Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Women's Rights

This article from CNN pretty much speaks for itself:
"Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, asserted Wednesday that the bill 'tramples (on) the rights of women under the guise of nondiscrimination, while doing absolutely nothing to provide women with needed resources for their babies, female and male.'"
So, stopping the disproportionate killing of baby girls is protecting women's rights.

Monday, July 30, 2012


A telling editorial from CNN:
"According to a paper in a recent American Sociological Review, conservatives with at least a bachelor's degree have, over the last several decades, lost their faith in science to an amazing degree."
 It appears we are in a war of words.  If you define "science" as common descent or anthropogenic global warming, then sure.

Similarly, people are redefining "pregnancy":
"pregnancy, which occurs at implantation" (quoting James N. Martin, Jr., president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
 So, abortifacients are not abortion, because abortion deals with pregnancy, and pregnancy doesn't start until implantation - neatly side-stepping the issue of whether a human life is extinguished.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More and Frith

I wanted to give an in depth example from the life of Thomas More.

Shakespeare came after all this, but when he said "life is a stage, and we are actors upon it" - that would resonate with the people of England at this time.  More's life and death had this idea of display (nothing wrong with that, we are telling the story written by God, if you will).

What is surprising is the lack of introspection; the comparison of what is happening to the climax of the story - the death of Jesus.

John Frith was the student of William Tyndale.  He had fled England, but was convinced to return, as the king was showing Protestant (or "Lutheran") tendencies.

However, his return was too soon.  The king was looking to break from Rome, but was still looking to be seen as "Catholic".  Frith was captured, imprisoned in the tower, and executed.

What was More's role in all this (p 333)?
"One of More's informants, probably a member of the network which had flourished during his chancellorship, obtained a copy of one of these works [by Frith, on the "new faith"] and brought it to Chelsea [More's primary home]"
So, More had spies who would betray men.

More's reaction to reading Frith's work was (pardon the old English):
"his treatise 'sholde cost hym the beste bloude in hys body'"

Now, More had retired at this point, so his charges were not legally binding.  However, that is precisely what happened.  More's response:
"'I fere me sore that Cryst wyll kyndle a fyre of fagottees for hym, & make hym theirin swete the bloude out of hys body here, and strayte frome hense send hys soule for euer into the fyre of hell'"

It's remarkable that no one gave any pause in all this.  "Hey, here we are paying 30 pieces of silver to traitorous men to put to death those who challenge our traditions - doesn't this remind anyone of some other story?"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Life of Thomas More

"The Life of Thomas More" (Peter Ackroyd) - I touched previously on why this was a painful book to read.

But the most painful part was extracting the theology of the thing.

The facts are pretty clear cut:
  1. Henry VIII declared the independence of the Church of England (following the Pope's refusal to grant him an annulment with Catherine)
  2. There followed an edict to swear an oath of loyalty to the King as the head of the Church of England - which More refused to sign (claiming it was contrary to his conscience)
  3. More was eventually tried for treason, and executed for the same
It's easy to read this into a context of martyrdom - executed for refusing to act contrary to one's conscience.

But, things are not so cut and dried.  Is Servetus a martyr because he was executed for his beliefs?  He denied the Trinity, which most would interpret (via 2 John) that he did not know the right Christ and did not have the Father.

So, the question is - did More die for the right thing?  And, if he died for the wrong reasons, was this a simple error on his part ("dying a stupid death" as might be said), or was it worse - the final act of the self-righteous?

What worries me is the proclamation - what are we saying.  The best is to die for the proclamation that Jesus Christ paid the price for sin, that we can be made right with God through trusting in Him and what He did.  That we will turn from sin and forsake it.

Ackroyd sums up More's life on page 400:
"He embodied law all his life, and he died for it."
Where is the Gospel?  Where is the forgiveness of sins?  Where is the finished work of Christ?

On page 402 (regarding the disposition of his items):
"He gave into [his wife] Alice More's keeping his hair shirt and scourge"
More wore a hair shirt nearly continuously his adult life.  It served to chafe and aggravate his skin.  I don't think anyone today does such a thing - it is entirely foreign to our thinking (similarly, the scourge was for whipping himself).

Could this be done in a godly fashion?  Maybe.  The problem is, it detracts from the finished work of Christ.  It can be seen as "I must pay the price".

That's the overview.  I will cover at least one more topic later.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Medieval Times

I finally finished The Life of Thomas More (Peter Ackroyd).  As I mentioned previously, it was pretty painful (as evidenced by how long it took to finish).

The greatest error a student of history can make is that of anachronism - reading historical events into one's current context (ironically, this was common in medieval times).

So, when we think of the Popes, Kings, nations, and Church of More's time - we must not think of those things as they are now - but seek to set them in their own context.

For example, More's trouble (which led to his death) stemmed from the King of England (Henry VIII or H8) seeking a divorce (or annulment) from his wife.  The Pope would not allow it, and the King declared the independence of the Church of England from the authority of Rome.

But the context is much deeper.

For example, there were four major super-powers in the West at this time: France, England, the Holy Roman Empire (effectively Germany), and the Vatican (which had its own armies for attacking neighbors) (there was also Spain, but it was unified with the HRE in 1516).

Furthermore, H8's wife (Catherine) was the sister of the mother of the Holy Roman Emperor (aunt of Charles V).  But, the HRE and England often fought together with the Vatican against France.

Royal marriage was a diplomatic matter.  Ann Boleyn was English, but had grown up in the royal court of France.  Divorce was not just a theological or civil matter.

In the same vein, there were parallel secular and religious courts (heretics were tried in religious courts and then handed over to the secular authorities).  Part of the issue was which court would have the highest authority - secular or religious.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Almost Done with More

Reading has been painful these last few months.

After finishing Tyndale's biography, I decided I should see the other side.  Teems recommended the biography of Thomas More by Ackroyd - which happened to be in my local library.

These two books have been like night and day.

Some of the differences must be attributed to the talents of the biographers, but some is certainly due to the subjects.

The English language has been shaped by the Bible.  And the English Bible was heavily influenced by one man - William Tyndale.

To read Tyndale's writing is to hear the Bible.  Some of it is due to him having steeped himself in Biblical themes and principles - but some of it is common authorship.

Teems did an excellent job of letting Tyndale speak for himself (from his own writing).  The old English was almost always cleaned up for easy reading.

Ackroyd seems to do the opposite.  There is much analysis and consideration, with only snippets of original material - always in the old English.  This breaks up the flow, and makes it hard to extract the person behind the writing.

But More was a lawyer, very much in the modern sense.

His job was to represent his client's interests, and to submerge his own opinions and positions.

So, for More, there is always the audience in mind.  What to reveal, what to hide, what to spin.  How best to influence, how it will reflect and interact in the big picture.

It is that big picture which I will need to develop more.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hyper-skepticism and Hyper-credulity

What is the connection between: Bart Ehrman (athiest), Paul Tsoukalos (guy from the History channel), and certain Catholic apologists on Facebook?

Their reasoning is all along the lines of:
"I can't trust the Bible, therefore X"

Where X is:
  1. Mud+time equals man
  2. Aliens are responsible for everything in history
  3. I can only trust the Catholic Church

It's really a variant on "Anything but God" (anything but the Bible)