Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Predestination and Donald Trump

The doctrine of predestination is part of Christian teachings.  It is to be found primarily in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1 but there are also various hints of it in Christ's words.  For instance, when Simon Peter cut off the servant's ear with his sword in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said: "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" -- John 18:10.

The early Christian reformer, John Calvin of Geneva, was a great expositor of predestination. He placed it front and centre of his teaching.  But it was a difficult doctrine.  If everything is predestined before we were born, what is the point of trying to be good? We could personally have no hand in what we did. And, more to the point, whether we were saved to eternal life in heaven or not was also pre-ordained. So, as Calvin saw it, the interesting thing was to see which group you belonged to:  The saved or the damned.

And you could find that out by looking at the lot that the Lord had given you. If you lived a virtuous and prosperous life, that suggested that the Lord had picked you out as one of the good guys and you could be proud of that.

So that was a considerable discipline.  If you misbehaved, it would reveal you as one of the damned. And all good people would shy away from you.  So you had to act very virtuously or you would have no hope of eternal life.  So Calvin built up a reasonable ethical system that way, that did take predestination into account.  You were always looking for signs of God's favour to reassure yourself of your destiny and the signs were your own ethical behaviour.

And Calvin was influential.  His disciple John Knox took his teachings to Scotland, where they took strong root and the various Presbyterian churches preached it from their pulpits. And the Dutch Reformed churches are generally Calvinist too.  Protestant Dutchmen in Australia generally just go along to their local Presbyterian church.

In my lifetime, however, I doubt that I have ever heard any mention of the doctrine from a Presbyterian pulpit.  It has sort of unofficially died out as being too "difficult" a doctrine.  The odd thing, though, is that the doctrine has lived on among the Presbyterian laity.  I remember well the way both my mother and my aunties would say to me on occasions -- with quiet confidence --   "Don't worry, John.  It was all planned out before were were born".  The people are still often Calvinists, regardless of what the clergy are.

My theology is no better than Calvin's so I don't propose to attempt an improvement on it. I think it may be helpful  however if I point out a few things. 

The most important is that predestination is part of the mercy gospel, which is a prominent element in Christian teaching. Its powerful preaching in Matthew 5 is well known:  "If a man smiteth thee on thy right cheek ..."  So predestination fits in there.  If you know that an evildoer cannot help it, that he was predestined to do that evil, you are much more likely to be forgiving than if you think he could possibly have refrained from doing that evil deed. "There but for the grace of God go I". So predestination makes Christians merciful, which is probably a good thing.

Predestination also helps to make sense of the world.  If strange things happen, you will not be disturbed by them.  They are just God's will and nobody can know the mind of the Lord.  So the doctrine gives you mental repose.  Whatever happens, it is all taken care of.  There is no cause to worry. And it seems to work.  In my experience Presbyterians do seem to be steadier in the face of life's uncertainties and difficulties.  "It's all God's will". So they just get on with their lives as best they can.   It's about as non-neurotic as you can get.

The great example in our era of steadiness in the face of furious and prolonged abuse and attack would have to be Mr. Trump -- and he was brought up as a Presbyterian, courtesy of his Scottish mother.  Did he hear from his mother:  "It was all planned out before we were born"?  I would be surprised if he did not.

Arabs also, of course, believe that everything is fated:  "InshAllah!". But it seems to be altogether too relaxing to them.  It becomes an excuse not to strive. They don't have Calvin's wisdom on that.

NY Times Shows Its Ignorance of Christianity with Major Blunder in Notre Dame Reporting

A piece by the New York Times detailed the rescue operation that went into the recovery of the artifacts and art, with firefighters and clergy working together before the flames consumed the priceless relics.

According to a past version of the story — as quoted by The Washington Free Beacon — The Times said that one of the pieces saved, the body of Christ, is a statue of Jesus Christ that was carried out by Father Jean-Marc Fournier just in time.

But there’s one little problem. Father Fournier didn’t save a statue of Jesus from Notre Dame.

The “body of Christ” isn’t a sculpture, but a religious sacrament consisting of bread usually given with wine. Many Christians believe these Eucharist elements are changed into the actual blood and body of Christ as they are consecrated.

This tradition comes from the story of the Last Supper. In Luke 22:19, Jesus’ words are recounted: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'”

The New York Times was quick to fix their article, issuing a correction at the bottom of the piece explaining their mistake.

“An earlier version of this article misidentified one of two objects recovered from Notre-Dame by the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier. It was the Blessed Sacrament, not a statue of Jesus.”

Regardless, this is still an embarrassing element of the story to overlook.

The Times is considered reputable by many, and as such, their articles are likely handled by several people, including writers and editors. Not a single person caught a fairly simple error the first time around — The Times only updated the story after the fact.

This could have easily been a mistake overlooked by both the writers and proofreaders — and that’s no big deal. Everyone makes mistakes every day, it’s part of being human.

But a more convincing theory is that The Times is simply out-of-touch with modern American Christians.

As a basic tenet in many branches of Christianity, the reference shouldn’t have been esoteric enough to elude at least two different people.

And The Times hasn’t always been friendly to Christian institutions. As recently as January of this year, a Times journalist tweeted a crusade to “expose” Christian schools after media fury targeting Vice President Mike Pence’s wife for teaching at an anti-LGBT Christian school.

Whether that hatchet job sprang from malice or a simple ignorance of the faith (possibly akin to confusing the Eucharist for a statue), The New York Times has a long way to go if they ever hope to reach Christians in America.


Report Reveals Trump Was Fighting Hard for Israel Before He Was Even Inaugurated

There were plenty of takeaways from the redacted Mueller report, most of which dealt with Russian collusion (there wasn’t any) and obstruction of justice (it depends on whether you follow the opinion of special counsel Robert Mueller or Attorney General William Barr as to what constitutes obstruction).

However, one of the more interesting items buried in the report dealt with Donald Trump’s fight against an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations before he was even in the White House.

It seems like a dim memory now, but U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 was one of the most controversial issues during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations.

Resolution 2334, originally introduced by Egypt in December of 2016, condemned “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions … Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines.”

As Hank Berrien notes over at The Daily Wire, the resolution “essentially stated that Judea and Samaria and part of Jerusalem do not belong to Israel.”

The resolution reaffirmed “that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

It also demanded “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard,” and condemned villages built in Judea and Samaria — lands that have historically been part of Israel since biblical times.

Ordinarily, the United States, Israel’s most staunch defender at the U.N., could kill off such a resolution in the Security Council with one vote. But therein lay the problem: The Obama administration planned to pass on voting either way, a Brutus-like act.

Trump and his team likely weren’t going to convince the Obama administration that it was being rash, so they tried to get the Russians to vote against it. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and, like the United States, also has veto power. Thus, Trump’s point men on the issue — his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser — worked on getting it defeated, including trying to persuade the Kremlin to vote against the resolution.

“According to Flynn, the Transition Team regarded the vote as a significant issue and wanted to support Israel by opposing the resolution,” the Mueller report read.

“On December 22, 2016, multiple members of the Transition Team, as well as President-Elect Trump, communicated with foreign government officials to determine their views on the resolution and to rally support to delay the vote or defeat the resolution. Kushner led the effort for the Transition Team; Flynn was responsible for the Russian government.

“Minutes after an early morning phone call with Kushner on December 22, Flynn called [Soviet Ambassador Sergey] Kislyak. According to Flynn, he informed Kislyak about the vote and the Transition Team’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution.”

The president-elect, the report said, also worked on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about the resolution his country had introduced, leading him to postpone the vote.

Ultimately, however, “Malaysia, New Zealand Senegal and Venezuela resubmitted the application” the next day, the report said. Flynn worked on Kislyak to see if Russia would vote against it.

“When Flynn again spoke with Kislyak, Kislyak informed Flynn that if the resolution came to a vote, Russia would not vote against it,” the report said. “The resolution later passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining.”

Mind you, the section was more about detailing contacts between the Trump campaign/transition team and the Russian government (no, still no collusion).

However, there’s an important point buried in there. No, they weren’t able to kill Resolution 2334. Yes, the embassy is now in Jerusalem. That says it all, no?


Australia: Qld govt slaps ban on junk food ads

Leftist authoritarianism again.  NO food is junk.  They all contain nutrients but vary in which ones. Salt, sugar and fat are all good for you

A ban on advertising of junk food on billboards and spaces owned by the Queensland government will be enforced in a bid to help people make healthier choices.

Junk food advertising will be banned from billboards, train stations and transport owned by the Queensland government.

In a move aimed at helping Queenslanders make healthier choices, the ban will apply to outdoor spaces and other sites, excluding stadiums.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles says change won't be seen in big sporting venues for a number of years due to complexities with contracts.

Foods will be ruled in or out based on their salt, sugar and fat content.

The move is part of the state government's program aimed at increasing the number of Queenslanders with a healthy body weight by 10 per cent by 2026.

"This is really about the government saying were going to lead by example," Mr Miles said on Sunday. "And this is one way we can do that."

Mr Miles said the ban would apply to about 2000 billboards, which rake in millions of dollars each year for the government.

Lyn Hamill from Diabetes Queensland says reducing children's exposure to bright and colourful packaging of unhealthy foods will mean they will want them less often.

But the state opposition says the ban is a distraction from an emergency department crisis. "We think the government should be focusing on hospital beds not billboards," Liberal National Party deputy leader Tim Mander said. "We want the Palaszczuk government to get its priorities right.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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