Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Thursday, 3 October 2013

An Egalitarian Hat-trick + Exemplary Erudition from Harvard


The Schlissel Retort: 10.03.13

Keeping up with The Times.

An Egalitarian Hat-trick + Exemplary Erudition from Harvard

While we await the appearance of a news periodical determined to report news,  we’ll settle for catharsis via semi-occasional comments on “all the views the misfits print.”[1] 

1. It seems to me that an American newspaper ought to regard itself as honor bound, solemnly obliged to provide service to the American public. I know that’s a lot to ask of a paper unable because unwilling to learn. If the Times found a Venn diagram making plain that the rights of citizens belong solely to citizens, they’d think it must mean gay citizens . To grasp the dynamics of the reality gap, always bear in mind that

        a. There is no neutrality.

        b. All thoughts and their fruits are either for or against the true God.

        c. The spring of all human activity is religious conviction.

        d. Whether such conviction is true and beneficent or false and mischievous, it’s there.It is this a priori religious conviction which decides what is or is not evidence.

e. Christianity in our time and place has been displaced by anti-Christianity.

f. Anti-Christianity is Egalitarianism, exponentially strengthened through ties to an Enlightenment notion of human autonomy operating in a theater of impersonal Evolutionary predestination: Ethics, Epistemology and Ontology in all their apostate splendor.

f. The New York Times may claim a megachunk of credit for this revolution’s success.

If there is an obligation to the American public, I’d hold it necessarily includes information–both accurate and up-to-date–about known, sworn enemies of our nation who are determined and even now engaged in destroying it by any and all means, especially including vicious and sudden violence and destruction, randomly delivered in the name of their deity to any place associated with America, her people and/or beliefs. Such is the threat of Islam today. Yet in reporting on the terrorist attack of late September in Nairobi, it was eight paragraphs into the story before even the egal-ized, sanitized word “Islamist” appeared. An act of Muslim terror, in which an effort was made by the murderous punks to chase away shopping Muslims so as to confine the bloodshed  to “infidels,” even that is obscured in its actual character. I regard that as criminal and traitorous.  

Now it seems rather easy to distinguish such acts from the Times’ imaginary Islam which is so peaceful and gooshy-love-dumb. Simply give a standard denunciation space to the top 100 Muslim clerics after each violent act by their fellow Muslims. Give them the chance to DENOUNCE and condemn the terror. Why don’t we see such denials, routine in all civilized corridors? Three guesses. Make that two.

2. NYT readers are indoctrinated in the Egalitarian Catechism with no letup. Like the catechisms of the Reformation, positive assertions about what is true are nestled among refutations attacking known “error.”  As an elite, purified source of Egalitarian dogma, the Times earns its anti-Christian stripes, however, by keeping laser-guided sights set on all cardinal components of Christian truth, beginning with the belief that there is truth. Seemingly determined to match the Inquisition in zeal to stamp out “heresy,” the paper often–I mean often–resorts to a nameless magisterium, a mysterious authority or set of “doctors” who have supposedly established the Times’ version of “obvious,” leaving peons to simply obey and exercise a little implicit faith. You’ll see this in their ubiquitous “Scientists say…” allegation.

3. With the recent coronation of anti-Christianity, however, it has become de rigueur for the Times to write as if they, you and everybody else already and assuredly believes the truth of their Confession of Faith. Consider, for example, their front page notice of the leading national story. The headline: A Brawl Over Textbooks.” The text: “A Texas panel that reviews high school biology textbooks is stirring controversy because its members include creationists and climate skeptics.” Of course, for as long as I can remember, the Times has been actively at war with this same Texas panel, and for essentially the same reason–that it exhibits evidence of thought .  What is different is how light a burden it has become to get an “Amen” to their assumption that the panel is peppered with Neanderthals.

I would love sometime to shine a light on this propaganda technique, which could be called the “prevail by presupposing a shared faith” method. I mean, just think of the horror! Among those charged  with giving an imprimatur to Texas Religious State Instruction Manuals, you will find people who actually believe God created the world! But “climate skeptics” is more awkward. Do they mean there are panelists who don’t believe we have a climate? Uh, no. They mean there are people who question  the holy white-coated fathers and their conclusions about global warming and carbon foofs. Where, I ask, is Torquemada when you need him?

4. The September 29th front page feature story, above the fold, right, four columns wide with headline (Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll) and prominent photo, plus four cameo photos of deceased children. The problem: There is not even an effort to pretend that this “story” is news. It is pure advocacy, editorial masquerading as news, and in the process, avoiding every meaningful question which failed the test of serving their agenda.

On this topic, consider: Of the issues resolutely and invariably described as “rights issues” by the New York Times, none have a vintage older than my generation. No story touching abortion fails to mention abortion “rights,” none about homos fails to mention “homo-” or “homo marriage rights,” etc. The only subject with a rights pedigree, however, one stretching back 240 years to our nation’s founding, is gun rights, but it is the single issue never presented under that heading. This is reporting? It is editorial and disease on every page. It is never reporting.

5. Not House Republicans but NYT policymakers are insane. The terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, oozed facts proving one remarkable, unavoidable conclusion: It was the armed CITIZENS–members of gun clubs, retired and off-duty officers, ex-army, and Plain Joe Does who, armed and brave, went INTO harm’s way and effected the actual END of the crisis, risking their lives separately and together. It is an AMAZING testament to the truth concerning armed citizens, especially in perilous times. It was Founding Fathers’ Wisdom on display, thus guaranteeing it would be ignored (the Times and woman punish the same way). How did the Times spin it? The Kenyan federal government failed, not, the Kenyan people succeeded!  All attention OFF truth and armed citizens to the rescue. The goal of such jaundiced coverage is tyranny–for our own good, of course.

6. The hat-trick. The wife of mayoral hopeful de Blasio has created orgasmic seizures at the paper. In a salute with the tone of a junior high-school tribute to, uh, Lady Kaka, the praise gushes for this woman who was once “a smoldering teenager who took to writing poems everyday to wrestle with her isolation and anger.” Picked by them to be a darling and a spokesman they are determined to use as leverage for their candidate, we have in Mrs. de Blasio a woman, to hear them tell it, who is the incarnate egalitarian “victim” supreme, the Colored Krishna walking among us to save. How perfect is she? Oh my, you’ll be sorry you asked. She is a “onetime student of powerlessness, a woman whose early identity was profoundly shaped by feelings of alienation [here come the pucks]–because of her race, her gender and her evolving sexuality…” How great she art. I admit to being clueless as to the meaning of #3; after all, she is the wife of a male candidate for mayor. What are they saying? Does he know that her sexuality is evolving? I shudder to think. But who needs reality or accuracy when maudlin is available. Again, front page. Her only flaw? Her hubby is vanilla white. Apparently his being “an avowedly activist, tax-the-rich liberal” has secured the indulgence necessary to wipe even that stain from the (paper of) record.

7. Last place goes to the sinking flagship for its amazing helpfulness, offered in an  October 2nd  piece that was actually news. Sort of. The Supremes have decided to hear the case of a man challenging limits on direct contributions to candidates of his choice. Apparently alarmed at the wafting scent of liberty, joined to the litigant’s self-description as a conservative, the Times brought in a heavy hitter, a top expert to help us morons understand the threat facing us (the thing they are unable to do when it involves maniacal Muslim murderers). I ask you to bow your head in a moment of non-contemplative silence to prepare yourself for the full impact this quote will make on your psyche. Ready: Here it is, from no less a knowledge-macher than “Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who was solicitor general in the second Reagan administration” (see how unbiased? Trust us! A Reagan maven!) Ready? This is heavy:

“Without aggregate contribution limits, the amount of money that a contributor can hope to direct to a given candidate is virtually limitless.”

You get it? Without limits on the amounts you can give, the amount you can give is limitless. Wow.

Well, that’s what he should have concluded. By hedging with the “virtually,” he turned what was oh-so-close to being just another meaningless articulation of a self-evident truth into just another stupid error. “Professor sir, if an amount is without limits, the amount is actually, not virtually, limitless.” But someone will suggest the “virtually” referred to a donor’s resources. Sorry, no exit. His predicate was not an individual’s income or resources, but limits imposed by law. The prof and The paper join to teach the world to sing in perfect tautology.[2] 

But he’s from Harvard. And don’t you forget it.


[1] No pedantry intended. If you are not familiar with the boxed-boast in the top-left corner of every NYT front page, it reads, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Like my friend John Hultink says, “Yeah, right.”

[2] Tautology: a statement which conveys no useful information whatsoever, regardless of its length or polysyllabic glory.



Friday, 27 September 2013

Martha and the Vandellas & the Regulative Principle: My Annual Misery on the Jewish Night of Joy

      I went to Shul tonight. I’m happy I did. Since I’m a Calvinist, I suppose it’s incumbent upon me to deliver three reasons for that happiness. OK.
      On second thought, let me give three reasons for the joy while taking a stab at explaining how so much misery made its way into the mix. It’s still three, and three is just right for a Wilhelmina Mint.

ARIDI_FONTS_WOW_266irst: I was happy for seeing the oh-so-appropriate and effusive joy of the ancient covenanted people as they were infected with the spirit which had animated David Hamelech to dance on even in the face of a jeering cohort—make that jeering consort. For this evening, you see, was Simchas Torah in the Jewish Calendar—”Rejoicing in the Law”—which marks the last day of the final and greatest of the three Pilgrim Feasts which God commanded Israel to keep as a record and witness of His great deeds on behalf of His beloved people. I must defer to already recorded material if you wish to know more about this Feast, or about Israel’s calendar in general (contact CraigBrann@gmail.com, tell him what you’d like to learn, and tell him where the green is). Though Christians are too often quick to condemn Israel for ignorance of the true meaning of the Feasts, how many Christians (beside G.I. Williamson) could tell you that Succoth (the third of the major Feasts) has yet to find historical fulfillment. Passover? You know. Pentecost? You know. Tabernacles? You don’t know. That is a pretty pregnant fact for a Bible-believer, especially one who reads Paul’s breathless anticipation of that fulfillment to come in the 11th of Romans. But greater pathos came for recognizing that, say what you will about my people’s Divinely-placed blinders which prevent their seeing the One about Whom all the Feasts speak, at least they know how to respond to a complete disclosure from God instructing post-fall humans in how they ought to live. They BOOGIED, baby, and so rightly so! But my other people, the newcomers, get the heebie jeebies at just the mention of law—even though it is God’s Law for us. Behold those whose zeal is unaccompanied by real knowledge! Go figure. I’ve been ciphering that insanity for 37 years and it still won’t add up.

ARIDI_FONTS_WOW_279econd, how many Regulativists have I heard reduced to spurting out inanities like, “Well, without a Regulative Principle of Worship, how can you prevent dance from being introduced in the worship service?” But why would I want to? Tonight, as each Torah scroll was lovingly and carefully removed from the Ark, then held up for all to behold what love God had shown to Israel through an invitation-only Self-disclosure, then, as each scroll was paraded around the synagogue, flaunting the great Distinction the Lord had given to a people, every person present was permitted to make appropriate and reverent gestures of devotion to the Words of God, and as any sensitive soul would anticipate, the dancing began. In many synagogues, the dancing spills out into the streets with exuberant revelers following the Leader (the Torah).

Dance: the God-placed impulse for expressing total emotion bodily (the only way humans can express anything at all, by the way). Dance: the one “area” which those who talk about the redemption of every area—the one area these dudes silently hope will never be mentioned. For then we’d be talking about BODIES. OOOH! Well, if you want to see what bodies may lawfully do in public service to God—beside sit and stand (and davan)—go to a Simchas Torah service. The rising, the movement, the excitement, the joy, the SINGING, the dancing continued—in the parade around the synagogue. It became increasingly fervent, electric, but always genuine, not to mention dignified. The synagogue, of course, was partitioned, so there is no “do-si-do and swing your partner” jazz. Egalitarians have somewhere else to go—and it can’t be soon enough.

I LOVE Simchas Torah. Talk about covenant renewal worship? The worship in synagogues on this evening is like an annual, worldwide covenant reproof, a testimony to the Gentile church (no offense) that too much of her Chalcedonian treasures remain stuck in the bottle in which she stores them. Yet they were not delivered to be penuriously shelved, but applied, spilled out on a parched earth for its only hope of renewal. Failure to apply them—in the real world for real life—has left said church in an overall clueless condition: instead of cultivating transcendent norms, rising above petty border wars, and spreading answers—particularly concerning worship and liturgical matters—the Gentile church struggles to discover just which questions stand in need of an answer.

We should add, the church must learn where to place her ear if she hopes to actually hear whatever answers God might graciously provide. So, again, happy/sad.

ARIDI_FONTS_WOW_280hird, and Wilhelmina is fast melting, I witnessed something I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in a church—any church—and I’ve been in more than I can count. This year, like every year, this local synagogue was beneficiary of a sizable number of orthodox Jewish visitors—non-members, as we Christians might say, but unusual visitors by any reckoning. For they were not spec-ing out the joint, not considering a transfer of membership, not members of the same “denomination,” not there to pass judgment on the ignorance or inadequacies of the small group this shul is able to assemble. No. These visitors—I figure there were about 20 or 25—making them about half of the attenders or a bit more than 50% if just the men are counted—these visitors were there for a single purpose: to do all within their power AS FELLOW JEWS to insure that that synagogue on this hallowed evening would be a place sanctified by infectious joy, derived from being of that number called by the only God for a purpose. THIS IS LIVING COVENANT, and while I’ve seen abounding evidences of true and holy love in any number of wonderful churches, I’ve never seen such institutional indifference as was tonight exhibited (just as it was last year and the year before and…).

The visitors ranged in age from about 12 to (I’d say) 40, but the majority were just into theirs. These young people trailed the leading, bobbing, circling Torah scrolls, while reaching out their hands into every pew, taking both hands of this most senior member, then that quite advanced attender, and any others who needed help or encouragement to do what is for many not easy to do. A boy who appeared to be the youngest of the visiting Chasidim tried to coax/drag me and my buddy out of the pew on one of the circuits. So I punched him in the face. Just kidding! I mention it only to show that individuality may survive even in such settings, for I did lovingly decline the urging of this young man—initially (Jews have lots of practice saying no to other Jews—and it happened that I was then trying to understand something about the service and needed another minute). These kindly joy-mongers would help men gently to their feet, while virtually forcing smiles by contagion and example, then lead or just join seniors and juniors and youngsters into grand and fitting activity—at customized and sensitive paces—all natural, as they say—in celebration of having in their possession the actual and real will of God Almighty. Would that they did! But if this is how those with blinders can rejoice, albeit once each year, but still—is it never meet for us so to do? Balderdash! But as I hinted a moment ago, what really twists me is how—with the church charged with the task of provoking Israel to jealousy, it is Israel who keeps coming up to the plate and hitting ’em out of the park. These people—vilified by Christians as the incarnation of blind provincialism—leave their comfort zones with no greater agenda, no gain in view beside enabling a fellow Jew to be joyful before God. Where is anything close to this among those upon whom has come the Fulfillment of all these things? Just who is provincial?

I do love this festal day, you know? O, how I hate it! Know what I mean? Fischtay?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Intro Thoughts on Dods

The men who have deeply influenced my thinking have been several, and I’d gladly list them if asked, telling particular ways each has contributed to my understanding of Scripture and life. Those who influenced my preaching, however, are fewer (which may partly account for its deficiencies). Few or many, the influence of Marcus Dods upon this minister and his ministry (34 years in May, D.V.) have been disproportionate.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve drunk too deeply at the well of charismania, I would put it this way: many have taught me much about the history, inspiration, contents, organization and place of the Bible in the life of the Church and its members, enabling me to apprehend that which, had it been promised before the lessons, would have seemed an exaggerated claim. In short, I was taught to look and see. But Dods (I’m not drunk, as you suppose) showed me how to listen and feel.

In preparing for my sermons through the Gospel of John, I’d typically consult many volumes of commentaries and studies, but I’d save Dods for last. Why? Because after reading his casting of the events, I’d be so deeply touched by the overwhelming humanity, universality, personalness, pathos—by the people God was moving, drawing, changing—I’d end up sobbing uncontrollably, drenching the pages, leaving me with splattered notes and one exhausted Jewish body. I had known before picking up a commentary that the Bible was the Word of God. It was by means of the eye and words of Marcus Dods that I came to see for whom the Word was given.

Now, I realize what I’ve just said is posted at the head of a transcribed sermon which will doubtless be read as, if not dry, then at least unsaturated, even by a favorable reviewer. But I am here only trying to explain how I’ve come upon this piece and a bit about why we are featuring it here.

Marcus Dods was born in Northumberland on April 11, 1834, the youngest son of Rev. Marcus Dods, minister of the Scottish Kirk there. Marcus would eventually have a son named…but you guessed. Our hero was licensed in 1858, ordained in ’64, and served as minister in the Free Church of Scotland kirk in Renfield for a quarter-century, i.e., until he was appointed, in 1889, Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Edinburgh’s New College. In 1907 he was made Principal of the school. This last position he occupied briefly for in April of 1909 he was permanently transferred to the number of Those Who Truly Know.

If my experience speaking to others about Dods holds true, you probably never heard of him. Those who (vaguely) recall his name generally associate it with heresy. It is a sad propensity of our race to look for the worst in others, and an even sadder one which allows an instance of actual evil to become the only handle which can retrieve a name from their memory. In Dods’ case it is more the pity since the accusation of heresy serves the memory as if a verdict. If this is common to human nature, it ought to be rare among those with natures made new. The 1878 charge was dropped by a large majority of the General Assembly delegates to whom he gave account. A dozen years afterward he was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Edinburgh University, not the sort of gesture made to heretics at that time. Yet, from where I sit, whether the initial charge had much merit or none, it is altogether beside the point at which his life touched mine.

Of his significant writings, the most important were done for editor W. Robertson Nicoll. His expositions of Genesis, John and 1 Corinthians can be found in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, published in the last years of the nineteenth century (an identical American edition, hard to get, was published in Connecticut, 1911). Dods’ notes on John, however, can usually be found on good used book sites. Although I dug up a one-volume edition, it is easier to find in a two volume format. If you feel a need to feel some of the emotional power packed into the holy Word, I don’t know a better bet.

A favorite Dods saying: It isn’t that God needs our sin to accomplish His purposes –but we offer Him so little else.

As to the piece here virtually reproduced, it’s a killer in its own right. Read it. I had seen it referenced in another book—I think by MacGregor—about 30 years ago and eagerly desired to read it. But it had to wait years and years, until a friend from Waco—a Mr. Davenport, now Dr. D. Davenport—had mercy and gumption and managed to get and send a reprint to me. I kvelled. I remain grateful. The original of what you find here was taken from another source, however. I’ll tell you more about it if you read this, then contact us. And send money, wouldja?



(The entire piece is in-line below, but if you’d prefer to read it via pdf-viewer, just click this link: Presbyterianism Older than Christianity)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Lenten Meditation for Ambassadors in Training

by Rev. Steve Schlissel

In a moral universe, offenders grant power to the offended. The ineradicable, relentless presence of equity takes right from the wrongdoer and puts it into the account of the victim. It is for this, among many other reasons, that it is not only blasphemous, it is nonsense to speak of forgiving oneself. The only One who was ever counted wrongdoer and offended party, and thus was in a position where such a thing might make sense, knew nothing, sought nothing, gained nothing which could properly—or even remotely—be called self-forgiveness. It is thus best to banish the bologna concept post haste.

Besides reducing the greatest transaction in human history into a maudlin, oozing banality, the notion of self-forgiveness is an eyeless mask, a shield obscuring from our sight the overwhelming vision of just what it was our God did in the Messiah. Self-forgiveness, it turns out, is just another ten-cent trick of the devil to enlist man in the theft of glory belonging to the true God alone. Soli deo Gloria will not be spotted on Self-forgiveness Boulevard.

So we return. The offender empowers the offended. What then happens in the transaction of forgiveness? Forgiveness, in the nature of the case, is the giving up, the relinquishing of the forfeited power and the return of it by the offended one to the offender. To forgive is to return the offender to his pre-offense status. This necessarily, then, involves a lowering (or effective lessening) of one who returns his justly accumulated power to the one who lost it by his offense. It’s a return of the chips. And in that equitable universe we mentioned, the chip giveback is always a matter of grace and always a lowering or lessening of the justly held power in possession of the offended one.

If you understand this, you will see that from the very first instance of forgiveness extended by God to fallen, sinful man, Jesus Christ became absolutely inevitable. The Lamb slain from the foundation. If you will have forgiveness, you must accept that you will have God coming down next to you, among you, to return to you what was forfeited. The incarnation was carved in stone the moment God, instead of killing Adam and Eve, clothed them with skin and promises.

Forgiveness, in a word, is a humiliation, a lowering. It is a stooping down, a restoring—and more. But if you take one thought away from this meditation, make it this: God sealed his own fate, guaranteeing His own humiliation, in time and in history, the moment He forgave a sinner. How could it be otherwise than we find it on the Day of Atonement: a blood is coming that will effect reconciliation, that will bring forgiveness. It must needs be, in the end of it all, the blood of God. Life of life for life.

In light of this, “Come down from the cross and save thyself,” is the greatest possible perversion and mockery the devil could throw at our Suffering Savior. He had come down to the cross. How could He then come down from it? To come down from it would have been to rise above it, as was fitting—but without the bounty He sought. For it was not and could not have been to save Himself that we see Him on the cross. It is to save us and secure for us forgiveness. The extent of the forgiveness won and granted corresponds precisely with the depths of humiliation involved in its delivery. Our forgiven estate can be no greater than the humiliation endured by the Lamb. He humbled Himself, emptied Himself of all rightful, just claims to use the cards in His ontological and economic deck, He disavowed all intrinsic and acquired power in order to bring power back to the offender and his progeny. It was in this service that He became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Forgiveness is always humiliating. That is exactly why we sinners are so loathe to extend it. When we forgive someone, we relinquish real power that had been handed to us. It is not only humiliating, but speaking as a man, it is risky. For we are giving the power back to someone with a track record, someone who has already hurt us.

Seeing how powerful forgiveness is, it is not something that should be spoken or practiced thoughtlessly or carelessly. Doesn’t nuclear power demand stringent controls and guards? If we recognize the force resident in forgiveness we will never be cavalier in dispensing it. We will not deliver it into places unprepared to receive it. (I speak not of trivialities, toe-stepping or petty annoyances.) We will never pretend to deliver it to places we are not convinced it belongs. But neither will we ever withhold it from those whose folly has empowered us while weakening them, as long as they show themselves ready to use it aright. But we will never have certainty; it’s always risky. If we err, if we err on the side of mercy and grace, we fret not. We need only remember, the offense repeated against us simply multiplies the power placed in our hands. Like a hot potato, we really want to give it back.

If we see the transaction of offense/forgiveness as it was carried out in the humiliation of God in Christ, we have taken an important step in our training as ambassadors of Messiah. This is what we read in 2 Corinthians:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Messiah’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Messiah’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.