Category Archives: Uncategorized

Applying St Paul’s Teaching on ‘the Weak’ and ‘the Strong’ in Romans 14.1–15.13

In Romans 14.1–15.13, St Paul teaches on ‘the weak’ and ‘the strong’, saying that the strong should accommodate the scruples of the weak, but he also pushes the Christians in Rome, as they live in harmony, to develop a common mind rather than merely agreeing to disagree. This is a pattern he consistently upholds from Romans 12 to Romans 15. In 12.1, he urges the brethren to offer up their bodies (τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν, plural) as a sacrifice that is living, holy, and acceptable to God (θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, singular); in 12.2, rather than a transformation of believers’ minds severally, he speaks of a single transformation of the mind (τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός); in 12.15–16, he says, ‘Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep; be of the same mind one toward another’; in 15.5–6, ‘Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Respect for differences in conviction, then, is to serve a higher end: the formation of the mind of the Holy Spirit in the Church, whether through diverse spiritual gifts animated by one Spirit or through a unity even with diverse convictions on food, days, and other such things the Reformed tradition has called adiaphora (things in themselves indifferent).

Those who are strong, then, are not to impose their views on those who are weak, whose faith in God does not depend on (say) dietary and festival laws. No doubt the trajectory in the long term is toward strength, whereby the people will be able to worship God without scrupling about the Mosaic Law, recognizing what things are truly matters indifferent and not matters de fide (of faith). As Ben Witherington notes in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 338, St Paul in Romans 14.14 and 14.20 says plainly that no food in unclean in itself. He is certainly not lacking in a strong position. Nevertheless, he says that judging others and criticizing them for their scruples is not the way. It seems to me that respect for variation in convictions and practices is itself part of the common mind that St Paul wants to cultivate in the Church, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

In the use or disuse of Christmas among Reformed Christians, I think strong or weak faith might appear on both sides. A weak Anglican brother may be one who mistakenly thinks that observance of Christmas is essential to his righteousness; a weak Dissenter brother may be one who mistakenly thinks that nonobservance of Christmas, and use of the Lord’s Day only as a day set aside for worship, is essential to his righteousness. A wise strong Reformed Christian may worship with the weaker Anglican brother on Christmas Day, and even through all twelve days of Christmastide all the way to 5 January, but he will also not impose Christmas as an observance upon the weaker Presbyterian brother who believes that the Lord’s Day alone should be observed, nor will he tempt that brother to act against conscience. In the pulpit, he may preach on the Incarnation of our Lord; at home, he may invite both brethren to dinner in Christmastide, that they may rejoice together in the saving truth of our Lord’s coming to us as a man. In the long term, the faith of both weaker brethren will strengthened as they unite in the Lord, both aware of the other’s conviction and, through respect, growing in faith in what is indeed essential to righteousness.

In recommending the use of Fridays as fast days and the use of Lent as a seasonal fast, the Book of Common Prayer also wisely avoids imposing particular practices, whether in choice of meats, forgoing of food, or particular private devotions. This restraint serves the weaker brother who feels that he must not eat land meat, lest he indulge himself in a season of corporate fasting; likewise, it serves the weaker brother who feels that he must not intentionally avoid land meat, lest he fall to popery. What will bring them together is a common focus on the promises of God’s word (15.4–6), through which God will make them likeminded and glorify God with one mind and one mouth. So preaching to an audience with both kinds of weaker brethren may focus on what God promises to those who repent of their sins and fast to seek his face, who mourn that they may be comforted.

One place in which I am uncertain is the fulfilment of the day of rest. I agree with Douglas Moo, in Encountering the Book of Romans, when he says of the commandment in the Mosaic Law, ‘As Hebrews suggests, the Sabbath command has found its fulfillment in Christ, so that all of us who have access to God through faith live in an eternal “Sabbath-rest”.’ The chief way in which we fulfil this law in spirit is to rest in the finished work of Christ, being justified by faith and not by works of the law. Nevertheless, my own conviction is that Lord’s Day rest is necessary not only to help us ourselves rest from our labours and trust in the Lord, but to give others the opportunity to do so as well. This is a secondary moral application of the Fourth Commandment, important against the claims of the idols of our day, not least the idol of global neoliberal capitalism. I think the practice of a weekly day of rest, which cannot be fulfilled unless practised by the body of Christians and not merely by individuals, is undermined by the buying and selling that Christians do on Sunday, which creates incentives contrary to those I think we should be committed to. Sometimes Christians buy and sell on Sundays to facilitate their own practices at church, such as catered church lunch after the Sunday morning service. Suppose that one is dating a girl who does not scruple at buying groceries on a Sunday, and she fears that avoiding Sunday shopping out of respect for her husband’s convictions would be an undue burden on her; perhaps she thinks the solution is to agree to disagree, not interfering with each other’s individual practices. I think this is not what St Paul meant, but such a situation seems a difficult knot for a family to untie.


Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech

The full text of British MP Enoch Powell’s speech, delivered to a Conservative Association meeting in Birmingham, England, on 20 April 1968.

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.

One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: at each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.

Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: ‘If only,’ they love to think, ‘if only people wouldn’t talk about it, it probably wouldn’t happen.’

Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical.

At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.

A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries.

After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: ‘If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t stay in this country.’ I made some deprecatory reply to the effect that even this government wouldn’t last for ever; but he took no notice, and continued: ‘I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan’t be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas. In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.’

I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation?

The answer is that I do not have the right not to do so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that his country will not be worth living in for his children.

I simply do not have the right to shrug my shoulders and think about something else. What he is saying, thousands and hundreds of thousands are saying and thinking – not throughout Great Britain, perhaps, but in the areas that are already undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history.

In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would constitute the majority. It is this fact which creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take, action where the difficulties lie in the present but the evils to be prevented or minimised lie several parliaments ahead.

The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: ‘How can its dimensions be reduced?’ Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy of the Conservative Party.

It almost passes belief that at this moment 20 or 30 additional immigrant children are arriving from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week – and that means 15 or 20 additional families a decade or two hence. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancés whom they have never seen.

Let no one suppose that the flow of dependants will automatically tail off. On the contrary, even at the present admission rate of only 5,000 a year by voucher, there is sufficient for a further 25,000 dependants per annum ad infinitum, without taking into account the huge reservoir of existing relations in this country – and I am making no allowance at all for fraudulent entry. In these circumstances nothing will suffice but that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at once to negligible proportions, and that the necessary legislative and administrative measures be taken without delay.

I stress the words ‘for settlement’. This has nothing to do with the entry of Commonwealth citizens, any more than of aliens, into this country, for the purposes of study or of improving their qualifications, like (for instance) the Commonwealth doctors who, to the advantage of their own countries, have enabled our hospital service to be expanded faster than would otherwise have been possible. They are not, and never have been, immigrants.

I turn to re-emigration. If all immigration ended tomorrow, the rate of growth of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population would be substantially reduced, but the prospective size of this element in the population would still leave the basic character of the national danger unaffected. This can only be tackled while a considerable proportion of the total still comprises persons who entered this country during the last ten years or so.

Hence the urgency of implementing now the second element of the Conservative Party’s policy: the encouragement of re-emigration.

Nobody can make an estimate of the numbers which, with generous assistance, would choose either to return to their countries of origin or to go to other countries anxious to receive the manpower and the skills they represent.

Nobody knows, because no such policy has yet been attempted. I can only say that, even at present, immigrants in my own constituency from time to time come to me, asking if I can find them assistance to return home. If such a policy were adopted and pursued with the determination which the gravity of the alternative justifies, the resultant outflow could appreciably alter the prospects.

The third element of the Conservative Party’s policy is that all who are in this country as citizens should be equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference made between them by public authority. As Mr Heath has put it we will have no ‘first-class citizens’ and ‘second-class citizens’. This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendent should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it ‘against discrimination’, whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right up over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong.

The discrimination and the deprivation, the sense of alarm and of resentment, lies not with the immigrant population but with those among whom they have come and are still coming.

This is why to enact legislation of the kind before parliament at this moment is to risk throwing a match on to gunpowder. The kindest thing that can be said about those who propose and support it is that they know not what they do.

Nothing is more misleading than comparison between the Commonwealth immigrant in Britain and the American Negro. The Negro population of the United States, which was already in existence before the United States became a nation, started literally as slaves and were later given the franchise and other rights of citizenship, to the exercise of which they have only gradually and still incompletely come. The Commonwealth immigrant came to Britain as a full citizen, to a country which knew no discrimination between one citizen and another, and he entered instantly into the possession of the rights of every citizen, from the vote to free treatment under the National Health Service.

Whatever drawbacks attended the immigrants arose not from the law or from public policy or from administration, but from those personal circumstances and accidents which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and experience of one man to be different from another’s.

But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. They now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by act of parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.

In the hundreds upon hundreds of letters I received when I last spoke on this subject two or three months ago, there was one striking feature which was largely new and which I find ominous. All Members of Parliament are used to the typical anonymous correspondent; but what surprised and alarmed me was the high proportion of ordinary, decent, sensible people, writing a rational and often well-educated letter, who believed that they had to omit their address because it was dangerous to have committed themselves to paper to a Member of Parliament agreeing with the views I had expressed, and that they would risk penalties or reprisals if they were known to have done so. The sense of being a persecuted minority which is growing among ordinary English people in the areas of the country which are affected is something that those without direct experience can hardly imagine.

I am going to allow just one of those hundreds of people to speak for me:

Eight years ago in a respectable street in Wolverhampton a house was sold to a Negro. Now only one white (a woman old-age pensioner) lives there. This is her story. She lost her husband and both her sons in the war. So she turned her seven-roomed house, her only asset, into a boarding house. She worked hard and did well, paid off her mortgage and began to put something by for her old age. Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.

The day after the last one left, she was awakened at 7 a.m. by two Negroes who wanted to use her ’phone to contact their employer. When she refused, as she would have refused any stranger at such an hour, she was abused and feared she would have been attacked but for the chain on her door. Immigrant families have tried to rent rooms in her house, but she always refused. Her little store of money went, and after paying rates, she has less than £2 per week.

She went to apply for a rate reduction and was seen by a young girl, who on hearing she had a seven-roomed house, suggested she should let part of it. When she said the only people she could get were Negroes, the girl said, ‘Racial prejudice won’t get you anywhere in this country.’ So she went home.

The telephone is her lifeline. Her family pay the bill, and help her out as best they can. Immigrants have offered to buy her house – at a price which the prospective landlord would be able to recover from his tenants in weeks, or at most a few months. She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter box. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. ‘Racialist,’ they chant. When the new Race Relations Bill is passed, this woman is convinced she will go to prison. And is she so wrong? I begin to wonder.

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word ‘integration’. To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members.

Now, at all times, where there are marked physical differences, especially of colour, integration is difficult though, over a period, not impossible. There are among the Commonwealth immigrants who have come to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction.

But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.

We are on the verge here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population – that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate.

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population. The cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, that can so rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly. The words I am about to use, verbatim as they appeared in the local press on 17 February, are not mine, but those of a Labour Member of Parliament who is a minister in the present government:

The Sikh communities’ campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly in the public services, they should be prepared to accept the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism is a canker; whether practised by one colour or another it is to be strongly condemned.

All credit to John Stonehouse for having had the insight to perceive that, and the courage to say it.

For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.

That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.

Abominations the Magistrate Must Suppress

In Western churches, and in Western-influenced churches, it is not rare that Christians are aghast at laws whose punishments, and underlying system of morality, resemble those of the Old Testament. They think such laws too harsh. Sometimes they compare them to sharia law. Would they also be aghast at the morality of the Mosaic Law? If so, are they aghast at the God ‘with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’?

It is one thing to desire some patient tolerance for those who do not know God; it is another to judge that the God of the Old Testament was unjust, and to feel relieved that the God of the New Testament is not like that. But God is one. People must live with that truth. Perhaps they want their own commonwealths to be ruled by something other than the justice of God, another principle, someone else’s principle. If so, perhaps they desire another gospel than the one that declares that God, the one God, maker of heavan and earth, has inaugurated his kingdom on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The gospel declares that God, the God of Abraham, both has saved and is saving the world by his own righteousness, in the person of Jesus Christ, whom he has raised from the dead and set as judge over all. In politics, some demand a different political god’s moral law over the moral law of God; in substance, by refusing the rule of Christ, they deny the gospel.

There are, then, some fundamental public principles a Christian must hold. If we turn and consider the reasons for which God destroys the nations, we see some basic things that a state must do if it is to avoid perishing like Sodom. The state must forbid and punish certain sins, or God will destroy the people.

In Leviticus 18, God forbids various sins of incest, adultery, child sacrifice to Molech, homosexuality, and bestiality, saying that for these sins he is expelling the Canaanites:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness. Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (for all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) that the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.

In Deuteronomy 18, Moses declares to all Israel:

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

Thus, witchcraft and divination are also forbidden to even the nations, and for these abominations God is driving the Canaanites out as Israel advances into Canaan.

God has not changed. The sins for which he drove out the Canaanites and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah are the same sins for which he will destroy whole peoples now, and the same sins that a governor now must suppress if he cares for the lives of his people.

These are the truths Christians ought to hold, even though they cannot compel others to hold them. A key test is to have an observer compare the Mosaic Law and the kind of legal system that Christian citizens desire for their nation: in the two systems, does he see the moral principles of the same God, or does he see that Christians are hypocrites? If we say that God is one, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is about this one God who in the person of Christ reigns over heaven and earth, and that this is at the heart of the gospel, then must take care that we take this as good news indeed.


Imagine Wudang 武當 and Shaolin 少林, and Emei 峨眉 for the women, all being converted to the gospel and becoming Christian colleges and ascetic retreat centres where people study both the word of God and martial arts, making ready to … Continue reading

That a Country ‘Stands for’ Something

An American friend said of a video of a Black girl singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, ‘I am crying. 😭 I love America and everything this country stands for. 🇺🇲 This is America. No amount of propoganda [sic] will convince me otherwise.’

Far be it from me to deprecate patriotic feeling, but I find it quite odd to say, ‘I love America and everything this country stands for.’ What other country has people saying ‘this country stands for’ this and that? It’s hard for me to imagine someone stating what China or France stands for, as an object of patriotic feeling. There are, to be sure, certain virtues that various peoples distinctively value, such as the Roman sense of virtus; but to say that the Roman republic ‘stood for’ virtus (rather than, say, Senatus Populusque Romæ) could only have drawn blank looks from the Romans themselves.

John of Damascus Affirms the Same Old Testament Canon as Protestants

John Damascene, in The Orthodox Faith 4.17, bears witness to the same canonical reckoning of the inspired Old Testament books as the Protestants:

One must know that there are twenty-two books of the Old Testament, corresponding to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, for the Hebrews have twenty-two letters, of which five are doubled so as to make twenty-seven. Thus, kaph, mem, nun, pe, and sade are double. For this reason the books, too, are numbered this way and are found to be twenty-seven, because five of them are doubled. Ruth is combined with Judges and counted as one book by the Hebrews. Kings 1 and 2 make one book; 3 and 4 Kings, one book; 1 and 2 Paralipomenon, one book; and 1 and 2 Esdras, one book. Thus, the books fall into four groups of five, as follows. There are five books of the Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This first group of five is also called the Law. Then, another group of five books called the Writings, or, by some, the Sacred Books, which are as follows: Josue, son of Nave; Judges, together with Ruth; 1 and 2 Kings [i.e., 1 and 2 Samuel for Protestants] making one book; 3 and 4 Kings [i.e., 1 and 2 Kings for Protestants] making one book; and the two Paralipomenons [i.e., 1 and 2 Chronicles] making one book. This is the second group of five books. A third group of five is made up of the poetical books, namely: Job, the Psalter, the Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes of the same, and the Canticle of Canticles of the same. A fourth group of five books is the prophetic, which is made up of the twelve minor Prophets, making one book, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel, and then the two books of Esdras [i.e., Ezra and Nehemiah for Protestants] combined into one, and Esther. The All-Virtuous Wisdom, however, that is to say, the Wisdom of Solomon – and the Wisdom of Jesus, which the father of Sirach composed in Hebrew but which was translated into Greek by his grandson, Jesus son of Sirach – these are indeed admirable and full of virtue, but they are not counted, nor were they placed in the Ark.

Expressly does he exclude the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sirach) from his count, while he includes all the books that Protestant reckon within the Old Testament canon.

I wonder how today’s Byzantine apologists against the Protestant churches, in order to attack the catholic canon of Scripture as ‘incomplete’ – not knowing that in so doing they join in an invention of the Council of Trent with the Jesuits – explain away these words from the very Church father by whom they say their doctrine of images is established. Shall they also attack John Damascene for truncating and mutilating the canon of Scripture, or shall they acknowledge that Anglicans in excluding the Apocrypha from the canonical books have merely upheld the judgement of the Church catholic?

Poll: What Content Do You Want to See Here?

I’m curious to know what topics people like seeing here, so I’m asking for your opinions.

Obviously I reserve the right to do what I like with my own blog, but I want to see what others are actually interested in reading and interacting with. As always, I welcome your comments.

‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ Not an Argument to Establish What Is Stealing

People grow up in a capitalist system, and its sometimes quite innovative notions of ownership shape people’s impressions of what theft is; so that merely saying ‘thou shalt not steal’ seems to them sufficient to prove a case, as if this præcept were not universally held to be true by all persons of all ages. Just as easily might the same men, in a different age, have said ‘thou shalt not steal’ to any who wanted to limit what a cruel master was allowed to extract from his slaves, under colour of protecting his property, thinking by so quoting Scripture that they had fully proven their case, and commending themselves for having done good to their neighbour. For even in our own day do many protect the weights and measures of the usurers, how unbalanced soever those be, for the predations of the rich and against the refuge of the poor. They seem to forget that Satan himself was able to quote Scripture in tempting the Lord, and is able today to deceive the saints by contriving fair-sounding sentences from the words of Scripture. Let us beware of such deceptions, by reading Scripture humbly, owning that our knowledge without the word of God is but a house built upon the sand.

Jeremy Taylor: Anglicans’ Sorrows Relieved, Their Persecutions Turned into Joys

A bit of encouragement from Jeremy Taylor, in Holy Living, for those who are scorned for the disarray of Anglican churches in the West:

I know, my Lord, that there are some interested persons who add scorn to the afflictions of the Church of England; and because she is afflicted by men, call her ‘forsaken of the Lord’; and because her solemn assemblies are scattered, think that the religion is lost, and the church divorced from God, supposing Christ (who was a man of sorrows) to be angry with his spouse when she is like him, (for that is the true state of the error,) and that he who promised his Spirit to assist his servants in their troubles will, because they are in trouble, take away the Comforter from them; who cannot be a comforter, but while he cures our sadnesses, and relieves our sorrows, and turns our persecutions into joys, and crowns, and sceptres.

Interview on Christian’s Colloquy, About Anglicanism, the Prayer Book, and Fasting

The Rev. Christian Clement-Schlimm, a Baptist priest, has put up an interview with a certain Chinglican – yours truly – on Anglicanism, the Book of Common Prayer, and fasting. I had a lot of fun being on his show, Christian’s Colloquy, and I hope you have as much fun watching. Here’s a bit about his show:

Christian’s Colloquy is a show committed to exploring the theology and history of the Church. Namely, learning from and engaging with the wisdom of the past to approach issues of the present. Special attention will be given to English & North American church history (from the Reformation through the Evangelical Revival), Caribbean spirituality, Baptist ecclesiology, and prayer.

Both for the Anglicans and for the non-Anglicans, I thought I would list below some classical Anglican resources that I might have mentioned in passing or that would be useful to those interested in learning more.

Anglican doctrine

The 39 Articles of Religion, which are included in most every printing of the Book of Common Prayer, are – together with the 1662 Prayer Book proper and the 1660 Ordinal – the subordinate doctrinal standards of the Anglican tradition under the Bible. The standard Protestant high-church commentary, though at times it gives short shrift to what the author calls ‘Calvinism’, is Edward Harold Browne’s Exposition of the Articles.

The Prayer Book

J. I. Packer’s pamphlet The Gospel in the Prayer Book gives an evangelical interpretation of how the gospel is shown in the construction of the services in England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer. While Packer’s pamphlet will not describe these offices together as a system, he does offer a concise and highly illuminating view of how the offices individually bring the gospel to the worshipper.

Thomas Comber’s multivolume devotional commentary on the Book of Common Prayer, written from the perspective of a high churchman teaching Dissenters to appreciate the Prayer Book devotionally, is probably the most extensive and detailed look at each of the parts of the Prayer Book offices, including even the exhortations in the Holy Communion service. This work, A Companion to the Temple, appears the following volumes: vol. 1, Morning and Evening Prayer; vol. 2, Of the Litany, with the Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings; vol. 3, Of the Communion office, with the offices of Baptism, Catechism, and Confirmation; vol. 4, Of the occasional offices. Almost no one will want to read these straight through, but these are places to dip in wherever you want to enhance your appreciation and devotional use of the stuff in the Prayer Book, even one sentence or phrase. (Extras: vol. 5, History of liturgies, Discourse on the offices for Nov. 5, Jan. 30, and May 29; vol. 6, Of the ordination and consecration services; vol. 7, Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, Discourse of excommunication, Dialogue about tithes.)

Charles Wheatley’s A Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer, considerably shorter, tells us more about the historical development and use of the Prayer Book offices as a whole system.


George Herbert’s pastoral manual The Country Parson is about as well known and loved as Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor. You can check out the whole thing, but I’ve linked to the practical part about fasting.

Lancelot Andrewes, in A Pattern of Catechistical Doctrine, breaks it down for you, into public and private fasting, and the reasons for each of those he breaks down further; he also explains the inward and outward parts of fasting.

Likewise Jeremy Taylor, in Holy Living, has a whole section of chapter 4 devoted to fasting.

On the history of Englishmen’s customs, John Wickham Legg’s English Church Life from the Restoration to the Tractarian Movement is a work I have found especially useful for observing what English Protestants did (and felt) for their fasting before the Romanizing trends that became popular in some quarters in the 19th and 20th centuries. The part on Lent especially has a good bit of information. Readers might also want to take a glance at John Wesley’s ascetic practice as described in Geordan Hammond’s John Wesley in America: Restoring Primitive Christianity (2014), 131–36.

Origen Is Worth the Time of the Modern Reader

Origen Of Alexandria Christian Writer Drawing by Mary Evans ...

Origen of Alexandria is an early Church father and teacher of the faith known – and sometimes held in contempt – for his allegorical readings of Scripture. Even though his figural rhetoric does not flatter the tastes of Westerners today, however, and even if his interpretations flout the standards of textual-grammatical reading held by scholars today, he is still worth our time.

In his Homilies on Luke 31.2, Origen may seem to disparage literal exegesis, but I am unconvinced that he does so in fact. He says apostrophically to the devil, as if he is there to hear him,

You read, not to become better through reading the holy books, but to use the simple, literal sense for killing those who are the friends of the letter. You know that, if you wish to speak to him from other books you will not deceive him, nor will your assertions have any authority.

Origen is not here criticizing literal exegesis itself. It is because good Christians are ‘friends of the letter’ that Satan, in order to kill them spiritually, has no other recourse but to draw parasitically on the authority of the letter. Unless deceived by the use of this letter, these Christians will not be deceived, because they will accept nothing else by which Satan would mislead them. What Origen sees is that even the literal sense can be used to deceive those who could not be otherwise deceived. Therefore he warns his audience that even those who take Scripture for their standard can in fact be deceived even through the very word of God, though such deception is in fact due not to the word of God but to the devil’s twisting of it. In no wise does Origen frame this warning about the devil’s schemes as opposition to literal exegesis.

Nevertheless, in Homilies on Luke 37 (on Luke 19.29–40), considering the colt Jesus rode on, Origen interprets the colt allegorically as his audience. His is a kind of interpretation to which modern Western audiences, trained to read for reconstruction of the facts behind the text, are unused. Western readers are not inclined to be persuaded by such readings, in part because they are inclined by their educations to treat the literary text as less real than the events they relate; Origen, however, seems to read and speak out of a conviction that the text of Scripture itself is as real as, if not realer than, the things that can be described directly in terms of the five senses. For this reason, he looks in the text for the conveyance of something realer than what the senses can know.

For turning to an allegorical reading, Origen actually states his reasons at the outset. Reading that the Saviour had come ‘to Bethphage and Bethany near Mount Olivet’, and that he then sent two of his disciples to untie ‘the foal of an ass’ that had been tied, ‘on which no man had ever sat’, Origen thus judges of the details mentioned: ‘This seems to me to pertain more to the deeper sense than to the simple narrative’ (37.1). Reading Luke as a theological document, written not for the literary pleasure of a vivid narrative but for the spiritual formation of disciples in the life of Christ, Origen deems that the details mentioned are unnecessary to a ‘simple narrative’ and therefore belong rhetorically to a different purpose, pointing to a ‘deeper sense’. After all, such details as the names of Bethphage and Bethany and Mount Olivet contribute nothing to the reader’s knowledge of the narrative’s bare facts; neither is it necessary to know, from a narrative standpoint, that the beast chosen for Jesus to ride was specifically the foal of an ass, and one on which no man had ever sat. It is clear to even some casual readers, not to speak of careful readers, that these details mentioned in the narrative are not of immediate narrative significance, but signify something worth saying nonetheless.

Though the details of Origen’s exegesis as exegesis are unconvincing to us, appertaining more to application than to historical interpretation proper, we can learn from his attention to details that are properly unnecessary to a bare recital of the narrative, details he is willing to apply directly to the lives of his hearers. Our rhetorical figures may differ from his, but we ought to find readings as attentive and deep as his. Otherwise, we are left not with the Christ of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather with the Jesus of the historical scholars; not with the Saviour who brings and embodies and is the gospel, but with a historical object to be constructed and reconstructed under our own judgement. To find not the devices and desires of our own hearts but God himself, then, we are called to read with the spiritual eyes that Origen had.

Being Accused of Syncretism for Being Nonwestern

Don’t worry, Chinese Christians, our White brethren sometimes accuse us of syncretism not because they hate us but because they don’t understand and aren’t aware of all the stuff their own Christian cultures have rightly plundered from the Ægyptians. It still is the case, alas, that Westerners retain a suspicion against anything that fundamentally is not culturally Western. What matters, however, is the word of God. Upon that word we shall be established.

The West has amnesia about what it took from the ancients who did not know Christ, while putting away idolatry; the Sinosphere, for its part, has the whole Chinese cultural tradition to reckon with in the centuries to come. Christ is making all things new, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against us.


Me at 4: I want to be a dinosaur. Me now: I want to be a dinosaur.


No one: Me: NIV is the anointed translation of international capitalism.

Register for the West Coast Chinese Christian Conference by 1 November for Early Prices

Just two days left to catch the early prices for this year’s West Coast Chinese Christian Conference (WCCCC), 28–31 December 2019. A student could effectively pay just $25 for a 4-day conference including food and lodging. Don’t miss these great prices!

So go sign up by tomorrow, 1 November!