It’s Nothing to Do With Equality

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry in which the issue presented is “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the· union of a man and a woman.”

Let’s get beyond whether the Supremes will extend the 14th even further beyond all intent, stretching until it has got to finally snap. The Nine – and their various incarnations over the last 50 years -have  made the 14th into whatever they have want to fashion it. And one may argue that they can do so. The 14th Amendment is a creation of the people of the United States and those who are the lawful representatives of the United States, whether in matters legislative, executive or judicial, will do what they may.

What all the “fair-minded people” in front of the Supreme Court building and all of their friends in the blogosphere have missed is that whilst the 14th Amendment is the creation of the people, marriage isn’t it. Marriage isn’t the creation of any people, “fair-minded” or not.

I can understand why there might be some confusion by those who think that either marriage laws or individual marriage licenses create marriage. From at least  the time of Moses, there has been civil regulation of marriage. The Biblical concern was degrees of consanguinity. In more recent times, there have been age regulations and occasionally health precautions. All of these are concerned with the core purpose of marriage: procreation.

Likewise the purpose of a marriage license is to prevent those who should not procreate from doing so and to register the initiation of the marriage, should such information be needed later in the case of a dissolution. That there are those who will procreate unlicensed does not invalidate the purpose. After all, the law formerly addressed adultery and fornication to curb that factor.

But we need to get this clear: marriage was created by God and is merely regulated by the State. That marriage was created by God to be between a man and a woman is patently clear from Scripture. It’s very institution is linked to the creation of woman as distinct from man. Scripture never suggests that it could be otherwise. All of human history until this most recent blink of an eye has been a universal witness to this. This is, of course, not surprising, as this is the only means of procreation.

And what of the constant cry that we shouldn’t stand in the way of two people loving each other? Love only enters into the matter within the bounds of the institution itself. There are many loves in the world that are not the love of marriage. Each of those must respect the bounds of the type of relationship in which the love grows.

Our affections for other people do not define us. Our desires do not define us. Love itself is not subject to our definition. It is an attribute of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The legislatures of the several States have the authority to create a type of contractual relationship which persons of the same sex can enter into that carries with it the same legislated advantages that marriage has in the eyes of the law. These legislatures can pass laws regarding real property ownership, taxation, and intestacy.  If the 14th Amendment were going to apply, it would be that these new contractual relationships would be allowed to heterosexual fornicators as well.

So once again, let us be clear. Marriage equality is not about marriage equality. All marriages are equally marriages. However, to declare something a marriage outside of the inherent definition of marriage in creation is to directly defy the Creator. We can throw ourselves on the floor and have a tantrum and say, “But it’s not fair!” all we want. “Fair”, along with “righteous,” “just,” and “true,” are not ours to decide or define.

If the Supreme Court of the United States decides that the State of California is prohibited from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman on the basis of the 14th Amendment, it will really be saying states must recognize the marriage of any two people – though logically the next step must be to overturn polygamy laws – but I’ll leave that for now. This is not really about the 14th Amendment or equality before the law. It is about who or Who has the authority to define marriage.

Defrauding the Church

Recently I was looking at the résumé of a famous preacher who was outed as a adulterer some years ago by another famous preacher (who was himself then outted in the same way). I was looking mostly because he calls himself “Dr.” Under his education he lists “Correspondence Courses Continuing Education – Berean School of Bible”, then an honorary MA (who gets an honorary MA?), two honorary doctorates, and what purports to be a Ph.D. in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology. I had never heard of this institution, but you, dear reader, can probably can probably smell the same rat I did. It is just a bit unusual to go from correspondence courses with no certificate, diploma, or not to mention degree, straight to a Ph.D.

How do you get a doctorate from NCCT? Let them tell you how in their course catalog (spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation, including random elipses, from the original):

The North Carolina College of Theology does award degrees for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE. The specific requirements for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE Degrees are outlined in this catalog. NCCT DOES NOT sell degrees…Qualified applicants must submit proof of verifiable time in ministry in order to receive the degree for which he or she has applied….All applicants must meet NCCT requirement with approval of the President and Executive Board. Each individual application is assessed with consideration of various jobs and positions in which an applicant has worked within the church or ministerial realm. Many pastors and five-fold ministers are NOW deserving a Doctorate, and should rightfully be awarded. NCCT LIFE-EARNED DEGREES are identical to the degrees that are issued to students who graduate from the Satellite Extension Program or “Individual Study Program”. It is the desire of the NCCT President, Board, Staff, and Faculty to be a blessing to those in the field of ministry and offer confirmation of education to the many deserving men and women of God.

That’s right. If you have been in full-time ministry for ten to fifteen years, and you have $2,750.00 plus $60.00 application fee, plus $100.00 administration fee, plus the $860.00 graduation fee, you deserve a doctorate. They would like you to write a 25,000 word paper, which they even have the gall to call a dissertation, but that can be waived. That will get you a Doctor of Biblical Studies. If you want to have a Ph.D. you need to have been in ministry 20 years, have bought one of the other doctorates, and it will cost an additional$5,500.00, plus all the other fees. Because you deserve it. And because you have a ministry that can afford to spend the $10,290.00 in total from the offerings you have received from other people. The one thing NCCT is very clear about: no money, no degree, and absolutely no refunds if you ever realize that you paid for a worthless piece of paper.

From whence comes this idea that a degree of any kind is deserved? A degree is earned through a demonstration of academic achievement in a field of study.

NCCT will tell you not to worry about the value of your LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE degree, because it is accredited. According to the course catalog, NCCT is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, Inc. of Beebe, Arkansas. ACI is run by non-trinitarian Pentecostal preacher “Dr.” John Scheel who is the bishop of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of Beebe. “Dr.” Scheel got his Ph.D. from Toledo Bible College and Seminary, which had to be re-branded when it was run out of Ohio by the authorities. ACI is also a rebranding of the International Accrediting Commission (IAC) which was run out of Missouri after a sting operation.

But why have one fake accreditation with four is better? A real college doesn’t need the approval four accrediting agencies, but according to the NCCT website, they are accredited by three other bogus accrediting agencies in addition to ACI.

NCCT likes to keep things tightly controlled. The President is “Dr.” J. L. Cook. The Senior Vice-President is “Dr.” Judy Cook, the wife of J. L. Cook. The Executive Vice-President is “Dr.” Jon Cook, the son of J. L. Cook. The rest of the Executive Board includes “Dr.” W. L. Baltimore with two diploma mills doctorates, including one from NCCT;  “Dr.” Varnie Fullwood, who got his Bachelor’s from diploma mill Zoe University (also accredited by ACI) before getting his Master’s and Ph.D. from NCCT; “Dr.” Stephen Thomas, with two diploma mill doctorates, one from Rhema University (accredited by one of ACI’s competitors and not to be confused with Rhema Bible Training Center, which does not offer degrees) and one from NCCT; and Revs. Dan and Tim Cook, who bears a striking resemblance to the other Cooks and each other.

All of the Cook sons, Baltimore, and Thomas also serve on the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board, though how the two Cook non-doctors serve on a doctoral dissertation review board further boggles the mind. Ever other member of the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board about whom I can find any further information also appears to their doctorates from NCCT or another mill.

NCCT is just one of many purveyors of bogus theological degrees. I just picked them out by chance, due to their association with Marvin Gorman, mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are others who are making just as much money out of spreading false credibility throughout the Church. But be clear about this: it is fraud and it is rife.

It may be found predominantly, but not exclusively, in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist circles. Does that mean that there is anything wrong with these groups within the Church? Absolutely not. It does mean that there is a need to be extra vigilant. Does it mean that someone has to have a real doctorate or even a real degree of any kind to minister in the Church? No. God uses all sorts of men from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of formal and informal education.

It does mean that no one should represent that they possess formal educational achievement that they have not earned. I don’t care what else they want to say about how great their ministry is, or how fruitful it is in whatever way their group acknowledges fruitfulness, they are defrauding the Church.

Two Wrong-Headed Views

I don’t know if I have ever come across two boned-headed people coming from such completely different perspectives about the same thing.

Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Jade Goody told a magazine that she felt her miscarriage was God’s punishment for the row caused by racist remarks she made to and about Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on CBB. Apparently the British public got angry, the Indian public got really angry, but God decided somebody had to die.

Why the Anglican Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines felt the need to step into this, I don’t know. Nonetheless he issues a statement, saying, “Jade Goody can be sure that losing her baby wasn’t a punishment from God.” Master of the obvious, Bishop Nick. But then he continued, “God doesn’t punish people. He stands by them and shares in their suffering as we see in Jesus Christ.” What? I’m not sure how he sees the latter sentence relating to the former.

God doesn’t punish people? Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira. Or Herod Antipas. Or anyone who has read the book of Hebrews:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Chastening and scourging sounds like punishment to me. It sounds like God is a bit harder than I am on Aidan, who I have chastened but never scourged. Bishop Nick must be one of those liberals whose theology is entirely independent of the Bible.

Hindsight

Many of you who are Orthodox probably already regularly visit Fr Stephen Freeman’s blog. Fr Stephen is an OCA priest in East Tennessee.

He has a post today about The Spirit, the Modern World, Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy that I found particularly enlightening. He knows of what he speaks on more than just an academic level:

My wife and I met in a charismatic house Church so that I do not write as a stranger on the subject. I spent two years, as well, living in a charismatic commune. Many years ago I would have been about as hard core as they come. Today I judge the matter quite differently and see, with fear and trembling, Pentecostal thought and practice in a different light.

Though his spiritual journey does not mirror mine exactly, he has expressed the same concerns I have over a number of issues more eloquently and pastorally than I could.

Protestant Pontiffs

In a bit of an ironic follow up to my previous post, I discovered on Clifton Healy’s blog that Dr Francis Beckwith, president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has been received back into the Roman Church.

I have to admit that I didn’t know who Dr Beckwith is. I’m not really up on Evangelical leaders like I used to be. But still, this seems to be big news. I clicked from Clifton to Dr Beckwith’s blog, where there were what seemed to be hundreds of combox theologians, some welcoming him home, but others telling him how he had forsaken the faith, offering prooftexts (like he is unfamiliar with Scripture, or suddenly forgot it all because he returned to Rome).

It reminded me of how it is that some of the most simpleton Protestants accuse Catholics of being simpletons. Then there are some guys out there who are supposed to be theologians, like Doug Groothuis or James White. After taking Beckwith to task on Beckwith’s (shared) blog, Groothuis posted this bit of nonsense on his own:

Frank has done some excellent work over the years, but was apparently never well-grounded in the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, as articulated by the Five Solas of the Reformation.

The Five Solas are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith? Whatever happened to the Nicene Creed? Herein is the essense of the difference. Both sides (regardless of what some idiots who refer to things like the Council of Trent without any understanding of the theological nuances involved) believe the Scripture to be the Word of God written. Admittedly, the Catholics (like the Orthodox) use the same OT canon as Jesus, whilst the Reformers chopped out a big chunk, but as to the concept of Scripture being the Word of God there’s no actual debate.

I suppose it comes down to whether you get your essential doctrines formulated from the Church Fathers, particularly those participating in the Ecumenical Councils, or a French lawyer, a German monk, and a Swiss priest with a concubine.

It’s fun to read all the Protestant pontificating about Beckwith. It makes me realise that I might listen to Evangelical music more than I do Orthodox music (I’m just not into the octoechos on my car stereo on the way to work – I need a bit of Geoff Moore or Delirious? to get me pumped for the day) but while I’m evangelical (and every Christian should be, because we have good news to tell) I’m not an Evangelical. I’m glad I don’t have a dog in this fight.

Educational Anthropology

Once again report writing time has snuck up on me. Year 7 full reports are due tomorrow.

I’ve written in the past about reports and their merits. Someone told me very recently that they’d heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another I’d been messing around in educational heresy. I’ve never been one much for what I call the REO Speedwagon style of criticism. I think if you have something to say, say it to the source.

I hope I haven’t implied anything negative about my school this area. When it comes to data and reports, I think we are a model of the spirit of the age. The Government would be proud. I think all of my colleagues from the top down do a fine job. I try to do as good a job as they do, though I would certainly count myself as the least of my brethren. This is certainly a job where great value is place on rendering under Caesar. Read more of this post

The Cost of Conservatism

The conservative/liberal split in the Anglican church has become deadly.

A British missionary was fatally poisoned after helping to prevent a London vicar from becoming a bishop in Central Africa, The Times has learnt.

It appears that Canon Rodney Hunter was a little too conservative in his views. He had been in Malawi for many years and really considered himself Malawian rather than English. He was a mentor to the Archbishop of the very conservative Province of Central Africa and had taught him in seminary.

He opposed the election of the liberal Rev Nicholas Henderson as Bishop of Lake Malawi, because in contrast to Canon Hunter,

Mr Henderson, Vicar of St Martin’s Acton West and All Saints’ Ealing Common, was elected as Bishop of Lake Malawi last August. He had known the region for 18 years, raising funds for religious, social and humanitarian projects, and was learning the local language, Chichewe. At the time, few in Malawi knew of his record as a leading liberal theologian and that he had been chairman of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union. There was also concern in Africa at reports that he had a male lodger.

As a result, the Primate of Central Africa, the Most Rev Bernard Malango, wrote to Mr Henderson asking him to confirm that he subscribed to the Creeds, the Bible and the Thirty-Nine Articles and that he “fashions his own like and his household according to the doctrine of Christ”.

The diocese’s Court of Confirmation blocked Mr Henderson’s consecration, deeming him “a man of unsound faith”, and instead appointed the retired Bishop of Zambia, the Right Rev Leonard Mwenda.

The Province of Central Africa may be strongly conservative, but that isn’t to say Rev Henderson didn’t have his supporters. Vociferous supporters.

Even though he was living in retirement, appointed assistant priest at All Saints’ Cathedral, he had been physically attacked in the pulpit. Then,

In November Canon Hunter was found dead at his home in Nkhotakota, Malawi, with a strange black substance around his mouth. The day before his death he had complained of severe stomach pains, and postmortem examination has now shown that he was killed by three poisons.

Malawi police have charged his cook with murder and are investigating rumours that the poisoning was organised by supporters of Mr Henderson, who had no knowledge of the alleged plot.

Given the previous violence against him because of his views, I hope the rumours will lead to a trail of evidence.

Rushdoony Confused

As I have continued to peruse R. J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church, I find that I have less and less in common with some of his theological ideas.

As I suggested I would do, I read the chapter on Iconodulism. He starts off my rejecting monasticism. What the Fathers saw as asceticism, Rushdoony sees as neoplatonism. Then he says is veers from monism to semi-Manachaeanism. Even though monasticism far pre-dates the Council of Chalcedon, he sees it as opposed to Chalcedonian theology. He is stuck on the false premise that monastics see in themselves the potential to partake of the essence of God rather than in His energies.

He admits that the iconoclastic emperors were Monophysite heretics and those who restored the icons were orthodox. But since the emperors and the state could be venerated by the use of pictures and symbols (just as it is today), he says the iconodules implicitly confused the two natures of Christ. Then he flip-flops and acknowledges the validity of the concilliar decree,

If the Incarnation is real, it can be portrayed; an unreal incarnation, one that is “merely phantastic,” cannot be depicted. Put in modern terms a true and real Christ can be photographed; a mythical one cannot. The second point is equally valid. Honor paid to the portrait is honor paid to the one portrayed.

Surely that wouldn’t sit well will some of his Truly Reformed brethren who see the Jesus film (and I would assume The Passion of the Christ) as a violation of the Second Commandment.

I can’t help but get the impression, especially as I have now read this chapter several times, that he knows where he wants to go with his point, so he stretches and bends things to get him there. He has a presupposition against iconodulism and he is looking to find the justification for his views. Thus he finishes the chapter by going back and attacking asceticism and particularly the hesychasm of St Gregory Palamas, who he never mentions by name, but rather refers approvingly to the opposition of Barlaam of Calabria.

This is despite the fact the iconoclast controversy pre-dates the hesychasm controversy by 550 years.

Rushdoony can never say anything more against the veneration of icons than that somehow it is tainted by association.

Rethinking Reconstructionism

As I noted in the comments to a recent post, I no longer consider myself a Reconstuctionist. As those comboxes and the ones following other posts here and elsewhere make clear, I clearly have more in common with Reconstructionism than with militant secularism. This did seem a good time, however, to dust off an old book.

I’ve started flipping through R. J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church. After all, the main title is something that seems to be hotly contested here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. The focus indicated in the sub-title is useful because I know a lot more about both the Creeds and the Councils as an Orthodox than I did when I first read the book as a theonomist.

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Christ is Risen!

Khristus anahgrecum!

Khris-tusaq ung-uixtuq!

!באמת קם

Christus resurrexit!

Христос Воскресе!

Kristos tenestwal!

!حقا قام

ハリストス復活!実に復活!

Cristo causarimpunña!

Χριστός Ανέστη!

Si Cristo ay nabuhay!

Kristo amefufukka!

Քրիստոս յարեաւ ի մեռելոց՜

Atgyfododd Crist!

Why so many languages?

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Blog For Theocracy

Holy Week is always a time for anti-Christian antagonists to come to the forefront. As the Church celebrates the Resurrected Lord – especially in a year like this when East and West, through the quirks of their differing calendar calculations, unite on the same date – those who oppose Him are stirred into action.

Thanks to my principal combox Nancy Pelosi supporter, I came across “Blog Against Theocracy” – one of those we’ll-all-blog-about-the-same-thing efforts. This one is specifically scheduled for yesterday, today, and tomorrow – the holiest time in the Christian year. I love it.

Their stated aim:

No religious discrimination.
PRO End-of-Life Care (no more Terri Schiavo travesties)
Reproductive health decisions made by individuals, not religious “majorities”
Democracy not Theocracy
Academic Integrity (like, a rock is as old as it is, not as old as the Bible says)
Sound Science (good bye so-called “intelligent” design)
Respect for ALL families (based on love, not sexual orientation. Hellooooo.)
And finally,
The right to worship, OR NOT.

Or in plain language: pro-euthanasia, pro-abortion, pro-Darwinian presuppositional philosophy of science, pro-pansexualism, pro-atheism.

The silly thing is that “Democracy not Theocracy”. After all, we already have the former and you can’t escape the latter. Theocracy – the rule by God – it here to stay. It was here in the beginning (regardless of how long ago that was) and it will be here until the end (regardless of how long from now that will be). And that, my friend, is what really pisses them off. It always has. As the Psalmist noted:

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed,
saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

On Holy Saturday anti-Christian bloggers may gloat like those who thought they had done away the Man who went around talking about the Kingdom of God. Every time I read a blog post that claims to triumph over Christianity, I just think about the stone rolled in front of the Tomb. They may follow the advice of Pilate, “Make it as secure as you know how.” They may try to seal it as best they can.

You know what? Christians don’t have to all get together and blog in favour of the power and sovereign authority of a mighty God. On Sunday, two billion of us will be proclaiming it, just as we have done throughout the ages.

Blog Against Theocracy may rail against Christians having a say in the marketplace of democracy equal to their numbers, but they are fighting the mere shadow of Theocracy. After all, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

The Blog Against Theocracy crowd are not in favour of democracy. They lie. They are undemocratic about their promotion of Darwinism. A poll conducted by CBS (hardly a bastion of conservative Christianity) in 2004 showed that 65% of all Americans and 56% of those voting for John Kerry wanted creationism taught in schools.

Those who support Blog Against Theocracy can’t afford democracy. They are killing themselves off. They promote murdering the old and infirm. They promote murdering the unborn. They promote non-reproductive sexual couplings. In the population game, they lose.

There is only one Winner. “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

Doing the Math

Over at Mere Comments, Dr Anthony Esolen has posited a multi-level puzzle concerning the nature of infinity.

Many of the responding comments are as enlightening as the puzzle itself as they discuss the theological/philosophical nature of mathematics.

The rest of you may already be familiar with it, but I laughed out loud at one joke I found in the comments:

One day Rene Descartes entered a cafe and sat at a table. The waitress approached and said, “Would you like some coffee, Monsieur Descartes?”
“yes, I would” he replied.
“And some cream with that, Monsieur Descartes?”
“Yes, I would.”
“And some sugar, Monsieur Descartes?”
“I think not” he said, and disappeared.

Perhaps I’m just easily amused.

Dawkins Disintegrated

Richard Dawkins is a clear example of why people should stick to their areas of expertise.

He uses his credentials as a biologist to give the perception that he somehow has credibility as a philosopher. Those who don’t know better – and that sadly includes a huge segment of the British book-buying public – are suckered by his specious arguments against the existence of God.

Dr Alvin Plantinga specialises in Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. In other words, he’s a real philosopher. In the latest edition of Books and Culture, he takes Dawkins apart.

H/T: The Violent Munkee

Dividing the Word

By tag surfing and otherwise being a part of the WordPress blogging community, I have been places where I would not normally tread in the Orthoblogosphere and my other blogrolled regular reads. It has been an interesting time dabbling in liberal Christian and agnostic and even atheist blogs.

I have seen everything from “the Bible means whatever it means to me” to the more Dawkins-esque, “If I can find an error in the Bible, then the whole house of cards falls apart and God is a figment of the imagination”.

As I was reading James Arlandson’s “Review of Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus” in American Thinker, I thought about one of the advantages of being an Orthodox Christian. As a Protestant, I was well-versed in the ins and outs of Biblical inerrancy. When someone told me C.S. Lewis was an errantist, I picked myself up off the floor, tucked that tidbit away – way away – and moved on.

Lower textual criticism used to be very important to me. (I have never had any time for higher criticism.) Though for the Orthodox the Bible is just as much the Word of God as for other conservative Christians, it doesn’t matter so much whether you are looking at a New Testament translation from the Majority Text or the Alexandrian texts or an Old Testament translation from the Septuagint or the Masoretic text. It certainly isn’t necessary to have the “autographs.”

For the Orthodox, it is what the Bible says and not the exact conjugation or declension employed that is important. This is because the Bible is an expression of the Holy Tradition handed down by the Apostles, not something apart from it. While knowing the grammar is essential to an exegetical understanding of the text, valid exegesis does not exist outside the Tradition of the Church. (Or to put it in theological terms, there is no valid exegesis without eisegesis. I will now pause for a moment for all my Protestant friends to pick themselves up off the floor.)

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Patrick and the Power of Positive Confession

Today is the feast of the best known Welsh saint, Patrick. St Patrick was captured and taken into slavery by some Irish raiders. As a result, there is now a campaign by Welsh-Irishpersons to get reparations from the Oireachtas. They are awaiting an apology from the Taoiseach. No, wait, I got the story mixed up with something else. . .

Actually, after St Patrick escaped and returned to Wales, he received Holy Orders and returned as a missionary to Ireland. He did the usual missionary bishop stuff, like preaching the Gospel, converting kings, baptising lots o’ people, performing a few miracles – you know the routine. He also did some writing.

Only two authentic written works by St Patrick survive. His Confessio is what evangelicals might call his testimony. He recounts who he is and what God has done in his life.

His Epistola is also called the Address to the Soldiers of Coroticus. These were Roman soldiers who had at one time declared their faith in Christ, but who had turned to raiding and enslaving other Christians. In some ways it has the flavour of a Pauline or early Patristic epistle, in that it has both a specific and general audience. At various points, St Patrick addresses the soldiers, Christians in general, the captives, and God.

The most popular work attributed to St Patrick and consistent with his theology, but most likely 7th or 8th century in origin, is the Lorica. It reminds me of the spiritual warfare prayer we used in the early 1980s. I spent my formative years in a tradition that generally eschews written prayers, but for a while there was a spiritual warfare prayer printed in tract form that was all the rage. Looking back, I’m not sure why it was okay to read that prayer and really mean it from the heart and not others.

Anyhow, as best I recall, the spiritual warfare prayer gave some attention to the armour of God, as described in Ephesians 6. I mention this because “lorica” is Latin for “breastplate”. The Lorica is not actually a prayer, per se, but more of an affirmation, or a declaration, or to use the terminology of my youth, a positive confession. As I read it again, I realised that it is a verbalisation of the sign of the Cross that as Orthodox Christians we make at various times of the day for various reasons including any invocation of the Trinity.

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Keeping Pace

General Pace has been catching lots of grief from the gay rights lobby (and all the PC crowd who are held in their thrall) and now Senator Brownback is feeling the heat for being open about his Catholic faith and its congruity with General Pace’s view that homosexual acts are immoral.

One blogger reprinted the oft-circulated Dr. Laura letter which attempts to invalidate the provisions of Leviticus 18:22 by pretending to seek advice about enforcing other provisions of the Mosaic law, posing the questions instead to General Pace and Senator Brownback. I decided to answer the letter on their behalf.

Deus ex machina

Even though I managed to offend a number of people with my last post on Job, I’ll take another stab at it.

In chapter 8, Fr Pat notes how Job’s second friend Bildad has a very mechanistic view of God. He has a very fixed view of cause and effect, or to use a biblical term, sowing and reaping. Bildad’s views is more like believing in karma.

Bildad reminds me of when I lived on the edge of the Word of Faith movement, conversant in Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, John Osteen (that’s Joel’s late father), and the like. Giving to God (or anybody working for him, especially Faith ministries) was money in the bank, so to speak. All you had to do was claim your 100-fold return. Even though the proof-text for this was the parable of the sower, no one ever claimed a thirty-fold or sixty-fold return.

But it was as simple as that. Put money in, get a 10,000% return on your investment in God’s. No wonder it was popular. I suppose it is still popular, I don’t know. Joel apparently has a church many times the size of his father’s (same church, different location) but I don’t know if it is built on God’s Ponzi scheme. But then Charles Ponzi wasn’t also a best-selling author.

But God doesn’t work like that. Hence, there has always been a huge turnover in Faith churches. Some move on to more stable theology, others just fade away. Stony ground and all that, apparently.

On the other side are people who think God is out to get them. If they mess up, they know trouble is around the corner.

Fortunately, God is a personal God. Just like with Job, He has a plan for every life. He does bless giving and He does chastise those whom He loves. But just like Job’s friends, we are not privy to His counsel. When we judge the temporal circumstances of others based on our outside observations, we have as much chance of being correct as Bildad. Our job is to pray and encourage – two things Bildad doesn’t do.

I have to say that the interpretation that takes the 30, 60, and 100-fold return in the parable of the sower, substitutes money for the Gospel, then turning it into a spiritual formula, is ridiculous. There, I’ve offended somebody. But I honestly have to wonder how I ever though this was hermaneutically reasonable.