Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Trinity: order, persons, nature and will

*
The incarnate Christ has two wills. Each proper to his divine and human natures. If will were a property of persons, he would only have one will, for Christ is not two persons, but one person with two natures. 

Since will is a property of nature, the three persons of the Trinity share one will, as they share one nature. It is therefore inappropriate to speak of the Son eternally submitting to the Father's will.

The Son together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the electing God. The Son is also the Elect One, appointed by the Trinity as Mediator between God and humanity. Plus the Son is the One in whom God's people were elected for salvation before the foundation of the world.

As God is one and each person indwells the other, the external actions of the Trinity are undivided. All three persons were fully involved in the work of redemption, while only the Son became incarnate, suffered, died for our sins, rose again and ascended into heaven.

It was singularly appropriate that the Son rather than the Father, or the Spirit became man. The Son is the image of the invisible God, while human beings are made in the image of God. The Word is the eternal Son of God, while Adam is the created son of God.

There is, however, no order of being, or division of will in the one God. Concerning his deity the Son is of the same essence as the Father. Concerning his person he is of the Father. The persons are not interchangeable. Each possesses unique characteristics. The Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. 

The economic Trinity does not exhaust the ontological Trinity, but 'God for us' truly communicates 'God in himself'. Otherwise we are left with a hidden and unknowable deity. It was reflective of the order of persons in the Trinity that the Father sent the Son into the world and that the Spirit proceeds to us from the Father through the Son. 

Herman Bavink says as much, having made the point that in the economy of redemption,  'The Father came without being sent, the Son came having been sent by the Father, and the Holy Spirit came because he was sent by both the Father and the Son.' The theologian then posits,
But this "being sent" in time is a reflection of the imminent relations of the three persons in the divine being and is grounded in generation and spiration. The incarnation of the Word has its archetype in the generation of the Son, and the outpouring of the Spirit is a weak analogy of the procession from the Father and the Son. The church fathers, accordingly, derived the eternal and imminent relations existing between the persons from the relations that were manifest before the human eye in time. (Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation Volume 2, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 320-321). 
What got me thinking on this was dipping into 'The Son Who Learned Obedience' by Glenn Butner. Only £7.59 on Kindle. The generous sample includes the intro and a good chunk of Chaper 1.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray, Review Part 2

Audible edition 

In Part 1 we looked at what Murray has to say on 'Gay' and 'Women'. Now we come to Race, Trans and some concluding thoughts.

Race 

Martin Luther King looked forward to the time when people would be judged on the content of their character, rather than the colour of their skin. In many ways the preacher's vision has been realised. The civil rights for which King agitated have been granted. Racial discrimination is outlawed. Racism is despised by most people in society. A person's moral charterer is the thing, not their skin colour. Perversely, woke identity politics is in danger of turning King's dictum on its head. Kayne West was denounced as 'not black' when he came out in support of Donald Trump. You see, black isn't just pigment, it's politics. Left wing politics, that is. 

Anti-racist campaigners tweet about how they hate white people and call for an end of 'white privilege'. Derogatory epithets such as 'Gammon' can be thrown at whites and they just have to suck it up. Meanwhile, should a white person inadvertently use the wrong ethnic minority label, they immediately find themselves accused of racism. In a radio interview the actor Bennedict Cumberbatch said it was a pity that 'coloured people' from Britian had to head to the States to find suitable acting roles. Cue massive outrage from the Twitter mob and a grovelling apology from Cumberbatch. 'People of colour', OK. 'Coloured people', not OK. And he was speaking in support of black and Asian actors.

Woke anti-racism has become toxic on American University campuses. Evergreen State University used to have a day when students of colour could absent themselves so their presence would be missed and valued contribution to the learning community underlined. Then the rule changed to say that white people were not welcome to attend their studies for a day. Professor of Evolutionary Biology Bret Weinstein objected to this. Students went on the rampage, outraged at the academic's 'racism'. When the President of the University tried to reason with students, they insisted that he did not raise his hands when speaking, which they took to be a 'mirco-agression', even as they mobbed him and swore at him. In the aftermath Weinstein and his wife were forced out of their jobs. 

The trouble is, as Murray points out, 'We all live on campus now'. Some insist that objectivity is a product of the white man's Enlightenment. 'We Don't need no facts', they say, 'truth is racist.' After all, identity politics lets people choose to be whatever they want, irrespective of the facts. If a person can choose to be of a different gender to their birth sex, why can't someone opt to be of a different race? Anti-racism campaigner Rachel Dolzeal identified as a black woman, despite having white parents and no African heritage. Who are we to disagree? Rapper Kayne West isn't black, but right-on Rachel is. Even race is now a matter of 'software' rather than 'hardware'. 

Black actors can play Henry V to great acclaim. Fair enough. But when a non-Latina actress was cast to play Maria in a production of West Side Story, such was the outrage she had to withdraw from the role. It seems our culture wants to be both colour blind and colour obsessed. How's that supposed to work? Wearing fancy dress can lead to death threats for the 'crime' of cultural appropriation. Jamie Oliver fell foul of the woke brigade with his Jamacan jerk rice recipe. 'Not OK.' But men 'appropriating' womanhood and insisting on using female-only spaces is perfectly fine and good. 

The great irony is that anti-racism has itself become racist. People are no longer judged on the basis of their character as in the sight of God, but on the grounds of their outward appearance in the eyes of men. White is bad, black is good. The Christian faith provides a welcome antidote to racism by insisting that all people are made in the image of God, all people are morally broken sinners, and that Christ came to redeem all peoples, Colossians 3:11, Revelation 7:9-10. 

Trans 

Finally Douglas Murray turns his attention to the most touchy and controversial subject of all, trans. The issue here does not concern people who were born 'intersex', with both male and female genitalia. Trans advocates have little time for that. They expend their energy insisting that people may be born in the wrong body and that it is possible to put that right with hormone treatment and surgery. Anyone, even a child, who thinks that they may have been born in the wrong body must be affirmed as such and set on a pathway that will ultimately lead to lifelong dependence on medication and painful surgery. It is said that to question this assumption is to run the risk that a person suffering from gender dysphoria will take their own lives. Attempts at discovering the underlying cause of a person's gender dysphoria are discouraged, as akin to gay conversion therapy.

Referrals to the UK's only Gender Identity Development Service have skyrocketed in the last decade. Trans advocates argue that children with gender dysphoria should be placed on puberty blockers as a matter of course in preparation for hormone treatment and surgery. Although it is the case that 90% of children with gender dysphoria reconcile themselves to their birth sex if they are allowed to progress through puberty. Adults with gender identity issues are only pointed in one direction, towards changing sex.

Murray thinks this may be appropriate in some cases as with the writer James Morris who, following sex change surgery become Jan Morris. But in other cases, people who have 'changed sex' go on to regret their decision and attempt to revert to their birth sex. As the writer reflects, human beings are not made of Lego and the effects of hormone treatment and radical surgery cannot easily be undone. Undone at all if a woman has had her breasts removed, or a man his penis. Murray mentions the case of a man who was given female hormone treatment and then had second thoughts. After two years the treatment could have left him infertile. He stopped before the deadline only after researching his condition online. The hormones affected the man's emotional state and even after ceasing treatment he was left with breast tissue that may require surgery to remove.

People with gender dysphoria may have deep seated psychological problems that changing sex does little to address. Suicide rates among trans people do not necessarily decrease once they have transitioned. In 2013 Nathan Verhelst was voluntarily euthanised in Belgium. She was born a girl with the name Nancy. As an adult Verhelst submitted to three operations in an attempt to change sex. Belonging to a family with three older brothers, Nancy felt rejected by her parents, who, it seems, wanted yet another son. After looking at herself in the mirror post-surgery, Verhelst felt aversion for her new body. Changing sex only worsened Verhelst's physiological state and so she applied to be put to death in a Brussels hospital. Chilling.

Yet this kind of tragic event has not given advocates of trans ideology pause for thought. School children are being taught that it is possible for girls to become boys and visa versaBoys are informed that they can have periods too, not just girls. Bewildered children are told they can choose from up to 100 gender identity options. Tomboyish girls question whether they are 'really' boys. Boys who do not conform to boyish stereotypes ask whether they are 'really' girls.  Trans groups like Mermaids actively encourage the worst kind of gender stereotyping. Meanwhile parents stage protests at school gates over LGBT education. 

Here we encounter intersectional thinking at its most extreme. It seems that trans trumps both gay and women on the scale of oppressed victimhood. Some people with gender dysphoria issues are same sex attracted. In their case being encouraged to change sex could be seen as form of conversion therapy which aims at altering their bodies, rather than their minds. Feminists are outraged that men who identify as women are given access to female only spaces such as toilets and changing rooms. 'Trans women' have begun to dominate some female sports. The gay rights group, Stonewall has split over the tans issue. Some ex-members have set up the LGB Alliance which disagrees with Stonewall's uncritical championing of trans ideology. 

As Suzanne Moore, Julie Bindell and even Germane Greer have found, suggesting men can't become women simply on their say so is to attract accusations of 'transphobia'. TERFs 'Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists' the lot of them. Even insisting on the dictionary definition of woman is to court controversy. Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull paid for an advertising billboard to be erected carrying the words, "woman, wʊmən, noun, adult human female". The message was denounced as 'dangerous' and, inevitably, 'transphobic'. After all, 'transwomen are women' too. It seems that George Orwell was right when he said, 'In an age of universal deceit to tell the truth is a revolutionary act.' 

Being either a man or a woman is a matter of unalterable biological hardware. God made his human image-bearers male and female and blessed their union with reproductive ability (Genesis 1:27). Denial of the reality of biological sex is unscientific and intellectually dishonest. Our sex is written into every cell in the body. Altering someone's outward bodily appearance so that they resemble the opposite sex does not turn them into the opposite sex. Some want to have it both ways. In a recent case a 'transman' who gave birth took legal action to be identified as the child's father on their birth certificate. Thankfully, the courts insisted that giving birth is for mothers. 

It would be far better if poor souls suffering from gender dysphoria were helped to reconcile their minds with their bodies, rather than the other way around. At the very least this issue calls for careful thought and a cautious approach, rather than rushing people in the direction of irreversible medical intervention. A growing number of distraught 'detransitioners' would agree. 

Interludes 

Murray slots three interludes between the main chapters of the book. In The Marxist Foundations he highlights the link between Marxism and identity politics. Marxists used to rate victimhood on the basis of class, the rich oppressing the poor. Marx-inspired identity politics adds sexuality, sex, race and trans to the mix. Intersectionality establishes a hierarchy of victimhood with the aim of overthrowing oppressive structures. Down with heteronormativity/the patriarchy/white privilege, etc. Once oppressive structures have been torn down, a more equal and harmonious society will follow. That's the theory anyway. In practice identity politics thrives on division and fostering grievances. Witness the white hating racism of anti-racist campaigners and gender ideologues tearing into feminists (sometimes all too literally). 

Social media doesn't help matters. In The Impact of Tech the author reflects on the ways in which social media is changing society. The space between private conversation between trusted friends and public discourse is being eroded. Our thoughts are shared directly with the world via Facebook and Twitter. Should society's rapidly changing mores shift, a person may find themselves on 'wrong side of history'. Social media has spawned 'offence archaeology'. Words hastily posted years ago can, once discovered, be used to  condemn someone without mercy. In the resulting Twitter pile on, insistent calls are made that the poster be sacked from their job, or hounded out of public life. Especially if the offending person is known to have conservative views. What happened to Toby Young is a case in point. No allowance is made for the fact that the person in question's objectionable views may have changed over time, or that they might be entitled to their opinion. The woke accuse, but never acquit. Former US President Barack Obama recently warned young people against, 'call out culture'. No one is pure, he cautioned. Virtue signalling on social media is no substitute for doing good in the world.  

The final interlude On Forgiveness points to a better way of handling the fact that we live in a fallen world in which people often get things wrong. The self-righteous victim mentality of identity politics allows for no offence to be forgiven, or forgotten. As Murray points out, with the demise of the Christian faith, 'we have created a world in which forgiveness has become almost impossible'. He continues,
The consensus for centuries was that only God could forgive the ultimate sins.  But on a day-to-day level the Christian tradition, among others, also stressed the desirability – if not the necessity – of forgiveness. Even to the point of infinite forgiveness. As one of the consequences of the death of God, Fredrich Nietzche foresaw that people could find themselves stuck in cycles of Christian theology with no way out, Specifically that people would inherit the concepts of guilt, sin and shame but would be without the means of redemption which the Christian religion offered. 
The vengeful god of woke religion shows no grace and offers no pardon. But there is a way out. The Christian faith offers a vision of humanity in which all people are created equal in the image of God. All should therefore be treated with dignity and respect. But we are broken creatures. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Each of us needs forgiveness from God and others. Infinite forgiveness is available because Jesus died for our sins. The Apostle Paul could write, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). The forgiven must forgive, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32). 

Douglas Murray has expertly exposed the madness of identity politics. His account is well-researched and brilliantly written. The author's approach in taking on the 'hot button ' issues of Gay, Women, Race and Trans is refreshingly courageous and compassionate. The Madness of Crowds is a timely warning to a society that is breaking loose from its Christian moorings and hurtling towards a post-truth world of competing victimhood. A world in which God is dead and forgiveness impossible. There is an alternative:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
   call upon him while he is near;
 let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7)

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray, Review Part 1

Audible edition

In his previous title, The StrangeDeath of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, the author linked the immigration crisis with the decline of Christianity in Western Europe. The continent was Christian enough to be fueled by a guilt-driven sense of responsibility towards the afflicted, yet not quite Christian enough to believe in the possibility of forgiveness for past wrongs. The large scale rejection of Christianity in Western Europe led to a loss of cultural identity, which made it difficult to integrate the mass of people who flooded into the continent in the first two decades of the new millennium. In his latest work, Murray returns to the theme of the loss of faith in the West. 
...we have been living through a period of more than a quarter of a century in which all our grand narratives have collapsed. One by one the narratives we had were refuted, became unpopular to defend or impossible to sustain. The explanations for our existence that used to be provided by religion went first, falling away from the nineteenth century onwards. Then over the last century the secular hopes held out by all political ideologies began to follow in religion’s wake.
The resulting vacuum is being filled by the new religion of identity politics. If faith-based narratives aimed at unifying humanity as 'one people under God', identity politics works by entrenching fragmentation by creating hierarchies of oppressed victims. Social justice will only be achieved when the privileged majority owns up to its undeserved perks and stops kicking the downtrodden. 'Intersectionality' provides the heuristics for victim ranking. If you're a gay black woman with genderfluid tendencies, you've more or less come up trumps. If your're a straight white bloke with no intention of ever becoming a woman, forget it. 

Not one to shy away from controversy Murray bravely takes on the four most sensitive hot button issues as far as woke social justice campaigners are concerned: Gay, Women, Race, and Trans. The four main chapters are interspersed with interludes on The Marxist Foundations, The Impact of Tech, and On Forgiveness. Murray's approach is fair minded, well informed and questioning of received orthodoxies. Received all of 5 minutes ago that is, but to reject the new bien pensant creed is to find oneself on the 'wrong side of history'. And who wants to be consigned forever to the 1980s? 

I downloaded the audiobook edition as an Audibe introductory free offer. Accessing the book in that format has the advantage of listening to Douglas Murray read it to you, which he does very well. Hearing Jordan Peterson read his 12 Rules for Life in his slightly whiny American drawl wasn't anywhere near as engaging. Murray's tones are more varied, with shades of gentle irony, knowing mockery and on occasion poignant sadness. The writer doesn't use bad language himself, but cites examples people using swear words in anger, so be warned. The downside for writing up a review of an audiobook is that you can't go back to the text to check things. Plus, the notes I made while listening were a bit patchy. We (me and the Mrs) listened to the second half of the Trans chapter and the Conclusion on Saturday. At the time I was driving back from Devon trough heavy rain, which didn't exactly lend itself to note taking. Anyway, with the aid of a Kindle sample and a bit of Googling, here are some thoughts on The Madness of Crowds

Gay

In 2013 David Cameron's Conservative-led Government passed the Same Sex Marriage Act, enabling gay couples to get married just like their heterosexual peers. As a backbench Conservative MP Nicky Morgan voted against the legislation. A couple of years later as Education Secretary she issued a warning that opposition to 'gay marriage' could denote extremist tendencies. The quest for the respectability of marriage for same sex couples was a triumph of 'gay' over 'queer'. Gays craved acceptance, while queers wanted to subvert society with the aim of smashing heteronormativity. 

Gay adoption of heterosexual institutions was subversive enough. Marriage was traditionally defined as a lifelong, exclusive relationship between a man and a woman. A non-consummated heterosexual marriage is null and void, adultery is grounds for divorce. These strictures do not apply in the case of same sex marriage. Murray mentions without naming a well known gay couple whose marriage is of the decidedly open sort. Apparently, such an arrangement is not altogether exceptional. Criticism of same sex marriage, however, or even of gay couples having children is pretty much beyond the pale nowadays. When Tom Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black announced they were having a baby, someone dared to ask how that was possible, given the stubborn necessities of reproduction. Was it right that the mother of their child was being written out of the story? Cue outrage and allegations of 'homophobia'. For saying it takes a man and a woman to make a baby. 

A big question when it comes to 'gay' is whether same sex attraction is a biologically-based hardware issue, or a matter of software, rooted in background factors. Possibly even a choice. If hardware, people can't help it, if software, maybe they can. Agitation for gay rights was very much based on the hardware model, although there is little evidence for a biological 'cause' of homosexuality. Indeed, as Murray points out, sexual desire is not always stable and unchanging. There are cases of happily married heterosexuals falling for someone of the same sex. That is often taken as someone discovering their previously suppressed 'true gay self'. The same does not necessarily apply when a gay person suddenly finds themselves attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Douglas Murray is a gay man. He can hardly be charged with 'homophobia' in raising such questions. 

The writer gives attention to the difference between heterosexual and homosexual approaches to sex. Murray draws on a spat over sex between the Greek gods Zeus and his wife, Hera. Zeus alleged that women enjoy sex more than men. Hera was having none of it. The argument was settled by Teiresias, who had lived both as a man and a woman. Something to do with interrupting snakes in the act of mating, apparently. Teiresias confirmed that sex was more pleasurable for women. 

Yet as men and women are sexually differentiated, but uniquely compatible, men cannot know what sex is like for women or visa versa. The same is not true when it comes to homosexual sex. Murray cites the work of Daniel Mendelsohn, The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity. According to Mendelsohn in straight sex the woman is the man's destination, while in gay encounters, the man "falls through their partner back into themselves again and again". The one flesh union of man and woman in marriage is an expression of self-giving love, rather than a means of self-gratification. Which is why heterosexual marriage is a picture of the union between Christ and his bride, the church, Ephesians 5:22-33. 

The Gay Rights movement has largely achieved its aims. Murray welcomes the fact that society is now much more tolerant of gays and lesbians. But tolerance is a two way street. Advocates for what used to be an oppressed minority have now become a force that demands unquestioning submission. Parents must accept the exposure of their children to LGBT relationships education without demur. Woe betide a business that fails to hoist the rainbow flag during Pride Week. The newly opened branch of American fast food chain Chick-Fil-A was told that its lease would not be renewed in a Reading shopping centre. Why? Because Chick-Fil-A had donated money in the US to Christian organisations opposed to gay marriage. Protesters demanded that the popular restaurant be closed and the owners of the Oracle Shopping Centre caved. (See Murray on this in The Spectator). The once persecuted have now become persecuting 'social justice warriors'. As Murray points out, however, homosexuality "is an unstable component on which to base an individual identity and a hideously unstable way to try and base any form of group identity." The splintering of Stonewall over the the trans issue, leading to the emergence of the rival LBG Alliance is testimony enough to that. More on trans later. 

Women

The whole battle of the sexes thing was given fresh impetus by the #MeToo campaign. It started with female actors alleging powerful male film directors had made unwanted sexual advances towards them. It spread from there to the whole of the Western world, affecting all areas of life, especially the workplace. It seems a bit rich that such a campaign originated in Hollywood. The film world has long made its bucks by objectifying women and female actors have often become stars by being so objectified. 

Murray exposes the contradictions inherent in the #MeToo reconfiguration of male/female relationships. It seems that women can be as sexually provocative as they like, shaking their booty and exhorting men to, 'Look at her butt' (N. Minaj). But if men respond to the come on, they are in danger of being exposed as pervy sexual predators. Women have become highly sexualised, yet untouchable. No wonder men are confused as to what the opposite sex wants. Just recently in the UK a rather gauche young man was convicted of sexual assault for touching a woman's arm (here). 

In the early 20th century first wave feminists demanded votes for women. In the 1960s second wavers agitated for equal pay and an end to discrimination against women. Both 'waves' achieved their ends. A third wave crashed against the shore in 1990s in which feminists embraced intersectionality. 'Smash the women oppressing Partiarchy' was the cry. Women were located higher up on the scale of righteous victimhood, depending on whether they also belonged to an ethnic minority, or were gay. The fourth wave is described by Murray is 'feminism with apps'. The slightest and most inadvertent semblance of sexism is guaranteed to provoke an enraged social media 'pile on'. Witness what happened to the Nobel prize winning scientist Tim Hunt when he made a lame joke about women getting all weepy in the labs. 

Just at the moment when women in the West have more or less achieved their equality goals, the rhetoric of male oppression and female victimhood is being ramped up beyond reason. Some feminists seem to think its OK to express their hatred of the male of the species, denouncing 'toxic masculinity'. 'Kill all men' and 'Men are trash', they cry. Meanwhile if the Patriarchy is conspiring to skew society in favour of men, its not doing a very good job of it. Men are more likely than women to commit suicide. They do most of the dirty and dangerous jobs in society. Homelessness among men is a far bigger problem than it is with women.

Murray highlights some of the contradictions in feminist ideology. When women in the workplace are asked to name what they find most objectionable about men they list things like confidence and the willingness to make their voices be heard in high powered meetings. When women are asked which qualities they aspire to embrace for themselves, they list the very same things. Bad in men, good in women, obviously. Feminism is driven by the idea that men and women are equal and alike, yet women are somehow better. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas recently suggested that as men were making such a hash of Brexit, that an all women cabinet should be set up to sort things out. Only to come a cropper when all the women she suggested were discovered to be white. 

Sex is the ultimate hardware issue, as men and women have obvious biological differences. Indeed first and second wave feminism was about ensuring that women weren't discriminated against on grounds of their biology.  Indeed it is not right that women should be refused jobs just because they might become pregnant and then want to devote time to caring for their children. In trans ideology, however, sex is not fixed. People can be 'genderfluid', or even identify with a gender that differs from their sex at birth. Biological hardware can be altered to enable men to become women, or the other way around. Men who identify as women 'are women' and are therefore entitled to access women only spaces such as toilets and changing rooms. 'Trans women' with all the advantages of male strength can play women's sports, even contact sports like rugby. To object when biological males begin to dominate female sports is 'transphobic'. A triumph of subjective 'software' over objective 'hardware'. And so intersectionality is in danger of undoing the achievements of earlier feminist movements. Draft guidance from the EHRC on the Equality Act and Schools advised that trans girls (i.e. boys who identify as girls) should be allowed to use girls' changing rooms. Girls who object will have to be found somewhere else to get changed. 

The Christian faith offers a different account of the relationship between men and women. The Bible teaches that God created human beings in his image as male and female, Genesis 1:27. Men and women are different by design, and yet are equal in status. The differences between men and women are rooted in biology, not culturally conditioned 'gender roles'. One of the things that made Christianity attractive to women in the ancient world was that the church held marriage in honour and denounced the sexual exploitation of women. Single women were also accorded a valued role in the life of the church. The biblical emphasis is on male/female compatibility, rather than competition. The shrill self-righteousness that insists women are better than men is chastened by the understanding that 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'. (Romans 3:23). The male tendency to dominate and control women is counteracted by the model of Christ who loved his bride, the church  and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). In Christ men and women, different as they are, can become one, 'there is neither... male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus'. (Galatians 3:28). 

Anyway, that's enough for now. We'll take a look at what Murray has to say on Race & Trans, and reflect on the message of the book as a whole in Part 2

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

A Bridge Too Far?


I vividly remember being taken to see A Bridge Too Far. We saw it in the old Royal Playhouse cinema in Tenby when on holiday back in 1977. The film boasted a stellar cast including Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Lawrence Olivier among the Brits and Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal and Robert Redford among the Yanks. The action was grippingly realistic, showing the heroism and tragedy of war. The plot told the story of Operation Market Garden, which took place 75 years ago from 17-25 September 1944.  It was hoped that by capturing key bridges over the River Rhine in Dutch occupied territory, that the Allies would then be able to press on into Germany. The war would be over by Christmas. The operation, brainchild of Field Marshall Montgomery, was an epic failure. The Allies met stiffer resistance than expected from occupying German troops. The attempt to seize the bridge at Arnhem by British Paratroopers indeed proved to be a ‘bridge too far’. The film has since come to be regarded as a classic British Word War Two movie and has been shown countess times on TV. War historians continue to discuss why Montgomery’s ambitious strategy failed. There’s a local connection here too. Gliders used in Operation Market Garden took off from Wiltshire airfields. We hope to hear more about that at our Remembrance Evening on 7 November, 7.30pm at Providence Baptist Chapel (scroll down the News & Events page). 

A costly epic failure. Perhaps some people view Jesus and his mission in those terms. He began his public ministry proclaiming the coming of a new kingdom. In this kingdom sinners were embraced and the self-righteous excluded, the humble would be lifted up and the proud brought low. Expectations were raised that God was going to do something big. Crowds flocked to hear Jesus’ teaching and witness the miracles he performed. Yet we know how it ended. Jesus’ enemies plotted to have him put to death. His closest followers forsook him. He was crucified at the orders of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Before they crucified him Roman soldiers mocked Jesus, draping him in purple robe and thrusting a crown of thorns upon his head. Then they crucified him. Crucifixion was a shameful death, reserved only for common criminals and slaves. Above his head as Jesus hung on the cross was written the inscription, ‘This is the King of the Jews’.  The kingdom of God? Another one of history’s costly epic failures.

Or was it? Jesus specifically commanded his disciples not to take up arms to stop him being arrested and executed. He went to the cross willingly, knowing that it was God’s plan that he should suffer and die. Jesus came to lay down his life for the sins of the world. Only because he died for us could sinners be welcomed into God’s kingdom and the humble be raised up. That was the central message of the first Christian preachers. They didn’t try to downplay the fact that Jesus had been crucified, they positively gloried in it. What seemed to have gone so wrong was in fact God’s way of putting us right with him. The cross wasn’t a ‘bridge too far’. Rather, by his death Jesus bridged the gap between sin-broken humanity and a perfectly righteous and holy God. By faith in Christ countless millions of people all around the world have experienced forgiveness and peace with God. The message of Jesus continues to ring out, "The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"

* For Trinity and News & Views parish magazines