hurt them; but, sir, I am continually beset
by enemies. It is true of me as it says in the Scriptures, ‘And the
Ammonites distressed Israel at the coming in of the year;’ for they are
distressing me. Why, sir, I see my friends die in clouds; there are no fiery
chariots to carry God’s Elijahs to heaven now. I lost my son; no prophet
laid upon him and gave him life again; no Jesus met me at the city gates, to
give me back my son from the gloomy grave. No, sir, these are evil times;
the light of Jesus Christ has become dim, if he walks among the golden
candlesticks, yet still it is not as he used to do. And worse than that, sir, I
have heard my father talk of the great men that were in the age gone by: I
have heard the names of Romaine, and Toplady, and Scott; I have heard of
Whitfields and of Bunyans; and even but a few years ago I heard talk of
such men as Joseph Irons — solemn and earnest preachers of a full gospel.
But where are those men now? Sir, we have fallen upon an age of
drivellings; men have died out, and we have only a few dwarfs left us; there
are none that walk with the giant tramp and the colossal tread of the
mighty fathers, like Owen, and Howe, and Baxter, and Charnock. We are
all little men. Jesus Christ is not dealing with us as he did with our fathers.”
Stop, Unbelief, a minute: let me remind thee that the ancient people of God
had their trials too. Know ye not what the apostle Paul says? “For thy sake
we are killed all the day long.” Now, if there be any change it is a change
for the better; for you have not yet “resisted unto blood, striving against
death”

But remember that still that does not affect Christ; for neither nakedness
nor famine, nor sword, have separated us from the love of God, which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord. It is true that you have no fiery chariot; but then the
angels carry you to Jesus’ bosom, and that is as well. It is true no ravens
bring you food, it is quite as true you get your food somehow or other. It
is quite certain that no rock gushes out with water, but still your water has
been sure. It is true your child has not been raised from the dead, but you
remember that David had a child that was not raised any more than yours.
You have the same consolation as he had: “I shall go to him, he shall not
return to me.” You say that you have more heart-rendings than the saints
had of old. It is your ignorance that makes you say so. Holy men of old
said, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within
me?” Even prophets had to say — “Thou hast made me drunken with
wormwood, and broken my teeth with gravel stones.” Oh, you are
mistaken: your days are not more full of trouble than the days of Job, you
are not more vexed by the wicked than was Lot of old, you have not more
temptations to make you angry than had Moses; and certainly your way is
not half so rough as the way of your blessed Lord. The very fact that you
have troubles is a proof of his faithfulness; for you have got one half of his
legacy, and you will have the other half. You know that Christ’s last will
and testament has two portions in it. “In the world ye shall have
tribulation:” you have got that. The next clause is — “In me ye shall have
peace.” You have that too. “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the
world.” That is yours also.

And then you say that you have fallen upon a bad age with regard to
ministers. It may be so; but remember, the promise is true still. “Though I
take away from thee bread and water yet will I never take away thy
pastors.” You have still such as you have — still some that are faithful to
God and to his covenant, and who do not forsake the truth and though the
day may be dark, yet it is not so dark as days have been; and besides
remember, what you say to day is just what your forefathers said. Men in
the days of Toplady looked back to the days of Whitfield; men in the days
of Whitfield looked back to the days of Bunyan; men in the days of Bunyan
wept, because of the days of Wycliffe, and Calvin, and Luther, and men
then wept for the days of Augustine and Chrysostom. Men in those days
wept for the days of the Apostles; and doubtless men in the days of the
Apostles wept for the days of Jesus Christ; and no doubt some in the days
of Jesus Christ were so blind as to wish to return to the days of prophesy,
and thought more of the days of Elijah then they did of the most glorious
day of Christ. Some men look more to the past than the present. Rest
assured, that Jesus Christ is the same to-day as he was yesterday, and he
will be the same for ever.

Mourner, be glad! I have heard of a little girl who, when her father died,
saw her mother weeping immoderately. Day after day, and week after
week, her mother refused to be comforted. and the little girl stepped up to
her mother, and putting her little hand inside her mother’s hand, looked up
in her face, and said, “Mamma, is God dead? Is God dead, mamma ?” And
her mother thought, “Surely, no.” The child seemed to say “Thy maker is
thy husband; the Lord of hosts is his name. So you may dry your tears, I
have a father in heaven and you have a husband still” Oh! ye saints that
have lost your gold and your silver; ye have got treasure in heaven, where
no moth nor rust doth corrupt, where no thieves break through and steal!
Ye that are sick to-day, ye that have lost health, remember the day is
coming when all that shall be made up to you, and when ye shall find that
the flame has not hurt you, it has but consumed your dross and refined
your gold. Remember, Jesus Christ is “the same to-day, yesterday, and for
ever.”

III. And now I must be brief in drawing one or two sweet conclusions
from that part of the text.

First, then, if he be the same to-day as yesterday, my soul, set not thy
affections upon these changing things, but set thine heart upon him. O my
heart, build not thine house upon the sandy pillars of a world that soon
must past away, but build thy hopes upon this rock, which when the ram
descends and floods shall come, shall stand immovably secure. O my soul, I
charge thee, lay up thy treasure in this secure granary. O my heart, I bid
thee now put thy treasure where thou canst never lose it. Put it in Christ;
put all thine affections in his person, all thy hope in his glory, all thy trust in
his efficacious blood, all thy joy in his presence, and then thou wilt have
put thyself and put thine all where thou canst never lose anything, because
it is secure. Remember, O my heart, that the time is coming when all things
must fade, and when thou must part with all. Death’s gloomy night must
soon put out thy sunshine; the dark flood must soon roll between thee and
all thou hast. Then put thine heart with him who will never leave thee trust
thyself with him who will go with thee through the black and surging
current of death’s stream, and who will walk with thee up the steep hills of
heaven and make thee sit together with him in heavenly places for ever.
Go, tell thy secrets to that friend that sticketh closer than a brother. My
heart, I charge thee, trust all thy concerns with him who never can be taken
from thee, who will never leave thee, and who will never let thee leave him,
even “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” That is
one lesson.

Well, then, the next. If Jesus Christ be always the same, then, my soul,
endeavor to imitate him. Be thou the same too. Remember that if thou
hadst more faith, thou wouldst be as happy in the furnace as on the
mountain of enjoyment. Thou wouldst be as glad in famine as in plenty,
thou wouldst rejoice in the Lord when the olive yielded no oil, as well as
when the vat was bursting and overflowing its brim. If thou hadst more
confidence in thy God, thou wouldst have far less of tossings up and down;
and if thou hadst greater nearness to Christ thou wouldst have less
vacillation. Yesterday thou couldst pray with all the power of prayer;
perhaps if thou didst always live near thy master, thou mightest always
have the same power on thy knees. One time thou canst bid defiance to the
rage of Satan, and thou canst face a frowning world; to-morrow thou wilt
run away like a craven. But if thou didst always remember him who
endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, thou mightest always
be firm and stedfast in thy mind. Beware of being like a weather-cock.
Seek of God, that his law may be written on your hearts as if it were
written in stone, and not as if it were written in sand. Seek that his grace
may come to you like a river and not like a brook that fails. Seek that you
may keep your conversation always holy; that your course may be like the
shining light that tarries not, but that burneth brighter and brighter until the
fullness of the day. Be ye like Christ — ever the same.

Again: if Christ be always the same, Christian, rejoice! Come what may
thou art secure.

“Let mountains from their seats be hurled
Down to the deeps and buried there;
Convulsions shake the solid world;
Our faith shall never need to fear.”

If kingdoms should go to rack the Christian need not tremble. Just for a
minute imagine a scene like this. Suppose for the next three days the sun
should not rise; suppose the moon should be turned into a clot of blood,
and thine no more upon the world; imagine that a darkness that might be
felt, brooded over all men; imagine next that all the world did tremble in an
earthquake till every tower and house and hut fell down: imagine next that
the sea forgot its place and leaped upon the earth, and that the mountains
ceased to stand, and began to tremble from their pedestals; conceive after
that that a blazing comet streamed across the sky — that the thunder
bellowed incessantly — that the lightnings without a moment’s pause
followed one the other; conceive then that thou didst behold divers terrible
sights fiendish ghosts and grim spirits. imagine next, that a trumpet, waxing
exceeding loud, did blow, that there were heard the shrieks of men dying
and perishing; imagine, that in the midst of all this confusion there was to
be found a saint. My friend, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and
for ever,” would keep him as secure amidst all these horrors as we are today.
Oh I rejoice! I have pictured the worst that can come. Then you
would be secure. Come what may then, you are safe, while Jesus Christ is
the same.

And now, last of all, if Jesus Christ be “the same yesterday, to lay, and for
ever,” what sad work this is for the ungodly! Ah! sinner, when he was on
earth he said, “Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” When
he stood upon the mount he said, “It were better to enter life halt or
maimed, than having two hands or two feet to be cast into hell fire.” As a
man on earth, he said, that the goats should be on the left, and that he
would say to them. “Depart, ye cursed.” Sinner, he will be as good as his
Word. He has said, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” He will damn
you if you believe not, depend upon it. He has never broken a promise yet;
he will never break a threatening. That same truth which makes us
confident to day that the righteous shall go away into everlasting life
should make you quite as confident that unbelievers shall go into eternal
misery. If he had broken his promise he might break his threatening; but as
he has kept one he will keep the other. Do not hope that he will change, for
change he will not. Think not that the fire which he said was unquenchable
will after all be extinguished. No, within a few more years, my hearer, if
thou dost not repent, thou wilt find that every jot and every letter of the
threatenings of Jesus will be fulfilled; and, mark thee, fulfilled in thee. Liar,
he said, “All liars shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and
brimstone.” He will not deceive you. Drunkard, he has said, “Ye know that
no drunkard hath eternal life.” He will not belie his word. You shall not
have eternal life. He has said, “The nations that forget God shall be cast
into hell.” All ye that forget religion, moral people you may be, he will
keep his word to you; he will cast you into hell. O “kiss the Son lest he be
angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little;
blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Come, sinner, bow thy
knee; confess thy sin and leave it; and then come to him; ask him to have
mercy upon thee. He will not forget his promise — “Him that cometh unto
me I will in no wise cast out.” Come and try him. With all your sins about
you, come to him now. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be
saved;” for this is my Master’s gospel, and I now declare it — “He that
believeth and is immersed shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be
damned.” God grant you grace to believe, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Mary Eberstadt – Christianity Lite

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

This is a seriously good analysis and is well worth a read.

Hat-tip Revd. Fr. Edward Tomlinson:-

Christianity Lite – Mary Eberstadt – First things

Christianity Lite

Once in a while comes an historical event so momentous, so packed with unexpected force, that it acts like a large wave under still water, propelling us momentarily up from the surface of our times onto a crest, where the wider movements of history may be glimpsed better than before.

Such an event was Benedict XVI’s landmark announcement in October 2009 offering members of the Anglican Communion a fast track into the Catholic Church. Although commentators quickly dubbed this unexpected overture a “gambit,” what it truly exhibits are the characteristics of a move known in chess as a “brilliancy,” an unforeseen bold stroke that stunningly transforms the game. In the short run, knowledgeable people agree, this brilliancy of Benedict’s may not seem to amount to much. Some 1000 Church of England priests may convert and some 300 parishes turn over to Rome—figures that, while significant when measured against the dwindling numbers of practicing Anglicans there, are nonetheless mere drops in the Vatican’s bucket.

But in the longer run—say, over the coming decades—Rome’s move looks consequential in another way. It is the latest and most dramatic example of how orthodoxy, rather than dissent, seems once again to have taken the driver’s seat of Christianity. Every traditionalist who joins the long and already illustrious history of reconversion to the Catholic Church just tips the religious balance more toward Rome. This further weakens a religious communion battered from within by decades of intra-Anglican culture wars. Meanwhile, the progressives left behind may well find the exodus of their adversaries a Pyrrhic victory. How will they possibly make peace with the real majority of Anglicans today—the churches in Africa, whose leaders have repeatedly denounced the Communion’s abandonment of traditional teachings? Questions like these are why a few commentators now speak seriously about something that only recently seemed unthinkable: whether the end of the Anglican Communion itself might now be in sight.

Even so, it is the still longer run of Christian history whose outlines may now be most interesting and unexpected of all. Looking even further out to the horizon from our present moment—at a vista of centuries, rather than mere decades, ahead of us—we may well begin to wonder something else. That is, whether what we are witnessing now is not only the beginning of the end of the Anglican Communion but indeed the end of something even larger: the phenomenon of Christianity Lite itself.

By this I mean the multifaceted institutional experiment, beginning but not ending with the Anglican Communion, of attempting to preserve Christianity while simultaneously jettisoning certain of its traditional teachings—specifically, those regarding sexual morality. Surveying the record to date of what has happened to the churches dedicated to this long-running modern religious experiment, a large historical question now appears: whether the various exercises in this specific kind of dissent from traditional teaching turn out to contain the seeds of their own destruction. The evidence—preliminary but already abundant—suggests that the answer is yes.

If this is so, then the implications for the future of Christianity itself are likely to be profound. If it is Christianity Lite, rather than Christianity proper, that is fatally flawed and ultimately unable to sustain itself, then a rewriting of much of contemporary thought, religious and secular, appears in order. It means that secularization itself may be fundamentally misunderstood. It means that the most unwanted and unfashionable traditional teaching of Christianity, its sexual moral code, demands of the modern mind a new and respectful look. As a strategic matter, it also means that the current battle within the Catholic Church between traditionalists and dissenters must go to the traditionalists, lest the dissenters or cafeteria Catholics take the same path that the churches of Christianity Lite have followed: down, down, down.

All these are just preliminary examples of what is at stake in contemplating the great experiment of Christianity Lite—which is why the evidence for its failure is so compelling and important.

Let us note at the outset that this use of the phrase Christianity Lite is not intended to describe all of contemporary Protestantism—far from it. Plenty of non-Catholic churches have not rejected the traditional Christian moral code, including some of the most vibrant in the world today. Nor is the phrase intended to imply that sexual issues are the only theological issues dividing Christendom these days. Obviously, all kinds of differences—at least, official differences—remain over perennial lightning rods: papal infallibility, the theological status of Mary, the role and ordination of women, predestination, justification, and the rest of the theological controversies historically responsible for tearing Christendom apart.

But standing once again atop that wave in time prompted by Benedict’s announcement, we can see clearly that these are not the kind of issues that divide the Catholic Church from the churches of Christianity Lite today. As of now—and as has been true for some time—those churches have increasingly defined themselves as dissenting on one issue above all others: They have jettisoned one or another or all of the teachings of traditional Christian sexual morality.

Certainly ordinary parishioners see things this way. Ask any contemporary Mainline Protestant what most distinguishes his or her version of Christianity from that of Roman Catholicism, and you will likely get some version of this response: Catholics are still hung up on sex, and we’re not. They prohibit things like divorce and birth control and abortion and homosexuality, and we don’t. Moreover, this rendition of the facts would be essentially correct. At this particular moment in Christian history, it is sex—not Mary or the saints or predestination or purgatory or papal infallibility or good works—that is the Rubicon no one can really imagine these particular Protestants crossing again.

How did sex, of all subjects, come to occupy such a prominent place in the division of Christendom? In a sense, the potential was always there. From the first believers on up, the stern stuff of the Christian moral code has been cause for commentary—to say nothing of complaint. “Not all men can receive this saying,” the disciples are told when Jesus puts divorce off limits. Observers throughout history, Christian or not, have agreed: that particular moral teaching and its corollaries are hard indeed. From pagan Rome two thousand years ago to secular Western Europe today, the Church’s rules about sex have amounted to saying no, no, and no to things about which non-Christians have gotten to say yes or why not.

Even so, there is no denying that the traditional rules do seem more problematic now than ever before. Widespread abortion, ubiquitous pornography, diminished social opprobrium, and above all easy and effective contraception: All have divided recreation from procreation as never before in history. They have also been the driving force behind the embrace of Christianity Lite itself. After all, many would say, hasn’t this explosion of sexual expression made what was once a difficult moral code practically an impossible one? Shouldn’t the proper Christian response be one of mercy, rather than censure—including a merciful rewriting of the moral rules in these particularly difficult times?

Yet to say that the sexual revolution made Christianity Lite inevitable, as many people would, is to miss an important historical point. It was the Anglicans who first started picking apart the tapestry of Christian sexual morality—hundreds of years ago, long before the sexual revolution, and over one particular thread: divorce. In fact, in a fascinating development now visible in retrospect, the Anglican departure over divorce appears as the template for all subsequent exercises in Christianity Lite.

For about two centuries, and despite its having been midwifed into existence by the divorcing Henry VIII, the Church of England held fast to the same principle of the indissolubility of marriage on which the rest of Christian tradition insisted. According to a history of divorce called Untying The Knot, by Roderick Phillips, “no bishop, archbishop, or incumbent of high Anglican office in the first half of the seventeenth century supported the legalization of divorce.”

Even so, this early dedication to principle would turn out not to hold, ultimately eroding one priest and one parish at a time. In the United States, Phillips reports, Anglican churches soon were relaxing the strictest restrictions, making divorce more or less easy to come by depending on where one lived. Meanwhile, although the Church of England lagged behind the Episcopalians, by the mid-eighteenth century divorce was theoretically and practically available by an act of Parliament—a recourse that, although not widely exercised, went to show that exceptions to the indissolubility principle could be made.

Then came another turn of the theological wheel that could not have been foreseen by the first reformers. As of the General Synod in 2002, divorced Anglicans could now remarry in the Church. A spokesman noted carefully at the time: “This does not automatically guarantee the right of divorced people to remarry in Church.” But such cautions were plainly a matter of whistling in the dark. If Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles can now marry in the Church—having already married and been divorced from other people—why should every other Anglican not enjoy the same mercy?

Thus does the Anglican attempt to lighten up the Christian moral code over the specific issue of divorce exhibit a clear pattern that appears over and over in the history of the experiment of Christianity Lite: First, limited exceptions are made to a rule; next, those exceptions are no longer limited and become the unremarkable norm; finally, that new norm is itself sanctified as theologically acceptable.

Exactly that pattern emerges in another example of the historical attempt to disentangle a thread of moral teaching out of the whole: the dissent about artificial contraception. Here, too, Anglicans took the historical lead.

Throughout most of its history, all of Christianity—even divided Christianity—upheld the teaching that artificial contraception was wrong. Not until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 was that unity shattered by the subsequently famous Resolution 15, in which the Anglicans called for exceptions to the rule in certain difficult, carefully delineated marital (and only marital) circumstances.

Exactly as had happened with divorce, the Anglican okaying of contraception was born largely of compassion for human frailty and dedicated to the idea that such cases would be mere exceptions to the theological rule. Thus Resolution 15 itself—for all that it was a radical break with two millennia of Christian teaching—abounded with careful language about the limited character of its reform, including “strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.”

And also as had happened with divorce, the effort to hold the line at such carefully drawn borders soon proved futile. In short order, not only was birth control theologically approved in certain difficult circumstances but, soon thereafter, it was regarded as the norm. Nor was that all. In a third turn of the reformist wheel that no one attending Lambeth in 1930 could have seen coming, artificial contraception went on to be sanctioned by some prominent members of the Anglican Communion not only as an option but in fact as the better moral choice. By the time of Episcopal Bishop James Pike, only a quarter century or so later, it was possible for a leading Christian to declare (as he did) that parents who should not be having a child were not only permitted to use contraception but were, in fact, under a moral obligation to use the most effective forms of contraception obtainable.

Bishop Pike was only one of many leaders of Christianity Lite to participate in this same theological process leading from normalization to sanctification. Although the Eastern Orthodox churches sided generally with Rome on the issue of contraception, most Protestant churches ended up following the same script as the Anglicans—moving one by one from reluctant acceptance in special circumstances, to acceptance in most or all circumstances, and finally (in some cases) to complete theological inversion. No less an authority than the Baptist evangelist Billy Graham, for example, eventually embraced birth control to cope with what he called the “terrifying and tragic problem” of overpopulation.

In just a few decades, in other words—following the same pattern as divorce—contraception in the churches of Christianity Lite went from being an unfortunate option, to an unremarkable option, to the theologically preferable option in some cases. Now consider a third example of the same historical pattern holding in another area: dissent over traditional Christian teachings against homosexuality.

Although homosexuality may be the most explosive current example of the effort to reshape Christianity into a religion more congenial to modern sexual practice, it is actually new to that party. As many on both sides of the divide have had occasion to remark, homosexual behavior has been proscribed throughout history, by Judaism as well as Christianity, until very, very recently—including in the churches of Christianity Lite. (Henry VIII, to name one prominent example, invoked the alleged homosexuality of the monks as part of his justification for appropriating the monasteries.)

Yet “extraordinarily enough,” as William Murchison puts it in his book Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity (2009), “a question barely at the boundary of general consciousness thirty years ago has assumed central importance to the present life and future of the Episcopal Church.” Why this remarkable transformation? In part, because the reformers at Lambeth and elsewhere did not foresee something else that in retrospect appears obvious: The chain of logic leading from the occasional acceptance of contraception to the open celebration of homosexuality would prove surprisingly sound.

That is precisely why the change in doctrine over contraception has been used repeatedly by Anglican leaders to justify proposed changes in religious attitudes toward homosexuality. Robert Runcie, for example, former archbishop of Canterbury, explained his own personal decision to ordain practicing homosexuals on exactly those grounds. In a BBC radio interview in 1996, he cited the Lambeth Conference of 1930, observing that “once the Church signalled . . . that sexual activity was for human delight and a blessing even if it was divorced from any idea of procreation . . . once you’ve said that sexual activity is . . . pleasing to God in itself, then what about people who are engaged in same-sex expression and who are incapable of heterosexual expression?”

Similarly, archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has also retrospectively connected the dots between approving purposely sterile sex for heterosexuals on the one hand and extending the same theological courtesy to homosexuals on the other. As he observed in a lecture in 1989, three years before he became bishop, “In a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.”

Thus, in retrospect, does the modern Anglican path—from careful, even reluctant line-drawing over contraception at Lambeth in 1930, to divorced noncelibate homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson today—appear not only unsurprising but practically inevitable. Put differently, the rejection of the ban on birth control was not incidental to the Anglicans’ subsequent implosion over homosexuality. It was what started it.

Moreover, as of the December 2009 ordination in Los Angeles of the Episcopal Church’s second noncelibate gay bishop, it is clear that homosexuality’s theological status—like that of contraception before it—is now moving from an option to a religiously approved option. It therefore joins divorce and contraception in the signature religious cycle of Christianity Lite, conferring on a once prohibited sexual practice a theological seal of approval.

Another clear pattern has also emerged in retrospect from the ongoing experiment in Christianity Lite: Rewriting the rules about sex does not, historically speaking, end with sex. Time and again, that rewriting has coincided with departures from traditional teaching in other areas too.

Consider, for example, the aforementioned Episcopal bishop James Pike, whose religious career is one of many that could be cited to illustrate the point. As noted, his views on contraception perfectly fit the cycle of Christianity Lite. He not only approved of the use of artificial birth control but sometimes insisted on it and even became chairman of the clergymen’s national advisory committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Yet Pike’s dissent from traditional Christian teaching, far from being confined to matters of sexual morality, only widened over the years. By the 1960s, this pioneer of sexual ethics had also come to question other longstanding Christian beliefs—the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the Trinity, and original sin among them. In 1966, Bishop Pike was even formally censured by the Episcopal House of Bishops—a highly unusual outcome that speaks volumes about just how theologically radical he had become, even by the elastic and forgiving standards of the Episcopalians of America.

Now consider the related example of professor Joseph Fletcher, another ordained Episcopal priest who contributed intellectually to Christianity Lite. Thirty-six years stand between the Lambeth Conference of 1930 and the publication of his landmark book, Situational Ethics. Primarily concerned (of course) with matters sexual, Fletcher argued that there is “nothing intrinsically good or evil per se in any sexual act” and that, on such grounds, conventional sexual morality deserved jettisoning.

Yet the example of Fletcher shows clearly how such dissent has a way of spreading into other doctrinal areas. By the end of his life, this Episcopal priest—who would later identify himself as an atheist—had parted company with Christian orthodoxy on one hot-button issue after another: abortion, infanticide, cloning, euthanasia, and more.

The same is true of the theological journey of one more prominent Episcopalian whose religious journey began—but did not end—with lightening up Christian sexual morality: Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark. Time magazine called his Living in Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality (1988) “probably the most radical pronouncement on sex ever issued by a bishop.” It advocated the by-now familiar list of sexual selections from the contemporary cafeteria menu—from blessing homosexual unions to all the rest of “freeing the Bible from literalistic imprisonment.”

Yet Bishop Spong’s radicalism, though obviously jumpstarted by sex, did not end there any more than Bishop Pike’s or Reverend Fletcher’s did. It, too, has broadened to include wide-ranging dissent over practically everything else. Spong says he believes in God but is not a theist, for example, and he also denies that Jesus either performed miracles or rose from the dead. So consistent is his record that Albert Mohler, the traditionalist president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, once remarked of Spong that “heretics are rarely excommunicated these days. Instead, they go on book tours.”

These examples are among many that could be cited to illustrate an important point: Even in the hands of its ablest defenders, Christianity Lite has proven time and again to be incapable of limiting itself to the rules about sex alone. Once traditional sexual morality is dispensed with in whole or in part, it is hard, apparently, to keep the rest of Church teaching off the chopping block. To switch metaphors, which came first, the egg of dissent over sex—or the chicken of dissent over other doctrinal issues? We do not need to know the answer to grasp the point: History shows that Christianity Lite cannot seem to have one without the other.

This same pattern of dissent over sexuality, followed by decline in both numbers and practice, also appears clearly in the other churches dedicated to Christianity Lite, those of the Protestant mainline in addition to the Episcopal Church. Here, too, the speed with which both practice and principle have unraveled bears scrutiny.

In 1930, for example, the initial reaction among America’s Lutherans to Lambeth’s Resolution 15 was disbelief bordering on hostility. Margaret Sanger was denounced in an official Lutheran newspaper as a “she devil,” and numerous pastors took to the pulpits and op-ed pages with blistering complaints about the Anglicans’ theological capitulation. Nonethless, by 1954, the Lutherans, too, were encouraging contraception in order to make sure that any child born would be valued “both for itself and in relation to the time of its birth.” By 1991, the Evangelical Lutheran Church was not only okaying contraception but also officially urging widespread instruction in “sex education” and pregnancy prevention for youngsters.

In all, it has been an about-face that certainly would have shocked the Lutherans of yesteryear—beginning with Martin Luther himself, who once called contraception “far more atrocious than incest or adultery.”

Also like the Anglicans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has proven that one thread could not be teased out of the moral garment without pulling others out too. In 1991, a Social Statement found that abortion—regarded as murder almost universally throughout Christian history—could be a morally responsible choice in certain circumstances. That same year, the Churchwide Assembly (CWA), the leading legislative body of the church, affirmed that “gay and lesbian people . . . are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” Less than two decades later, in 2009, official tolerance for individuals with homosexual tendencies had transposed into something else: official approval of the sexual practice of homosexuality, enshrined in the decision to allow noncelibate homosexuals to serve as pastors.

This leads to a third pattern arising from the experiment of Christianity Lite: the ongoing and inarguable institutional decline of the churches that have tried it. Today, the ELCA—the largest and most liberal of the Lutheran bodies of America—faces the same fate as the Anglican Communion: threats of schism, departing parishes, diminishing funds, and the rest of the institutional woes that have gone hand in hand with the abandonment of dogma.

The same fate also threatens the rest of the mainline Protestant churches—in addition to the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the American Baptist Church. As Joseph Bottum observed last year in these pages, in his wide-ranging essay about the collapse, “The death of the Mainline is the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other period in American history.” In December 2009, the Barna Group was the latest to report that all the mainline churches appear to be “on the precipice of a decline.” Across the board, funding is down, numbers are down, numbers of the young are especially down, and missionaries—one particularly good measure of the vibrancy of belief—are diminishing apace. Even the kind of social work for which Christian churches have been renowned is also down: Mainline volunteerism, according to the new Barna numbers, has dropped a shocking 21 percent since 1998.

Yet, as Bottum and others have observed, even as decline and disarray have so ruthlessly visited the churches of the mainline—the same churches that are now wholly owned subsidiaries of Christianity Lite—so have the more traditional-minded Protestant institutions proved comparatively robust. Since Dean Kelley’s work in the 1970s, culminating in the book Why Strict Churches Are Strong, observers have tried to make sense of that phenomenon. Interestingly, traditional Protestant churches and pastors are holding the institutional line today as Christianity Lite is not. Some are also actively seeking to recover aspects of the moral code that they themselves once jettisoned.

Abortion—about which some traditional-minded Protestant churches are more absolutist now than they used to be—is one example. Even more unexpected is the rethinking by some prominent Protestants of artificial contraception. This ongoing reconsideration is one of the least followed and potentially consequential religious stories of our day. It is happening in part because these leaders do not want their churches to go the way of the Anglican Communion and the mainline, and in part because of what some religious leaders now take to be the lessons of experience. The sexual revolution has been polarizing indeed—leading some churches into abandoning the old rules about sex altogether, even as it sends others back to a new understanding of why they may have existed in the first place.

Does the relaxing of dogma drive people from church, or does the decline in attendance push leaders to relax dogma? As with the previous discussion of dissent, we do not really need to know the answer in all its causal complexity. All we really need to know—as the brilliant convert and teacher Monsignor Ronald Knox observed in an essay some eighty years ago, “The Decline of Dogma and the Decline of Church Membership”—is that “the evacuation of the pew and the jettisoning of cargo from the pulpit” have been going on side by side for as long as Christianity Lite has been attempted. As with doctrinal dissent, it seems, where one appears, the other is sure to follow.

Christianity Lite has left enough evidence in its wake for us to judge the final outcome of that great experiment: It is a failure. The effort to throw out the unwanted bathwater of the sexual code has taken the baby—the rest of Christian practice and belief—along with it.

What accounts for this epochal, perhaps even counterintuitive outcome—one that surely would have shocked the original architects of this grand religious experiment, most of whom longed only for a Christianity with a happier human face?

One answer appears obvious enough. If enough people over enough time turn their backs on the injunction to be fruitful and multiply, eventually their churches will cease being fruitful and multiplying, too. Recent sociology confirms this elementary if perhaps unwelcome point. In research published in 2005 in Christian Century, three sociologists (Andrew Greeley, Michael Hout, and Melissa Wilde) argued that “simple demographics” between 1900 and 1975 explained around three-quarters of the decline in mainline churches (Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist). By contrast, they pointed out, during those same years membership rose in more conservative Protestant churches (Baptist, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and so on). The difference was that women in the former churches were using artificial contraception before or instead of women in the latter ones—in sum, that “the so-called decline of the Mainline may ultimately be attributable to its earlier approval of contraception.”

A second reason that the experiment of Christianity Lite seems destined sooner or later to self-destruct may be this rule of thumb: People who cannot be expected to obey in difficult matters cannot be expected to obey in easier ones either. In the 1950s, almost half the population of the Church of England attended services on Sunday. By 2000, that figure was around 7 percent, and that includes Charismatic and Pentecostal affiliates. Such declines, of course, have become common across the churches of Christianity Lite. Clearly, making life easier for those in the pews has not made them any likelier to sit there, and probably less so.

One final reason also suggests itself for why Christianity Lite is in decline while orthodoxy seems comparatively energetic—this despite the fact that Catholicism itself still reels from years of devastating sexual scandals, coupled with constant assault from secularism. That is what might be called the hidden power of the Christian moral code: its by now undeniable resonance with at least some human beings.

In his classic work A History of Christianity, first published in 1953, Kenneth Scott Latourette ponders one great puzzle of history:

How shall we account for the fact that, beginning as what to the casual observer must have appeared a small and obscure sect of Judaism, before its first five centuries were out had become the faith of the Roman state and of the vast majority of the population of that realm and had spread eastward as far as Central Asia and probably India and Ceylon and westward into far away Ireland?

Of course there is no single answer to his question. Nonetheless, the master historian himself cites Christianity’s surprisingly strong combination of flexibility and inclusivity on the one hand and “uncompromising adherence to its basic convictions” on the other. “In striking contrast with the easy-going syncretism” of the time, he emphasizes, “Christianity was adamant on what it regarded as basic principles.”

And right from the beginning, those principles were understood to include matters of sexual morality— especially matters of sexual morality. The pagans, the early Christians were instructed, could have it all: their idols, their infanticide, their contraception, their abortion, their homosexuality; the Christians couldn’t. The Jews could have their divorce; the Christians couldn’t. And on the list of forbidden practices went. Of course, these were not the only features that distinguished Christianity from other sects. But from the beginning, they were not only fundamental features of Christianity, and not only features that put many people off. They were also, and are still, features that drew other people in.

“The age had in it much of moral corruption,” Latourette wrote, speaking of the Roman Empire. “Yet it also had consciences which revolted against the excesses of the day. A religion that offered high moral standards and the power to attain them would be welcomed by the more serious.” What was true as Christianity took the Greco-Roman world by storm remains true today. The more decadent the age, the more does the forceful insistence that there is a right and wrong about matters of sex exert a gravitational pull all its own. The failure to recognize that power—one experienced by converts from St. Paul, to St.Augustine, to some of the Anglicans studying the Catechism today—may be one final and underappreciated factor that has led to Christianity Lite’s undoing.

As a cautionary note, nothing about this analysis of where we are now guarantees Christian orthodoxy any kind of victory. Many modern Catholics, perhaps a majority, are themselves cafeteria Catholics—the in-house version of Christianity Lite. Over time, their churches can be expected to drift and decline like those of the theological experiment of which they are a part. Nor will the demise of Christianity Lite happen dramatically enough for today’s traditionalists to gain momentum from it. No doubt centuries will be required before the experiment’s churches finally become whatever they will ultimately become—shelters, mosques, nightclubs, concert halls. Meanwhile, other questions about the future shape of Christianity—about what will become of traditional-minded Protestants, say, beginning with the Global South Anglicans—remain just as dim. From the top of any historical wave, we can see only so much.

But the one thing we can spy as of this moment is noteworthy enough: the beginning of the end not only of Anglicanism as the world has known it in the past century but also of the other churches that similarly joined their fates to that of Christianity Lite. It is hard to overstate how momentous their unraveling is—or how bracing a slap in the modern face. After all, if there is a single point to which modern, enlightened people have been agreeing for a long time now, it is that the antiquated sexual notions of the Catholic Church are an anachronism that had to go for the sake of a kinder, gentler Christianity.

It would be more than passing strange if, at the end of the day, that very anachronism were to turn out to be something that could not be sacrificed after all—not without having everything else fall down, anyway. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time in Christian history that a piece rejected by the builders turned out to be the cornerstone.

MARY EBERSTADT is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, contributing writer to First Things, and author most recently of The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism .

How to do a TV news report – Charlie Brooker shows you in two minutes:

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

I thought this was really very funny and very accurate. This is Charlie Brooker so there is a little swearing in this one.

H/T: Harry’s Place

Richard Dawkins has taken it upon himself to accuse Christian theology of hypocrisy by juxtaposing the deluge with the earthquake that occurred in Haiti.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Cross-post by Mariano over at Atheism is Dead:-

Yet again, Richard Dawkins’ amen chorus of adherents have come to the rescue of his illogicality and belligerence. He has taken it upon himself to accuse Christian theology of hypocrisy by juxtaposing the deluge with the earthquake that occurred in Haiti.[1]

Firstly, note that his condemnation of Christian theology, or anything at all for that matter, may be utterly disregarded due to the fact that he has no premise upon which to base his condemnations—none beyond his personal preferences which he bases upon his personal preferences.

When he was asked how he would show someone who broke into an old man’s house and murdered him that what they had done was wrong he responds, in part, by imagining what he would say to such as person:

“This is not a society in which I wish to live. Without having a rational reason for it necessarily, I’m going to do whatever I can to stop you doing this.”

I couldn’t, ultimately, argue intellectually against somebody who did something I found obnoxious. I think I could finally only say, “Well, in this society you can’t get away with it” and call the police. I realise this is very weak…”[2]

1) That that would not be “a society in which I wish to live” is irrelevant as the burglars do want that society and now it is survival of the fittest.

2) He admits that he has no “rational reason for it necessarily” and “couldn’t, ultimately, argue intellectually.”

3) That he would “call the police” presupposes that the police agree with him. If he called the police in Nazi Germany to complain about the mistreatment of Jews he would have been summarily placed in a camp.

4) Indeed, “this is weak.”

Yet, Richard Dawkins does take a solid stance on evil.On pedophilia; he references “gentle pedophiles” and thinks that too much is being made of it (see here).He makes a habit of referring to those with whom he disagrees in Hitlerian terms (for which I gave him The Reductio ad Hitlerum Award).

As for Adolf Hitler’s Nazism, (as stated to byFaith Magazine), “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”As for parents who raise their children according to their “religion” (as stated to the Telegraph), “It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue.”

Let us consider Richard Dawkins’ latest example of the lucidity with which he expresses his own ignorance and then rages against his very own misunderstandings.

He argues that while the earthquake was a natural event unconcerned with sin or human suffering and that “The religious mind” that is, the mind of the overwhelming majority of the entire planet’s population:

…restlessly seeks human meaning in the blind happenings of nature. As with the Indonesian tsunami, which was blamed on loose sexual morals in tourist bars; as with Hurricane Katrina, which was attributed to divine revenge on the entire city of New Orleans for harboring a lesbian comedian, and as with other disasters going back to the famous Lisbon earthquake and beyond, so Haiti’s tragedy must be payback for human sin.

But where are the plethora of quotations and citation to such sentiment expressed, as if with one voice, by the overwhelming majority of the entire planet’s population? It comes down to a fallacious generalized assertion and one single name, you guessed it, “Pat Robertson” (where he to have thrown Jerry Falwell into the mix he would have all but exhausted his source for such statements).

But not so fast, he is about to demonstrate that those, Judeo-Christians, who do not agree with Pat Robertson are hypocrites:

Needless to say, milder-mannered faith-heads are falling over themselves to disown Pat Robertson, just as they disowned those other pastors, evangelists, missionaries and mullahs at the time of the earlier disasters.
What hypocrisy.

At this point; note that you are dammed if you agree with Robertson and dammed if you do not.

Richard Dawkins asserts that Pat Robertson, “stands squarely in the Christian tradition” and those who disagree with him, “are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.”

But why is this? Because via Noah’s flood God was “systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for ‘sin’” and likewise with Sodom and Gomorrah thus, he notes,

Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christian, your entire religion is founded on an obsession with ‘sin’, with punishment and with atonement.

And Richard Dawkins’ is obsessed with getting rid of sin by claiming that there is no such thing and by promulgating the atheist consoling delusion of lack of ultimate accountability and the delusion of absolute autonomy.

Now, he asks, “Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson” when, after all, “the President of one theological seminary” wrote,

The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe.

Committing an expandio ad absurdum he implies that the Bible asserts that every natural disaster and disease is demonic in nature—this is a common misconception.

Richard Dawkins concludes by proposing a Bible study,

Pat Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Bible. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?…your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering.

Note that, actually, his own Darwinian worldview is one long celebration of suffering as it is through suffering/struggling to survive as the fittest that evolution occurs which is why Sam Harris argues that rape played a beneficial evolutionary role.

Charles Darwin asserted races are preserved via the struggle for life, “Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle…he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would soon sink into indolence, and the more highly-gifted men would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted.”[3]

Edward Grant Conklin wrote, “the lesson of past evolution teaches that there can be no progress of any kind without struggle.”[4]

Sir Grafton Elliot Smith made reference to the “glorious unrest” in that, “While man was evolved amidst the strife with adverse conditions, the ancestors of the Gorilla and Chimpanzee gave up the struggle for mental supremacy because they were satisfied with their circumstances.”[5]

Misia Landau noted, “Darwinian narratives, which, owing to their emphasis on natural selection, are often cast in terms of transformation through struggle.”[6]

Richard Dawkins succinctly wrote, “In nature, the usual selecting agent is direct, stark and simple. It is the grim reaper.”[7]

Now, the basic point is that since Judeo-Christian theology asserts that creation has fallen into entropy due to, beginning with, Adam’s rebellion against God, Adam’s sin, then every tragedy can be ultimately traced back to Adam’s sin. Thus, we all suffer because of Adam and Pat Robertson is correct is asserting that it was sin, “a pact with the Devil,” that caused the earthquake.

Firstly, let us note that indeed, the Bible paint a picture of the ultimate global village—we are all connected, all part of one family, all brothers and sisters, all created and love by God and also rebellious against God.

Yet, the Bible does not affirm that every natural disaster and disease is demonic, or sin related, in nature rather. Rather, it implies that God created the material realm and that the material realm functions according to material cause followed by material effect—this, by the way, is what makes science possible. While there are rare instances when certain un-natural disasters and diseases-like symptoms are demonic in nature, or sin related, it describes natural disasters as natural disasters and treats physical disease as physical disease (consider, for example, the medically regimented description of dealing with leprosy in Leviticus ch. 13 and 14).

Now, who is correct about the biblical worldview? Richard Dawkins, Pat Robertson or Jesus?
Jesus stated,

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13: 1-5).

This may not be of any comfort to adherents of the Dawkinsian School of Dogmatheistic Theology. Yet, the point is that Dawkins claimed to have drawn a logical conclusion via the Bible to hypocrisy in disagreeing with Pat Robertson due to the Bible’s affirmation of the fall into sin. Yet, the Bible does not draw this conclusion and so Dawkins is in error.

Moreover, Pat Robertson did not appeal to sin in general or the fall into sin. He reference an, un-evidenced, “pact with the Devil.” Thus, Richard Dawkins is further in error via another expandio ad absurdum.

To reiterate; the point is not whether it makes sense to you or not. The point is that Dawkins claimed to draw a logical conclusion from the Bible and yet, he contradicts the Bible’s contents, concepts and contexts.

[1] Richard Dawkins, “Haiti and the hypocrisy of Christian theology,” The Washington Post January 25, 2010
[2] Nick Pollard talks to Dr. Richard Dawkins (interviewed February 28th, 1995 published in Third Way in the April 1995 edition [vol. 18 no. 3])
[3] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (Princeton reprint of the 1st edition), p. 2:403
[4] Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 35 quoting “The Trend of Evolution,” in The Evolution of Man, published by Yale University Press, 1922, pp. 152-84
[5] Lewin, p. 35 quoting Essays on the Evolution of Man, published by Oxford University Press, 1924, p. 79
[6] Misia Landau, “Human Evolution as Narrative,” American Scientist, 72:262-268, 1984
[7] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker—Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1986), p. 62

This essay is copyrighted by Mariano of the “Atheism is Dead” blog at http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com.

It may be republished in part or in its entirety on websites, blogs, or any print media for whatever purpose—in agreement or in order to criticize it—only as long as the following conditions are met:

1) Give credit to “Mariano of the ‘Atheism is Dead’ blog at http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com”
2) Inform me as to which essay is being reproduced and where it is being reproduced via the comments section at this link

Sick BNP ‘Christians’ compare immigration to Hitler’s crimes in Poland

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Cross-posted from Edmund Standing:-

The BNP, desperate to convey a ‘tradional Christian’ image, has found the answer to the fact that every Christian denomination in Britain rejects its message of hate in the form of the ‘Christian Council of Britain’ (CCoB), an organisation run by BNP candidate ‘Revd’ Robert West, who preaches nationalism and racial separatism.

Recently, the BNP website was crowing about a ’service’ West held for BNP supporters in Loughton, Essex. According to the BNP, 80 plus ‘members and supporters’ gathered to hear West preach and to sing ‘Jerusalem’, followed by speeches ‘about the party’s intentions and plans over the next few months both locally and at national level’.

Looking at the CCoB website, we find a blog entry by West featuring a CCoB flyer entitled ‘Racism is not what you have been told!’ It’s bog standard BNP material until we reach the end of the text, in which the author asks the following obscene question:

Now, we already know that Nick Griffin thinks that the mixing of ethnic groups constitutes ‘genocide’ and has compared British Generals to Nazi war criminals, but this has to be one of the most disgusting BNP attempts to use Nazi analogies yet.

To compare immigration from the developing world to the Nazi Lebensraum policies in Poland is sick and outrageous.

Let’s remind ourselves of exactly what this BNP front group is talking about.

Speaking of his Lebensraum plans for Poland, Hitler stated:

I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East— with orders to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space that we need.

Once the Nazis entered Poland, here is what happened:

Initially, Germany annexed western Poland directly, establishing a brutal colonial government whose expressed goal was to erase completely the concept of Polish nationhood and make the Poles slaves of a new German empire. About 1 million Poles were removed from German-occupied areas and replaced with German settlers. An additional 2.5 million Poles went into forced labor camps in Germany.

[...]

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, all the Polish lands came under control of the Third Reich, whose occupation policies became even more bloodthirsty as the war continued. Hitler considered Poland to be an integral part of German Lebensraum, his concept of German domination of the European continent. Eastern Europe would be purged of its population of putative racial inferiors and prepared as the hinterland of a grandiose Germanic empire. This vision fueled the genocidal fanaticism of the conquerors. Reduced to slave status, the Poles lived under severe restrictions enforced with savage punishment. As the principal center of European Jewry, Poland became the main killing ground of the Nazi Holocaust; several of the most lethal death camps, including Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka, operated on Polish soil. The Germans annihilated nearly all of Poland’s 3 million Jews. Roughly as many Polish gentiles also perished under the occupation.

The Lebensraum plan was more than just an attempt at seeking extra land; it was a direct expression of Nazi racial ideology:

Under German rule, occupied Poland became a laboratory for National Socialist “racial and population policy”. After the outbreak of war, Jews and non-Jews, particularly Poland’s leadership and intelligentsia, fell victim to the Special Units of the Security Police. The latter continued their activities of repression after becoming stationary agencies of the Security Police and Security Service.

The “Generalgouvernement” Poland was slated to become a manpower reservoir for the German war economy, while the country served as an object of exploitation for military and civilian purposes. In cooperation with the administrative agencies of the Reichsfuehrer-SS in the “Warthegau”, “Gauleiter” (regional Nazi leader) Greiser attempted to create a model German “Gau” (archaic Germanic term for “region”, revived by the Nazis). Between 1939 and 1941, hundreds of thousands of Poles were “resettled” in the “Generalgouvernement” while their property was confiscated. Similar expulsions in the Lublin district likewise resulted in destitution and misery for the population. Germanization and the quest for “German blood” were characteristic features of German “population policy”. Poland was to be “racially crushed”.

Nazi actions in Poland were barbarous and deliberately designed to destroy Polish society through mass executions of political leaders, the intelligentsia, and religious leaders with the intention of leaving a massive peasant underclass to be used as slave labour, as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum article ‘Poles: Victims of the Nazi Era’ explains.

Landowners, clergymen, government officials, university professors, teachers, doctors, dentists, officers, journalists, and others were killed in mass executions or sent to concentration camps:

The Polish scholar Franciszek Piper, the chief historian of Auschwitz, estimates that 140,000 to 150,000 Poles were brought to that camp between 1940 and 1945, and that 70,000 to 75,000 died there as victims of executions, of cruel medical experiments, and of starvation and disease. Some 100,000 Poles were deported to Majdanek, and tens of thousands of them died there. An estimated 20,000 Poles died at Sachsenhausen, 20,000 at Gross-Rosen, 30,000 at Mauthausen, 17,000 at Neuengamme, 10,000 at Dachau, and 17,000 at Ravensbrueck. In addition, victims in the tens of thousands were executed or died in the thousands of other camps-including special children’s camps such as Lodz and its subcamp, Dzierzazn—and in prisons and other places of detention within and outside Poland.

Universities, schools, museums, libraries, and scientific laboratories were closed or destroyed. Education was limited to the bare minimum, as explained in Himmler’s May 1940 memorandum:

The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one’s name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans. … I do not think that reading is desirable.

Hundreds of thousands of Poles were expelled from their homes, and able bodied adults and teenagers were forced into slave labour.

Robert West’s ‘Christian’ BNP group compares all this to immigration into Britain from the developing world and asks: what is the difference?

Are there no depths to which these people will not sink?

Switch to our mobile site