An insomniac Scots Calvinist looks at the Church and the world and wonders where it all went wrong

Never heard of Allen J Frantzen? Don’t worry, unless you are into Anglo Saxon literature there is little likelihood of you stumbling across the professor. Yet, within the world of medieval studies he was, until January of this year, a highly respected figure. To most of us books with titles such as Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England don’t make the pulse quicken, but amongst medievalists Frantzen was an important academic. In 2013 he won the Medieval Academy of America’s Teaching Excellence Award.

afrantzen

ALLEN J FRANTZEN

Then he made a mistake. After nearly 40 years in academia Frantzen retired from Loyola University in 2014. Since then he has devoted his time to writing projects, including his blog. His blog postings consist mostly of photographs of Frantzen at home with his partner George, recipes they have made and gardens visited, with a sideline on their cats. One would think that he was a fully paid up member of the progressive intellectual elite. Then he wrote a post How to fight your way out of the feminist fog.

Read the rest of this entry »

It has been suggest that I publish the text of any videos. I will give it a try in future. In the meantime here is an approximation of the text of the video on deconstruction. Read the rest of this entry »

If you wish to find the video in the previous post ‘Deconstruction 101’, go to the blog. Despite the abscence of a link in the email the video does exist.

How we think shapes what we think and what we think shapes what we do. The profound cultural changes which have occurred in the West are to a significant extent shaped by the gradual emergence of post-modern deconstruction as the predominant way of thinking being taught and practiced throughout education and the media. In this video we explore the effects of deconstruction.

The very idea of truth in itself has been rejected, leaving only language power plays which are supposedly the tools of oppression. Free speech is shut down, marriage and the family are seen as oppresive structures, individual responsibility is denigrated and the Christian faith which built Western civilisation is shoved into a corner of the public square as an excentric private hobby. Until we become aware of the weapons being used against traditional cultural virtues and practices we will never be able to counter them.

How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters

Daniel Hannan

Head of Zeus, London

Time has proved Francis Fukiyama wrong, the triumph of democracy is not inevitable, nor should it be taken for granted. As Blair, Bush and their allies found, western freedom cannot be exported at the point of a gun.

Neither can we be certain that democracy will survive the onslaughts levelled against it. In 1940 it had almost vanished from Europe and held out only in a small damp island on the Atlantic fringe. It is only due to the interventions of the Anglo-sphere Commonwealth and the USA that democracy exists anywhere on the European continent.

Daniel Hannan, Conservative  MEP for South East England, argues that what we understand as ‘Western’ freedom is actually an invention emerging from that small damp Atlantic island; it was born and nurtured within an Anglo-sphere consisting of those countries shaped by and continuing to hold the political concepts which arose in Great Britain, principally England.

This is no claim to ethnic superiority, but it is about superior values. Hannan sees Anglo-sphere values as developing in a multi-ethnic context and are, ‘transmitted through intellectual exchange rather than gene flow’. Whilst continental Europe is firmly outwith the Anglo-sphere he points out that the largest Anglo-sphere democracy is India, and that large sections of the Commonwealth are part of the Anglo-sphere

‘What raised the English-speaking peoples to greatness was not a magical property in their DNA, nor a special richness in their earth, nor yet an advantage in military technology, but their political and legal institutions.  The happiness of the human race depends, more than anyone likes to admit, on the survival and success of those institutions.’

These institutions Hanna sees as central to Western civilisation and arising from the Anglo-sphere are:

  1. The rule of law; common law which has emerged from within the state and is interpreted by independent magistrates, especially the principle that the government is as bound by the law as the governed.
  2. Representative government; the right of the people to choose their own leaders, who are then held accountable by the people.
  3. Individual liberty; the individual is free to associate freely, buy and sell freely, speak, believe and think freely.

These institutions led to the revolutionary concept that the state is the servant of the populace, not the master.

Hannan’s argument is that elected Parliaments, habeas corpus, free contract, equality before the law, a free press and the other aspects of freedom we value did not just happen but are the product of a particular political ideology which gradually developed over centuries amongst English speakers. Things that we have come to take for granted, such as the jury system, innocence until proven guilty, the rule of law and representative government, are highly unusual. ‘The fact that those ideas, and that language, have become so widespread can make us lose sight of how exceptional they were in origin.’

Hannan sweeps through a thousand years of history tracing the development of these institutions. From the pre-Norman ability to choose and remove a king, through Magna Carta, to the three Anglospehre civil wars wars, the English Civil War, the American Revolution and the American Civil War. These Hannan sees as wars fought to resist overweening states which would coerce their subjects and limit the freedoms of the individual.

Hannan rightly acknowledges that Protestantism played a part in shaping the political structures of the Anglo-sphere However, quite understandably, he fails to grasp the centrality of Reformed thinking to shaping our understanding of freedom. In discussing the importance of the state being subject to the law he fails to mention the significance of Rutherford’s Lex Rex. As well as Reformed ecclesiology, doctrines such as that of election,had a significant impact on a hierarchical society. Not for nothing did George III describe the American Revolution as his ‘Presbyterian war’.

For a more in depth study of the importance of Reformed theology for political freedom The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World by Douglas F Kelly is an introduction at a popular level; whilst The Revolution of the Saints by Michael Walzer is a more academic examination of the role of Puritanism as a revolutionary ideology in a time of social disintegration when a traditional order was crumbling but had not yet been replaced.

What concerns Hannan is that today ‘The English-speaking peoples are tiptoeing away from their own creation… In every English-speaking country, a multiculturalist establishment hangs back from teaching children that they are heirs to a unique political heritage.’

In a day when in the West free expression is being increasingly limited and the state is drawing ever greater powers to itself this book is a timely reminder not only of the origins, but also the importance of the basic freedoms we enjoy.

At one time only Soviet dictators demanded the constant rewriting of history to suit their political ends. History was constantly ‘brought up to date’, photographs airbrushed to remove offending images and statues removed from places of prominence. Unfortunately these practices have all resurfaced as today’s progressives demand history be reshaped to protect their feelings.

It’s not just in the USA that students demand the renaming of buildings and the removal of statues, we have it in the UK also. Some Oxford students are demanding that ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, any acknowledgement of Cecil Rhodes must be removed from the university.

Cecil Rhodes who began with few advantages left Britain seeking to make a living in the diamond mines of southern Africa. He succeeded, big time, and instead of buying vast estates, he established the Rhodes Scholarship at Oriel College, Oxford, in order for others, as poor as he was when he went down to the mines, to get a helping hand in life.

Rhodes left Oriel College, Oxford University more than £50 million in today’s money to establish scholarships with the stipulation: “No student should be qualified or disqualified for election to a scholarship on account of his race or religious opinion.”

Amongst those helped by Rhodes is one Ntokozo Qwabe, a Rhodes Scholar, and now a leading protester demanding the removal of any acknowledgement of Rhodes from university premises. In fairness he doesn’t want a complete ban, he wants the scholarship fund to continue. The money is all right, just not the donor.

The ‘Rhodes Must Go’ students have partially succeeded as the supine college authorities have already removed a plaque acknowledging Rhodes and have agreed to enter into consultations with the protesters about removing a statue of Rhodes.

As today’s video demonstrates tantrums arising from appropriation of historical grievance are commonplace and don’t bode well for the future.

My last video provoked this response on Facebook. My reply is too long for Facebook so is posted here.

First the original criticism:

“‘For 2000 years the church has rejected those who want Christianity to the social establishment.’ That is an astonishing statement. I should be interested to see how it could be defended against the church’s historical record. He quotes Wilberforce as an example of the church standing against the social establishment, and at the same time points out that Wilberforce was standing against the ecclesiastical establishment too. You can’t have it both ways. I doubt anyone with a high regard for scripture would allow the simple equation of ‘the ecclesiastical establishment’ with ‘the church’ but there is surely a problem of circular argument here. Disagreeing with fellow believers’ interpretation of Scripture, even with the interpretations of believers and thinkers of the stature of Pannenberg, is not the same as rejecting the authority of scripture. Refusing to see the stark divide between the Christian and the Secular which contemporary conservatives constantly hark on about is not rejecting the authority of scripture. Many progressives take the stance they do because they believe that on particular issues their position is more biblical, not less biblical, than the traditional conservative view. Let’s at least try to be clear on the different polarities involved here: one of those polarities is between ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’. Neither side makes its case well by wholesale identification of the other with the worst of those who take or can be given the other’s label.”

My response is:

The good news is that I still have the ability to do something ‘astonishing’, Although what I said was that for 2000 years the church had rejected those who want Christianity to accommodate to the social establishment. It’s also good to know that I’m not the only one afflicted by the dreaded typo. Read the rest of this entry »

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