Japan: The Missionary’s Graveyard?

An excellent post (itself taken from Chalcedon) on the lack of growth of the Gospel in Japan can be found at GospelBBQ. I hope that you will read the whole thing yourself: I am only going to touch on a few highlight here.

A comparison between the shrinking of the Gospel in Japan, and the shrinking of the Gospel in the West, could be fruitful, but something I will leave to others.

Under the shadow of these catastrophes, an undercurrent of apathy and powerlessness dominates every sphere of Japanese society-and the Christian churches are not exempt from it. They’ve been irrelevant to Japanese society for a long time. Due to their liberalism, dispensationalism, antinomianism, anomianism, and humanism, churches in Japan are dwindling. They have no message for Japanese society except escapism. This sort of Christianity will soon fizzle out completely. This constitutes Japan’s other disaster, which is more severe by far than the recent physical calamities that have struck our nation.

If all the Church is interested in preaching is escape-and-retreat – as if we were a bunch of Buddhists or Hindus – then how on earth do they expect to gain the victory? Are they so self-deluded to believe that God – the Creator, Master, and Judge of All – is weaker than Satan – a lying and murderous squatter, liar, and murderer? Even in a temporary, most flimsiest of ways? Even just on earth?

How idiotic can you get?

God rules, and commands, and shapes the Creation, and everything in it.

Satan, a cruel, lying creature on the losing side of the War in Heaven, cringes before God, and works only as God permits him to – and not a step more.

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdomofGod has come upon you. – Matthew 12:28, NIV

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. – Matthew 28:18, NIV

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesusand your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1:15-22 NIV

Now, to get back to the article:

Some Considerations on the Failures of Japanese Churches

We need to understand the seven primary reasons that evangelism in Japan has been a devastating failure:

1) Importation of liberal theology during the early stages of church planting in nineteenth-century Japan

When the gospel first entered Japan in the nineteenth century, it carried a parasite with it: the liberal theology and higher criticism it had picked up in Germany and elsewhere. The neutered Christianity being preached was nothing less than humanism in clerical garb, since it denied the absolute authority of Scripture. It wasn’t until after World War II that a more pure, evangelical Christianity was introduced into Japan by way of the U.S.

[…]

2) Failure to build Christian families as faithful covenantal units situated within society

Up until now, one-on-one evangelism has prevailed within evangelical circles in Japan, implicitly promoting a splintered individualism in church and community. In contrast, non-Christian society has been fairly covenantal in orientation, especially in provincial areas of Japan where the combination of Buddhism and Shintoism exerts tight control to unite the community. The “division of labor” shared between these two religions is easily discerned. Shintoism provides the secular foundation and backbone of Japanese society, while Buddhism dominates the “soteriology” and “eschatology”-the spiritual concerns-of the Japanese people.

[…]

When Christianity came to Japan (most especially after the Meiji restoration), missionaries couldn’t help but do one-on-one evangelism, which is quite understandable. But churches failed to teach the converts the practical application of Biblical covenantalism, which is clearly taught in the Scripture. If new Christians stood firmly for Biblical truth and avoided compromise with pagan society, they were usually ostracized from society at large. The problem was, after such Christians were ostracized, they were directed towards humanism and an existentialistic worldview, perpetuating the most pernicious weaknesses that plague modern Western Christianity.

Due to the Christians’ fear of being ostracized from the Japanese community, they adopted syncretism and compromised with idolatry. They did so by paying respect to or actively worshipping the dead souls that are supposedly “divine” (because men become “gods” in the Shinto system) while also attending worship services at Christian churches and seeing no conflict in so doing. In many cases, the leaders of the Japanese Christian Church, including professors in the evangelical seminaries, endorse this sort of compromise. What is happening here is described quite clearly in the Scriptures:

“They feared the LORD and served their own gods.” 2 Kings 17:33

The other problem is marriage between non-Christians and Christians. In some cases, even pastors have encouraged it, which is the natural result of slighting the covenantal nature of marriage.

Something that is directly against Scripture, and thus the clear command of God. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” – II Corinthians 6:14

In most cases, Christian families are not united in the cause of Christ or the Kingdom of God. Husbands mostly spend their time with business colleagues while wives often work part-time jobs and their children are raised by the public schools. In other words, Christian families in Japan do not function properly: they fail to act as covenantal units within society because they were never taught its importance.

Because we fail to find strong leadership heading up Christian families in Japan, we don’t find it in the ecclesiastical community, either. Children don’t learn about authority or leadership from their fathers since fathers aren’t seen as providing a role model to them. When such children grow up to be leaders, they’re not well grounded on solid doctrine. They move in terms of a humanistic, syncretist, or reclusive mindset. The lack of sound leadership is one of the main causes of the failure of Japanese Christianity.

3) Misapplication of “contextualization” in terms of evangelism, church planting, and academic discipline

[…]

The second paradigm shift that brought Western/Christian civilization to the nation began around 1850, laying the foundation for modern Japan. ( A thoughtful reader notes that: the Gospel first entered Japan in the 16th century with the Catholic missionary and associate of Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier. Xavier landed in Japan on August 15, 1549 where he and the Jesuit led “Society of Jesus” dominated the Christian mission in Japan until the end of the sixteenth century. In 1579 the Jesuits established a new town as a home for Christian converts called Nagasaki. By the end of the sixteenth century Catholics could count 300,000 converts, hundreds of churches, and two Christian colleges.)

There is a significant difference between the first paradigm shift and the second one. During the first paradigm shift, the nation’s leaders imported the elements of Chinese civilization with its religion and ideology intact. But in the second paradigm shift, the leaders of Japan meticulously and intentionally filtered out the “Christian factors” being imported as part of Western civilization, thus neutralizing them. This official purging was intensive and pervasive, as denoted by the word wakon-yosai,” which means “even though we’re outwardly importing Western culture, inwardly our Japanese-ness (Japanism) will not be changed.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if liberal Christians ‘missionaries’ of the 19th century encouraged this approach, even as they taught that it was A-OK to worship the Emperor…

One example of such contextual watering down of Scripture illustrates the larger problem: it is customary for Japanese Christians to avoid discussing the final judgment, focusing instead on topics like consolation and piety. The message of the final judgment is too aggressive to the Japanese, since they tend to avoid aggressiveness in their human relationships. Living in such close quarters on four small islands was made possible by avoiding confrontation as much as possible; otherwise the people could not have enjoyed peace, although it is a false peace. This is the reason why our society is cohesive and group-oriented: the Japanese people prefer to avoid confrontation. Conversely, they can be so polite they will even decline to defend themselves if confronted. These attitudes can lead to dishonesty and a reluctance to engage in counseling from Scripture.

Fearing Men, rather than God.

In many cases, Japanese Christians will accept the gospel but are not freed from their underlying Japanism. They readily distort the message of the gospel and freely reshape it to accommodate the predominantly pagan society. When putting what they have learned of Christianity into actual practice, they modify it in the Japanese waya way which is detrimental to the gospel itself. Such unbiblical contextualization pervades every aspect of evangelism, church planting, and academic discipline.

I have no doubt how God will reward this kind of insolence.

4) Christians’ reluctance to faithfully confront paganism’s grip upon society

“Don’t cause trouble, or it might get the gays/atheists/Muslims/Establishment angry with us!”

“If we crawl on our bellies enough, maybe Our Masters will be kind, and just toss us some dog biscuits instead of a beating!”

“When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”” – Exodus 5:20-21

From the beginning of Japanese church history, liberalism has influenced and preconditioned Christianity in Japan while antinomianism and anomianism have rendered the churches extremely weak and compliant in confronting persecution.

Liberalism denies the absolute authority of the Word of God. Japanese Christians tend to regard the Scripture as they possess it to be an authoritative document. In this context, they are actually allowed to bow down to idols, just so long as they do not pay respect to them. This policy is premised on the Japanese translation of the Bible, where Exodus 20:5 reads “you shall not pay respect to them” rather than “thou shalt not bow down thyself to them.”

The Japanese language can make it difficult for us to understand the message of the Bible. Every word in our language has been deeply rooted in the teachings of Buddhism and Shintoism, requiring us to redefine their meaning, word after word, if we’re to preach the gospel faithfully and accurately. In many cases, the redefinition of the words to recapture the scriptural meaning has yet to be completed.

The situation here is very different from the situation in English-speaking countries. The Japanese language has not yet been Christianized, unlike English, German, and other European languages. The message of the Bible is usually dulled by using the Japanese language. This stems from our language’s semantic and syntactical shortcomings in properly describing the Biblical worldview.

The defective nature of the Japanese language often leads to the following problems in church planting.

First, missionaries come to Japan and establish churches. Then they hand over the churches to Japanese pastors. The churches decline and cannot pass on what they have received from the missionaries to the next generation-a major reason for the decline of Japanese Christianity. But the Japanese language used by missionaries differs from that spoken by indigenous Japanese because missionaries speak Japanese while standing on the Christian worldview acquired using the English language. Many Japanese pastors don’t know how to handle the Japanese language in a Christian way, nor have they acquired a strong Christian worldview to operate from. As a result, the message of the gospel is no longer incisive. Between these factors and the shortcomings of the Japanese language, Japanese Christians fail to convey the message of the Scripture.

There is a breakdown in fidelity of communication from God to man.

Here we see how the Japanese practice of contextualization actually works. Christianity goes through a process of metamorphosis and becomes “Japanized.” Then churches lose the gospel. This process has been repeated for 150 years. As a result, we see little confrontation between Christianity and Japanese paganism throughout the entire history of modern Japan.

A clean break is needed. And not just in Japan, either…

** Points to the exceedingly one-way “alliance” between conservative Christians and conservative political parties. “You go and fetch us some votes, and we coo some nice words about God… every so often… until after we have been elected… **

5) Failure to understand the historical background of Japanese society

Another reason evangelists in Japan have been unsuccessful was a failure to understand the historical background of Japanese society. Japan has more than 1500 years of history. Japanese society was likely influenced by Judaism and to some extent Nestorian Christianity. Shintoism itself might be strongly influenced by Judaism. But the formulation of Shinto doctrine was a complicated process. Buddhism, Confucianism, and even Roman Catholicism played an important role in its development.

Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843), a Shinto theologian, had read books written in Chinese by Roman Catholic missionaries to China (Mateo Ricci, etc.) He then modified Roman Catholic doctrines and imported them into Shintoism, laying the foundation of State Shintoism, called “Hirata-Shinto.” Hirata-Shinto paves the way for a smooth Westernization of Japanese society. Besides liberal Protestant Christianity, ideologies such as Hegelianism and communism were imported from the West. Since Hegelianism and communism are pagan in nature, they fit easily into the Japanese people’s outlook on family and state.

Yes, even a bunch of nature-worshippers are more interested in the world of ideas than most Christians are!

Apparently, the fact that Christians are supposed to be Judges, that we are expected to be critical thinkers, has been most effectively suppressed – by the laity and the pulpit for quite some time now.

I hear that such a policy makes it far easier to command Christians to obey those who despise them… and women in particular dislike too much critical, rigorous thought. On the other hand, a nice, awishy-washy God of their deepest desires would surely never send anyone to hell…

6) Failure to match the high quality standards of Japanese non-believers

Our situation is very different from that of developing regions elsewhere in the world. This makes evangelism in Japan extremely difficult. Average Japanese non-believers demand very high quality in everything. At the same time, they are desperately in need of relevant application of the Word of God, which only Christian Reconstructionism and theonomy provide. Thus the dispensational antinomian/anomian evangelical churches have been failing to meet the non-believers’ demands, yet another reason why Christianity in Japan has been weak and unsuccessful.

Adult non-believers pay little attention to the evangelicals. Pietistic, escapist, and existential messages mean nothing to Japanese non-believers who face life-and-death issues in business, politics, diplomacy, manufacturing, education, and science. The governing classes in Japanese society pay no attention to the evangelical culture, either. They are extremely keen consumers of art and culture. They don’t demand mediocre evangelical pop music, but the excellence of Johann Sebastian Bach. Tokyo supports and patronizes more than six professional orchestras, and there are many Japanese concertmasters in the world’s top orchestras. Unless we reach a people accustomed to living by such high standards, Japanese society won’t be changed. Only a faith that has cultural substance can speak to these needs.

God Demands Excellence.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

God’s People (in Japan, in America, and throughout the West) have decided to despise and hate excellence – “It’s just too hard! And what’s the purpose of shining the brass of a sinking ship?” – and so continue to be ground under the heels of those God-haters who are willing to work for a living, and put in the hard work and time needed to truly master a discipline or a skill.

You can’t beat something with nothing.

And you can’t beat hard, cold steel with cotton-candy wish fulfillment and escapism.

7) Failure in Christian education

In most cases, the churches in Japan neglect to raise the next generation. Public education plays a significant role in de-Christianizing the children of Christian families. In Japan, Christians are not well grounded on the Christian worldview and they have little interest in having their children stand on a solid foundation. Here, education doesn’t mean giving children a Christian worldview, it only means vocational training/education. Christians thus share the same objectives as non-believers, such as entering into prestigious colleges or getting good jobs. The main focus is acceptance into Japanese society.

The antithesis between the Christian worldview and pagan worldviews is always avoided and blurred. Here in Japan, even in the case of Christian education (as practiced in “Christian schools” in Japan) we see little difference between Christian education and pagan education. This problem partly stems from the fact that we lack good Christian resources such as textbooks, curriculums, and teaching materials in Japanese. The market for Christian books or curriculums remains small.

Most of the accredited “Christian schools” are under tight control of the Japanese government. This makes those educational institutions completely pagan in character, despite being founded by missionary work. In other words, they’re already Japanized.

It’s long past time that those fake Christian schools – in Japan and in the West – were unmasked for what they are, a mere control-tool of Our Contemptuous Masters… and flung into the dustbin.

It’s long past time for the Church to get serious about victory, and start paying the heavy-duty prices needed to again master the culture.

The Japanese language again contributes to this problem. For instance, the Japanese word for God, “Kami,” primarily refers to pagan gods. In every aspect of the Japanese language, we see the entrenched influence of paganism or, at best, sugar-coated paganism like Shintoism. We have not yet achieved a good translation of the Bible to replace the current defective one.

As mentioned earlier, Japanese Bibles render Exodus 20:5 as “you must not pay respect to them.” This dumbs down the Word of God for Japanese Christians. During World War II, the Japanese government forced Christians to bow down to the image of the Emperor before they began their church service-and they did bow down to it. Their ministers had taught them that it didn’t matter because they weren’t paying respect to that image.

Such compromise led to tragic results in the Christian community. In the case of the Presbyterian Church in Japan, 46 percent of the covenant children left their churches in 1997. Their parents and churches most likely failed to equip them with a Biblical worldview and an airtight Christian apologetics. We are failing to properly raise the future citizens of the Kingdom of God.

The Japanese Christians crawl before their Establishment Idols… and we do the same.

God has no time or tolerance for idolatry.

Not even a little bit.

A Dismal Prognosis

The other day, one of the newspapers here (Nikkei) reported that more than 40 percent of major companies here are planning to leave Japan and settle down overseas within three or four years.

What’s happening now is really judgment from the Sovereign and Almighty God. But we see no signs of nationwide repentance here, while our Japanese churches are incompetent at proclaiming the truth and its relevant application.

I expect very little from the pulpit, there or here. Especially not from the gelded seminary men.

It will be up to far-reading, hard-working, driven Christian laymen to get the job done.

The Smug Style

In a Vox article, Emmett Rensin (himself a liberal) argues against the smug style, where costal liberals – who are led by wealthy and comfortable professional types – view the conservative working classes with contempt and smugness.

This isn’t going to fundamentally change, of course. Recall that the Establishment truly believes in salvation by knowledge: “If you have enough information, you will certainly agree with us! Therefore, if you don’t agree with us, then it is basically because you are ignorant.”

This is even extended to Christianity: while the old-line liberal is directly against Christianity and all its works, the modern form is smarter: following Islam (and, to a lesser extent, communism), it insists that they have the Real Knowledge about what Christianity teaches, and actual believers are merely ignorant.

This is the core of the secular Establishment, and it will never change.

(After bankruptcy and the Great Default, though, far fewer will take the Credentialed Voices of Compassion seriously.)

Still, the wise Christian will expect more flowery, pretty language used by Our Leaders to directly spit into our faces.


Two interesting passage:

The studies, about Daily Show viewers and better-sized amygdalae, are knowing. It is the smug style’s first premise: a politics defined by a command of the Correct Facts and signaled by an allegiance to the Correct Culture. A politics that is just the politics of smart people in command of Good Facts. A politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from “imposing their morals” like the bad guys do.

Ah yes, the modern Voice of Our Betters.

It reminds me of Scientific Socialism, and Scientific Darwinism, and all the rest of it.

But when science – now politicized and ridden with groupthink – loses its authority, rest assured, no one will bother with Good Facts. Some other thing will be used to justify their rule.

I am suggesting that they instead wonder what it might be like to have little left but one’s values; to wake up one day to find your whole moral order destroyed; to look around and see the representatives of a new order call you a stupid, hypocritical hick without bothering, even, to wonder how your corner of your poor state found itself so alienated from them in the first place. To work with people who do not share their values or their tastes, who do not live where they live or like what they like or know their Good Facts or their jokes.

If I was a liberal, I wouldn’t worry about that much. After all, the moral order has been progressively destroyed for some time now,

  • from America’s drive to Empire under both Roosevelts,
  • to the modern theft-based welfare state (beloved by the working class – and everyone else),
  • to abortion (which has never been banned by any state)
  • to easy divorce, and now to homosexuality.

But then again, all this was innate to the foundation of the (essentially fraudulent) Constitutional Convention, that merely ignored the instructions created by the states to build an explicitly secular government. “For the People” and not “For the Lord” was – and IS – explicitly supported by the majority of Americans, rich and poor, back then and today.

“The moral order means nothing, before getting what I want.”

(But then again, people have always felt that Secret Knowledge would magically get them what they wanted, something for nothing:

The tyranny of socialism’s commitment to a world of something for nothing led to a national economic disaster, as it always does. The historical model of socialism is Pharaoh’s Egypt: bureaucratic, tyrannical, and ultimately disastrous for those in charge. The events of 1989-91 in Eastern Europe and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics were merely recapitulations of the Egyptian model. The systems broke down economically, politically, and socially in a massive collapse — remarkably, without much bloodshed.)

 

Most churches refuse to challenge magical thinking, explicitly teaching from the pulpit (and backed by the laity) that God’s Judgement is, and will always be, in some far away never-never land, and explicitly denying that God will judge our society (and often, us individually) in this world: perhaps in an hour, perhaps in a few generations, but judgement always comes.

Today’s preachers explicitly deny this. They are wrong: God judges in this world, as well as the world to come.

This is not a call for civility. Manners are not enough. The smug style did not arise by accident, and it cannot be abolished with a little self-reproach. So long as liberals cannot find common cause with the larger section of the American working class, they will search for reasons to justify that failure. They will resent them. They will find, over and over, how easy it is to justify abandoning them further.  They will choose the smug style.

The author is an old-style socialist, more in the ’50 mode than today. But that day is dead, and this day will die off, soon enough.

Maybe the cycle is too deeply set already. Perhaps the divide, the disdain, the whole crack-up are inevitable.

There will be no break-up today, while Our Masters have the power of the State and the Corporations to back them. After the Great Default, things get interesting.

But if liberal good intentions are to make a play for a better future, they cannot merely recognize the ways they’ve come to hate their former allies. They must begin to mend the ways they lost them in the first place.

To repent, there must be an acknowledgement that there is a higher standard of justice and ethics than your own. There is no possibility of this from a ruling class so long as they remain secular: only more effective lies, better tools of control, more up-to-date delusions.

And, perhaps, cheaper tools of thought control (“Public schools and media saturation are so expensive!” and more accurately targeted drone strikes.

Jackson, Hamilton, and Tubman

I enjoyed reading the Mises blog article on the currency change. Just a few addendum’s:

  1. Harriet Tubman is worthy of quite a lot of moral respect… and it is amusing to see a secularist, implicitly anti-Christian nation-state pay her that respect. Yes, the reasons are more racial-political than moral – the ascension of poor Black Americans, at the cost of somewhat less poor Scots-Irish, for the political benefit of the northeastern/west coast mildly-Yankee liberals. (Same story with academia.)Even so, proper due is to be paid to her, as a representative of Black America as a whole.But really, her face should be on a gold coin, not fiat paper!
  2. Also of note: in the eyes of God, the South has not yet paid out her debt in full. Public symbols matter, and it is the South – and anti-collectivists, populists, the independent-minded, and anti-central bankers – that take the political hit.Others may whine about it. I don’t: Andrew Jackson is a famous American politician, and is therefore morally repugnant in his own unique way, even if he did something useful by dumping a central bank.As for the rest: I am interested in creating the substance of a free – and, therefore, Christian – society. The symbology can wait until the substantive victories are gained.

    But Tubman can stay, in a hard-money Christian financial order, grounded on circulating gold coins. Perhaps on a 1/10th ounce gold coin, pushing her worth up from $20 to $123 in today’s gold spot market – and the most likely gold coin to be found in the pockets of poor black people, whose just got their very first taste of hard work, success, and a more prosperous future…

The Coming Socialist Order

Gary North, in his paywall article End Game of the Bank of Japan, refers to the trend of central banks to buy stocks.

This is the respectable way to build socialism in America: after all, no one objected when the Federal Housing Finance Agency took on half (!!) of the mortgages of the United States during the 2008 financial crisis. “They can do whatever they want, so long as my house price is protected!”

With this precedent, it is no big stretch to see the same thing in stocks in a future financial crisis. This socialization of the stock market – supposedly the centre of American Capitalism – will go down as smoothly as the socialization of the housing market.

This means that the major corporations will be fully integrated with the government, instead of being the paymasters.

(Debatably, we get to shift from soft fascism to soft socialism. Whoopee.)

Now, as we all know, the major corporations loathe Christian beliefs and practices – as they are all sophisticated and well-connected people, largely from the top 20 universities, and the Upper Crust has not the slightest concern in regard to God or the Commandments or any such thing.

Now, I am sure that most Christians will tremble before this union of political and financial power. “They have all the money, and all the guns! Oh, woe is me!”

Wiser Christians know that socialism is socialism, a born failure. An ever-greater gap between the Right Sort and Commoner Trash is the predictable outcome, with ever-greater blindness from The Top. As effective government bankruptcy grows, half-wit regulations spreads, and blatant political corruption deepens – you know, like every other socialist state in history – there will come a time when the bankruptcy of the central state will become obvious to all.

Christians must work, in the face of Elite, Government, and Media contempt, to lay the foundations of the renewed, locally-grounded American Christendom that will replace the fall of the coming Socialist State.

“The Religious Right Must Lose”

From Get Religion, commenting on the carefully worded Time article on pornography:

The world is, alas, full of religious conservatives who automatically want to assume that all journalists basically hate believers in all traditional forms of religion. That’s way too simplistic, of course, as I have tried to explain for decades when speaking in a wide range of settings – including religious colleges, think tanks and gatherings of mainstream journalists. This piece from The Quill – “Religion and the News Media: Have our biases fatally wounded our coverage?” – covers the basics.

That link points to a 1993 article, taken from 1992 lectures: long before Kellerism has solidified into the foundation of all American mainstream news. What was a pronounced tendency 20 years ago is merely a simple fact now.

But I have little interest in trying to save an aging media establishment that only and comprehensively despises me and mine. What’s far more interesting is the number of Christians that cheerfully ‘go along to get along’ – and will certainly avoid paying any price for what they believe – and continue to send their God-given children to schools where they will be carefully and methodically taught to despise everything their parents believe in.

That is something that needs sorting out, one way or the other.

However, this circle of Godbeat pros was talking about the worst cases that we were seeing of slanted journalism. We are talking about cases in which it was clear that editors had crossed the line between advocacy journalism and old-school reporting that stressed accuracy, balance and respect for the beliefs of people on both sides of hot-button subjects.

Was there a kind of journalistic Grand Unified Theory of Everything, when it came to explaining these really ugly cases? What was the thread that ran through them? A colleague from the West Coast eventually ended the silence with this blunt statement: “The Religious Right must lose.”

The media is composed of far too many anxious worry-warts. Most Christians are happy to trust the Republican Establishment to deliver, and they have only delivered losses for 40+ years. It is reasonable to assume that the Religious Right will only continue to lose for the next 40 years – it pleases the corporations, it pleases the Establishment, it pleases the Republican leadership, and it pleases those pietist and retreatist Christians who are always ready to escape reality and the hard work.

Serious believers should be working on the local angle, for the day when the morally bankrupt social order becomes a financially bankrupt social order.

See if you can spot it in this key summary material, which begins with a reference to groups of young men who are beginning to fight back against porn (which is the hook for the cover story).

These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning. The results of the experiment, they claim, are literally a downer.

So they’re beginning to push back, creating online community groups, smartphone apps and educational videos to help men quit porn. They have started blogs and podcasts and take all the public-speaking gigs they can get. Porn has always faced criticism among the faithful and the feminist. But now, for the first time, some of the most strident alarms are coming from the same demographic as its most enthusiastic customers.

Of course there are much broader concerns about porn’s effect on society that go beyond the potential for sexual dysfunction, including the fact that it often celebrates the degradation of women and normalizes sexual aggression.

That objection went by rather fast, didn’t it?

Several GetReligion readers sent me notes about this, wondering why the Time team did next to nothing in terms of dealing with moral and religious arguments against pornography.

One reader asked bluntly: Were the Time editors afraid to state that millions of ordinary believers still think there are moral standards that are relevant to topics such as porn, masturbation, sexual abuse, the degradation of women, etc.? Was it hard to state that science might support the traditional religious view that some sins literally warp the soul?

In other words, were Time editors extra careful to make sure that this cover story didn’t give religious people a win?

To ask the question is to answer it.

Third-rate Ethics, Fourth-rate Work

From North’s Leadership and Discipleship, Part 8:
Masters Lead, Journeymen Follow

The Costs of Discipleship

I read Bonhoeffer’s book, The Costs of Discipleship, thirty years ago, and all I remember is that he distinguished cheap grace from free grace. On this point, I agree with him. Free grace is what Jesus Christ personally paid for before He distributed it to His people. He paid a very high price. Cheap grace is that perversion of the doctrine of free grace which says that we need not seek to repay God because we cannot repay Him. But Christ calls us to be perfect, even as His Father in heaven is perfect. We are to strive for perfection even though we cannot achieve it in history. We do not have to achieve it, since Christ achieved it for us. The fact that He achieved it for us is supposed to be our motivation to strive to achieve perfection, not a warrant for third-rate ethics and fourth-rate work.

There is a high cost of discipleship, which Jesus paid. His performance is to be our model. We are to gain such mastery of our jobs and our callings – areas of unique service, usually not paid for by the market — that our work testifies to the reality we proclaim, namely, that Jesus is the answer, for He is the Incarnate Word. We have a written Word to direct us, and the Holy Spirit to guide us. Our self-discipline — our discipleship — never ends.

Victory for Christians is possible… at a price.

Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man

From Rushdoony’s The One and the Many.
Chapter XI, Utopia, the New City of Man

(footnotes deleted)

Basic to the Renaissance perspective was the concept of a finite God, limited and non-determinative in nature. The corollary of this premise was a belief in an infinite universe. As Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) wrote, “I hold the universe to be infinite, as being the effect of infinite divine power and goodness, of which any finite world would have been unworthy.” The reference to “infinite divine power” met the requirement of logic and science: the infinite universe was the product of an infinite divine power, a source or cause commensurate with its effect. But beyond this formal presence, the divine power had no role. With some, it was absorbed into its effect; with others, as with later Deism, it remained as a now obsolete cause.

[As I have learned, infinitude is a Divine attribute, and not part of the universe. As the universe is not infinite, neither are we – although we are everlasting, whenever we want to be or not.- AP]

An infinite universe means that man, the crown of the universe, is infinite also. Renaissance man saw himself as a new god in process of becoming. Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois felt shock at the realization that he could die and was dying:

Is my body, then,
But penetrable flesh? And must my mind
Follow my blood? Can my divine part add
No aid to th’ earthly in extremity?

In any other era, for a man to express amazement at his mortality would be ridiculous; in this Renaissance play, it is thoroughly credible and in keeping with the temper of the day.

The Bussy D’Ambois type man of the Renaissance has been accorded the veneration his philosophy called for. His “genius” has been the subject of adulation, and his egoism has been taken at face value. A telling example of this is the pathetic and impotent figure of Leonardo da Vinci. A chronic dabbler and procrastinator, Leonardo found it difficult to finish anything. His notes occasionally record good observations, his jottings of the comments of wiser men, but he was unable to bring these gleamings to focus. His one area of real ability was painting, or, more accurately, drawing, but here his total production was limited and haunted by the specter of his weakness and impotence. But, because of his singular avoidance of any personal religious expression, this man has been especially highly esteemed, although, amusingly, the experts find it difficult to establish what was great about him!

[So it isn’t just about one painting and some rough sketches! It’s all about Getting God to Go Away…

…so the Voice of Powerful Men could be heard, loud and clear- AP]

But, Renaissance man being by self-definition a species of divinity, it was impossible to regard his actions as folly; what had been folly was now tragedy. The dramatic concern for tragedy, most notable in England, is a telling illustration of this fact. Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois is one of many examples, more explicit than most. For a man’s “divine part” to follow his blood into death or disgrace was tragedy now, not sin or folly.

[Shock and dismay! – AP]