viernes, 20 de octubre de 2017

To Christians in the Western world: a call to action | MercatorNet |October 20, 2017| MercatorNet |

To Christians in the Western world: a call to action
MercatorNet |October 20, 2017| MercatorNet |

To Christians in the Western world: a call to action

Remember that the fight of the Christians in the Middle East is the fight of the Western church.
Anastasia Sinyawski | Oct 20 2017 | comment 1 

In a world where terror seems to abound daily, it’s difficult not to shut it out, disconnect, forget, and move on. It’s difficult to look and actually see, to read and feel, to hear and connect, to understand the gravity of the conflict and individual responsibility. Because the violence is so far away, it’s simple to ignore, overlook, and disassociate.  
It hasn’t been that simple for Isaac. Isaac did not have the luxury of separating himself from the violence, because it was at his doorstep. That conflict that we so easily separate ourselves from cost him his career, his home, and his family. Living a fulfilling life in Iraq as the principal of a school, a father, a brother, and a son, Isaac didn’t imagine that, within weeks, his life would drastically change and he would lose that which was dear to him. After his son, and later his brother, were kidnapped and murdered by ISIS, Isaac had no choice but to flee in hope of saving his life and the lives of his remaining family. 
Batu studied at Mosul University pursuing a Masters of Biology. She scarcely escaped Iraq, walking 20km on foot, because of the enclosing violence by ISIS. Today she lives as a temporary citizen in the state of Jordan without the ability to work or continue her education.  
Khalil was persecuted for his faith as a young boy while living in Gaza. He endured beatings in school by his classmates. The principal of his school upheld that the beatings were in accordance of Sharia law, and he could even be killed because he was a Christian. After fleeing to the West Bank where he lives today, Khalil is a proud Palestinian follower of Jesus Christ. His passion is fervent, his zeal is evident, and his faith is unshakeable. He doesn’t experience religious freedom under the Palestinian Authority, but uses his current situation to lead others to Christ.  
 With tears in their eyes, many of these persecuted Christians expressed feelings of being forgotten by the world, but especially forgotten by the Western church. They quietly pondered how Christians could call them brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet completely isolate and disregard their struggles and the overall persecution of Christians as something far away and easily forgotten. The Western church is largely ignorant or untroubled by the violence against Christians whose lives have been turned upside down by those who hate their Christian faith.  
Religious persecution has risen worldwide for three years in a row to astonishing rates. Over 215 million Christians live in countries where they are subject to harassment, discrimination, physical violence, and even death. In a recent study, Open Doors reported that every month 322 Christians are killed, 214 churches are destroyed, and approximately 772 acts of violence are committed against Christians. The Pew Research Center recently stated that in 2014 “roughly three-quarters of the world’s 7.2 billion people (74 percent) were living in countries with high or very high restrictions or hostilities” involving religion. The Christian population in Iraq alone has plummeted from 1.5 million in 2003 to current estimates of about 275,000. Estimates indicate that between the years 2005 and 2015, approximately 900,000 Christians were killed, an average of about 90,000 a year. In short, Christians are persecuted in more countries than ever before, and are killed more than any other religious group.  
The time has come for us to stop feeling sorry for the Christians, shocked at the plight they are up against, and committing to simply pray for them. It is time to act. Too many Western Christian churches use the common scapegoat of prayer as a way to avoid action. Simply praying is not enough. Did Christ not call the church to a life of action? Did he not call the church to not only pray, but also to act? Let this then be a call to action, a simple reminder, and a gentle nudge. Don’t diminish the power of prayer, but don’t resort to simply praying like so many Christians do today. Remember that the fight of the Christians in the Middle East is the fight of the Western church.  
There are countless ways to help the refugees and persecuted Christians in the Middle East. The Awaken Initiative by the Philos Project aids in raising awareness for the condition of Christians in the Middle East, and raising funds for those being persecuted. Through donations, the Iraqi Christian Relief Council [ICRC] gives Christians an opportunity to aid in humanitarian relief, raise awareness, host events and prayer vigils, aid resettled Christian refugees, and so much more. ICRC focuses specifically on helping Iraqi Assyrian Christians who have been misplaced from their homeland and have suffered massive population losses. The Voice of the Martyrsoffers countless ways for Christians to help their brothers and sisters including financial donations, action packs, family med packs, writing letters to imprisoned Christians, and a Bible sponsorship program.  
The opportunities to help our brothers and sisters being persecuted in the Middle East are endless. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can certainly do more.   
Anastasia Sinyawski is a senior at the University of Alaska Anchorage, currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in political science. This article has been republished from The Philos Project, a MercatorNet partner site.

Luther and the divorce between faith and reason

The reformer’s rejection of philosophy has put us in two minds.
Martin Fitzgerald | Oct 19 2017 | comment 18 

Statue of Martin Luther outside the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Saxony. via Wikipedia
Many Christians, like those in an Anglican church close to where I live, are inviting people to come and celebrate with them in coming weeks because 31st October 2017 marks the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That was the day Brother Martin Luther posted his 95 theses against the practices of the Catholic Church on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, beginning a schism from which the Christian West has not yet recovered.
One of the major sources of division between the two Christianities, the Catholic one and the Reformed one, was Luther’s insistence that we are justified by faith alone and not works. I am not going to attempt to arbitrate the rights and wrongs of the question of salvation here. But it is clear that Luther’s proposition left good works in a very precarious position. If you were not justified by them, why even do them? And yet common sense dictated that it was still better to do good works than bad ones.
Wasn’t it better, for example, to get up and serve people at the table than be lazy and allow yourself to be served? Or to give alms rather than not to? Unwittingly perhaps, Luther eviscerated good works, stripping them of value except as evidence that you had been saved. This put everyday virtues in a bad light, so much so that the idea of virtue is still dangerous territory for evangelical Christians if only at the theoretical level.[1]
Reason, 'the greatest enemy of faith'
This scepticism about good works is allied to another Lutheran theological assertion; that human nature is completely corrupt after original sin. There are no good works in a human being because of that totally corrupt nature -- not just pretty badly wounded nature, as in Catholicism’s understanding of the situation. If Luther’s idea of a completely corrupt human nature is the starting point, a person who exercises herself in good works thinking that they will bring her close to God is like a person digging a hole; the more she digs, the bigger it gets and the harder it is to get out of. The exercise of works has a practical value, but one would be deluded to think they had supernatural value.
Luther’s understanding that original sin has wreaked havoc on our human nature also led him to deny the value of using one’s reason to understand God. Luther’s most famous words in this regard are the following;
“Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”
This is not the only reference to reason as a whore in Luther. There are plenty of other statements along the same lines often involving the devil, and Aristotle, in the mix. Luther did claim that reason had a vital place in the organization of the world, in politics and economics, for example –that is, practical reason; but the use of philosophical reason in theology was like uniting oneself to someone faithless for a price and not to one’s real wife for love.
Analogously to the problem of good works, then, the more you use your reason to approach God, the more you are digging a hole for your damnation. As one contemporary Lutheran scholar says, “Reason is not just insufficient; its fallen nature has placed it in perpetual conflict with the will of God.”[2] Reason entices a person simply to dabble in rational or intellectual delights and these will only lead them further and further away from the true knowledge of God.
The split between faith and reason
It is easy to see how one of the most profound effects of Luther’s approach to reason was a generalized distrust of it amongst the theologians and adherents of the reformed tradition, the theological and spiritual tradition that dominates the Anglo-Saxon world. Luther’s distrust of reason was broader however, than its application to theology. It was not long before philosophy, that branch of knowledge most closely associated with reason, was itself regarded as something detached from religion. If Luther thought that his knowledge of God through the Scriptures (faith) was superior to human reason, others began to regard human reason as superior to faith. That movement was called the Enlightenment; the Age of Reason with capital letters.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the West inherited from Luther two “thought worlds”: one which, putting reason aside, believed in God relying only on conclusions drawn from Scripture; and the other, putting the “question” of God to one side, relied on the application of reason to human realities. Thus, Luther’s deprecation of reason is one of the factors that gave rise in the West and particularly in the English-speaking world to the split between faith and reason. From there it was a small step to a supposed conflict between religion and science. The origins of this conflict certainly owed something to propagandist use of the Galileo affair by Enlightenment writers, but at a more basic level, it had to do with the perceived distance between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of the universe first insisted upon by Martin Luther.
The consequences of the split between faith and reason were also personal. Many people began to live in two thought-worlds – one of faith, which purportedly could attain a certain knowledge of God (as a Trinity, for example) and how God wanted people to act (the commandments), and one of practical science.
In the centuries immediately after Luther, the second of these two thought worlds started to prove its worth in the form of the technological advances it spawned. Despite hiccoughs along the way, the world began to become a less cruel place to live in as machines did more work, medicine cured illnesses and the mysteries of the universe  were given scientific explanations. The achievements of science could not be denied. Luther’s stark separation of the two thought-worlds induced some to think they had to choose between the two. There seemed to be no doubt as to which option was rational.
One of the worst consequences of the two thought world view of society is becoming more and more obvious today: the branding of religious reasons for doing things as not valid in the public square. Religious reasons are, according to the reason=science thought world, no reasons at all. They do not stand up to the tests of sight and touch. They are beyond measurement and calculation and are therefore alien to what our culture is and ought to be.
‘If it’s religious it can’t be rational’
Another nefarious consequence of the situation I have described is that the rationality of some arguments is obscured for many people simply because these arguments align with religious positions. The propagandists for the opposite side of these arguments are very ready to claim we live in a secular society and therefore religious arguments do not count. There are very good arguments, for example, against abortion, same-sex marriage or gender theory, but they are almost always cast as religious arguments. Their opposites are cast as secular (and therefore necessarily rational) arguments and the contentious issues themselves are framed as if there are only two alternatives.
As a result many commonsense views that were once regarded as reasonable are regarded as irrational. And, at the same time, we are asked to believe that quite ridiculous things are rational. Here is a short list of the latter: many of our neuroses are caused by our incest longing (thanks Mr Freud); even though we use the term natural justice, we don’t really mean there is such a thing; humans cannot possibly make a commitment for their whole lives; homosexual sex is of the same nature as heterosexual sex; a man is not a man but a woman if he feels like one; the only things which distinguish a man from a woman are menstruation, lactation and ejaculation (courtesy of a feminist university professor at a boys education conference in 2005).
In other words, what we are really seeing is that reason severed from an understanding of God loses its way. If we begin by saying reason cannot access God, in some way at least, we end by saying that we cannot access reality.
As Chesterton said in the 1930s while observing the directions supposedly serious philosophy had taken us,
The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.
It is unfair to lay all of this mental destruction at the feet of a 16th century Augustinian monk who railed rightly against some serious defects in the status quo of his time, but I wonder if he had his time over again, whether he would label reason a whore.
Martin Fitzgerald is a teacher at Redfield College, in Sydney.

[1] Luther’s emphasis on free unmerited grace was owed to “his believing that the focus in human effort would lead to works righteousness.” Ahearn, D O and Gathje, P R, Doing Right and Being Good: Catholic and Protestant Readings in Christian Ethics, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2005, p. 2. “it follows from this that no one obtains anything from God by his own virtue or the worthiness of prayer but only by reason of the boundless mercy of God...”, Bayer, O, “Luther as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture”, in McKim, D K, (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK), 2003, p. 78.  “...  union with Christ becomes the necessary means by which people can develop and attain virtue because they are incapable by themselves”, Ashisha Varma, “Sin, Grace and Virtue in Calvin: A Matrix for Dogmatic Consideration”, The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, Vol 28, no. 2, Autumn, 2010, p. 190. Mann, Jeffrey K, “Luther on Reason: What Makes a Whore a Whore”, Seminary Ridge Review, Vol 18, no. 1, August, 2015, pp. 1 – 17.
[2] Jeffrey K Mann, op cit,  p. 7. I am not claiming that all contemporary Lutherans adhere to this idea. I simply do not know and would accept correction if what I have written is incorrect. But I cannot see how followers of Luther would be able to distance themselves from such clear and repeated assertions.


October 20, 2017

The Soviet goal of a worldwide communist revolution was never realised, but it was not for want of trying. Most if not all Western countries had a communist party for much of the twentieth century. I knew an old communist in New Zealand who had grown up to her mother’s advice: “If your housework’s done you’re neglecting the cause.” Connie eventually became a very stanch Catholic and a thorn in the side of the local lefties.

Today Francis Phillips reviews a book that gives us a glimpse of the British communist movement, a memoir of his parents and their circle by The Times journalist David Aaronovitch. Something that struck me was the fact that this couple, who had four children, stuck together despite their troubled marriage and the decline of the movement. It was their communist “faith” that provided the glue. There is a lesson in that somewhere for today’s troubled marriages, I think.

(Somewhat) related items this week: The Russian Revolution in filmWhy Russia thinks it’s exceptionalRussia’s workforce decline.

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,
Prospects for family values dim in a left-led New Zealand
By Carolyn Moynihan
Jacinda Ardern will build houses, but will that save the family?
Read the full article
Party Animals: My Family and other Communists
By Francis Phillips
Growing up Communist in post-war London.
Read the full article
Two brilliant picture books
By Susan Reibel Moore
Sophie Masson is one of Australia's gifted authors.
Read the full article
Bedlam in Seattle: pro-lifers kicked out of coffee shop
By Edward J. Hamilton
Can a gay cafe owner refuse to serve Christians?
Read the full article
How euthanasia affects nurses
By Annmarie Hosie
It could create a nearly intolerable conflict of interest between caring for patients and following orders
Read the full article
To Christians in the Western world: a call to action
By Anastasia Sinyawski
Remember that the fight of the Christians in the Middle East is the fight of the Western church.
Read the full article
Russia’s workforce decline
By Marcus Roberts
The fruits of collapsing birthrates from twenty years ago.
Read the full article
Luther and the divorce between faith and reason
By Martin Fitzgerald
The reformer’s rejection of philosophy has put us in two minds.
Read the full article
The story of ?????
By Karl D. Stephan
Freezing women's eggs leads to imponderable moral complexities.
Read the full article
Why Russia thinks it’s exceptional
By Gregory Carleton
Centuries of war and invasion have profoundly shaped Russia's worldview and self-image
Read the full article
The branding of John Stuart Mill
By J. Budziszewski
If it harms ‘only me’, is it no harm at all?
Read the full article

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