The Healing of the Paralytic

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“Son, be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven.” (Mat 9:2)

In the ninth chapter of his gospel, St. Matthew relates a remarkable miracle.

Some men brought to Jesus a man who was a severe paralytic. So immobile, indeed, that he needed to be carried on a mat like a patient on a stretcher. St. Matthew does not tell us precisely how the man was paralysed, but one is left with the impression that this was not a congenital paralysis. Usually the gospel writers are very careful to mention whether an illness or disease was “from birth”.

We do know that severe accidents were relatively common in the ancient world. Our Lord even references a number of people who were tragically killed in the collapse of a tower.

In the ancient world, people unfortunate enough to be badly injured usually died. Medical technology of the era simply could not cope with extreme conditions and so the injured were “left in the hands of God” – as we always are, even if modern medicine sometimes deludes us into thinking we are not.

People who survived accidents with broken and deformed bodies – especially men – lost most of their economic capacity. They essentially became beggars, reliant upon their wife, children, or friends to provide the essentials of life. It was an unenviable and pitiable condition. Particularly if they lived with chronic pain.

St. Matthew tells us that our Lord “saw their faith” – the faith of the paralytic’s friends.

This is a remarkable observation. We know that Christ could see into the hearts of men with perfect perspicuity. But St. Matthew intends us to see that the faith of these men was demonstrated in action: they invested effort to bring their friend to Jesus, and they came with expectancy. This was not a scholarly expectation. It was not theologically complicated.

Their comprehension was simple and straightforward: This is the One who can heal!

When Jesus saw the paralytic he did not immediately tell him he was going to be healed from his paralysis. Instead, the Lord tells him to “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven”. Do we get what St. Matthew is saying here? Forgiveness of sins is the first order of business. Indeed, righteousness with God was always the foremost priority in the economy of our Lord who sees and knows all things.

The forgiveness of sins! If we see things rightly, then we understand that reconciliation with God is greater than even being able to walk again. People who have found salvation come to understand that this is the foremost source of “good cheer”.

Could there be anything greater? To be a criminal engaged in a longstanding civil war against our Creator and King, only for him to set aside his royal robes; step down from his throne; and descend to our level in order to tell us that all who lay down their weapons; all who sign the Armistice; all who surrender and come into his presence – even if only with a trembling, weak, solitary sinew of faith – will be received. Will be forgiven. Will be reconciled. They will be given the right to call their former enemy, “my Father”.

It is only after addressing the paralytic’s soul that our Lord heals his broken body. Yet even this is done with purposeful deliberateness, to confirm the reality of the forgiveness he had bestowed.

No matter what the devil will try to tell us about the importance of earthly gain, or that we should look for happiness in sin and material goods, the reality is that a man can only really be at peace – to “be of good cheer” – when he has encountered Christ in faith and heard his words spoken as unto the very recesses of his soul:

“My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Do you hear that welcoming voice? Has your heart ever yearned for unconditional, compassionate and understanding love – the love of Christ, a wellspring of affection that is reserved just for you from the centre of heaven itself?

Have you grown weary of the dusty wilderness tracks through the desert of unrighteousness? Do you feel any tug on your heart at all?

You do not need it to be complicated. You do not need to have the same experience someone else had. You do not need complex doctrinal understanding. You need only to have an atom of desire toward Christ and enough faith to come – fainting, wounded, paralysed – into his presence. For all who truly come, he will never cast away.

In the words of the old revival hymn:

I hear Thy welcome voice,
That calls me, Lord, to Thee;
For cleansing in Thy precious blood,
That flow’d on Calvary.

I am coming, Lord!
Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me, in the blood
That flow’d on Calvary!

Though coming weak and vile,
Thou dost my strength assure;
Thou dost my vileness fully cleanse,
Till spotless all, and pure.

And he the witness gives
To loyal hearts and free,
That every promise is fulfilled,
If faith but brings the plea.

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Dare we Hope? Have the Green Shoots of Springtime come after such a Long Ideological Winter?

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I have recently begun teaching a unit on Marx.

Refreshing myself with the material, I was struck by how similar the internal operation of Marx’s worldview is to the worldview of modern secularism.

Marx looked at society and divided it into competing groups. For him, classes. His big idea was that each class is made up of people who think the same and work together to achieve common ends. According to Marx, each class is in conflict with the others. Under the force of history, some classes would die, and other classes would survive. Ultimately, the downtrodden workers would rise up and establish a Utopian state once they got rid of class parasites once and for all.

Marx belonged to the bourgeoisie class that oppressed the workers, but he believed he was different. He was enlightened. Being noble and beneficent, he made it his task to free the working classes. To join with them in the struggle.

If this sounds familiar, it is because it is still underlying mechanism of prevailing liberal doctrine.Under this philosophy, society is still divided into competing sectors. Today, the oppressed are so-called “minorities”. (I use quotation marks because women are included among the victim groups as if they were minorities, despite making up 50% of the population.) Minorities, as everybody knows, are oppressed by the large mass of white, prosperous, straight, conventional people – primarily men, but also conservative-leaning women – who make the lives of minorities hell.

There are enlightened one’s however. These are mostly the better educated white, straight, prosperous, conventional people, who have broken ranks. Like Marx, they are clearly more moral than anyone else because they denounce their own social segment in service to the weak and oppressed.

By this means they prove how compassionate, intelligent and sophisticated they are. Often they can signal this virtue through exaggerated reverence for various minority groups. Or they signal virtue through ferocious and morbid denunciation of anyone who is white, straight, prosperous and conventional.

Interestingly, concern for the working-class is nearly dead. Unless the poor belong to a minority group, they get very little airtime. The poor are more likely to be subject to ridicule and mockery than sympathy. People with certain accents, who can afford only to live in trailer parks, and who may work in low paying jobs have become people to laugh at.

This divisive approach to social issues always produces anti-democratic forces because it idealises and romanticises the victim groups (anyone who has met the working-class poor, much less representatives of other minority groups, knows that they are not always very nice people. They suffer all the foibles of mankind). Since this is a sociology that is, essentially, based on fantasy and not a warts-an-all approach to humanity, and since it takes the side of minorities against the majority “oppressors”, the logical and necessary outworking of this view is ultimately authoritarian and anti-democracy.

Marxism, wherever it has been applied in any form, has always resulted in the suspension of democracy. Marxism has never existed anywhere without the crushing of free speech and the right of dissent. The same is increasingly true of modern secularism. Modern secularism inches toward authoritarianism in our own time in so many ways.

This week The Spectator reported on a group that is trying to get companies to boycott certain conservative newspapers for speaking “hate”. This is code for “views different from our own”. “Hate” involves certain views on immigration, for example.

When Donald Trump was elected, students at universities went into the kind of mourning that is usually only seen in totalitarian dictatorships when the Leader dies, or in absolute monarchies, when the king or queen passes away.

In fact, some student reactions on university campuses sank even lower. Their behaviour has descended to the level of small children. See here, and here.

Now that ballot boxes around the world have stopped responding to elite pressure by giving the “correct” responses,  we have seen the most amazing outpouring of anti-democratic sentiment since the 1930’s.

This is not just the temper tantrum of an elite tangle of journalists, politicians, bankers, academics, and lobbyists. It goes much further than complaints and tears. The response is nothing less than a call for social revolution.

Some academics have called for a new “aristocracy of the wise“. Others are calling the United States’ Founding Fathers “terrorists” and have denounced their principles.

Left-wing newspapers and media organisations have bombarded their audiences with dire predictions as to what will now happen when people vote for the wrong candidate or the wrong cause.

A similar outpouring was seen after the Brexit vote.

Before the referendum, left-wing media became shrill. They printed a torrent of fear. In fact, after the vote, a columnist for The Guardian went so far as to predict Nazism would come to Britain (and worse):

The Human Rights Act is abolished and the BBC absorbed into government. National socialism will no doubt carry a new name – but it’s there in the making.

The fact that protests have erupted over the outcome of democratic votes in both the United Kingdom and the United States is bizarre. I do not think I have ever seen protests against the verdict of the ballot box on this scale.

The people marching in the streets use words like “tolerance”, “diversity”, “anti-hate”, but none of this is sincere. We know what those words mean. We know that they are really demanding the suspension of democracy because it has given a verdict they dislike.

Like Marxism, PC-Culture is fundamentally undemocratic. The new morality, new economy, new culture, new politics, and new sociology all shy away from the verdict of the people as much as possible.

A classic example has recently occurred in Australia where a coalition of left-wing parties have voted against putting a plebiscite about same-sex marriage to the people.

Get it? These left-wing parties are for same-sex marriage. And the ruling conservative government has painfully agreed to pass it into law if it gets the approval of the people. But, by voting the plebiscite down, the left-wing groups have deferred the change for years – at least until the next election in 2019.

Why? Well, they claim they are afraid of unleashing “hate”. Much better for parliament to vote on it and impose it from the top down, they say. Apparently the average Australian is so bigoted and violent, that to debate the issue outside of parliament could put people’s lives at risk! If that is true, one must ask how you could call the law “democratic” if there are so many ignorant, benighted, rednecks who are violently opposed to it.

Of course, what they mean is that they are afraid of dissent. They have contempt for the people. They are fearful of open debate. And they stamp “hate” on this process to legitimise side-stepping it completely. Anyone who opposes their policy is a “hater”.

There are many hopeful signs of a new awakening in the West.

No philosophy or ideology lasts forever – not even the liberal consensus that has held the West in a stranglehold since the 1960’s. There are signs of springtime after winter. The long ideological trauma the West has lain in since the end of the Second World War may (dare we hope!) be waning.

Green shoots are seen in many directions, not all of which an evangelical can celebrate, but all of which must be acknowledged.

The election of an outsider to the Presidency of the United States is huge. The slow internal bonfire burning up the European Union is causing nations to rethink the value of their own cultures. The rapid Christianisation of China is a cause of joy. The vote for Brexit seems to flow from a patriotic resurgence in Britain unseen since the coronation of Her Majesty in 1953.

We can certainly celebrate the financial decline of left-wing media, which is experiencing a slow – but inexorable – eclipse by the new online media. These outlets which have produced so many lies, so much pain, and so much fear are reaping the whirlwind.

The sexual revolution has borne incredibly bitter fruit. Men who avoid marriage at epidemic levels, and “male deserts” in Britain where 60% of children live in single-parent homes headed by mothers.

The torrent of “Social Justice Warriors owned” videos that now appear on Youtube (Warning: video may contain profanity, intemperate opinions, and commentary, none of which is endorsed) which clock up hundreds of thousands of views – some millions.

There is an increasingly bold backlash against third-wave feminism, an ideology which has done so much damage to male education, to the family, to self-esteem of both men and women, and inserted its destructive influence in the very possibility for healthy relationships to exist between both men and women.

(Warning, the following links are to example videos which contain presentations that may contain crudities. My linking to them is not an endorsement of their content: Stephen Crowder on “fat feminism”, and commenting on Emma Watson’s speech to the U.N. on feminism, and female Senators getting reprimanded for using anti-male terminology).

A new model of society seems to be gaining currency in some places. Russia is a prime example of a nation where Church and State are closely allied, yet work together in a democracy that wants to save Russian culture.

We can also see something significant in the explosion of traditional Roman Catholicism that marks a growing undercurrent of people turning away from modernism. This is happening despite – even in spite – of a pontiff like Francis. These Traditional Latin Masses are typically very well attended, and often incongruously celebrated in awkward, garish 1970’s-vintage churches that must have looked “relevant” once.

As Christians we must never put our confidence in chariots or horses, but only in the Lord our God. Joy should never be linked to politics.

But let us keep praying – always praying! – that our good God, having given us a glimpse of the terror of a godless world, will cause the moral decay to reverse.

Let us pray that Christ will empower his Church again to sally forth and tear down the strongholds and fortresses in people’s minds.

For too long the Church has been in retreat. Our forward trenches overrun. The sound of gunfire over the hills getting closer each year. The artillery shells of the Enemy shaking our bunkers. Beloved comrades wounded. Traitors and turncoats slipping out at night.

Let us hope reprieve will come for a season. That once more God’s name would be hallowed and the sound of his praises echo across the world.

Let us hope springtime has come.