Bomb Attack in Philippines after Week of Fighting

News is trickling through of a bomb attack on a night market in Davao, Philippines. This is the home town of the current President, Rodrigo Duterte.

14 people have been killed and at least 60 injured.

The President has declared a “state of lawlessness” to exist in the region, and both police and armed soldiers are being deployed.

There is some confusion as to who might be responsible for the attack. The President has suggested drug syndicates might be responsible, and that may not be an unreasonable assumption given the President’s extraordinarily tough measures on drug users and sellers that have seen thousands shot (CAUTION: link contains very graphic images).

Nonetheless, a militant group that the Philippine government has been battling has publicly claimed responsibility for the murders. The group is called Abu Sayyaf.

Last Monday, in intensive fighting, 12 Philippine soldiers were  killed in an offensive against the militants.

Note that, consistent with the rest of the world, much of the conflict is located within an urban environment, the battlefield of the 21st century.

Here is fresh evidence – as if we needed any more – that the everlasting gospel is always relevant, and always necessary. Human conflict, itself the product of human sin, has never departed out of the world. Peace remains as elusive today as it was when Cain first smashed his brother to death at the beginning of the world.

May Christ’s true people discover, as the expansion of evil continues commensurate with the expansion of the human population and its ever-greater concentration in urban centres, that there is a divine peace that He alone can give.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

 

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Feminism Comes to the Western Wall

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A few days ago, an organisation of Jewish women called the “Women of the Wall”, which is made up of women from various streams of Judaism, sent a letter to the United Nations detailing an event that occurred during August.

Early in August, the Women of the Wall organised a prayer service at the Western Wall. This service was publicly announced.

While they attempted to pray, however, they were assaulted and harassed. This disruption was perpetrated by haredi women, who belong to the Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox streams of Judaism.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the haredi women harangued the Women of the Wall group, threw bottles of water over them, and incessantly blew whistles while they attempted to pray. One of the Women of the Wall board members was even punched.

On two occasions, the haredi women were asked to cease their disruptive conduct. First, the police asked them to stop, and when they refused to do so, suggested to the Women of the Wall that they should forward their complaints to the attendants of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. When the Women of the Wall did so, the attendants also asked the haredi women to stop. When they again refused, the attendants did not attempt to interfere again.

So who are the Women of the Wall?

They are a feminist group who are attempting to puncture the historic traditional regulations within Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. These regulations restrict women from wearing certain religious garments, and reading aloud from the Torah, and taking other leadership roles. The Women of the Wall do observe Orthodox gender segregation, but only out of courtesy for their own Orthodox members.

And they have attracted high level attention. The Israeli government has considered creating a “space” for non-sectarian prayer, a move welcomed by Women of the Wall. Nonetheless, this has sparked opposition from within Judaism. There are many who aghast that there should be any part of the Western Wall that is divorced from religious Judaism or placed beyond the orbit of the control of the Rabbinate.

Although they claim their actions are not a stunt, and that they are genuinely motivated by sincere religious feeling, this seems a remarkable way of going about it. One really must question the motives behind the Women of the Wall’s campaign and what they hope to achieve. Do the Orthodox women involved with the group really believe they can still be Orthodox while pushing for these changes? It seems they do, which is astonishing on the face of it. It would be like a female Roman Catholic believing they could still be Roman Catholic if they sought to remove the Vatican from the control of the Pope.

In fact, their conduct seems more reminiscent of a century of cultural revolution where the expansion of one’s personal liberty has become the only unfettered good. Their actions from all the photographic evidence certainly looks less like an act of worship and more like a public act of rebellion and subversion, done in such a way as to attract maximum attention through maximum drama.

As usual, those who engage in such action are astonished and outraged that it results in hostility from the larger cultural group who do not wish their identity, their practices, and their beliefs to be overturned by a small non-democratic group from within their ranks. A small group that wish to create a dramatic rupture in the continuity of belief and arrogantly claim for their innovations an equal validity to what proceeded them.

In one sense, this is just the beginning. Feminism has come to not only to the Western Wall but also to Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. It will be interesting to see how they respond; with a perspective informed by the past, or with the myopia that sees nothing in history worth considering and is concerned only with the immediate present.

Two-thousand years of Christian history, (and longer for Jews), have seen precious little female leadership within either Church or Synagogue. It is assumed by moderns that this is ipso facto an evil thing and is primarily due to the bigotry and narrow-mindedness of those who went before, who just never gave women a chance. If given the opportunity, the ceiling smashers have argued, then women will be able to take their (rightful) place alongside of the divines, theologians, clerics, and ecclesiastics of male extraction. They will prove to be just as able, if not more so, since women have a nurturing instinct that is perfect for helping wounded souls in times of need.

Indeed, to even disagree with such an idea is now nearly dangerous. It marks one out as a misogynist, or a fossil, or, worse, as a Roman Catholic or a fundamentalist. You cannot possibly be educated and sophisticated and question the cultural assumption of the total equality of ability between the sexes. They are interchangeable, after all! The differences are purely cosmetic. Yet such convictions are diametrically opposed from what the scriptures teach us (and, since the Jews share so much of our scriptures, teach them also).

We have come to the age where it is simply not permitted to articulate the limitations of the feminine, although it is always permitted to articulate the limitations of the masculine. Yet, history would teach us that where women have acquired religious leadership, it almost always results in decline, in liberalism or theological heterodoxy.

This is because for a women to desire a leadership position within a religious group that historically has reserved those positions to men, she almost always must be, by definition, a feminist. And feminism is built atop assumptions and concepts that are fundamentally and necessarily anti-Christian. No consistent feminist could accept St. Paul’s delineation of the sexes within marriage. No consistent feminist could accept St. Paul’s instructions regarding women during worship. The entrance of women into religious leadership positions generally marks the tombstone for that denomination, its final gasps. The decline of the Anglican communion, for instance, is so catastrophic that its eventual demise is now guaranteed.

Why is it so wrong to point out that God’s word establishes different roles for men and women? How have we arrived at a place where the obvious is glossed over? It is near-impossible to miss the fact that men and women are by temperament and physiology suited for different purposes, and that even our fundamental biology teaches us that this is so. Men were created to have the strength suitable for leadership and survival; women were created to have the capacity to produce and nourish children.

So engrained is this fundamental distinction, that were a group of men and women drawn randomly from the street to crash land on a desert island, no matter their ideological convictions, the assumption of these roles would be very nearly automatic and instantaneous.

Time will tell whether Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism will survive the feminist challenge. However, the longevity of these streams of Judaism has not resulted from trendy, “inclusivist” revolutions.

Why Church Discipline Matters

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While vices are always destructive, few people seem to realise that a virtue taken to extremes is equally destructive.

Take, for instance, the man who practices the virtue of charitable giving by handing his entire wage to the homeless while his own children are left to starve. To do such a thing is to twist the intended virtue into something dark and ungodly.

Or, to use another example, the woman who practices the virtue of cleanliness in her home by using such dangerous chemicals and cleansers that her family grows ill. By going to the extreme, she completely defeats the value and goodness of the virtue.

Unfortunately we live in times when virtues are practised in this fashion. The great Christian virtues have become detached from the Faith and the Person of Jesus Christ, and have instead gone wandering through the world on their own, being taken to extremes, and wreaking havoc everywhere. Like black holes, these virtues have acquired their own cloud of satellite ideas that swirl around them. These prove to be ultimately destructive and are never conducive to human flourishing, despite so promising.

Communism, for instance, was predicated on the noble virtues of helping the poor and relieving the oppressed. It morphed into a dreadful and murderous justification for corruption and power. Feminism was built on the virtues of treating women fairly and giving them dignity. It has transformed into the mutant creature of third wave feminism which seems intent on unloosing the anchors of civilisation itself.

Virtues on their own, are not good. Virtues must always live in balance with other virtues. They must be disciplined and guided. There must be careful thought invested into how best to practice them. Virtues must always be lived out in such a way that they hold the integrity of their form, and achieve God’s purposes rather than ours.

In church history, the question of how to balance the virtues of doctrinal purity with mercy has occasionally arisen. It is not an insubstantial issue. If one goes too far in either direction, the virtue collapses into error and irreparable damage, most especially to people’s immortal souls and eternal future.

For instance, the virtue of sound doctrine – taken to extremes – becomes an excuse for inquisitions, interdicts, and mass excommunications. It results in suffocating, merciless dogmas. Nearly every denomination that once took doctrinal purity to an extreme has receded into a cold, empty formalism.

On the other hand, the virtue of mercy and love – taken to extremes – results in the jettisoning of God’s word and a toleration for every aberration and error within the culture around us. For instances of this, one need look no further than various Anglican communions around the world where, under the umbrella of “love” and “mercy”, there is now such a broad latitude in these churches, that they show indifference to the doctrine of their communicants and clergy.

You hardly even need to believe in God to be part of the Anglican communion nowadays, much less be a Christian. There are atheist clergy walking the ecclesiastical ranks. There is toleration and celebration of nearly every trendy left-wing cause, no matter how unbiblical. Practically the only thing that can get you tossed out of an Anglican communion these days is to espouse something politically to the far-right, like fascism. On the other hand, you can be an atheist, a neo-pagan, embrace historic heresies, and deviations and still find comfort, embrace, and inclusion. Because that is “loving”.

On page 10 of the recent edition of the Diocese of Toronto’s Anglican Newspaper, there was a recent article in which an Anglican church there is devising ceremonies and rituals to bless people who undergo gender changes. It is a testament to the speed at which the transgender movement has gained credibility and acceptance within the Diocese of Toronto that their Anglican newspaper does not once question any of the assumptions surrounding the rite and the individual involved. It is taken for granted that the whole matter is entirely consonant with the Holy Scriptures, because it is about “love” and “celebration”, ergo virtuous.

The photograph features two female clerics performing the rite. The church building is adorned with a rainbow flag. The only visible remnants of any link with our ancient Faith are the vestments worn by the two women which constitute merely the sad vestiges of a past era. The fact all of this is contained in a “Christian” church is illustrative of the compounding nature of error. It grows, steadily but surely, until it reaches a point where it chokes everything else and renders its host a corpse.

(As an aside, the presence of traditional vestments always interests me. This is one the most remarkable things about the culture warriors in these churches: though they are willing to jettison nearly every biblical doctrine, create novel new rituals, embrace fashionable causes, and design hideous new churches with “hip” architecture, the one thing they cling to with tenacity are the robes and collars, the titles and insignia of the clergy.

It is an irony, really, that among orthodox clergy, those external trappings of office are often put aside. Former Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney (Australia) preferred casual clothes or a tidy suit. Most Reformed local churches have done away with vestments entirely. Even Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who wore the traditional preaching gown in church, had no interest in collars and robes. Leonard Ravenhill gave those things up and even came to repudiate them as unnecessary innovations. Yet, among liberal, heterodox clergy, those things are always last to die. They seem to exalt in their purples and silk.)

How does a church so spectacularly collapse as these Anglican denominations have done? Precisely because they made a choice in generations past not to try to walk that narrow road in which one rightly balances the affirmation of doctrinal truth with mercy and love.

Neither of these virtue can (or should) undo the other. Both must be present in harmony, the one feeding the other. Pure, sound, biblical doctrine gives rise to a ceaseless flow of love and mercy. And love and mercy to the sinful, broken and the lost reinforces the beauty of orthodoxy; the loveliness of biblical truth; the necessity of God’s holy precepts. Both virtues, properly attached to the True Vine – the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ – are filled, animated, actualised, motivated and energised by Himself. For love is only true love when it is His love. And doctrine is only any good when it is His doctrine.

How does one walk this fine line? By having an apostolic fidelity and allegiance to the Holy Scriptures as the first and final authoritative centre of Christianity.

And the only way to maintain this in any church is with loving, but firm church discipline. Toleration of heresy; the embrace of false creeds and doctrines; the widening of boundaries to the point where there is no longer an identifiable marker between non-believers and believers is a certain recipe for a church’s death. The Anglican communion has now reached a point where its evangelicals and orthodox are evacuating it. This process is very nearly complete. And once finished, there will be nothing left to sustain and maintain these denominations who are already consolidating an ever-shrinking catalogue of churches.

How sad it is and yet how eminently predictable. Church discipline matters because it keeps a church alive for the following generations.

Neglect it, and there is nothing more certain than that the next generation will go into captivity.