vendredi, août 26, 2016

Edgar Schuurman: Courage in Politics: The Challenge for Christian Politicians

Courage in Politics: 
The Challenge for Christian Politicians
by Egbert Schuurman 
(Pro Rege: Vol. 44: No. 4, 20 -32, June 2016)
Dr. Egbert Schuurman is Professor Emeritus of Reformational Philosophy at the universities of Delft, and Eindhoven, and Wageningen. 

Editor’s Note: This article was presented by Dr. Egbert Schuurman as the annual Groen van Prinsterer Lecture for 2011, sponsored by the ChristenUnie or Christian Union, a political party in the Netherlands. The lecture series is named after Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801–1876), the father of modern Dutch Christian politics. Egbert Schuurman, P.Eng., Ph.D., was senator for the Christian Union in the Dutch parliament from 1983 through 2011. This text was translated by Herbert Donald Morton and edited by Harry Van Dyke. 
To stimulate and support reflection about Christians in politics, not to speak of Christian politics as such, is not a luxury but a constant necessity. Every generation is called upon to articulate and assert first principles in a fresh way and to act upon them in response to the challenges of the day. On this occasion, as I retire from the Senate, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the challenges of our time, to follow up with what I believe is a promising perspective for a Christian approach to politics today. My guiding theme will be: What should be the main issue for a Christian in politics in a rapidly changing culture?
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Highland Canon Fodder: Scottish Gaelic Literature in North American Contexts

Highland Canon Fodder: 
Scottish Gaelic Literature 
in North American Contexts
Michael Newton, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The assessment of the influence of Scottish literature and literary practice abroad, especially in the context of Scottish diasporas, has generally focused on fiction in English, particularly in the form of the novel. Missing from this approach is a large body of Scottish Gaelic literature, primarily oral poetry, which has been composed in a sustained literary tradition that extends from the medieval period in Scotland to the present day in North America. This article reviews the evidence for Gaelic literary continuity in the North American diaspora in terms of the literary conventions that have determined the forms of literary production, the iconic figures and literary culture signifiers invoked by authors, and the statements made by authors in their texts that reflect self-consciousness about the tradition in which they worked and to which they belonged.

jeudi, août 25, 2016

GERS: or, A Wayward Exercise in the Capricious

GERS: or, A Wayward 
Exercise in the Capricious
by John S Warren (24th Aug 2016)

[...] Thus figures are being presented for Scotland using this “methodology” (actually methodologies), that do not actually exist. There are also “theoretical and practical challenges” (by implication either insurmountable in nature or, more likely, there is no inclination to overcome them) in determination of the estimates, and different methodologies could lead to different results. Notice also that “the information comes from survey data for the UK”. Survey data for the UK is being used, in order to establish the actual public sector/Government Revenues for Scotland. The methodology is detaching the exercise from reality as a matter of intent. It begins to appear that using the ostensibly authoritative term “methodology” to describe this Westminster inspired and wayward exercise in the capricious, is something of an adventurously exaggerated description of the status of the underlying facts. [...]


mardi, août 23, 2016

GA Ponsonby: Here’s PFI … But where’s Labour?

Here’s PFI … But where’s Labour?
by GA Ponsonby (22 Aug 2016)

An online article, numerous radio bulletins, TV news and a one hour documentary all failed to mention the role played by the Labour party in a financial scandal that led to the lives of school children being put at risk.  And they were put at risk as inspections that would normally have been the responsibility of local authorities were placed in the hands of the very companies who stood to benefit financially from cutting corners.

The refusal of BBC Scotland to make even a passing reference to the Labour party is as scandalous as the PFI scam itself.  Labour introduced the funding mechanism and then set about coercing any local authority that dared refuse to implement it into adopting the mechanism.  If you didn’t use PFI then Jack McConnell was prepared to cut your funding.
(with media clips)

dimanche, août 21, 2016

Herman Dooyeweerd: Disclosure of an Apostate Culture: The Enlightenment

Photo: F.MacFhionnlaigh
The following is a short extract from Herman Dooyeweerd's book: 
“Roots of Western Culture: 
Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options”
A pdf (file 11 meg) of the book can be freely downloaded

Disclosure of an Apostate Culture

     The apostate direction of faith always reveals itself in deification and absolutization of certain aspects of creation. If apostate faith leads the opening of culture, then it breaks the norm of cultural economy, which results in a sharp disharmony in cultural life.

     Let us briefly summarize our earlier discussions dealing with the norm of cultural economy. Searching for a criterion to distinguish a healthy progressive direction from a reactionary direction in historical development, I pointed out that God placed historical development under norms and standards. These norms must be discovered in the complete coherence of the divine creation order; that is, they must be explored in the various relations that tie together the historical and the other aspects of temporal reality. We noted that in a closed and primitive condition culture displays an undifferentiated character. It is utterly closed off from fruitful cultural intercourse with nations that are included in the process of world history. Tradition is all-powerful in such cultures, and the entire communal life of primitive peoples is in the grasp of a pagan belief in nature which in its closed state makes a true opening of culture impossible.

     We also found that the first criterion for detecting a genuine opening of culture lies in the norm of differentiation. This norm consists in the creationally grounded principle of sphere sovereignty which holds that God created everything after its kind. Specifically, we found that the principle of sphere sovereignty reveals itself in its historical aspect through the norm of cultural differentiation which holds that a true opening of culture is possible only when it unfolds itself into the differentiated spheres of the state, the church, science, art, industry, commerce, and so forth. Although each differentiated sphere reveals its own inherent nature and possesses its own historical power sphere, a differentiation process, according to the order established by God, can unfold only if the norm of cultural economy is obeyed. This norm, which expresses the coherence between the historical and economic aspects of reality, implies that every excessive expansion of the power of a given differentiated sphere conflicts with harmonious cultural development and occurs at the expense of a healthy growth of other spheres. Because it incites a reaction from the threatened spheres, cultural disharmony avenges itself in the world judgment of history. At this point we can pull our argument together: the excessive expansion of power within a given cultural sphere always occurs under the guidance of an apostate faith which absolutizes and deifies such a cultural sphere.

Example: The Enlightenment

     Consider, for instance, the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, when a humanistic faith in the omnipotence of the modern science of nature dominated western culture. The Enlightenment ideal was to control reality by discovering the laws of nature. It was assumed that such control was possible because natural laws determined the course of events in a closed chain of cause and effect. The method of the new science of nature was foisted on the other sciences. It consisted in analyzing complex phenomena into their "simplest parts" whose relations could be determined by mathematical equations.

     One can hardly deny that the natural sciences developed immensely under the influence of Enlightenment humanism. But behind the investigations stood a religiously dynamic force: the humanistic science ideal. It influenced even Christian scientists, although some — think of Pascal — strongly protested the overextension of natural-scientific methods.

     The historical influence of the science ideal was not limited to the cultural sphere of science. Driven by faith, the ideal reached out to every other cultural area. "Enlightenment" through advance in science was the slogan of the day. All "progress" of humanity was expected from the rational explanation of science. Every aspect of human society was viewed in terms of the "natural-scientific method." Society itself required dissection into its "simplest elements": individuals. The new method led to an individualistic view of human society that was oblivious to the inner nature of different societal relationships, such as the church, the state, and the family. Moreover, morality became thoroughly individualistic, built on the superficial ethical principle of utility. Enlightenment faith entered the churches in the form of "modernism," ruining the Christian faith wherever it gained influence. In economic life it enthroned the homo economicus, the fictitious person motivated exclusively by private economic self-interest. Even art did not escape the influence of this new faith; it was straitjacketed into the rigid, rationalistic forms of "classicism." In short, healthy, harmonious development of culture was prevented by the impact of natural science which went far beyond its limits at the expense of other spheres of western civilization.

     There is indeed another side to our assessment of the Enlightenment faith. We would be entirely amiss if we failed to recognize its great significance for the unfolding of western civilization. The Enlightenment was formative in history and active in opening culture beyond the scope of natural science and technology based on that science. With respect to economics it opened the way for developing individual initiative which, in spite of its originally individualistic emphasis, greatly advanced industrial life. With respect to the legal order it pleaded untiringly not only for the establishment of the individual rights of man, which form the foundation of today's civil law, but also for the elimination of undifferentiated juridical relations that treated parts of governmental authority as "commercial objects." The Enlightenment also laid many cornerstones for the modern constitutional state (Rechtsstaat). In the area of criminal law it contributed to the introduction of more humane treatment, to the abolishment of the rack, and to the elimination of witch trials. Without ceasing it pleaded for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In all these areas the Enlightenment could contribute to authentic historical formation because it followed the path of genuine cultural disclosure. Its revolutionary ideas, in their actualization, had to be adjusted to the divine ordinances. In its power struggle against tradition, these ideas were bent under the pressure of the norm of historical continuity, with the result that they lost their moments of subjective arbitrariness. The Enlightenment also had to adapt itself to the influence of the Reformation which, even though it played only a secondary role, still asserted itself in historical development.

     But the dark side of the Enlightenment contribution to the disclosure of western culture consists in the dissolving impact of its individualism and rationalism which resulted in a severe disharmony of western society. The "judgment" in world history was executed over the Enlightenment and quite understandably elicited the reaction of historicism with its overestimation of the human community. However, a truly biblical view of history must not, in its battle against Enlightenment ideas, seek accommodation with historicism which opposed the Enlightenment in a reactionary manner. A truly scriptural view of history cannot deny the fruitful and beneficial elements of the historical influence of the Enlightenment. Like the sound elements of the historicistic view of reality, they must be valued as the fruits of common grace.

     Every cultural movement, however inimical to God in its apostasy, must be properly acknowledged for its historical merits to the extent that it has indeed contributed to cultural disclosure — a matter that must be assessed in the light of the divinely posited norms for the development of culture. For a truly scriptural view of history cannot be bigoted and narrowminded. It shares neither the optimistic faith in a rectilinear progress of man nor the pessimistic belief in the imminent decline of the West. Behind the great process of cultural development it recognizes the battle in the root of creation between the civitas Dei and the civitas terrena, the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus and the kingdom of darkness. It knows that this battle was decided at Golgotha and that the victory of the Kingdom of God is sure. It knows that the great antithesis between the ground motive of the divine revelation of the Word and the ground motive of the apostate spirit operates in the power struggle for the future of western civilization. It knows too that God uses the apostate powers in culture to further unfold the potentials which he laid in the creation.

     Through blood and tears, through revolution and reaction, the process of historical development moves on to the day of judgment. The Christian is called, in the name of Him to whom all authority in heaven and on earth was given, to take part in the great power struggle of history with the commitment of his entire personality and all his powers. The outcome is sure, and this gives the Christian, no matter what turn particular events may take, a peace and rest that befit a conqueror.

The Radical Challenge of the Word of God

     We have seen that the ground motive of the Christian religion—creation, fall, and redemption through Jesus Christ—is a spiritual dynamic which transforms one's entire view of reality at its root as soon as it lays full claim on one's attitude to life and thought. We have also seen that the Christian ground motive moulds our view of history, for it offers us a criterion to distinguish truly progressive and disguised reactionary trends. We have recognized the all-embracive significance of the Christian ground motive for the burning issues of the "new age." We have understood how this ground motive unmasks today's dangerous community ideology and its totalitarian tendencies. We have noted that the Christian ground motive posits the unshakable firmness of God's creation order in opposition to the so-called dynamic spirit of our times which refuses to recognize firm foundations of life and thus sees everything "in change." We have come to know the divine radicality of this ground motive that touches the religious root of our lives. We have, I hope, come to realize that the Christian ground motive permits no dualistic ambiguity in our lives, no "limping with two different opinions" [cf. I Kings 18:21]

     Consider the cost of taking this radically scriptural Christianity seriously. Ask yourself which side you must join in the tense spiritual battle of our times. Compromise is not an option. A middle-of-the-road stance is not possible. Either the ground motive of the Christian religion works radically in our lives or we serve other gods. If the antithesis is too radical for you, ask yourself whether a less radical Christianity is not like salt that has lost its savour. I state the antithesis as radically as I do so that we may again experience the full double-edged sharpness and power of God's Word. You must experience the antithesis as a spiritual storm that strikes lightning into your life and that clears the sultry air. If you do not experience it as a spiritual power requiring the surrender of your whole heart, then it will bear no fruit in your life. Then you will stand apart from the great battle the antithesis always instigates. You yourself cannot wage this battle. Rather, the spiritual dynamic of the Word of God wages the struggle in us and pulls us along despite our "flesh and blood."

     My effort to impress upon us the scope of the antithesis is also directed at committed Christians. I believe that if Christianity had held fast to the ground motive of God's Word, and to it alone, we never would have witnessed the divisions and schisms that have plagued the church of Christ. The source of all fundamental schisms and dissensions is the sinful inclination of the human heart to weaken the integral and radical meaning of the divine Word. The truth is so intolerable for fallen man that when it does take hold of him he still seeks to escape its total claim in every possible way.

     The creation motive strikes this fallen world so awesomely that man sees himself in utter desolation before God, from whom he can never escape. Think of the powerful words of Psalm 139:
Whither can I go from thy Spirit?
Or whither can I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven, thou art there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there.
     Man cannot sustain one atom of his existence before the Creator as his own property. Nowhere in creation can man find a refuge which might provide a hiding place for his sinful existence independent of God. Man cannot bear this.

     The threefold ground motive of the Word is an indivisible unity. When one slights the integral character of the creation motive, the radical sense of fall and redemption becomes incomprehensible. Likewise, whoever tampers with the radical meaning of fall and redemption cannot experience the full power and scope of the creation motive. 

(Herman Dooyeweerd, "Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options", pp 105-109) NB This book has been republished (with textual revision) by Paideia Press, 2012.

Herman Dooyeweerd: Key of knowledge - Question of life and death

(Image developed from original Wiki key photo by Evan-Amos)
Key of knowledge - 
Question of life and death
by Herman Dooyeweerd

      Thus the central theme of the Holy Scriptures, namely, that of creation, fall into sin, and redemption by Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit, has a radical unity of meaning, which is related to the central unity of our human existence. It effects the true knowledge of God and ourselves, if our heart is fully opened by the Holy Spirit so that it finds itself in the grip of God's Word and has become the captive of Jesus Christ. So long
as this central meaning of the Word-revelation is at issue, we are beyond the scientific problems both of theology and philosophy. Its acceptance or rejection is a matter of life or death to us, and not a question of theoretical reflection. In this sense, the central motive of Holy Scripture is the common supra-scientific starting-point of a truly biblical theology and of a truly Christian philosophy. It is the key of knowledge of which Jesus spoke in his discussion with the Scribes and lawyers. It is the religious presupposition of any theoretical thought, which may rightly claim a biblical foundation. But, as such, it can never become the theoretical object of theology - no more than God and the human I can become such an object.

    ...I am sorry if my explanation concerning the scientific field of research of dogmatic theology seem not clear at first sight. The difficulties and questions to which it gives rise do not concern the divine Word-revelation, but exclusively the scientific character and bounds of a theological dogmatics and exegesis. And it is necessary 'ad humanam salutem' to go into these difficulties in a serious way. For dogmatic theology is a very dangerous science. Its elevation to a necessary mediator between God's Word and the believer amounts to idolatry and testifies to a fundamental misconception concerning its real character and position. If our salvation be dependent on theological dogmatics and exegesis, we are lost. For both of them are a human work, liable to all kinds of error, disagreement in opinion, and heresy. We can even say that all heresies are of a theological origin. Therefore, the traditional confusion between God's Word as the central principle of knowledge and the scientific object of theological dogmatics and exegesis must be wrong in its fundamentals. For it is this very confusion which has given rise to the false identification of dogmatic theology with the doctrine of Holy Scripture, and to the false conception of theology as the necessary mediator between God's Word and the believers.

     ...Let us first consider how the Word of God presents itself to us in its full and actual reality. The divine Word-revelation has entered our temporal horizon. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. This was the 'skandalon' which was equally raised by the incarnation of the Word-revelation in the Holy Scriptures, a collection of books written by different men in the course of ages, be it through divine inspiration, yet related to all the modal aspects of our temporal horizon of experience. It is, however, only under the modal aspect of faith that we can experience that this Word-revelation in the Scriptures has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. And the actual belief through which we know with an ultimate certainty that it is so, cannot be realized in the heart, that religious center of our consciousness, except by the operation of the Word itself, as a spiritual power. What makes the diversity of books of the Old and New Testament into a radical spiritual unity? Their principle of unity can only be the central theme of creation, fall into sin, and redemption by Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit, since it is the key to true knowledge of God and self-knowledge. We have established that, in its central spiritual sense, as divine motive power addressing itself to our heart, this theme cannot become the theoretical object of theological thought, since it is the very starting point of the latter, insofar as theology is really biblical.

      From the foregoing it may appear that there must be a difference in principle between creation, fall and redemption in their central sense as the key to knowledge, and in their sense as articles of faith which may be made into the object of theological thought. Insofar as Reformed theology, too, was influenced by the scholastic basic motive of nature and grace, it also developed dogmatic views which must be considered unbiblical. The Jewish Scribes and lawyers had a perfect theological knowledge of the books of the Old Testament. They wished, doubtless, to hold to the creation, the fall, and the promise of the coming Messiah as articles of the orthodox Jewish faith which are also articles of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, Jesus said to them: "Woe unto you, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge!" (Luke 11:52).

     This key of knowledge in its radical and integral sense cannot be made into a theoretical problem. The theologian can only direct his theological thought to it with respect to its necessary supra-theoretical presupposition, if he is really in the grip of it and can bear witness to its radical meaning which transcends all theological concepts. But when he does so, he is not in any different position than the Christian philosopher who accounts for his biblical starting-point, or the ordinary believer who testifies to the radical sense of God's Word as the central motive power of his life in Jesus Christ. In other words, the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ and true self-knowledge are neither of a dogmatic-theological, nor of a philosophical nature, but have an absolutely central religious [ultimate] significance. This knowledge is a question of spiritual life or death. Even orthodox theological dogmatics, however splendidly elaborated, cannot guarantee this central spiritual knowledge.” 

(Herman Dooyeweerd, In the Twilight of Western Thought, from pp 86,87, 100, 134-146).

jeudi, août 18, 2016

GA Ponsonby: BBC Scotland: Making up headlines

BBC Scotland: Making up headlines
by GA Ponsonby (17 Aug 2016)

So yet another example of the way BBC Scotland manipulates political news for maximum anti-independence effect has come and gone.  On Sunday the corporation told us that RBS was planning to move its Head Quarters out of Scotland if a second indyref resulted in a Yes vote.

Sometime around Monday afternoon the term ‘HQ’ was quietly dropped from an online article and replaced with the more benign word ‘office’.  The reason of course is that the pro-Union broadcaster had been called out.
(with media clips)